Sunday, 3 April 2016

Extrapolating from Lasers and Feelings

So I'm feeling on a bit of a Lasers and Feelings kick at the moment. Mostly, I suspect, just because it's a new thing I've come across so I'm naturally inclined to prod it and see what's going on.

The basic setup is framed around a small set of assumptions:

  • Players are happy to play in broad strokes rather than model in detail (more conflict than task resolution)
  • Any challenge that requires a roll can be allocated reasonably well to either Lasers or Feelings; anything that can't either doesn't need a roll or needs a completely random roll.
  • Characters can be satisfactorily distinguished with two overlapping small sets of tropes: Style (attitude) and Role (profession), plus the Number that determines whether they're emotional or practical.
  • You don't need to mechanically model what happens to characters; this is determined by the needs of the story

It occurred to me today (belatedly perhaps) that actually, the Lasers/Feelings thing can be modelled another way. Under the basic description, you have one Number from 2-5 and you roll under for Lasers, over for Feelings. You can also model this as two separate stats, both of which you roll over: you have 7 points to distribute between the two and they must range from 2-5.

This opened up the possibility of a slightly greater set of dimensions for other genres. The obvious one is to say you have four stats, and the array 2,3,4,5 to allocate to them.

Looking at this, the immediate thought that crossed my mind was that you could use it for a light D&D-style game. Or anything else, of course.


For sword-and-sorcery, blaster-and-hoverboard, and possibly for slightly more epic genres as well, the split that comes to mind is Might, Speed, Cunning and Wisdom.

Might represents physical prowess, both what you can take and what you can dish out. It's used for toughing out hardship, feats of strength, and for crude physical combat. Speed represents your ability to move and think quickly. It's used for reacting to sudden events, dodging hazards, balancing, interrupting, and making the first move. Cunning represents mental and physical guile. It's used for coming up with plans, performing magic tricks, picking locks and pockets, feinting, beguiling, bluster, acting and lying plausibly. Wisdom represents knowledge and understanding. It's used for understanding others, recalling facts, studying, assessing, reaching agreement, logic and foresight.

If it helps, a distinction between Cunning and Wisdom is that Cunning primarily relates to what you're doing, while Wisdom primarily relates to other people or things.

Injuries and stuff

If you want some kind of injury mechanic (not necessarily needed, if we assume this is a genre game where it's assumed everyone survives but narrative injuries exist) then I'd give everyone the same set of available injuries, then have them use their abilities to avoid injury.

For example, let's say we have a list of injuries ranked 1-6: Scratch, Limp, Wounded Arm, Dizzy, Weak, Unconscious. You can only have each injury type once; the group decides their effects as seem appropriate to the context. Hazards pose a Danger of 1-6 (enemies with stats pose Danger equal to rolled successes). You can roll an appropriate stat to reduce the Danger to zero and avoid injury, otherwise you incur the appropriate injury (2 for Limp, say). If you already have that injury, you take the next one up instead.

So Iron-Fisted Lia already has a Wounded Arm. She's attacked by a troll posing Danger 3, and tries to shrug off the blow with her shield using Might, but rolls no successes. She'd take the 3rd tier injury, Wounded Arm, but she already has one so she becomes Dizzy instead. Exactly what that means in this context is up to the group.

The distinction is that characters intended to be resilient would be better able to avoid injury - they have high Might to absorb damage or Speed to evade it. This would sort of replicate the way wizards are usually squishy while soldiers are tough.


In this context, D&D-style class would be represented by Roles. You can use the stat arrays to represent them as you choose:

  • A hardy dwarven warrior might be Might 2, Speed 4, Cunning 5, Wisdom 3. They're very strong and tough, sensible and knowledgeable, not especially fast, and have no knack for trickery.
  • A mystical elf might prefer Might 5, Speed 3, Cunning 4, Wisdom 2. They're very knowledgeable, have quick reflexes, a certain amount of deviousness, but are physically weak.
  • An orcish thief might be Might 3, Speed 4, Cunning 2, Wisdom 5. They're very cunning, strong and tough, reasonably fast but not particularly intellectual. They use their wits and physical power to solve problems, rather than the speed another thief might rely on.
  • A Star Patrol Marine might be Might 2, Speed 4, Cunning 3, Wisdom 5. They're very tough, good at creative thinking, reasonably fast, but not especially knowledgeable.
  • A Star Patrol Ranger might be Might 5, Speed 3, Cunning 2, Wisdom 4. They're used to lone working, and rely on wits and speed to survive and deal with problems; you can't fight everyone out on the frontier.
  • A Star Patrol Investigator might be Might 5, Speed 4, Cunning 3, Wisdom 2. They work either with a team of agents or undercover, using their vast knowledge and intelligence to find out what's going on and work out how to fix it.


For games of espionage, corporate conspiracy and kung-fu, the split that comes to mind is Face, Tech and Violence. If you wanted you could stick a Willpower in there too.

Face represents your skill at social interactions and presentation. Tech represents your ability to deal with machinery, communications, security and code. Violence represents exactly that. Willpower is optionally used to represent your courage, pain threshold and determination in the face of hardship.

  • A persuasive, cold-blooded con artist with a Desert Eagle would be Face 2, Willpower 3, Tech 5, Violence 4.
  • A black ops assassin would be Face 5, Willpower 3, Tech 4, Violence 2.
  • A leet hacker with no taste for fighting would be Face 4, Willpower 3, Tech 2, Violence 5.
  • A steely-eyed leader and all-rounder would be Face 3, Willpower 2, Tech 5, Violence 4.
  • A practically-minded burglar might be Face 5, Willpower 4, Tech 3, Violence 2.
  • A suave, merciless infiltrator who doesn't expect to be caught might be Face 2, Willpower 5, Tech 4, Violence 3.


  1. I find numbers that go up as you get better at things easier to work with, though that's an obvious isomorphism of what you propose.

    What L&F seems to encourage you to do is go for one extreme or the other, and then try to frame a scene in terms that favour you. That may just be the way I read it.

    The more you get away from that, the more you get towards a traditional point-based system. This proposal gives you a total of twelve possible stat sets, which may well be enough, but the players would have to work to differentiate the characters via non-statted means.

    1. Flipping the numbers would make more sense, you're quite right.

      The framing thing seems fairly accurate. It's maybe somewhere between a framing indicator and a reaction prompt. There were a few scenes in our game where actually, the response that felt natural was the thing we were bad at. This worked out pretty well, because then you get the scene where the techy one's inability to override controls ramps up the tension, or the emotional one is desperately fumbling (and failing) to do something outside their skill set.

      Or, of course, rolling a 1 and landing the only accurate shot of the game just when it counts most.

      In terms of differentiation, we found the niches worked surprisingly well. Narratively they should shape the way you play quite a lot - there's a significant difference between being a Feelings 2 Hot-Shot Scientist and a Feelings 2 Sexy Doctor.

      Mechanically, the extra dice you get from expertise (those niches) are about as important as your actual number, so that also differentiates characters. It's not going to be as deep as more complex systems, but I think if you're content to be mostly playing clich├ęs it's probably okay.

      Saying that, I'm not convinced what I suggested here is a particularly strong system when you could just use something actually designed for that. What it might be handy for is allowing a more pick-up-and-play sort of game, because character generation's quick and there's no scary numbers. It's the sort of thing I might try running for family who've already demonstrated they find BRP overwhelming.