The ChaosGrenade

Quick & Dirty Tabletop Role-Playing

D·10 TOOLKIT: ATTRIBUTES & VOCATIONS

2019-04-18 Rambling R.E. Davis

The Drive·10 Framework was written to be as fast, compact, and complete as possible. I wanted the core to be as essential as can be, so that it would be easy to take and replace rules as needed. Today I’m starting* a new series of blog posts, musing on different ways you can expand or hack the Drive·10 system to accommodate different needs in a role-playing game. Along the way I also hope the shed some light on why I went with certain design choices over others.

*Some of these I blogged once upon a time, but are revisiting them thanks to the revised edition of D·10

For our first post, I want to dive in to playing around with Attributes and Vocations!

Attributes

One of the most direct ways to customize the DRIVE·10 Framework is to change the Attributes. The three presented in the core rules (Body, Mind & Spirit) were chosen for a couple reasons: fist, I felt three attributes was the bare minimum to offer a variety of character styles. It was also a nod to some of my favorite RPGs – Big Eyes Small Mouth (Body, Mind & Soul), High Valor (Valor, Faith and Will) and Warrior, Rogue & Mage (which used those three archetypes as attributes).

The simplest way you can change Attributes for your game or setting is simply renaming them – for super hero games, I like using Hearts, Smarts & Parts as my three attributes. Or for cyberpunk I used Chrome, Wires & Data. You may also want to expand the number of attributes. I actually prefer or gravitate towards four stats: BareBones Fantasy uses Strength, Dexterity, Logic & Will. Matt Bryant’s upcoming Fortune’s Turn uses Fighter, Adept, Scholar & Speaker. And of course, folks raised on traditional D&D fantasy will be accustomed to six stats (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom & Charisma).

In order to keep the same logic and power levels of starting characters with the core framework, use the following formula:

Number of Attributes x 3, with +1 point for every third stat.

# of Attributes Number of Points
3 10
4 13
5 16
6 20

The logic behind this was to allow starting characters with overall average scores (+3) with a small degree of stand out. Those who want beefier stats in an area can do so at a detriment to other attributes. This may seem pretty vanilla, but by the numbers a character with a +3 in an attribute as a 40% chance of success on task, 60% if it falls under their Vocation, 84% if it falls under their Vocation and has an Edge, and gets even better if it’s a Boosted roll. Even on Challenging rolls, there’s a decent chance of success that isn’t completely crippling to the player (as long as they operate in their wheel house, so to speak.)

Free-Form Attributes?

Something we experimented with in an early prototype of Gonzo Mutoids was the idea of “Free-Form Attributes”. Instead of set attributes, we rated arbitrary traits related to the character. So for this example: I rolled up a character whose concept was basically “Rocket Raccoon, except magical and in a Weird Westerb Post-Apocalypse.” His stats ended up looking something like this:

Cabbot Ortiz is a Cybernetic (+2) Arcane (+5) Varmint (+3) who is a Nomadic Alchemist (Vocation/+2).

This was surprisingly playable, but did have some minor hitches to consider. The first being: how do you ensure that any trait can be used for a roll? Instead of having defined fields, each action was left for interpretation between the Player and GM on what to use.. The best advice for this style, I think, is to lean into the traits during role-play to discuss how a character approaches the action. It involves a bit more proactive imagination on the player’s part — passively stating “I pick the lock, what do I roll?” they’d need to declare something like “Using my Varmint instincts, I’m going to meticulously pick the lock.” Or maybe “Being a cybernetic being, I’m going to rely on archived internet data to help me pick this lock.” It’s not a style for everyone, but it is fun with the right crew!

The other hitch is how to determine starting Hit Points, which by default is tied to an attribute (Body). The GM may want to consider a standard starting amount (20 pts?) and allowing additional points gained by related traits (“Strong”, “Healthy”, “Enduring”). Doing it this way, I’d recommend gaining 2 HP per rating (versus the normal 5). Or, perhaps letting the character take a Tag that grants them a +5 HP advancement from the start.

When we tinkered with proto-Gonzo Mutoids, we required a Species trait and used that as the “Body” score when determining HP.

Vocations

Vocations were intended as a quick and simple way to represent Skills, Backgrounds, and any other form of “career experience” that enhances the odds on a roll. In the core rules, they’re simply defined as an Adjective-Noun, and any roll that can fall under the description gets a +2 bonus (+1 if a secondary Vocation picked up later on).

When tailoring your game, you may wish to expand on the nature of the “Vocational Description” and its application. For starters, instead of the simple Adjective-Noun description, you may call for a complete sentence to describe that character’s background and career: “I’m a decorated Veteran of the Royal Guard, have fought in the Goblin Wars and I’m adjusting to Civilian Life” has quite a bit more depth to it than “I’m a Grizzled Veteran”.

Some groups may be put off by how broad Vocations work. This can be fixed in a couple ways: the most common being resorting back to a Skills system, where the GM provides a general list of skills and the players may pick which ones they’re trained in (starting skills are ranked at +2, future skills at +1). But another, more middle ground approach (and one that I think keeps in the feel of the framework) is that every character could declare their Vocational description, and then list up to 5 traits that would benefit them from experience:

Canthill, a Decorated Veteran of the Royal Guard who Fought in the Goblin Wars (+2)

  • Trained in hand-to-hand combat, particularly two-handed weapons.
  • Has knowledge of tactics & battlefield logistics
  • Leadership Experience from commanding a small squad
  • Is versed in royal etiquette
  • Literate and experienced in penmanship.

Advancing a Secondary Vocation

I didn’t really have the space to express it in the core rules, but the idea behind the “Secondary Vocations” in the D·10 was to offer characters the opportunity to advance and expand their skillset into new fields. In some ways it’s my approach to “Multiclassing” but in others it’s a chance for growth. A character may start off with their Vocation as a “Young Cat Burglar” but after being caught, forgiven and taken in by a Wizard to be a servant, they decide to become an Apprentice Magician. Boom, that’s a new vocation. Their secondary begins at a +1 because there’s no way they’re as good as what they’ve already spent years doing (being a cat burglar).

So how about advancing into a full magician? This can be handled one of two ways:

  • Option A: The GM allows them to spend one of their advancements to swap out their core Vocation with a Secondary. With the example above, our Burglar is more devoted to magical studies and their burglary skills are left a little rusty and out of practice, albeit still very useful.
  • Option B: The advancement is spent to raise the +1 to a +2, and our Burglar is now also equally versed in Magic.

I personally would stick with option A, but B is valid and can also be used in conjunction with A in the cases of characters who actively continue using both skill sets.

Side Note: Declaring Origins

It’s common for RPG players to want special features tied to their character’s origin — whether it’s a special kinship with their heritage in a fantasy game (like being an Elf, Dwarf or Goblin) or belonging to an alien species in a space opera. The easiest way to implement this is to simply declare it in your core Vocational Description (example: “a Fast-Talking Elven Bard“). If there’s any crazy special abilities that the player wants tied to their origin, they should choose so as a Tag. The GM can make the call of any special characteristics that are universal to all characters with that origin.

+++

I hope this post was helpful, and perhaps helped to get some gears rolling! My next post will be musings on Tags, the little descriptors that have such a big impact on the system.

Not familiar with Drive·10 yet? There’s a free no-frills version of the core rules to check out. If ya dig it, purchasing it for $2+ gets you not only a fancy layout edition (with bonus content) but also access to Gonzo Mutoid Wasteland Crust Punks and future add-ons!