Machinations: Design Decisions

MOTSP029colorIt isn’t my game, it’s your game. The idea from the start was to present a game that people could hack, mangle and mutilate into whatever they wanted. It’s worth making a post about the design decisions I did make – and why – though. That might give people a little bit of insight into why and how I came to those decisions.

Some of the feedback I got in playtesting I wilfully ignored (after all, your game is your game and my book is my book!) This might explain some of that too.

Implicit Setting

Quite often I play around with concepts and settings and it was nice to do something different. Selling someone on a setting as well as a system can be tricky and I wanted to go ‘old school’ in presentation. OD&D and its like left a lot of things to interpretation and to the reader, players and Games Masters to join the dots themselves.

I always figured I could create settings later on, or others would, given that it’s open source.


I spread bonuses amongst the different stats a bit more to try and prevent ‘dump stats’ and to make everything useful in some way. So that was partly meta-reasons but also in some cases, simply because it made more sense to me. I included Comeliness as a flag that looks are important in the genre, either high or low.


If you look at the Cantina scene in Star Wars, watch Heavy Metal (one or two) or look at a lot of other SF series, comics and art you often barely see two aliens that look the same. Diversity is hugely important and just creating a list of different races wasn’t really optimal. If I provide the tools for creating a huge number of races then people can take it into their own hands, plus publish setting specific ones, new race traits or even books/booklets of races. The reason for making Charisma the first ‘penalty’ for taking lots of traits is again, referring back to the attraction/charm importance of the genre. The less human, the less ‘appealing’ and this was a way to reflect that. If you don’t like it, you can always substitute a free choice.


There’s been a lot of comparisons to 3e and feats but that wasn’t really what I was aiming for at all. I wanted the simplicity of LotFP skills while allowing a general, broad mechanism for doing ‘cool stuff’ and developing signature moves and attacks that compensated for the penalty. I also wanted to build in a capacity to avoid some of the combat ‘whiff’ factor and skills provided a way to do that.

Saving Throws

Old-School saving throws are pretty damn arbitrary and don’t mean much. Doing them this way (1/2 stat) was a way to address the ‘dump stat’ issue again and to create saves that could be used more intuitively in play.

Armour & Defence

I have never liked armour as making you harder to hit. So I decided to make it damage reduction. I also wanted to reduce the ‘whiff’ factor in combat and to encourage people to try crazy, interesting things that would stack up the penalties. Leaving defence fairly low is a good way to do that and making armour damage reduction – but random – adds a bit of tension and stops it from being all powerful.

The rest is, I think, pretty self explanatory!

4 responses to “Machinations: Design Decisions

  1. I support all of those decisions, MotSP is a great OSR based game, and the actual skills to me DON’T feel like feats; more like traits, since they’re all minor bonuses.

  2. Love the game but I have a question on skills, what happens if you roll equal to the skill?
    Skills on page 102 has the following:
    “When you use a Skill, you roll a D6 and if it
    is under your skill you succeed. If it is over
    your Skill then you fail. If your skill is 6 then
    you roll two dice and if both come up 6 then
    you fail. Should your skill rise about 6 due to
    supernatural, ExoTech or other reasons you
    add more dice for each skill point higher and
    all need to come up 6 for you to fail.”
    And unfortunately the 2 examples are rolling lower and higher than the skill level.
    I think it means roll equal too or lower than your skill to succeed, otherwise a skill of 5 fails 2 in 6 times whereas 6 fails 1 in 36 times.

    Also just noted a typo “rise about 6” should be rise above 6. Is there anywhere to directly report typo’s?

    Look forward to more stuff for this.

  3. I find it amusing that these are all roughly decisions that I made in a system recently, and they somewhat match the points people gave the most feedback on, despite the fact that it wasn’t at all an old school feel game.

    I did saving throw (or check) by straight stat, which people really liked. The controversy of armor as defense I could deal with. The surprise for me was in how many times I heard people sitting down with blank character sheets, whispering with each other, trying and failing to find a dump stat, and eventually really being irked and complaining about that.

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