Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bad Apple RPG Summary

Bad Apple -- SETTING
The good news is, the Milky Way is riddled with wormholes, much like a bad apple. These wormholes lurk just outside of most solar systems, letting starships leap vast distances in a matter of days. After humanity discovered how to stabilize and operate these wormholes, they were able to spread out across a decent fraction of the galaxy, colonizing new planets and striking up interstellar trade.
The bad news is that humanity brought most of its problems with it into space – bureaucracy, capitalism, war, disease, and shortages continue to make life difficult even in an era of high technology and (relatively) enlightened thinking. Although space is plentiful on the new worlds, very few have climates that are exactly like Earth’s, and most people must work hard to survive in their hostile, unpredictable environments.
In this game, you play the role of a promising young adventurer itching for new experiences beyond those afforded by Brelon II, the sleepy mining and ranching planet you call home. Your unique collection of skills and interests have brought you to the attention of Brelon’s Board of Arbiters, who need your help. You know that trade ships only call on Brelon every year or so even in the best of times, and for the last three years, no one from off-world has docked at your humble starport. Now, say the Arbiters, the main coil for the planet’s only fusion reactor is deteriorating, and nobody dirtside has the tools or engineering know-how to fix it. Without repairs, the reactor will slowly lose power, dragging the planet into poverty and leaving it defenseless against Brelon’s frigid winters.
Led by Captain Mark Bennings, an independent freighter captain who mothballed his ship in orbit around Brelon when he retired to its surface, you and your fellow adventurers must travel toward the Core Worlds in search of expert repairs. The Board has scrounged up a shipment of Brelon’s leading exports – beef jerky, leather hides, boron ore, and silver ingots – to aid you in your quest, but given the hazards of space and the cost of fuel, you will be on a tight budget. Fortunately, the space-lanes come with their own opportunities for those savvy and ambitious enough to find them. The galaxy awaits. Seize your destiny!
Thanks to Tom Dimiduk and the other authors of the Skillful RPG System for most of the rules and content presented in this short manual. Used with permission. http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~tdimiduk/skillful/index.php?title=Authors

Your Character’s Backstory  

In Bad Apple, your character’s statistics and abilities are driven by his or her backstory. The most important thing to think about is why your character is interested in leaving Brelon, and why Brelon’s Board would be interested in choosing you for one of the limited slots on the Merry Dolphin, your rickety old space freighter.
Some other questions to consider are:
  • What kinds of jobs has your character held? Was he/she any good at them? Were the jobs unusual for the area? For your character's age? Why did he/she choose those jobs? Did he/she enjoy them? Have the jobs left your character with any significant savings or debt? Any marketable skills or official credentials? Is anyone familiar with your character based on his/her professional reputation?
  • Who are some of the most important people in your character's life? Does he/she have a strong relationship with family? old friends? new friends? a church or community group? a political movement? current or former employers? lovers? a hometown? a guild or professional association? co-workers or partners? a mentor? Keep in mind that characters can have very strong feelings about others that are positive, negative, or even (perhaps most realistically) some kind of twisted mix.
  • What are some of the most important ideas or goals in your character's life? Is there anything he/she would be willing to fight for? To die for? To work hard at over a period of several years? What has your character learned the hard way, and what has he/she always believed without ever questioning? What makes your character happy? What does your character erroneously *think* will lead to happiness?
  • What does your character do for fun? For exercise? To meet new people? To sort out his/her thoughts and feelings? Who does he/she do it with? Where does he/she do it? What kinds of people (if anyone) does your character find romantically or sexually attractive?
Answering these questions will give you a good idea of how to allocate your character’s starting experience points (“XP”). Each character starts with 350 XP. You use these points to buy levels in one, some, or all of the ten main skills: Athletics, Business, Crafts, Diplomacy, Engineering, Fighting, Humanities, Medicine, Operations, and Science.
You may also need or want to tweak some of your character’s starting resources. A typical adventurer starts with 20 Health, 50 Effort, 100 Credits, and 10 Reputation Points. However, if your character is unusually healthy, sick, lazy, rich, poor, famous, etc., you can adjust these values accordingly by up to 50% in either direction. Try to make the values balance out, so that an increase in one statistic is balanced by a decrease in another statistic.

Choosing your Skills – Nuts & Bolts 

The cost, in XP, of reaching each new level in a skill is based on the triangular numbers. For example, getting from Level 3 to Level 4 costs 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10 XP, because 10 is the sum of the first four positive numbers. This results in the following chart for climbing up to any given level starting from Level 0:
XP Cost

This means that if you wanted to put all of your starting 350 XP into one field, you could get as high as Level 11 or 12, and if you wanted to distribute your starting 350 XP evenly across all fields, you would have Level 5 in each field. Keep in mind that the number 350 is just a guideline – if your character design is a few points over or a few points under, it does not matter.
The ten skill fields are described below:
Athletics – feats of bodily strength, coordination, and grace; sports, gyms, outdoor adventures
Business bargaining, figuring, logistics, entrepreneurship, investment, and personal networking
Crafts manufacturing and repairing things by hand. Weaving, sculpting, baking, smithing, etc.
Diplomacy bluffing, intimidating, recruiting, inspiring, manipulating, and discreet investigation
Engineering designing, modifying, maintaining, selecting, and testing gear and equipment
Fighting assessing strengths and weaknesses; enduring pain and injuries; weapon proficiencies
Humanities making or appreciating culture; enduring loss and sorrow; adapting to strangeness
Medicine healing, nursing, diagnosing, poison, & associated patience and technical know-how
Operations operating vehicles, equipment, computers, etc. even when unfamiliar or complex
Science studying, interpreting, analyzing unfamiliar phenomena in light of known laws

As you advance your level in a field, you should write (or remember) an increasingly detailed description of your character’s relation to that field. A character at Level 3 might have a general area of interest, such as “track & field” for Athletics, or “airspeeder” for Operations. A character at Level 10 should have a couple of specialties or subspecialties, plus a weakness and a unique approach; e.g. a character with Level 10 in Science might be a biologist with a focus on cellular structure and division who can’t pronounce Latin properly but who nevertheless loves to classify things into categories. Your skill level for any given task may be reduced by up to 2 points or increased by up to 4 points depending on how neatly it fits into your specialties or weaknesses.
If you wish, you can choose up to 50 XP’s worth of negative levels, representing your character’s phobias or unique disadvantages. When you buy negative levels, your skill becomes a negative number, but you gain additional XP that you can spend on other fields.

Tracking Your Character’s Stats 
In addition to skill levels and XP, characters have 5 statistics that help define the character’s status: Health, Effort, Fatigue, Credits, & Reputation.

HEALTH        Bodily integrity and mental sanity; if it drops to zero, you need a hospital.
                        An ordinary healthy person would be able to store about 20 points.
                        Score goes up +2 for a solid night’s rest; +5 with effective medical treatment.

EFFORT         Ability to expend effort; if it drops to zero, you sit down and zone out.
                        An ordinary motivated person would be able to store about 50 points.
                        Score goes up +2 points for a solid hour’s recreation; +5 with entertainment

FATIGUE       When you are injured, disappointed, etc., the DM gives you cumulative penalties
                        Your total fatigue penalty lowers the results of all of your ability scores.
                        Fatigue is automatically reduced by 1 point every 24 hours, or by great victories.

CREDITS       Financial assets and access to loans; if it drops to zero, you cannot buy things.
                        An ordinary employed person would have about 100 Credits saved up.
                        Score goes up +2 credits with a week’s pay, or +5 for a holiday bonus.

REPUTE         What colleagues and strangers think of you; your ability to call in favors.
                        A person with ordinary connections would have about 10 Reputation points.
                        Score goes up +1 point when you help someone or publicly accomplish something

Characters can improve their skill level(s) by accumulating experience through:

PRACTICE    Running through the motions or steps of a technique; drills & simulations.
                        You can practice skills up to 5 hours/day; each hour gives you +1 experience.
                        You must have sufficient equipment, focus, and space for meaningful practice.
                        Practicing for 1 hour costs 3 effort.
STUDY           Reading, talking, thinking, sketching, & meditating to improve theoretical grasp.                             The DM awards up to +5 experience for each new insight you are exposed to.
                        The exact award depends on the idea’s novelty and how well you digest the idea.

TRIAL                        Actually testing out techniques in a setting with real-world consequences.
                        The DM awards up to +5 experience for pushing the limits of your ability.
                        The difficulty must be set so that whether you succeed or fail depends on the dice.
                        The trial scenario must be fresh enough to pose new challenges; no rote repetition.

Reaching Level x in a given skill requires (x)(x+1)/2 experience points; e.g., to advance from Level 4 to Level 5 in Athletics requires (5)(5+1)/2 = 15 XP. Part or all of your experience points can be cashed in for skill advances in any combination(s) at any time when you have a quiet moment to collect your thoughts. You must have accumulated at least some of the experience points in the skill(s) that you wish to advance; e.g., you cannot study Science and then claim an advance in Athletics.

Resolving Activity Checks
Almost all significant actions in the game are resolved by one of two types of ‘activity checks.’ During a difficulty check, you compare your skill, effort, and luck to the inherent difficulty of a complex or challenging task. During an opposed check, you compare your skill, effort, and luck to an opponent’s skill, effort, and luck. By adding up your total value and subtracting either the difficulty value of the task or your opponent’s total value, you can find out whether your plan ended in success, failure, or something in between.
YOUR SCORE = (Your Skill + Your Effort + Your Luck) – Difficulty of Task
YOUR SCORE = (Your Skill + Your Effort + Your Luck) – (Their Skill + Their Effort + Their Luck)

+10 & up
Magnificent Success
Notable success plus "style points," e.g. decorations, flourishes, handicaps, etc.
Notable Success
Ordinary success plus extra damage, useful accessories, masterwork durability, etc.
Ordinary Success
Gets the job done on time and on budget.
Partial Failure
Can get the job done, but only with extra cost, extra time, less effect, a shoddy object, etc.
Ordinary Failure
Swing and a miss. Resources are still expended, but no useful results are obtained.
-10 and down
Serious Failure
Ordinary failure, plus accidents & collateral damage

Your score for ‘skill’ is simply the highest level you have taken in the appropriate field. For example, if you are a Level 8 Scientist, then your skill at Science-related tasks would be +8. If you are a Level 7 Engineer, then your skill at Engineering-related tasks would be +7. When a task involves two or more fields (e.g., both Science and Engineering), choose the higher bonus (in this case, +8). Sometimes, a task will relate to one of your specialties or weaknesses. For example, if you are a color-blind chemist, you might add up to (an additional) +4 on Science tasks that involve chemistry, and subtract up to -2 on tasks that involve distinguishing special colors. In this example, that would mean you get +12 on chemistry tasks, but only +6 on interpreting what kind of cancer cells you see on microscope slides.
You get to choose your score for ‘effort,’ but choosing higher scores drains your limited pool of Effort Points more rapidly, and also distracts you and prevents you from paying attention to other things that may be going on around you. You can choose any number between +1 and +9.
Your score for ‘luck’ is determined by rolling two six-sided dice (“2d6”). Whatever the dice show is your luck score for that activity check.

SkillYour training, experience, talent, etc. in a particular field.
-5         Deep phobia or strong handicap with this activity
0          No prior experience in this field
+5       Amateur hobbyist in this field
+10     Trained Professional in this field
+15     Expert, Leader, Mentor, or Supervisor in this field
+20     Living Legend renowned for exploits in this field

Effort – How strenuously you try to accomplish a task or how much you focus on it.           Drains your effort pool accordingly; i.e., spend x Effort to boost your ability by +x.
+1       Seriously distracted; a bored and indifferent effort.
+3       Mildly distracted; a casual effort.
+5       An ordinary level-headed attempt.
+7       A serious, focused effort that causes you to lose track of most other concerns.
+9       A draining, intense effort that leaves you blind to the world around you.   

Luck Circumstantial, unpredictable effects; natural variation.
+2d6   the usual bonus to your ability score.

Difficulty How much skill the task ordinarily requires.
0          Trivial task; even untrained individuals never fail to accomplish it.
            E.g. tying your shoes, drinking water, climbing stairs, talking about the weather.

10        Easy task; amateurs routinely do a good job on this task.
            E.g. bicycling, chugging beer, reading a map, buying clothes.

15        Intermediate task; requires either some training or a strong effort to succeed.
            E.g. swimming in a river, cooking a nice dinner, balancing a business checkbook   

20        Challenging task; suitable for professionals or serious hobbyists.
            E.g. climbing a large mountain, delivering a baby, plotting the course of a comet

25        Difficult task; strains the abilities of even highly-trained personnel.
            E.g. crossing the arctic, open-heart surgery, retroviral engineering, forging magic items

30        Grueling task; requires extraordinary talent, dedication, grit, and luck.
            E.g. fly an experimental aircraft, inventing a new spell, winning a gubernatorial campaign

40        Epic task; usually impossible; alters the course of history if achieved.

            E.g. invent a new form of transportation; peacefully overthrow a government; apotheosis