Who I wish you were

7 05 2008

So I had a breakthrough on my paper-doll Pygmalion game, Created, yesterday at work. Everything in that post still stands, pretty much.

There are five slots for clothing, right: head, arms, feet, chest, legs. That’s also the order of play, because this is a relationship game. A relationship game where you don’t get under-the-sweater action until the fourth date, apparently. (Not that this game is going to progress in dates.)

The clothes for each slot will be available in two primary colors, and one secondary color. The primaries will represent a personality dichotomy. Example:

Head: Beauty (Yellow) vs. Wit (Red)

Arms: Building (Blue) vs. Performing (Red)

Feet: Grounded (Red) vs. In Clouds (Blue)

Chest: Armored (Red) vs. Bared Heart (Yellow)

Legs: Planted (Blue) vs. Wandering (Yellow)

We’re sticking with primary colors because we’ll need some differentiation for the special third piece of clothing for each slot, which is a secondary color made up of the two primaries. This third piece of clothing (purple, orange, or green depending) represents coming to a halfway point. You can’t start with a piece of secondary clothing, and there is only one piece per clothing slot.

Every time you choose a piece of clothing in character generation, you also write a secret desire/imperfection beneath the piece of clothing which is in opposition to the clothing’s trait. Example: Alexis chooses “Feet: On the ground” on her turn. Beneath the clothing, she writes “I wish you’d dream of something more.” During conflict resolution, when the clothes come off, this secret desire for that character will be revealed.

After resolution, two things happen: first, both characters change the article of clothing for that scene, to reflect how the other person has permanently affected their personality. The change can either be to the opposite color or to the secondary color– but there is only one piece of secondary clothing, so someone changes completely and the other person changes partially.

The second thing that happens is that the desire gets replaced with a lesson. Whereas the desire was written in the voice of the second character, the lesson is written in the voice of the character whose sheet it is.

I realize this is complicated and I’m not explaining super well, because my notes are spotty and I’m not caffeinated. Here is an Example!

CHEST

Douglas has chosen Armored (Red), and Jenny has chosen Bared Heart (Yellow).

The secret desire written on Jenny’s character by Douglas says “I wish you were less sensitive.”

The secret desire written on Douglas’ character by Jenny says “I wish you’d tell me about your past.”

There’s conflict, which I’ve not written the rules for yet.

Jenny replaces Bared Heart (Yellow) with Armored (Red).

Jenny replaces her desire with a lesson: “I won’t let anyone in.”

Douglas replaces his Armored (Red) with Compromise (Orange).

Douglas replaces his desire with a lesson: “I am not an island.”

Essentially the game is about how we’re profoundly affected by the people we love, whether we want to be or not, and how– no matter how sure you are that you want something– sometimes you can never be sure what it is you want at all.

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Playing to win

12 12 2007

Over on the Knife Fight, there’s been a ton of talk today about the idea of “playing to win” as it pertains to RPGs, as opposed to game games, like chess or poker or parcheesi. Vincent in particular seems really compelled by this idea, and it sounds like there are a lot of people with different ideas of “winning,” and people who think “winning” is impossible in an RPG anyway.

This is really interesting to me in the context of Audeamus, because it’s very much a game which can be won or lost. As I mentioned before, the conflict resolution mechanic is to stack dice towers; there’s going to be a map, with various points where you can start your tower. When the tower falls, where the dice fall on the map determine the type of effect you get, and the number of dice in each section determines the intensity of the effect. If your tower falls before you’re done stacking your dice, the other dice go unused, and this weakens the possible outcome– so even if you succeed, it won’t be quite the success you were hoping for.

One of the things you can do is take dice from other players and replace them– so if you’re trying to sabotage another senator’s agenda, you can exploit their weakness, take one of their d6s, and replace it with a d20. (Or d4, if you’re being a butt.) The less stable their dice are, the more quickly the tower will fall, the less dice they get to use.

But here’s the thing. The other really important part of this concept is the creed– sticking to your personal code of honor. If that’s what’s most important to your character, you can win by never compromising your creed, even if it means losing your agenda in the senate. Or, you can win by getting your agenda in the senate, even if it means sacrificing everything else that’s important to you.

Hm. Looking at that, it sounds like it’s less a win-loss mechanic, and more just points to the idea of hard choices. I don’t know. What’s it look like to you?





Chat with Charlotte: randomizing, and storytelling vs. minigames

11 12 2007

meSo we should talk more about Audeamus

Like do we want to die types of dice into types of support, or types of traits

 Charlottewell let’s see, we have how many die types?  20, 12, 8, 6, 4

10

 meYes

And we have four types of traits– Things You’ve Experienced, Things You Can Do, Things You Know, and Things You Believe

 Charlotteoh i was thinking about being able to start with a division between number of dice and number of bases, btw, that would be different for each ‘class’

 meWhat do you mean

I’m kind of out of it but it sounds interesting

 Charlotteok say there’s a total of 5 starting slots for things.  the things that can be in it are dice and bases.  bases meaning number of towers you’re allowed to start

so one class has 1 base, but starts with 4 dice.  another can make up to 4 bases but only has 1 die to start with

so one class starts with power but is fragile, the other one starts slow and has a broader base of options later

because you can’t knock down 4 towers of 1 each

 meThat’s an elegant way to balance

I think Gladiators and commoners would probably have the one base, and patricians have the 4 bases

 CharlotteI think so too [smile]

and maybe another class has a 2/3 split

 meWell, like

 Charlotte(maybe 5 is too wide?)

 meTo be more specific, non-senate citizens could have the 2/3 split, since they are essentially the “middle class” if I’m remembering my roman history right

We’re going to have to start on the research soon

 Charlotteooh good

booo research!

 meSo maybe the dice you earn through your own actions– by being true to your creed, for example– are the stable ones

 Charlotteooh

 meAnd the less stable dice are the ones you earn by playing to other people’s creeds

 Charlotteman it would suck to be most gladiators with a code of honor

 meAnd if you betray yourself by going against your creed, that’s when someone else can take one of your d6s and replace it with a d12 or something

 Charlotted4! d4!

meIt depends on the code though

I mean, being a gladiator with the code “Death before Dishonor” would be okay

 Charlottetrue!

unless you consider it dishonorable to fight someone whose skill is so far below yours it’s more like murder

 memmm

So here’s my question

When does the dice-stacking happen

Or do the stacks just hang out the whole time

 Charlottewhen you get or lose dice

and they have to stay up for x time

(and you can leave them up the rest of the time, but falling only counts during the countdown)

 meWhen you get or lose dice, do you have to rebuild from scratch

 Charlottebecause otherwise the aforementioned cold could break the game

 meYou know, Jonathan had a pretty interesting idea for a randomizer

 Charlotteoh?

 meInstead of rolling dice, it’s how the dice land when the towers fall

 Charlottehmm!

so like a target map

 meMaking the most of the pieces of your shattered self-power

No, still with numbers

 Charlottewith bases, and then falling areas

ooh i see

 meAlthough falling areas is a really compelling idea too

But then we’d need maps

 Charlottemaps = penis

hahaha

 meThis is going to be the most Gamist game about difficult decisions and personal integrity ever

 Charlottehahaha

YES





Audeamus

10 12 2007

So I woke up this morning with a new game in my head. This is irksome, because I really need to rewrite Complicated, and this game in my head is dense and intense and even requires research, but I think it will be awesome, and Char is going to work on it with me, and.. Yeah. I’m really excited. It’s tentatively titled Audeamus, which means “Let us dare.”

It is a historical non-fantasy game about ancient Rome– this big, grand, bloody, decadent thing teetering on collapse and senators vying for what little power they can grab before it all comes apart. There will be senators and gladiators and Christians and lions and citizens and rebels and prisoners. The theme is basically about discovering just how much of yourself and your principles you are willing to sacrifice in order to get what you want.

Alea iacta est

The main mechanic we’ve got is dice-stacking. No, not what you’re thinking. You earn dice in various ways– all different types, from d4 to d20. You collect them, and you stack them. You can sabotage other players by stealing their dice, or replacing more stable dice with less stable ones. When dice fall, Something Happens.

Nosce te ipsum

Character creation works something kind of like this. The first thing you decide is What You Are. You are a senator, or a gladiator, or a citizen, or a rebel, or a Christian, or who knows. What You Are determines what categories you can choose your attributes from.

(This part is, I believe, kind of a riff from the way Jonathan handles charms in his Exalted hack. Thanks Jonathan!)

There are four types of attributes: What You’ve Experienced, What You Can Do, What You Know, and What You Believe. This isn’t fleshed out, but just an example:

I am a senator. I’ve helped send men to their deaths just to make a point. I can bend the ear of Caesar’s most trusted advisor. I have studied astronomy, and I believe in death before dishonor.

Eventually, the examples will be more flowery and compelling, but you get the idea. What You Believe ties into your creed– something like “Virtue is the only nobility” or “Let them hate, so long as they fear” or “The world is not enough”– which is the cornerstone of your tower and the foundation your character has built itself upon. If you act in a way which is contrary to your creed, you can lose dice or be otherwise affected; by betraying yourself, you give other characters the opportunity to hit you where it hurts, because you have shown weakness of character.





Battle of the boards

3 12 2007

I’ve been plugging away at Retrospective, and the introduction and game prep sections are now on a page! Just click the “Retrospective” tab at the top of my blog. Now I just need to tackle the “How to Play” section..

So, I’ve been getting poked a lot about It’s Complicated lately, which has really been forcing my hand with the editing and the revising and stuff. I still haven’t finished altering the rules, but the changes are simple enough; the main reason I have not updated the page or PDF is because I can’t do that until I have a new character sheet for the diagrams!

Here are the two contestants:

sheet_small.jpgSo this was the original thought I had. Yes, you can move between all four lines, but you can only hit a line adjacent to yours; that means that the middle two lines have more play options than the outlying lines. This creates a ton more space, but also could make things more difficult for purposes of connection. It would definitely slow down the “mess” factor which tends to happen toward the end of a round, where you can’t make a move without having to declare a relationship with everyone else playing.

sheet2_small.jpgThis second sheet was based on a bunch of “OMG” feedback I got from the first one. JR Dowda spent a not-insignificant amount of time scribbling out alternate layouts, since his reaction to new sheet #1 was so strong. (It’s nice to have people that invested in this project, even if it’s demonstrated by HATRED OF SIGNIFICANT GAME CHANGES!) This one offers less choices, but is still a freer experience than the original board. I’m not certain it solves the “mess” problem, though, so much as it delays the mess until later. Which might be just the thing I’m looking for, actually.

I’ve got some people who want to run one game with both boards and see how it goes; hopefully we’ll be able to get some extra players and try that this week. In the meantime, hypotheticals and thoughts on both are more than welcome. 🙂





It’s Complicated: Playtest #2

27 11 2007

I wanted to do a quick playtest of the new Complicated rules I’d been bandying about in my brain before I actually committed them to paper. (The only major change: a pre-round where you make lines, declare Oddities and Dysfunctions, but the lines don’t touch and you don’t have scenes about them.)

Fortunately, Char, Shreyas, and Jason P were up for helping me out last night. It was a pretty good game, although having started so late at night, everyone was pretty tired by the last scene (which was still full of mayhem and fun). It was nice to test the variety of settings It’s Complicated can handle, too; the first game had a very low Oddity threshhold, was set in modern-day, and revolved around assassins who were out of work due to their union being on strike. This game was about dysfunctional elves in a toy factory, so the Oddity threshhold was much higher. Everyone was so tired by the end of the game that we haven’t had a postmortem yet, but I wanted to get down my thoughts on the game before I forget them; I’ll probably post stuff from the game discussion later (or invite the playtesters to come comment).

  • Playtest #1 had more narrative interest because we established a situation– the assassins were on strike. We didn’t have any kind of “current event” context for the elves, which made it feel like there was no particular plot, which lessened the impact of the reveals. I guess this is one of those little details that seems like it should be obvious, but needs to go in the rules. (It’s not THAT obvious if even I forgot about it. :P)
  • Jason said that the game lost some of its shine when it got to the point where you HAD to cross two or three players every time you moved; I think that was a product of the new rule– starting with at least four lines on the board, you get to that point much more quickly. The good thing about playing out the establishing round in the first playtest was that, although the first scenes were slow, the slower build into complexity seemed a lot more engaging and less.. frenetic. There’s gotta be a happy medium..
  • The game took off in a much nicer, cleaner fashion by having everyone establish quirks and oddities before the start of the game. We seemed to have a better handle on who our characters were, which made it easier for them to interact; also, we didn’t really bother with declaring the nature of every relationship before a scene– we just let it unfold naturally, most of the time, and that worked really well.

The differences in Dysfunctions and Oddities between the two games was really interesting to me, as well. If you’re curious, the ending gameboards are here:

Playtest 1: Assassins on strike

Playtest 2: Dysfunctional elves





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.