1879 Line Developers Blog: The Toolbox

We’ve talked a lot about Professions and the magic system and so forth in these blog entries. Let’s talk briefly about a bit of underlying design philosophy.

One of the goals of 1879 is to open up the mechanics of the game to the players and GMs. We’re not going to open-source the CoreStep engine, not at this point in FASA’s renaissance. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t open the game to expansion by the people playing it. In the forthcoming 1879 Players Companion and 1879 GM’s Companion, we’ll be providing a number of tools for doing just that. One of our goals with the Companion books is to provide a toolbox, so that expansion can occur.

The 1879 Players Companion already has the mechanics written for creating new Professions and Variant Professions. Unlike Earthdawn, where a new Discipline has to be supported by the mythic structure of the world, in order to have the legendary status to exist, Professions in 1879 are just jobs, career paths that people follow. Thus, any career path can be a Profession. Creating a new Profession requires laying out the path of advancement from Initiate to Novice, Journeyman, Warden, and eventually Master. Each Tier has its own focus, that contributes to the overall emphasis and central Skill of the Profession. You don’t have to build a whole new Profession from scratch, either. If the career path is just a divergent one from an existing Profession, you can create a Variant just by substituting the appropriate alternate Skills. Thus, the Lovelace exists as a Variant of the Byron, the white hat hacker as an alternate path to the black hat. The Dilettante is a Variant of the Aristocrat, the adrenaline junkie who spends their fortune and social standing on thrill seeking instead of courtly intrigue and political maneuvering.

We’ll also be including the mechanics for spell creation, both for Base Spells and for KAVs. Creating a new KAV is easy – once you’ve laid out the rules for the Lodge’s style, you just apply that style to a Base Spell, make any necessary stat tweaks, and presto, you have a new KAV. For example, let’s say you have a new Lodge of Mages based on the Khemetic mythos, people who are appropriating the ancient Egyptian religion without believing in it enough to be Priests. You start with the Bolt Base Spell, raise its Effect Step, put a restriction on it that it can only be cast outdoors during the daytime to keep the Strain from rising, describe it as a bolt of concentrated sunlight, and you have the Wrath of Ra. Creating new Base Spells is a bit more involved. First, you have to identify a base effect that isn’t already present in the Players Guide or other supplements. We’re providing Convince as an example in the book. The Base Spell augments persuasion Tests, going past Improve Attribute or Improve Skill by boosting either Charisma or Charisma-based Skills for a specific purpose. There’s a mechanic for setting the Tier, Casting Difficulty, Strain, and other stats of the Base Spell, and for having a Mage character create the spell in-game so that it can be used.

The 1879 GM’s Companion primarily focuses on additional mechanics for running the game, such as vehicular combat, and expansion material for the game world, such as a chapter on dragons. Besides this, it also delves into Vehicles, and talks about how the stats for steam coaches, Giffards, and ships are created. Additional tools may be provided for the GM to expand the game world, but these are still in development as of the time this blog was written, the weekend before GenCon, and so we’re not going to go into them at this time.

One of our goals is to encourage players and GMs to expand the game world on their own, and not feel constrained by the canonical materials. This leads to the toolbox approach that we’re taking with the Companions. Besides the tools, there’ll be plenty of game-ready material in the books, such as a new Order of Mages in the 1879 Player’s Companion and a couple of political Secret Societies in the 1879 GM’s Companion.

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