Monday, June 14, 2010

I didn't know the SLA had a Yukon chapter..

The excitement of reading the following snippet of chat is one big reason why I love sharing RPGs with new people:

: oh man! so could we maybe work together to come up with a rpg sometime? i have a couple random ideas percolating but it'd be fun to get yer thoughts and stuff
10:09 AM me: dude write 'em down
i absolutely want to hear your thoughts
can i quote what you just said on my blag, btw? :)
Rebecca: cool!

This chat came on the heels of me and B playing some Fiasco the other night; as soon as we'd finished, pretty much, B told me she had some ideas for a game design of her own. I swear, RPGs just do this to people, and it's awesome.
Onto the game: a couple of adult siblings return to their childhood home, a science station in northern Canada. They find a body with an old friend's photo nail-gunned to the chest, and proceed to get into all sorts of acid-dropping, cult-following, full-auto gunfire kind of fun.
Things were a little slow at first, as B got a sense of what the game expected of her, so to speak. She relied a lot on describing the internal state of characters in her control, and we definitely (in general) had a somewhat fast and loose "ownership" of various characters.
Given that there were only two players, sometimes it got a little funky deciding who would play whom. Overall, though, we made it work.
The setup was something she really, really enjoyed (as did I), and I think that's wicked-cool: I love me some randomized plot-seed generation!
The game definitely suffered a little for our paucity of players in that the dice system didn't *quite* work as planned - during the Tilt, you're going to appoint only two players to share elements for the big twist, pretty much guaranteed. Only two. So, naturally, the giving-away-dice rule for Act One was a little meaningless, in our situation. Still, as a learning game, it was fine.

Speaking of which, I pulled two little tweaks (quite transparently, to my credit) to make things easier, especially at first - we rolled to see who would go first, and then I suggested, when the dice went B's way, that she be the one to *choose* who went first. She chose me, iirc ^_^ Secondly, I would often ask her whether she'd rather Establish or Resolve the scene when it was my turn (partly, admittedly, because I was cool with whatever and I didn't often have huge scene ideas between scenes, only during them).

Overall, I think the game would benefit (for me) by playing it with the recommended 3+ people, just to see how that'd go. Also, Fiasco's in-scene mechanics are very hand-wavey; dice-rolling and number-counting definitely bracket the Acts, and we have a Tilt and an Aftermath in there, too, but, man, mid-scene, it's kind of weird when violence happens and nobody has any mechanical way of saying how it's going to go down.

The setup system is so friggin' cool, though, that I think a little early-00's style "story-vision" (i.e. "like, man, we don't want our system to get in the way of your ideas!") in the design is tolerable :)

Now we're onto discussing her idea for a game about patients in a medical facility who are trying to escape. An idea for a skill/trait: I Feel Fine, used to pass for a normie when needed and, maybe, to resist the staffers' attempts to administer treatment. It's very avant garde and intriguing in its subject matter; go Becca! ^_^

Saturday, June 12, 2010


So - I've been thinking a lot about using a mancala board as the main tool for a resolution mechanic; it occurs to me that there's an additional idea I had that might be good to throw in on top.
Basically, you have Friends.
Well, let's back up. As our good friend Sheikh recommended here, you have skill levels in the mancala resolution -game thing. Sooo here's how we frame them: each character has a set of things they're good at OR resources they alone (or alone-ish) can exploit.

There are three types of characters: the Main (the star!), Cotagonists (co-stars/first among equals), and the Omnes (everybody else). If you have a Main, a clear outlier (in importance) among the characters (someone like Elric, Dr. House, or Dexter [from Dexter, natch]), then that character gets three skills/assets, with ratings of 6 and 1. If you have Cotagonists, they have skill ratings of 4, 3, and 1.
Omnes have pretty much one rating for everything they do, based on their importance in the story/to their protagonistic nemesis. That rating can be anywhere between 1 and 6, with 6 being reserved for the central antagonist in the story. Alternately, obstacles or other not-person barriers to the players could be rated accordingly - the Sea of Swords ( a vast swath of rock formations, zero water, and maybe bandits) merits a 4 if it's a grand but not final obstacle to getting deeper into the Southlands. I dunno.

So. You pick your assets, and now we make Friendships a little more clear. Friendships have two steps in 'em - two times you can take advantage of this relationship before that person wants nothing to do with you. Theoretically, a given Friend could be a group of people instead.
The point of Friendships, beyond the social assets they provide (i.e it's good to be cozy with some people), is that they provide assets you don't have. This is super-important - in conflict, retreat is (nearly) always an option, so if you hit a wall, you can go back and find someone to help you. If you use a Friend's asset in place of your own on the mancala board, reduce your connection to that Friend by one step.
If you reduce your connection to zero steps, that relationship is either over or on hiatus - that Friend doesn't want to have anything to do with you or refuses to help you. You can get back in their good graces again, though - with Laurels! A Laurel is any sort of favor, gift, honor, or what have you that the Friend would actually appreciate, as defined by whoever's playing that Friend. One Laurel restores one step.

I advise that player to push for all they can get from the situation, but what they demand must be something the other player is capable of giving. I see no problem at all with demanding something the supplicant can't currently give - that'd be the beginning of a quest, I suppose!

Two more things about Laurels - first, you can determine what's "fitting" in one of three ways: the supplicant may decide privately what he's going to give the Friend, and maybe give it unasked as well, in play; both parties may discuss, out of character, what would be appropriate, and run a scene wherein the giving occurs, if necessary; OR the Friend may announce, in play, what his/her desire or demand might be.
So - talk about it out of character, or one party springs it on another. Or talk about it in-character, I guess, but only if it's interesting.
Second thing: new or brief Friendships - if you can only make contact with a stranger, or someone who will only interact with you for a short time (someone you meet on the road, or suchlike), then you and the player of the Omnes can discuss what you might need to give this person to get them to do you a favor. Once you've gained, and used up, one step with this person, it's likely that the relationship, such as it is, will dissolve on the spot, but it may be that the Omnes character is well-liked by the group, and either sticks around or returns sometime later in some form.
So. That, combined with a mancala-based resolution mechanic, and I think we have a game starting to form. :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

from the BAD IDEAS thread...

at - - an awesome thread, if ever I've seen one. Basically, what is your crazy or absurd or "stupid" idea for a game? There are some gems here.

A game that incorporates mancala into its conflict rules.
Scoring goals gets you closer to your objectives in the scene and capturing enemy stones trips up your opposition from reaching theirs. Getting extra turns means either you get to build on your success OR you just take an extra turn on the board!
It occurs to me that one of two things should happen when a given game of mancala is over - either the conflict has been settled between the two characters in question, or the story itself is over. Ooh! Because the mancala round ends, the *current* conflict is over. The next time you start a round, it coincides with a new conflict starting for your character. If you resolve the main conflict of the story and you're in the middle of a round, that conflict is resolved as part of a denouement or is continued in the next tale.

Oh, man. I have got to think up answers for things like "number of goals scored" or "number of stones captured". Woot.
[... goes to get a mancala board]