The Ubiquity System grabbed my attention early on with Hollow Earth Expedition, and I have to admit that even now, with All For One: Regime Diabolique, the system still holds up as a simple, easy-to-learn and robust rule set that can take on many of the necessary mechanical details of a game without being bogged down in too much minutiae.
The basic mechanic is simple and straightforward: Assemble a Dice Pool and roll those dice against a set Difficulty. The kind of dice used doesn’t matter, as even numbered results count as successes and odd numbered ones are failures. If the number of successes rolled meets or exceeds the Difficulty, then the acting character succeeds.
One of the neater mechanics for this system is the fact that for most rolls, the players are allowed to take the average. This basically means that a character with a Skill Rating of 8 can automatically succeed most tests of difficulty 4 or below. For odd numbered Skill Ratings, the value is rounded down and a plus sign is added to it. So a character with a Skill Rating of 5 would have an Average of 2+. For tests that take the average for these ratings, the player rolls a single die to determine if the character can best a Difficulty 3 or fail trying. This sort of mechanic helps speed things along, and rewards characters with a strong focus on certain niche skills. A particularly Stealthy character, for example, could walk past a few dull guardsmen without having to roll, for example.
Style Points are another interesting mechanic. While the idea of the Action Dice has been around for a while, the Style Points gain in All For One: Regime Diabolique tend to be particularly fast. Characters gain a Style Point through a host of interesting methods:
- Pursuing a Motivation
- Giving in to the character’s Flaw
- Heroic Actions
- Playing in Character
- Out of Character contributions to the game such as making character portraits, keeping track of what happened last session or writing up the character’s history
- Other Miscellaneous things like hosting the game
Style Points serve as a powerful incentive to urge players to really get in there and play the game and contribute to a fun experience, and that can’t possibly be a bad thing. I’ve written many times in this blog that I enjoy it when players take charge of their fun so seeing something that encourages this is definitely a plus.
The last mechanic that I found interesting is the Chance Die, where if a character finds that they do not have enough dice to cover a given Difficulty, they can opt to get two dice in exchange for raising the Difficulty number by 1 for up to five times. This struck me as an interesting mechanic given that you never run out of the ability to try something, even when you don’t have enough dice. This focus on keeping things moving is interesting and the elimination of dead ends, in exchange for a higher risk factor in getting a desirable (or undesirable) effect is a smart little trade off that I can appreciate as a GM.
The Ubiquity System doesn’t go out to really re-invent the wheel, and I don’t blame them. It’s simple, effective and admittedly inoffensive. Maybe it’s because I’ve GMed games like World of Darkness and Savage Worlds that I find it easy, considering that they share the “Rules Medium” spot in the spectrum of simple vs complex game systems.