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!

Machinations: A Killer Character

A very early/rough draft of  an example character. Everything’s still up in the air at the moment and open to comment/change/query.

Name: Strulie Jain
Class: Killer (bounty hunter)
Level: 1
Race1: Human: Adaptable +1 Skill
Race2: Human: Adaptable +1 Skill
Race3: Robot: Steel Hard +1 Armour

Hit Points: 5
Close Attack: +2
Ranged Attack: +2
Defence Class: 17 (+2 from Dexterity, +3 from ColTech personal shield)
Armour: Armoured Dynim longcoat d4+1

Strength: 14 +2 Close Attack/Damage
Dexterity: 15 +2 Defence Class, +2 Ranged Attack/Damage
Constitution: 14 +2 Hit Points
Intelligence: 8 -1 Skill
Wisdom: 10 +0
Charisma: 5 -3
Comliness: 11 +0

Power: 7
Reflexes: 7
Toughness: 8 (+1 from being Level 1)
Logic: 4
Spirit: 5
Charm: 2
Looks: 5

General Skills
Architecture: 1
Climb: 1
Languages: 1
Search: 2
Sleight of Hand: 1
Stealth: 2
Survival: 2
Tech: 1

Combat Skills
Dual Wield: 3 (Killers get 3 combat skill points)
Sneak Attack: 1

ColTech personal shield (+3)
Dynim Longcoat (D4 armour)
Twin DenRai Blazer pistols – d8+2 damage
Twin FracShun Gunblades – d4+2 damage
Basic Cyberarm
Basic Cyberleg
Basic Cybereye
Wrist Computer

Machinations: It’s the Little Differences…

People keep asking about cross-compatibility with LotFP and while I’m working from the same basic stock there are going to be a few key differences to make it work with the SF ‘thing’ and because I can’t help but fiddle with things anyway.

The main places where there need to be – or will be – some differences are:

1. Saving Throws – Something more general, more broadly applicable to the vast array of situations in which Sci-Fi/Sci-Fantasy characters can find themselves. Saving throws based from the characteristics seems to be the obvious choice, broader than 3rd Ed’s Ref/Fort/Will and capable of handling a broader array of situations.

2. Skills – The LotFP skill system is simple and robust. Too simple for some but with a huge amount of potential for all sorts of applications. Skills will be expanded out for all character classes, though experts/specialists will still have the edge – other character types can access more skills. Fighter-type characters in particular will have access to combat bonus abilities and will be the best capable of using alternative tactics.

3. Armour – To allow for both force fields and protective armour there needs to be a differentiation between preventing damage and avoiding damage.  Agility, deflection and avoidance on the one hand (Armour Class) with some sort of damage reduction (perhaps randomised?).

All of this stuff will be optional – of course – and I’ll put in sidebars and alternatives so that people can do without them but I do think they’ll make for a better game with its own feel.

Machinations: Updated Fundraiser Page!

We’ve updated the fundraiser page with some new perks (there may still be a few more to come but we’ll handle changing your pledge reward for you if you want to change or double/triple up).

Things will kick into even higher gear starting next week with more notes, a pitch video and more to tempt and tease. I’m also hoping to get some blog and podcast interviews going and otherwise I’m available across social media and in this blog to field people’s questions about the game.

Meanwhile, here’s a few little word-pictures, tasters, ideas:

A pirate ship spreads its solar sails and sweeps out of the sun, blasting at a convoy of golden, glinting traders.

The white-furred bandit queen receives you in the icy inner chamber of her comet fortress. Airs and graces that bely her vicious whims.

The ship crashed. Your suit’s batteries failed. The bloodsucking thorns tore at your flesh and your shipsuit. Ragged and bloodied you are down to your diamond-knife and your disintegrator pistol, on half charge. Then you hear the shriek of a beast…

Gorlakk slides the packet of tyon powder across the desk, distracted by the three-breasted girl dancing in the zero-gee bubble. “You get that sold and I’ll give you your in with the Marquis.”

The gunfighter fixes her opponent in the range-finding gaze of her cybernetic eye. When the mass-lift fires they draw, but what he doesn’t know is that the gun on her bare hip is a decoy. The real gun is built into her gunmetal right-arm.


Machinations: Fundraising and Rewards

So, Satine’s back and we’re talking about rewards.

Now, I don’t have the resources or profile of someone like Monte Cook and people are definitely hitting their Kickstarter/IndieGoGo exhaustion limit.

Hopefully there’s still enough goodwill out there and I’m not asking for as much as many projects because I think we can squeeze a great deal of quality out of a more reasonable amount of cash.

I’m not going to think ahead to stretch goals, that’d jinx it, but we’re thinking up extra reward levels and options.

So, here’s a thought. Why don’t YOU let us know what sort of rewards you might like on this project and how much money you’d heft out of your pocket to get it. We’ll see what we can do about it making them – or something like them – a reality in order to wrangle money out of you!


Machinations: Classes

Machinations is going to be pared down to four character classes and without racial character classes. Races will modify/add specific special capabilities instead. You can see that in one of the previous articles.

I may mess around with the names to find something more evocative and interesting, if you have any preferences please chime in!

Should start having some sketches and art progress to show you soon. Meanwhile…


The Fighter (or Soldier, or Killer, or Weapon) is absolutely deadly. They are omni-competent when it comes to killing, maiming and otherwise harming people, robots, objects and starship. If you want it broken or dead, the fighter is who you want on your team.

Exemplars: Lobo, Riddick, Aeryn Sun, Julie.


The Specialist (or rogue, or expert, or chancer) can either be a jack of all trades or can hone-in and specialise on particular skills and abilities to excel. If your character concept doesn’t fit another niche, this is the one.

Exemplars: Han Solo, Malcom Reynolds, Joe Pineapples, Nova.


The Psion (Mentalist, Psiren or Psilencer) hones and uses their psychic abilities in a wide variety of applications. Different ‘trees’ of psychic ability will be available, at least Telepath and Telekinetic with others potentially being added depending on funds raised and the need for them in the game. An electropath, being able to control and commune with computers/robots might be an interesting way to go as might pyrokinetics. Psions will all have some flaw to compensate and mark them for their power.

Exemplars: Lilith, Anderson, Samara, Worsel.


The scholar (Brainiac, Expert, Factotum or Database) trades on his knowledge. If it needs to be known, deciphered, fixed or otherwise tinkered with your scholar is the one to do it. Scholars delve deep into science, lore, languages and any number of other mysteries and can provide the information and skill necessary to head on to the next big score.

Exemplars: Richard Seaton, Seven, Andromeda, Galen.

Now then…


Machinations: Guns, Blades, Armour and Force Fields

Switching from fantasy to science fiction/science fantasy you run into issues with deadliness, firearms, automatic weapons and the whole panoply of high tech gizmoes, gadgets, sights, bullets and so on and so forth.

You also have to account for more advanced forms of protection while not overdoing the whiff factor or making it too easy to hurt someone the other way.

This ain’t easy.

I haven’t quite decided yet but I’m leaning towards damage reduction for armour and armour class boosting for force-shields/agility. Force shields won’t apply to melee attacks and ranged attacks should find it easier to hit,

I want to keep things as simple as possible but I also want combat to have plenty of options  and to have a universal guideline so players can easily decide what they want to try. Sticking with LotFPs attack guidelines, mostly, this also gives fighters (soldiers) a much greater capacity to pull special attack moves.

Something like a universal -5 penalty no matter if you’re tripping, headshotting, disarming or any other environmental or competency issues. You could then offset that penalty – and even turn it into a bonus – by taking lots of skill levels.

The spirit of ‘old school’ is heavy on the improvisation but by providing a framework you can enable a lot of improvisation from that.

“What’s the penalty for fighting in zero gee?”


“When I levelled last time, I took Zero gee combat once.”

“-4 then.”

Bosh, sorted and fighters/soldiers become a damn sight more interesting all of a sudden 🙂