What’s the system?

Fully Automated uses a custom system for roleplay checks that should be familiar to anyone who learned how to play Dungeons & Dragons from a wiki page their friend printed out without ever buying a manual (you know… the right way).

Let’s make this clear upfront: if you have a system you like, adapt this game to that system if you want to. Learning new systems is a common barrier for players to try new games, and we just don’t think it really matters all that much. Part of the design philosophy of this game’s rules system was to make it easy for GMs to do that. That said, if you want the experience as we designed and tested it, try it our way. We think it’s pretty good.

How’s it work?

To roll a check, roll two d10 dice and then add your character’s base attribute (such as Strength, Dexterity, Charisma, and so on) to a relevant skill (like hacking software, athletics, or medicine).

Want to persuade the guy practicing his kite surfing in the park to take you to a recently put out campfire he saw? Tell the Game Master what you say to convince them, then roll two d10 dice. Add the result to your Charisma and your skill in Charm. And if the GM likes what you’re doing, maybe they’ll give you an extra two points for making a compelling argument. If it all adds up to 22, then you passed!

That’s the system: roll 2d10, add the points from your Attribute, Skill, and any modifiers, and if the result is 22 or more you pass.

Want to hack the door to get into the library’s restricted weapons vault? Describe how you want to go about it, then roll your 2d10 again. Add your Intelligence and your skill in Hardware Hacking, and use a special ability for good measure. 27? You’re in!

What about combat?

The combat system is pretty wild. We call it “Firefight”, and it’s totally invented. I know, coming from an amateur game publishing group that doesn’t inspire confidence. But remember: if you have a combat system you like, you’re free to use that. And if you’re like me, and you’ve played RPGs for years and just never actually enjoyed (or even fully understood the rules of) combat, then hey, give it a try. You can read more about it here.

Why does Fully Automated use a custom system?

We built the system around the rules we liked and felt best served to create the player experience we had in mind. Keep in mind that Fully Automated started as a homebrew game for friends, so the rules we started with were just what we liked playing. The system we used at our table was inherited primarily from D&D as well as the Corporation cyberpunk RPG. We liked that Corporation used two d10 dice instead of a d20, because it made the rolls mean-centered. When you roll a d20, you’re as likely to roll a 1 as a 20. But with 2d10s, instead of wild swings in performance your character usually performs average. That makes sense right? To usually perform average?

And combat was totally invented.

When we decided to package the game up for mass consumption, we made changes intended to make the game easier to learn and easier to adapt. But ultimately, we found that what we’d played at home fit the themes and player experience better than any other game system we were aware of.

Flexible, you say?

Don’t have two d10s? Use a twenty-sided. Don’t like flat distributions? Use three six-sided dice. Prefer roll-under checks instead of roll-over? Just roll 2d10s and subtract it from your Attribute + Skill. Like dice pools? Create some conversion between Ability Scores (that’s what we call your base attribute + relevant skill) and the number of dice you roll.

The point is, once you’ve put numbers on a character sheet, grab some math rocks and let the GM start making calls.

A few words on Old School Revival (OSR) and Free Kriegsspiel Revolution (FKR)

This goes beyond Fully Automated, but may be useful to understanding how this game is recommended to be played.

If you’re not aware, there’s a style of tabletop gaming known as “Old School Revival“, or OSR for short. Old School Revival means returning tabletop games to a simpler rule set as was common in the early decades of tabletop gaming. Among indie tabletop games in particular it’s a popular approach. It’s a pretty loose concept. It’s largely a style of designing and running games in which the rules are kept simple and broad and players and GMs are encouraged to improvise how to apply them. OSR often encourages GMs to allow an action regardless of whether it adheres to technical rules or not.

Free Kriegsspiel Revolution or FKR is in some ways simply a more extreme version of the same ethos. Within Free Kriegsspiel play, the players describe what they want to do, and the GM may simply declare an outcome if they feel a roll isn’t needed. Or they may tell the player to roll without checking their stats. Big number? It worked.

Whether you choose to embrace these labels or not, players should be aware that among the original players and creators of this game, it’s completely reasonable for a GM to just decide what happens when a player rolls a 23. Technically, that’s a success, but maybe the GM feels like based on the circumstances, they just don’t feel like that’s good enough. They don’t even need to say “I’m considering that a fail”, they just reply “The crowd claps modestly, but several of them are clearly browsing the Fediverse in augmented reality.” Is that a fail? Labels don’t matter. That’s just what happened.

Not only do many of the original developers consider this a more fun way to play, we happen to think it mechanistically fits with the subject matter. The culture of the world presented in Fully Automated is one that rejects strict categorizations and rigid binaries. The people of the 22nd century recognize that binning things when most of nature falls along a boundless spectrum is an irrational and artificial human impulse. You’re under no obligation to agree with them. But if you ever feel narratively restrained as a GM because someone rolled a 20 but the story would work better if they were successful, know that you’re breaking no rules by ignoring what words on a page tell you.