There’s been a few over the years that have really stuck with me:

The first would have been from 1983: I loved the quality result idea from James Bond: 007  where the lower you rolled gave you a different quality result from fail up through excellent, and that was tied to a damage class that was an expression of your strength, or the muzzle energy of a particular weapon. That the mechanics attempted to actually take ballistics into account, instead of “well, it’s a .45, so that’s a really big bullet” you see in most RPG design. (Case in point, a .455 Webley being more powerful than a .45ACP or a .45 Long Colt….not just no, but hell, no.) The other thing it brought that I loved was the idea of the hero point (or plot point, fate point, get outta death point) where you could soak damage or bend probability to give the game a more cinematic feel.

From 1986, would be the way APs in DC Heroes tied your characters attributes to the weight they could lift, the speed they could move, the time it took, etc. It gave the players a real sense of how much stronger one character was over another, and your roll of a AP8 strength might translate into knocking an AP3 heavy character 5AP in distance. It’s a bit crunchy for most folks taste these days, but then — I thought it was a great way to do supers.

1993: Castle Falkenstein‘s use of ordinary playing cards as a randomizer because, as the rules pointed out, “Gentlemen don’t play dice…” With some tweaking (see yesterday’s post), it made for a really slick and different flavor for the players. You could plan your moves based on your hand… “Well, I’d like to punch him, but I’ve got a king of hearts…let’s go for talking him down.”

Fate’s use of tagging aspects on a scene is pretty nice, but really just places a specific mechanic on someting people kind of did before without needing a specific rule, save now the player could do it, as well as the GM. But I also consider Fate a pick-up/beginners system that just happens to do a lot of things decently.

2005: Hollow Earth Expedition‘s “take the average” (which I think another game had before this, but I forget which one…) where you could take a character’s number of dice, and half it to “get the average” for a test. This sped up play enormously, especially in low-risk situations, or in fights with mooks.

2005: Cortex and the idea of pairing different attributes with different skills as the situation demanded. So you might use agility or strength+unarmed combat, depending on your style; you might use willpower or alertness+interrogation to represent a different style of questionng a subject. Willpower+ discipline or influence could represent a difference in command style between “get it done!” and “I know you’re hurting, right now, and we’ll do what we can, but right now…I need you to move.” Mechanically, no real difference, but I think it aids in crafting your character’s style.

I think the most innovative and fun mechanic has to go to Castle Falkenstein for the use of cards.

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