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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Design Issues: Character Development (Source Code)

Ok, this one thing has been bugging me. I haven’t been able to nail it down and it has been a major brake on the development of Source Code. I had some weird plot-clock combined with the get XP for failing twist, but none of this gave me what I wanted, which was characters that grew in complexity and not necessarily power.

Then thanks to a discussion on Story Games and Jonathan Walton I found the solution. And at the same time solving another little nut; how to game mechanically support the Want that is so integral to driving the protagonists of a Source Code story.

Source Code: Protag Strings and Links.

Each protag(onist) has a want. This is that unarticulated need, or drive that propels the protag into action. Hir Protag String (also called chain by J. Walton) is all about this want. It takes the following form:
String [protag] [name (a short line describing the string)]
The name is a short line that describes a theme fitting to the Want. The Want becomes the theme that runs through all the Links that follow within the String.

Example: Julie, a protag, has the Want: Fame. Her string may look like this:
String [Julie] [Coming up]

Now a protag may have many Strings before hir Want is resolved, but until it does it is the theme of the strings. The red thread that ties all the protag’s actions together.

A string is in itself made up by a series of Links that provide scene context for the protag moment from moment in play. It is a sort of macro describing what the player of the protag wants hir protag’s story to be about now. They look like this:
Link [theme/issue/setting]
pressure: [vulnerabilities]
exits: [links available after the Link is resolved]
A protag needs to have a Link active to be put into a scene. The other players are required to apply pressure across the protag’s active Link.

Links are a theme, an issue or a setting based element that the protag needs to need with right now. They are linked together in a Link web via their exits and each Link brings a different sort of pressure to the protag. The pressures define what the protag resources that are fair game to the other players, this is important for the narrator to hit hard but fairly.

A player may change, resolve, a Link after sie has had the protag in one conflict pertaining to this Link. Sie may change the Link after the outcome of the conflict has been decided, and the exit chosen is noted and communicated to the other players. A player does not need to resolve a Link until sie has achieved what sie wanted for the protag. But to resolve it there must be at least one conflict. And this may be a Relationship Flashback Conflict.

A string is completed when it contains a set of thematic Links as defined by the narrator and the genre. A player need not resolve a complete String, nor does a player have to complete a String to resolve it. And only the player of the protag may decide when to resolve or change the protag’s Want, given that sie has completed the first Link of the String.

Resolving a Complete String gives the protag a memory, a relationship (with an NPC featured in actual play during the course of the String) or a Release. Player choice. If the String was incomplete when resolved the player gets the same choice, but this time the memory, relationship or release is damaged/corrupted.

That is it so far, I can’t wait to see how this works in actual play. The jury is still out on the benefit of many, contra few links, and I suspect I need to find a reward to pursue links contra Strings, but right now this is where I stand.

Oh and a big up to Joshua Newman for influencing the written style of Source Code.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Other Worlds: Burning Empire announced

Finally I can speak of this. Luke Crane is hitting is all with a new game. Yes a new game. Based on the well oiled Burning Wheel Engine, he has tweaked and tuned, creating a new game.

And what a game.

1. There are no volumes of setting text to read (in what I have seen). The entire setting is implisit in the game rules and it actually works. No long flavour texts about the Vaylen, just rules that say it all. For all budding game designers out there this is worth checking out.

2. Adverserial play. The GM is no longer meant to molly coddle the players with the telling of a story and playing adversaries fair. No he is to push, and to challenge. How? Well play by the rules and this impartiality isn't nescessary because the rule wont let him shaft you. This isn't as horrible and gamist as it sounds, cause it ties in with the next bit.

3. Macro and micro mechanics. Huh? Simply put the game is about the fight for a planet. A whole planet. So on one level there are the planetspanning manouvers. The ebb and tide of the infiltration, the usurpation or the invasion. Then there is the level of the player characters. Where they live and die. And there is no correlation between the two. And this is a thing of beauty.
Why? Because it allows one to play a family falling apart against the backdrop of a planet being tore apart by aliens and it allows the players to influence the war for the planet instead of this being a GM fiat or dependent on a planned story . The planet is up for grabs as well as the characters fates.

Doesn't make much sense now, but wait for the Infection Mechanics guiding it all. They work.

There are many other gems, like communal world burning, resources and technology mechanics that eliminate the tedious perusal of endless kit lists (you want it and it fits, its color, if you want it to have game-mechanical effect pay the price.) and a whole new scalable Firefight combat system using the same rules for dirtyu firefights in alleys to grand spacebattles. And the Duel of Wits really shine here.

I got to stop exhalting this now.

Preorder is up tomorrow.

Go buy.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Design Issues: Of Dice and Men

So I got this here Tour of Duty game idea. And I need a die mechanic that support what I am trying to do with this game; the dehumanizing effects of war.

So first a quick bit of narration rights.

If your character dies the narrator narrates this death as brutal and pointless as he feels appropriate.
Every combat begins with the question: “you character dies here unless you give something up.” One of the things you can sacrifice is the characters friends. One of them buys it this time. You narrate this death as seen by your character. Look through his eyes and describe this death.

That was one bit.

Now to look at the dice.

Your soldier gets to choose between Shirking; letting his platoon down and surviving, no rolls. Just guilt.

Or your soldier can fight.
Then he picks and action. This gives him Combat dice and Risk dice. Combine the Combat Dice with his Weapon Dice to get the Potential Pool. This is a number of dice. The player then has to describe how the soldier fights, each fact letting him pick up one of the potential dice. The player rolls the dice he earned through narration. Successes added to the platoon total. Note that irrespective of the result his narration stands.

The player then picks up his Survival Dice, the Narrator narrates the dangers the characters faces, picking up a dice for each fact. Both roll, compare the number of successes, if the player matches or have more successes than on the Risk Pool roll, the soldier survived. If not see above.

There are other mechanics, like rolling guilt to help survive, or owing debt to fellow players or soldier friends and such. But this here should do what I want it too.

And yes, this inspired the dice mechanics.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Design Issues: Tour of Duty envisioned

Thanks Matthijs. I was on a good focused line of thought and you had to go drag Descent to the front of my mind. Cause with it came another horrible thing. Yes, the idea for another game.


Well ok. I am not really complaining. I love tinkering with these ideas, and hopefully they help me focus my main project: Source Code.

So anyways this new idea has the working title: Tour of Duty.

It is a game about the horrors of surviving in war. It works like this:
The platoon is a communal character. Each player (except the GM) then creates his soldier complete with hopes and dreams for life back home, his friends in the platoon, and even the family back home.
The platoon then goes into battle. This may be a long patrol, a single engagement or a gruelling siege ala Stalingrad. During this battle the characters will be in the shit many times and when they are in the shit they will die.
Unless they can buy their survival somehow. This they do by trading away their hopes and dream, the lives of their friends, building up debt to their fellow soldiers or pick up burdens of guilt.

Highlights include:
The platoon as a character.
The choice between doing ones duty or shirking it.
Guilt or Dreams, though choices in the thick of things.
Brutal random death.
Resource trading between players
Continued participation in play even if main character buys it.
And plenty other aspects.
All mechanically supported.

Specifically absent:
Initiative rolls.

I’ll post more later. Now me and my notebook has a date with the can.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Real Life: Online frustrations.

I've spent too much time on forums of late.
My friends always asked me; "Why do you bother."
"It is fun," I answered.
But of late a slow ennui has crept over me. There is nothing happening there. Nothing. The front is still too far away, and the entire thing is mired in protectionism. Posters holding on to their ideas and screaming for us not to touch them.

And heaven forbid you mention the Forge. Or the ideas that crop up in the diaspora.

The tone changed too, I have in the past few months been told to drag my head out of Ron's ass, been compared to a trashcan and repeatedly been labled simplistic and ignorant. All in the name of the free exchange of ideas. So when they began attacing my faulty norwegian in public I actually got hurt.

I realised that the only way to get out of such a dysfunctional relationship was too leave.

Quietly out the back.

So I can be back from time to time.

For a short fix of inbred ideas if nothing else.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mobile future: sporadic online activity.

I told you all that I am changing jobs, well the process has begun. Actually I've been employed by my new employer for four weeks now,but the police have been dragging their feet sending over mypolice-record. Even though I know it is clean I got a bit paranoid there towards the end of the wait.

Funny what waiting can do to you.

So anyhow, I am now officially employed by a big company.

This meansthat my time as "a sneaking time between spreadsheets poster" is officially over. Which again means tht all my posting will either be done from my phone or from home. Resulting in a frequency drop. Just so you all have beenwarned.

Oh and it turned out that my lovely windows mobile browser won't let me push the publish button. So it will still be posted from home.

Design Issues:

Design-wise I have made some drastic changes to source code, mainly changing the dice mechanics again. The why, is quite simple; the back and forth given by the Robin D. Laws inspired mechanic of iteration .02 is not what I am looking for in this game. I want a roll - bang effect, move or loose. The other method of its enforced narrative was too slow for the speed I want to have in source code.

I am still using pools of d6s. Though.

Equipment, or gear as it is called is getting a slight revamp. My old ideas, though being cool but were too cumbersome. Now it is basically pay resources for a tool, use tool, discard to get resource points (Credit) back. This ties in with the originally envisioned scene mechanic, but here I am getting way ahead of my self. This also ties more cleanly in with the way the conflict system is shaping up.

I really see no point in having different mechanics for scenes involving hand to hand combat or inter-office politiking. If the intent is to harm someone then it is the conflict mechanics, simple really. So I've been typing it all up on my phone.

I'll dvelve deeper into all of this later.

Right now I just needed to reconfirm my digital identity.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Real Life - Transitions

So I'm changing jobs. It is official, my boss asked me to think long and hard, and we still have to talk. But I have thought long and hard.

It is a load of my shoulders.

I am changing jobs.

I'm gonna miss most of the guys, but I really really can't wait to get started in the new one.

I'll be going to the mountains for some R&R with my parents. The first time Filippa is in that cabin (I am so spoiled when it comes to cabins in the mountains and by the sea). There will be skiing norwegian style, good food and plenty of time to read and write on my games. But I am torn between my Fantasy Heartbreaker (Book of Heroes), Source Code and this top secret project I'm supposed to help ...edited for security reasons... with.

Most likely I'll be reading Scott Bakker and theory shit from Vincent and the Story-Games forums. Oh and I've printed Matt Wislon's Bad Ass Spacemarines.

Got to pack the car.