rpg mechanics

rpg mechanics

by Dimitris Raviolos


or, the best mechanics that blend roleplaying and system components.


keep your character involved in the story

The “buy-in” rule from feng shui 2 makes the player responsible of keeping his character involved in a story, instead of the game master.

If the game master says “There’s a fire over at the museum”, the players need to figure out a reason that their character would want to check that out and get involved. A valid reason could be anything from “My cousin works there!” to “Clues to the rare artifact I seek to break the curse slowly killing my village are there.”.

No one knows or understands a character better than the person that created it, game master not excluded. Thus, the buy-in rule is an ingenius method, because it achieves two things. First, the game master’s job gets easier, because he doesn’t need to come up with good excuses for every player. Second, the players feel that their characters are better integrated in the story and they can even add their personal touch.

devil’s bargain

get a bonus, but at a cost

In blades in the dark the game master or any other player can offer the player that makes a roll a bonus if he accepts a devil’s bargain.

The bargain occurs regardless of the outcome of the roll, however it is always a free choice. If the player doesn’t like what he’s offered, he can reject it or offer suggestions that are worth considering.

The interesting twist of this mechanic is that actions have consequences, but consequences do not take effect immediately. Because of this, players may be enticed to get the bonus and deal with the bargain later. Maybe that bonus is going to enable you to make a roll when you’re cornered, but accepting the betrayal of an ally or severing ties with in-game factions will get you in the long run.

character bonds

statements that relate a character to his party members

In apocalypse world and its derivatives (for example dungeon world), each character has a set of statements, with a blank space for filling in a party member’s name. For example, a sample bond could be “___ always gets into trouble, I have to protect them”.

Bonds represent feelings, opinions, desires and shared history that make the player characters of a party of adventurers and not just a random assortment of people.

As a systems component, bonds are intended to facilitate building immediate backstory between two player characters. They also reward XP by encouraging the player to resolve the bond by acting upon changes in circumstances to create narrative that makes it clear the bond- for better or worse- is gone and replaced with something else.

At the beginning of a new tabletop game, usually every person turns to the game master to get some guidance on what to do, especially those players that are inexperienced. Bonds help players to overcome this early session awkwardness by giving them guidance, a sense that as a group, they already had a background together. It is easy to just say that the characters have known each other before the campaign started, but bonds actually make this to be a reality, thus players have a clear starting point and know how to act.