Grow a Spine!

This is the second game I created.  Still not published, of course.  I created it to help out my brother’s Mecha forum.  I’d played a lot of forum based RP by then and discovered that one of the most frustrating parts was that it was almost entirely story based.  There’s no rules.  That’s fine if everyone is on the same page, but sometimes, your character has got to punch another character and maybe that character don’t want to be punched.

This is my attempt to create a simple game that is still story based and can be used, I hope, without too much trouble by a forum GM.  Here’s the first half.  It’s actually probably enough to play with.  You know…if you feel like starting an RPG forum and want some rules.

Oh…and I called it Spine because its supposed to give a mechanical backbone to a forum.

Character Creation

Skills: Skills are measured as a percentile bonus. This bonus (along with several others) is added to the percentile roll to determine the total skill check. There are three skills in Spine.

Shooting: This skill involves the use of any ranged weapon whether beam or projectile.

Fighting: This skill is used for any melee attack and can be used to parry opposing melee attacks.

Evasion: This skill can be used to dodge ranged or melee attacks.

Notice: This skill is used to spot hidden objects and enemies.

Stealth: This skill is used to avoid being detected.

Persuasion: This skill is used to convince an NPC of the value of your argument.


Starting characters have 70% points to divide between these six skills in any way they see fit.


Qualities: While skills are purely mechanical, numerical descriptions of certain abilities, qualities represent more esoteric, descriptive aspects of a character. Qualities are special talents, knacks or personality traits of characters that can be used to increase checks. There is no standard list of Qualities. Players describe the Qualities of their characters based on their concept of their characters. Qualities should be a single descriptive word or phrase.


Examples include: Sharpshooter

Pearl of the Shoal

Metal Head.


Qualities can be used to increase checks (described below) but serve an additional purpose as well. Qualities serve as a sort of character durability. Each time a character takes damage, they must sacrifice one of their Qualities for a time.


Characters begin with 3 Qualities. Character Qualities add +10 to a roll when called



Variable Qualities: Basic Qualities reference only the special skills and abilities that an ordinary person can achieve. While Qualities are what set one character apart from another and while the combination makes them unique, there are other Qualities that can only be called supernatural. These Qualities do not have a set value like other Qualities. Rather, they have variable ranks much like skills. All Variable Qualities should have a supernatural aspect. These are not mundane Qualities that just anyone can have, these are truly special, even superhuman aspects of the character.


Examples include: Telekinetic Assassin

Fire Sorcerer

Visions of the Future


Each character can begin with only one Variable Quality, though they do not have to take one if they don’t want to. It costs one of the character’s starting three Qualities to buy a Variable Quality. This is not in addition to a character’s starting three Qualities. To begin with, a Variable Quality only provides the normal +10% bonus, though this can be enhanced later.


Other Qualities: There are a number of other types of Qualities but these are all based on equipment and will be determined by the GM.



Actions: Each character begins play with two actions per round. The actions taken can be any combination of skills. For instance, it could be a ranged (Shooting) attack and a melee (Fighting) attack or a ranged attack and a dodge, two ranged attacks or even two dodges.


Attacking: When attacking the player first declares his target then gathers all applicable bonuses. This includes the characters skill bonus (either Shooting or Fighting) as well as a +10 for each applicable character quality and any bonuses provided by the character’s mecha and other qualities. To use a quality, a player must describe how it is being used in his post. Once the total value is determined it is then added to a percentile roll.


This total or attack value is then compared to the target’s defense value.


If the defense value equals or exceeds the attack value then the attack misses or is not effective. If the attack value exceeds the defense value then the target loses one Quality. For each 50% the attack value exceeds the defense value, the target loses an additional Quality.


The target gets to choose which Quality(ies) he sacrifices.


When a character has run out Qualities, he is dead.


Defending: If a character does not want to use any of his actions to defend himself, he may depend upon his static defense. Static defense is simply a character’s evasion score with no modifiers for qualities and no roll. Any attacks made against the character must only overcome the character’s evasion score.


A character who wants to actively defend himself follows much the same procedure as an attack. He adds his evasion skill to a die roll and a +10 for each applicable character Quality as well as any other bonuses from other qualities. This result is his active defense value.


Each round a character needs to make only one active defense roll. This value is applied to all attacks made against the character that round, with one notable exception. Because it is far more difficult to evade several attackers at once, a character’s defense value is reduced by a cumulative 5% for each attack made against the character in a round. For example, a character with a +25% Evasion skill and the Slippery Devil Quality (worth +10% in this case) and a roll of 60% would have a total defense value of 95%. The first attack against this character in a round would have to beat 95% to hit the character. However, the second attack would only need to beat 90%, while the third would only have to beat 85% to hit. The weight of numbers can take down even the best ace.


Movement: Movement is quite simple. Each battlefield is broken up into a number of sections. A character can move from one section of the battlefield to an adjacent section freely. Special equipment might allow a character to move two sections or more. Additionally, a character can sacrifice one of his actions to move one additional area in a round.  A character can even sacrifice both his actions to move two additional areas. As usual for characters who take no defensive action, they must depend on their passive defense to protect them in a round when they do this.


Range: Fighting attacks can only be made against targets in the same section as the attacker. Most ranged attacks can only be made without penalty against targets in the same section as the attacker or any adjacent section. Ranged attacks may be made against targets two sections away but at a -10% penalty. Some ranged weapons allow attacks into areas further away or mitigate the range penalty or both.


Qualities: Qualities can be used to add a bonus to attack and defensive rolls with a few limitations. First, each quality can be used only once per round. The quality “Born in the Cockpit” can be used either as a bonus to an attack or a defense in a round but not to both. Second, only one quality from each category can be used for each action. A pilot can call upon a character, a mecha, a weapon and an area quality to add bonuses to an attack but cannot call upon two character qualities for an attack, for example. The pilot could call upon a character, a mecha, a weapon and an area quality to add bonuses to an attack and a different quality from each category to add bonuses to a defense in the same round, however.




Gaining Experience: Characters gain 2 experience point for each post they make. Additionally, they gain 15 experience points for each enemy they defeat that is the same or lower experience level. They gain an extra 10 experience points for each experience level higher that an enemy they defeat is. The gamemaster(s) may also give out additional experience points for exceptional role-playing or for completing an episode.


Spending Experience: Characters may raise one of their skill levels by one point by spending a number of experience points equal to their current skill level. For example, it would take a character ten points to raise their shooting skill from +10% to +11% but it would take 90 points to raise their shooting skill from +90% to +91%. There is no upper limit to Skill levels and Aces can easily have skills that exceed 100%.


Characters may also buy a new Quality for a flat 10 points. If the Character instead wants a new variable quality, this costs 15 points though it begins as a 10 point quality. This is to reflect that this quality can eventually become much more powerful.


Characters may upgrade a Variable Quality by one point by spending one half the value of the Quality in experience (rounded down) to raise the Quality by one point. For example, it would take five points to raise a character’s Fire Sorcerer Quality from +10% to +11% but 45 points to raise a the same Quality from +91% to +92%.

Each point must be bought in sequence. A character must increase a skill or Variable Quality from one point to the next before upgrading to the next point. A character cannot spend 20 experience points to upgrade a skill from +10% to +12% but must instead spend 10 experience to raise the skill from +10% to +11% then another 11 points to raise it from +11% to +12%.


Experience Level: This is a rough measure of how dangerous and/or skilled the character is and is based on his character points. Character points are determined by adding the character’s skills together and adding 10 points per Quality. Thus, beginning characters have an Experience Level Value of 100.


Newb: up to 100

Novice: 100 – 150

Soldier: 151 – 200

Veteran: 251 – 300

Ace: 301 +


Round Summary


Each post should end with the following round summary and what occurs in this summary should be reflected in the player’s post.


  • If damage was taken in the previous round, name the qualities sacrificed to offset the damage. Note that any quality sacrificed in this stage can not be called upon in later stages.
  • First action. The character should declare what his first action should be. If this is a defense, he should name which skill he will be using as well as any qualities he will call upon. If this is an attack, he should declare his target, then name the skill he will be using as well as any qualities he will call upon. In either case, the player should do his math, giving the bonuses for his skill and qualities and providing the total.
  • Second action. This action follows the same rules as the First action.
  • This can actually take place before, after or between the character’s two actions. The character simply declares where he will be moving on the battlefield this turn.
  • If your character uses both actions to attack and is depending only on his static defense to protect himself, then the player needs to post that score.


Each of these steps should be described in the post, though they can be written in any order in the post.


Round Duration


The GM should determine how long a round lasts based on the posting habits of his players and the speed he desires for his game. A total of one week is generally a good starting point. GM’s should allow themselves two days to calculate the results of the posts, more if there are a large number of characters involved.


The characters of any players who do not post or who are not able to post will take no actions that round. Additionally, they will have to depend upon their static defense against any attacks that are made against their characters.


If a player misses two or more weeks, and their characters are damaged, then the administrators will select the qualities that are sacrificed to overcome this damage. The administrators will follow a specific formula for this. Equipment qualities will be sacrificed first, starting with Duplicate qualities, followed by Grouped Passive qualities, followed by Passive qualities, followed by Grouped Active qualities and finishing with Active qualities then moving to the character’s qualities.



Between each combat, characters are allowed to regain a single quality that was sacrificed. GM’s can allow characters to regain additional qualities depending on how much time passes between battles and, for that matter, can declare that the characters do not have time to heal even one quality between one combat and the next.




Some areas are nothing more than relatively open patches of ground. Plains, hills, streets, even areas of low scrub are simply spaces that must be crossed before one combatant can get to another or that a projectile weapon must traverse to get to its target.


Other areas are a bit more complex. They are full of trees or debris or other objects that mecha and characters can hide behind or fires, radiation or other hazards that threaten the combatants that enter them.




Like characters and equipment, areas also have qualities. These qualities reflect the advantages and disadvantages available to characters who occupy them, including the hazards that can damage a combatant that occupies the area. Unlike anything else, areas cannot be attacked and thus, area qualities cannot be sacrificed. Under special circumstances and with particular actions, they can be removed but this is entirely dependent on the GM’s discretion. The GM defines any bonuses, damage and activation or deactivation requirements for each area. Normally, this is defined at the beginning of combat but occasionally, one will be activated as a surprise during a scene.


Passive Qualities: Passive Area Qualities are those that players can call upon to add bonuses to attacks and defenses for their characters. These include things like cover bonuses and elevation bonuses. These bonuses can apply to ranged attacks, close attacks or both or to ranged defenses, close defenses or both. “Heavily Forested” or “Cliff’s Edge” are common Passive Qualities for Areas.


Rough terrain is also a passive quality. An area that qualifies as rough terrain requires an extra action to move through just as though the character were trying to move an extra square in a round.


Active Qualities: Active Area Qualities are those that can damage a character. This could be something like excessive heat or a fire or a pool of acid or even some sort of defensive system in the area. Each area with an active quality has a corresponding attack value. The higher the attack value, the more dangerous the area is. This attack is the first attack performed in a round and is usually compared against the defense roll of everyone in the area. If a character has not declared a defense roll then this value is compared against his passive defense. Occasionally, an Active Area Quality represents a defense put in place by the owners of the area. In this case, they are not subject to the quality but attackers are. Defensive Qualities such as these might be a set of sharpened wooden stakes in the ground or an automated gun emplacement.


This attack is treated like any other and damage is dealt as normal if the attack roll exceeds the defense roll.

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