CAN SERPS BE THE NEW GURPS ?
The ParaSpace Roleplaying System (PSrps ? pronounced serps) is a hardback, 336 page, full colour, rule book that really does deliver what it promises on the cover.
Whether it's swashbuckling on the high seas, investigating a murder on Mars, or attending the court of King Arthur, the ParaSpace Role Playing System is a generic set of rules that can be used to play games set in a multitude of settings and styles.
Inside you will find a comprehensive role playing game system allowing for balanced character creation at various levels of power and experience. Combat mechanics that can be played as gritty and realistic or, by adding in various skills, abilities, techniques and manoeuvres, can become heroic, high fantasy. The magic system has also been developed to fit in with varying genres and settings and encompasses inherent magic, rituals and ceremonies, traditional spell slinging, the creation of potions and other magical items, free form magic and special abilities. In addition, the Game Master section contains templates allowing for the quick creation of a multitude of creatures and Non Player Characters, hints on running games, building settings and designing adventures.
In short, the ParaSpace Role Playing System is a complete set of generic rules that contains everything game masters and players need to open the door to the many worlds of their imagination.
At its core, PSrps uses a ten sided dice (D10) roll added to a Skill and a Manipulation score. How much the result of this beats or misses a Target Number (TN), set by the Game Master (GM), then determines the rate of success or failure of an activity. This fundamental mechanic runs through the entire system and makes for an overall consistency within the rule book; which, in turn, makes the system easy to learn.
The Core Rule Book is broken into three distinct Sections: The Player?s Guide, which details creating characters, combat, equipment, experience and other miscellaneous rules that the players may need to know; Magic, which details all the different styles of magic that can be achieved using PSrps and The GM Section which contains annotations to the player?s guide, Templates for Non Player Characters (NPCs), plus plenty of advice and hints to help with designing settings, adventures and GMing in general.
Character creation is intended to allow players to create any desired style of character with a multitude of skills and abilities. As such, it is a selection process made by the player, whereby each character is awarded a number of points based upon his age, experience and the power level at which it is intended he start play. However, before these choices can be made, emphasis is placed upon character background. The player (working with the GM) should come up with a background story for the character in order to guide his choices during character creation ? to help with this, plenty of advice and hints are provided for the novice and the experienced player alike. Players are also able to obtain character Quirks which will provide them with additional points at later sections of character creation.
The second part of character creation is to decide upon the character?s Manipulations by distributing a set number of points (based upon age and experience) across all nine scores: Physique (PH) is a measure of strength, size and bulk; Deftness (DEF) is a measure of the character?s manual dexterity; Quickness (Q) is a measure of the character?s reflexes and reaction speed; Fitness (FIT) is a measure of the character?s physical health; Perception (PER) is a measure of the character?s situation awareness and determines the control he has upon his five natural senses; Mind (MND) is a measure of the state of the character?s mental well being and determines his resistance to fear and capability for magic; Intelligence (INT) is a measure of the character?s ability to store, recall and learn information; Charisma (CHA) is a measure of the character?s overall looks and charm; and, finally, Luck (LCK) can be used throughout play to change dice results (usually in favour of the character). As all Manipulations are vital to play and are equally important to game mechanics, players are encouraged to choose Manipulation scores based upon the background and style for the character they have in mind ? A guide to the results is provided to aid with this.
Players are then given points to purchase Skills, Abilities, Techniques and Manoeuvres (all referred to as Skills for convenience). These are the core attributes and competencies that define what a character can and can?t do within the game and how well (or badly) he does it. Certain free Skills, based on the game world setting, such as Literacy, in a modern day setting, are also given to characters at this stage (although players that don?t want their characters to have these usual setting Skills are given an alternative option).
More points are then given for players to choose magical abilities and / or advanced combat techniques.
Magic is broken in to four alternative styles to best capture the spirit of any setting. Each is balanced for game play and easily convertible; any setting is therefore capable of utilising all four types: Arcane Magic covers traditional sorcery style magic, using the study of spell books and incantations. Transcendental Magic covers spiritual and religious miracles, divine intervention and the influences and enticements of other-world entities. Inherent Magic covers the power of the mind and hidden inner strengths. And Special Abilities are, quite simply, powers that are gifted, bestowed or gained from other extraordinary or freak circumstances.
PSrps defines all magical effects into categories of power and style and, apart from Special Abilities, which are handled slightly differently (see below), each particular effect will require a number of Magical Energy Points (MEP) in order to elicit. Although MEP do regenerate and characters are able to obtain greater amounts through Experience, once a character runs out of MEP, he cannot cast any more spells or perform any miracles etc.
Arcane Magic is broken down into five separate Skill types. Formulaic, Telluric, Thaumaturgy, Sigils and Enchantment:
- Arcane Magic (Formulaic) covers rituals, ceremonies and the specific and precise methods that must be used to operate any magical device or trinket. In game terms, characters purchase exact, named rituals and ceremonies and must use MEP and achieve a TN in order to elicit their effect. However, Formulaic Procedures are slow to perform (with a minimum of 1 hour for simple spell effects) and are intended to mimic the spell casting of low fantasy (but not necessarily low powered) settings.
- Arcane Magic (Telluric) covers the creation of potions, poultices, brews and powders etc. In game terms, characters may purchase or follow a recipe, spend MEP and achieve a TN to produce specific named Crops. Such crops will usually take several days to grow and ferment and can only be harvested at the end of this time. Formulaic crops are slow to produce, although, once harvested, their effects, once elicited, are often instantaneous. They are intended to be used with settings where magic requires a natural feel that is, perhaps, loosely based in science.
- Arcane Magic (Thaumaturgy) covers the traditional fantasy / gaming style of quick cast, spell slinging. In game terms, characters purchase specific, named, spells and must use MEP and achieve a TN in order to elicit their effect. Many such spells can be used in combat or encounter situations and they are intended to be used in settings where magic is more potent and of greater practical use.
- Arcane Magic (Sigils) covers magical writing, hexes and symbols of power. In game terms, characters purchase specific, named, Sigils and must use MEP and achieve a TN in order to Inscribe and elicit their effect. In addition to their everyday use as inscriptions of spells, they can also be placed upon objects and thereby be used as a method for creating many magical items and artefacts.
- Arcane Magic (Enchantment) covers the enhancement of mundane items by imbuing them with magical properties to increase (or decrease) their performance and durability. In game terms, such magic requires considerable time within a laboratory and usually translates as bonuses to hit, parry and various other weapon properties.
In order to mimic the multitude of requests from prayers and the like, Transcendental Magic is designed as a freeform system. Based upon the desired outcome for the miracle, the GM is able to classify the magic into a specific discipline, Aggressive, Protective, Divination, Restoring, Conjuring, Alteration or Omnipotent and attribute the effect with one of eight magic power / category levels. In fact, for convenience of conversion, all other magic types are also listed with this category. From here, a simple chart, allowing for other modifiers such as range and duration shows how long such a miracle would take to elicit, how many MEPs would be necessary and the TN required.
Inherent Magic is broken into Paths and, within each Path, the Inherent is able to learn a number of specific, linear, magical effects called Talents. Each Talent requires the use of MEP and a TN in order to elicit.
Incorporating many parapsychological abilities and mental phenomena, Inherent Magic is especially suited to games where magic is intended to have a basis in scientific reality (such as with psionics). However, it can also be used to reflect more than a typical science fiction approach and could portray any magic style that requires a more naturally occurring feel. Examples could include the elves, druids, bards and nature spirits of many fantasy based campaigns or action and anim? styles of game that enable the tapping of chi to produce some fantastic and otherwise impossible combat techniques.
Special Abilities are utilised in a similar manner to Skills and, in order to elicit their effect, they do not require the use of MEP. In fact, some special abilities are considered ?always active? and do not even require a TN. In this, for the most part, the use of special abilities is limitless and a character will not ?run out? of power or tire from their use.
Again, it must be stressed that all of these magic styles work perfectly well together in a single setting. For example, in a fantasy setting, there is no reason why, priests, sorcerers, inherents and high powered heroes cannot utilise all types of magic. In fact, the PSrps Awakened Earth setting (published separately) does utilise all magic styles in such a manner. Likewise, in a setting of super-powered heroes, there is no reason why the arch-villain could not be an evil priest with the backing of a very real demon, the police have an Inherent?s division and the mundane populace study Arcane Magic as part of their schooling. Of course, the characters are the super-heroes and have the added advantage of Special Abilities.
Combat, within PSrps, is broken into Rounds (each roughly equal to 5 seconds of real time). Within a Round, characters may perform a number of Actions (each approximately equal to between 1 and 2 seconds of real time) which is determined by comparing their Initiative score to a simple, easy to remember, table. Initiative also determines the order in which combatants may act and is calculated by rolling 1D10 and adding various penalties and bonuses depending on the type of weapon being used, encumbrance and other techniques of combat specialisation that the character may have. However, apart from the dice roll, to avoid slowing game play, all such calculations are worked out in advance and a space is provided on the character sheet for the total.
Upon his Action, in addition to a number of other combat options, any character may attack his opponent. Attacks follow the same D10 procedure, whereby the character generates a Strike Result by rolling 1D10 and adding various penalties and bonuses, depending on the type of weapon being used, encumbrance and other techniques of combat specialisation (again all calculated in advance of play). The opponent then has an opportunity to defend against the strike (usually a dodge or parry) and the attacking Strike Result becomes the TN required to successfully avoid the blow.
Each weapon is listed with a damage statistic that is further modified (usually by PH) and how much an opponent was hit by (known as Strike Amount). When applied to the victim, the amount of damage sustained will place him in to one of six wound category brackets; Light, Mild, Heavy, Serious, Critical or Deadly, with each wound bracket having various disabling effects to the character until death is caused when the character sustains more damage than the amount he has listed for his Deadly Wound Bracket.
Weapon descriptions are also listed with a number of statistics that, in game terms, equate to bonuses or penalties when using the particular weapon. However, these statistics also mean that a character is able to specialise in particular areas with the weapon ? such as speed, attack, defence and techniques of damage etc. Combat can, therefore, be developed by strategy and become more than just hack and slash.
Equipment lists are also provided, ranging from clubs and spears to cuir-bulli and bezzainted armour to shock-knucks and laser weapons. Each piece of equipment is also listed with a brief description, estimated cost and a Technology Level (TL). TL then correlates to a chart which provides a rough guideline to what other type of technology can be found in a setting of similar style.
The Miscellaneous chapter provides a number of rules for other hazards and encounters such as drowning, falling and fumbled dice rolls. It also includes guidelines that mimic the effects of fear, a game rule known as Shock Factor. In certain situations, particularly when faced with combat but also when the GM wishes to aid his description with a rule to convey the effects of anxiety or panic, characters will be called upon to check Confidence Under Threat (CUT). CUT is a Skill that can be purchased as any other and works using the same D10 vs TN core rule. The amount by which a character fails the TN determines how scared he is deemed to be and results range from a minor paralytic stroke ? the loss of a single action, to running away, to being paralysed to the spot.
The Experience chapter provides details on how players can better their characters throughout their gaming careers. Precise but simple guidelines are provided for the GM with regard to awarding players with Experience Points (XP) and emphasis is placed upon role playing, negotiation, overcoming obstacles and general player involvement. Then, by using a simple system of multiplying the number by which any attribute is to be increased, by a factor shown on a table of attributes, players simply spend the required amount of Experience Points (and must make a TN in order to be successful), and increase the particular attribute.
Although Archetypes and Progression Maps are provided for those that prefer, PSrps is designed as a generic system where player characters are not limited by class, archetype or style, and may increase or purchase any Skill, Manipulation, weapon proficiency or magic effect they desire. However, emphasis is again placed upon role-playing and both GMs and players are encouraged to be true to whatever setting their characters are from ? thereby only selecting advances to ?realistic? and available attributes.
The GMs section adds in a number of annotated notes that provide the GM with more information to help assist players create a character that they truly want to play. Such advice is backed up and reinforced throughout the section with notes and helpful hints on creating settings and running and delivering games set in particular genres or styles of play. Technology, magical and religious levels are discussed, as is the creation of maps and the actual game environment. All the while PSrps remains neutral and unbiased and does not treat any style, genre or setting with preferential treatment.
Advice on running and designing adventures is also given and a list of generic plot themes is provided that will easily slot in to any setting or genre. In addition, by selecting or randomly rolling on tables of keywords for theme, encounters and obstacles, a random adventure generator is provided to further help inspire ideas and themes. Further to this, statistics for various animals are provided as well as templates and guidance to assist GMs with ?off the cuff? and design of other creatures, monsters or aliens at various levels of power and combat expertise.
Hardback editions are available from www.paraspace.co.uk and other good game stores. Alternatively, if you would like to sample the rules before buying, a 60 page (condensed) Basic Rules edition is available as a free of charge pdf.