Friday, February 10, 2012

Can I battle innumeracy?

For my d20 variant (and likely for Seven Kingdoms as well, with significant tweaks) I am working on a gear system. I came up with it a couple years ago, when working on my d20 Rifts conversion. A brief outline is below.

My problem, though, is that it is based on some "advanced" arithmetic. I can do this stuff reflexively, but I was a math major. Apparently, people really freak out when asked to do anything more complex that adding. Do you think this is too hard?

The rough outline of the system goes like so:

Each character has a certain number of Wealth points. This is based on class and level, and is modified by Charisma and feats and whatnot. It works very much like skill points. There are a number of categories of Wealth, and the player spends points to raise the rank of each category. The important categories for our purposes are Weapons, Armor, and Tools. The categories are typically ranked from 1 to 10, though I may expand that as I test it out.

Every item in the game has a Caliber. (Yes, I'm still stealing from Spycraft 2.0 here. My execution is a bit different, though.) There are ways to figure out the Caliber of a given item, mostly by counting up its special properties. Anything above Caliber 5 is probably magical. We won't go over these details yet.

To figure out what gear a PC can have equipped, take the sum of the squares of the Calibers of each item. This total must be less than or equal to the Wealth category rating times ten.

Did your eyes just glaze over? Do you now think this system is too complicated? Too "math heavy"?

Okay, let's break it down a different way. Within each category, let's say that you get a number of points equal to the category rating times ten. You can "spend" these points to equip items. Each item costs a number of points based on the chart below:
Caliber Points

So, if you only put one rank in Weapons, you can have 10 Caliber 1 weapons (that's a lot of daggers), 2 Caliber 2 items and 2 Caliber 1 items (probably a short sword, dagger, light crossbow, and a handful of bolts), or 1 Caliber 3 item and 1 Caliber 1 item (possibly a longsword and dagger, or a longbow and handful of arrows). Similarly, if you want to carry around a Caliber 6 masterwork sword, you would need to put at least 4 ranks in Weapons.

Does it make more sense presented like that?

Honestly, any third grader should be able to square numbers up to 12. That's basic multiplication tables. I can understand if you are hesitant about doing multiplication on the fly when trying to determine the result of a check. It's trivial for me, but I know I'm outside the norm. This calculation is happening during character creation and leveling up, though. Is it too much to expect this level of ability in arithmetic from players?


  1. If presented as an easy to use table... maybe okay. But when I'm getting ready to game or reading a gaming text and come across "sum of the squares" them yeah ... my eyes glaze over and I move on. Just me.

  2. Depends - on you going for commercial viability or viability amongst your friends. If the former, then, yes it is too much to expect. Folks had trouble with doing the math in Exalted which is just adding and subtracting while remembering target numbers.

    You say "Squares" and people's eyes will glaze over. The chart helps and is useful, but people won't "grok" it and wonder why it is so funky.

  3. I weep for humanity.

    Okay, honestly, "sum of the squares" was probably going too far. I'll admit that. It would even take me an extra beat to parse that. But is "squaring" a number considered "advanced math"? I've seen it described that way. Your comments seem to bear that out.

    I think I may have traveled so far beyond normal that I couldn't see with a telescope on a clear day.

  4. Hey, I used to be an editor, so I understand your weepage. Weep away. Weep away.