Our Roleschooling Adventure: Kite Fighting Simulation System


This system was written to guide the play in our current roleschooling adventure. It started out as a sideline, but as with all good games, sometimes the details are what makes it so much fun. This system is based on the kite fighting competition events described in Julian May’s Pliocene Exile series. Instead of this happening between psychokinetic humans and aliens millions of years ago in European pre-history we staged them as training exercises that Meilin concocted to help train greencloaks and their spirit animals in the Spirit Animal series.

In our story I thought it would be a fun way to lead into the initial crisis that is occurring in this particular world – the reason the Doctor brought our players into this world in the first place. The idea caught our players’ imaginations though, and they wanted to design their own kites and actually play through some combats. This is the way it goes!

My job is to encourage them to use their personal passions to ignite their enthusiasm for learning new things, so I tasked them with coming up with the design and stats so that they could tackle this challenge that they were so excited about.

Kite Fighting Simulation Map, by Elizabeth

Our daughter likes to make physical objects – figurines, weapons, costumes and such and so she took it upon herself to craft some token representations for the kites and came up with a way to visually represent the battle during gameplay.

Her contribution was the idea of using two of our clear hex maps – one on the table as the base and another one raised up above to represent the sky. This would allow us to have tokens for both the kites and the kites’ controllers on the ground, and the setup is helpful for visualizing control string placement. She made tokens using copper wire, tacky glue and nail polish.

Kite Fighting Simulation System, by Alex

Since one of my son’s interests is game design and rules development (and one of my goals is to help him practice his technical writing), I asked him to come up with a system for handling the combats. Below is the current version of the rules he came up with based loosely on HERO System.

Geek talk ahead: It should be noted that during play-testing the decision was made to fully abstract the combat and the maneuvering systems. We could get a LOT more specific in terms of game mechanics, but it rapidly becomes unwieldy. As this is based loosely on HERO system there are some references to things like OCV (Offensive Combat Value) and DVC (Defensive Combat Value). DCV is a bit like Armor Class in D&D and is used with the attacker’s OCV to calculate the number needed for an attack to hit. HERO uses less charts and more formulas than most systems.



  • Controller: the team member on the ground, responsible for flying the kite and sometimes communicating information such as locations of opposing kites.
  • Pilot: the team member in the kite, responsible for various tasks dependent on the kite design, usually including executing attacks and special abilities, adjusting weight for stability and maneuvering purposes, and holding and transfer of items (such as relay race batons and CTF flags).

Each kite has four stats:

  • BODY: Physical toughness of the kite’s structural elements.
  • SAIL: Physical toughness of the sail.
  • MNV: Maneuverability. Can be negative, generally in the range ±3.
  • MOVE: Movement speed.

In addition, the kite has special abilities and attacks. Special abilities can be almost anything; from boosting a stat, to quickly changing the kite’s position. Attacks are mostly the same as personal combat attacks, with two major differences:

  1. Attacks can affect any stat. For instance, a net that tangles control strings would be an attack against MNV, whereas corrosive dust is an attack against SAIL.
  2. The definition of CVs. OCV and DCV are defined as (pilot’s OCV/DCV + kite’s MNV).

Sometimes, the controller will have to make a maneuvering roll. This is a DEX roll, modified by the MNV of the kite (controller’s DEX + kite’s MNV).

Also, sometimes the controller will have to make a movement roll. This is identical to a human’s core stat roll (9+(MOVE/5)).

There are several maneuvers one can perform relative to another kite (optional rule: before performing a maneuver relative to another kite, the maneuvering controller or pilot [as appropriate] must make a perception roll):

  • Chasing: One kite maneuvers to catch the other. The chaser makes a movement roll, resisted by a maneuvering roll by the target. A successful chase puts the chaser in a close position relative to the target, allowing them to attack it.
  • Entanglement: One kite attempts to entangle its control strings with the other’s. Before attempting entanglement, the entangler must be close to the target. The entangler makes a maneuvering roll (optional rule: resisted by target maneuvering roll); if they succeed, they entangle the control strings. This imposes a -2 MNV penalty on both, entirely prevents either from chasing other kites, and makes them close until they are disentangled. To disentangle themselves, one kite must make a maneuvering roll or cut the other’s strings.
  • String cutting: The pilot of one kite attempts to cut the strings of another. Before attempting string cutting, the attacking kite must be close (and make a -2 maneuvering roll), or be entangled with the target. The attacking pilot must make a DEX roll to catch and cut the strings, and must have scissors. A successful cut causes the target to fall immediately and irrecoverably (see below).
  • Formation flight: One kite attempts to achieve and maintain a relative position with a partner. Both kites must cooperate to accomplish this. Both kites make a +1 maneuvering roll; if they both pass, they successfully achieve formation. This maneuver must be repeated each round both kites wish to remain in formation.
  • Hiding: (only with Perception Before Maneuver optional rule) One kite tries to fly in a position that prevents the target’s pilot from seeing it. In order to hide, the target’s pilot must not have already noticed the kite. To hide, the hiding controller must make an INT roll to find a blind spot. Once a hiding spot is found, the hiding kite must make a maneuvering roll, resisted by the target pilot’s perception roll to reach it without being seen. Once hidden, the target pilot has a -3 on all perception rolls against the hiding kite.
  • Evading: One kite flies in a way that makes it difficult for the target kite to attack or chase it. To evade, the evading kite must make a maneuvering roll. If successful, the target kite gets a -2 on all maneuvering, movement and attack rolls relative to the evading kite, and all other kites get a -1. An evading kite may not maneuver relative to or attack other kites as long as it is maneuvering.
  • Ramming: One kite flies directly towards the target kite in order to hit and damage it. This is a universal attack against BODY, equal to (BODY/5 + MOVE/5)d6 by each kite involved. Before ramming, the ramming kite must be close to the target. In order to ram, the ramming kite must make a maneuvering roll, resisted by the target’s maneuvering roll.

When BODY is zero or negative, the kite is “weak;” a maneuvering roll failed critically or by at least 2 may (14- on 3d6) cause it to collapse. At the negative of the total BODY, the kite collapses immediately. When a kite collapses, the pilot must jump out and parachute down (+1 DEX roll) or suffer falling damage.

As SAIL drops, the kite becomes less stable and has a harder time gaining and keeping altitude. When SAIL is zero or negative, the kite is “unstable;” a maneuvering roll failed critically or by at least 2 may (12- on 3d6) cause it to fall. At the negative of the total SAIL, the kite falls immediately and irrecoverably. When a kite falls, the controller must make a -1 maneuvering roll to recover the fall; if it fails, the kite crashes, and the pilot must jump out and parachute down (+1 DEX roll) or suffer falling damage. When the kite crashes, it is destroyed, and must be mostly rebuilt.

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