What is a Role-playing Game?
A role-playing game is a shared storytelling experience. Players take turns narrating the actions of their characters and the Storyteller, the special player facilitating the story and game, narrates the outcomes of the other player's actions. Stories in role-playing games can take place in bizarre fantasy worlds, in familiar present times, or far out into space and the future, and the rules of the game simply act as the improvisational framework that keeps the story coherent, believable, and fun.
Why Swords of Infinity?
Many role-playing games exist, with their progenitor Dungeons & Dragons being the most well known, so it is necessary to answer the question of why another role-playing game, like Swords of Infinity, is required or even desirable. Swords of Infinity is designed to fit in seamlessly with a Swords and Sorcery, dark fantasy style of story, and was inspired by the stories told by authors such as Fritz Lieber, Robert E. Howard, and Michael Moorcock. For many Swords and Sorcery fans this will be justification enough to give Swords of Infinity a try, but others might need to hear more. Swords of Infinity is for telling stories about heroes that succeed no matter the odds, if Die Hard had an RPG, Swords of Infinity would be it, and John McClane would be its quintessential hero. Swords of Infinity is built on one unifying rule, centered on the d% (more on that later), and minimizes the need to reference the rules and lets players use their imaginations to do more. And finally, the author if this game really wants people to try it out.
What You'll Need to Play
To play Swords of Infinity you will need the following things:
- A Storyteller (the player responsible for controlling the non-player characters and determining results)
- Percentile dice (two ten-sided dice, one acting as the ten's place and one acting as the one's place)
- An idea for a story
The Storyteller is the most important role in Swords of Infinity, sometimes the player that got the role drew the shortest straw, or maybe they chose it for themselves, but regardless of how the mantle of Storyteller came to them it is an opportunity to bring the players at the table together and immerse them in a story of their own imagining. The Storyteller role is more challenging, but it is also more rewarding, and brings with it the most opportunity for creativity in the game.
The Storyteller's Responsibilities
- Know the rules (everyone should know the rules but the Storyteller needs to know more of them)
- Prepare the adventure (read ahead in a published adventure or come up with an original one)
- Determine the outcomes of player's actions
- Promote a fun and welcoming atmosphere (don't play with dicks)
The glue that holds Swords of Infinity together is the cycle of narrating actions, determining outcomes for those actions, and then narrating new actions. Some actions will require using dice rolls to determine outcomes, while others can be decided by the Storyteller personally. There is no rule deciding which outcomes need to be determined by dice or by the storyteller's whim, use what fits best into the story at the time. Rolling for outcomes can be exciting, and should be used whenever a random result would benefit the story, while having the Storyteller decide can guarantee the result that tells the best story. When in doubt, choose the option that results in everyone having the most fun.
Rolling a d%
Percentile dice, hereafter referred to as a d%, provide a random number in the range of 1 to 100. Swords of Infinity uses the d% over other dice because probabilities based off of a percentage are intuitive and easy to understand for most people. Die exist that have 100 sides on them, but their shape and their number of facets keep them rolling indefinitely like golf balls. A far more practical method of rolling a percentage is to use two ten-sided dice with one die representing the one's place and one representing the ten's place (many RPG dice sets will include the zero on the ten's place die). Roll both dice together, and add their results together. The results can be confusing when a 10 (or sometimes 0) on the one's place die is rolled, or a 00 on the ten's place, Swords of Infinity treats the 10 or 0 on the one's place die as 10, and the 00 on the ten's place as nill, so a 90 on the ten's place and a 10 on the one's place is 100. This is merely a suggestion, and players should use the method of reading a d% that they are comfortable with -- so long as it reliably gives a number between 1 and 100 it will not affect the game.
Swords of Infinity calls for rolling dice to determine two things, Power, which will be discussed in the next section, and Success. Success rolls are used whenever a character attempts to perform a task that has a chance of failure. To determine success roll a d% and compare it to the target number needed for success, if the roll is less than or equal to that target number then it is successful. This target number will be given by the ability score, skill specialization, and difficulty modifiers that suit the situation, and all of these topics will be discussed in later sections.
Target Number = Ability Score + Skill Specialization + Trait Bonuses - Defect Penalties +/- Situational or Equipment Modifiers
A critical success represents an unusually good outcome and is achieved whenever the value of a roll is less than or equal to the target value's ten's place plus any morale bonus. So if a player needs to roll a 50 or lower to succeed on a task and has a morale of 1, and rolls a 6 or lower, it would be considered a critical success. Critical successes often trigger special outcomes that are detailed in later sections.
A roll of 100 minus any negative Morale modifier on a success check is considered a critical failure (e.g. a roll of 99 for a character with a Morale of -1). Critical failures are unusually bad and, while the penalty for a regular failure is just that the desired outcome is not achieved, Storytellers should take the opportunity to make failures of this kind particularly nasty. Critical failures in combat, for example, might result in an ally accidentally getting hit, or in a weapon becoming lost or damaged. Storytellers should be creative with critical failures, and remember that they are not intended to punish players, but rather they are meant to keep the story interesting and challenging by introducing surprising negative consequences.
Sometimes a player's success is opposed by another character in the game. Results are straight forward when one character succeeds on their roll and the other fails, but sometimes both characters will roll what would normally result in a successful check. In these situations the successful character is the one that has both made a successful roll under normal conditions and received a result that is lower than the opponent's roll.
Power Checks are used to determine the magnitude of outcomes, such as the strength of a spell or the amount of damage dealt by an attack. To determine Power, roll a d% and compare it against the key ability score for the task, plus any relevant specialization in that score; this is the Power Cap to the power roll. The result of the Power Check is either the number rolled or the value of the Power Cap, whichever is lower. Any time the Power Cap is greater than 100 roll an additional d% for each 100 and add the results.
Power Cap = Ability Score + Skill Specialization + Trait Bonuses - Defect Penalties +/- Situational or Equipment Modifiers
Some rules in the game will call for what is referred to as a Narrative Effect. Put simply, a Narrative Effect is an outcome that affects the story, but does not have a numerical impact on the game (i.e. a Narrative Effect cannot cause damage). A character being knocked down, blinded by sand thrown in the face, or divining the future are all example Narrative Effects, and what is important is that everyone at the table can agree on its meaning in the story. It is up to the players and Storytellers to come up with their own narrative effects, and so long as they make the game more fun or interesting they are completely valid.