Thursday, May 7, 2015

It is our choices, Harry...

...that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities." - Albus Dumbledore

Sample character sheet (designed as Report Cards)
along with a wand sheet (as a receipt from Ollivanders)
[prototypes by D.F.Chapman]
A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Harry Potter roleplaying game that I've always wanted to write, and how it would be a great idea that would build kids imagination as well as stay true and respectful to its sources. Then, last week, I posted the basic pitch, looking at the main game product and how it would be packaged and put together.

This week, continuing the topic, I thought I'd look at the actual game system and how it could work to replicate the feel of Harry Potter and the wizarding world.

When the pitch documents were first put together, the basic idea was to use the Vortex system I'd created for Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space for Cubicle 7 Entertainment. It seemed the easy thing to do, adapting the gadget rules to work for magic items, and so on.

But the more I thought about it, the more I reconsidered. Sure, the basic mechanic could remain, but it didn't necessarily need to. Working on my pet project, WILD, the RPG of dreamshare, creating a system for that naturally fired off some new ideas of how a game system would work for Harry Potter.

Let's look at the basics.

Most roleplaying games (Doctor Who included) use a basic Attribute and Skill mechanic. Add the two together, or one modifies the other, and bingo. Harry Potter would be similar, except the Attributes and Skills would be a little more broader ranging and less restrictive. 

Everybody can do everything, its just that some people are better at some things than others. Neville is brilliant at Herbology, and Hermione lacks the talent for Divination. But they can all do it.

Attributes, rather than the usual Strength, Dexterity, etc. would be simply the following four:

Brave, Cunning, Dedicated and Wise.

It's rare that something happens in the world of Harry Potter that wouldn't fit into one of those four. 

You'll notice that those four descriptors seem a little familiar. That's because those are the key words usually associated with the four houses of Hogwarts - Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw respectively. Students would have one of these "attributes" at 5, one at 4, another at 3 and one at 2. The high Attribute would determine the House the student it sorted into. Highest Attribute is Wise? Ravenclaw! Have your 5 in Cunning? Slytherin! 

But what about strength, or dexterity I hear you ask. Well, that's where the "skills" come into it. Instead of a long list of Skills like athletics, firearms, dodge and so on, it makes more sense to simply break it down into the classes that the students attend in Hogwarts. Flying is mandatory for first years, and the remaining classes (Astronomy, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, History of Magic, Potions and Transfiguration) covers just about everything needed in the game. Hence the Dumbledore quote at the beginning of this blog post.

Once the students reach their third year, they opt to choose another two classes out of Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, Muggle Studies and Study of Ancient Runes, just like in the school. 

Then, simply, you'd roll a couple of dice, add the suitable Attribute and the correct Class, and try to beat the difficulty of the task, just like Doctor Who.

But thinking of the Doctor Who system, the results of the rolls used to be split into three levels of success, and three levels of failure, using the very cool Yes, But, No, And style of gaming. 

Success Table from the 11th Doctor Edition of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space
You know what else has three levels of success and failure?


Ordinary Wizarding Levels - the wizarding world exams.

It's like it was meant to be!  

How the Success Table would work just like O.W.L. results!
However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that you could break down the classes and group them into even more generic terms. I came up with the idea of just using five, named after places in Hogwarts -

Charms Class, Library, Quidditch Pitch, Common Room, Divination Class

Charms Class would cover all magic usage that involved wands,
Library would cover any research or information, or academic magic like Herbology or Potions
Quidditch Pitch would be for flying, or any athletics and physical activity.
Common Room could cover all of the social interaction, and
Divination Class would not only cover prophecies and divination, but also perception.

It would certainly make it simpler...

These broad definitions could be paired with report comments like "exceeds at the Patronus Charm", or "often suffers from explosive side-effects", which could give bonuses and penalties, like the Good or Bad Traits in Doctor Who.


A closer look at the character sheets, designed to look like Report Cards -
The corner is cut off, and it is a sleeve you can tuck the equipment cards into
for ease of storage.
With character sheets that look like report cards, wand sheets with information of the wand's qualities on mock Ollivanders receipts, the other options are endless... Broom sheets as receipts from Broomstix, or Quality Quidditch Supplies... and familiar sheets with stats for owls, toads or cats from Eeylops Owl Emporium or the Magical Menagerie on Diagon Alley.

Rough doodle for a possible Chocolate Frog Card
You could take the props route even further with a couple of other options for task resolution. 

Working on WILD, I've been toying with using cards instead of dice for task resolution, using Tarot to inspire not only how you succeed but also what happens. Something similar could be done for Harry Potter using Chocolate Frog Cards...

Four suits, equals each of the Houses / Attributes, and extra symbols on the cards could be used for extra effects or for a quick Quidditch resolution system. Major cards could represent the most common charms, and the symbols could even be used for wizard duelling...

For a simpler task resolution system, you only need to look to Cubicle 7's Lone Wolf RPG for inspiration. In a genius move, rather than using dice, you flip a counter into the lid of the box and it lands on a grid of numbers which gives you a result. Simple! Brilliant. What does that sound a little like?


Using a printed counter that looks like a gobstone, you could flip them into the lid of the box onto a grid (that could look a lot like a gobstone playing field) to replace dice rolling. You could even have places on the grid that would be when the stone spits at you, indicating a disastrous result!


I could go into more detail about how Quidditch would work, wizard duelling, and more, but this is already a lot to take in. As you can tell, the Harry Potter RPG is constantly on my mind, suggesting new and exciting ways of running the game, talking to me like a Horcrux in the night.

Next post I may look at the supplements and expansions to the game, taking it to later years, and out into the Ministry of Magic, Aurors, and beyond.

Until then, stay multi-classy, and if you like what you've read, please share it far and wide - who knows, if the right people see it, magic could happen...

1 comment:

Fern Kali said...

Really like the idea of the attributes relating to the houses. Also love taking strength/dex outside of that - makes a lot more sense to me! The report cards and receipts is another beautiful idea. Feeling a bit gutted this wasn't picked up!