FIVEY: Aspects, Part 2

I've had three general tendencies lately: (1) desire more freeform role-play that relies more upon fictional positioning than mechanical optimization; (2) play more interesting characters that can't be reduced to their formal attributes; (3) cast aside mechanical hallmarks of D&D to arrive at a game equivalent in terms of its flow (e.g.: FMC Basic is to 0e as Trophy Gold is to an old-school reading of TSR D&D). These tendencies are already present in FIVEY, which I've been working on because I want to play theater kid D&D without dealing with 5e.

There's one apparent contradiction, though: I think that a major selling point of 5e is that its system serves as handrails for freeform play and character conceptualization. It's one thing to have a loosey goosey character concept for which you rely upon fictional positioning to interact with the world and bring out their strengths, but it's another when you can say you have +3 charisma and +2 proficiency from persuasion so you will fuck that dragon thank you very much. The latter gives you a more solid basis, and thus confidence, on which to play the game more freely.

So that takes us back to aspects, which was with what I had replaced both skills and titles last week. Squishy Mage said in the comments that 13th Age, a love child between D&D 3e and 4e, has background bonuses which players add to their d20 checks when their character's background applies. My first thought was, cool, this has legs to stand on! But I got curious and looked into it some more, and found something that blew my mind: players can give their characters any number of backgrounds, so long as their total bonus adds up to +8.

I didn't want to go back to adding two numbers to find your total bonus because that felt like a downgrade, but my brain had an epiphany: why add or double anything? Why not just one number based on which aspect of your character, if any, best applies to the situation? If in a fictional world we expect elves to be very quick or good at hearing or excellent at aiming, the player just adds the bonus associated with that aspect when rolling in any of those situations; otherwise, the character adds nothing because they're assumed to have average capabilities.

In other words, the player decides their own "stats" and negotiates their applicability based on the fiction. No more reliance on objective ability categories. No more arguing about whether you need dexterity or strength to shoot a bow. The reality of the character relative to their known facts and fictional positioning takes complete precedence, while also maintaining some mechanical handrails to soothe the player's confidence.

My favorite thing about this is that it puts character conceptualization at the forefront of the play conversation. When one or more aspects are applied to a situation (using the bonus of the best or most applicable one, not summing them), it reflects a specific slice of that character's experience. Do all elves know how to navigate the forest, or only wood elves? (Rewrite your aspect to be more specific!) Are all elves really good with bows, or only those who know how to fight? (You need to be an elf and also have had combat experience, two separate aspects!) You could even record facts established during play, developing a cohesive understanding of the fictional world through the lens of the characters' aspects.

So that's kind of where I'm at: aspects now not only swallow up skills and languages, but also typical character abilities. What looks about right to me is that you start with 6 aspect points to distribute between any number of aspects (likely two to start with: your origin and background), and then you gain 1 aspect point per level. Lazy players can put everything in their origin and background, but players who enjoy character development might choose to gain new aspects during play to represent skill training or factional allegiance.

Next I want to reflect on if there's anything to do about the stupid D&D combat system that latches onto everything like a parasite because it is not only the convention but also the very basis of D&D. Combat hasn't actually come up yet in play, which I guess says a lot about me lmao, so who knows. Something else too: I'm renaming FIVEY to FMC•NEXT because I want to keep everything together. All I need are my arcade rules and my blorbo rules. Putting them in the same box feels like it suggests continuity while also inviting comparison/contrast. Maybe it poses a challenge to the reader of how they or their sources relate to each other.


  1. I really like the shape that this project has been taking! Lately I've gotten really interested in more freeform abilities and tag-based systems. Freeform Universal, Vagabonds of Dyfed, and the WaRP engine from Over the Edge 1e all have their own unique spin on this idea.

    1. thank you so much, and will need to look into those! :D

  2. Just re-read Risus thinking about char/gen for my group's campaign. The setup of distributing dice to Cliches reminds me of this, although that game lacks any handrails completely.
    That character sheet is *clean* btw. How did you make it?

    1. thank you!! it's just google sheets :) will need to look into risus again!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Plagiarism in Unconquered (2022)

OSR Rules Families

Bite-Sized Dungeons