Saturday, February 5, 2011

Strange Dream

I didn't sleep well last night, which is usually when I have weird dreams. I had a number of them in fact, but one in particular stayed with me this morning. In it, someone came to me and asked me to explain the Space Opera skill system. Oddly, I was able to explain the system quite easily and simply to the person who came to me and they thanked me for my help. I say "oddly," because I'm still not sure that I actually understand how the skill system works, as it's one of the more confusing aspects of the game (for me anyway).

As is so often the case with dreams, the "knowledge" I'd possessed in it lingered for a time after I woke up. Usually, I forget it once I become lucid; this time, though, I retained it. Indeed, what I remembered from my dream was so clear that I briefly thought that my unconscious mind really had unraveled the mystery of Space Opera's skill system for me. Alas, what my dream had taught me, while interesting, bears little connection to what's in Space Opera.

In my dream, all skills had levels. These levels were plugged in to a simple calculation to give a base percentile chance to succeed at a skill under "standard" stressful conditions (no rolls were required otherwise). The base chance could be modified (always downward -- remember, there are no skill rolls for non-stressful situations) by the complexity of the task at hand. Finally, each characteristic of a player character had a characteristic modifier associated with it, a bonus or penalty ranging from (I think) -15% to +15%. At the discretion of the Star Master (what Space Opera calls the referee), one modifier from an appropriate characteristic can be applied to the D% roll to determine success with a skill. Which characteristic is appropriate is up to the player, with the Star Master's concurrence. There is no standard one-to-one correspondence between skills and characteristics, thereby allowing leeway for player creativity, as he might argue that, in a particular case, Empathy is more pertinent than Intuition or whatever.

It all great sense to me at the time and I found myself cheered by this newfound understanding of the main part of Space Opera that continues to elude my comprehension. I have no idea whatsoever why I was thinking about Space Opera. It might well have been a spin-off from my immersion in the first edition of Chivalry & Sorcery, written by the same authors and published by the same company. Still, it was a very strange dream.


  1. That reminds me of a dream I had when I first started playing Tunnels & Trolls in which I discovered or invented an incredible new rule called the Bag of Tricks. It was a revelation, and I intended to submit it to Sorcerer's Apprentice... until I awoke and couldn't remember anything but the name.

    In the dream, I think the rule was illustrated or imparted to me by a goblin...

  2. I'm not sure why the skill has to be a point value plugged into a calculation. Couldn't each skill just be a percentile value? If the success calculation spits out results on a curve, you could curve the skill advancement system instead. This would be preferable because you tend to advance less often than you use a skill, so it makes sense to put the heavy lifting on the less-frequently-used rules.

    So did you actually dream through the rules? Or did you come up with something different?

  3. dreams usually involve something like me being all alone rolling a big donut, then this snake wearing a vest comes along...

  4. @1d30: Couldn't each skill just be a percentile value?

    In the actual Space Opera rules skills are measured in levels because both the base chance of success and the percentage add involved in using the skill varies according to task attempted.

    For example, in most cases attempting to do something purely routine with a skill generally has a chance of success equal to 90% + 1%/level.

    Compare that with a large project (such as a research or engineering project), where you have a base chance of success based on the difficulty of the project (say 30% for example), plus a bonus based on the principle skill (say +3%/level), and a bonus based on whatever other skills you can bring to bear on the problem (at +1% per level).

    It really is quite an elegant system, with level 1 being basic competence in a skill and level 10 being acknowledged as being at the top of your field.

    The only problem is that the rules were very badly edited as far as modern role-playing sensibilities are concerned. It actually owes far more to the way that most tabletop wargame rules were written at the time, where each circumstance was given it's own little portion of the rules explaining what to do in that circumstance. Usually distinct from the other parts of the rules that dealt with the skills or character generation. Thus it appears to be extremely disjointed. But really, it's much the same as OD&D, which is the same collection of case-based rules (only Space Opera is a lot more complex than OD&D so the disjointed nature of the rules is a lot more apparent because there really is no coherent narrative).

  5. Chevski, it's time for a vacation.


  6. You probably need to get out more. ;)

  7. A couple of weeks ago I dreamed I woke up to find dozens and dozens of baby cockroaches crawling out of my ears.

    Just thought I would share that.

  8. Geekdom needs more posts like this one! ;)