Exploring RPG Engines - VEN6 & Using Venn Diagrams

While there are a number of projects I would like to get back to to refine and expand upon, I am sure those of who are familiar with me know I can't help but experiment with new things. As a part of this, it is helpful for me to take a look at a lot of different SRDs and games to get a feel for new ways I can present my ideas.


The Powered by VEN6 Storytelling System Logo
VEN6 System Logo

One that I have found interesting lately is VEN6 by Jason Walberg of Real Live Productions. While not new to me (I discovered it shortly after it was published in October of 2021), this SRD is one that I have looked at again recently. Now, I will not be discussing the whole of the SRD this time. It is quite short, easy to read, and available in multiple locations in both website and PDF from like on their own site, Fari's database, and Itch.io. Instead, I will focus on what I consider the strongest unique element of this SRD, the Venn diagram's role in character creation and the mechanics.



VEN6 and the Venn Diagram

A Venn diagram showing the four fundamental Traits for the character

Essentially, the core of your character sheet in a VEN6 game is a four-circle Venn diagram. Within each circle is a fundamental trait of your character. For example, maybe the character is Ritualistic, Athletic, Empathetic, and Persuasive. If your character were to attempt to do something that falls under one of these circles, you would roll 2d6 instead of 1d6 to determine your outcome.



The Venn diagram showing the four skills in the overlap spaces of the four character Traits

In the overlap spaces of the Venn diagram, there are the four skills that are created by combining the adjacent traits. As a result, the placement of your four traits plays an important role on what skills you get. If we assume that the four Traits are listed in clockwise order, then Empathetic could create a skills with Athletic and Persuasive, but not Ritualistic on the opposite side of the arrangement. Here is an example of a wuxia film character modeled on the "wise old monk" archetype. Using our previous Traits, we create a set of Skills: Religion, Martial Artist, Trainer, and Negotiation.


If our character does an action that utilizes one of our character's Skills, we will instead roll 3d6. Other things that could add an additional 1d6 to a roll are the character planning ahead enough to create or find advantages to exploit, getting assistance from other characters, or the roll being part of a "cinematically awesome" moment.


Of course, a roll would be incomplete without a target to be met. Difficulty increases about 3.5 per 'level' of difficulty. The VEN6 SRD described attacks as having a typical Target Number of 10, so it would be difficult to be successful in an attack unless the character are using a Skill or have advantages working in their favor to either reduce the difficulty or give the player extra dice to throw.

Difficulty Level

Target Number

Simple (1)

3

Practiced (2)

7

Skilled (3)

10

Expert (4)

14

Really Hard (5)

18

We also should describe our character's Archetype, their background & goal, relationships with other members of the group, and why the group is together. The Archetype, Background, and Goal honestly could be described in a Character sentence or two, similar to the foundational character sentence used in the Cypher system. Relationships with the other PCs and the group are similar to many other TTRPGs that require you start the game with bonds with your companions.


For our example character, maybe their character sentences could be "I am a caring teacher who is a former warrior monk. I seek to find a student who can be trusted with my final lesson." Maybe the group they are involved with is a band defending a village à la Seven Samurai. The two starting relationships with other party members are one character being their student and a second character being an old rival who is acting as the lynchpin for the group coming together.


Using Venn Diagrams in Your Own Design

How might I build on this SRD's design concepts? Aside from using the SRD as is, I could see building on it by combining this Venn diagram element of character creation with a different dice resolution mechanic like using an increasing scale for the the size of the dice rather than the number of dice (Ex. 1d4/1d8/1d12 vs 1d6/2d6/3d6). It could also pair well with the Elemental Dice system which relies on opposing pools of six-sided dice. You can find more about that dice system here on a past blog post.


I could also see using the Venn diagram to determine a character's special abilities. Maybe instead of fundamental personality traits, the four circles contain elements and the domains of the world's magic taking the mechanical form of tags or runes. The overlaps are then special abilities or spells built on combining those two tags together. For example, "healing" and "water" could allow the character to create purifying water to remove corruption from a person or place, brew a healing potion, or summon an aquatic creature with healing abilities. "Metal" and "Knowledge" could be combined to make a spell or special ability designed to preserve knowledge in metal, identify metals and ores, communicate through metal, or create an ability that mimics a mystical MRI machine. One great thing about this is that it could be plugged into another SRD like Lumen or maybe the Push SRD.


A partial Venn diagram demonstrating the example illustrated in the paragraph about using identity to build motivations to in turn build Goals
Goal: "I need to find students who will use my final lessons to make the world a better place."

Finally, I could see the Venn diagram tool useful to create the potential direction I would like my character to go into. For example, if I start with fundamental elements of the character's self-identity (a combination of backgrounds, descriptions, titles, and traits) in the circles, then motivations or desires could be created where they overlap. These would then build further on into one or two goals or a unified storyline for my character. This is a potentially useful tool because I think we sometimes think of individual traits we would like to see in our characters, but don't always think through the full implications of combining these elements of self-identity together into a singular being.


Going back to the monk, two circles might say "teacher" and "old" or "feels their age." The desire that is created where they overlap could be "I want to pass on my knowledge before I run out of time." Also next to "teacher" could be "just," which could create the desire "I want to make sure my teachings are used for the common good." These combined together would then create the goal, "I need to find students who will use my final lessons to make the world a better place."


 

If you would like to check out the VEN6 SRD, you can find it in many locations that I mentioned here. It is licensed under CC-BY v3.0, so you could certainly use the VEN6 SRD or other ideas discussed here in your own creations. I know I certainly will consider it for my next project! If you would like to continue to support the blog, you can support me and the creators I cover here through Ko-fi! Other media can be found through my Linktree or you could check out the other posts here on the blog.

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