All Brick Stories
All Brick Stories (ABS) is a game system designed to be a cross between open-ended play by mail civilization games (like Realms of the Unknown, if anyone remembers that) and a more classic role-playing game themed around The Brick. Players each operate a minifig who interacts with a fictional setting. The point of the game (as with The Brick) is to build
buildings, stories, a setting, and a good time.
Minifigs will interact with the story environment based on the motives you assign, the collective style of play, reactions to story elements, and goals (yours and others). Minifigs will generally be engaged in the collection and management of resources and the use of those resources to build stuff. Stuff is an intentionally very general term. It can include housing, tools, trade goods, and anything else that you can build. Everything must be representable using The Brick, within the constraints developed by the story coordinator.
You build your minifig in four steps. First, considering the setting, you describe your minifig. Then, to build your minifig sheet (a record of your minifigs abilities) you: determine your minifigs attribute values which are represented by three rectangular solids built of bricks and then determine your minifigs two special skills, which are written on 1x4 white plates and added to the minifig sheet. Finally, you build a representation of your minifig.
|1)|| ||This Unofficial step helps you to determine a starting minifig idea. Consider what role your minifig plays in society, what is leading your minifig into the current story, what your goals will be, and your name. This is the first step in your building.|| ||Example:|| ||Irma is creating a minifig for a story about the colonization of Mars. She decides that her minifig will be a recent Ph.D. graduate in ergonomics who just couldnt face a profession as a fry cook and so volunteered for this dangerous mission. Her primary goal is to get out and do something. Irma, a little short on creativity decides that her minifig will be named Irma.|
|2)|| ||The minifig sheet takes the form of a plate or baseplate. Each minifig has three descriptive attributes and each of these has three dimensions. The nine attribute-dimensions are each assigned a numeric value from one to five. They are:|
Physical Power, Speed, and Flexibility,
Mental Power, Speed, and Flexibility
Spiritual Power, Speed, and Flexibility.
When representing these three attributes with The Brick on your minifig sheet, The Physical attribute uses red bricks while Mental uses blue and Spiritual, green. The shape and size of the attribute block indicates the dimensional values. The Power dimension is shown with the number of studs on the X (sideways) axis, speed is represented along the Y (up and down, along the sheet), and Flexibility with the Z (height off the sheet) axis.
To assign numbers to the attributes, give 12, 10, and 8 points to one each of the three. Each of those numbers should then be divided among the three dimensions. Each of the three attributes has an associated Endurance Factor equal to the product of the three dimensions.
| ||Example:|| ||Irma decides to give her minifig a Mental attribute of 12, a Physical of 10, and a Spiritual of 8. She then breaks it down thus: Physical-10 (P2/S3/F4:E24), Mental-12 (P5/S3/F4:E60), Spiritual-8 (P3/S3/F2:E18). She then stacks four red 2x3 bricks on her minifig sheet followed by blue bricks configured to be 5x3x4 and green to be 3x3x2.|
|3)|| ||Each minifig in a normal story has two special skills. Normally any minifig can do just about anything that can be done at a base level of proficiency. Special skills allow a minifig to perform at a greater level and to do things with that skill that untrained minifigs can not. Any skill description that you and your story coordinator agree on can be used.|| ||Example:|| ||Irma decides that her minifig should have Ergonomics and Bureaucracy after ten years at a university, so she writes those skill names on white tiles and affixes them to her minifig sheet.|
|4)|| ||When youve completed your minifig sheet, you should build a minifig representation for attachment to your sheet and for use during the game as a prop.|| ||Example:|| ||Irma, in something of a hurry, reaches into her minifig bin and snags a Paradisa figure out, drops on Hermione hair and gives her a stylish white briefcase. voilà...Irma is ready to play.|
|The minifigs various statistics and skills determine the quality of their attempts to perform tasks. When ABS is played in person, dice are frequently rolled to determine a level of quality. Your story coordinator will generally tell you to roll an attribute dimension which means that you should roll a die with the number of sides equal to your attribute dimension times 2. If ABS is being played by mail, email, or otherwise, the story coordinator may simply consider the numbers and the task involved (and maybe roll dice behind the scenes) to determine the outcome.|| ||Example:|| ||a minifig can carry four plate-studs per point of Physical Power, but when Irma needs to force the elevator doors open, the solution is not so clear cut. In a face to face game, Irma would roll a four-sided die (and probably fail to force the doors open). In a game taking place on the net, the story coordinator might respond to Irmas attempt to force the doors by telling her that the doors wouldnt budge until she used a pick-axe to lever them opened.|
ABS is about playing with The Brick. But it is also a simulation of a fictional reality. To make these concepts mesh, we have some guidelines defining what exists in the world of bricks, how that translates into our stories, and what minifigs can do:
|In General:|| ||Suggested Rules|
|Brown bricks are wood.|| ||Bricks are hard. They cant really be destroyed, but a skilled technician can transmogrify them.|
|Light grey bricks are stone.|| ||Minifigs are bricks too. They cant be destroyed in the traditional sense.|
|Dark grey bricks are metal.|| ||Comfort is a rating describing the quality of life experienced by a minifig. This is a volatile number, possibly changing from day to day as factors such as housing, nourishment, recreation, and social relationships vary. When it matters, comfort is a number between zero and one.|
|Yellow bricks are food.|| ||The productivity of a minifig at some task = base task rate X special modifiers X comfort.|
|Blue bricks are water.|| ||A plate-stud is the basic unit of mass in ABS and is equal to a 1x1 plate. Minifig accessories (backpack, sword, gold coin, etc.) tend to weigh a single plate-stud.|
|Tan bricks are sand/earth.|| ||An attribute check consists of rolling a die with a number of sides equal to two times the attribute-dimension and returning the value of the roll. Especially in a game that isnt face to face, an attribute check may merely consist of comparing the minifigs value to the difficulty of the task at hand.|
|Red bricks are hot.|
More On Attributes
In the minifig creation section above, we briefly discussed the attributes and how they are used. A more thorough examination is in order. The average attribute value among the general populace is 2.5. There are slightly more 2s than 3s. A mundane minifig -- not intended for personal play, might be given pools of six, eight, and nine for the attributes. These non-player minifigs might have only one special skill, but they might also have two. Now lets look at how the attributes may be used in play.
- Physical Power
- This is the ability of a minifig to manipulate mass. A minifig (straining under one G) can indefinitely carry four plate-studs per point value in the Power dimension of the Physical attribute. Our exemplar -- Irma, can carry eight plate-studs which could be a 1x2 brick and her briefcase, or a backpack with seven gold coins. A check against this attribute may be called for when a minifig attempts to lift or carry heavy weight or otherwise use brute strength to accomplish some effect. A standing broad jump would call for a PP roll.
- Physical Speed
- This is the minifigs ability to move his body quickly. An unencumbered minifig can sustain a run at three times their Physical Speed in studs per second while Physical Endurance is greater than zero. Irma can run nine studs per second (or sprint 14) as long as her PE holds out. A check against this attribute may be called for when a minifig attempts to arrive at a destination in time to act, catch a falling object, or effect an object before it moves away. A running broad jump would call for a PS roll.
- Physical Flexibility
- This is the minifigs ability to manipulate her body and limbs. The minifigs agility and dexterity are reflected by Physical Flexibility. In addition, the limited ability to contort her form is determined by PF. When Irma is testing her newly designed Martian fly swatter, the story coordinator asks for a PF check and Irma rolls a six on her eight-sided die. Considering that a six is the absolute best result that a person with a somewhat better than average PF could get, the story coordinator reports back that the fly is dead. An attempt to clear six hurdles during a run would call for a PF roll.
- Physical Endurance
- A minifigs maximum Physical Endurance is the product of the three Physical dimensions. Current Physical Endurance fluctuates with exertion. Ten seconds of pretty hard work (like running) causes the loss of one point of PE. One second of extreme exertion (like sprinting) incurs a one PE loss. Physical Endurance points are recovered completely each night for minifigs that are well fed and rested.
- Mental Power
- This is the ability of a minifig to work with concepts. A minifig with a MP of one is incapable of abstraction. A MP of five, on the other hand, allows a minifig to study any number of subjects, remember experiences clearly, and participate in almost any conversation. Irma can meaningfully discuss the work of every one of her mission cohabitants. A check against this attribute may be called for when a minifig attempts to analyze a situation, learn a new language, or fry an opponents mind with psychic bolts.
- Mental Speed
- This is the minifigs ability to consider quickly. A minifig with a high MS can perform basic arithmetic calculations more quickly than an average person with a calculator. A check against this attribute may be called for when a minifig takes timed exams, quickly provides forward observation data, or uses a magic staff before his opponent.
- Mental Flexibility
- This is the minifigs ability to deal with concepts from different angles and to make the minifigs mind work toward novel outcomes. Mental Flexibility includes the propensity of a minifig to accept evidence pointing away from what she believes to be true. Some uses of supernatural abilities (like reaching across the dimensions to wrest truth from demons) depend primarily on MF. The greater a minifigs Mental Flexibility, the less likely he is to crack under pressure or lose his mind when confronted with the horrors of the deep. An attempt to crack a safe before the detonation of an explosive charge would call for a MF roll to stay focussed.
- Mental Endurance
- A minifigs maximum Mental Endurance is the product of the three Mental dimensions. Current Mental Endurance fluctuates with exertion. Ten minutes of pretty hard work (like studying a new subject) causes the loss of one point of ME. One Minute of extreme exertion (like translating Solarian on the fly) incurs a one ME loss. Engaging in magical activities typically has a ME cost. Mental Endurance points are fully recovered each night for minifigs that are well fed and rested.
- Spiritual Power
- This is the ability of a minifig to control emotion and manipulate spiritual powers. A minifigs ability to command an encore performance of the spirit of Elvis at a seance would be based on the value of her SP (though the story would probably require an appropriate special skill, too). With an SP of 3, Irma can hide her irritation a door to door missionaries a little better than most minifigs can. A check against this attribute may be called for when a minifig attempts to convince others at a presentation, command the dead, or disable an opponent with force-lightening.
- Spiritual Speed
- This is the minifigs ability to navigate emotions and elements of the spiritual world quickly. A check against this attribute may be called for when a minifig is informed that his nefarious plot has succeeded and he wishes to cover his glee with apparent remorse. A successful SS check means that his feelings were subverted before being expressed. Likewise, If two minifigs are engaged in astral projection -- in search of Kudu the Mayan death priest, and they are racing to reach him, Spiritual Speed would replace Physical Speed for determining the races outcome.
- Spiritual Flexibility
- This is the minifigs ability to empathize, observe the spirit world, and manipulate spiritual matter. Irma would have a better shot of convincing Elvis to sing (SP=3) than of finding Elviss spirit in the first place because her SF is only two. Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the place of another. Any time a minifig wants to try to feel what it is like to be another, Spiritual Flexibility is the key.
- Spiritual Endurance
- A minifigs maximum Spiritual Endurance is the product of the three Spiritual dimensions. Current Spiritual Endurance fluctuates with exertion. Various spiritual actions have costs in terms of SE. Ten minutes of moderate emotional work (like hearing confession) causes the loss of one point of SE. Ten seconds of pretty hard spiritual work (like empathizing with a psychiatric patient) incurs the loss of one point. And each second of extreme exertion (like traveling in hell) decreases current PE by one. Spiritual Endurance points are recovered completely each night for minifigs that are well fed and rested.
As mentioned, ABS was designed to work as either a PBEM or an in-person RPG. Understand that the game, while relying on the same basic system, will have a very different look and feel depending on the mode of play. The PBEM version is not a turn-based game, but because the delays inherent in the communication, the story coordinator will have to focus on the universal time line and let the players work their minifig actions into the other things that are taking place. I suggest starting every game communication with a date/time stamp to help keep everything on track. In RPG mode, the game will have less to do with the universal timeline and will adhere to the dynamics of game time which have more to do with how quickly players decide what to do. In either situation, the story coordinator develops the setting (perhaps with the help of the players) and the initial situation. Circumstances will drive the players to have their minifigs engage in certain acts based on the setting, their goals, and the actions fo others. In RPG mode, the actions of the player-minifigs is completely under the control of the players, while in PBEM mode, the story coordinator has soem role in determining the details that take place.
Much of this game -- even the rules, is dependant on the setting of the story. Rules and conventions will evolve during your story and may be incorporated into the core rule system ad hoc. The main point of all this is to have fun. If you find things to make the game more fun, let people know.
If you have any questions or comments, suggestions or ideas, email me.