We use a custom version of the FATE RPG System here to handle all stats, sheets and rolls. It's a fairly simple, streamlined system with two key elements. First is The Ladder, which covers the range of human ability as well as the degree of success or failure. The Ladder is as follows:
Abysmal (-4) -> Terrible (-3) -> Poor (-2) -> Mediocre (-1) -> Average (0) -> Fair (+1) -> Good (+2) -> Great (+3) -> Superb (+4) -> Epic (+5)
Every skill and every dice roll use The Ladder shown above. Dice rolls involve 4 6-sided dice, on which a one or a two counts as a - shift on the ladder, a three or a four counts as no change on the ladder, and a five or a six counts as a + shift on the ladder. All four dice are rolled and the +'s and -'s are balanced out, giving you the result. As an example, if you have an Average rating in Firearms, and you roll two +'s and a - along with an X (a three or four, no change), you would end with a net result of one +. You take that and adjust your skill accordingly, moving your Average Firearms up to a Fair result. Every roll is handled in this manner. Some types of rolls are resisted, where two or more people are rolling against each other with the highest net result winning.
Some rolls will have a difficulty attached to them, a minimum threshold that you must meet to successfully accomplish the task. For example, if you are picking a lock that is somewhat complex, you may have a difficulty of Good. If your Lock Pick skill is only Fair, you would need to roll a net of at least one + to succeed in picking the lock. You roll and get ++X+, moving your Fair up to Superb, which is more than you needed. You succeed in the task, and succeed well.
The degree of success is also determined using The Ladder. In the above example, you got two levels higher than you needed to successfully perform the task. Looking at The Ladder, a +2 is Good. Degrees of success can sometimes have an effect on how long something lasts or how well it works, at Staff's discretion.
Everything you ever do on the game will be handled just like that. The dice are coded to automatically convert numbers into +, -, or X for you. All you need to do is adjust your place on The Ladder accordingly.
The second key element of the game system is The Pyramid. This refers to the skills that you have, and the ratings that you have them at. Your skills and ratings must always be in a pyramid form. For example, in order to have one skill at Fair, you must have two skills at Average. According to this concept, in order to have one skill at Good, you would need to have at least two skills at Fair and at least three skills at Average. Three -> Two -> One. All skills start at Average.
Going by this system, you cannot simply raise a skill at Good to Great unless the rest of The Pyramid below it supports it. This makes sure that characters are well rounded and balanced rather than lopsided and overpowered. You can't run around with one awesome stat and everything else at minimum, and you can't jack one stat up with future purchases from XP.
In character creation, or CharGen as it's called, you will go through the process of setting up your skills and your pyramid based on your character's age, but we'll give you a brief overview here.
Every character's life is broken into Phases.
- The first Phase is Childhood, from age 0 to 12.
- The second Phase is Adolescence, from age 13 to 18.
- The third Phase is your Initial Enlistment or Academy years, from age to 19 to 22.
- The fourth Phase is Adulthood 1, from age 23 to 27.
Every character should be a minimum of 23 years old, as they would otherwise still be in the Academy or in their initial term of Enlistment, neither of which could be committed to a 10 year project such as serving on the EAV Genesis. If you were an early graduate, and therefore younger than this age, you'll need to have approval of Staff before going IC. Characters that are older than 27 have an additional Phase, Adulthood 2, which covers from age 28 to 32. Characters that are older than 32 have yet one more Phase, Adulthood 3. The number of Phases in your life directly impact the number of skills you start with and the shape of your pyramid, as well as the number of Fate Points - which we'll get to in a moment - you may have.
All characters start at least 23 years old, giving them a total of four Phases. These characters get four(4) skills at Average, three(3) skills at Fair, two(2) skills at Good, and one(1) skill at Great. They also get a pool of four(4) Fate Points, meaning that they may have as many as four Fate Points at any time.
A character that is 28 to 32 has a total of five Phases, and therefore gets five(5) skills at Average, four(4) skills at Fair, three(3) skills at Good, two(2) skills at Great, and one(1) skill at Superb. They also get a pool of three(3) Fate Points.
A character that is over 32 has a total of six Phases, and therefore gets six(6) skills at Average, five(5) skills at Fair, four(4) skills at Good, three(3) skills at Great, two(2) skills at Superb, and one(1) skill at Epic. As you might assume, a skill at Epic pretty much always succeeds unless resisted. For this reason, it is highly unlikely that we will approve a character at this power level.
There is another element to the system that comes in during character creation, and these are called Aspects. Each phase of a character's life has a defining Aspect, a word or phrase that best summarizes that part of their life. In character creation, you will choose these Aspects. As an example, if you were very athletic in your Childhood, you might choose Star Athlete to summarize this Aspect of your life. The way this comes into play is that any situation in which you attempt to do something that you do not have a skill for, you may ask Staff to roll using your Aspect, essentially giving you the necessary skill at Mediocre instead of at Poor, as you normally would when rolling something that you are not skilled in.
As an example, let's say you're trying to throw an object and hit a specific target, but you have no Thrown Weapons skill. You can say that because you were a Star Athlete as a child, you should be allowed to roll as if you were informally skilled in this area. If Staff grants this, you may roll at Mediocre (-1) instead of at Poor (-2). The other way in which Aspects come into play deals with Fate Points, which we will cover next.
Fate Points allow you to directly affect a situation with the hand of Fate, bending it more to your will. Fate Points can be used in a number of ways. A Fate Point can be used to adjust a roll by one +, making a failure less bad or a success even better. A Fate Point can be used to completely reroll a roll. A Fate Point can be used to take minor narrative liberties, such as allowing you to find an important item, noticed a crucial clue or simply be in the right place at the right time. A Fate Point may also be used to cancel the expenditure of a Fate Point by someone else, such as an NPC enemy. All such uses, however, must be justified with one of your Aspects. Be creative, and you'll likely be allowed to do it. This system is designed to allow players more control over the story through creativity. A character may never have more Fate Points than their maximum Fate Pool which is decided during character creation as mentioned previously. When Fate Points are spent, it is only temporary, and they may be regained later through actions and roleplay.
Lastly, a player may burn a permanent point from their Fate Pool - forever lowering the maximum amount of Fate Points they may hold at one time - to save their character's life from certain death. Again, there must be some justification (and damn good justification at that) involving one of their Aspects in order to attempt this. As you can see from the examples of using Fate Points, they can be very useful and are important to have, which is why older, more highly skilled characters do not get as many as younger, more ambitious characters do.