Monday, June 16, 2014

The Homebrew of Doom

Most roleplayers I know like to see how things tick, meaning that a sizable portion of them have tried their hands at homebrewing their own system. It's like a rite of passage for gamers. I started pretty young. Prior to discovering RPGs I used to make little board games out of poster board and construction paper. In junior high school I tried to flesh out the system used in Steve Jackson's Battlesuit into a full-fledged roleplaying game. This was before I discovered Mekton, or GURPS had been released. It was contained in a binder with pages of hand-written notes and charts. It used some elements of Traveller and retained the dot-based movement system from Battlesuit. It even had a point-buy suit design system. I wish I still had that binder, if only to see what kind of accidental genius ideas I had come up with.

But the homebrew I remember best was dubbed Virtual. I started on it sometime in the mid-90s - well before Fuzion made its debut - and it was an unholy mish-mash of Heavy Gear's Silhouette system, Cyberpunk 2020's and Mekton Zeta's Interlock, Dream Park, and some Storyteller thrown in for good measure. Like its Battlesuit predecessor, it was contained in a binder but this time the pages were printed on a laser printer and laid out in Microsoft Works.


That system is also lost to time, but I remember a few things about it:
  • d10 based with a dice pool.
  • Zero was average, and the attributes went from 0-5 for unaugmented characters. There was something funky about the Merits and Flaws system that accounted for negative attributes.
  • There were, if I recall, 16 attributes. I don't remember if they were all independent or if some were derived, but I think they were roughly in groups of 4 (Physical, Mental, Social and Spiritual IIRC).
  • It was meant to be a universal system
  • Skills were from 1-10. I want to say that it was a die pool using attribute, with the skill level being the target number to roll under. Multiple successes could be required for some complex tasks. 1s did something special (might have been two successes instead of one).
  • The concept of Roles were there, gutted from CP2020/Mekton Zeta. They were a lot more generic, and more like skill packages. Curiously I think I kept the Special Abilities from CP2020.
  • It used a wound system with penalties, with a soak system reminiscent of CP2020's wound boxes.
  • I did something with mashing Merits and Flaws together, but I'll be damned if I can remember exactly how it worked. I seem to recall that Flaws in particular did something funky with regards to the attributes and skills - they weren't straight penalties. For sure you could still have, for example, Perception greater than 0 if you were Blind, but something happened to the results. Regardless, most of them were lifted from Storyteller.
  • I never completely got around to it, but the mecha design system was based off of Mekton Zeta's, with the inclusion of a number of concepts from Silhouette. This system - or one like it - has been my white whale for a long time. I never seem to get enough traction in trying to design it before I say, "I already have Mekton Zeta...WTF do I need this for?"
In the end, it's probably best that the system never saw the light of day, because I'm sure I would have turned it into a netbook and somebody would be mocking me for it. To that end, I'm going to stick with the upcoming Mekton Zero and Heavy Gear Universe instead of trying to superglue a new system together (as much as I'm tempted).

So share your best, most embarrassing, most under appreciated, or just plain bad homebrew. We all have one hiding in our closet somewhere.