Game mechanics

Players all get to go through ‘+chargen’ in the Character Generation room off of the OOC Nexus. In here, you will determine how your character is set up for the resolution system. The resolution system is designed for when, narratively, the group cannot come to a decision of what an outcome in a scene will be, or the group prefers to use the more chaotic random chance for their role play.

Character generation is also used to set up your character’s background/concept (which does not have to be extensive or detailed) and description. Once your character is set up, you must seek two wizards to approve your character, and then you’re good to go!

Everyone gets 12 points to allocate between five stats (min of 1, max of 5):

Soul: Magic, mysticism, intuition, conscience, superego. Archetypal high Soul character: magical adapt, religious leader.

Mind: Rational thought, technological aptitude, ego. Archetypal high Mind character: scientist, tactician.

Expression: Social skills, self-confidence, performance ability, leadership. Archetypal high Expr character: leader, entertainer.

Focus: Vigor, manual facility, stoicism. Archetypal high Focus character: sniper, surgeon.

Body: Strength, resilience, physical balance. Archetypal high Body character: cage fighter, gymnast.


No single stat governs perceptual abilities. Instead, the stat tied to a given perceptual domain is used:

  • Soul: sensing magic, moral nuance
  • Mind: deduction, long-term observation
  • Expression: social impressions, truthfulness
  • Focus: time-critical sensation
  • Body: touch, self-awareness

Stat values can be interpreted as:

1: Mediocre
2: Good
3: Great
4: Excellent
5: Legendary


Everyone also gets two qualities: short free-text descriptive attributes. A game-world may sometimes modify a stat (see later section), but is never tied to a fixed particular one. For example, “Skilled Swordswoman” may most often modify Body-based rolls, but on occasion may modify Expr (social interactions with her peers), Mind (knowledge of sword techniques, history, etc), etc. Qualities may also be such that they indicate a game-world fact, or character capability, in a way that may rarely or never figure in rolls at all, but simply establish that.

Some example qualities:

Steam Engineer: Proficient in developing, building and maintaining high-pressure locomotives.
Chemist: Highly qualified in analyzing, synthesizing and experimenting with compounds.
Stage Actress: Talented and practiced in the arts of theatrical performance: learning lines, assuming a character, emoting, and projecting.
Feline: Lazy, self-serving, self-absorbed, and sneaky.
Sleight of Hand: Capable of performing feats of misdirection with hand held or otherwise concealable objects.
Burglar: The skills and talents at burglary are honed in him. Lock-picking, appraisal, stealth work, et cetera.
Swashbuckler: Fights in an extravagant manner using light and improvised weapons, making much use of bold movement, and furniture.
Viramargan Sniper: Extensively trained by the Masters of Basho in shooting from concealed positions at distance, using her craft-made rifled long-gun.

These are just examples. You can (and should!) create your own.

Commands to know

+sheet: Displays your character sheet for you to reference.

+roll #: Rolls against a number (for instance, a stat).

+prove: Used to prove a stat. To prove your Body stat, for instance, use +prove #stat Body to prove your body stat. You can also use +prove # where # is the number of a quality on your +sheet to display that quality to the room.

Rule Zero: If it feels good, do it.

This document outlines, in general terms, the intended or “default” operation of the WO RPG Game System. However, the overriding principle is to have fun, in a mutual consensual way. If a particular group, for a particular RP scene, wants to play with more mechanics than this implies, or less, or even with different ones, they’re hereby blessed to do so. These are guidelines, and an attempt at establishing a common vocabulary, and no more than than that. In particular, styles for how many contests are desired my vary considerably. Some may wish to never use randomized resolution at all. Some may wish to use randomized resolution more frequently than we advise here.

Import caveat: stress on consent. If it’s not feeling good for all concerned, then Rule Zero is not being applied correctly.

Narrative logic

Game stats and qualities don’t directly measure any thing about the character in the game world. Rather, they measure that characters ability to affect the story in particular ways. If the logic of your character’s story requires that they frequently prevail in conflicts in a particular domain, then they appear to have a high stat in that area, regardless of what disparate gameworld reason — or none — appears to exist for explain their success.

In several places, this document talks about “narration”. We use this in the broadest sense: first person statements or actions; declarations about other parties or pieces of the gameworld; on the part of a player; on the part of a GM or staffer; by consensus of those present. Even in a GM’d scene, authority to narrate events is often implicitly or explicitly delegated to players, according to a combination of known or revealed gameworld facts, the results of contests, and protocols and etiquette.

Resolution hierarchy

free narration -> comparison of qualities -> (modified) roll against stats -> staff supervision/intervention/determination

Normally, players should play and narrate freely, until such time as any dispute or question as to character competencies arises. Then, first recourse should be to +prove; in many cases, the existence of a suitable quality will be sufficient to resolve matters. If the point of contention was whether a character was a magician, had knowledge of a particular technology, was one of the King’s counselors, etc, and they demonstrate a quality that establishes that, then that will generally be the end of the matter. If not, players may wish to proceed to a randomized contest: this will be based on whatever stat(s) are most applicable, modified by any qualities that players agree are relevant. If any dispute remains about the outcome of such an contest, or if players are unable to agree on the mechanics of any earlier step, staff assistance may be required.

Contest checklist

  • A point of conflict exists between different characters, for which their players cannot or do not wish to agree an outcome;
    • (this includes staff, on behalf of NPCs or abstract gameworld forces)
  • People care about the result, one way or the other;
  • Multiple players have a stake or interest in the result;
  • Time permits setting up and resolving a contest, and it’s not disruptive to the flow of the story to do so;
  • Both success and failure are interesting possibilities.
    • If failure or success seems inevitable, in a way that lacks dramatic possibilities, just narrate that failure or success directly.
    • If both failure and success seem plausible, but one is not dramatically interesting, a contest to determine that is generally not advisable. Consider simply narrating the difficulties encountered before the eventual success, or the compensations for eventual failure.
    • Where sustaining dramatic tension demands a contest, but failure (or success) is not a viable option, reconsider how the contest should be scoped. Perhaps the issue is not success vs. failure, as how long success takes, what it “costs” the character to achieve it, etc.

Contest scoping

Before resolving a contest, it’s first necessary to determine what’s at stake. This is, in general terms, what types of gameworld fact will be established by victory for one side, or the other. A physical fight is rarely for its own sake. Is the key point how hurt each could be? For dominance? For the approval of a third party? To hold a particular piece of ground? Do both parties have symmetrical goals, or do they differ in some significant aspect? For example, one might be trying to escape, the other to prevent this. Similarly for other types of contest.

An extensive discussion of all possible outcomes beforehand is not encouraged, however. So long as whoever has narrative authority for the contest understands what the scope is, and are able to interpret the outcome in a way that’s broadly satisfactory to those concerned. Participants are then free to narrate the different outcomes in detail once the numeric outcome is known.

What to roll

In the most usual type of contest, a stat of one player is rolled for them, and a stat for the other player is rolled for them, and the two are compared. Most often the same stat is used for each, but this need not be the case, especially for a contest with asymmetric goals.

In cases where one character is entirely active, and the other entirely passive, it’s also possible to roll against the stat of the actor, and compare the result against the (unrolled) stat of the target.

In situations where no real randomness is present, stats may simply be compared directly. This can also be appropriate where an increase in dramatic tension is not desired, or where hidden information means that it is already present.

On occasion, two stats may both be entirely applicable for a task. In such cases, it’s possible to average the two values, and use that number. In the vast preponderance of cases, however, just a single stat should be used.

Sometimes there is no “obvious” stat to roll against. Sometimes this is even the case for both contestants, but more commonly this occurs where a character is being opposed by some abstract force. One approach is to use the number of total significant, relevant gameworld facts that would oppose the character’s attempt to achieve this particular goal.

Therefore if there is no particular reason why the character shouldn’t succeed, the target to beat is 0: any success at means victory. (In such cases double-check if a having a contest all is dramatically appropriate, however. Just narrating success may be preferable.) If two significant facts were to argue against success, the character would have to get a result of three or more to be victorious, and a result of 0 or 1 would indicate a victory for these forces. As they may have no “goal” of their own, this would generally be interpreted as some sort of setback for the acting character.

Comparative advantage from qualities

As a rule of thumb, having an applicable quality should grant a +1 over a character without such. Also, having a significantly narrower/more specifically applicable quality grants a +1 over a broader, more general quality. Conversely, if a specialized quality is being used outside its scope, the generalist would receive the advantageous modifier.

Gameworld facts should be interpreted in a similar way. If long-term truths about the universe, circumstances of the present scene, or points at issue in the way the current contest is scoped are material to the plausible (or most interesting) outcome, they should be factored in as above.


A “roll” is done using the +roll command (detailed later). The result is interpreted on the same scale as stats, except that a 0 and a 6+ are now possible (for any starting value):

  • 0: failure
  • 1: success
  • 2: good success
  • 3: great success
  • 4: excellent success
  • 5: superlative success
  • 6+: beyond superlative

A 1 indicates a demonstrable, but generally unremarkable degree of success. Higher results indicate a progressively better amount of success, stepwise. One way to look at this is that each extra level of success means an additional “fact” that’s now established, in line with that character’s goal for the contest.

In an opposed contest, depending on the scope, it may be appropriate in many circumstances to interpret the result according to the difference between the rolls. In this context, a difference of 1 is an appreciable difference, and a “normal and unremarkable” level of victory. The object of the contest is achieved by the victory, in a general and basic way.


The GM, or each player if there is no appointed GM, will roll for each. For Thaddius, the command will be:

+roll 3

And for George, the command will be:

+roll 2

Whoever gets the highest value is the winner. If the numbers are the same, a tie result can be derived, or if that is not sensible, the numbers can be rolled again until there is a clear winner. Greater number differences can be interpreted as greater degrees of success if desired.

In other contests, where each can succeed or fail separately from the other, each result could be interpreted independently.


Equal results indicate that neither participant has achieved their goal. Don't simply repeat the original contest: resolution is intended to represent all reasonable means to try to achieve the original goal, in the original situation. Don't make additional attempts until either one contestant has re-scoped their goal, or the situation has significantly changed in some way. An exception to this is if the original contest was explicitly time-constrained: in this case, a new contest would then have a different time scope.

This can be unsatisfactory in itself in some cases, particularly if leaving the original conflict unresolved makes it difficult to advance the plot beyond that point. The following alternatives exist:

  • Some external factor has intervened to resolve the situation to neither's satisfaction, or to otherwise negate the original circumstance of the contest.
  • If the goals are not completely symmetrical, each may achieve a portion of what they were trying to achieve, as well as degree of setback.
  • A "tiebreaker" contest. Roll a new contest, with value equal to the result of the first contest. (If both failed entirely, and a reroll is still required, use 1 for both.) Any result is interpreted as a narrower victory than the usual smallest degree of 1.

Multiple opponents

As WO is not a tactical game, no detailed rules are given for contests involving the disposition of multiple participants. A number of options are outlined; participants must use their judgment as to which most usefully and appropriately applies.

Single contest: arrive at a representative score for each side in a contest, and roll that.

Multiple rolls, best result: a single contest is resolved, but each participant makes a separate roll. The best results from each "side" are compared, and applied to each group collectively. This procedure can also be used where any group of characters are all trying to accomplish a common goal, including against abstract forces.

Multiple separate contests: each is resolved separately, one-on-one. Often a natural thing to do in physical contests, among others, when participants can be "paired up". Can also apply in many-to-one contests, most naturally types where multiple opponents do not particularly affect the chances of success of the lone participant, and where the results can all be sensibly interpreted separately.

In conjunction with either of the above, numbers might be taken into account as a gameworld fact. In a physical conflict, "outnumber" might be applied as a modifier to the side with more people, in a situation where that is significant. In extreme cases, multiple facts might give a larger net modifier: "vastly outnumber" and "encircle completely", say.