Friday, July 27, 2012

What Could of Been: The Otherverse Engine

Like many gamers, I’ve toyed with the idea of publishing my own house system. While I was in the Navy, I did a ton of work on a unique Otherverse America engine, the last work on which I did back in 2000 or 2001. I let my Otherverse Engine fall by the wayside after D20 Modern (and especially First Edition Mutants & Masterminds) came out, because the Otherverse Engine was actually pretty similar to the published D20 Modern ruleset. However, where my game was kinda bloated, D20 Modern and its successors, were sleek and streamlined.

I don’t think, outside of home playtesters, the Otherverse Engine has ever seen light, so I thought I’d share some details here. Basically, the OE was a sort of hybrid of D20 Modern and GURPS- it used a unified D20 based resolution method for everything and had a long list of point based advantages and disadvantages.

The OE had all the stats you’d expect- the typical D&D Six Attributes- plus a few extras, though I combined Strength and Constitution into a general “Physique” stat. A character’s melee attack and ranged attack were statistics, not tied to a central Base Attack Bonus. I wanted to include more social interaction in my game, given the importance that Otherverse America places on politicking, manipulation and propaganda, so rather than one Charisma stat, I broke Leadership, Seduction and Intimidation, the three main methods of social interaction, out into their own stats.

I added a Creativity stat, which was important for psionic characters, as it determined the effectiveness of their psi-attacks and defenses, and was important to characters when power stunting. More creative characters could think up new uses for their powers, while less creative characters were limited to basic applications. Creativity was also important to non-superpowered artists and politicians. All told, I really liked the idea of a Creativity stat, and played with it a lot.

Stats were ranked from 1-20, which makes sense given Otherverse America’s WIDE power level differences- from ordinary humans, to borgs, to star-gods like Artemis. Using Physique (and Marvel Comics) as an example……
1-     A weak or sickly human.
2-     You and me. Ordinary humans.
5-   Peak Human. Olympic Athletes, Navy SEALS, and Captain America.
8-10.   Better than human. Light cyborgs, guys like Spiderman. 
10-15- Obviously superhuman. Most cyborgs, Colossus, The Thing, ect.
15-20- Godlike. Superman, the Incredible Hulk.

            The other attributes shook out similarly. The task resolution method was attribute plus skill plus D20 versus a target number or opposed check. Skills topped out at 10 ranks, which makes you one of the best in the world at that skill. Target numbers tended to be a little bit higher than D20 Modern, since I was using a full attribute, not an ability score modifier, but otherwise worked identically.

            Combat, as I recall, was pretty nasty. Rather than a single HP pool, the characters had hit locations with individual HP based on a multiple or fraction of their Physique score. In addition to major areas like Head, Torso, Abdomen, and the four extremities, players could take a major attack penalty to attack a smaller or more vulnerable target- hands, feet, neck or groin. The Neck and Groin had low HP totals, and as small targets were hard to hit but taking those areas out would either one shot kill or cripple (respectively) the victim. Missed called shots could still strike the Torso or Abdomen (which were the default hit locations, unless the attacker called another target).

            I wanted an emphasis on fast, brutal combat, and wanted characters to require cyber-replacement or surgery after a battle. I keyed weapon damage so that even a peak human or light cyborg would be shredded after one or two shots from a handgun, and vaporized by a direct hit from military hardware or superpowers. Otherverse America, in its D20 Modern format, is far less deadly than I originally envisioned the world.

            The main reason I abandoned Otherverse Engine was also the engine’s strength. It had a HUGE and comprehensive list of crunchy disadvantages and advantages, probably even more comprehensive than GURPS list. That was the problem…. Had I ever published OE, it would have been a 500 page monster, 350+ pages of which would have been the advantage/disadvantage system alone. It was certainly a deep, crunchy system with tons of depth, but OE was cumbersome as all hell.

            Anyway, it’s interesting to think of what might have been. I’ve been toying with the idea of converting Otherverse America to a 3rd Edition Mutants and Mastermind compatible product, and maybe I’ll revisit some of these ideas, using a more streamlined rule system than my Otherverse Engine as a base. After all, it would be fairly easy to implement a Creativity stat in M&M3 and tie its function into the existing power stunt and alternate power rules. It would also be fairly easy to convert M&M3’s damage save system into a Hit Location system.

Talk to you later,

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