Xaos is a flexible yet simple roleplaying rules system which can be used in conjunction with any game background that the players and Games Master (GM) can dream of. The system is designed to emphasise the story and the characters within. Here the rules do nothing but provide a minimal but robust framework upon which the unfolding tale is hung. Xaos is all about storytelling and characterisation and not about a plethora of rules which must be consulted.
Character generation is different from that used by games. Everything is based upon a biography (bio) created by the player describing their character, its origins and abilities. This bio is distilled into a set of attributes that are rated to indicate the character's relative chances of success. Heroic figures stand out from the people around them, and the rating system used is concerned only with a character's differences from this norm. Each character is assumed to have abilities equal to that of the common man or woman in their community if they are unspecified at the time of character creation.
All actions are resolved with a single roll compared against the appropriate character attribute and a difficulty assigned to the task by the GM. This applies equally to all situations be they conventional, time-critical or combat orientated.
Character generation begins with a bio, a biography, written by the player about their character. This story details the character and its journey through life; the character's appearance, its childhood, its abilities and flaw, friends, enemies, and so on. All characters start somewhere and it is the job of the GM to provide players with a foundation of knowledge about the game background and some starting information about the nature of the game to be played. The bio can be in any form the player chooses, a narrative, a series of diary entries, anything so long as it provides sufficient insight into the character, their skills and their motives. Both the hows and the whys of the character must be examined. Typically a bio needs to be between one and three pages in length.
Next the bio is distilled into its key attributes during a review by both the player and the GM. The review should consider the roleplaying of the character, the upcoming scenario, and the game background. Characters are defined by a set of attributes which indicate whether they are better or worse than those of the common man or woman. The value of each attribute indicates the relative chance of success or failure for a task of that nature. Everything which is not described by a specific attribute is assumed to have a value of zero. Attributes for a character must be purchased using a common pool of points, generally around 30 but this can be varied by the GM according to the style of the game. There is no need to be exact but a good rule of thumb is to settle within ± 5 points of the agreed target. The cost of an attribute or, in the case of flaws, the points gained from it, are determined by considering the Level and the Scope of the attribute. The Level specifies how good or bad a character is relative to a conventional individual. See Rating Descriptions below for example descriptions of each level. The Scope of the attribute is the range of effect of the attribute within the game, again see Rating Descriptions for examples of each Scope rating.
The cost/benefit of the attribute is calculated in the Attribute Costs table below. Cross-reference the level and the scope to find how many points the attribute costs or provides.
Some attributes may be based upon other existing traits, it is less costly to obtain one of these attributes than normal. An inherited attribute can be thought of as a specialisation of an existing attribute, as such, the Scope must always be less than the original attribute, equally, the Level will always be higher than the ancestor attribute. However the specialisation is bought as if it were one level less than it actually is. If the attribute is required to be the same Scope (or greater) as the original attribute, the attribute is bought without any recourse to the specialisation rules.
e.g. An attribute, such as Engineering of Level 1 / Scope 4 (+1/4) could be specialised and the specialisation bought at Level 2 and any Scope between 1 and 3, for example Aerospace Engineering at +2/3 for degree equivalent training. The cost of this specialisation is calculated as if the specialised attribute were Level 1 and Scope 1 - 3.
Note that an attribute concerning luck generally has a Scope of 5, as it can effect everything the character does. It is normally not possible to specialise a Luck attribute.
There are two attributes that are inferred from the bio. The Soak attribute is inferred from a character's toughness. The Will-To-Live attribute is determined by examining the player's life and identifying the reasons the character has to stay alive in a tough position.
Playing The Game
Xaos is based upon a simple set of rules that can be embroidered upon, if the situation requires it, but yet provides a simple yet cohesive means of resolving actions without intruding into the drama of a situation. ( Or so we hope! )
All actions follow a standard pattern with minor modifications.
When a group of people attempt to perform a single action together they pool their resources to achieve the task. The GM should consider the fact that many actions cannot be done by multiple people and whilst 'many hands make light work', 'too many cooks spoil the broth'. Action resolution follows the standard pattern with these slight changes :
If two people are trying to achieve opposing tasks then each one's success depends on the skill of the other. Each character's attribute is used as the base difficulty for their respective actions.
Modifying Action Resolution
The GM always has the ability to set the difficulty of an action at their discretion. However the player can also influence events as they perform an action. This is normally done either by extending an action or by relying on Lady Luck to help them out of a hole.
Any action is normally completed in a typical period of time. Players may opt to change this period of time and use a modified difficulty or if the action fails by the narrowest of margins the player may elect to have character spend the extra period of time required for the action to complete. Of course some actions cannot be extended and many will have consequences if they do take longer. See the Many Hands Chart in order to determine how much extra time is required to complete the task.
Player characters are often blessed by Lady Luck and after any roll the player may decide to burn a Fate Point to increase the result by 5 allowing for some very impressive feats. However with the burning of the Fate Point, the player gains a Botch Point to be spent at the Games Master's discretion. Botch Points decrease the success result by 5. Fortunately, characters may possess a Luck related attribute which allows them to change the balance of their karma. For every level above average, the character starts each game with a "free" Fate Point. Negative levels of Luck related attributes produce "free" Botch Points. At the GM's discretion, the effects of an attribute concerning luck may be refreshed at the start of a session or a scenario.
Fate Points may also be spent to buy a dramatic action before falling a health level.
Character Level vs Difficulty Level
'Many Hands' Chart
Combat often brings drama and excitement to an adventure story and so can often be found in roleplaying games. With the Xaos rules, combat is treated just like normal action resolution for the most part. The additional rules concerning combat are detailed below.
Initiativeis related to a character's speed of thought and movement and is used to work out who goes first in any time-critical sections of the game, e.g. combat. A character's initiative comes from his bio, like everything else, via attributes. Some relevant attribute examples are Quick-Draw, Alert, or simply Lightning Fast. If there is nothing similar in the bio an initiative of zero is assumed. Characters declare their intended action in ascending order of initiative, allowing the faster characters to adjust their plans.
The number of actions that can be completed in a round also depends on the relative speed of the character. Most people can manage two actions in a round. This can be modified by certain attributes, for example Ambidextrous or again Lightning Fast. Each addition positive quality level gives an extra action per turn. Each additional negative quality level looses an action per turn. Thus someone with a speed of -1 would act every other round and those who have a speed of -2 on every third round. Each round is split into a number of phases. In each phase anyone with remaining actions performs their next declared action and the results of these happen simultaneously. When everyone has attempted all their actions the round is complete.
Damage is weapon-specific and represents the difficulty to resist the injury dealt by the weapon. If a character succeeds in attacking another character then the damage dealt to the other character is determined, modified by any external factors that may require consideration, e.g. Armour of some kind. Armour is rated on the same scale as a weapon so that a similarly rated piece of armour may negate a weapon's damage. This does not mean that the armoured character isn't effected by the attack, just that they have not taken any damage. Typical weapon specifications are defined in the campaign world documentation.
Injury and Death
Characters have only three relevant states of health : Active, Incapacitated and Dead. Whilst Active there are no particular penalties or restrictions on actions other than the obvious; e.g. when an arm has been severely broken or chopped off in cannot wield a sword. When Incapacitated a character is capable of no useful movement but may be conscious or unconscious. A character is Dead when their heart (or equivalent) stops working but in many games this state will not be absolute and individuals may be brought back to life.
When a character receives any damage a Soak Roll should be attempted with an appropriate attribute for the action. The difficulty is dependent upon the damage and the state of the character. A successful roll minimises damage whilst failure maximises it. After an unsuccessful soak attempt the player tests against their Will-To-Live attribute, using the same level of difficulty as the previous soak roll, to determine if the character slides down to the next health level.
The Will-To-Live attributes gathers together all the reasons the character has to stay alive : a child, a wife, an enemy to wreak vengeance upon, a wrong to right and so on. As these reasons change during the course of the story, so too does the attribute. In many ways the Will-To-Liveattributes represent the aspects of the character that drive them to be a "heroic" figure. Will-To-Live attributes are assigned by the GM and the player during the discussion of their Bio, they are not bought.
Healing in general is specific to the game background. Any injuries the player receives should be noted down and resolved when their is time to consider them, e.g. after combat. Types of wounds from weapons or the environment in general should be listed in the game background along with how difficult they are to heal and their effect if left untreated.
Moving up a health level from Incapacitated to Active can normally be achieved by tending to wounds or the application of stimulants. A character may decide to attempt this move themselves by an application of will. They must succeed in a difficult (GMs discretion) Will-To-Live roll. If they fail they can try again but each time the difficulty of the action increases.
This document was composed by Chris Snazell and Matthew Caryl.