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..

Chat with Jonathan: psychological issues and destructive Dependencies

28 10 2007

Jonathan: so i like character creation
but it’s hard to see how it works yet
are you going to be putting stones back into the glass?
basic things like that would be helpful to know
i don’t quite get the symbolism yet
though i guess i could read your newest post…

me: Yes, but I’m not sure how that’s going to work yet– I think adding the stones back are going to be part of recovery
hahahaha, well, I didn’t address that in it; the new post is basically the products of brainstorming last night and me jotting down the mechanical issues I need to figure out
I should add that to the post, actually, about adding stones back

Jonathan: also, i think you make it too easy to return to recover after giving into your obsession
giving into self-destructive behaviors often makes it easier to continue to give into them
it’s not always just a one-time deal in the midst of positive movement

me: right

Jonathan: so i don’t know what kind of timeline you want attached to things like this

me: Well, that’s why you have to spend all of your Dependency Points resisting recovery before you can try to improve

Jonathan: it could be semi-random but in a highly “exploding way” right?
roll a die, if you get 4-6, reroll
with each die extending things by a day or whatever
wait, i thought dependencies did help recovery; so how does recovery actually happen, then?

me: right
Here’s what happens
When you’re fighting your Obsession, Dependencies help you do that.
Dependency Points are spent when your Dependencies fail you.
When you run out of Dependency Points, you give in to your Obsession. All of your Dependency Points, including your Obsession Point, go into the glass
Mechanically speaking, all of those points are now dedicated to your Obsession
You spend them resisting treatment and ruining the things which were important to you, because nothing matters to you but your Obsession

Jonathan: right

me: Once your points are spent– once you’ve fucked up everything– then you have a moment of realization and can get back to recovery

Jonathan: how do you decide when you want your Obsession and need to use Dependencies?

me: I haven’t gotten that far– or rather, I sort of have, but I’m not sure how to mechanize it

Jonathan: also, can you put your Dependency points in, say, coping strategies?
whether healthy or unhealthy ones?
because that could get really ugly and you wouldn’t even need to make them a secondary Obsession
if you had strategies like burning yourself

me: Right
I think part of the game is going to involve replacing destructive dependencies with healthy alternatives, but uh, I haven’t mechanized that either

Jonathan: there could be a trade off or something
i think you need a health stat
or more than one, maybe
and you can trade some destructive beahaviors for others, but that still slowly kills you
maybe more slowly than before, though
but if you can start getting dependencies that don’t cause you damage, but are still affective
that’s clearly a step in the right direction
but less self-destructive dependencies aren’t as effective
they don’t FEEL as good

me: Right, yes

Jonathan: so you need more of them or need to have lessened your Obsession in order to really make use of them

me: Right
I’m starting to think that there needs to be more than one Obsession Point in the beginning

Jonathan: well, you need a way of tracking progress

me: So that you can lessen the hold the Obsession has

Jonathan: i was thinking, originally, that the cup represented how much you could be Obsessed without totally dying or flipping out or whatever
and you’d fill it with stones until it overflowed, at which point you were lost
but i guess that’s not what you intended

me: Ah, no, not really
It’s about the void that needs to be filled

Jonathan: ah, okay

me: And if you’re not allowing yourself to need your Obsession, you need SOMEthing
If it’s empty, the emptiness eats you alive

Jonathan: seems like you need to figure out the other end, not how people are saved, but how people are lost
you could model it, i guess, by having people put all their dependencies in really unhelthy things
and say, like, if you have Burning Myself 10, you end up in the hospital or something

me: Right

Jonathan: seems like the game is about hope, though
so maybe you don’t want to have absolute rules for destruction

me: right

Jonathan: but players can choose to stop playing if they grow tired of it, and narrate some kinda endgame for their character

me: But part of what I want is to show the realization that.. I mean, on the surface, it looks like the Dependency failure mechanism makes a character’s recidivism everyone/thing else’s fault, and not the character’s
Because the things the character trusted failed them
But there needs to be something to show the evolution that it’s not about the rest of the world failing the addict, it’s about the addict’s unrealistic expectations of the world

Jonathan: hmm, that sounds like a bone that’s especially important for you to pick

me: Part of the reason addicts blame the world initially is because it’s easier than blaming themselves; but once you realize the blame is on your shoulders, that can be overwhelming too
So then it becomes a struggle between giving in to destructive behavior or altering your expectations

Jonathan: right
that’ll be interesting to model

The products of brainstorming

28 10 2007

As I finish more of the actual rules for Addict, I’ll be adding them to their own page. The chargen rules I posted yesterday are already there for posterity’s sake.

I spent some time last night shooting the game around with the fine folks in #indierpgs, and I’m really pleased with the feedback I’ve gotten so far. Mostly, Addict has gotten a pretty warm reception– the only thematic concern someone raised is that it seems too close to the actual experience of addiction for it to appeal to people who have experienced any serious physical dependence. I’ll take that as a compliment too! Not every game is for everyone. If it’s a game about psychological and emotional exploration, and you’ve already tackled that territory in your own life, it makes sense that the game would not appeal to you.

I’ve also realized that I’m at a point where I need to make some big decisions on how the game progresses mechanically. The important thing about Addict is that it is both painful and hopeful; character creation is miserable because it is supposed to create someone who is desperate and broken. Once that’s done, the rest of the game becomes about fixing yourself.

Dependency Points are spent when your Dependencies fail you. When you feel the temptation of your Obsession, you can resist it by using a Dependency– going to church or smoking a cigarette or calling your girlfriend. PCs who are Dependencies can fail you– when you reach for a Dependency and it fails, you spend a Dependency Point. This leads to a question Liam had, which is the first mechanical issue I need to figure out: when Dependencies are not PCs, what decides when they succeed or fail? I’m not sure I want to go with a dice mechanic, and I’m definitely not sure I want to completely leave it up to player discretion. I’d like some kind of “loaded random” system, where depending on external factors, one outcome is more probable than the other, but there’s a chance it could go either way. I’m not sure how to make that work.

When you’re out of Dependency Points, you give in to your Obsession. Your points refill themselves, and your Obsession point is added into the pool; however, every point has to be spent resisting recovery before you can go back to trying to make yourself better and re-allot your Dependency Points. Whatever Dependency failed you and caused your recidivism is completely broken away; it can no longer be something you depend on, because it failed you when you needed it most. This leads to another thing: Liam told me that giving in to your Obsession should have more positive mechanical benefits. I’m not sure I agree; essentially, the way it works is that when your Obsession Point is in your Dependency pool, you feel completely fulfilled, even if you’re not. When the Obsession Point is the only point you haven’t spent, you hit rock bottom and you can return to fixing your life. Re-alloting your investment in your Dependencies and completely breaking free of one are, I guess, benefits; but I’m not sure how to express the fake fulfillment of recidivism. I also want it to be bad, but not too punish-y; recidivism is so common in all forms of dependency and addiction that it’s almost like an invisible 13th step.

Something else someone mentioned, which is a fairly common thing in reality that I’d like to somehow reflect mechanically: what happens when a Dependency becomes a second Obsession? Can you backslide and end up in the throes of two Obsessions at once? What determines when a Dependency becomes an Obsession?

Shreyas thinks this game would be even more awesome if the rules could somehow involve actual alcohol. I am already concerned that people will concentrate too heavily on the idea of substance abuse and not on the other, more hidden obsessions that ruin our lives, so I think I’ll let that suggestion slide. Also, most real life games I’ve been in started at 10 or 11 AM on weekends; that’s just a little early for booze for me, but whatever. It’s 5 PM somewhere in the world, right?