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A Medieval Role Playing Game for Boys

I was sitting with two boys who wanted to play “a story adventure game with swords and dragons” so we made one up. Commercial RPGs are overdesigned to require expense supplemental material and intrinsically obsolescent in order to require regular 2nd, 3rd and 4th editions.

I began by asking the boys if they had a bunch of ordinary square 6-sided dice.

They then got pencils and paper and began working out a probability curve which could be used for various resolution tables. “Two dice provide 11 possible results,” I declared. “Now, how many ways are there of rolling a two?”

They answered each of the questions posed and we checked the results by flipping the die.

-2: 1

-3: 2

-4: 3

-5: 4

-6: 5

-7: 6

-8: 5

-9: 4

10: 3

11: 2

12: 1

We can use this 1 to 6 out of 36 probability curve to generate characters as well as resolve imaginary encounters. The game rules we devised are all based on this system, with a roll equal to or higher than the chance of success indicating a level of success that is then acted out, narrated or qualified in terms of the game mechanics.

I then suggested, “Let’s each pick out an important ability for an adventurer. I’ll go third.”

These were the results, with the three of us agreeing by consensus that we had selected enough abilities to cover any contingency, in the following order:

1. Strength [Felix]

2. Intelligence [Dominic]

3. Agility [James]

4. Toughness [including stamina] [Felix]

5. Creativity [Dominic]

6. Looks [James]

7. Personality [including will power] [Felix]

8. Honor [self-discipline, adherence to a behavioral code and respect level] [Dominic]

9. Luck [James]

I selected agility, looks and luck, showing that these boys of less than 10 years have a good idea as to what qualities might indicate success for an adventurer.

Each player than rolled two dice 10 times and recorded the results, then assigned them to abilities for their character, discarding the low result.

We then determined their survival points, which can be lost through injury and exertion and other means by adding:

Toughness + strength + personality + luck to arrive at survival levels of about 25 points on average. Survival points are therefore divided between toughness and energy: vitality and energy, vitality equaling toughness and energy the combination of strength, personality and luck.

Vitality is the core survival value which replenishes, at the ideal rate with rest and medical care, at 1 point per day. The energy points replenish at the toughness value per day.

There remained two more steps in character creation, 2nd being determining social class with a single roll of the dice! Yikes!

-2 condemned criminal

-3 shackled workhouse or domestic slave

-4 slave, galley, mines, etc.

-5 serf, agricultural slave

-6 serf

-7 peasant [agricultural poor]

-8 peasant

-9 artisan, tradesman, professional, merchant

-10 man at arms, non-noble military

-11 knight, priest, lower nobility

-12 lord

If you have read up on the Middle Ages, the above table is both generous and optimistic. After all, we are talking about adventurers, not ordinary folk.

Our adventurers ended up being a peasant and a man-at-arms

The third step was to select one item [a change of clothes being 1 choice] per every luck point the character has, with choices coming from classes of belongings that might be possessed by a member of the character’s caste.

The fourth step is to assign 1 skill for every 2 points of intelligence, skills that can be justified as part of the character’s social class.

The final phase of character creation is for the player to assign a name, ambition, nuances of personality and experience, such as the peasant boy who wanted to be a werewolf and started the storyline for the moderator, when he immediately failed to conceal his condition and had to flee the village ahead of the mob.

The following installments will present:

-2. Character sheet

-3. Action resolution

-4. Mechanical & hurled weapons

-5. Weapons and armor

-6. Combat resolution

-7. Interactive storytelling guide

By the Wine Dark Sea

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