With the below lightweight rules, I am attempting to reach a midway point between the chance and challenge heavy nature of tabletop gaming, and the more detailed storywriting of message board based campaigns. They were written with an old campaign of mine in mind that was originally ran with AD&D 2nd edition, which is 18th century paranormal investigation.
Strength – STR
Intelligence – INT
Finesse – FIN
Choose High, Medium, and Low between those three
Who are you?
Your name, background, occupation
What are you?
Your archetype, what this gives you. This can be obvious – a wizard can cast spells, or less so – a priest has great conviction.
What is your moral compass?
Do you believe in upholding the law? The Catholic Church? Is all life sacred? Do you suffer a witch to live?
The moral compass of MM: Order above all, human life should be spared whenever possible, punishment is not our place, the supernatural can threaten order, but is not innately evil.
Part of the fun of roleplaying is challenge, and advancement, so I’ve simplified that dramatically to work with this medium.
When you attempt an act that’s beyond the base line (or your base line if I tell you yours is different from here) include a percentile roll.
Physical combat: As a base line you can defeat one average opponent without difficulty. Beyond one becomes more questionable. This is influenced by your attribute ranking, morals, and conviction, as well as closing letter awards. More on that later. Additionally, you may become especially good with one style, at the sacrifice of two others. (You’re a magnificent wrestler, but rubbish with guns and swords.)
1) You have Med. STR and want to engage two cultists in hand to hand combat. Your Med. STR means you can defeat one handily (you are a member of Malleus Maleficarum after all, it’s part of the job description) but two at once is quite the challenge for you. Roll a percentile and include it in your email to see how well you do against two at once.
2) After having difficulty with those cultists in Milan, you thought you should brush up on your boxing. That means when you engage the two muggers you catch in the act in Brussels, you have the training to handle them without difficulty. No roll is required. You did however definitely slack on your sword combat, and are worried now that you’re being challenged to a duel in Kyoto…
Magic: As a base line you can cast a spell affecting one person or one 5ft radius without much difficulty. This is influenced by the same things as physical combat. Additionally, there are schools of magic, and you can become especially good with one at the sacrifice of two others. (You have a knack for evocation, but you’re just terrible at illusions and enchantments.)
Modifiers you can count on: If your STR is high, you can defeat one additional opponent without difficulty in physical combat. Similarly, if your INT is high you can affect one more person, or a 10ft radius with magic without much difficulty.
At the close of any given scenario, I will hand out awards to all participants, as well as detriments, if needed. This could take the form of you’re now smarter, faster, or stronger or an object of power or value, or improvement in doing a particular thing, etc. Detriments will occur from bad things happening in the scenario such as injuries, but will be balanced with gaining conviction, which is a sort of nebulous luck type bonus I’ll apply at my will.
Corruption: The powers of darkness can be tempting, wizards of less morals than you can often do terrible things, and assassins and mercenaries can grow quite wealthy, but acts that violate your moral compass weigh heavily on your soul, and make MM concerned with your efficacy as an investigator. Becoming corrupt negates your conviction bonus, and, if left unchecked, can affect outcomes of the acts you attempt negatively, or cause MM to mistrust you completely. You sometimes wonder why you’ve never actually met any of the “clean up crews.”
More on Magic:
So if I can do whatever I want with magic, why shouldn’t we all be wizards?
It’s not quite like that. Magic is chaotic by nature, so there are some things that are difficult for wizards. For example, technology doesn’t quite behave the way it should around you. Magic attracts playful (read: malevolent) spirits which can interfere with everyday things, and more can go wrong when a process is more complicated. For example, guns tend to misfire more frequently when fired by wizards. Additionally, it’s hard to be very precise with magic. While an average wizard can attempt to “use evocative magic to break down the door,” controlling exactly what the physical manifestation is and how well it works takes a lot of practice.
What if I want to be more specific? Or is there anything I can do to improve my chances of success?
Magic can be improved by foci and ritual. An example:
You’re searching for a suspect, you’re fairly certain he’s in the theatre district in Prague, but beyond that you’re not sure yet. He’s obviously not within 5 feet of you, so trying to reveal him with magic seems silly. Maybe you could use it to see through doors? But running around town AND casting spells all over the place is just too exhausting. You decide to use ritual magic to enhance your power. You set up a place somewhere where you can be undisturbed for an extended period of time (you take no other actions that day) and using material components, foci, and ritual you are able to determine where the suspect is within a reasonable distance. The more powerful the wizard, the more exact the determination.
Magic can have a very broad range of effects, some more significant than others. Here are some guidelines:
You have High INT, you want to pose an immediate effect on a single target. Throwing a gust of wind at them, for example, you can do easily.
Posing a long-term effect is more complicated. If you want to confuse their recent memory, or hit them with something strong enough to incapacitate or cripple them temporarily, you’ll need either a focus or a material component. Both if it’s especially long (confusing a whole day of memories, dislocating a limb)
Posing a permanent effect is even more complex. Killing someone, for example, or so addling their mind that they will never be the same person, takes a tremendous effort. This requires a focus, material components, and ritual, as well as something of the person (if performed over a distance, as is likely to be the case.)