The EPIC System
The EPIC System is a Roleplaying Game system designed for forum-based, Play-by-Post (PbP) gaming. It is designed to provide an alternative method to playing co-operative multiplayer roleplaying games in an online environment. While there are many kinds of RPG systems, most are designed to be played in a tabletop environment, with live players sitting around a table in person, rolling dice and talking in real-time with each other. These sorts of systems, while enjoyable in the medium they were designed for, are often poorly suited to PbP gaming.
A key problem with using a tabletop RPG in a PbP environment is task resolution. Combat, skill checks, and all the other familiar concepts of tabletop RPGs are designed for a real-time gaming experience, with a group of players meeting at a regular time for an arranged period, whereas PbP games tend to be slower affairs with people posting as they are able to do so.
As a result, combat and other dice-based task resolutions tend to take an extremely long period of time. The actual act of narrative roleplaying might go quickly, but as soon as combat starts or skill checks need to be rolled, the game slows down to a trickle as varying complexities of turn-and-round based tabletop RPG combat finds itself moving at an almost glacial pace.
The EPIC System is designed to facilitate that task resolution, to speed up the game and make combat and other skill-based challenges of the game mechanics go faster and simpler. A key element of this design is the Challenge System, a system designed to replicate all sorts of game mechanics-based task resolutions in a speedy manner that assists, rather than detracts from, the narrative of a PbP RPG.
The EPIC System is designed first and foremost for narrative-based games. Games which are "hack and slash" or light on actual roleplaying will find this system unfulfilling, as it's simplified mechanics do not enable a great deal of optimization or tweaking and there is a distinct lack of the back-and-forth turns and rounds excitement of a tabletop game.
While other game systems may emphasize character builds and "twinking", the EPIC System is designed solely to facilitate the narrative, and that should always be kept in mind as the game mechanics are explored and used.
The EPIC System is based around the Challenge System. Not every encounter, conversation, or event in a PbP RPG is a Challenge. Challenges are events over the course of the game that require the assistence of the game mechanics, calling upon the Player Characters' skills, resources, or abilities to overcome difficulty.
Any time the GM has to arbitrate a test of the capabilities of the PCs, that's a Challenge.
The 4 Challenges
There are 4 kinds of Challenges in the EPIC System: Expertise, Prowess, Influence, and Combat. It is these four types of Challenges that make up the acronym EPIC, which is where the system's name is derived from.
These 4 Challenges make up the most common types of encounters that RPG characters face, and nearly any type of task resolution can be summed up in one of the four types.
are tests of wits and mental ability. The character's knowledge and skills are what is used here, relying on training, intelligence, and resources to resolve a task oriented around figuring out the solution. Examples: Diffusing a bomb, deciphering an arcane tome, picking a lock, or hacking a computer database.
are tests of physical capability and reflexive skill. The character's strength, agility, and quick reflexes are what's needed here. Examples: A car chase, a gauntlet of mechanical death-traps, breaking out of restraints, or lifting an extremely heavy object.
are tests of social interaction. The character's charisma, charm, and ability to exert command over others is key. Examples: Interrogating a prisoner, charming your way past some guards, applying political pressure to a rival, or using the importance of your position to your advantage.
are violent conflicts, the most common sort of Challenge in most RPGs. The character's offensive and defensive capabilities are important here. Examples: Bar brawls, arena fights, aerial dogfighting, and outright war.
Nearly any kind of dramatic and dangerous scenario you can think of in a RPG (or fiction in general) can be summed up as one of these four kinds of Challenges.
Once you've established what kind of Challenge you are facing, you have to resolve it. Challenges are resolved through a straight-forward process.
Taking your Move
In a Challenge, each involved PC makes a post which is called their Move. A PC can only take one Move per Challenge (although they can revise their Moves through Stunts, explained later). This "1 Move per Challenge" rule is the key to keeping a speedy narrative in the EPIC System, and is an important part of the rules.
When you make your Move, you are not making your narrative post writing prose of what your character is doing. A Move is "game-mechanics only", and contains only the necessary text to establish what your Move actually is and how you are acting in this Challenge.
The first step of making a Move is rolling your Effort.
Each PC has a limited capacity of things they are capable of in a Challenge. While you may have many abilities, resources, and skills, you only have so much you can call upon and utilize in a single Challenge. To establish this, and to establish the general success of a character in a Challenge, when you begin your Move you roll up your Effort.
Your Effort is a pool of points you use to "activate" and use your Attributes and other abilities your character has. Your Effort is rolled up each Challenge, and is used up as it is spent. Effort cannot be carried over from one Challenge to the next, so any unspent Effort after your Move is forfeited.
The amount of Effort you roll up depends on the Character Level (CL) of your character. The GM establishes what your CL is during character creation, and how to create your characters within your CL is established later in the Character Creation section.
For now, all you need to know is that to establish your Effort in a Challenge, you roll a number of ten-sided dice equal to half your Character Level, rounding down, to a minimum of 1d10. So, a CL 10 character rolls 5d10 of Effort, a CL 7 character rolls 3d10, and so on.
The EPIC System is designed for forum-based play, so a dice-rolling site or utility will be required to determine the amount of Effort each character has in a Challenge. Alternately, the GM could roll up the Effort for each PC at the beginning of the Challenge.
Regardless of how it is rolled, once you have determined how much Effort you have, it is time to assign it.
Once you have established how much Effort you have, you need to assign it to your Attributes. Your Attributes, and how they are designed, is explained further in the character creation section, so you may want to take a moment to familiarize yourself with that section before continuing.
You can assign Effort to an Attribute on a 1:1 basis, up to the Rank of the Attribute. So, if you had a Rank 5 Attribute, you could spend 5 Effort on it to bring it up to its full Rank. Assigning Effort to an Attribute can exceed the Rank of the Attribute, but it costs twice as much Effort for each Rank beyond the Attribute's normal Rank. For example, if you wanted a Rank 5 Attribute to be used at Rank 7, it would cost you 9 Effort (5 at 1:1, and then 4 at 2:1). Spending beyond your Rank on an Attribute is called Extreme Effort, and represents pushing your abilities beyond their normal capacity.
You can also spend Effort to utilize the Flaws or Complications of any opponents in the Challenge. This is spent just as if you are spending the Effort on your own Attributes, with the normal limitations. Flaws and Complications are explained in greater detail in the Character Creation section.
Stunt Points (SP) are a special type of Effort. SP are not rolled up when you start a Challenge. You can only gain SP in two ways: As a Reward for overcoming previous Challenges (as granted to you by the GM) or as a result of your opponent using your Complications against you in a Challenge.
SP can be spent like Effort to utilize your Attributes, and are subject to the normal rules for doing so (including the rules for Extreme Effort). However, Stunt Points can also be used to use your Stunts, which cannot normally be used by spending Effort.
Stunt Points can be spent on Stunts to activate them up to their Rank. Spending SP on a Stunt beyond its Rank costs twice as much, just as if it was Extreme Effort.
If you acquire Stunt Points after you have already taken your Move (for example if your opponent uses your Complications against you), you can then edit your Move to include spending your Stunt Points. You cannot revise how you chose to spend your Effort, but you can add or use your Stunt Points on top of that.
Once you have spent your Effort and Stunt Points, add up the Active Ranks of all the Attributes of the relevant Challenge Type that you have spent Effort on. The Active Rank of an Attribute is the Rank you have brought it to by spending Effort/SP. This may be less than the Attribute's normal Rank, or more (in the case of Extreme Effort).
Once you have added all the relevenat Active Ranks together, you are left with a Score. In most Challenges, the only Score tha matters is the Score of the Challenge's type (ie in a Combat Challenge, usually only your Combat Score matters).
However, calculate all your Scores anyway, because there may be special Tasks or other dynamic sub-Challenges involved in the Challenge that the GM has added. For example, in a Combat Challenge, the GM may also call for a certain Expertise Score, to ascertain your foes weaknesses (possibly granting Stunt Points or some other kind of reward).
In most Challenges, the side with the highest Score wins. In an Opposed Challenge (where you are taking on a specific opponent or being directly opposed by an external force) you need to get a higher Score than your opponents. In a Task Challenge (where your character's Attributes are put to the test by a non-direct difficulty), there are benchmarks and degrees of success determined by the GM based on what your Score is.
The EPIC System is designed to facilitate the narrative flow of a game. Once all the PCs and the GM have made their Moves, and all the Scores have been calculated, it is time to write out the narration of what actually took place in the Challenge. How the GM decides to resolve that issue is up to each individual GM. Some GMs prefer to write the narration for the entire Challenge, while others prefer to allow each player to narrate their own actions and write their own prose. How to determine these narrative control issues is beyond the scope of the system's rules and is up to each individual GM.