SRD Video 2 & 3 - Breathless and Iron Core

As with our last SRD series post, this will be the transcripts for two more of our videos. This time we have Breathless and Iron Core!

The SRD we will be looking at for this video is the Breathless SRD. This was derived from the original Breathless game, both developed by René-Pier Deshaies of Fari RPG. You can find the SRD on itch, but René-Pier also hosts a website where you can find this SRD along with a number of others.

There are three basic mechanics or concepts that make up the foundation of Breathless. The first of these is the game's Skill Check system. Standard Breathless has 6 skills that categorize the different types of risky actions a character might need to complete in game. This is pretty normal, but instead of assigning a number to a skill to represent a modifier or the number of dice you roll, you instead assign a size of polyhedral die from a d4 all the way up to a d10 with a d12 used in rare cases. This is the die that you roll any time you need to test that skill. Major important items are also all assigned a die value that you roll when using it.

This works because Checks in Breathless use a roll-over system with a static Target range. No matter which die you use, if you roll a 1 or a 2 you fail in the action, a 3 to 4 is a success with consequence, and a 5 or better is a full success. This provides an intuitive means of describing how likely it is that a character will be successful at something.

The second mechanic is that the more your character uses a skill or an item, the quality of the results degrade. Each time us use it, you roll the next smaller die. For example, if I have a d10 skill I start by rolling the d10, but then the second time I use the skill I roll a d8, the third time I roll a d6, and so on. As you can see, the risk of failure or dangerous consequences will go up exponentially even if you character is really good at that skill originally.

This mechanic plays into Breathless's origin as a zombie survival game. The degrading die simulates wear and fatigue for both items or the character themselves. Gameplay-wise, it forces the character to conserve their resources and pick their battles.

However, the game would not be fun if it felt like you could only safely act 4 or 5 times a session, so Breathless also has a mechanic called Catch your Breath. This can be triggered at any time, even during combat. It resets your skills to maximum level and in some cases heals your character some. However, it also allows the Gamemaster to introduce a new complication into the narrative. Maybe a new threat appears or a possible advantage is lost. This allows the action to continue, but further reinforces the need for the players in the game to pace themselves to avoid overwhelming their characters.

I mentioned items, it is important to note that many Breathless games have a loot or shopping mechanic that allows the player to search for items. By rolling a 20-sided die, and checking the results against a table, the player or GM can determine the quality of the item found or trigger a negative event instead.

The Breathless SRD is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, so you can use the materials in the SRD confidently so long as you include some attribution language for FariRPG in your game somewhere. René-Pier has helpfully written some out for you already for easy copy-paste.

As I mentioned in the primer, SRDs will often include other resources you can take advantage of outside of the rules themselves. For Breathless, there is a logo, but also René-Pier also included one page pamphlet templates for Affinity Publisher, Canva, Google Docs, and Google Slides. You could potentially create your own one-page game quite quickly utilizing this resource by simply adding your own descriptive language or tweeks to the base mechanics that have already been written.

Furthermore, the FariRPG website for Breathless includes items called Gasps. These are mechanics that can be dropped into your game to modify basic play like an advancement mechanic called Survivor Points created by Andrew Boyd of Pandion Games or a battle transformation mechanic from Nick Potter of Sustain a Spell. If you use any of these, you are encouraged to include an additional blurb to your licensing statement providing attribution to the creator of those mechanics.

Breathless SRD Video in here!

Iron Core

A continuous triangle as Efficiency, Speed, and Quality written on its three sides. To the side is the quote, "Good, fast, cheap. Chose two."
The Visual Philosophy of Iron Core

Iron Core is a creation of Opal Breeze Games, the publishing title for Bruno, a creator in the RPGLatam community. This SRD is designed to create a dice mechanic that focuses less on success or failure but rather on the qualities of your character’s action. 

In order to fully explain how Iron Core works, I will need to first explain a little bit of the theory behind project development and management. Whenever you are developing a project that’s going to create some sort of output or deliverable, it will inevitably have constraints that limit the quality of that output. Put most simply, there are three of these constraints:

  • The scope of your project (how broad or deep the desired impact of your project will have)

  • The cost of your project (how many resources it will take to complete)

  • The schedule of your project (how long will it take to accomplish) 

These together are collectively referred to as the triple constraints or the iron triangle of project management. This is because making any changes to a constraint in the iron triangle will require adjustments to at least one other variable in order to maintain the maximum quality possible. In other words you need to choose whether you’re going to do it fast, do it cheap, or do it well & big, but rarely can you pull off doing all three.

Here’s a practical example of what I mean. If I am a government agency wanting to do something big like add solar panels to every single family home in a city, then I need to decide whether this project is going to be cheap on a year-to-year basis but take forever to complete or invest a lot more resources up front to get it done faster. If I want to get it done faster and cheaper, then I will need to sacrifice the scope of this project like limiting it to a single neighborhood or just installing them on newer housing stock.

Iron Core attempts to embrace this basic concept but apply it to the actions of your character. Each time you need to roll in Iron Core involves a pool 3 six-sided dice. Then the player assigns each of those dice to the quality (impact), the efficiency, and the speed of your character’s action with higher numbers being better.

Believe it or not, that is pretty much it when it comes to the base of Iron Core. However, the SRD includes 4 of what Bruno calls Implementations to build on this, similar to Gasps for Breathless. These include ranges of success based on die results called the 4-Step Stairwell, a system for giving the player and GM joint control over assigning die results depending on the circumstances of the scene, a means of adding the impact of Attributes through positive and negative modifiers called "The Virtuoso Factor," and an adaptation of the Iron Core base for opposed combat rolls.

Besides these, getting the Iron Core SRD also gets you two different "Iron Core Within" logos that you can use when making your game. It also provides some basic recommendations of TTRPG community members to follow on Twitter and Safety tools you can incorporate into your play. As for licenses, Iron Core uses the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license like a lot of our other SRDs.

An Implementation for this system I thought of while writing this would be an alternative to Bruno's "Virtuoso Factor." Instead of using hard modifiers to add or subtract from individual die results in the pool, this new system would rely on an Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic. Here you would roll a larger pool if there are modifiers and eliminate the highest or lowest dice depending on the circumstances in the scene bending the pool in a direction positive or negative for the player.

Iron Core Video in here!

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