Step Die System Probabilities

During one of my recent playtests, one of the testers with extensive scientific credentials expressed some misgivings about the statistical underpinnings of the resolution system of Spark RPG.  In appreciation for his concerns, I decided to spend a few hours and produce a comprehensive probability chart so this would be out in the open.

The basic system is that two different people will roll dice and add a static bonus to their result.   The size of die can be D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 or D20.  The bonuses scale from +0 to +6.  This leads to a total of 1764 potential permutations on the chart I have below. For reference, the X axis is the actor and the Y axis is the reactor; with the probability in each cell equal to the chance that X will succeed in the conflict.  I hope this will be of some use to someone.  If you find any errors, please don’t hesistate to notify me so I can make the appropriate corrections.

Spark Probability Tables




While you are all digesting the latest version of Spark, I wanted to give you a bit of an update on the editing situation. Good editing is essential to the success of a roleplaying game, and for my flagship product, I am making every effort to impress. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that I have four editors lined up to contribute to this project.

My Lead Editor, charged with doing most of the heavy lifting, is David A. Hill Jr. of Machine Age Productions. He will be examining the mechanics, analyzing the procedures and ensuring that the text is as inclusive as possible. You may know Machine Age Productions from some of their successful games such as Machine Zeit, Amaranthine, Farewell to Fear and Guestbook.

The first of my Assistant Editors is Queenie Thayer who is charged with improving the writing itself. She is my last line of defense against grammatical and spelling errors, charged with bringing my text into understandable English. She has already contributed to the text in the first version of the beta and I am pleased to have her on my side.

The second Assistant Editor is Gus Belanger, who has contributed to games such as Alpha Omega.  (  He is my general-purpose editor, who I assign to look over each of the drafts of my game and give me an honest & critical assessment of the various changes.

Last, but certainly not least, is Mark Richardson, a good friend and long time GM who is diving headfirst into Indie Game Design. In addition to the revisions and comments on each of my drafts, he is also running a playtest session of Spark that I am observing in action, so that I can correct the game as I go.

With talent like this, I am certain that Spark will be a smashing success.

Happy gaming!

Spark RPG Open Beta – Version 3.5

Hello everyone,

I have definitely learned a great deal during this open beta process so far.  I want to explain the evolution of the game before I point you at the last version of the open beta text.


Version 1

The extensive feedback and the original AP from The Walking Eye podcast led me to restructure the text, to provide extensive example text and generally refine the game. Version 1 showed me that the world-building component of the game is one of its strengths. It also pointed out that some of the mechanics encouraged the wrong kinds of adversarial behaviours in players. This led to some major revisions to the text, which I managed to get out a few days before GenCon.


Version 2

Version 2 was a more solid version of the game. I reorganized the text and integrated much of the advice directly into the procedures of play. I also wrote a running example of play in the the setting creation, character creation and gameplay chapters. This version had slightly cleaner formatting, but time pressures kept me from tinkering with it too much.

My GenCon 2012 experience was a real eye-opener. I was able to get 3-4 playtests of version 2 at Games on Demand rules with mixed results. All of the tests of the Setting creation process went amazingly well, even with players who had little exposure to story games.  I ran into some challenges with the gameplay sections though. The mechanics _worked_, but there were far too many moving parts for me to effectively teach the game in that context. I realized that in a 2-hour time-slot, I spent a major portion of that time teaching the rules rather than actually playing the game.

In the last of these game sessions, I was fortunate enough to have Timo of the Jankcast  playing in my game on the Saturday afternoon. His excellent comments forced me to give an honest and critical look at the game.  The core mechanics, which I originally designed several years ago, were showing their age. While playtesting helped me refine the system and I had many excellent mechanics in there, the overall structure wasn’t serving my design goal for Spark. That is when I came to the decision to rip out the core resolution system and restart it from first principles.

Version 3

Saturday night I sat down with my text, crossed out the Collaboration and Conflict sections of the text, and got to work. The new system that I wrote up is much more elegant and does actually reinforce the desired behaviour of challenging your Beliefs.  I chatted at length with Timo, where he looked over my proposed version of the text and gave me his thoughts.

I brought this version of the rules with me the next day when I ran a 4-hour playtest of the game for the crew of The Walking Eye. That game session, which you can find as a bonus episode of The Walking Eye , was a blast. It gave me much needed confidence that I was on the right path.  You can find that episode here!


Version 3.5

Over the last month, I have used all of the GenCon feedback to create a new revision of the open beta of the game.  Version 3.5 is now freely available right Here.   This will be the last version of the text that I will post as part of the Open Beta, but I will extend the beta until November 1st 2012.

I would really appreciate any feedback and playtesting that you can provide on this last version. I want to make sure that this revamped version of the game is as solid as possible.

Thank you all.

Open Beta Feedback and Revision

Hello all.

I have gotten some incredible feedback on the first version of the Beta, enough that I am now revising the game text to prepare the next version of the beta.  I wanted to let you know what the major findings are and explain my next steps.

Findings and Flaws

  1. I utterly failed to explain how Fate worked or how it interacts with the Beliefs.  This will get its own section in the game text, either within the Introduction or Mechanics. I would love your feedback on which area would be appropriate.
  2. I need to promote and expand the setting-creation and faction mechanics, as that is one of the areas that make my game unique.
  3. The advancement system that I included in the game, where you simply bought yourself new Attributes, Talents and Conditions with Fate, doesn’t quite work out.
  4. The layout and cross-referencing in the text were poorly done. The next version of the beta will still be laid out via word processor, but will be better graphically designed in improve comprehension.
  5. The text fails to teach effectively or communicate my passion for the game. In short, it’s a dry reference text to the detriment of people trying to get into the game.
  6. I didn’t really understand my audience. I was writing this game for story game designers and people who had never heard of RPG’s before. The next version of the text will be calibrated to serve players of story games.
  7. I need to provide large amounts of descriptive advice on how declaration work and how they serve to encourage roleplaying.
  8. I need to remove all references to Proxies, rename them “Influence” and describe in great detail how they function in play. Influences are to be used in all Conflicts where you are not using a PC to support or oppose the declaration.
  9. I need to generally reorganize the text and work most of the advice and examples directly into the game text. I had originally intended on strictly separating the different kinds of content, but that has proven to be an ineffective technique for game organization and teaching.
  10. I need to explain the resolutions and why you should pick any given one during a conflict. The Walking Eye playtest was very PVP and they went for the throat, so I need to explain why you would want to use some of the kinder resolutions in play.


Next Steps

I am attempting to revise the text and release the next version of the game as quickly as I can, for another cycle of open beta playtesting. I will be running a number of game sessions at GenCon during Games on Demand with the most recent iteration of the rules, and I would love to invite you to participate.

Thank you for reading

Spark Open Beta – Major flaws identified

I have gotten a variety of insightful comments on the first version (v1.0) of the Spark RPG Open Beta and I wish to thank all of you for your feedback to date. I will be making a revised version (v2.0), incorporating these comments. My current target is to release this revised version on August 1st, 2012.
Various astute readers have found two major flaws with the current version of the game text. I wish to correct these problems with the revised version.

What makes Spark Different?

I created the Spark RPG with two different, distinct goals in mind.
1) To create a game about exploring and struggling with your Beliefs.
2) To create a genre-agnostic system, on purposefully built to support world building. The system would be equally useful for adapting existing fictional worlds without requiring system modifications.

In the introduction, I did a tolerable job in explaining my first goal and failed utterly in explaining the latter. One of the game’s strengths is in supporting world building and I woefully undersell that in the current version of the text.



Fate is a major component to the game, functioning as the major currency that you gain by challenging beliefs in a scene. I failed to explain this crucial element of the game in its own dedicated section of the text to explain it properly. Amusingly, I actually originally dedicated an entire _chapter_ to Fate in an earlier iteration. All of the necessary rules for using Fate are in the text, but I never explained what Fate actually was.

You may gain Fate by:

  • When you challenging one of your three Beliefs in a scene, either directly supporting or refuting it, you gain 1 Fate during “Closing the Scene” phase.
  • When someone (Player or GM) challenges all three of their Beliefs over one or more scenes, everyone in the game recieves 1 Fate.
  • When someone siezes the platform/tilt/question from you during the Framing phase, they give you 1 Fate.
  • When someone uses the Inspire Resolution on you, they need to offer you an amount of Fate equal to the size of your Spark die.  Eg, if someone has a Spark of D8, they need to offer you 8 Fate if you change your Belief as they suggest.

You may spend Fate in these ways.

  • You may give 1 Fate to seize a platform/tilt/question in the Framing phase,
  • You may spend 1 Fate to maximize your dice in a conflict where you challenge your beliefs,
  •  You may spend 1 Fate to gain a resolution in conflict
  • You may give 4-20 Fate to inspire someone to change a Belief to one of your choosing.
  • You may spend 4 Fate in a Conflict or the Advancement phase to add a Rise Condition or remove a Fall Condition.
  • You may spend 8 Fate in the Advancement phase to add a new Talent.
  • You may spend 20 Fate in the Advancement phase to add another level of Attribute.
  • You may spend 1 Fate to gain a proxy die the same size as your Spark Attribute


Your comments are welcome!