Tuesday, August 16, 2011

War In The Heavens pt. 7: a mechanic on mechanics

Moving away from the deeply philosophical issues of the moment, I am going to delve back into the mechanics of the game. As I posted earlier I am definitely going to use a dice pool, and I am going to add all the dice together rather than count successes. I am leaning toward the Roll/Keep style counting, but for now we will just have to see how things go.

One thing I loved about John Wick's Houses of the Blooded was the way you made your character. The stats were so very generic, and yet you ended up with a character that felt completely distinct. I wish to emulate that to some extent. Specifically the strength and the weakness. Perhaps I will even do something along the lines of a house/class/job specialty, but I am getting ahead of myself here. The point is that I want a very simple list of skills that can be modified by external and internal events/actions.

This takes me back to when we were still doing regular episodes of the podcast. Carol had this idea that we, as a cast should build a game. She would come up with the fluff, and I would work out the crunch. It was going to be a steampunk game. The ideas fell apart(but some of them became the seed for Carol's and my story), mostly due to design goal difference, but that is neither here nor there. What is important was I was working on a system for that game that I think will work well for what I see here.

The basic idea is that you have these basic traits(I'll work out a better name later) and then situational modifiers(very similar to aspects, close enough that I am thinking of scrapping my original ideas for those and just using aspects). In that game you had a base of two in everything, and each situational modifier added two to the roll. It was fairly simple, and I think that I can make this better.

Each character will have a list of basic traits. It won't be very many, maybe six(I am kinda feelin' the six right now, but that may change). The majority will be at two dice, one will be a strength so that will be at three dice(maybe four). One of the traits will be a weakness, which will be a zero. This means that you will have to employ aspects to even attempt a roll for a trait that is your weakness. I know it sounds like I am harping on the weakness a great deal, but there is a reason for that. Weaknesses are awesome! I am not saying that playing the weakest character is awesome, but having a major weakness is. Yiou have this gaping flaw in your character, if you can really focus on it it will drive the story for a long while. Whereas your strengths actually get rid of story. Weaknesses create conflict, strengths end conflict, see what I mean? Plus they allow for a wonderful kind of spotlight moment, you get to be incompetent. Whether played for laughs, tension, or tragedy that is good gaming right there.

Now aspects will change slightly, and I have two ideas for how this will go down. I have not yet decided which I will use. The first idea I had was to allow the aspect to add or subtract two(or three, or five, dependent on the dice I use) from the final skill roll. This works well for my idea of precision, which I mentioned in part five of this series. The other idea I had was that using an aspect will give you a bonus die for the roll. Which will work much better with the weakness concept I am currently so enamored of. I could split the difference and say both work, but it is dependent on when you choose to employ the aspect. Employ it before the roll and you get a die, after the roll get the plus or minus number to the total. I am leaning in that direction but that makes aspects incredibly potent, so I have to test it out a bit first I guess.

Using aspects like this in my game allows for them to take the place of SPACE MAGIC as its own skill set. Now what it does is just give a descriptor of how you are doing something. I am not certain if this will work well. I may have to implement something like a specialty system and all that, but I would like to test this idea out first, and I am still a long way off from there system-wise. I mean I don't even know how combat in space s going to work, and that was one of my core conceits. Well, best hop to then, what what!

So now I am back to ubiquitous, “What the hell is my game about?” I cannot move forward until I have sorted this out. If this is a fantastic hopeful sword and planet style adventure, that will alter the mechanics and the language of the mechanics. Just as if it is cowboy space noir, or Camelot in space. So I really need to sit down next time a really nail down what my game is about and who the players will be playing. From there I can begin naming the traits I have mentioned as well as focusing my mechanics to emulate what I want. We have reached the first really difficult hurdle in game design(or writing at all for that matter), cutting away the parts that no longer fit.

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