Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Modern?

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Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Modern?

Post by Havard » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:11 am

I this thread we are talking about TSR's 1990s multi-genre game, Amazing Engine. This got me wondering about the development history of TSR's non-Fantasy RPGs and connections between them. We already know that D20 Modern made use of many elements from the Alternity RPG, including its Dark*Matter and Star*Drive settings.

While the system in Amazing Engine appears to be based on a "roll below d100" mechanic, could there be other similarities between that and the later games of the modern variant? There are speculations that the Tabloid! setting could be the inspiration for the later Dark*Matter world. Amazing Engine's Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega is connected to Gama World which also appears for the later systems.

I am also curious if the other Sci Fi settings for Amazing Engine could have had spillover effects into D20 Future or the other d20 Modern Supplements. We already know that the D20 Modern line borrowed from older TSR games like Star Frontiers.

What about TSR's other "modern" games like Indiana Jones, Top Secret etc?


Any more thoughts on this?

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:46 pm

In those days TSR was experimenting and they understood that each genre needed its unique set of rules. Strangely enough its the player reaction that didn't follow... Then later people screamed that TSR was unimaginative and fled to other games systems.

Top Secret was fun. It was a d100 system - same has Star Frontiers. I loved those games because they felt more realistic and didn't have «power creep» in them. We played a few games of both systems but it never took. My group was mostly D&D... until Call of Cthuluh came out. Then we had the Big Split. Half the group moved on to that and then onto White Wolf telling us we weren't role playing... Ah the folly of youth!

I think Amazing boroughs from Star Frontiers in the sense that the abilities are divided into 4 categories and then split into two sub-categories.

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Havard » Wed Sep 25, 2013 1:59 pm

Responding to Boneguard's comment in this thread:
Boneguard wrote:I don't really see any connection persay. Amazing Engine stats are generated by prioritizing abilities (which determing how many dice are rolled) which can be converted to fit in every "system games" and it uses a d100 system for skills.

I find it a bit more similar to the Buck Rogers rpg from TSR.
The most immediate connection I see is through the re-use of settings, either wholesale or just with setting elements.

OTOH, there does also seem to be some rule connections. Is rolling below on a d100 really that far from rolling below on a d20 (alternity)?

It is interesting that you mention Buck Rogers. At first I didn't consider it because I always saw it as an AD&D derivate, but I guess it can also be seen as a crossing between the Modern-type d100 games and AD&D, using the latter for combat only.

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Bouv » Wed Sep 25, 2013 2:57 pm

It seems strange - in the '80's and 90's there were a ton of rule systems (from various publishers). Then 3.0 came out with the d20 system and, due to the OGL, a lot of stuff went the d20 route. Now, we're seeing more systems pop up in the past 5 years or so that are unique again.

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Wed Sep 25, 2013 3:43 pm

Bouv wrote:It seems strange - in the '80's and 90's there were a ton of rule systems (from various publishers). Then 3.0 came out with the d20 system and, due to the OGL, a lot of stuff went the d20 route. Now, we're seeing more systems pop up in the past 5 years or so that are unique again.
Yep! things have gone back to normal state of things. By that I mean people are experimenting once again with new rule sets. But it come with a bonus we didn't have at the time: Forums, Facebook and Kickstarters. The perfect environment for live RPGs play tests.

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Boneguard » Wed Sep 25, 2013 3:57 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Bouv wrote:It seems strange - in the '80's and 90's there were a ton of rule systems (from various publishers). Then 3.0 came out with the d20 system and, due to the OGL, a lot of stuff went the d20 route. Now, we're seeing more systems pop up in the past 5 years or so that are unique again.
Yep! things have gone back to normal state of things. By that I mean people are experimenting once again with new rule sets. But it come with a bonus we didn't have at the time: Forums, Facebook and Kickstarters. The perfect environment for live RPGs play tests.
I agree. One Problem -amongst many- about D20/OGL is that it was not as "universal" as they were trying to make it. D20 worked well with some Settings/Games but not so much with others. however this can be said about every "Universal" system out there (GURP, BRP' Amazing Engine, etc.), Sooner or later they hit a point where they just dont work as well as they should.

And it is true that modern medium (Forum and Facebook) as well as Crowd funding (like Kickstarter) allows for a greater diversity and improvement of a system via rapid feedback. (I've backed 2 RPG so far, currently backing 1 other and keeping my eye out for a 4th one that should be coming out soon).
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:29 pm

Boneguard wrote:I agree. One Problem -amongst many- about D20/OGL is that it was not as "universal" as they were trying to make it. D20 worked well with some Settings/Games but not so much with others. however this can be said about every "Universal" system out there (GURP, BRP' Amazing Engine, etc.), Sooner or later they hit a point where they just dont work as well as they should.
We often had that discussion often on the Modern Database and during the e20rpg failed kickstarter. Generic systems are doom to fail because they can't absorb all the rule for all types of settings. Also, tend to generate «bland» rulesets. Even combat rules need to be adapted for genres/trops. Martial arts Kung Fu combat is not the same as fantasy. In the end the best option is just to accept that and produce setting books with rules tailored to each specific setting. That's what GURPS ended up doing on the long run... The only advantage of a generic system is that you don't have to learn the central core of rules everytime you change settings. The disadvantage is that you loose on the flavor side.

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Havard » Wed Sep 25, 2013 8:32 pm

shesheyan wrote:We often had that discussion often on the Modern Database and during the e20rpg failed kickstarter. Generic systems are doom to fail because they can't absorb all the rule for all types of settings. Also, tend to generate «bland» rulesets. Even combat rules need to be adapted for genres/trops. Martial arts Kung Fu combat is not the same as fantasy. In the end the best option is just to accept that and produce setting books with rules tailored to each specific setting. That's what GURPS ended up doing on the long run... The only advantage of a generic system is that you don't have to learn the central core of rules everytime you change settings. The disadvantage is that you loose on the flavor side.
I disagree that they are doomed to fail. The problem with Generic Rulesets is just that they arent generic. The D20 system does very well the heroic, action paced gaming, whether it is draped in futuristic, or Musketeer Era colors. OTOH, doing a more gritty type of game or the horror genre may be less successful than other alternatives. Similarly, GURPS does the gritty style very well, but needs lots of additonal rules modifications to get to the cinematic flavoured genres.

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Wed Sep 25, 2013 8:45 pm

Havard wrote:I disagree that they are doomed to fail. The problem with Generic Rulesets is just that they arent generic. The D20 system does very well the heroic, action paced gaming, whether it is draped in futuristic, or Musketeer Era colors. OTOH, doing a more gritty type of game or the horror genre may be less successful than other alternatives. Similarly, GURPS does the gritty style very well, but needs lots of additonal rules modifications to get to the cinematic flavoured genres.

-Havard
That's why they fail... A truly generic system would have an engine that can run super heroic, action hero or gritty with just a few add-ons and subtractions. Each setting book should provide sub-rules that allow play in the particular trope selected. In the end its better to buy a game specifically created for what you are looking for. For example, its better to play Eclipse Phase then use BRP and try to do a trans-human add-on. More so because both games are d100 and have the roll under mechanic and even a sanity rule.

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Havard » Wed Sep 25, 2013 9:44 pm

shesheyan wrote:That's why they fail... A truly generic system would have an engine that can run super heroic, action hero or gritty with just a few add-ons and subtractions. Each setting book should provide sub-rules that allow play in the particular trope selected. In the end its better to buy a game specifically created for what you are looking for. For example, its better to play Eclipse Phase then use BRP and try to do a trans-human add-on. More so because both games are d100 and have the roll under mechanic and even a sanity rule.
Ah, okay I see what you mean. I just meant that they do not necessarily fail in being fun to play :)

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:09 am

Havard wrote:
shesheyan wrote:That's why they fail... A truly generic system would have an engine that can run super heroic, action hero or gritty with just a few add-ons and subtractions. Each setting book should provide sub-rules that allow play in the particular trope selected. In the end its better to buy a game specifically created for what you are looking for. For example, its better to play Eclipse Phase then use BRP and try to do a trans-human add-on. More so because both games are d100 and have the roll under mechanic and even a sanity rule.
Ah, okay I see what you mean. I just meant that they do not necessarily fail in being fun to play :)

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Sock Puppet » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:01 am

Havard wrote:I disagree that they are doomed to fail. The problem with Generic Rulesets is just that they arent generic. The D20 system does very well the heroic, action paced gaming, whether it is draped in futuristic, or Musketeer Era colors. OTOH, doing a more gritty type of game or the horror genre may be less successful than other alternatives. Similarly, GURPS does the gritty style very well, but needs lots of additonal rules modifications to get to the cinematic flavoured genres.
Hypothesis: any ruleset in which a maximally-advanced character with no "super" equipment (ie. only equipment available to the "commoners" of the setting) or a "commoner" with the maximum "super" equipment available in all settings it is intended for (ie. don't count magic swords or assault rifles in a system intended to cover both high magic and James Bond spy thrillers), can have a bonus that equals or exceeds the maximum range of the variable dice rolls is doomed to fail the "can it be generic" test.

d20 systems generally fail because a fighter 20 has +20 BAB on a 1d20 roll.

This hypothesis also explains the oft-noted D&D "sweet spot" of 5th-8th level. An 8th level fighter can expect +8 (bab) +1 (magic weapon) +4 (Strength) +1 (miscellaneous buffing magic) = +14, which is pushing the upper limit of "half the rolled variable range".

Contrariwise, WEG's TORG system had base characters with attributes ranging from 8-14 (6-point range); skills typically raise than bonus a further 6 points at the high end (to a 12-point range) with dice rolls that typically allowed for a range of 20 points (the roll was in essence skill level +1d10 -1d10). It generally worked.
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:21 pm

Sock Puppet wrote:Contrariwise, WEG's TORG system had base characters with attributes ranging from 8-14 (6-point range); skills typically raise than bonus a further 6 points at the high end (to a 12-point range) with dice rolls that typically allowed for a range of 20 points (the roll was in essence skill level +1d10 -1d10). It generally worked.
Can you further expand on this. I'm reading the TORG wiki and they mention d20 rolls instead of d10s.

From Wiki on TORG : (a very good example of why generic systems fail in the long run)
While the breadth of Torg was one of its most exciting features, it could also cause significant problems. Because the scope of the game was so broad, and it incorporated such a wide variety of skills, the game became unwieldy to some players. Further, in some cases simple rules given in the basic set were thrown out or expanded in sourcebooks, so that players moving between campaigns sometimes found the rules were not what they were used to; even some of the character templates from the boxed set were not completely compatible with the rules in the sourcebook for their home cosm. This breadth of scope also served to ratchet up the game's expense: each of the game's realms was detailed in its own sourcebook, and those sourcebooks included rules that weren't covered in the main rulebook. For instance, if a character wanted to build his own magic spells, the player needed to own (or at least have access to) the Aysle sourcebook. Likewise, psionics were covered in the Space Gods sourcebook, martial arts in the Nippon Tech book, pulp powers and gizmos in the Nile Empire and Terra sourcebooks, and cyberware/bionics in the Cyberpapacy's. Note, however, that if a Cyberpapacy character wanted to hack the GodNet, they needed yet another supplement for those rules. While this allowed a group to take their game in any direction they wished, it made it difficult to keep up with all the rules. This is especially true because long-term campaigns tend to lead to cross-genre characters, such as mages with cybernetics, or espionage agents who learned the Occult. It reached a point where even published adventures would forget, ignore, or skim over previously established rules.[2] [3]

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Sock Puppet » Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:00 pm

Relevant link: http://stormknights.arcanearcade.com/ga ... 0dice.html

You are quite correct; TORG uses d20 rolls which are then checked against a table. However, the math is surprisingly similar to +1d10-1d10 with an exploding adjustment, as outlined in the link above.
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Havard » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:35 pm

I'm a huge fan of TORG.
Sock Puppet wrote: Hypothesis: any ruleset in which a maximally-advanced character with no "super" equipment (ie. only equipment available to the "commoners" of the setting) or a "commoner" with the maximum "super" equipment available in all settings it is intended for (ie. don't count magic swords or assault rifles in a system intended to cover both high magic and James Bond spy thrillers), can have a bonus that equals or exceeds the maximum range of the variable dice rolls is doomed to fail the "can it be generic" test.
I think the set bonus vs. randomizer factor is relevant to the level of "realism" suggested by the game. However, I am not sure that the similation of reality necessarily should be a goal for a generic system. Afterall, not all genres are closely connected to how things work in the real world.

Back to the early TSR games: Am I right that all of these games prior to Alternity use a d% roll below system?

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by RobJN » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:44 pm

Havard wrote:Back to the early TSR games: Am I right that all of these games prior to Alternity use a d% roll below system?

-Havard
I played some Top Secret/S.I. back in the day. If I remember the rule mechanic rightly, it was a d%, roll under, but it sort of had degrees of success: the harder something was, you rolled against full, half or 1/4 the skill.
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Boneguard » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:55 pm

Amazing Engine and Buck Rogers were a d100 roll below system,.

And so was Conan and Gamma World IIRC (They had this colored chart indicating your success level).
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:55 pm

Havard wrote:Back to the early TSR games: Am I right that all of these games prior to Alternity use a d% roll below system?

-Havard
No Gamma uses d20 and others d100% (Boot Hill, GangBusters, Star Frontiers, Top secret).

I think they wanted to cater to different markets. d100% games were «perceived» as more realistic. Even then D&D had a bad reputation as «unrealistic high fantasy action hero game».
Also Call of Chtuluh d100% (1981) was a big competitor at the time. I somehow convinced myself that they were the first d100 but now looking at the dates I see that TSR had products out before them. As early as 1978.

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Havard » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:08 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Havard wrote:Back to the early TSR games: Am I right that all of these games prior to Alternity use a d% roll below system?

-Havard
No Gamma uses d20 and others d100% (Boot Hill, GangBusters, Star Frontiers, Top secret).

I think they wanted to cater to different markets. d100% games were «perceived» as more realistic. Even then D&D had a bad reputation as «unrealistic high fantasy action hero game».
Also Call of Chtuluh d100% (1981) was a big competitor at the time. I somehow convinced myself that they were the first d100 but now looking at the dates I see that TSR had products out before them. As early as 1978.

Thanks!

RuneQuest was the first RPG using the d% roll below system as their core mechanic. The RuneQuest designers got the idea behind this from the Thief Class from D&D Supplement II: Greyhawk.

How different are Boot Hill, Gangbusters, Star Frontiers and Top Secret from eachother? And from Amazing Engine, which also uses the same mechanic?

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Boneguard » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:09 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Havard wrote:Back to the early TSR games: Am I right that all of these games prior to Alternity use a d% roll below system?

-Havard
No Gamma uses d20 and others d100% (Boot Hill, GangBusters, Star Frontiers, Top secret).

I think they wanted to cater to different markets. d100% games were «perceived» as more realistic. Even then D&D had a bad reputation as «unrealistic high fantasy action hero game».
Also Call of Chtuluh d100% (1981) was a big competitor at the time. I somehow convinced myself that they were the first d100 but now looking at the dates I see that TSR had products out before them. As early as 1978.
Maybe not:

Chaosium was founded in 1975 and their first RPG: RuneQuest (the d100 system that game us Call of Cthulhu and BRP) was published in 1978.

And you also had Iron Crown Enterprise (founded in 1980) who also uses a d100 (+ charts galore) system.
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:26 pm

Boneguard wrote:
shesheyan wrote:
Havard wrote:Back to the early TSR games: Am I right that all of these games prior to Alternity use a d% roll below system?

-Havard
No Gamma uses d20 and others d100% (Boot Hill, GangBusters, Star Frontiers, Top secret).

I think they wanted to cater to different markets. d100% games were «perceived» as more realistic. Even then D&D had a bad reputation as «unrealistic high fantasy action hero game».
Also Call of Chtuluh d100% (1981) was a big competitor at the time. I somehow convinced myself that they were the first d100 but now looking at the dates I see that TSR had products out before them. As early as 1978.
Maybe not:

Chaosium was founded in 1975 and their first RPG: RuneQuest (the d100 system that game us Call of Cthulhu and BRP) was published in 1978.

And you also had Iron Crown Enterprise (founded in 1980) who also uses a d100 (+ charts galore) system.
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by shesheyan » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:40 pm

The stats in Star Frontiers were as follows:

STRENGHT / STAMINA
DEXTERITY / REACTION SPEED
INTELECT / LOGIC
PERCEPTION / LEADERSHIP

You rolled a d100 for each of the 4 binomes. Each of them would get the result. Customization was allowed by a margin of 10%. So if you rolled 65% you could give strenght 60 and stamina 70.

There were no classes. Instead you selected one Primary Skill Area : Military PSA, Biosocial PSA , Technological PSA. From that you choose 1 skill (!!?!) from you PSA and 1 skill (!!?!) for any other PSA. By todays standards that's a crippled character !

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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Cthulhudrew » Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:42 pm

Pretty sure Top Secret S.I. used %; I know that the original Top Secret did (one of our favorite games to play next to D&D).

Gamma World had different rules depending on what version you're talking about; the one I came in with (my favorite, likely due to the awesome Parkinson artwork) primarily used %; that was the version that used the ACT table, which was later repurposed somewhat for the Marvel FASERIP system.

I think the first two versions also used %, but they might have used a mix of dice. I know that 4th edition used d20; it was the system most similar in mechanics to D&D, and there was a fairly high degree of interchangability between it and 2E as a result (not complete, but enough that you could mix genres easier than with previous systems).
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by dulsi » Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:30 am

Cthulhudrew wrote:Gamma World had different rules depending on what version you're talking about; the one I came in with (my favorite, likely due to the awesome Parkinson artwork) primarily used %; that was the version that used the ACT table, which was later repurposed somewhat for the Marvel FASERIP system.

I think the first two versions also used %, but they might have used a mix of dice. I know that 4th edition used d20; it was the system most similar in mechanics to D&D, and there was a fairly high degree of interchangability between it and 2E as a result (not complete, but enough that you could mix genres easier than with previous systems).
Actually MARVEL FASERIP system (1984) came first. GW 3 (1986) took the system from there not the other way around.

GW 1, 2, and 4 used d20 and were similar in mechanics to D&D.
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Re: Amazing Engine as a Predecessor of Alterntity / D20Moder

Post by Big Mac » Mon May 02, 2016 1:58 pm

Havard wrote:While the system in Amazing Engine appears to be based on a "roll below d100" mechanic, could there be other similarities between that and the later games of the modern variant? There are speculations that the Tabloid! setting could be the inspiration for the later Dark*Matter world. Amazing Engine's Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega is connected to Gama World which also appears for the later systems.

I am also curious if the other Sci Fi settings for Amazing Engine could have had spillover effects into D20 Future or the other d20 Modern Supplements. We already know that the D20 Modern line borrowed from older TSR games like Star Frontiers.
How easy is it to convert the d100 mechanic of Amazing Engine to d20 Modern?

Is it as simple as dividing target numbers by five, or is there a lot more too it than that?
David "Big Mac" Shepheard
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