Update: The Alpha Test PDF is no longer available, pending work on version 0.2a. When 0.2a is finished, a link to the rules set will be posted.
This is the motto on the cover of the game:
Destiny: Action Gaming on Infinite Worlds.
But what does that mean? Destiny is:
• Omni-Genre. Not universal or generic, but flexible enough to handle magic, guns, car chases, psionics, cyberware, and much more.
Destiny campaigns can be set in fantasy worlds, cyberpunk worlds, the real world, and any other place the GM can devise.
An infinite number of worlds, limited only by your imagination.
• Action-Movie. Destiny is an action-movie system. The mechanics allow characters to emulate the daring feats of an Indiana Jones, Ethan Hunt, or Evelyn Salt. They encourage and reward players who do more than just shoot or punch; witty banter and rapier-fast retorts are often more useful than bullets or blades.
Destiny is an action-movie roleplaying game.
• Heroics. Evil threatens every Destiny campaign world. Player Characters are the heroes of the campaign, those destined to face these evils.
Player Characters are fated heroes touched by destiny.
The game mechanics of Destiny have been written to implement those three goals: omni-genre action-movie heroics. They are designed to be light and fast in play, to — as much as possible — be simple, direct, and obvious.
The core design philosophy of Destiny is:
“Simple rules that allow for innumerable situations, limited only by the Players’ and Gamemaster’s imaginations.”
All else is secondary to that.
Action movies are defined by two types of characters: Leads and extras. Leads are primary characters, those with the most screen time, with more fully developed characterization. The chief Villain and his henchmen are often Leads, his minions are extras. All Player Characters are Leads.
All characters have Character Traits: evocative, free-form statements used to define mental, physical, or other idiosyncratic facets of the character. Lead characters, being typified by deeper characterization, typically have between two and five Character Traits unique to themselves. Extras usually have between one and three, which may not be unique, and groups of extras (a squad of faceless stormtroopers, for example) may share the same Character Trait(s).
Lead characters also have a chief advantage extras don’t get: Action Points. Lead characters are just lucky. For whatever reason, destiny seems to cheat on their behalf. Action Points reflect just this sort of luck.
(Extras still have a Action Rating, from which they can buy Powers or Stunts. They just don’t get Action Points of their own. “Advanced” extras can even have very high Action Ratings, and thus be quite powerful. But only Leads get Action Points.)
Action-movie combats are about much more than shoot-outs and explosions. Characters trade barbed insults, knock each other about, and try to stare down or frighten their opponents. In Destiny, these kinds of moments are enabled by the use of Combat Interaction skills.
Though Combat Interaction skills can be used outside of combat (see the skill’s description in Chapter 3), they have special utility during combat, utility no other skills can match. In combat, players can choose to use CI skills in one of four basic ways.
1.) Distraction. Each Success Rating achieved when using a CI skill causes a -1 penalty to the target’s actions for the next round. (This is the assumed default for CI Skill Challenges.)
In connection with the Initiative rules, successful distractions can count for Seizing the Initiative, Pressing the Advantage, or Countering a Press.
2.) Temporary Traits. A character who achieves a Spectacular Success (4 SR) can instead choose to apply a temporary Trait to the target, such as “Unnerved” or “Distracted”. (See Character Traits for a description.)
3.) Provoking reactions. If a character achieves a 4 SR, they can choose to provoke a specific reaction defined by the player (instead of Distracting the target or attaching a temporary Trait). “He runs away, towards the edge of the ship’s deck.”
Gamemasters have the final say on whether the described action is reasonable or possible.
4.) Activate a Destiny Deck card. Some Cold Destiny Deck effects require CI use to activate. (See The Destiny Deck.)
Intelligent use of CI skills can change the course of a combat and, though not capable of killing an opponent outright, they can nonetheless be critically important.
Combat Skill Distractions
Combat skills can also be used to distract the enemy, using the same mechanics as Combat Interaction skills. The player rolls a Skill Challenge for the combat skill, and each Success Rating applies a -1 penalty to all actions taken by the target next round.
This can represent suppressive fire (firearms), a feint (melee weapons), or other attempt to hamper the target.
However, combat skills cannot attach a temporary Trait to a target, provoke a reaction, or activate a Destiny Deck card. Only Combat Interaction skills can accomplish those.
Why have CI skills?
1.) Cinematic moments. They encourage players to taunt their enemies, to try and trick them, to intimidate them. These are more interesting than hack and slash, and more cinematic.
Every action-movie fight is broken up with people making fun of each other, trying to scare the other guy (“Do you feel lucky? Well, punk, do ya?”), and so forth. By making them combat-viable options, such actions are encouraged.
2.) Everyone has a weakness. That villain? Temper. Taunt him, and he will freak out and attack. The Vizier? Secretly a coward. Intimidate him, and he will give himself away.
CI’s ensure everyone has a weakness. If you can suss it out.
3.) Encourage non-lethal strategies. Not all combats have to be a fight to the death. CI’s mean non-lethal strategies can work, which can be of great benefit if the goal is to capture the enemy, rather than kill. “Give yourself up, or we’re coming in!” With a high enough intimidation total, he might.
4.) Synergies with physical attacks. But, often enough, non-lethal strategies work best in concert with physical attacks. Trick the bad guy, keep him monologuing, until you’re in position to attack. Then launch a sneak attack, and wipe him out.
5.) Give non physical characters ways to contribute in combat. Super-scientist, but clueless with a gun? Use your intelligence to trick the bad guys into giving themselves away, or look the wrong way, or make some other mistake.
6.) Discourage dump-stats. Charisma (Influence, in my game) is useless, right? Doesn’t do anything for you. Dump all the points and put them into Dexterity or Strength. Only… without Influence, you are easily taunted. Oops. Now you’re the weak link.
Those are the game design reasons. But all these skills have real-world application as well. Tricks are a constant in war (such as Patton’s fake army). Intimidation is a potent tactic — take the Rebel Yell, the Stuka’s siren, or Mongol ferocity.
Combat Interaction skills encourage cinematic moments and allow players to engage in tactics other than hack and slash. Both of those make Destiny a better action-movie RPG.
A Declaration is a short, vivid, in-character description of a desired action. “I whip the horses to get the carriage to go faster.” “I leap from the car to the truck.” “I try and clear the jam.”
If the player describes their action in terms of a Declaration, rather than rules-speak, they gain a +1 bonus to a Skill or Combat Challenge.
Example: “I make an Attack Total to shoot with my AK.” This isn’t worth a bonus.
“I light up the room with my AK.” This sentence, which means exactly the same thing, is in-character and worth the bonus.
This rule gets players thinking more in terms of what their actions are look or feel like in the game world, and less about the mechanics. The gamemaster can help them translate their efforts into mechanical terms (though veteran players probably won’t need much help).
Ideally, coming up with a Declaration should be quick and easy. Players should never have to slow down play to think of one.
Declarations can be as elaborate as the player wishes, but don’t have to be. So long as they are descriptive and in-character, they are worth the +1 bonus.
Declarations are the perfect place to inject a bit of character style into the game. The more life you infuse into a Declaration, the more your character’s style bleeds through, the more color you bring to the game.
Example: “I dive over the counter, my twin pistols blazing away at the enemy.”
Let your descriptions reveal what kind of person your character is. Is your character a brutal no-frills fighter, who goes in directly for the kill, or are they a flashy, high-kicking martial artist who shows off with every blow? When using a blade, are they Conan or d’Artagnan? The game mechanics of the attacks are the same, but the description is very different.
Declarations can be used with Skill Challenges as well, and with the same benefits. Again, they need not be elaborate or lengthy, but should be in-character and vivid.
The .1a Alpha Test Draft of the Destiny Gaming System is finished. No more “Example:” paragraphs with nothing following the colon, no more yellow “Finish” Post-its attached to headers, no more notes copy-pasted from the List(s) or forum posts waiting to be reviewed and incorporated (or deleted). Everything I set out to include for the Destiny Fight Club is finished.
Some caveats: work still needs to be done. Proofreading, restructuring (moving sections around), clarifying, getting a final bout of comments on TheRPGSite. Not all is posted here (example: Declarations) but will be, and of course there’s… the playtesting.
Starting November 11th, 2012 at 1PM Mountain Time, I’ll be running a combat scenario using the Alpha Test rules, with the four intrepid souls who’ve volunteered to be guinea pigs. After that, feedback, clarification, and surgery.
Next up in the Playtest queue is the Destiny Deck. Selecting cards (100-120 of them), writing them up, prototyping in Photoshop, uploading… yeesh. ASAP.
So, onward to actual play. Here’s hoping it doesn’t all melt down into a giant mess…
Thanks for the participation and the feedback.
Look son, being a good shot, being quick with a pistol, that don’t do no harm, but it don’t mean much next to being cool-headed.
A man who will keep his head and not get rattled under fire, like as not, he’ll kill ya. It ain’t so easy to shoot a man anyhow, especially if the son-of-a-bitch is shootin’ back at you.
That’ll flat rattle some folks.
– Little Bill Dagget, Unforgiven
Once you have Initiative, you can Press Your Advantage. Each round you do, you gain a cumulative +1 bonus. This is the Advantage bonus, and it can go as high as +9.
As one side gains an advantage, the other side becomes more and more disorganized. Their enemy appears invincible, and they are being hammered left and right. This panics people, and panicked enemies act in desperate and bizarre ways.
In game terms, when their opponent’s Advantage exceeds their Morale, soldiers will break: freeze, flee, surrender, or panic (act in random ways).
Morale: Types of soldiers.
-1: Panicky. Troops without any training or motivation (conscripted peasants), or the survivors of a routed unit. As soon as they get into combat, they will break.
0: Green. Troops with minimal training and no combat experience, or unmotivated troops. As soon as their opponent gains an Advantage of +1, they will break.
1: Blooded. Trained troops, or soldiers who’ve been in combat at least once.
2-4: Seasoned. Troops with several battles under their belt, high motivation (people defending their homes), rigorous and continuous training, or a high esprit de corps.
5-7: Veteran. Troops with extensive combat experience or elite training (but no experience in combat).
8: Elite. “The Best of the Best.” Very dedicated soldiers, with extensive combat experience, and elite training.
9: Fanatic. These soldiers will never break. They will impassively fight to the death. The legendary Immortals of Persia.
Leads, including all PC’s, are immune to Morale. They only flee if they wish.
Leaders can bolster the Morale of their troops. This can take the form of a rousing speech before battle, or encouragement during the battle. In both cases, the leadership skill is used to temporarily raise the soldiers’ morale.
[Note: This is a multi-part post. Keep track of the previous posts here.]