Show Some Spine!

And here is the second half of my first unpublished game.  Enjoy!

Equipment and Minions


No matter what genre a game takes place in, characters are likely to carry some sort of equipment. Whether this is the trusty longsword of a knight in a fantasy campaign, the 50’ robot in a mecha game or the belt full of gadgets in a superhero game, characters often live or die depending on their equipment.


Some characters also have a trusty sidekick, whether a loyal wolf, a dedicated droid, or a trusted henchman.


Types: There are two types of equipment, inherent and purchased. Inherent equipment is considered a part of the character. They are essentially just additional qualities that a character possesses. These are the iconic pieces of equipment that help define a character. Inherent pieces of equipment are things like magical items, specially modified weapons or even faithful steeds or personal mecha.


Inherent pieces of equipment should be bought as variable qualities and can be advanced in the same way. In fact, one or more of a character’s starting qualities might actually be a piece of equipment or some sort of minion.


Inherent pieces of equipment can be bought just like other Qualities after character creation through spending experience. Additionally, a character can add additional qualities to a piece of equipment by spending a flat 10 experience points.


Inherent pieces of equipment cannot be lost. At least not for any length of time. While a plot might separate a character from a piece of equipment for a time, this should be because it is important to the story and the inherent piece of equipment should be returned to the character relatively quickly.


Note that a player can convert a purchased piece of equipment into an inherent piece of equipment by buying a variable Quality that is associated with that piece of equipment. Depending upon this setting, this could mean having a piece of equipment enchanted or discovering an enchantment, tinkering with the specs on a high-tech piece of equipment or adding another bit of modifying equipment, like a scope to a piece of equipment.


Purchased pieces of equipment are different. Bought with gold pieces, credits, dollars, neo-yen or souls, according to the economy in the game, these are pieces of equipment that do not define a character but are simply tools he uses in his profession. A knight’s ancestral sword might be an inherent piece of equipment while his suit of plate mail would be a purchased piece of equipment.


It is up to the GM to determine the economy in his game and how much money he will be giving out. However, how much pieces of equipment cost should be fairly standard. Each percentage bonus they provide should cost a unit of currency. A pistol that gives a +5% bonus to shooting should cost 5 dollars, gold pieces, whatever. Of course, there are a wide variety of abilities beyond simple damage or defense that a piece of equipment can give. These abilities are classified as equipment qualities and are listed below.


The GM should set the price and effects for any piece of equipment in his game, though he is highly encouraged to get the input of players for pieces of equipment they want. In fact, players are encouraged to work up the stats for the equipment and offer it to the GM for approval. Unlike inherent equipment, bought equipment cannot later be improved. Its stats remain the same once set and the GM is under no constraints to return it to characters if it is lost or destroyed.


Budget: Depending upon the setting, the GM may want to set a starting equipment budget and allow the players to buy any equipment that they want with those points. This is especially appropriate in settings where gear is important, such as fantasy or sci-fi. What is a knight without his sword, after all or a space trooper without his blaster? Alternatively, especially in a military campaign, the GM may just assign equipment to various characters.


Qualities: Like characters, equipment has Qualities. And like characters, these Qualities can be sacrificed when the character is hit in combat. Equipment Qualities are a little more complex than character qualities, however. Unlike characters, not all Equipment Qualities can be called upon to provide a bonus and there are several categories of Equipment Qualities. Also unlike character qualities, equipment qualities do not add a flat +10% bonus to a roll. In fact, for mundane, bought equipment, it is quite common for a lower bonus to be provided. It should be noted that, like any other qualities, when equipment qualities are sacrificed they are no longer usable. For things like damage or armor, this means that they have been damaged to the point that they no longer provide an advantage though a player may still use them.


For example, an axe might have a quality like “Chopping Blade +5%.” As long as this quality is not sacrificed, the player can call on it for a 5% increase to his roll and as soon as he sacrifices it, the benefit is lost. This does not mean that the axe loses its head and, indeed, the player can continue using the weapon in his descriptions. It simply means that the blade has been damaged somehow to such a degree that it provides no more benefit than any other fighting attack.


Only when a piece of equipment has lost its last quality is it truly destroyed and in the case of inherent equipment even this should be temporary. It should be possible to repair the piece of equipment under the right circumstances.


Active: Active Qualities are Equipment Qualities that can be called upon like character qualities to add a bonus to a roll. For example, a magic sword may be able to burst into flames. If the character uses this weapon, he can call upon this quality and add an additional +10% to his attacks with it. Or a Mecha may have an Enhanced Verniers quality which the character can call upon to add a +10% to any maneuverability checks.


Passive: Passive Qualities are qualities that cannot be called upon to add bonuses to rolls. These represent defensive abilities of equipment as well as aspects of their durability. These qualities exist only to be sacrificed when the equipment is damaged. An example of a passive quantity might be “Made of High Strength Steel.”


Grouped: Grouped Qualities represent two or more features of a piece of equipment that are combined into a single Quality. They are generally passive, but can also be active. These qualities are combined so that a piece of equipment does not possess too many inherent Qualities. Examples of Grouped Qualities might be legs, arms or even weapon systems. When a grouped quality is sacrificed, the character can determine which part of the grouped quality is sacrificed. The player may decide that the damage is to a Mecha’s right or left leg, for example if he sacrifices the legs quality or that his beam gun is damaged if he sacrifices the weapons group. All other qualities in the group and any potential bonuses they might give remain. However, the Group of Qualities cannot be sacrificed again in the case of more damage.


Duplicate: Some Qualities of a piece of equipment are so durable that they can be sacrificed once and still function. Upon being sacrificed a second time, they are then no longer useable. These are usually passive Qualities. An example of a Duplicate quantity might be very tough armor. It should be noted that Active Qualities that are duplicated do not provide an additional bonus. A flat 10% bonus is applied even if an Active Quality is duplicated, though the bonus still applies after the first time it is sacrificed. Thus a blazing sword might have an Active Duplicate Quality like “Unquenchable Flame.” The first time this quality is sacrificed, the player is still able to call upon it. The second time, the flame proves quenchable and the quality is no longer available to add a bonus.


Weapon Qualities: Not all weapons are created equal. Some of them have special abilities that give them certain advantages. These are represented as Weapon Qualities. . The bonuses from Weapon Qualities are added to any other qualities a character calls on, including the Quality of the weapon itself. For example a character using Rapid Fire with his Beam Rifle would receive a +10% bonus for the Beam Rifle Quality and a +5% or +10% bonus for firing either two or three shots.


Burst: Some weapons inherently fire multiple rounds at a time. These are usually machine guns. Burst weapons provide +10% bonus when fired normally and if a character uses both his attacks in a round to fire an extended burst, this bonus doubles. The burst ability costs 15 points.


High Powered: Some weapons are not more accurate than others but are more devastating when they hit. While these weapons do not provide an additional bonus to hit they do provide an additional bonus when determining damage. These weapons add a +10% when determining how many qualities must be sacrificed but not when determining if a target is hit. For example, if an attacker rolled a 45 against a defense of 50, a high powered weapon with a +10% bonus would miss. However, if the attacker exceeded the defender’s roll by +45% a high powered weapon with a +10% bonus would cause the defender to sacrifice two qualities rather than one. The high powered ability costs 5 points.


Blast: Some weapons, usually bazookas and missiles or fire balls fire explosive rounds. A blast weapon gives a +10% bonus to hit. However, this bonus is not applied when determining if multiple qualities must be sacrificed. For example, if this bonus bumps the difference between the attack value and the defense value from +45% to +55%, the defender sacrifices only one quality rather than two. Additionally, a Blast weapon affects all the characters in a section whether friend or foe. The Blast ability costs 10 points.


Sniper: Sniper weapons are designed to be accurate at long ranges. Sniper weapons do not suffer from range penalties and are able to fire at targets an additional section away. The sniper ability costs 10 points.




A trusty sword or good old pistol are often not a character’s only allies. There are also often trusty sidekicks and reliable mounts that aid them in their quests. Many of these can be defined simply as straight qualities. A knight might have a quality like “Wendell my Trusty Squire” or a wizard might have a quality like “My Familiar Felix.” These qualities can be called upon and sacrificed just like any other quality. When they are sacrificed, much like qualities with inherent equipment, it does not mean they are destroyed but that they are instead incapacitated for some reason.


Of course, like any other qualities, a minion can be a variable quality. These variable qualities may reflect a particularly adept minion or it might describe a set of minions. For example, a sergeant might have “Crazy Commandos” as a variable quality or even “7th Legion” if the quality is of a high enough value.




There are numerous genres which can be played using this system. Fantasy, sci-fi, modern, supernatural and even super heroes can all be supported by this system. Following are some special rules which modify those previously given for each type of genre.




Giant robots take many shapes and forms but in the end, they make their pilots much more dangerous. They also generally have advanced computer systems that make them more than just weapons. They often make their pilots better than they would normally be. Following are a few rules that apply to mecha campaigns.


Scale: Mecha are far larger than humans, obviously and use weapons with much greater ranges and capacity for damage. Therefore, Mecha combat operates on a much larger scale. While this scale is largely abstract and the GM can set any range he likes, it should be rather expansive and allow for a multitude of mecha and ships to fit into the same segment.


Skills: A Mecha is very much like a character that enhances the player character. A Mecha has all the skills that a character does, except for Persuasion. When it comes to Mecha, these skills are bonuses that are applied to the skills of a Mecha’s pilot and represent the technological and performance levels of the Mecha. They act a great deal like variable qualities, though they cannot be sacrificed. For example, a pilot with a shooting skill of +10% piloting a Mecha with a shooting skill of +5% would have a total shooting skill of +15% when piloting that Mecha.


Transformable Mecha: Many Mecha have more than one form. These Mecha have two profiles, one for each form. The skill bonuses between the two forms will be different but both modes may share some qualities. These qualities are called (obviously enough) Shared qualities. Every transformable Mecha has the Shared quality of Transformable. When the Transformable quality is sacrificed, the Mecha is locked into whichever form it is currently in. A transformable Mecha may only sacrifice Qualities from the form it is currently in. Shared qualities between the two forms may only be sacrificed once. For example, a Mecha may have the Armored quality in both of its forms but the Rifle quality only in one form. If the Armored quality is sacrificed, it is lost from both forms and may not be sacrificed again. The Rifle quality could only be sacrificed while in the form that possesses it and the Armored quality could not be sacrificed in this form if it had already been sacrificed in the other form.


Budget: Many Mecha games are going to also be military games and the GM should feel free to simply assign the characters the same Mecha or Mecha with very similar abilities. This reflects everyone in the game being assigned the same model Mecha. Diversity can be provided by altering the weapons each Mecha carries and/or slightly tweaking the skills.


Alternatively, if the GM wants the players to be able to design their own unique mecha, he should assign a budget from which the characters can build their mecha. This should be treated just as though the players were creating another character, though the GM should feel free to increase or reduce the budget in comparison to regular character creation depending upon how effective he wants the mecha to be. The skills and qualities of the mecha character should be bought just like any other character but the weapons and their qualities the mecha carries will also need to be bought from this budget.


Mecha vs. Man: This should happen rarely, as any mortal would be a fool to face a giant robot without his own giant robot or other war machine to fight with. However, occasionally, characters are going to find themselves in the unenviable situation of having to escape of fight a mecha without the assistance of tons and tons of super strong metal around them.


In this case, the chances of hitting do not change. Humans are relatively small targets in comparison to mecha, but their weapons generally affect a much larger area than equivalent man portable devices. The old saying about using a bazooka to kill a fly applies, but the fly still ends up dead, if you can hit it.


Damage, on the other hand is a different matter. The damage dished out by the weapons of a giant robot are on an entirely different scale than that of a man. If an attack by a Mecha does hit an unprotected person, a +50% should be added to the result to determine how many qualities must be sacrificed. This means that, at a minimum, if a mech hits an unprotected person with an attack, the person will lose two Qualities. This applies to robots up to 30’ tall. Mecha even larger than that should add 100% to the damage inflicted, meaning that an unprotected person will lose at least 3 qualities because of a successful attack.


On the other hand, individuals with man portable weapons who are attacking Mecha are going to have a hard time. Again, the likelihood that a person is going to hit a Mecha is unaffected. While it is easy to hit such a large target, it is difficult to hit it in any meaningful place. The relative damage that such a weapon can do to such a machine is significantly reduced. In fact, the same factors given above should be applied in reverse to this damage upon a hit. For example, if a person hits a 30’ tall or smaller mecha with a hand held weapon, he will subtract 50% from his result and then determine how many qualities need to be sacrificed. It is entirely possible this will take this damage to nothing. For mecha taller than 30’ the person would have to subtract 100% from their result making it even more likely that even a successful hit will do no damage.


If your game includes different size classes of Mecha, these factors can also be taken into account and with similar proportions. A 50’ Mecha attacking a Mecha under 30’ would add 50% to the damage that it does against that smaller Mecha. On the other hand, a Mecha under 30’ going up against one from the larger class would subtract 50% from its damage results. This means that a Mecha of the smaller class hit by one of the larger class loses an extra quality than normal while one of the larger class hit by one of the smaller class loses one less quality than normal.




Most mecha campaigns largely take place in, or involve space and usually, the mecha involved in these campaigns operate off of ships. Ships do not provide skill bonuses to their pilots. Their primary weapons are too large to effectively aim at Mecha and they are too large to effectively avoid an attack by a Mecha. There is no need to mention why a Fighting skill is pointless.


Qualities: Ships do have qualities, however and must sacrifice them like characters or Mecha when they are damaged. Like Mecha, these Qualities can be can be active or passive and are often duplicated. In fact, to represent their large size, Ships can have more than two of the same quality. In fact, to truly represent their large size, Ships generally have a great deal of qualities. A dozen or more is not an unreasonable number of qualities for a moderate sized ship to have and a massive ship could have twice that many.


Different locations on the ship, such as the hangar, bridge and engines are represented by Qualities and when these are sacrificed, it does not necessarily mean that they are destroyed, but that they are rendered useless.


Ships can also add additional area qualities to the segment that they are in. These can be active qualities that represent active defenses like anti-aircraft guns or passive qualities that represent things like debris clouds to hinder incoming attackers.


Fantasy Settings


Fantasy Settings need little adjustment of the rules. Equipment is often an important part of a fantasy game as is magic. In both cases, the budget rules should be used to determine what effects these items have.


When it comes to magic spells, the spellcaster should design the spell as though it were a piece of inherent equipment. All of the qualities given previously for weapons can be applied to these spells.


As the campaign continues, the character’s equipment and spells should grow more powerful. Periodically, whether at the end of each adventure or arc, the game master should add to the equipment budget. How much this budget goes up is up to the game master. A good rule of thumb is to provide the characters with a point for each opponent that is defeated. This amount can be multiplied if a more powerful campaign is desired. Alternatively, the game master could simply provide a set award at either the end of an adventure or the end of an arc. Again, the level of this amount is up to the GM, though providing an amount equivalent to the original budget at the end of each adventure is a good rule of thumb.


All equipment/spells in this type of setting should be considered to be variable qualities. As time goes on, this equipment/spells can become more powerful or characters can add new pieces of equipment or spells to their lists.


Of course, in story, this should either represent the characters discovering new and better gear and spellbooks or discovering new aspects of their existing equipment.


Bigger opponents


Some creatures in a Fantasy Setting are far larger than the heroes. There are two categories of these beasts, Large and Massive.


Large creatures gain a variable quality called Size. They may call upon this quality just as they do any other. However, the heroes can call upon this quality as well in any situation where it would be appropriate (trying to hit the creature or overcome its stealth checks, for example.) When tagging this quality against the creature, they only get half the quality’s bonus (rounded down.)


Truly massive creatures such as Titans, ancient dragons and even dark gods, should be treated much like ships in mecha campaigns, though they will have a full skill list and, indeed, very high skills. Depending upon just how dangerous the creature is, a dozen or more qualities might be appropriate to a massive creature. It will also have sections, though in this case, they will be parts of its body rather than structures. A dragon for example, might have head, wings, forelegs, hindlegs, torso and tail as sections. Eliminating any one of these would not kill the dragon (though torso or head should be saved as their last section) but eliminating each one would represent wounding that section beyond use.


Much like ships, massive creatures can also add qualities to the areas they are in. These qualities could be active, such as fiery breath, which would attack every individual in the area each turn or passive, such as fog of war, which would simply hinder the attacks of their opponents.


No matter what these massive creatures might be in the game, they should be rare. In fact, having only one as the opponent in the climatic final battle of a campaign would not be out of the question.


Super Heroes

Super Hero campaigns are not much different from other genres except for scale. A great deal of focus must go into the powers of the heroes and villains, however.


Most powers can be created as though they were permanent equipment (in fact, for many heroes it literally will be equipment.) Depending on how powerful the setting will be, the GM can set a budget for this “equipment.” For street level campaigns, this budget will be no more than the starting value for creating a character, effectively doubling their power. At this level the heroes may not have any superhuman powers and may simply be very skilled combatants or have high grade equipment. A more cosmic level campaign might have a budget of several hundred or even a thousand points, making almost anything possible for the characters.


Most of the qualities for these powers will be variable. These will be powers like energy blast, fire control, or telekinesis which will vary from hero to hero. Others like body armor will be more passive and will be standard qualities. Any power quality can be duplicated, indicating that it provides more protection or that it is sturdy and that it can take a licking and continue to function.


All of the qualities listed for equipment can be applied to any power so long as it fits logically and GM’s should be lenient in what they consider logical in this case. After all, some of the best powers are those that seemingly break the rules of physics and science in general.


There are a few powers that do not fit into the rules given for creating equipment qualities.

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