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The Odyssey System: The Rules of FAR WEST

As stated on the front page, the Second Movement of Far West will be a tabletop roleplaying game. Development on this game began in 2007, initially using the FATE System. After a playtest, though, we felt that it wasn’t a perfect fit for FAR WEST. Although there were certainly some elements of it that we felt worked really well, overall the system was too abstract for what we were trying to convey, and so development continued. An original system was tried, but that didn’t work exactly right, either.

All throughout the process, I kept finding myself thinking of things in terms of an earlier design effort — a system which I had begun to develop at the tail end of the d20 System era. My intention at the time was to produce what I referred to as “a stripped down hot-rod” version of the d20 rules, trimming unnecessary detail in favor of speed and ease of play. I called it the Odyssey System. And during the design period of Far West, I kept saying things like “I need this to handle stunts they way I did it in Odyssey”, or “I really wish I could figure out a way to do chases which worked as well as they do in Odyssey”, etc.

I also kept coming back to those things that had worked well in the earlier playtests of the game (both FATE and the original system). I’m sure that you, dear reader, can see where this is headed — the conclusion seems obvious, doesn’t it? Well, I wish I could say that I came to the same conclusion as quickly. Alas, sometimes designers can suffer from a specific type of myopia, where we overthink problems to the point where the most obvious solutions take ages for us to notice. When I finally found myself saying “well, why the hell not?” — that’s when everything clicked into place.

Far West uses the Odyssey System. Not the same version that existed back when I first developed it, though — rather, one that has evolved to incorporate those elements from our earlier FATE and original system playtests, as well as the core skeleton of the d20 System (which has the benefit of having been playtested my millions of gamers over a decade of play). Knowledge of the d20 System isn’t required to play — we view it very much as the technology that underpins our engine, meaning that you can enjoy tearing around the curves and straightaways without ever popping the hood. For folks familiar with the workings of d20, however, the engine will make sense to you, and like any gearhead, you’ll be able to put it up on jacks and tinker to your heart’s content, customizing where you see fit.

Here’s a brief outline of the rules system:

CLASSES/LEVELS:

No Character Classes: Everybody is a single “class”. Differentiation comes from Backgrounds and Occupations, which give you your basic Areas of Knowledge (AOKs) (q.v). Old-style “class abilities” are now Edges (q.v.) which allow players to mix-and-match to create a custom character.
Backgrounds: Where you came from, what shaped you (includes kung fu clan memberships).
Occupations: What you were trained to do (your job).
• There are three common starting ranks: Basic (4th Level characters), Advanced (8th level characters), and Master (12th level characters). Above that are Legends (16th and higher). No XP progression, a system of narrative progression only.

ABILITIES

• Standard d20 Ability Set (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma).
• Abilities are rated in bonuses only (+1, +2, etc.), rather than numeric scale.
Spirit is based on Wisdom + bonuses for level and Edges (q.v.). Spirit is a points pool used to power Kung Fu, but also can be used as a reserve for any roll (Inner Strength). Rises and falls throughout the game, with awards and penalties based on achievements and circumstances. There is also the possibility of gaining “Corrupt Spirit”, but more on that later.
• All Saving Throws are simple ability checks, plus half the character level. (Reflex = DEX, Social = CHA, etc.) It is possible to have a “Save” based on any ability.

ASPECTS

• As per FATE, Descriptors that add unique flavor to each character. Can be tagged by player for bonuses to rolls, but conversely can also be used by GM to compel actions. Spirit is spent for tagging (or awarded, in the case of compels).
• Characters have 2 Aspects based on two of the traditional eight Xia virtues (altruism, justice, individualism, loyalty, courage, truthfulness, disregard for wealth and desire for glory), plus an additional Aspect for any Ability ranked at +3 or higher (which must be somehow related to the ability in question). Additional Aspects are possible depending on the rank of the character (Basic, Advanced, Master…).
• It is also possible through play to gain Corrupt Aspects (similar to the Dark Side Aspects talked about by Ryan Macklin.

SKILLS

• Eliminated entirely — Everything handled via Ability checks, plus half-level bonus for normal use, full-level bonus for background/occupational Areas of Knowlege, and/or bonuses from Edges. For example: a hero could use DEX to ride a horse, but would only get a regular DEX check + 1/2 their level. A hero with a “rancher” background would get a DEX check + their full level, and a hero with an “Expert Horseman” Edge would get additional bonuses. Plus, if the character had an Aspect like “Hell-bent for Leather”, they could tag that to get even more of a bonus to the roll.

EDGES

• Both Feats and class Talents of standard d20 have been eliminated (kinda-sorta) — replaced with Edges, which combine their functions. Edges are nifties — stuff you can do. A PC gets 2 edges for every odd level, and 1 Edge for every even level (which those of you familiar with the rules structure will note matches the class talent + feat progression from d20 Modern). Some Edges have pre-reqs, some don’t. Players create custom characters through their choice of Edges.

KUNG FU

Martial Training is an Edge, which allows you to have a style (choose from example styles, or design your own). You can take that Edge multiple times, and learn multiple styles.
Kung Fu system is based on Spirit, with more powerful techniques requiring greater Spirit expenditure to use. Styles are designed with a points-buy system, with a budget determined by character’s rank and max Spirit (not the current fluctuating total, but the “at rest” number — so more powerful techniques can only be learned by Masters, etc.).

COMBAT & ACTION

• No Hit Points — Toughness Save (CON) (similar to Mutants and Masterminds), but with results tracked in Wound Levels, each with their own penalties.
Initiative — Ability check, using average of DEX & WIS
Attack: DEX or STR + character level + Edge bonuses
Defense: STR (blocking in melee) or DEX (avoidance in melee or ranged) + character level + Edge bonuses.
Chase Rules based on our system which most recently appeared in The Tome of Secrets for Pathfinder.
Stunt system based on the one from the original d20 version of MARS. (In short, a roll of 20 gives you a Stunt Point, which is set aside, to be spent later for automatic successes, to gain the use of an Edge you don’t have, to bring about a fortunate circumstance, to negate a hit against you, to instantly kill a minor NPC, etc.)

There is, of course, much more — but that gives you an idea of what we’re doing. This plays fast, fast, fast.

The Far West role-playing game will appear in several formats. The basic game (a light version) will be released for FREE as a PDF. The full version of the game will be available in two formats: a softcover which will be available through traditional distribution to game shops worldwide, and a full-color limited-edition hardcover which will only be available through us. The softcover and limited hardcover will be the subject of a Kickstarter crowdfunding project later this month.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this preview, and we’ll see you back here on Monday when we resume with new content. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Gareth-Michael Skarka

June 3, 2011

30 Comments

  1. I’ve definitely been looking forward to Far West for some time now and am super happy to hear it’s finally getting underway! The concept just sounds so awesome! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the Kickstarter project as I’d really love to get my hands on a paper version. Hope you have a great weekend as well!

  2. Sunsword says:

    I’m very pleased at combing Far West with the Odyssey system & like the changes I’ve seen. I’m looking forward to adding my support to the Kickstarter project :)

  3. Yuutousei says:

    YES!

    This is the thing I most wanted to hear since the website launched. The rule system seems pretty good from my end (I’ll admit, I’ve never played FATE but I’m well enough versed with d20 that it’s not totally new to me). The elimination of classes surprised me, but by using occupations instead makes me feel that The Far West will be more unique than other games.

  4. […] Rollenspiels nicht sein. Wer neugierig ist was diese ominöse Regelbasis sein soll kann sich hier einen Überblick verschaffen. Adamant Entertainment bringen ein neues Rollenspiel. Wer auf einen Mix von Spaghetti Western und […]

  5. WuxiaDaddy says:

    Looks really interesting. Didn’t the old Dragon Fist game use a similar skill system? It has been a while… I’m looking forward to seeing more!

  6. […] Entertainment has posted some details about their Odyssey System that powers their upcoming Far West RPG. As stated on the […]

  7. Kodyax says:

    Have you looked at Savage Worlds? This sounds awefully similar to that system.

    • admin says:

      We publish for Savage Worlds (two lines: MARS and THRILLING TALES), and are very familiar with the rules — not seeing any similarity at all. (SW uses dice to rate abilities, not bonuses, those dice are rolled against difficulty numbers, etc.)

  8. Doc Nova says:

    As an old hat at d20, both classic and M&M, and an avid (maybe rabid?) fan of FATE, I can say that a combined system intrigues me. I look forward to your hardcover limited edition…

  9. Christopher says:

    This sounds really cool. I like what you guys did with both your D20 and Savage Worlds stuff, especially Mars. Combining elements of both plus some new stuff definately sounds fun. Of course the main draw for me is the Far West world. I can’t wait to hear more on this…tales of ronin swordmasters eyeballing each other at high noon, trying to prove which one has more sand vividly crosses my mind over and over. Can’t wait.

  10. Ben says:

    I’m in for the HC print version and will be jumping on the Kickstarter. Is there any need for playtesting still? Perhaps with upcoming pieces? I have a group that LOVES both wuxia as well as westerns, so selling them on digging in won’t be a problem! Either way, we’re in and I’m looking forward to the game, as well as the rest. Great job!

  11. BlindGeek says:

    Hi. This sounds very cool. When you mentioned a derivative of D20, I was skeptical; I’m not a fan of that system. But after reading the rules synopsis, I’m actually intrigued. I’m all about fast play.

    You mentioned the free version would be a “light” PDF, but the full book would be available in soft-cover and limited-edition hard-cover. Will there also be a PDF version of the full book? Thanks.

    • admin says:

      There will eventually be a PDF of the softcover when the book is released to distribution, but the only way to get the PDF of the limited edition will be to join the Kickstarter which launches this coming week. It will be exclusive to that.

  12. […] sistema apresentado para este RPG será o Odyssey, uma amálgama de D20 System com Fate, uma mistura que eu só consegui imaginar como poderia dar […]

  13. Harry says:

    I’m sold! I’m off to the Kickstarter to pledge now!

  14. Gobbo says:

    Oooohhh…

    Not too sure about a d20 system. might not have jumped on board the Kickstarter if I had known it was d20….

    • admin says:

      It’s not “d20″ any more than, say, “Mutants and Masterminds” is “d20″ — yes, it forms the basis of the engine, but it’s been expanded well beyond what would be considered a “d20 game.”

      • Gobbo says:

        Good to hear. I happen to be a HUGE fan of M&M and after a good once over of the site here I am more excited than I thought I would be…

  15. […] sistema apresentado para este RPG será o Odyssey, uma amálgama de D20 System com Fate, uma mistura que eu só consegui imaginar como poderia dar […]

  16. Nice. I like the summary. For me that was plenty straight forward, and laid out clearly. I so look forward to seeing more. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Richard "Fast as Lightning" Logue says:

    Do you spend points to build your character, or is there some randomization involved?

    Also, is there some kind of mechanic built into the game to promote role-playing or “over-the-top action” like Drama Dice (7th Sea) or Fate Chips (Deadlands) or Bennies (Savage Worlds)? This is very important to me.

    • admin says:

      Both — we present a random method and a build method.

      And to your second question, yes — through the combination of Aspects, narrative-only experience, Stunt points and more.

  18. Curt says:

    Gareth, the system sounds great, except for the no hit points–my main issue with True20. Would you consider writing up optional rules to be included for traditional hit points?

    • admin says:

      I doubt I would — but part of the benefit of using d20 as our basis is that it makes it simple for people to tinker as they see fit!

  19. Jaysin1414 says:

    Gareth,

    I think the idea of taking the best parts of d20 and FATE is a very good one, and opens the game up by being readily identifiable by the vast majority of gamers. A very wise choice.

    Out of curiosity as someone who daydreams about someday creating game supplements, is the Odyssey system going to be an OGL system since it’s based, in part, upon FATE and d20 which are both OGL systems? Is Far West the sort of game universe where you might envision letting third-pary developers create supplements, similar to how you let some companies make ICONS-related products?

    Anyway, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to be a part of the kickstarter and to watch this idea get started from the ground up. Best of success to you and the team with Far West!

    J1414

    • admin says:

      The Odyssey System will be open-source, but FAR WEST will not be opened to third-party developers.

      • Jaysin1414 says:

        Thanks for the fast reply Gareth –

        Totally understand re: FAR WEST. It certainly looks great thus far.

        I know you’re calling it a trans-media experience, and that there’s an RPG element, a book element, have you announced other media where you hope to direct the material? If not, I’m *really* not trying to add pressure – just curious and enthusiastic by nature. :)

        continued success with this and ICONS!
        J1414

      • Jaysin1414 says:

        Thanks for the fast reply Gareth –

        Totally understand re: FAR WEST. It certainly looks great thus far.

        I know you’re calling it a trans-media experience. I’m aware of the RPG element and a book/novella element, but have you announced other media where you hope to direct the material? If not, I’m *really* not trying to add pressure – just curious and enthusiastic by nature. :)

        Continued success with this and ICONS!
        J1414

  20. […] Brothers – Tsugaru Shamisen – MorriconeReferences [1] Into The Far West website [2] The Odyssey System [3] FATE website [4] Mutants & Masterminds [5] True20 [6] Far West KickstarterReviewsRelated […]

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