This is a revised, but still rough, version of the ideas I talked about in my comments. I think it's actually playable.
Character creation would be easy: give everybody 2 traits in each category plus, 5 more to spread around. Or, you could give everybody 5 Traits in one category, 4 in another, 3 in another, 2 in another, and 1 in the last one (or maybe the option of 4,4,3,2,2 or 4,3,3,3,2 or 3,3,3,3,3 if you wanted more generalization and less specialization).
I'd greatly appreciate any feedback from anyone out there. Thanks!
GM-Less resolution mechanics
What does a GM-Less mechanic need?
1)It needs to be very cut and dried, with no room for judgment calls or rules arguments.
2)It needs to allow players to keep aspects of their character secret, playing at a lower level than all-out, for example.
3)It needs to be very easy to execute and very simple to use.
I believe a simple conflict-resolution system would work best here.
Let's say there are five categories:
Physical (includes combat)
Social (includes hypnotism and other such powers, also includes acting, lying, etc)
Intellectual (includes what you know, computer hacking, etc)
Stealth (includes noticing things, sneaking and hiding, palming objects)
Mechanical (setting and disarming traps, picking locks, fixing a car, etc.)
In a conflict, you could automatically get 1d6, plus 1d6 for each Trait you wish to apply from that category. You may apply as many Traits as you wish from that category, from none to all of them.
If a vampire gets into a fight, and, say, he has the Physical Traits of: "Vampire Strength," "Combat Training," and "A Concealed Handgun," he could choose to bid all three or only one or two. Perhaps he doesn't want to draw the gun or reveal he's a vampire or reveal his training, so he just rolls the base 1d6. Maybe he uses his unarmed skills to deal with the threat, rolling his base 1d6 plus 1d6 for the Trait (total 2d6). If he revealed that he was packing heat, he'd get an extra 1d6, for 3d6, without revealing he was a vampire. If he went all-out, fangs dripping and eyes glowing, he'd roll 4d6.
The highest total wins that “round.” The first one to 3 “won rounds” is the victor, and has complete authority to narrate the scene, except that player characters can't die or be permanently altered without the player's approval.
The losing character loses the use of all Traits used in the Conflict. The Traits stay gone at until the next session, then return at a rate of 1 per session. In other words, for the rest of this session, all of the traits are gone. Next session, one of them returns. The session after that, another Trait returns, and so on until they're all back. The “wounded” character's player decides which lost Traits return when.
Traits return at a rate of one per category per session, so if a character lost a fight (Physical) and a got severely dissed at a debate (Social), he'd regain 1 Physical and 1 Social Trait each session until all of his Traits had returned.
The character who starts the conflict is called the “Acting” character, and the other character is the “Resisting” character. The Acting character chooses what Category the conflict uses (Physical, Social, etc), and narrates the basic beginnings of the conflict. The Resisting character can only use Traits from the Category that the Acting character chose. Other than that, there is no difference between the two.
For example, you get socially jumped, with a person trying to spread rumors about you and ruin your reputation. You have to resist that with Social traits. If you want to beat little miss Gossip Ghoul down (and who wouldn't?), you have to resolve the rumors first, then begin the Physical/Combat challenge. You can't just apply your Physical Traits against her Social Traits.
Whoever wins the best 3 out of 5 challenge gets to narrate the results, whether it's the Acting or Resisting character. So if you beat Gossip Ghoul in the Social Challenge, you could narrate how you masterfully reveal that she's the one behind the malicious rumors, showing everyone what a petty, scheming fool she is, and thus giving her a major Social penalty.
Multiple Characters in a Conflict: In this case, each side rolls 1d6, plus any Traits bid by any of the characters on that side. Everything else is the same.
Optional Rule: The first character to get 2 “won rounds” can shut the action down there, calling it basically a draw (if it's 2 wins to 1) or a slight/partial victory (if it's 2 wins to 0). The winning character's player gets to narrate what causes the fight to stop. Optionally, if the losing character is particularly driven to continue the fight, she can overrule the stoppage and continue. In this case, nobody loses any Traits, and the only real result is that they can't immediately start the Conflict over. It has been resolved, either as a stalemate or as a slight victory.
Optional Rule: Characters can take Negative Traits to round out their characters (maybe they get a free positive trait for each 2 negative traits taken, or maybe they get bonus experience points when a negative trait comes up). If a character has a negative trait, and the enemy knows about it and can exploit it (that is, call it out and say “and I brought a crucifix with me, because I know your breed of vampire is 'Afraid of Holy Objects'”), the enemy can use it as an additional positive trait.
Some Negative Traits stretch across categories: for example, “Afraid of Holy Objects” would certainly affect Physical tests (like combat), but would also affect Social Tests (like hypnotism). In this situation, write the Negative Trait into each category in which it applies, and count each category as a separate Negative Trait. So “Afraid of Holy Objects” would count as two Negative Traits, one Physical and one Social.
Optional Rule: You could even make the system a bit more complex and have certain Traits (like superhuman abilities) count as 1d8 or 1d10.
Optional Rule: If you were doing this face to face and didn't want to do all the math of an xd6 and sum system, do it as a 50% (heads-tails, odd-evens) dice pool, using whatever dice are handy. Thus, if you rolled 4d6, you could get 0 to 4 successes, rather than a total of 4-24).
Both Human-scale Traits and Superhuman Powers would fall into The Five Categories.
Some examples from vampire lore.
Physical – Vampire Strength, Superhuman Speed, Claws, Invulnerability, Turn to Wolf,
Stealth – Superhuman Senses, Animal Spies, Mist Form, Turn to Bat, Cloaked in Shadows
Social – Hypnotize, Inhuman Beauty, Inhuman Charm, Aura Reading, Mind Reading
Intellectual – Ancient Wisdom, Mind Reading (a SEPARATE trait from Social Mind Reading)
Mechanical – I'm at a bit of a loss here from traditional sources, but a Psychic Machine Link works.
Sometimes you can have the same Trait in more than one category (such as the Mind Reading) example above. If you want it to work across categories, you need to “take” it once for each category. So if you have “Mind Reading” that helps in Social and Intellectual situations, that counts as two Traits. If it's so quick it helps in combat, then add it to your Physical category, and count it as three Traits. However, you could have Mind Reading that only helps in one of the categories, and it would count as one Trait.