Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Strength Of Concept

I'm thinking about this in context of using it for Imp.

So, when people make up a character, they naturally have cental things that are important to their concept for that character. Like, last time I played D&D, I wanted my fighter to have a terrible, mysterious curse. Now, I talked to the DM about it, and we pulled something together mechanically, but it's totally something that I can see being entirely in my head, and pulling it out at some point during the game, with no system support whatever. In a more pernicous form, this is the old my-guy-is-a-complete-badass problem with starting characters, where their chances for success are often low enough that the character that you envision as a complete badass fails at lots of things. Your image of the character is dissonant from how he actually plays.

I've been thinking about this solution: on your character sheet, you have a couple of different areas, Central; Important; and Interesting. As you may imagine, these mean "Central to my concept of this character," "Important to my concept of this character," and "Interesting but unnecessary part of my concept of this character." The first step of conflict resolution is Karma - compare whatever trait/s you are using. If one person is using a Central trait and the other isn't, the first wins without resorting to Fortune. If one is using Important and the other is using Interesting, the Important one gets a significant advantage to the Fortune resolution. If they are both using the same level, it goes to unmodified Fortune resolution.

I think there would also be a currency expenditure in there so that you can temporarily bump up to match the other person, if they have a higher trait then you. So there is room for underdogs.

Advantages: Flagging. It's all there on the character sheet, for everyone to see. Reduces handling time, as I envision people will tend to want to use their Central traits as often as possible.

Disadvantages: Easy to "game," I suppose. Flat-feeling resolution if you consistently face lower-trait opposition.

An interesting thing to add onto it, I think, would be something where only other people can decide if your play demonstrates a change form whats on your sheet. Like, Bob could look at Charlies sheet and be all "Dude, you haven't used "Hard Drinker" at all, and its in Central. I'm moving it to Interesting." In the context of Imp, this may very well be a power reserved for each characters Imp. Mmmm, I like that idea.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I know that people talk about it sometimes, but I have yet to see a game that allows for seamless zooming from one level of "character" to another. Which I think would be really interesting.

Take a medieval setting, divine right of kinds, all that good stuff. There are the following "levels" of character available: Human Being, Army, Country, God. They are linked thusly: A God bestows it's blessings on a Country, which enforces its interests with an Army, which is composed of Human Beings. The character sheet has a list of attributes down the left side, and the four levels across the top. So, going from left to right, you might have:

Strength|Lightning|Farmlands|Sorcerer Corps|Punching

Which means that the God's Strength is Lightning, the Countries Strength is its Farmlands, the Armies Strength is its Sorcerer Corps, and the Human Being in questions Strength is in Punching. So whenever you get into a situation that you need to resolve with Strength, you get a bonus by using that levels strength in your narration, or whatever.

I can see this being a framework for collaborative group-play centered around the saga of a given Country. You make up the details for each level (Calaberous, the God of Lightning; the Country of Greenswald; the Glorious Army of Greenswald; Karabash the Red, general of the Army), and give each one a number of positive and negative traits, and players bring in the different traits against each other when playing a scene with that level of character.

The Army level could be any gathering of people - a church congregation, a village, a household - anything thats more than a couple people. Also, maybe you could make a number of characters on each level, which relate to each other in interesting ways.

But the essential points are that the resolution system uses the "generic" traits, which get plugged in with the specific traits for whichever level of character you're playing, and thusly you can move seamlessly through the levels throughout play. Maybe with some kind of currency that you spend to access different levels (starting at individual, going up to group, and then country, and then god) for more gamist-y play.

If I ever pull together the Simmy wargame I've been thinking about, I may look into doing this kind of thing as an integrated RPG in the same setting.

Monday, January 09, 2006

"The" Combat System

(shhh....this was totally posted on Monday...)

I've been working on a combat system like this in a couple nascent designs, and it keeps on sucking. Basically, I want something where there's an element of tactics that come into who strikes first and such, which propogates through the rest of the combat. In the past I've toyed with something along these lines:

Stats are measured by die size. Each character has a Tactics stat. They can choose any dice up to the Tactics stat size (so, if you have a d8, you can choose a d4, d6 or d8). Each player in the combat does this behind their hand, secretly.

You reveal at the same time. The highest die size strikes first, but those with lower get to add their dice to whatever their roll is, and adding another dice will probably mean you win, if the initial strike doesn't kill ya. So, the trick is to get the largest die you can while still "losing" the reveal.

In practice (yes, I did playtest this), it was just...awkward. And the guys I was playing with, who are pretty sharp in general, didn't internalize it by the end of the session, so I had to explain it each time. Maybe it's just wierd that way.

But I like the basic idea, that you get rewarded for not doing the basic/easiest thing (go with your highest die, all the time), and the way that it balances out uneven opponents (a guy with a low stat will almost always get the bonus against a guy with a high stat). But thats also a problem, because it means that there's little reason to have a high fighting stat.

Some thoughts: Attach it to a dice pool system w/target numbers and sucesses. Your rating is the maximum number of die you roll in your pool, and you choose any number up to that number. If you choose lower than your opponent, you're target number is lowered by 1. If you're number is higher than your opponents and you choose lower, than your number is lowered by 2 (so thats part of the advantage of having a better Tactics skill). An easy way to visually do this: set out a number of dice equal to your full score, put your hand in front, remove down to your number choice, unreveal.

Also, part of your effectiveness can be temporarily lowering your opponents Tactics score for the duration of the combat, so if you're being stomped, you can work on that instead of trying to injure them, or whatever, to level the playing field.

A big sticking point: multiple opponents. I see something Dogs-like (and Tunnels & Trolls like, from what I understand) where a group of opponents just means bigger or different stats, not more rolls. Damage goes into reducing stats, all that good stuff.

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