Has it really been three years since the first (and only) Survival of the Able update?
A lot has happened in my personal life since then and progress on the game’s development slowed, but it hasn’t halted. In fact, the current draft of the manuscript has about 30,000 words and is nearing completion.
I plan on bringing a demo version of SotA to GenCon Indie this year, so I recently whipped up a spreadsheet to help me track my milestones and stay on top of how much time I have left to get everything completed. By my estimates, I have about two months to finish the manuscript so I can have something to share by August.
By setting a goal for myself, I finally took SotA off the backburner and brought it back into focus. For the next few months, it is going to be the focus of any time I set aside for Accessible Games projects.
Now that the game is back in serious development, I thought I’d take a few moments to update you about its progress. If you haven’t already, go back and read the first update for an overview of the game and its design goals. This week I’ll focus more on mechanics.
Traits are the most important aspects of any character, so it’s fitting we talk about them first.
If you download the character sheet from the Survival of the Able page, you can see the three different categories of Traits and the various skills and qualities which go into them. Here’s a broad overview.
There are three categories of Traits: Senses, Skills, and Qualities. Each of these categories has different abilities which can be defined using the Trait Ladder used by Fudge / Fate.
The Trait Ladder is a simple tool for describing levels of aptitude. For example, you might be Good at Medicine or have +2 to your Medicine Skill. Both mean the same thing–when you roll for your Medicine skill, you add +2 to your roll. Fudge uses both adjectives and numbers to suit different play styles. I talked more about this in an older article series: Why Fudge is a Great Accessible RPG.
All character Traits are defined using the Trait Ladder.
Most games treat the five physical senses as binary–either you have them or you don’t. They don’t consider that the senses are actually a spectrum and people sense things differently. Such games also often use pejorative terms such as Faults or Drawbacks to describe conditions such as blindness or deafness, which creates a stigma around these conditions.
Survival of the Able does things differently. Each of the five senses is treated as a skill of sorts, meaning it can be defined using the Fudge Trait Ladder. Levels may range from non-existent to Good (+2).
For instance, Johanna is totally blind. Her level of Sight is “–“, or non-existent. If her player decided Johanna should be visually impaired instead, she could have Terrible (-3) Sight. Someone who wears glasses but doesn’t have them might be at Poor (-2), but with correction they may be at Average (+0). A character with 20/20 vision might have Good (+2) sight.
Hear, Smell, Taste, and Touch also use this Trait Ladder. In the book, I tried to include examples of how Taste and Touch might be used in the game, since these senses are often completely ignored in other games.
If you have played just about any other RPG, you know what Skills are. They represent the things your character is good (or not so good) at. The list of Skills in SotA is designed to showcase what I feel is important to the game world.
Skills include such things as Animal Handling, Medicine, Explore, and Navigation. They don’t include social skills, because the game handles social interaction a bit differently. Any Trait you possess has the potential to be useful in a social situation.
For example, if you are trying to convince a farmer that you aren’t carrying the plague, you would roll the Medicine skill.
Perhaps the most unusual Skill is the “Act / React” Skill. In SotA, you aren’t playing a heroic action figure with combat expertise. You aren’t even playing a simple town guard with a little bit of training. You’re just playing an average person who suddenly has to figure out how to survive in the world.
The Act / React Skill indicates just how well you respond to difficult situations. If you’re swinging a torch at a zombie, you’ll use your Act Skill to try to hit them. If you’re trying to dodge out of the way of a falling object, you’ll use React.
Act / React is rolled into a single Skill. This simplifies things a bit, and it represents an assumption that people generally aren’t good at one without being good at the other.
Qualities represent some of your character’s personality traits. Each Quality comes as a pair of opposing traits, such as “Pious / Worldly” and “Energetic / Sluggish.” In the interest of full disclosure, I ripped this off from the Pendragon RPG. I wanted to see how the concept would translate to Fudge, and so far I like it.
As with Skills, the list of Qualities was chosen to represent the types of situations and encounters I wanted to highlight in SotA. Obviously, there are a lot of other personaliy traits a real person could possess, and they wouldn’t necessarily exist in such a dichotomy.
Like the various Skills, Qualities are also often used in social situations. If you’re trying to convince a priest to lend you aid, you might use Pious to appeal to their sense of duty. If you’re trying to bribe someone, you might instead use Worldly.
Qualities are also used in conjunction with your Anxieties and Assurances, which is another aspect of your character I’ll talk about in a later post. Basically, you may find yourself in certain situations which test one of your Qualities, and you may either increase or decrease your Stress based on the result of that test.
For example, Vasco is Worldly. If he gets to keep an item he finds, he may make a Worldly check. Success means he reduces his Stress, which is good for him.
Traits make up who your character is and what they can do. SotA treats them a little differently than many games you may have played before, but I hope the tailored experience helps you tell great survival horror stories with a unique perspective.
Stay tuned for the next update, which (probably) won’t be three years from now.