Friday, November 26, 2010

Game design by idiots

I've been toying with various game ideas - both setting and mechanics - for years now. The first game I ever ran, back in my halls of residence in 1996, was one I 'designed' myself.
It was rubbish, of course. You couldn't even say it was a good first effort.

Anyways, since then I have always felt the urge to design my own game, and have attempted to do so several times in the past. I have posted links to examples of these failed designs, such as Ghost Britain and the first attempt at Modern Mythic, in previous entries. Feel free to go back and have a look. 

At the moment I am mulling over a system and have started trying to pin it down on paper. 
It has a few (hopefully) simple core concepts. 
There are no defined skills. A character can attempt anything that the GM and player agree is theoretically possible, and the action is resolved by rolling a dice (any dice) with an even number being a success, and an odd number being a failure. 
My rudimentary grasp of maths tells me that this is a 50/50 chance. 

A player can add more dice to the roll in the following ways:

  • They can possess a relevant skill. Skills are not defined, and are free-form instead. Therefore one character could use their Murder skill to fight with, whilst the other could use their Bitch Slap skill (these are off the top of my head examples). Possessing a relevant skill allows the player to roll an additional dice
  • They can burn a point of their characters Strength or Sanity, which are slow refreshing resource pools. Strength is commonly used to augment physical actions, and Sanity for mental and social actions, although exceptions exist for compelling arguments (I burn a point of Strength to stay up all night researching this ancient language). Running out of Strength or Sanity are bad. Burning one point of either allows the player to roll an additional dice. Only one point of either stat may be burnt at a time.
  • A player can burn a point of Luck after a roll has been made to change the result of one dice. Luck can be spent to alter another players roll and even the GMs roll. Only one point can be spent at a time. Luck is a slow refreshing resource pool, like Strength and Sanity. Running out of Luck is also bad.
  • Certain bits of equipment may add a bonus dice, although these should be rare. I'd like to keep the number of dice rolled down with a cap of 3, making Luck a powerful stat.
Strength and Sanity also act as measures of a characters physical and mental health, whilst Luck can be used as a plot tool to get characters in the right (or wrong, if they've run out of Luck) place at the right time.

Damage drains either Strength or Sanity, and weapons do a set amount of damage.

I've been trying to draft up a basic intro to the rules, along with a character sheet and develop some settings for awhile now. Hopefully i'll be in a position to publish soon. Although probably not

I have a number of settings in mind, some of which feature rules variations.

  • Modern Mythic - the Vanilla setting, using the basic rules. Maybe with the addition of magic. Not sure yet. The setting is street level struggle between competing secret societies to possess and comprehend the secrets of the universe. These secrets are found in unexpected places, such as junk DNA, statistical data (such as the frequency of fatal to non-fatal car accidents in Calcutta) or audio recordings of one second of every single telephone conversation happening at midnight on Christmas Eve slowed down and played backwards. 
  • Danger Illustrated - A title i've had knocking around for over ten years. High adventure. Tomb robbing. Assassinations. Espionage. Danger Illustrated is an exclusive magazine available only to a select few (although it's probably a website in this day and age) that details where adventure can be found, for those brave enough to seize it. The system variation is that characters can burn multiple points of Strength, Sanity and/or Luck in one go, equal to a new Stat, Courage. This could also be applied to a pulp Sci-Fi setting as well.
  • Legend - A fantasy setting, in which all the characters have a great destiny, and are capable of performing legendary deeds related to that destiny. There's a new stat - Legend - that allows the character to perform one legendary deed per point of Legend a day, as long as it relates to their destiny. For example, a character with the destiny 'Greatest swordsman ever' would be able to automatically succeed at a number of legendary sword related feats each day equal to their Legend score, whilst a character with the destiny 'Powerful Archmage' would be able to cast a number of spells per day equal to the Legend score
  • 01A (Zero One Alpha) - A Sci-Fi setting, in which the characters discover that they are all related, that they all share the same biological father (but separate biological mothers), and that there are hundreds of them, scattered across the earth, all with a tattoo somewhere on their body with an alpha-numerical code that ranges between 01A and 99Ω. There are several possible explanations posited for this, from cloning to alien DNA, divine intervention to eugenics, with any number of motivations potentially driving them. The system variation would include psychic abilities and a stat called Potential, or maybe Perfection. Still not quite sure how it would work though.