Fading Suns Designer Diary – December 2017

Merry Lux Splendor!

The Known Worlds have many festivals and ritual events. The most cherished is Lux Splendor, the Radiance of Light, commemorating the Prophet’s sanctification of the jumproutes following his death in a jumpgate accident.

As I write this, I’ve just finished up the sprawling outline for the core book, which will be assigned out to authors very soon. Some parts of the book have already been written in rough draft form, mainly as rules modifications for the Victory Point System.

As a Lux Splendor present, I’m going to begin rolling out some info about the game mechanics, starting with a big change to how victory points are handled.

Victory Point Tokens

The system is called VPS —the Victory Point System — because its core function is to award victory points for successful actions. Victory points are the foundation and key concept of the rules.

Unlike in previous editions, FS4 introduces a more fluid and dynamic system of counting victory points (VP for short): tokens.

Victory points are represented by tokens. You can use the ones that will be provided by Ulisses (perhaps in the form of firebirds, the coin of the realm), or substitute any small item you want — chits, coins, glass beads, paperclips, jelly beans, etc.

Somewhere within easy reach of the players, there should be a bowl that holds a good number of VP tokens. This is the well. Each time a player gains VP, they take tokens from the well and place them in their bank.

Each player has a VP bank. This is either just a spot somewhere on the table next to them where they keep their pile of VP tokens, or preferably a small bowl or bag to ensure the tokens don’t get scattered.

When a player gains VP, they are placed into their bank. As they are spent, the tokens go back into the well.

Gaining VP

VP are gained by making successful dice rolls in the course of gameplay.

The number you roll on the die (assuming it’s equal to or less than your goal number) is the amount of victory points you gain. If your goal number is a 12 and you roll a 9, you’ve got 9 victory points. No dividing by 2 or 3, and no chart to consult. (Critical hits work the same as in previous editions: roll your goal number exactly, double the VP reward.)

When you gain VP from a victorious roll, take that many VP from the well and place them in your bank.

When you spend VP (for such things as damage), take that many VP from your bank and put them in the well.

Note that dice rolls should only be called for in meaningful circumstances, where the outcome is uncertain and character talent and skill makes a difference. The vast majority of activities — walking, eating, talking — don’t require rolls. Repetitive and routine tasks — sweeping floors, reading sermons, hunting hull rats on starships — should not require rolls.

More to Come…

That’s just the barest glimpse of the system. There are lots of details — a character’s vault where some VP can be stored between encounters, wyrd VP that fuel psychic and theurgic powers, and the various things you can spend VP on, from damage to dice nudges to even more.

Don’t worry, we’ll roll out more info each month so you’ll get a better idea of what the new edition will contain. But we’ve got to test it all first!

— Bill Bridges, Product Line Manager

Also, be sure to catch this month’s Town Crier’s Guild Report!

10 thoughts on “Fading Suns Designer Diary – December 2017”

  1. Etherrider says:

    I am excited to se what Bill and team are going to do with this awesome world and a new system!

    Loving what I am hearing.

    Hoping my Lux Splendor gannocks ignite the light of our flame this holiday!

  2. Shade says:

    mmm, that means that I can spend VP to cause damage to an enemy using VP that I gained in a successful dice roll trading with a merchant? it does not make too much sense to me. In my opinion, counting physical tokens is going to slow down the system. But I know nothing about the whole new system yet, sure you prove me wrong.

    I am also excited to know that the Phoenix was reborn again. I still have an active campaign after 18 years, and we are looking forward to hearing about the 3th War in the Heavens.

    Thanks Bill for keeping the lights on in the stars.

  3. Anon Adderlan says:

    So basically skills which are rolled multiple times in rapid succession like #Combat will generate far more VPs than things like #Stealth and #Diplomacy which are typically rolled once per encounter. That means the most effective way to earn them is to max out at least one #Combat skill, engage in #Combat ASAP before all the VPs in the #Well are depleted, make lots of successful yet somehow ineffective attacks because you’re not spending VPs on damage, and then hang on to them until your moment to shine.

    And exactly how many VPs are in the #Well anyway? 50? 100? More? Because a single optimized combatant among a group of less qualified ones could deplete a pool of even that ridiculous size in just a few rounds. And if you can only spend VPs on a successful roll, then that combatant will be less able to return those VPs back to the #Well outside of #Combat, but when they do they’ll have more to spend on the result, thereby keeping resources from and overshadowing the characters built for those roles.

    And if you need “a small bowl or bag to ensure the tokens don’t get scattered”, then your game design is using way too many tokens in the first place.

    My excitement for #FadingSuns has always been tempered by my frustration with the mechanics behind it, and it looks like that’s not about to change anytime soon. This is the third iteration of a system which is over two decades old, and it seems nothing has been learned in the process. Because dividing by 2 or 3 or having to consult a chart has never been the core problem, and counting hundreds of tokens is no easier.

  4. Joerg says:

    The Town Crier‘s Guild Report hints at some cool changes in the future of the Known Worlds.
    Concerning the new VP-System I have similar concerns as Anon: I think a lot of tokens would make the VP-System worse. I wouldn‘t like to handle all those VPs in a game session. Doesn‘t make much sense to me.
    The only complaint I have about the old VP-System is the high propability of critcal failures (5%) that doesn‘t change, no matter how good a characters skills are.
    Greetings from Germany and a Happy New Year, everybody!

  5. Chris p says:

    To be fair systems based on dungeons and dragons all have that 5% chance of failure regardless of skill. Honestly I never understood the hate for that mechanic myself. It kept the maths reasonably low (add two digits neither of which is higher than ten then roll equal to or less than their sum is easier than working out which bonuses stack and which don’t) and the chart was on the character sheet so it’s not like anyone had to go digging for it.
    The tokens… I’m not thrilled about – they involve more counting, not less and the fact you can carry your VPS over to other actions seems odd like others have said. That said… You’re still in testing stage so I have faith you’ll iron out the kinks. I truly hope you manage to bring the system back to life better than ever because there simply isn’t anything like it on the market and I’d kill for a chance to play FS again.

    1. This is the happiest news I’ve seen in forever. And to see one of the original creators on the project?!! Amazing. I worked with both Red Brick and FASA on their time with the IP, and it makes me so happy to see something good being done with it. Hopefully without the behind the scenes issues of the aforementioned.

  6. Eirik says:

    Hmm.. won’t this result in huge amounts of tokens being passed back and forth, if just one roll can give you, say, 10-12 tokens? It seems a bit clunky.
    But I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. Fading Suns was a great rpg, and I hope this new edition will be even greater. 🙂

  7. Ron McClung says:

    For all the years I have been a fan and a GM of Fading Suns, I held out hope that one day it would get away from the “roll under” system and go with the much more heroic and modern means of “rolling over.” In my experience, that is a far more attractive core mechanic to play for players. I never was able to get anyone enamored with the VP system and so the times I have run FS, it was in a different system (d20, True20, Savage Worlds).

    Bill, I have a lot of respect for you and your work. I wish you luck in this endeavor. But I don’t see anything at this point that would bring me back to VP system. I really wish you would consider change this “blackjack/roll under” system to something a little more modern.

  8. Benjamin Slack says:

    Love the old VP system, have never understood why people had trouble with it. This new variant with tokens… sounds like a logistics PITA. I like the idea of player currency for narrative effect. Fate does this well, but it’s a singular token at a shot, not a bank to keep track of.

  9. Adam Lowe says:

    Sorry for the necro. I’m coming back to this after finally getting to run this game in person. That’s after 20 years of having one version of the game or another. (I have played online before.) Our game went well but we weren’t able so use the old VP System.

    We instead tweaked the rules to a role-over system. You add Characteristic + Skill + d20 and have to get 15 for a minor success with 0 VPs. 16-18 gives 1 VP, 19-21 gives 2 VPs, etc. That works quite well for us.

    The immediate benefit is that the whiff factor is gone. Characters who specialise in a smaller range of skills are really good at those things, but less good at others. No one should fail all the time, and high roles are always better than low roles.

    Characters still spent Wyrd a few times per session to re-roll (or I let them take a flat +3, if they’d prefer), so it obviously worked and wasn’t too judicious. We felt that if a table wanted a grittier feel, they could push the target number up to 18 instead, but 15 feels right (perhaps from playing D&D).

    There’s still rather a lot of maths and messiness going on, though, however we tweak the system. There’s a lot of work without much pizzazz. It’s always felt clunky, and even without the whiff factor, it’s hardly an elegant system.

    Really, the system wants to be a success-based system like Storyteller, but it’s been crowbarred into a d20 system. It would be much better to use d6 dicepools for everything and be done with it. That way everything works the same: normal actions, damage, soak, etc.

    However, if you’re wedded to d20s, you could still roll 15 or over, and have the VPs set by the tens digit. Nice and easy, but it would require rejigging rules that require a certain number of VPs, as most players will only get 1-3 per roll, instead of the wide range before (1-6 or higher).

    Like others, I’m really not keen on the VP pools. Counting tokens is not fun. It’s not like Exalted where you start off with a pool and subtract from it. It’s actively (and constantly) adding and spending large numbers of tokens at a time.

    This game is itching for a smooth mechanical chassis.

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