Addict: First draft DONE!

11 11 2007

I’m completely psyched! All initial work on Addict is done. I’m sure it will need some fine-tuning once it gets playtested, but all the basics and the guts of the game are all there. Please check it out and let me know what you think; there’s the big shift in rules (from the three different point mechanics to the unified balancing thing, and new rules to encourage working together), and of course, lots of technical writing, which I’m not convinced is my strong suit.

My goal is to get either this or It’s Complicated playtested before Shreyas and I go on our monumental JiffyCon road trip on Wednesday. Will it happen? Time will tell! I’m really hoping so. Complicated is rough, because it takes a minimum of four players; Addict may be rough because chargen is so involved. Maybe we can do something like Shreyas did with Skyflower, and run a playtest of chargen only. We’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see.

Big ups to the fine folks of #indierpgs helping me talk through the endgame stuff, and everyone else I’ve bothered with this nonsense over the last two weeks. (Note to said people: you’re not out of the woods yet.)

Balancing Act

6 11 2007

So I think I have a more unified mechanic for Addict. Having three separate systems for resolution wasn’t very elegant, so I’ve been trying to think for the last few days about a system which could take care of all three. My daughter woke me up insanely early this morning and did not want to hang out in my room, so I got my spiral notebook and a mechanical pencil and hashed this out analogue-style.

Sure, addiction is about filling a void– but that’s the addiction itself. Trying to kick the addiction, which is what the game is about, is a careful balancing act. You need things to lean on until you’re strong enough to not need crutches; you have to be dependent on something, but if you’re too dependent, it will be impossible to ever walk on your own.

You start with 8 Obsession Points, 4 Resolve Points, and 4 Dependency Points. Assign those Dependency Points to between 2-4 Dependencies. This creates balance! If you ever have more Obsession Points than you have in combined Resolve and Dependency Points, you relapse.

When you relapse, your Dependency Points go away; the only way to get back to balance is by burning off Obsession Points by injuring your relationships and resisting recovery.

When you face a Trigger, you gain a point of Obsession. You then call on a Dependency to restore balance; roll a d10. If the result is 1 or 2, you lose a point of Dependency and gain a point of Obsession. (Since you are able to have more points in your Dependency/Resolve pool than Obsession, this will not always send you into relapse.) If the result is 3-6, you neither gain nor lose, and must try again. If you get 7-10, you successfully get another Dependency point.

However! If you ever gain points in a single Dependency which are equal to your Obsession Points, that Dependency becomes another Obsession. Those points are removed from the game, which may send you into relapse.

This seems more complicated but perhaps less confusing; I don’t know. I have a niggling sensation that it might not be a great idea to write crunch at 7 AM.

I also had a weird idea last night/this morning for a paper-doll based Pygmalion game inspired by Lucky Boys Confusion and Mike Errico.  It is probably too nuts to ever possibly publically explain without embarrassment. And also, man, it would be nice to have ideas which do not revolve around dysfunctional relationships; why are functional relationships so boring for exploration with roleplaying? I’d like to think it’s because functional relationships are ground which is richly covered by real life, but that might be naivete.

Overall game themes

2 11 2007

I was talking with Liam last night about a bunch of thematic stuff in regards to Addict; naturally my computer crashed in the night, I did not have the foresight to save the log, and I barely remember the conversation because it occured at 1 AM. What I do remember seems pretty important, though, so I’ll post about it, and I’m sure everything else will show up in bits and pieces later.

I’ve got an important question, and please, if you’ve been stopping by here much at all, I would love if you’d answer it for me: to you, what do you see this game as being about?

Liam doesn’t like the rules which tie the characters together socially and emotionally, because he believes this game is just as affective if it’s about four drunks dying alone. I was surprised, because– as I keep saying– this is not supposed to be a game specifically about substance abuse. It’s a game about recovering from dysfunction and obsession, whatever those dysfunctions or obsessions are. The game in my mind was centered around dysfunctional relationships– because your relationship with your Obsession is so dysfunctional, ALL of your relationships become dysfunctional. I am starting to get the feeling that this is not what my game does well.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to appropriately model the experience of addiction and recovery, which can be a rewarding narrative on its own; since addiction is such an intensely nuanced thing, I don’t know that there’s room in the system for even more relationship-based mechanics than I’ve got, or how much that would muddy the experience. And, I mean, addiction is essentially a relationship between the addict and the obsession; everything else really is incidental. So if this really is where this game is headed, I can accept that.

I’m thinking that once I’ve got Addict in a marginally workable, first-draft-completion kind of form, I’m going to take the lessons I learned here and write a game that really focuses on quirky, broken dynamics between emotionally close people, within a family or close group of friends. Probably with a lighter tone, because man, addiction is Sadville USA, population: one.

Maybe someday I’ll write a game about happy, functional people having healthy relationships and, I don’t know, hugging puppies and planting flowers. We’ll see.


1 11 2007

I rewrote the rules on the Addict page for the sake of clarity, and added an additional step to chargen. I was going to make step four part of play, however, it dovetailed too nicely with the concept of Triggers.

Let me know what you think!

From desire to obsession

1 11 2007

I’ve been thinking about the mechanics for deciding how Dependencies fail, and how they can turn into obsessions in their own right. This is what I’ve got so far; it’s sort of sketchy, and needs refinement.

You have twelve Dependency points, which you divide between 2-4 Dependencies. When your Dependencies are allotted, choose your Triggers– the things which tempt you to indulge in your Obsession. Some Triggers can (should!) be based on your Dependencies– things which can happen regardless of whether you’re attempting to use them to resist Obsession or not. And keep in mind, the sensitivity of a Trigger should be in proportion to its importance to you– if you have “Best friend 2” and “Girlfriend 10,” you might be Triggered when your best friend stands you up for already established plans.. But you might be Triggered if your Girlfriend didn’t call to say good morning. The more you are invested in something, the more you expect from it.

When you face a Trigger, you have one of three choices:

  • Allow yourself to give in. If, for whatever reason, you feel it’s best for your character’s story to relapse, that’s fine.
  • Spend a point of Resolve. This allows you to automatically resist the Trigger without a roll, although you do lose the point of Resolve when you do this. The next time you complete a step, however, you get all your spent Resolve back.
  • Use a Dependency. Dependencies are a gambling mechanic, as outlined below:

Decide which Dependency you’re going to use, and declare it. Then, roll a d10; if you get between 1-3, your Dependency fails you somehow, and you lose your point of Dependency. If you get between 4-7, your Dependency succeeds, but not well enough; you keep your Dependency Point, but have to continue trying Dependencies until you get a real success or lose all of your points. If your roll is between 8-10, it succeeds; your Dependency gives you exactly what you need, and you gain an additional Dependency Point for that Dependency.

When you hit 12 points in any given Dependency, it becomes an Obsession. Treat the act of getting that 12th point the same way you’d treat losing your points and relapsing! All of your Obsession Points refill to twelve, and go back in the cup, and you have to spend everything in there resisting recovery and damaging relationships until you can finally come back and start recovery.

As you become more invested in your various Dependencies, keep track of the intensity of your Triggers and alter them accordingly.

It’s starting to look like this game is going to need a fancy character sheet, something at which I’m not particularly good. Hmmm..


30 10 2007

“I take one one one cause you left me and
Two two two for my family and
3 3 3 for my heartache and
4 4 4 for my headaches and
5 5 5 for my lonely and
6 6 6 for my sorrow and
7 7 for no tomorrow and
8 8 I forget what 8 was for and
9 9 9 for a lost God and
10 10 10 10 for everything
Everything everything everything”

-The Violent Femmes: “Kiss Off”


Please note: the mechanics here aren’t completely worked out. Unlike my previous post on point mechanics, there’s a lot here I know I still need to figure out.


The main reason that an addict indulges in an Obsession is simple: he is an addict. However, every addict has their own excuses for their behavior, and even when you’re on the road to recovery, there are weak spots– chinks in your armor which  make recidivism look particularly enticing. The situations which cause temptation are called Triggers.


Most Triggers are personal, and depend on the type of Obsession your character has, and what the character’s background is. Someone struggling to stay clear of an abusive boyfriend might feel the urge to call him when their song comes on the radio; a bullemic might feel the desire to purge when they pass by someone thin on the street. Decide where your character is weakest; those are your Triggers.


There are a few Triggers which are universal to everyone: exhaustion, intense stress, being confronted with someone else who is engaging in your Obsession, being around someone close to you who is engaging in their own Obsession, and trying– but failing– to help someone out of their Obsession and into recovery. And, of course, when a Dependency lets you down– if a Dependency fails, you must keep calling on Dependencies until you succeed or run out of points.


While it makes sense to avoid your Triggers, not all of them are avoidable, and you can’t hide from life forever and expect to get well. Eventually there will be some sort of reward for facing your Triggers– possibly facing a Trigger once nullfies or weakens it.

Obsession, Dependency, and Resolve

29 10 2007

    Big thanks to my friend Char for letting me talk through some mechanical difficulties last night. We covered a lot of good ground! I am especially excited about the Breakthrough stuff. Oooh, and Triggers. But before I get to all of that good stuff, I should probably explain Resolve; it is the other big stat in the game.

Filling the Void

“Sometimes I know that it’s never enough
Survival is fine but satisfaction is rough”

-Melissa Etheridge: “Ain’t it Heavy”

There are three types of points in this game; all three can fill the emptiness inside of you, but they do it in different ways. Essentially, they correspond to three stages of recovery.

  • Obsession Points are how invested you are in your Obsession. You start out with twelve, and lose one every time you complete a step. When you give in to your Obsession, these points refill your cup, and replenish themselves to all twelve. The points in your cup must be spent resisting recovery, and/or damaging the things which are important to you, before you can get back to progressing. These points correspond with the stage Nothing Is Enough.
  • Dependency Points are plentiful, relatively speaking; you have more of them than of any other type of point. These points do the work of recovery for you by helping resist your Obsession. When you are tempted, you may call on a Dependency; if the Dependency fails you, you lose that point. If the Dependency allows you to resist the Obsession, you come incrementally closer to turning that Dependency into a second Obsession. These points correspond with the stage Why Aren’t You Enough?
  • Resolve Points are precious and rare. When you make tangible progress in your recovery by completing a step, you exchange a point of Obsession for Resolve. If Dependency Points work on a gambling mechanism, Resolve Points work on a purchasing mechanism; you can use a point of Resolve to automatically resist the temptation to give in to your Obsession, but– since stoicism is hard!– you also lose that point. When you complete another step, all Resolve Points you have previously used are replenished. These points correspond with the stage I Am Enough.