Saturday, November 27, 2010

Game design by idiots, part II

Oh, how I love the way that Google Buzz doesn't link into Google Blogger...

Sam H - System wise, I like the idea.
In terms of implementation, perhaps have x number of skill slots, and the player can fill them as they first come across the need. This allows relevent skills to be useful early on (and thus preventing early death). For character advancement, new blank skill slots?

Stats - I'd let Strength apply both physically and mentally. How do you envisage the bad things for running out of a stat?

I like all the settings apart from 01A, because like you I don't see how it works

Good feedback, Sam. The idea of having instantly assignable skills is interesting, and i've seen something similar used for languages in Gumshoe games (in which you just state that you know X number of languages, and assign them as and when the need arises). 

My thinking behind the free form skill system, which I didn't articulate in the last post, is that there exists a contract between player and GM. As a player, if I buy a skill, I want, no, expect, the opportunity to use it, otherwise I expect the GM to have a quiet word and tell me to spend my XP on something else, and possibly suggest an alternative that the group may require in the next couple of sessions.
I also expect GMs to tailor challenges within a game so that they are challenging to a party, and don't require specific skills the party do not possess to overcome.
Let me rephrase that - that don't require specific skills the party do not possess to survive. There's nothing wrong with non-essential encounters that require a specific skill set to beat, as long as the main plot or the characters survival do not depend on success.
Failure builds character.

I digress.
A contract between player and GM. 
I have started writing up my system, and in it I explicitly state that a player and GM must agree on a skill as it is chosen - what it is, how it works, what it covers and most importantly that the player character is allowed to take it. 
By buying the skill, the player agrees not to take the piss, and by allowing it, the GM agrees to give the player opportunity to use it. 
This is a bit deus ex machina, but plays out like a TV serial in which a new mcguffin, fact or ability is introduced at the beginning of the episode, and oddly becomes crucial to the resolution of the plot about ten minutes from the end.

So, at character creation, I have specified that players should initially choose two skills, one which they think would be useful to the group, and one which they think is cool.
The GM then designs the game sessions to call upon these skills. All other actions should then be achievable through a basic die roll or through the expenditure of Strength, Sanity or Luck.

Also, failure on a dice roll does not have to mean that a character does not perform the action - they could still scale the wall, but twist their ankle as they climb down the other side, or hack into the bad guys computer and access his files, but download a virus at the same time.

The uses of Strength and Sanity are pretty interchangeable, you just have to come up with a reason why Sanity is applicable to the physical action you are attempting, instead of the default Strength. 

Strength also acts as a characters hit points / health levels, so it's best not to burn the one stat at the expense of the other. 

What happens if you run out of either stat?
Here's an extract from my notes:

Running on Empty
What happens when a character exhausts their reserves of StrengthSanity or Luck?
A character can lose Strength due to two reasons - they can burn it, or they can sustain damage. If a characters last point of Strength is lost due to damage, the character falls unconscious for 1d6 minutes. After this time they regain consciousness, but are weak and in great pain. They can only walk slowly, or crawl, and any sudden or vigorous exertion will cause them to pass out again for another 1d6 minutes. Any further damage sustained whilst on zero Strength permanently reduces the characters maximum Strength score. Once a characters maximum Strength score is reduced to zero, they die. Trying to burn Strength whilst in this state counts as physical exertion. If this is attempted, the character does not gain an additional d6 for their roll, and passes out upon completion.
If the final point of Strength is burnt, the character does not immediately lose consciousness, but is totally exhausted, and does not have the energy to run or exert themselves. If they sustain any damage whilst exhausted, then the character will pass out for 1d6 minutes and lose a point of their maximum Strength  score and all affects described above will take affect.
When a character loses their last point of Sanity, they become emotionally exhausted, tired and unfocussed. They are quick to tears and quick to anger. 
If a character suffers further Sanity loss whilst on zero Sanity, they can develop and suffer from any number of severe phobias, extreme rage, obsessions, compulsions, ticks, delusions, experience paranoia or fall into a catatonic or fugue state, depending on the situation that caused the Sanity loss.
Running out of Luck does not impose any mechanical penalties, and a character can still function as normal, they just cannot benefit from burning Luck points. The Narrator, however, may wish to torment the character with a run of bad luck, unfortunate coincidences and fickle fate until the character regains at least one point of Luck.

I do like the concept of 01A, I just think it would work better as a hack of another system rather than shoe-horning it into this one.
Conceptually, it's a sci-fi mystery thriller. It's almost a superhero game, where all characters share the same origin - their mothers were artificially inseminated by the same alien/enhanced/bio-engineered/non-human (delete as appropriate) donor. The characters slowly realise that they are more than human, that they can do things and that there are numerous secret organisations - Government agencies, scientists, corporations, religions etc - that want to use, study, understand or destroy them.
So, setting wise, it would be a struggle to remain hidden whilst being hunted, not knowing who to trust, and trying  to discover the truth behind their parentage.
I know what I mean.
I think it would run better if the players didn't know they were playing it.

Anyways, good feedback and questions. Cheers Sam.