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:
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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!
June 3, 2011