Wednesday, June 1, 2011

PA - Gear Conditions

So, one of my biggest stumbling blocks in designing my post-apoc RPG setting is gear. All the rest of it is actually relatively simple in concept, just somewhat lengthy in execution.

Here's the basic block: Gear needs to matter. Post-apoc is one of the few settings where hand-waving gear actually detracts from the feel. Scavenging for parts, babying your car because you can't find another, and fighting off desperate bandits who want your stuff are all key features of the setting. And yet, most of the solutions I've seen either fail to provide mechanical support for these features, or have a system that is over-detailed and heavy on the bookkeeping. Indeed, the solution I've been working with to date falls into the "heavy on the bookkeeping" side. I was looking at it a few weeks ago, and realized that, much like your average encumbrance system, no one would actually use it.

I had a brain-wave last night. I think I now have a tweak to the system that radically reduces the bookkeeping, while still maintaining most of the effects I want.

OK, first, an overview of the basic system. Gear is broken out in to several categories: Weapons, Armor, Vehicles, Tools & Supplies, and a few others based on special circumstances (e.g., borgs get a Cybernetics category). There are also two other categories: Spending Cash (which reflects how much cash you keep on hand, for things like bribes and gambling) and Lifestyle (which reflects how much you spend on clothes, food, lodging, etc.). Characters get points based on various options (mostly class levels and feats) to spend buying up ranks in the various categories.

Every piece of gear has three stats, plus potentially several that are unique to the category (e.g., damage for Weapons, top speed for Vehicles). The first stat is Caliber, which is a rough measure of how awesome the gear is. A zip gun might be Caliber 1, and a high-powered rail gun capable of cutting a tank in half might be Caliber 10. You use the ranks in your category to determine how many items of any given Caliber you can carry.

The second stat is Durability. This is basically a measure of how well the gear stands up to the rigors of the world. A luxury car might have great handling and great speed, but it will require a lot of TLC to keep it running.

The third stat is Condition. This measures the current state of the gear. Gear that is in worse condition will generally apply penalties to use. This is where the bookkeeping started getting crazy in my system. I had all kinds of ways for gear to accumulate "wear." As the gear accumulated wear, you tracked it like hit points. At certain thresholds, it would reduce the Durability. So, yeah, you had to have little numbers next to each piece of gear, and you had to remember to update them as you went along. It was going to be a serious pain.

With Conditions, the levels are ones that pretty much any hobbyist should be at least passingly familiar with:
  1. Mint - This is factory-fresh, never been used. Note that it is impossible to repair a weapon back to Mint condition.
  2. Near Mint -The gear looks like new, and can generally only be told from new by an expert. No penalties applied.
  3. Very Good - The gear is in great shape, with only a few marks of wear. The downhill slide begins with -1 to all Durability checks.
  4. Good - The gear is in pretty decent shape, but has developed "personality." Error ranges increase by 1.
  5. Fair - While still very usable, this gear has definitely seen better days. Any use of the gear suffers a -1 penalty, and all Durability checks are at -2.
  6. Poor - Some experts would no longer consider this usable, but beggars can't be choosers. Error ranges increase by 2, Durability checks at -3.
  7. Very Poor - You use that? You're braver than I thought. Free activation of errors, use suffers -2 penalty, Durability checks at -4.
  8. Scrap - Held together by duct tape and baling wire, this can barely be said to do the job. Error ranges increase by 3, Durability checks at -6.
  9. Broken - Usable for spare parts. If you're lucky. This gear cannot be used in the manner intended.
Now, it's true that you still have to have a little number next to each piece of gear. Or a little abbreviation, if you prefer the descriptions (e.g., "NM", "P"). But, it's not like tracking hit points, because the numbers are a lot less likely to change.

Here are a few of the ways to use those conditions:

When buying items from a typical merchant, a roll of 1d4+2 will give you a reasonable spread of the Condition of any given piece of gear for sale. When salvaging, use 2d4+2 instead, with a roll of 10 indicating that all you find is pieces. These results can be adjusted by characters with mad skills in either shopping or salvaging.

When repairing items, you make a check to improve the Condition by one rank. The DC of the repair check goes up as the target Condition goes up. You can sacrifice an existing piece of similar gear, cannibalizing it for parts, to gain a bonus based on its Condition.

The wealth category doesn't actually dictate how much gear you can buy, but how much you can care for. If you are carrying more gear than your ranks allow, then each piece of gear in that category must make a Durability check each week, with a penalty equal to how much you are over. There are additional fancy options to this.

If you suffer a critical miss with a weapon, one of the options is for the weapon to drop one Condition. Similarly, if an opponent scores a critical hit, one of the options is for the hit to drop your armor one Condition.

You can sabotage gear, reducing its effective Condition without changing its appearance.

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