A rule system for your computer RPG

Hey, everyone. RPGs are a popular genre around here, but making up your own rules for them is tricky. I see people asking for help with that all the time. One solution is adapting generic rule systems, but those are usually designed for tabletop games, which means they assume a human GM will be present. As that's not the case in videogames, such conversions tend to draw criticism. And rules made for specific games, such as certain famous MMOs, they're probably not so great for simpler, single-player games either.

I recently finished writing down such a rule system (after it sat on my HDD at 90% completion since spring). It's called Battles&Balances, and everyone is free to use it. Being made for roguelikes originally, I'm not sure how well it would work in a Quest game, but a starting point is better than nothing. At least we're talking rules that were tested and refined in finished games. And you'll see it's pretty flexible, with all kinds of variant and optional rules already included, along with guidelines for making your own.

Hope this helps. Enjoy! Feedback is welcome.

If I ever do an RPG then this looks good!

It's extremely certain, most people prefer to make their own rules. Yes, some people take or copy other people's works, but half of the time they give up in the middle of the work, or they change the formula.

I think people base rules on what thye have played in the past. If you like DnD RPGs, you make DnD styled RPGs. If you like modern RPGs, you make modern styled RPGs. The same goes for other parts of the game.

I think the mechanics have a big impact on the feel of a game; so I'd rather have a rules system built around the story.
That's why when I was poking at my version of a combatlib, I was trying to build a script which would allow just about any dice mechanics to be plugged into it.

Hello there, and sorry for the time to reply to this one. I hope the topic dint got old, because i would like adding my two cents to the community.

I never published anything, but i have been trying to design games for Quest since around 2014, accumulating a lot of plot ideas but lacking time and focus to complete at least one of them. However, during the planning and design, i faced the need of having a game system to support my games, so i decided using my 30 years of Roleplaying games background as a source for a good system design.

All i wanted to avoid was monolithic and unflexible systems, like those used on most 'Gaming' RPGs. Explaining a little better, i am basing my observation on the GNS (sometimes referred to as GSN) theory, which basically divides RPGs in three main tribes: Gaming, Narrativism and Simulation.

In my opinion, even if not that huge and complex, Battles&Balances is more inclined to the old style 'gaming' RPGs. It is much more about having things balanced and previously structured, having diferente characters perfetly balanced on their skills and powers.

Honestly, i do not think it is the right direction. I found myself much more inclined to narrative RPGs systems and one i strongly recommend you taking a look, is FATE RPG. I am using FATE myself as a base for my own Interactive Stories and i already tested it on roleplaying games, both face to face as online text based roleplaying sessions too.

Long ago i wandered about writing the rules and ideas for my "CYOA version" for FATE. At the time i tought it would be irrelevant and i would have nowhere to publish it. Now i see how it would be useful.

In short, FATE is open sourced, so anyone may use it and modify it. There is no problem if you want using its rules. Second, the main or core rules varies on sizes depending of what is called "distribution", but it is Always around 20 pages only. The good stuff about using FATE on text adventures and CYOA is that, as a narrative system, it takes in account what the elements means to the given situation, intead of having pre-fixed rules for each possible situation. The game is basically divided into two main áreas: skills and Aspects. Skills are pretty much like what we know as skills. but the weight and range of the skills may be modifyed for the game in question. Once i saw a game having a long list of detailed skills based on Gurps skill list. Once i played a game of Star Trek where i used just a short list of skills: Command, Navigation, Science, Medical, Engineering and Tactics. So, one skill for each Star Trek branch. Nowdays, on CYOA, i have been using just three skills - Mental, Physical and Social - which Works as a wondeful umbrela for every situation.

As for Aspects, here is where the magic happens. Aspects are things you may tell about the character. It would be a concept, like Brash Pilot or Seductress, it would be na adjective, like Tall, Strong or Smart, and it would also be social things, lik rich, poor or anything else you want. Aspects are all the same. The mains thing with the Aspects is that you spend Fate Points to engage your Aspects, and gets Fate Points when they create problems for the player. I found it perfect for a text adventure. You do not need to create a long list of things and then balance them and then write their rules. Just list what you plan would have relevance during your game, in order to keep some balance to it and then presente the right options when the character has the right Aspect.

Fate is very short, simple and elegante. And the main thing is it is perfect for narrating a story. It has other powers hidden in its sleeves, as the concept of Aspects may be put everywhere you want, from tools to places and situations. So, "Cut things" from na axe, "Rain and Clouds" from a scene and "On fire" from a situation are all Aspects to be exploited by the player as the game follows.

If people here have more interest about it, i may write a little bit about how i adapted FATE rules for CYOA and how i plan using it on games using Quest.

Sorry if the text got a little messy. I was writing pretty fast, English is not my first language and i had not time to review the post. Thanks everyone.

Hi there, Deckrect. Yes, as stated in the introduction, Battles&Balances focuses on ensuring good balance. That's the whole point. It's right there in the title. And maybe it's old-school. I guess?! But that's what computers handle best. You speak of playing with other people. Battles&Balances is mainly designed for use in single-player computer games. Where narrativist systems like Fate infamously fall flat, because they rely a lot on the human GM improvising when needed. Something a computer can't do for lack of common sense, life experience and a concept of fun.

Hope this makes it more clear why my system is the way it is. Thanks for dropping by!

What I found funny is that on the system's introduction, you talked about the cartoon fight with two fighters taking turns to hit the opponent continuously. This is exactly what we find in mechanics like those used on older Final Fantasy or Phantasy Star or Ultima. And it seems Battles and Balances points exactly on the same direction.

It is a way of approaching the question, and I think if it is the intention, I find it is perfectly fair using this type if system to reach that classic mood many games imprinted on us.

However, I do not find this type of system, universal. It cannot be applied to any game and any narrative because it lacks things for certain games and has excesses for others. That is why I still suggesting Fate.

Having in mind the basic working and fundament of the system, anyone may rapidly adapt it specifically for the game in production.

Also, yes, Fate demands some judgment about its features for each situation. But the good stuff is Interactive Fiction has these judgments pre determined on the programming, so the designer may set what is relevant and when. And things may change approach and relevance during the game. This is why I insist people who needs a system checks on Fate. It is useful both for parser Text Adventure and for Gamebooks as well.

Keep the good work and sharing ideas! I love when community discusses topics and produces more and more.

Sincere greetings!

Did I, in any way, ever suggest that Battles&Balances is suitable for any type of game? Of course it's not. No system is. If you think Fate somehow is, you'll be disappointed. And yes, in the games I made so far, combat doesn't involve much in the way of tactics. You can keep your distance and shoot from afar until ammo gets low, but once you close in for melee you kinda just hack at the enemy. The strategy mostly comes from picking the right equipment for each fight, and casting the right spells in preparation. In fact, the next game I make with it should probably address this exact issue. Because in more recent JRPGs I have in fact seen combat that works very well, requiring interesting decisions at every turn.

How you use the system matters a lot. The rules as written can only be a starting point.

Oh, no sir. You actually never suggested that Battles and Balances would be suitable for any game. I also don't think it should be. It works very well on what it proposes doing. But I honestly think that other developers here reading this topic could consider Fate as a good option. What was the main inspiration for Battles and Balances? Pathfinder? I got curious about what type of roleplaying system you studied for developing Battles and Balances.

By the way, I honestly don't know if Fate is useful for all games, but it seems good enough to be conveniently used on any Interactive Fiction.

I strongly agree with your last statement. But as the topic was about a system to be used on games using Quest, I decided praising the strong points of a solid building ground as Fate.


Ah... listing influences is more tricky. I've played few systems, but read a lot of them. Started early on with AD&D2. I paid considerable attention to Sacred Steel at one point. More recently, Risus and The Window were probably strong influences, even though they're narrative systems. (One has the dice pool mechanic, the other all those different dice, see.) I've also read a bunch of theory, most notably the RPG Design Patterns book. Then, of course, I played various roguelikes and made my own, so as to see for myself what works and what doesn't. How about you?

Well, I began 30 years ago. I was just 12 years old and it was 1989. To make things a little harder, I live in Brazil. It means that Brazil, during 1989, I had no Internet ( as it was not implemented yet for public use), inflation was high, paying for things in dollars was abusive due the exchange and importing things was slow, expensive and complicated.

I started playing D&D with a friend. I got crazy about the idea of roleplaying, but had no access to a proper system myself. I ended creating one for myself due to the need, which in certain aspects ended as a kind of crossing between AD&D and Rolemaster, even if I never had contact with those yet. Later, with imports opening and controlled economy, I start playing other things like D&D with the Rules Cyclopedia, AD&D, Rolemaster, Merp, Star Wars and the like. I found a place as a Game master in a Book Store specialized on comics and RPG. During that time I was playing 13 different systems at once.

My life changed a lot when I found Gurps. I was already questing some simulation aspects of roleplaying and making a lot of changes on my AD&D campaign rules in order to simulate things better. Gurps came to save my life.

I played mainly Gurps for years to come, loving the whole complexity of things. However, later I stepped over a problem. I started a Star Trek campaign using Gurps. In the beginning, everything was easy and fine, as I had in Gurps, answer for every problem. However, things were running tense and slow because of the complexity of the system. Gurps always been good for highly detailed games with a couple of players, but managing 8 players on complex situations was bad. Besides that, my players expected a faster, lighter and less mental process from this Star Trek game.

I was studying the idea of putting the campaign on systems I really disliked as the old Fasa Star Trek or using CODA, when I found the GNS theory and the rise of the narrative. Struggling against my players' protests I converted the campaign to Fudge, the older brother for Fate. Things gone perfectly well and my players had a great time with a system where everyone had something to do during ship combats.

This thing just encouraged me to read more systems, like Fate itself and other systems, like As Seen on TV or Dogs in the Vineyard. I increased Star Trek later using Fate and then set myself playing only Gurps and Fate most of the time. Of course I had some moments trying things, like the whole family of new D&D, as I took a very tiny part on D20 development in past years and also took a look at the terrible new Star Wars approaches.

Since 2013 when I started flirting with Interactive Fiction, something that I abandoned in my past due RPG, I found myself wanting a system to set things right. Quickly I found that most of the systems would not be of use due complexity and weight. Fate became the answer, so even as I never produced a complete Interactive Fiction, I had some tests, both in my lone computer as well interacting with other people and simulating a Gamebook for study of both the system resolution and story plots.

I got impressed when I realized that in the world of Interactive Fiction I really prefer Gamebooks than Parser or what is called RPG style. This is because I love RPG. While for most people it is ok calling a game RPG because it has stats and items, I think the real RPG only happens when there is a character, a persona to be roleplayed, a story and a drama to be lived. This way, I think I am much more inclined to a system supporting the story and the narrative than something that sets rules for things like carrying items and setting combat initiatives. I am not a fan of mechanics, but of human conflicts.

Oh, you actually worked in the industry, how cool is that! Sounds like you have a lot more experience in tabletop roleplaying than I do.

Problem is, if you do some reading about the history of computer RPGs, you'll see that they are mainly criticized for failing to implement classic rules correctly. Either the systems prove too complex to implement fully if at all, or else little to no content is added to make use of those systems. It makes sense in retrospect: tabletop rule systems, even the gamist kind like D&D, are fundamentally designed for people to play among themselves. To improvise. To fudge. To think outside the box.

The computer can't do any of that. And it can't give the player enough freedom, either. There's simply no way to anticipate enough possibilities while developing a videogame. (They're already insanely complex engineering challenges as it is.) Elements of simulation help, but the results tend to resemble adventure games a lot more. Think Minecraft. No way you're gonna build much of a story on top of that, it's simply much too easy to derail in hilarious ways. Because, again, the computer has no common sense. It doesn't really understand what it's doing. Only humans can.

When playing with other people, I prefer setting aside most rules and going freeform altogether. With a computer, I want the exact opposite: precise mechanics that the machine can actually handle. Not ideal, perhaps, but that's what works.

I see your point, even if I found Eye of the Beholder series and Neverwinter Nights pretty good and complete adaptations of D&D rules.

Even if I think you are looking for a straightforward concept, based on old style games, I still think some of the mechanics could bend towards characters and drama. But I recognize I have some particular issues with the current Interactive Fiction. I honestly dislike the lack of characters most IF possess in order allowing player to fit in the role. As I came from tabletop roleplaying, I still insist on having a character for roleplaying, what allows the story reaching deeper complexity.

But history shows us it is not prohibited. On Phantasy Star, for example, we have a somewhat developed character and the whole classic approach. But I think I am drifting from the main topic here, friend.

What I suggest fellow developers falls in two folds.

First, keep the mind open to the idea of using a system with only what the game design needs. And I say that Fate is one of these options, as it is simple and flexible enough to be shaped into the actual game's needs. Even for old style games.

Second, keep in mind of good story and character drama. Make it personal by making sure the player will rise in empathy for the character and want roleplaying it, immersed in a good narrative.

Both are possible with Fate (and for sure other systems too) by remembering that all interesting choices are actually pre set by the game designer. So, in a Gamebook or a Parser, all you need is predicting some natural uses of the system. It will be much the same when using Fate. However, instead of hoping the player select the right spell on the right battle, you also may hope the player types (or chooses ) 'use torch on hay ' to create a scene aspect as 'on fire' or type 'Invoke Aspect Pretty Girl ' in order to impress the Gates Guard.

I confess I have been wondering if I should write an article about how using Fate on Gamebooks or Parsers, but it is so flexible that any atempt of writing about it seems to be trapping the system away from its flexibility.

Once again, Battles&Balances is not "old school", it's something a computer can actually handle. And yes, there are a handful of games famous for how well they managed to implement D&D. There's a reason those games are so few and so famous. You speak of what you want to see in a game. Now think of what you can implement. Because, with rare exceptions, videogames are known to be terrible at enabling genuine roleplaying and drama.

My little ruleset is derived directly from a string of games that proved via experimentation what worked and what didn't. Trust me on this: go and work on a prototype or three before being too optimistic about it.

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