Designing Cultural Backgrounds

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ryhopewood
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Designing Cultural Backgrounds

Postby ryhopewood » Tue Oct 12, 2010 4:45 pm

I've developed a system for designing new Cultural Backgrounds based on the existing Backgrounds in the core rules. These guidelines have been updated with material from the Elric source book. Thanks to all those who commented in this thread.

Cultural Backgrounds
Cultural Backgrounds consist of four game elements: Common Skill Bonuses, Combat Styles, Advanced Skills, and Starting Money.

All Cultural Backgrounds have the following minimum elements:

Common Skill Bonuses: +30% to Culture (Own) and Lore (Regional)
Combat Styles: +10% to one Combat Style from a pre-defined list (around 10 Styles)
Advanced Skills: Language (Native) +50% and one Advanced Skill at base%

You have 7 Design Points. You can use one Design Point to make one of the following selections:

Common Skill Bonuses: +10% to one Skill or +5% to two Skills. Choices may stack (although no individual Skill should have a bonus greater than +20%).
Combat Styles: +10% to one additional Combat Style from a pre-defined list.
Advanced Skills: Choose one additional Advanced Skill at base%.
Advanced Skills: +10% to one Skill. Advanced Skill must already be known at base%. Choices may stack (although no individual skill should have a bonus greater than +20%).

You may sell back minimum elements to gain additional Design Points. For example, the Poor Cultural Background in Elric of Melniboné gains two extra DP by selling back the Advanced Skill: Language (Native) from the default of 50% to 30%.

In the core rules, Starting Money and available possessions are not particularly balanced nor need they be (such is life). GMs should assign money and items as fits their concept for the background taking into account the examples in the core rules and various supplements.

Applying the design process to the Cultural Backgrounds in the Core Rules:

Barbarian (7 DP)
• Common Skill Bonuses: +10% to Athletics and Resilience, and +5% to Brawn, Perception, Ride, and Stealth (4 DPs)
• Combat Styles: Two additional Combat Styles at 10% each (2 DPs)
• Advanced Skills: One additional Advanced Skill at base% (1 DP)
Civilised (7 DP)
• Common Skill Bonuses: +20% to Evaluate and Influence (4 DPs)
• Combat Styles: none (0 DP)
• Advanced Skills: Three additional Advanced Skills at base% (3 DPs)
Nomad (7 DP)
• Common Skill Bonuses: +10% to Athletics, Perception, Resilience, Stealth, and one other from a short list (5 DPs)
• Combat Styles: One additional Combat Style at 10% (1 DP)
• Advanced Skills: One additional Advanced Skill at base% (1 DP)
Primitive (7 DP)
• Common Skill Bonuses: +15% to Athletics, Perception, Resilience, and Stealth (6 DPs)
• Combat Styles: none (0 DP)
• Advanced Skills: One additional Advanced Skill at base% (1 DP)

Applying the design process to the Cultural Backgrounds in Elric of Melniboné:

Melnibonean (7 DP)
• Common Skill Bonuses: +10% to Athletics and Insight, and two other choices from a limited list (4 DPs)
• Combat Styles: none (0 DP)
• Advanced Skills: Three additional Advanced Skill at base% (3 DP)
*Note that for this Cultural Background Lore (Regional) is an Advanced Skill but it is still free.
Outlaw (7 DP)
• Common Skill Bonuses: +10% to Athletics and Resilience, +5% to four other skills (4 DPs)
• Combat Styles: Two additional Combat Styles at 10% each (2 DPs)
• Advanced Skills: One additional Advanced Skill at base% (1 DP)
Poor (7 DP)
• Common Skill Bonuses: +10% to four skills from a limited list (4 DPs)
• Combat Styles: none (0 DP)
• Advanced Skills: Language (Common) +30% [-2 DP], one additional Advanced Skill at base%, and two Advanced Skills +20% [5 DPs].
Wanderer of the Time Streams (5.5 DP)
• Common Skill Bonuses: +10% to Insight and Resilience, +5% to five other skills (4.5 DPs)
• Combat Styles: none (0 DP)
• Advanced Skills: One additional Advanced Skill at base% (1 DP)

Any thoughts would be much appreciated,

Ian
Last edited by ryhopewood on Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
daxos232
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Postby daxos232 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:56 pm

That's a very good system. I'm trying to do something similar for when players want to make their own cults from scratch.

You could have starting money also depend on Design Points, with a small value for those players who don't put any points into it, maybe 4D6 X 10, like as for the Primitive background. If they want more starting money they use up points that could have been used for skills.
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Vagni
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Postby Vagni » Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:59 pm

Interesting. Nice to see the mechanics of the system in such a clear format.

You could perhaps balance the Civilised money out for Primitive cultures by allowing them a single bound spirit from their Shaman. Unless they had a control spell this would be one use.
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PhilHibbs
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Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:02 pm

Vagni wrote:Interesting. Nice to see the mechanics of the system in such a clear format.

You could perhaps balance the Civilised money out for Primitive cultures by allowing them a single bound spirit from their Shaman. Unless they had a control spell this would be one use.
I don't think he's asking "How can we change RQ2 to match my system", he's asking "What is other factors might I have missed out in my system that account for the imbalance", but I don't think there are any. Life just isn't fair.
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Postby daxos232 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:43 am

I forgot to say, that design system you made would be great for the wiki.
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Vagni
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Postby Vagni » Wed Oct 13, 2010 7:34 am

PhilHibbs wrote:
Vagni wrote:Interesting. Nice to see the mechanics of the system in such a clear format.

You could perhaps balance the Civilised money out for Primitive cultures by allowing them a single bound spirit from their Shaman. Unless they had a control spell this would be one use.
I don't think he's asking "How can we change RQ2 to match my system", he's asking "What is other factors might I have missed out in my system that account for the imbalance", but I don't think there are any. Life just isn't fair.
No, I realise the backgrounds aren't all 'fair', especially in terms of money, and I don't think they should be. My suggestion was more of a way to level the backgrounds by keeping within their cultures if that was what people were looking for.

I don't think that anything has been missed, ryhopewood's system reflects and illuminates the rule mechanics very well.

The only other thing I can suggest as another possibility is, for those who want more options in the character build stage, to allow the Development Points to be used to buy options such as extra cash, a very minor magic item an unusual piece of equipment etc. Maybe even allow 2 points to buy a skill or option from another culture. Not for all GM's of course.

Personally I tend to use the backgrounds and professions 'as is', but this template is a very useful addition.
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ryhopewood
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Postby ryhopewood » Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:42 am

Thanks for all your comments and input. I have updated the system by editing the first post to include information in the Elric source book. There is now the option to sell back minimum elements and add +10% to an Advanced Skill.

I'm going to think about Starting Money. There are plenty of systems that include a points based approach to wealth to borrow from but the problem here would be any comparison with the other categories. For example, is an increase in wealth by one level the same in game terms as a +10% to a Common Skill?

I agree that game balance considerations should not get in the way of roleplaying or simulating a genre - as Phil says Life is Life. But it does seem odd to me that the on the whole the Packages are reasonably balanced so why not take into account Starting Money? Maybe in the long-term, Starting Money is simply a non-issue as characters generate their own income and acquire equipment in other ways?

BTW In looking across the eight Cultural Backgrounds I've looked at so far, the Wanderer of the Time Streams from the Elric setting book seems to be rather weak.

Ian
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Deleriad
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Postby Deleriad » Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:55 am

As said, generally the backgrounds aren't meant balanced in terms of money and possessions.

When it comes to a cultural background 'template' your breakdown is right on but note that you don't generally get more than +20% in any one skill (other than culture, lore and language). The system is generally oriented so that for novice characters you'll usually get a max of +50 to a skill (+10 culture, +10 profession, +30 free) with a small number of specialist cases. Assuming that said novice character is likely to have a total base score of 25-30 in their favoured skills, then a novice character usually ends up around 75-80% in their best skill. So be wary of any cultural background skills that give adds of more than +10.
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Vagni
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Postby Vagni » Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:56 am

Another slightly odd thing is that a Nomad character (assuming their not foot or river nomads) doesn't gain a mount as part of their starting equipment.

I appreciate that not all nomad cultures may allow an individual to 'own' one of the tribes mounts, but they would have access to one on a regular basis I would have thought. Perhaps their starting wealth is in animals rather than coin or other goods?

I let my Sable Rider PC have a mount right from the start, but it depends on what background you have them come from I suppose.
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ryhopewood
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Postby ryhopewood » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:15 am

Deleriad wrote:As said, generally the backgrounds aren't meant balanced in terms of money and possessions.
Thanks. This does seem to be the general consensus and I'll edit my first post to reflect this.
Deleriad wrote:When it comes to a cultural background 'template' your breakdown is right on but note that you don't generally get more than +20% in any one skill (other than culture, lore and language). The system is generally oriented so that for novice characters you'll usually get a max of +50 to a skill (+10 culture, +10 profession, +30 free) with a small number of specialist cases. Assuming that said novice character is likely to have a total base score of 25-30 in their favoured skills, then a novice character usually ends up around 75-80% in their best skill. So be wary of any cultural background skills that give adds of more than +10.
Thanks again! I'll add something to the first post that suggests that the bonus to any skill from Cultural Background should not be greater than +20%. This is greater than your suggestion but consistent with the Poor Cultural Background in the Elric source book.

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