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Title: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on February 25, 2010, 06:38:27 PM
First off, feel free, if you find any of my ideas useful, to use them in your own projects.

I like very general, easily adaptive systems in narrative game-play.
I like westerns, be it space western, steampunk, traditional, or fantasy western.
word of caution: gamists and simulationists are probably going to dislike what i have to offer.
I'm working on a simple ruleset for such a game. Please lend me your thoughts on the following:

A standard deck of 52 cards + 2 jokers is used for the main pass/fail conflict resolution. d4-d20 dice are used for degrees of success, such as when dealing damage.

The reason cards would be used (besides the cool factor / genre motif) is that it opens up an element of game-play called 'holding', where players who receive multiple useful cards in a single hand can play some cards, and save others for a subsequent action. This effectively letting character's have an "ace up their sleeve", where they play the second best possible hand, then save the best hand for when it counts, or just to have a backup plan in case they get a crappy hand on he next action.

The dice system would be pretty straight forward. It is used when no skill is involved, it's already been determined that there was a successful hit, all that needs to be determined is how badly the other person was effected by that hit: you roll a dice who's number of sides depends on the power of the weapon being used, the more powerful the weapon, the more sides the dice has, the more potential damage the attack can inflict. Pretty basic. I guess cards can be used for this too, but it'd be easier to implement with dice. A competing roll would subtract from the damage roll to represent armor class.

Anyway, there are no attributes. (gasp!)
there are no classes (heavens no!)
there is no skills list (what the...)

It's a skill based system, where the player thinks of a skill (hunting, camping, marksmanship, riding, farming, law, medicine, etc) and assigns a level to it. Anything can be a skill, as long as it can be argued that it takes at least a year to learn the basics of-- speaking of which, argument is the main basis of this system: the player is encouraged to present a convincing argument why his character should be able to do something, the dealer (GM) considers it, and sets parameters for success. Cards are drawn, if the player wins the hand, the character is successful.

there are five levels of a skill: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
1: Takes a year to get to this level. After a year the character understands the basics of the most common aspects of the skill and can progress in their education without an instructor if necessary.
2: Takes two years. This is the level of a hobbyist. Level 2 characters understand all aspects of the skill and can instruct others up to level one. In fact, any character can instruct any character up to a level less than their current level.
3: Takes four years. This is the level of a schooled individual, like a bachelor's -- someone who has been professionally trained for an entry level in a career. Most soldiers are level 3 when it comes to combat, for instance.
4: Eight years. This is the level of the seasoned expert, the combat veteran, or the career professional. Eight years devoted to a field makes a character worthy of competing with his skills in the open market.
5: Sixteen years: Level five skilled characters are few. They are the elite, the truly gifted. The poor kids playing the piano from infancy. A level 5 is the result of a lifetime pursuit, or exceptionally strict and demanding parents.

The level of skill you have, 1-5, determines the number of cards you get, 1-5, when performing an action directly related to that skill.

If you're performing a basic action with some difficulty, and it's decided that there's a chance you might fail, you are dealt the cards corresponding to the appropriate skill, and the dealer draws his own cards based on the difficulty of the action. Usually the dealer will have only one or two cards to compete with, but for much harder and neigh-impossible tasks he may have up to five. Anyway, if your hand beats his, you win.

In combat, character's will perform certain actions that have no associated difficulty, like hitting someone with a baseball bat. They will have to compete against that character's corresponding ability to defend himself, so if your ability to attack him is based on a skill of 3, and his ability to defend himself is based on a skill of 2, you will draw 3 cards and he will draw 2, and then the person with the best hand will be successful in whatever he was trying to do. If you were successful, he takes damage, if he was successful, he may attack you, try to run, draw a knife, etc.

Some actions, like shooting someone a good distance away, are difficult. For those you draw first against the difficulty of success, then again against the characters ability to avoid being shot.

Side-note:
initiative is determined by a 'general combat' skills check, with the argument that a person experienced in fighting will be more aware of surroundings, and how to obtain strategic advantage over an opponent. whoever wins the general combat skill contest gets first attack. and the loser must defend with an appropriate defensive skill.

Ok, now for the actual mechanics:
the cards are valued: Joker, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. The person with the highest played card wins. If there is a tie, then the suit is considered, where clubs < diamonds < hearts < spades. It's in alphabetical order, like in bridge. When a card is chosen, the player/dealer puts it on the table face down, and when both sides have chosen their cards, they reveal them to determine the winner.
If the player has a multiple of any type of card, say two 7s, then he puts one of the 7s face down, and then when the time comes to reveal his card, he flips it over, then puts the second 7 with the first. A double of any type beats a single. A triple of any type beats a double or a single, etc.
The reason multiples aren't put face down together is so that the opposing force has no idea that you have multiples until it is too late, plus, you have an opportunity to save a card for later if it turns out that you can beat the opposing hand with just a single card.
A joker, played alone, is worth the least. One joker should be marked on the face of the card, and the marked joker will be worth less than the unmarked joker. A joker, however can be combined with any other card to form a double, or combined with a double to form a triple, etc.

When a player's character performs an action, that player receives a number of cards equal to the skill level of the action. The Dealer draws cards equal to the opposing force. The two hands are played against the other. After the hand has been played and the winner decided, the player may discard all his cards, or keep some or all of the unused cards for the next hand, PROVIDED that the character would have been able to anticipate the next action he will  perform. Of course, a player can only keep a number of cards up to the level of skill for the action he is going to perform. If he decides to perform an action for which the skill level is less than the number of cards the player has held over, the superfluous number of cards must be discarded before the hand is played. Commonly, a player will not like any of the cards left over after a hand, and will prefer to discard them all and get fresh cards for the next hand.

The rest is even more boring, you don't have to read it.

My idea for damage and HP is as follows:
A character gets 1 HP for every ten pounds of non-fat body weight. So a 200 pound character with 10 pounds of body fat would have 19 HP. Or a 120 pound character with 0 pounds of body fat would have 12 HP. Or a 800 Pound grizzly with 150 pounds of body fat would have 65 HP. (I understand how body fat can contribute slightly to your ability to resist damage, but for simplicity, I would consider it negligible in almost all cases.)
Damage occurs by rolling a dice, from d4 to d20. the number determines the amount of HP lost. If suitable armor is worn, then a counter roll subtracts from the number of damage.
In this system, HP does not represent health, but rather a character's ability to defend himself. A character attacked from behind without warning will have zero HP, for instance. His only hope would be his armor roll being higher than the attack roll. Most attacks don't even need to connect to cause a character to lose HP. Causing a character to flinch will reduce his ability to defend himself temporarily, ie, reduce his HP temporarily. Actual physical damage does not occur until a character's HP is reduced below 50%. A character will regain some HP each turn. For every HP lost below 50% the char receives actual damage. A character's max HP is reduced when damaged. So if a 16 HP character gets attacked by 9, the character's HP temporarily goes down to 7, and because this is 1 HP less than 50%, when the character regains his composure and balance, (when he recovers his HP), he will max out at 15 HP until his wound is treated.
In this way a character can fight and lose HP without taking actual damage, and HP takes on a less abstract form, actually resembling an aspect of real combat.

I have more ideas to add, but they need to be fleshed-out. For now, if anyone has read this far, please let me know what you think, what I may have over-looked, and what is in need of improvement.
 

 


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on February 25, 2010, 08:48:08 PM
I dunno about all the stuff with the hitpoints = 10 pounds of body weight type of sim-crunch, but the idea of structuring conflict like a poker game for a western themed game is brilliant.

could you factor in raises and bluffs somehow?  That would be cool - its the part of poker that makes it more than a simple luck contest.  and it fits the theme where  the true badasses rarely have to actually resort to violence to get their way - their reputation is enough.

And it introduces the possibility of changing the nature of the conflict (throwing away cards and getting more) and escalating the conflict (how much am I willing to risk to win).  Have a look at Dogs in the vinyard here at the forum for this type of escalating conflict thing.

Maybe rather than having a crunchy sim type of damage, you tap into the 'ante/bid/raise' theme of the card game.  i.e.  if you ante up a small amount, its a minimal risk conflict - say two guys sitting mostly in cover, blazing away, not taking any risks.  You might get 'winged' in this type of fight, then bug out to avoid further damage.  but you then have the option to bid and raise - OK you winged me, but rather than bug out, I make a dash for a more advantageous position where I can plug ya more easy (deal me X more cards please).  Now I have another chance at pulling something off, but because I have upped my bid to stay in the fight by breaking cover, I have put myself at more risk.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on February 26, 2010, 03:50:18 AM
that's a really good idea, stefoid! The damage thing was sort of ad-hoc 'cause I needed SOMETHING of the sort to make the game play-testable. Your idea is way cool. In theory. I just, for the life of me, can't think how it might work while maintaining simplicity.

 Also I was considering the possibility, if  another factor was needed for special equipment (ex: a rifle with hard cased bullets +3 against body armor) wild cards could be introduced, where, starting with the 2 of clubs, a certain number of cards could be played as wild when using that equipment for the appropriate purpose.

This bidding thing demands consideration. I'd be back at the drawing board, but do you think you might explain it a little more in depth?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Brigand on February 26, 2010, 06:31:25 AM
Its a very nice idea!

There actually is a cardgame where a set of characters fights out a gunbattle: http://www.amazon.com/MayFair-Games-Bang-4th-Edition/dp/B001RU7UNW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=toys-and-games&qid=1267194274&sr=8-1
It has all kinds of additional events like changing equipment and healing  and so on...

A while ago I had a setting where each card represented some entity in the world, all the Figures where People they could ally with (Its fun to create characters for "Queen of Hearts" or "Queen of Diamonds", "King of Shields (Spades)" etc. And I handed out cards when the players made allies or got some equipment or spell associated with a specific card.




Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Falc on February 26, 2010, 07:21:40 AM
I'm left wondering why you're saying that your game might not appeal to gamists or simulationists, because when I read what you have so far, I would say your game right now is more gamist/simist than narrativist.

Some tell-tale signs I spotted:

- your addition of dice rolling
- defining skill levels by the number of years spent on them
- "Some actions, like shooting someone a good distance away, are difficult. For those you draw first against the difficulty of success, then again against the characters ability to avoid being shot."
- "The reason multiples aren't put face down together is so that the opposing force has no idea that you have multiples until it is too late, plus, you have an opportunity to save a card for later if it turns out that you can beat the opposing hand with just a single card."
- "the player may discard all his cards, or keep some or all of the unused cards for the next hand, PROVIDED that the character would have been able to anticipate the next action he will  perform. Of course, a player can only keep a number of cards up to the level of skill for the action he is going to perform."
- "A character gets 1 HP for every ten pounds of non-fat body weight."

Really, if you truly want to have a narrativist game, I would try to get rid of these things. They're not helping you reach that goal, some of them even lead you away, I feel.

Here's what I'd do:

Use descriptive Aspects or Traits or whatever you wish to call them, instead of Skills with numerical values. "I grew up on a farm", "I'm a good shot", "I won the rodeo 3 years in a row". Things like that. Then, when you're doing something and these experiences could be of use, you point to your sheet, ask for approval of the rest of the players and get a bonus to your action. You have two that apply? Good for you, two bonusses. Better than average equipment? Same thing.

Since you're drawing cards anyway, damage = reduced hand size. Or something like that. If you use a mechanic where people might keep more cards in their hand, then damage = random discard. If you decide to use cards, then stick to cards. Adding dice, or adding a tally of HP dilutes your focus.

I'm gonna hit 'Post' now but the gears in my brain are turning, so I'll probably be back.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on February 27, 2010, 07:54:02 AM
a random discard would have the proper effect for damage; it will reduce your ability to fight.
One thing I don't like about gamist systems is the arbitrary nature of HP, I was trying to make it more simple, but I think I may be making it worse.

If a player was counting on using a certain pair of cards, and one of these were randomly discarded when he was attacked from behind, Then he'd be forced to make do with what he had... Now that you mention it, this system does seem pretty gamist, but in a good way I think.

I really like the aspect idea, which tells a story about the character, instead of just a skill name. (why didn't I think of that!?)

I don't like HP. I'd be glad to be rid of it.

as far as dice go, how does this sound: If you perform a successful stab-to-the-base-of-the-skull, your target falls down dead. If you fail slightly, your target rolls for damage. if you fail by a large amount, (he defends with a pair, while you only attacked with a single card), then you utterly fail to cause any damage for some reason.

A simple pass/fail system leave too much room for subjectivity I think. Or at least I don't know how do have objective results using cards.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Falc on February 27, 2010, 01:49:10 PM
Okay, I'm getting more and more convinced that your understanding of 'narrativism' and 'gamism' doesn't match mine. Which makes it quite hard to help you out...

Perhaps we could try a thought exercise to put everybody on the same page about what you're looking for. You know how most games have a section where a 'combat' session is written down, sort of like a script? Could you maybe try to write something like that, describing the bestest coolest conflict you can imagine in your game? You don't need to include the exact details of the system, but try to give us an idea of what sort of statements you want the GM to make, what statements the players can make, when exactly do they need to step into mechanics mode, etc.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Vulpinoid on February 27, 2010, 02:09:10 PM
Honestly, I think you're dice are superfluous. They don't do a lot that can't be done just as well (if not better) by the crads...the one thing they do is detract from the theme.

See if you can get your hands on information about Malifaux (http://wyrd-games.net/)...it's a miniatures game that uses cards. It's got a few interesting mechanisms that might be worth your investigation, and it's set in a wyrd-west/necro-steam-punk environment.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on February 28, 2010, 01:31:45 AM
that's a really good idea, stefoid! The damage thing was sort of ad-hoc 'cause I needed SOMETHING of the sort to make the game play-testable. Your idea is way cool. In theory. I just, for the life of me, can't think how it might work while maintaining simplicity.

 Also I was considering the possibility, if  another factor was needed for special equipment (ex: a rifle with hard cased bullets +3 against body armor) wild cards could be introduced, where, starting with the 2 of clubs, a certain number of cards could be played as wild when using that equipment for the appropriate purpose.

This bidding thing demands consideration. I'd be back at the drawing board, but do you think you might explain it a little more in depth?

um, ok, off the top of my head.

Lets say you can be poor=0, good=1, very good=2, or excellent=3 at something.  in this case 'gun fightin'

So you get 5 cards, everyone does.  Cause this is poker.
Additionally, you can be injured/drunk/sick or whatever.   winged  = -1,  got me good = -2 , and hurt real bad = -3

Now, 'gun fightin' covers any sort of skill you might use in that situation, not just shootin, but also scootin for cover and spottin ambushes, etc...

so everyone in the gun fightin contest put in their ante (which represents risk)  gets dealt their 5 cards.

However, people who are at least good at something can exchange cards for free.  but being injured or whatever reduces this ability, so if you were excelennt at gunfightin, but 'got good' you could only exchange 1 card for free

At the end of the free exchange period, people get to call, raise or fold.  When you fold or are beaten, you take 'damage' or 'loss' equivilant to whatever you have bet.  the more you bet, the worse the consequences of loosing.  So if you have a crap hand right up, you might be better off bugging out of the contest taking a minimum loss, rather than staying in the fight.  Or you could bluff of course.

Anyway, any time you make a decision to fold, call or raise, or exchange cards, you have to say what your character is doing, reflecting the poker-game actions you are taking.

So at the start of the contest, you put in your ante and you say what your character is doing.

if you then fold instantly, you describe your character unceremoniously backing out of the contest, taking some minimal damage/loss.

If you exchange cards, you describe how your character is modifying his actions, consistant with 'changing his hand'

if you call, you describe how your character is basically maintaining the status quo ,doing more or less the same thing.

If you raise you describe how your character is escalating the conflict, i.e. taking the contest to new heights for anyone who wants to stay in it.  i.e. leaving cover and charging forward, guns a blazin.

If you respond to a raise by calling or even raising yourself, you describe how your character is rising to the challenge or escalting the chalenge back yet again.

Set a maximum number of rounds to ensure hotheads who never back down dont get stuck in an endless raise-fest.

Thats all I got.   This type of idea isnt suited to agonizing over equipment.  At best you could use equipment to modify the number of cards you can exchange (similar to being injured) , with poor equipment (in the context of the contest) giving -1, average equipment giving 0 and excellent equipment giving +1 to the number of cards you can exchange.  i.e. if you bring a perfectly good knife to a gunfight, that counts as poor equipment in that situation, even though it counts as excellent equipment in a saloon brawl.



Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on February 28, 2010, 09:26:30 AM
wow, a lot to take in. I'm going to research the definition of gamism more-- my impression was that a game is "gamist" if you can learn how to play the mechanics and do well, and not have to worry so much about the context, whereas in a narrativeist game, knowing the context and the story is what helps you make good decisions, and the dice or card mechanics are sort of ad-hoc, subjectively administrated by the GM to fit with the story.  Simulationist would then be a cross between the two, where the mechanics try to imitate the story and give realistic results, and the story can be easily adapted to the mechanics, 'cause there is a rule for every possible situation in the story.

Maybe this isn't right, but it's how I've come to understand it.

If you can fight a battle without narrative (or much of it), kinda like a strategy war game or a card game or whatever, then it's gamist.
If the story dictates how the characters are able to move and interact and rulings are made on-the-fly depending on the story, then it's narrativeist.
And if the mechanics are designed to fit precisely with a particular genre, and are interchangeable with storyline elements, then it's simulationist.

As far as the raise, bid, ante fold mechanic, according to my understanding, that would be kinda gamist, because a player can play the game with all the information he needs already available to him in his hand. He just narrates character actions every time he makes a move, but those actions which are described don't actually mean anything in terms of gameplay. whether he says "my character runs toward his opponent firing his lever action rifle from the hip" or "my character runs left through the clearing toward the covered wagon while firing his lever action from the shoulder" doesn't make a difference if the same cards are being played, or the same about is being bid, or the same player action is being done.

If however the player says "my character is going to charge forward, guns blazing." and then the dealer says "all right, according to your ability to perform that action (level 3 gunslinger and +1 because you're a fast runner), here are your 4 cards to play against your opponent's 3 cards (he has a level 4 marksmanship ability but -1 to violent encounters on account of him being a coward)". Then it's narrativist. The story determines the mechanics, not the other way around.

A simulationist would be more like "here is a map of the combat area. Your character is behind this barrel, and your opponent is behind the corner of this building. if you move forward, you'll take seven steps to move diagonally around the barrel, and then 5 steps for each square you move through straight-on. while firing you suffer a -2 penalty to your aim, because you are moving. you also suffer a -2 penalty to your speed because you are firing. Your agility is 31 so you can make 31 actions per round. each step counts as one, each shot counts as three, (charge the weapon, quick-aim, fire), When you run out of actions, your turn is over. Your opponent is pinned down by suppressive fire, so he suffers a -3 penalty to attack (which is rate of fire + cowardice). Given his position he has a +4 bonus to flee, because he can do so away from your line of sight by moving along the building he's hiding behind."
In this case, an excellent knowledge of both the rules and the narrative are essential.

simulationist is the best possible system in terms of meaningful rules, but requires entirely too much calculation and is best handled by a computer.
gamist can be played like a strategy game, simple rules and simple results, kinda hard for the player to by dynamic or do anything imaginative. They player must add narrative within the confines of the results of the dice mechanic.
narrative allows the story to take precedence and set the pace for the mechanics, but at the expense of objectiveness, can be very biased if not handled properly.

I need to figure out if my thinking is right, and if not i need to correct it, then decide precisely WHAT sort of system I'm trying to create. After that, I can move forward. Until then, how wrong am I?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Simon C on February 28, 2010, 01:05:27 PM
Hi,

Do you have a real name I can use?

I think that GNS is probably the least useful thing you can try to learn right now.  Your understanding of it right now isn't helping you at all, and GNS isn't going to solve the design problems you're talking about here.

Here's where I suggest you focus your efforts:

What do you want conflicts in your game to feel like? What's your vision of a western gunfight? What things do the characters do, and what things do the players do? What kinds of decisions do you want the players to make?  Try to refine your vision down to its essence.  What are the most important features? Maybe you'll get a statement like "Combat is fast and deadly and chaotic", or you might get something like "The winner is not the fastest or the most skilled, but the one who's willing to risk everything to win" or "In the Wild West, winning means never backing down".

Whatever the vision that you have is, once you've worked it out, design your mechanics to make that vision real in your game. 


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Falc on February 28, 2010, 01:54:38 PM
Damn, I wish I could find a thread I read not so long ago... Some guy talked about his gaming group and how he couldn't place their gaming in G/N/S and he had a whole exchange with Ron (who even asked everyone else to stay out of the discussion for a while) ending up with a diagnosis of Narrativism.

The reason I wanted to refer you to that thread is because it clearly showed that GNS actually lives at a much bigger scale than what you're talking about. It's very much about the overall, not-always-spoken-out-loud, goal of the entire playgroup. I doubt that any given rule, taken by itself, can ever be truly gamist. A complete ruleset will usually be geared towards assisting a certain creative agenda.

That being said, Simon is perfectly right in saying that learning the theory won't help your game, in and of itself. The important part is communicating to us what you really want. The very second line you wrote was: "I like very general, easily adaptive systems in narrative game-play." We now know that, what you really meant by this and what we thought you meant by this aren't the same.

So you'll need to elaborate. One possible method is the playbook I asked about, which is basically what you'd like an 'Actual Play' report to be. Another obvious choice would be to write some real Actual Play from your own experience. When you say: "I like very general, easily adaptive systems in narrative game-play," which situation do you think of that fit that definition best?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on February 28, 2010, 04:22:59 PM
First of all, I really appreciate everyone's generosity; I certainly wasn't expecting such attention. Here's a snippet of what I have in mind:

Dealer: "...realizing the directions the old porter gave you are no good, and with the sun beginning to set, finding the abandoned mine where the Torez gang are hiding out might become less of a concern; You may be worried about your safety overnight in the wilderness... how's your resolve?"

::mechanic::

Ben: Cecil's in good spirits, thinks they've gotta be pretty close and aint about to quit now.

::mechanic::

Bob: Hank shakes his nearly-void waterskin nervously, looking around his shoulder toward the sound of a howling coyote. He's scared, now--real scared.

Ben: All right, Hank. Steady now. We're real close, ya know. It's gotta be right here someplace; we're as close as anyone's ever gotten! Besides, I coulda sworn I saw smoke on our ride up the ridge.

Bob: Aw, I dunno, Cecil. (Hank pats his mustang, Red, who's beginning to share his rider's trepidation), I'm a thinking we outta head back now. Set out again in the morning, you know?

(Cecil and Hank go back and forth for a bit, Cecil, by consent of both players, manages to convince Hank to stay on a while longer.)

Dealer: You don't see anything familiar, no landmarks, just the stars and jagged rocks and the occasional agave. In the distance a few mesquite trees dot the terrain.

Ben: I'm gonna look for footprints, or signs of a trail of some kind, using my hunt ability.

::Mechanic:: Failure

Ben: Cecil looks around in the valley, the most likely place to travel through, but he doesn't find much of anything.

Bob: I wanna try looking around.

Dealer: What skills do you have?

Bob: My dad used to take me camping all the time as a kid-- i hated him for it. But I learned a thing or two.

Dealer: all right, you can look for anything related to a campsite, but in this terrain, with high rocks everywhere, odds are low.

::mechanic::  success

Bob: Hank sees a line of mesquite trees, and figures that'd be a good place to gather some firewood. Sure enough, on inspection he sees several branches were cut off a dead tree, and dragged. Hank yells "Hey, Ceese! Over here!"

Ben: Cecil grabs his horse's reigns and moves quickly toward Hank, and when he arrives, grabs him by the shirt and pushes him to the ground. "Quiet you fool!"

(Dealer makes a mechanical check of some kind without announcing what it's for or what the result is)

Ben: Oh, great.
Bob: Sorry Ben!

Dealer: You just gonna lay there, Hank?

Bob: Hank gets up and dusts himself off. "Cecil, look, they done tore some firewood from this here tree, and dragged it that-a-way."

Ben: "So they have. lets see where this leads, my friend. Hope they're not expecting company." Should I do a check for tracking?
 
Dealer: No need, drag marks are obvious enough. Fresh too. You follow them back around some brush and down a path hidden by a small cliff. At the bottom of the path the way opens up into a clearing below ground level, and you see the opening of a cave supported by an old wooden frame.

Ben: Can I see anything inside?

Dealer: The sun has all but set, and in the failing light you see the faint glow of a fire from within the cave. And you can hear muffled voices, but can't make out what's being said.

Bob: I'm gonna tie up the horses to something. What's nearby?

Dealer: There are actually other horses here, tied to some stakes in the ground. You didn't notice them because you were focused on the cave entrance.

Bob: How many horses?

Dealer: Two horses sputtering nervously at your approach, another one is dead, teeth marks all over. Nearby is a dead coyote, shot through several times.

Bob: I tie the horses to a stake.

Ben: I signal Bob...

Dealer: Hank.

Ben: I mean Hank, to come over as I draw my revolver and approach the entrance cautiously.

Bob: I draw my double barrel 10 gauge and my lever action rifle out of my saddle. I strap the Rifle to my back and ready the shotgun as I approach the cave keeping to Cecil's right.

Dealer: the entrance to the cave turns immediately and quite sharply to the left. The voices are very close.

Ben: I'm gonna peer to the left, around the bend.

Dealer: You see a long hallway of rock supported every few paces with heavy wooden beams. Scattered debris, rusty tools. A few feet in and all is darkness, but about 20 yards down it seems to open into a room with a fire-pit burning brightly. An occasional figure is seen passing in front of the flames.

Bob: Aw hell ya. Don't think they're expecting us no-how. You ready?

Ben: Lets just be smart about this. watch your step and move quietly, you understand?

Bob: Aw shoot, we need a light. Do you see anything we can use?

Dealer: A lantern hangs above your head, it has some oil, just needs a spark.

Ben: Bad idea, Hank. They'll see us coming for sure. We'll just have to move carefully. Watch your step, and lets move.

Dealer: There's a chance you'll make some noise that may be heard, lotsa stuff everywhere and it's hard to see.

::mechanic:: both successful

Ben: Just shy of the widening I lean up against the wall behind a beam. and peer inside.

Bob: I do the same, on the other side of the hall.

Dealer: In the center of the room is a fire, above it the ceiling tapers up to an opening through which you can see the night sky. In the far side of the room a small table at which two men are sitting, playing cards. behind each man is an exit out of the room. A third man is falling asleep to the right of the fire.

Ben: I ready my revolver and nod to Hank. Here we go.

Bob: I put the shotgun butt against my shoulder and put one finger on each trigger. On your mark, Cecil.

Ben: I move into the opening of the room, to the left of the fire, and point my pistol at the man sitting in the left chair. My finger is against my lips, motioning him to be silent.

Bob: I move in also, to the right of the flame, and point my shottie at the man sitting to the right.

Dealer: How agile is Hank?

Bob: He's, well he's not. at all.

::mechanic:: failure

Dealer: While hank rushes forward he accidentally kicks the sleeping man's foot. The sleeping man wakes up, see's the intruders, shouts "what the devil!?" and reaches for his gun.

Bob: I turn the shotgun on the woken man and pull one trigger. My appropriate skill is "gunfighting" at the professional level.

::mechanic:: success

Dealer: You blast the guy in the chest with triple-ought buckshot. A surprised look on his face. He's not going to be anymore trouble for you. The man sitting to the right gets up from his chair to dash toward the exit on his side. The man on the left puts his hands in the air, a horrified look on his face.

Ben: I turn the gun and fire at the man running away from the table. I use my marksmanship skill to put him down.

Dealer: your character is a rich man's son, never been in a real fight in his life. The action you are performing is unfamiliar-- you can hit targets all day long, but you've never dreamed of being in a gunfight, so your action will be penalized a little.

::mechanic:: slight failure

Dealer: the man takes a bullet in the arm, but it doesn't slow him down much. He reaches the doorway. The sleeping man is dead. The guy with his hands up puts his hands down.

Bob: I turn my shotgun and fire at the man Cecil just shot in the arm.

::mechanic:: major success

Dealer: Your buckshot strikes the man in the back of the head, removing it from the rest of his skull. The rest of his body disappears into the doorway as he falls.

Ben: I point my gun at the man sitting at the table.

Bob: I drop my shotgun and ready my rifle.

Dealer: the man at the table produces a gun of his own, and brings it to bare, as you try to bring your weapon on him.

::mechanic:: failure (cecil)
::mechanic:: slight failure (man)

Dealer: You panic and shoot too early, missing the man entirely. He also panics and aims too low, grazing your shin.

Ben: I drop to my back and ready the pistol for another shot.

Dealer: The man stands up and points his weapon at your head.

Bob: I fire my rifle at the man's face.

::Mechanic:: great success Hank
::mechanic:: failure Cecil
::mechanic:: success standing man

Dealer: Cecil fires a shot as he falls to his back, the shot is way off, the man steadies his aim, but before he can get his sure shot off, a 30-30 bullet makes a small hole in the right side of his face, and the left side of his head is blown to smithereens. He collapses, gun still in hand with the hammer yet cocked back.

Bob: wow. um, close one. Wanna help me up, Hank?

Ben: Sure thing, friend. take my hand.

Dealer: A voice thunders from the hall "Jim you said you was gonna tell us if them coyotes came back! You better have left some sport for the rest of us!" The sound of many boots in full stride can be heard coming from the hall to the right.

Bob: I charge my lever action, and point it at entryway.

Ben: I take the dead man's revolver and do the same, one revolver in each hand.

Bob: Ready Cecil?

Ben: Yeah, sure.



Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on February 28, 2010, 04:26:16 PM
oh, and my name is Reuben.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on February 28, 2010, 10:44:48 PM
Hmm, not really.  Ill freely admit that I cant split hairs with GNS either, but laymans terms, this is my understanding -

It depends on what the group is trying to get out of the game... where they think the fun is.

If they think the fun is getting their character to perform.. to challenge, plan, overcome and win, then they are enjoying gameiness.

If they think the fun is immersing themselves in an imaginary situation, then they are enjoying siminess.

If they think the fun is in having what unfolds turn out to be 'a proper story' then they are enjoying nariness.  [note: 'proper story' is very open to interpretation.  To me it means that the story is more than just a series of events that happened, even if the events individually were pretty cool.  A 'proper' story means that the events connect/relate in such a way that they are more than the sum of their parts -- that there is something to appreciate about the series of events _above_ what occurred in each one.]

So it doesnt really have anything to do with the mechanics leading the story or vice versa, although certain mechanics reinforce or hinder a style of play.   

and obviously you can experience all three types of fun in the same game at once.  What type of game you are playing is probably better defined by what type of fun isnt occuring. 

wow, a lot to take in. I'm going to research the definition of gamism more-- my impression was that a game is "gamist" if you can learn how to play the mechanics and do well, and not have to worry so much about the context, whereas in a narrativeist game, knowing the context and the story is what helps you make good decisions, and the dice or card mechanics are sort of ad-hoc, subjectively administrated by the GM to fit with the story.  Simulationist would then be a cross between the two, where the mechanics try to imitate the story and give realistic results, and the story can be easily adapted to the mechanics, 'cause there is a rule for every possible situation in the story.

Maybe this isn't right, but it's how I've come to understand it.

If you can fight a battle without narrative (or much of it), kinda like a strategy war game or a card game or whatever, then it's gamist.
If the story dictates how the characters are able to move and interact and rulings are made on-the-fly depending on the story, then it's narrativeist.
And if the mechanics are designed to fit precisely with a particular genre, and are interchangeable with storyline elements, then it's simulationist.

As far as the raise, bid, ante fold mechanic, according to my understanding, that would be kinda gamist, because a player can play the game with all the information he needs already available to him in his hand. He just narrates character actions every time he makes a move, but those actions which are described don't actually mean anything in terms of gameplay. whether he says "my character runs toward his opponent firing his lever action rifle from the hip" or "my character runs left through the clearing toward the covered wagon while firing his lever action from the shoulder" doesn't make a difference if the same cards are being played, or the same about is being bid, or the same player action is being done.

If however the player says "my character is going to charge forward, guns blazing." and then the dealer says "all right, according to your ability to perform that action (level 3 gunslinger and +1 because you're a fast runner), here are your 4 cards to play against your opponent's 3 cards (he has a level 4 marksmanship ability but -1 to violent encounters on account of him being a coward)". Then it's narrativist. The story determines the mechanics, not the other way around.

A simulationist would be more like "here is a map of the combat area. Your character is behind this barrel, and your opponent is behind the corner of this building. if you move forward, you'll take seven steps to move diagonally around the barrel, and then 5 steps for each square you move through straight-on. while firing you suffer a -2 penalty to your aim, because you are moving. you also suffer a -2 penalty to your speed because you are firing. Your agility is 31 so you can make 31 actions per round. each step counts as one, each shot counts as three, (charge the weapon, quick-aim, fire), When you run out of actions, your turn is over. Your opponent is pinned down by suppressive fire, so he suffers a -3 penalty to attack (which is rate of fire + cowardice). Given his position he has a +4 bonus to flee, because he can do so away from your line of sight by moving along the building he's hiding behind."
In this case, an excellent knowledge of both the rules and the narrative are essential.

simulationist is the best possible system in terms of meaningful rules, but requires entirely too much calculation and is best handled by a computer.
gamist can be played like a strategy game, simple rules and simple results, kinda hard for the player to by dynamic or do anything imaginative. They player must add narrative within the confines of the results of the dice mechanic.
narrative allows the story to take precedence and set the pace for the mechanics, but at the expense of objectiveness, can be very biased if not handled properly.

I need to figure out if my thinking is right, and if not i need to correct it, then decide precisely WHAT sort of system I'm trying to create. After that, I can move forward. Until then, how wrong am I?



Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Simon C on March 01, 2010, 01:00:05 AM
Yeesh.  I think it would be better if people stopped talking about GNS at all.  It's not helping anyone, and all these weird interpretations of it are just going to get people hopelessly confused.

Reuben,

Hi! Thanks for that description.  So, from your description I'm getting that you want a game that's kind of D&D with cowboys.  Does that sound right? The players make tactical choices on behalf of their characters, based on what attributes those characters have.  Out of combat, the mechanics are a way of pacing the story, but they don't have strong consequences.  In combat, the mechanics have more significant consequences.

Does that sound right?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 01, 2010, 08:54:59 AM
Hey, Reuben.

Based on what you've got in your description and in the play script, I'd say that I have to agree with Simon. It looks like you've got a D&D-like game with cowboys but the "mechanic" is only really important during dramatic situations such as tracking over rough terrain and combat.

I have to ask: When you think of westerns, do you think of the Spaghetti Westerns (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_western) that were popular in the 60s? With John Wayne and Clint Eastwood in shows such as Gunsmoke (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunsmoke)?

If so, why don't you take a look at the cinematic style of these types of shows and try to mimic that with your game mechanics. Usually, anything that wasn't stressful was automatically a success or failure. The failures were often comical and sometimes were where grudges began. Rarely, outside of a dramatic moment was death or injury even considered. Life was not easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but the heroes in these shows made it seem that way.

Assuming that you are referring to Spaghetti Westerns, let's look at some of the elements of your task resolution via cards ideas. I think stefoid hit the nail on the head when he (assuming maleness, sorry) suggested treating the game like poker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poker) in all of its aspects. Poker has a wide variety of different win/loss situations that would make this type of resolution pretty interesting.

First, a character creation suggestion. I think it might be a good idea to give your characters aspects that tie them to the genre. Additionally, I think you should take the idea of poker to the level of character creation as well, afterall, "That's the hand I was dealt when I was born." It would be interesting if you did some research into the descriptions given to spaghetti westerns and cowboys in general and try to come up with 5 descriptive aspects that all characters should have. Each of these 5 aspects gets dealt a card and there you have your character, all fleshed out. The interesting thing is this: leave the Jokers in the deck. If someone ends up with an aspect ranked as a Joker, then that fellow is a Wild Card and really, really good at that particular aspect (though only one joker should be allowed. Redraw if you find a second one).

Now, on to the game mechanics...As stefoid suggested before, everyone starts with 5 cards in their hand. When task resolution is required, they match cards in their hand with the aspect governing the task. So, if you had an aspect called "Gunslinger" with a rank of 10 of spades and you had a hand that would be a royal straight flush of spades if not for that pesky 2 of hearts taking up the 10 of spades' slot, you could disregard that 2 and use your Gunslinger rank. But only if the task has something to do with guns in general.

This might also have connotations towards cheating at poker, having a card up your sleeve so to speak. During almost every poker scene in those old shows, there was always someone who was a cheat and had an ace up their sleeve (the trick was to not get caught...heh and this is where that saying came from, btw). So your aspects could be considered the "Ace up your sleeve" for succeeding.

As for "hit points" I would say this: You can't play poker without risking something. stefoid mentioned bidding, ante, etc. Well, what if you continued with the whole poker motif? Get yourself a set of poker chips and have characters "buy in" for their starting health? Most people might be able to start with 10 dollars and rich folk up to 20. When you do a task resolution, you ante, bid, call, raise, etc. upping the stakes until the showdown when everyone reveals their hands.

The stakes that were bid would be equal to the amount of effort put into the task and represent the amount of hurt you put on your opponents. Of course, if you lose, you'll end up with less to bid next time, and so on until you're broke. At which point, you might allow the player to "cash in" one of his drawable cards for another 10 dollars. If the player whittles his character down to zero draws, the character is dead or dying. Of course, you could allow the character to rest and heal, get second winds, etc. to bring his hand back up to 5 and with a full pot of cash (doing odd jobs and the like).

So, your hit points are built into how well the character can do in the game.

Oh, and you could treat the game like Texas Hold 'em where the cards the "dealer" plays to the community are the environment and each player can match their hand to make the best use of that terrain...

Just some ideas that sprang up after reading through the post and its replies.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 01, 2010, 09:12:49 AM
Found this in Google's cache if you wanted a quick read about cowboys and some of the qualities/traits that they might have: http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:oh06-KjtOyAJ:www.suite101.com/article.cfm/rodeo_and_cowboys/79509+cowboy+traits&cd=46&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 01, 2010, 02:58:22 PM
If you think of your bets as well, they are called 'stakes' arent they?   the players decide if they are up for a low stakes contest or a high stakes contest.  the nature of what the stakes resolve to when you loose depends on the situation - what the winner and looser are trying to do in the contest. 

If they are trying to shoot each other, then I guess loosing a high stakes shooting contest means you get plugged. 

If you are trying to sneak past someone, the stakes from low to high could go from abandoning your attempt before you do get spotted all the way to getting captured just as you are about to get past. 

In an emotion charged showdown, the same thing - from backing down without loosing face to being made to look like a yellow-bellied fool.

Hey, Reuben.
As for "hit points" I would say this: You can't play poker without risking something. stefoid mentioned bidding, ante, etc. Well, what if you continued with the whole poker motif? Get yourself a set of poker chips and have characters "buy in" for their starting health? Most people might be able to start with 10 dollars and rich folk up to 20. When you do a task resolution, you ante, bid, call, raise, etc. upping the stakes until the showdown when everyone reveals their hands.

The stakes that were bid would be equal to the amount of effort put into the task and represent the amount of hurt you put on your opponents. Of course, if you lose, you'll end up with less to bid next time, and so on until you're broke. At which point, you might allow the player to "cash in" one of his drawable cards for another 10 dollars. If the player whittles his character down to zero draws, the character is dead or dying. Of course, you could allow the character to rest and heal, get second winds, etc. to bring his hand back up to 5 and with a full pot of cash (doing odd jobs and the like).

So, your hit points are built into how well the character can do in the game.

Oh, and you could treat the game like Texas Hold 'em where the cards the "dealer" plays to the community are the environment and each player can match their hand to make the best use of that terrain...

Just some ideas that sprang up after reading through the post and its replies.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 01, 2010, 03:01:51 PM
Oh, and I should add that playing an actual hand of cards in a long process, as opposed to just rolling a dice.  therefore it is suited to conflict resolution, rather than task resolution which is what you are doing in your example.  If you like task resolution then anything except the simplest of card contests is going to get real old.  If task res vs conflict res doesnt make sense to you, look it up at the forge, or someone here can probably explain it better than I.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on March 01, 2010, 04:51:37 PM
see, here I thought the whole point of GMS was to emphasis that you simply CANNOT create a game which appeals to all three simultaneously, and if you tried, you'd end up with a convoluted mess of a game where half the rules need to be ignored to make it playable....


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 01, 2010, 05:13:46 PM
I like the idea of a 'reputation' stat for this game, so when you are facing off against someone in a battle of wills, you use it.  And it goes up and down when you win or loose.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 01, 2010, 10:04:00 PM
Oh, and I should add that playing an actual hand of cards in a long process, as opposed to just rolling a dice.  therefore it is suited to conflict resolution, rather than task resolution which is what you are doing in your example.  If you like task resolution then anything except the simplest of card contests is going to get real old.  If task res vs conflict res doesnt make sense to you, look it up at the forge, or someone here can probably explain it better than I.

Task resolution should be high card: cut the deck and add to appropriate stat.

Conflict resolution would be the poker hands.

I like the idea of a 'reputation' stat for this game, so when you are facing off against someone in a battle of wills, you use it.  And it goes up and down when you win or loose.

"He's the rootenist, tootenist, slick-ole, yellow-belly ya ever did see..."

I would say that rep would be a good stat. Maybe it could act a bit like luck or some bonus? The higher your rep, the easier some things become such as opponents fleeing because they're facing Old-Snake One-Eye, or they're able to bluff a hand to win a conflict resolution. That might be fun.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 01, 2010, 10:31:28 PM
see, here I thought the whole point of GMS was to emphasis that you simply CANNOT create a game which appeals to all three simultaneously, and if you tried, you'd end up with a convoluted mess of a game where half the rules need to be ignored to make it playable....

Whatever the rules are, it is possible to enjoy all aspects at once with any given game.  Like, there are gamey aspects to rooting for your character to win against adversity.  there are simy aspects to any roleplaying game where you are putting yourself in an imaginary situation.  and you can try to build a narative in in any game you play. 

Probably people have a preference for a particular style of play, and will seek out games that are designed to facilitate that style of play, but it doesn't mean they aren't enjoying other aspects at the same time.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 01, 2010, 10:42:26 PM
Quote
"He's the rootenist, tootenist, slick-ole, yellow-belly ya ever did see..."

I would say that rep would be a good stat. Maybe it could act a bit like luck or some bonus? The higher your rep, the easier some things become such as opponents fleeing because they're facing Old-Snake One-Eye, or they're able to bluff a hand to win a conflict resolution. That might be fun.

If you make your skill (in this case rep) related to the number of replacement cards you can draw, then a character with a high rep is likely to have a much better hand than a character with a low rep, so his bluffs are likely to carry a lot more weight in a faceoff conflict.  Thats not to say that a character with no rep cant bluff in the contest, or even get a sweet hand - just that its less likely.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 01, 2010, 11:41:40 PM
I guess, in a way, you could say that Reputation could be the "level" of the character. Only in this game, level is a transient thing because damage to your reputation would make it more difficult to get things done.

Just a brief thought that smacked me in the forehead...


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on March 02, 2010, 03:27:06 AM
I have to agree with Simon about the GNS verbiage flying around in this thread - not only are you guys mostly using it ass-backwards, but it seems to me that it's also not contributing to the game design problem at hand, either. This is just a suggestion, but wouldn't it make sense to start new threads in the actual play subforum for learning about GNS and applying it to practical gaming?

As for the actual issue, I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned Dust Devils (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Devils) here. Seems to me like this seminal western rpg overlaps many of the ideas mentioned here. Might be useful to check it out to see how it implements the notion of cards-based western roleplaying.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 02, 2010, 04:18:04 AM
As for the actual issue, I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned Dust Devils (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Devils) here. Seems to me like this seminal western rpg overlaps many of the ideas mentioned here. Might be useful to check it out to see how it implements the notion of cards-based western roleplaying.

Just had a look at Dust Devils.  No bluffing?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on March 02, 2010, 04:42:30 AM
Just had a look at Dust Devils.  No bluffing?

Well, there's a sort of bluffing as an emergent phenomenon: in a conflict, once the players have drawn their hands, any player may opt to pay a chip to withdraw from the conflict. As the game has one of the most lethal death spirals out there, smart players tend to use this option pretty liberally whenever the fictional conditions allow (withdrawing from a conflict postpones resolution in the fiction, which might not always be a good thing). In practice this looks like bluffing, as each player has to estimate how good their hand is in comparison with the others. As players can pay chips for various effects during the conflict, they have the means for signalling their hand strength to the others, too.

It's a very clever system; overall it's still one of my favourites ever.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 02, 2010, 12:02:15 PM
Just had a look at Dust Devils.  No bluffing?

Well, there's a sort of bluffing as an emergent phenomenon: in a conflict, once the players have drawn their hands, any player may opt to pay a chip to withdraw from the conflict. As the game has one of the most lethal death spirals out there, smart players tend to use this option pretty liberally whenever the fictional conditions allow (withdrawing from a conflict postpones resolution in the fiction, which might not always be a good thing). In practice this looks like bluffing, as each player has to estimate how good their hand is in comparison with the others. As players can pay chips for various effects during the conflict, they have the means for signalling their hand strength to the others, too.

It's a very clever system; overall it's still one of my favourites ever.

spending to withdraw from the contest sounds counter-intuitive.  I guess you have to suck it and see.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on March 02, 2010, 02:51:58 PM
Task resolution vs conflict resolution: I think this is where I need to draw a line in the sand. The poker motif, which is so very cool, WOULD be too drawn out for a task resolution mechanic. You're absolutely right. As for a conflict resolution, It may be absolutely perfect, if done correctly.

That's the problem, though, I need a working prototype; a foundation to build on. I've never even HEARD of  a system of conflict resolution that didn't handle tasks individually. It sounds like it could incite a lot of argument, more than a healthy amount, that is.

What we have here is a particular card assigned to a particular ability. When performing an action, the card assigned to the ability associated with that action is "taken for granted".

This works well to figure out not only how GOOD you are at a task (determined by how good the card associated with it is) but also how suitable your particular ability is to the situation in question, (or how appropriate that particular card is to the hand you've been dealt).

As you get better in a skill, can you have additional cards added to that skill? for instance, when you level up, would you randomly draw a card, and add it to your ability? Or would it be better to redraw, hoping for a better card? Maybe get more than one chance, depending on level....

Or should I avoid leveling up all together, and let the players work with the hand they've been dealt, playing a different character each time, perhaps...

One of the things I've always wanted to try was getting a posse together, and having a medium-scale battle, maybe a skirmish with another gang, or a battle with a union cavalry division, or a band of indian raiders... I can't imagine dealing a hand for every one involved in the combat-- how could that work? Maybe only the leaders get cards, and their list of 'granted' cards comes from the strength of the force they represent?

Well, this is a whole new way of thinking, trying to resolve a complex confrontation involving multiple individuals with a single hand of poker.  The idea is thrilling, not gonna lie, but I'm having trouble thinking it through.










Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 02, 2010, 03:28:32 PM
Well, like I said, if you use Texas Hold 'Em as a model, the GM deals out a series of cards as the community cards that represent the terrain/environment. Each player draws 5 cards and can use their stat as the 'ace up their sleeve' to try for the best hands they can get. You can allow players to discard and draw new cards if that's how you want to play. Perhaps you can have a Fate pool (destiny, action points, favor points, luck, whatever you want to call it) where they can spend a point to redraw instead of doing it for free.

As far as task resolution goes, there are several versions of poker that can be used such as 5 (or 7) card draw/stud.

You could also go with a faster game for task resolution that might be pretty fun: Blackjack. I mean, they played that back then too (it wasn't as popular but it's been around since the 1600s as 21). This gives a whole new meaning to task resolution because you can double down and split to try for better results. If they bust, they fail the task and if they hit blackjack it could be a critical success, otherwise it's the player's score vs the dealer's score...Quick game to play, actually. The player's stat could be the first card and he could hit, stand, double down, split, or surrender...

As far as advancement, I would say that you could allow the player to draw in an attempt to get a higher card than the stat they're trying to increase. If they do, move the stat to the next higher card (so if they have a 2 of clubs and draw a 2 of diamonds, their stat would increase to the 3 of clubs. If they have a queen of hearts and they draw a king of diamonds, their stat would increase to the queen of spades. Standard suit order is clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades...well, at least according to cribbage). That would be a good way to do it I think.

Speaking of cribbage, another game that was around back then, you could use a cribbage board for player experience. You'd probably only need a 2 track, but there are 3 and 4 track boards out there. Each player would get their own cribbage board and as they gained experience, the outer track is followed. When you get to the end of the track, advance the next track by 1. They have gained a level. You could set it up so that each track is a player and they get to advance once their peg gets to the end of their respective tracks...

You don't have to stick with traditional cards if you don't want to (this cardset is rather interesting (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/37301/decktet)). Decktet is an interesting set of cards, each card has more than one suit in addition to names and values. Might be a cool bit of inspiration or replacement for the standard deck.

There are a crapload of different card games that could be used and you could take elements from each in order to do what you need. Imagine task resolution if the dealer drew, say, 7 cards and the player drew 7 cards. You could create a set, flush, or straight from the dealer's cards in order to provide the difficulty of the task. Choose smaller cards for easy tasks and straight flushes for difficult tasks. The player, using his skills/stats could attempt to create a set that beats that difficulty. In tasks that may need help from other players, those players could draw 7 cards as well and contribute their sets. If a task needs multiple successes, allow the player to discard any unused cards and draw again (this time without the use of their skill/stat) and add any sets to the task.

Just more ideas.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Simon C on March 02, 2010, 05:10:56 PM
Are we all clear on what the phrases "task resolution" and "conflict resolution" mean?  Because they seem to be getting used a few different ways here.

Conflict resolution is resolving whether a character gets what they want.  Like "I want to kill that orc" or "I want to cross this river" or whatever.

(Probably) All roleplaying games have a conflict resolution system.  In some of them, the system is "leave it up to the GM" or "Leave it up to the players".  In others it's "See if they succeed in a related task, and then decide".  In others it's "Roll a bunch of dice, possibly depending on if they succeeded at a task or not".

Task resolution is resolving if a character succeeds at a task they were performing to get something they wanted.

(Probably) All roleplaying games have task resolution systems.  In some of them, it's "Leave it up to the player to describe" or "Leave it to the GM".  In others it's "roll a bunch of dice". 

So for example, a card based conflict resolution system could look like this:

[blockquote]

Say what the characters in the conflict want, then draw five cards each. For our example, let's say it's a chase, where one character is trying to escape, and the other is trying to catch them.

Now we break down into task resolution, working out exactly how the character catches their enemy, or else how the enemy gets away.

Starting with the character who is initiating the conflict, say what your character is doing to get what they want (they could shoot at the other character, track them through the woods, ride after them on their horse, or whatever) They play a card accompanying this action. 

Now the other player must play a card.  If they're in a gunfight, they must play hearts.  If they're in the wilderness, they must play spades, if they're in a physical fight, they must play clubs.  If they're in a card game, they must play diamonds.  Otherwise, they can play any card they like. 

If they can play a higher card, the player has won the round.  They can describe their character avoiding or overcoming what the other character is doing.

Otherwise, the other player has won the round.  They describe how their character gets closer to what they want.

Now it's the other player's turn to play the first card. 

If a player wins three rounds in a row, the conflict is over.  If either player runs out of cards before the conflict is over, the conflict ends unresolved - something intervenes that prevents either character from getting what they want.

[/blockquote]

Do you see how the conflict resolution "bookends" the task resolution?  Multiple tasks are resolved within a single conflict, and the outcomes of those tasks tells us how the conflict is resolved?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 02, 2010, 06:38:47 PM
You've got it a bit mixed up there from my standpoint.

Conflict resolution is, in my book, the resolution of interaction between characters, other characters, npcs, and monsters. It involves strategy, cunning, daring, and luck. You could call this rounds of combat, arm wrestling, or another opposed action: "I try to hit that thing and that thing is trying not to be hit by me" or "I am trying to out think this guy's moves in chess, but he's trying to mask his strategy with a red herring move."

Task resolution is the mechanic which takes care of determining if the character can succeed at a set, non-opposed difficulty. "I am trying to pick this difficult lock, can I do it?" or "I am driving my car and there's a sharp turn ahead, can I maintain speed and control on that turn?"

You can argue that conflict-resolution and conflict-resolution are the same thing. You can argue that conflict-resolution is a series of task-resolutions. That's fine. When I speak of conflict and task resolution, I'm talking about what I've laid out here.

So, we are both correct. In any case, I can rephrase my suggestions as: If you want to handle interactions between "living" beings that oppose the character's actions, use poker (texas hold 'em would be a good choice here I think). If you want to resolve a character's skill at overcoming static challenges or even some dynamic challenges that do not involve an active participant thwarting your character's actions, use a faster game like blackjack or "cutting of the cards".

Clear now?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 02, 2010, 08:10:27 PM
I was thinking,    one conflict (say a gunfight) = 1 game of cards.   

I dont have a succinct definition, but by way of example, for task resolution systems, you roll to determine the success or failure of each little discrete action involved in the entire conflict until your aim is either accomplished or becomes impossible.  A gunfight might involve 6 shooting resolutions, 3 dodging resolutions, 2 run for cover resolutions, 4 observation checks, etc.. etc...  Potentially such a conflict could go on forever- "I miss, he misses, I miss, he misses, I miss..."  ad infinitum...

For conflict resolution, you abstract the individual tasks away as required.  The conflict is a gunfight and at the end of the conflict resolution process, you WILL have either won or lost the gunfight. 

The conflict resolution mechanic might involve a couple of 'rounds' of back and forth between the contestants, but each round abstracts individual tasks performed in that round to a single resolution, based on what the character wants to accomplish.  i.e. "I sprint across open ground, dive behind a handy rock and fire some shots from a higher vantage point".   This potentially involves several resolutions in a task system, but only one resolution in a conflict based system  -- a conflict resolution system WILL resolve whatever is at stake, in totality, whenever a resolution mechanic (like dice roll) is applied.

Mostly conflict resolution systems have abstract stats and skills too - because you arent required  to roll for discrete tasks, you dont need matching discrete skills.  'Gunfighting', in this example, would be enough.

With the poker hand conflict res I proposed, you have several natural 'rounds' (fold/call/raise) built in the game, but nothing concrete is actually resolved until all but one character has folded or the cards are laid on the table.

it goes: 
1) describe what you want (which defines the nature of the conflict)
2) play poker, split into rounds of bidding where stated intentions for each round help the GM define the consequences of dropping out of the conflict at that point
3) lay down the cards which decide who achieves their initial aim and also the consequences for the losers depending on what they were doing and what the winners aim was.

Lets say that one character wants to catch another character, and that character decides to oppose it (a conflict!) by trying to escape.

If either player drops immediately on cards being dealt due to a rubbish hand, they suffer minimal loss in doing so.  i.e. the chased character gives himself up, or the chaser gives up, lets say slightly out of breath.

Successive rounds of bidding raise the stakes = more dire consequences for the loser with each round of raising.  We are still resolving whether the character is caught or gets away, but each round adds extra spice to the contest and the consequences for the story that follows.  Lets say the chased character climbs a roof to escape (escalating the challenge)  does the chaser follow and risk a fall?  Or lets say the chaser fires a warning shot.  Does the chaser stay in the conflict or give up due to the risk of being shot?

The poker style of resolution has an inbuilt conflict escalation mechanic with the fold/call/raise rounds, but its up to the players/GM to decide what ultimately happens in the story to go along with that.   



Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 02, 2010, 08:21:40 PM
further thought - with conflict resolution, WHY you are having the conflict is important.  I mean, in all probability there will be a gunfight :)   but the conflict resolution system definitely resolves what characters are hoping to achieve by having the gunfight.  i.e.  I want to kill this guy, or I want to capture that guy, or I want to humiliate him in front of the whole town.    At the end of the conflict resolution system, those issues WILL be resolved as part of the process, and the gunfight is simply a means to an end.

I suppose killing PCs is kind of problematic, if that is the ultimate aim of a character, but it certainly adds spice to the game.  Lets say that PCs are only killed IF the attempted murderer and his victim both resolve to stay in the poker game until the final macimum hand.  If they dont drop out before then, then PC death is a viable outcome.  Better make sure you have a good hand!


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Simon C on March 02, 2010, 08:48:18 PM
Excalibur,

I think we've misunderstood each other.  I was articulating the current big-model definitions of Conflict Resolution and Task Resolution, as I see them.  If you want to use those phrases to mean something else, that's fine, but it's going to lead to some confusion.

Your distinction between opposed conflicts and "static" conflicts is a useful one though.  Some games use the same system to resolve both kinds of conflict, and other games use different systems.  It's worth thinking about.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 02, 2010, 09:34:19 PM
For a pithy definition of task vs conflict, tell me if this is right

its about what is resolved.  If it resolves ONLY whether you succeed or failed at something but no more than that, its task resolution, but if it explicitly also resolves why you doing that something, then its conflict resolution?

i.e. with task resolution the player says I am attempting something, and the answer is , you did that, or you didnt manage to do that
with conflict resolution the player says I want to achieve this by doing something, and the answer is you achieved that or you didnt achieve that.

the actual scope of the something can vary whether it is task resolution or conflict resolution, but generally, in task res systems it is pretty granular, and in conflict res systems the scope is generally more encompassing.

i.e.  something could range from  'pick up a piece of paper ' to 'take over the universe' in either system.

task res:  I want to take over the universe.  <roll dice = big result> success!

conflict res:  I want to take over the universe to impress my girlfriend. <roll dice = small result>  well, you took over the universe, but she just thinks you're overcompensating.



Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Falc on March 03, 2010, 12:19:49 AM
That's the problem, though, I need a working prototype; a foundation to build on. I've never even HEARD of  a system of conflict resolution that didn't handle tasks individually. It sounds like it could incite a lot of argument, more than a healthy amount, that is.

Have you ever played or read Dogs in the Vineyard? It has a Wild West flair, it has a poker-y resolution mechanic which is used to resolve conflicts. Now, yes, it does break conflict down into smaller pieces that are like tasks, but failing a task does not in and of itself stop you from winning the conflict. So yeah, there's arguments sometimes, but they don't tend to become too unhealthy.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 03, 2010, 03:01:52 AM
That's the problem, though, I need a working prototype; a foundation to build on. I've never even HEARD of  a system of conflict resolution that didn't handle tasks individually. It sounds like it could incite a lot of argument, more than a healthy amount, that is.

Have you ever played or read Dogs in the Vineyard? It has a Wild West flair, it has a poker-y resolution mechanic which is used to resolve conflicts. Now, yes, it does break conflict down into smaller pieces that are like tasks, but failing a task does not in and of itself stop you from winning the conflict. So yeah, there's arguments sometimes, but they don't tend to become too unhealthy.

With task resolution or conflict resolution, I think its important to pick a scope of what is resolved that suits the type of game you want.  Personally Im am over games that break everything down to a very granular level.  I find there is too much rolling about nothing going on.  I want each time I pick up the dice to resolve something significant about the situation. 

For gamey type games that means I want each thing I resolve to have a significant tactical outcome in the conflict, because thats the fun part.  If Im holding up the fiction to look up tables, roll a bunch of dice do further calculations...  if it doesnt affect the tactical situation win or loose, then why bother?

Similarly in non-gamey games I want whatever Im resolving to have some impact on the story, win or loose.

In short, all 'rolls' should move the situation forward, win loose or draw, so choose the scope of resolution to ensure that will happen.  Thats why abstract skills are better than granular skills, because granular skills encourage a granular scope of resolution each time.

Simmy games tend to obsess over realism (or fictional realism), and I find you tend to end up doing a lot of pointless resolution of stuff that it either doesnt matter what the outcome is, or worse, that there is an unnaceptable outcome that, if the dice are not favourable, the GM will fudge a result.  "oops, says here you fumbled your swing across the chasm roll, so you fall.... err, make an agility roll to see if you can catch the rope.  failed again?  by how much?  oh thats not so bad - you just manage to catch it with your fingertips"  pointless resolution that isnt going to change the fact that the pc MUST cross the chasm because falling to his death in a pointless random fashion is unacceptable.  So why roll at all?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Simon C on March 03, 2010, 12:35:49 PM
Stefoid, for a pithy definition of task vs. conflict, read what I said in my earlier post.

Does the character get what they want? <-- Conflict resolution
Does the character succeed at what they were doing to get what they want? <-- Task resolution

This has nothing to do with Right to Dream play, or, in my opinion, mechanics that simulate realism.  You can have a conflict resolution system that models a real-life situation closely, or a task resolution system that doesn't.

Is any of this helping the original poster? I suggest we all give it a break until Reuben comes back with a clear direction for this thread.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 03, 2010, 01:45:03 PM
Stefoid, for a pithy definition of task vs. conflict, read what I said in my earlier post.

Does the character get what they want? <-- Conflict resolution
Does the character succeed at what they were doing to get what they want? <-- Task resolution

This has nothing to do with Right to Dream play, or, in my opinion, mechanics that simulate realism.  You can have a conflict resolution system that models a real-life situation closely, or a task resolution system that doesn't.

Is any of this helping the original poster? I suggest we all give it a break until Reuben comes back with a clear direction for this thread.

I think it would be better defined as:
Is someone trying to stop the person from getting what they want? <-- Conflict Resolution
Is there something the character must do to get what they want? <-- Task Resolution

The subtle difference is the active opposition against the character vs passive opposition (someone you're trying to shoot vs a lock you're trying to pick).

Conflicts can be made of several different tasks (run, duck, dodge, run, shoot, dodge, punch) and I believe in this system of poker, that's handled with bid, call, raise, fold. The resolution to the conflict is the showdown where the hands are revealed.

Tasks can also consist of different tasks (yep, recursive) but generally do not have as many in as stressful a situation (insert pick, insert bar, twist, shift pick). The resolution to a task should be quick and not impede the flow of the game since it requires less strategy and less tactical thinking. That's why I suggest high card/low card or blackjack.

Now, that's not to say that Conflict Resolution can't cover all aspects of the game, I have just never heard of a lock trying to kill someone back ;)


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 03, 2010, 02:43:46 PM
This has nothing to do with Right to Dream play, or, in my opinion, mechanics that simulate realism.  You can have a conflict resolution system that models a real-life situation closely,

How would that work?  I cant see it. 


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 03, 2010, 02:46:18 PM
I think it would be better defined as:
Is someone trying to stop the person from getting what they want? <-- Conflict Resolution
Is there something the character must do to get what they want? <-- Task Resolution

The subtle difference is the active opposition against the character vs passive opposition (someone you're trying to shoot vs a lock you're trying to pick).

Hi Ex.   That is absolutely not what other people are talking about when the terms conflict res and task res are bandied about.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 03, 2010, 03:22:52 PM
KO, I'm walking on the flip-side of the norm then ;) I just think of things that way because it makes it easier for me to remember. Though, I'm defining this stuff the way I am in order for it to fit my understanding of what the original poster wanted to talk about. I think this thread has gone down a tangent that should twist back over to the original post.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on March 03, 2010, 05:06:06 PM
Ex, you most certainly should NOT have shown me the Decktet game. The possibilities with that deck are numerous, but now I've started thinking about making my own deck to fit the game, instead of a game to fit the deck. Dangerous stuff. Not particularly practical, though-- my first inclination was to design a battle system that could facilitate an im-promptu game session when no one remembered the dice; just pull out an old poker deck.

I understand better now the difference between task and conflict resolution-- what stefoid said helps a lot with deciding how I'm going to do skills-- Rather than making skills very specific (which he pointed out will lead to numerous, pointless how you say... granular... checks), I suppose a good system would be to have skills be more general, and if parts of a skill might be useful for a task, then the player can use that skill instead of a more appropriate one at a penalty.

Making skills more general in this way will make checks more meaningful. Does it then become necessary to make the mechanic lean even more away from task resolution? I kinda like the idea, if I were playing the game, of micromanaging how a character does something. If It becomes less important HOW a character performs and action, then also the things that make the character special, the whole point of creating a unique character, become less important.

solving a conflict piecemeal vs factoring everything into a single check is a slippery slope either way.

the poker system described does create a delicious escalation mechanic that I can't perceive trying synthesize in a task-resolution system. The problem with any such system is that I really can't see how it can be used with more than two opposing individuals. Poker is an every-man-for-himself kinda game. It's hard to adapt for team play. Extremely hard to adapt for large-scale conflict. I don't see how it can be done if there are three or more conflicting goals occurring simultaneously.

I do like the idea of players contributing their cards to the greater good... But this means the GM will have to play the same way from the NPC side-- that could be tedious.

Hm, every time I come across a problem with my way of thinking, my inclination is to abandon everything i have so far and start over with something completely different... my mind keeps wandering back to the idea "you know, if you would make your OWN deck..."


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 03, 2010, 08:01:05 PM
Quote
I understand better now the difference between task and conflict resolution-- what stefoid said helps a lot with deciding how I'm going to do skills-- Rather than making skills very specific (which he pointed out will lead to numerous, pointless how you say... granular... checks), I suppose a good system would be to have skills be more general, and if parts of a skill might be useful for a task, then the player can use that skill instead of a more appropriate one at a penalty.

Making skills more general in this way will make checks more meaningful. Does it then become necessary to make the mechanic lean even more away from task resolution? I kinda like the idea, if I were playing the game, of micromanaging how a character does something. If It becomes less important HOW a character performs and action, then also the things that make the character special, the whole point of creating a unique character, become less important.

What you want is gamist game where a large component of that is tactical combat, yeah?  (This is what someone mentioned earlier in the thread).

If thats where you see this game, then yes, character design and combat tactics are a major part of the fun.  Basically you are building a combat machine from a toolkit of spare parts to behave how you want it to behave, then your testing your design (and tactical skills) in combat.  The player is part mad scientist and part armchair general. 

In that case, I think what I said about pointless rolling still applies -- in general you dont want a system that encourages tests where the outcome isnt changing the situation.  It may be that you can still get away with abstract skills as well.  But you need to give the mad scientist something to play with and the armchair general too.  They need lots of options in character design and general play.  Those options dont necessarily have to be a laundry list of skill and stats to choose from.

One particularly bad design mistake is to give the player a whole lot of options during design that dont make much difference during play.   Character design decisions have to matter during play.  that is the payoff. 

Related to this is I think its a mistake to obsess over 'realism' because it can lead the designer to make mechanics that do exactly that - diminish the payoff for character creation decisions.  Thats why players min-max, and I dont get why min-maxing is generally looked down on.  All the players are trying to do is make character design decisions that matter, and if they are forced to min-max in order to do that, its the game design that is in the wrong, not the player.

i.e.  a player will go into character design with some kind of template in mind, which they then try to adapt to the character design process the game offers, and also there is a feedback loop where the game offers something unexpected that they then incorporate into their original template, and round and round.  But they might initially start off with an idea like :"I want this massively strong barbarian who can take and deal out oodles of punishment, but is also fast as tiger, lithe as a cat, and dumb as dogshit.".   If they have to min-max or scratch around to defeat 'realistic' character design rules that mistakenly try to enforce some 'balanced character' rules...  well, phht to that.  they are playing the wrong game.

Personally for this type of game, Ive been thinking myself about doing away with all but a basic couple of stats, very much like FATE  (i.e. character is 3 parts soldier, one part drifter, one part impoverished nobleman), and having everything else about the character defined in terms of tactical abilities which I originally called something like Signature Moves but in D&D they would be called FEATS.  Lets call them 'feats' here because its a short word.  They arent confined to combat skills - they define everything specific about the character, but yeah, combat is where its at for this type of game.

but basically instead of having something like I try to attack with my attack skill, he tries to defend with his defend skill, and some generic damage and armor system etc...  you have a tactical thing that the character can do which has a predefined outcome if it is successful, so each time the feat is attempted and resolved, its like a granular conflict-resolution instead of task resolution.

example:  feat called  'suppressive fire'    You attempt this when you want the enemy to not be able to shoot back, like if you are covering an ally who is moving out of cover.  If you are successful, by definition of the feat, you have accomplished this.  So the reason why you are shooting is resolved (on a granular tactical scale) and not the individual task of firing your gun, which if it hits or misses still doesnt resolve whether the enemy is able to fire back (unless of course you happen to shoot him dead).

So character creation becomes then a process of assembling a toolkit of tactics that your character can apply.  There is no need or possibility to minmax - everything you choose is guaranteed to have a significant effect on how your character functions.  the game can offer a laundry list to choose from as an example, or the player can of course create their own with GM permission.

Lastly you would let the player improvise new tactics to try on the fly. (This kind of mechanic actively encourages framing scope as conflict resolution)  Lets say that a tactic you select lets you perform that feat using your most appropriate stat - say 'soldier' with no penalty.  Improvising a new tactic on the fly for a specific situation means you have to take some kind of penalty to your soldier stat, so it is less likely to come off.

Ongoing character growth comes from improving both basic stats and learning new tactics and more powerful tactics.




Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: PeterBB on March 03, 2010, 08:34:05 PM
Quote
If It becomes less important HOW a character performs and action, then also the things that make the character special, the whole point of creating a unique character, become less important.

solving a conflict piecemeal vs factoring everything into a single check is a slippery slope either way.

I'm not sure I agree. If anything, a conflict resolution system allows a great deal more creative freedom to express exactly how the character would do something. Imagine the following bit of narration:

"I sweep my coat off the table, using it to distract the enemy as I break my beer bottle and stab him with the broken shards."

If you have a task resolution system, then you have to hope that there are distraction rules and improvised weapons rules somewhere, otherwise this is impossible. And is sweeping a coat a simple or complex action? How about breaking a bottle, do you have time to do that and also stab him? Do we need to use the barrier rules to determine how badly it shatters? Do you take any damage from shattering a bottle you're holding?

If you have a conflict resolution system, then you just do it, and roll to see if it works. Or even better, you roll first, so that you can narrate something that is appropriate given the level of success you know you have.

I'm currently playing a Shadowrun game where I'm a stealthy assassin type with knives. This essentially means I suck at combat, because it's not really possible to be a legitimately powerful melee character given the RAW. My vision for the character is impeded by the fact that he can't actually do anything with all of the skills I envisioned him having. (This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that a powergamer friend of mine helped me create him, but I was unwilling to take skills or equipment that was completely out of character, so only somewhat.) In contrast, in a conflict resolution system you don't have to worry about min-maxing your character, so you can actually just create him the way you wanted to all along.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 03, 2010, 08:59:51 PM
Ex, you most certainly should NOT have shown me the Decktet game. The possibilities with that deck are numerous, but now I've started thinking about making my own deck to fit the game, instead of a game to fit the deck. Dangerous stuff. Not particularly practical, though-- my first inclination was to design a battle system that could facilitate an im-promptu game session when no one remembered the dice; just pull out an old poker deck.

I'm glad it provided inspiration. Actually, I kept thinking to myself, "why not just make an alternate reality wild west?" Not in the sense that the cowboys are really cows with guns (that's another game) but who is to say that a different form of card game didn't develop there?

Anyway, one of the other things I was thinking was that if you had other numbers that meant different things on the cards, in addition to the standard deck, you could do different types of resolutions from initiative to high/low to stat-based bonuses to resource management (like in RISK). So you have a standard deck of cards with clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades numbered from A-K plus 2 jokers. You could add stickers of different colors to the cards to represent strength tests or aim bonuses or skill use or something else. You could print out your own cards (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/490643/making-cards-youll-never-use-your-old-method-again (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/490643/making-cards-youll-never-use-your-old-method-again)) with the stuff *you* want on them.

Quote
the poker system described does create a delicious escalation mechanic that I can't perceive trying synthesize in a task-resolution system. The problem with any such system is that I really can't see how it can be used with more than two opposing individuals. Poker is an every-man-for-himself kinda game. It's hard to adapt for team play. Extremely hard to adapt for large-scale conflict. I don't see how it can be done if there are three or more conflicting goals occurring simultaneously.

Well, you could always allow the players to work together and share their hands, but yeah, team-based poker isn't an easy thing to wrap your head around. I'm having a hard time of doing it without thinking about community cards and allowing players to use their stats (if you have them draw cards for their stats that is) to make their hands. They may get a hand of 5 cards but only allow them to use 1 or 2 from that hand to combine with their stats and the community/environment cards dealt by the GM. This way the players can see generally how everyone might do and the extra cards represent luck or a special insight into the situation.

Quote
I do like the idea of players contributing their cards to the greater good... But this means the GM will have to play the same way from the NPC side-- that could be tedious.

Nah, the GM could assign 1 or 2 cards to each NPC taking part in the combat, use the environment cards, and his own hand of cards. Though I'd say 1-2 cards per NPC is the GM's hand.

Hm, every time I come across a problem with my way of thinking, my inclination is to abandon everything i have so far and start over with something completely different... my mind keeps wandering back to the idea "you know, if you would make your OWN deck..."[/quote]

If you want to experiment with your own deck, by all means do so. This link (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/490643/making-cards-youll-never-use-your-old-method-again) gives a pretty darned good tutorial on how to create nice cards with professional look and feel about them, all done by you. Your first deck doesn't have to have color (but can if you want) so you can test it out.

Actually, that's what I'm doing with my game: printing out all the cards in black & white on normal stock and putting it in clear card sleeves so that I can test the game. Still have to get a group to playtest, but I have the materials. In my game, players write stuff on the cards (they can build their own techniques and junk...from a set of rules) and they do combat resolution through a system of sacrificing cards and tactical play. For instance, during the initiative phase, players drop two cards from their hands (optional, if they don't, they go dead last) to the table. The cards are face down. One represents initiative, the other maneuver. If you win initiative, you get to go first. If you win maneuver you can either play an attack card after you see the opponent's defense card or you can play a defense card after seeing an opponents attack card. If maneuver is tied, both players play their attack and defense cards simultaneously, face down, then turn them over and resolve combat.

I've even got the character records reduced to the size of a magic card. I can't wait to test it and get feedback.

Anyway, some of the fun, I think, will be in designing your own cards if that's the route you decide to take. Decktet and the card creation tutorial have really got my juices flowing.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 03, 2010, 10:08:14 PM
I *think* ruben is talking about sucking the options out of character design and possibly also general play of his gamist game by abstracting too much. 

Quote
If It becomes less important HOW a character performs and action, then also the things that make the character special, the whole point of creating a unique character, become less important.

solving a conflict piecemeal vs factoring everything into a single check is a slippery slope either way.

I'm not sure I agree. If anything, a conflict resolution system allows a great deal more creative freedom to express exactly how the character would do something. Imagine the following bit of narration:

"I sweep my coat off the table, using it to distract the enemy as I break my beer bottle and stab him with the broken shards."

If you have a task resolution system, then you have to hope that there are distraction rules and improvised weapons rules somewhere, otherwise this is impossible. And is sweeping a coat a simple or complex action? How about breaking a bottle, do you have time to do that and also stab him? Do we need to use the barrier rules to determine how badly it shatters? Do you take any damage from shattering a bottle you're holding?

If you have a conflict resolution system, then you just do it, and roll to see if it works. Or even better, you roll first, so that you can narrate something that is appropriate given the level of success you know you have.

I'm currently playing a Shadowrun game where I'm a stealthy assassin type with knives. This essentially means I suck at combat, because it's not really possible to be a legitimately powerful melee character given the RAW. My vision for the character is impeded by the fact that he can't actually do anything with all of the skills I envisioned him having. (This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that a powergamer friend of mine helped me create him, but I was unwilling to take skills or equipment that was completely out of character, so only somewhat.) In contrast, in a conflict resolution system you don't have to worry about min-maxing your character, so you can actually just create him the way you wanted to all along.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 03, 2010, 10:19:24 PM


Quote
the poker system described does create a delicious escalation mechanic that I can't perceive trying synthesize in a task-resolution system. The problem with any such system is that I really can't see how it can be used with more than two opposing individuals. Poker is an every-man-for-himself kinda game. It's hard to adapt for team play. Extremely hard to adapt for large-scale conflict. I don't see how it can be done if there are three or more conflicting goals occurring simultaneously.

Well, you could always allow the players to work together and share their hands, but yeah, team-based poker isn't an easy thing to wrap your head around. I'm having a hard time of doing it without thinking about community cards and allowing players to use their stats (if you have them draw cards for their stats that is) to make their hands. They may get a hand of 5 cards but only allow them to use 1 or 2 from that hand to combine with their stats and the community/environment cards dealt by the GM. This way the players can see generally how everyone might do and the extra cards represent luck or a special insight into the situation.


If you wanted to go with the poker theme (which you would only want to use for 1 game = conflict resolved situations) then you could simply have the GM have a separate hand of poker for each PC involved in a conflict.  Basically its not going to work well for granular combat, but who says you cant have two resolution mechanics in the same game, one for granular mass combat and the poker game for other 1:1 combats and other types of conflict.  A faceoff and/or duel for instance would be the poker method, but the party surrounding the ravine where the outlaws are hiding out would be the mass combat system.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 03, 2010, 10:57:48 PM


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the poker system described does create a delicious escalation mechanic that I can't perceive trying synthesize in a task-resolution system. The problem with any such system is that I really can't see how it can be used with more than two opposing individuals. Poker is an every-man-for-himself kinda game. It's hard to adapt for team play. Extremely hard to adapt for large-scale conflict. I don't see how it can be done if there are three or more conflicting goals occurring simultaneously.

Well, you could always allow the players to work together and share their hands, but yeah, team-based poker isn't an easy thing to wrap your head around. I'm having a hard time of doing it without thinking about community cards and allowing players to use their stats (if you have them draw cards for their stats that is) to make their hands. They may get a hand of 5 cards but only allow them to use 1 or 2 from that hand to combine with their stats and the community/environment cards dealt by the GM. This way the players can see generally how everyone might do and the extra cards represent luck or a special insight into the situation.


If you wanted to go with the poker theme (which you would only want to use for 1 game = conflict resolved situations) then you could simply have the GM have a separate hand of poker for each PC involved in a conflict.  Basically its not going to work well for granular combat, but who says you cant have two resolution mechanics in the same game, one for granular mass combat and the poker game for other 1:1 combats and other types of conflict.  A faceoff and/or duel for instance would be the poker method, but the party surrounding the ravine where the outlaws are hiding out would be the mass combat system.

True enough. The wonderful thing about all this is it's up to you. Just don't make it too complex that it sucks the fun out of everything *cough*starfleetbattles*cough* Again, you could consider a bunch of different card games: blackjack, spades, hearts, bridge, cribbage, war, old maid, crazy 8's...Or your own system.

That's why I liked Decktet, not for it's game, but for realizing that I could make my own cards so that I could have different types of resolution other than the standard 4x13 + 2 of a standard deck of cards. Even a tarot deck has some interesting options.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on March 04, 2010, 06:59:25 AM
Peter's shadowrun story is the exact type of thing I'm trying to avoid-- Like so many others I have a vision of crafting a universal system where anything is possible and common sense rulings by the dealer solve all dilemma, where the player is in charge of creating a character to his specifications, and the rules are relaxed enough that his specifications can be meaningfully incorporated into the system, but scrupulous enough to prevent the players from disputing the lack of objectivity. I want it to be detailed enough to accommodate any type of situation, yet terse enough for quick resolution.

blah blah blah.

Like stefoid said, the poker theme is perfect for a 1v1 conflict resolution mechanic, but a supplemental mechanic might be called for if the situation becomes more complex. A single system for dealing with all conflict is more what I'm looking for, but it has to result in meaningful conclusions, cannot be boring or tedious. If I'm using cards, I want a good reason for using them, besides novelty. I don't want one of the players to get frustrated and say "why don't we just use dice?"

In my original post I proposed a simple system of comparing highest card or highest set of cards to determine victory. What would make the system different from a simple dice roll comparison is that instead of discarding all unused cards at the end of a play, a player can retain some of them for use in the next hand (provided the action is fluid). This allows the player the option of risk. He can choose to play his best card, or save it for later. If he stores up all his good cards and something happens to interrupt fluidity, he may be forced to discard his hand.

To simplify playing NPCs for the dealer, npcs cannot store cards; instead they receive fresh cards for every action they perform.

Anyway, that was my rationale for using cards in the first place-- it allows a new dynamic that can't be replicated with dice. Plus, having cards that no one else knows about gives the player a sense of control, which i think is missing from dice mechanics.

That and using cards in this way creates a tactical situation. You need to know what's going on in order analyze the potential risks.  Also, cool things can happen, like if you saved a pair of aces, but ended up killing your target without them, you can use them to help your teammate.

The first idea I had was just sort of thrown together from a bunch of different thoughts, but now I'm starting to get a better picture of how to bare down to the essentials and not waste time on checks that don't solve anything conclusively.

With Peter's example, sweeping your coat off the table to distract someone while you break a bottle and stab them with the shards, well, that's par for the course for a bar brawl. I would check to see what skills are related to bar brawling, if they have a bar-brawling skill, then I would let them use that level to determine success. If they have something similar, like boxing, I would let them use that at a penalty. (boxing involves complex movements including distractions, timing, footwork, and attacking and defending simultaneously).

This might work similar to stefoid's feat system, but perhaps a little more towards conflict resolution than task. I would have them check if they were able to pull off the move. If they did so with great success, then they can describe the situation vividly as they imagine it. If it was done with marginal success, then they succeeded in the action, but the result would be determined by a second check, in this case to check how badly he was damaged by the stab, instead of assuming that it was fatal. If it was a marginal failure, than the action may have been successful up until the point where the actual attack was made; at that point, the action fails. And if the action was a catastrophic failure, then he completely bungles the whole operation.

Would this be a good compromise for granular vs nongranular gameplay?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 04, 2010, 09:15:15 AM
Well, you mention an important word: Risk (I think it's been said before, but you just reinforced it for me).

Would you agree that this game is about Risk first, Control second, and speed overall?

Do you care if you use dice or cards or a combination of both?

Here is a suggestion that might speed things up a bit. I will present it using cards and using dice.

The mechanic is about risk. How much are you willing to risk in order to win?

Using cards, play blackjack. The GM has his hand(s) and the players have theirs. The goal is to get to 21 using their cards or as close as possible without going over. The players can hit, stand, or split as per normal blackjack rules.

After all the players have made their risks, the GM can risk more and attempt the same thing with the NPCs if this is a situation such as combat or contests. If it is something along the lines of lock picking, then players just try to get as close to 21 as they can without going over.

In any case, in order to succeed, a player must get a 21, a blackjack (natural 21 of 10, j, q, k + ace), or a score of 17, 18, 19, or 20. If they go over (bust) they have failed. The amount over determines just how badly they failed. Under 17 is a failure though not a catastrophic one.

What's the risk? The risk the character critically failing (over 21). This could be a gun jam, tripping over a stump, falling into a ravine due to gun recoil, being bucked from their horse, etc.

If you use the character creation that I suggested before, you could use the stats as a means to do better. For instance, if the player has a King for gunplay and he has an ace in his hand, he could use that as his hand. If he has a 2 in stealth and he's at 16 in his hand, he could declare the 2 is part of his hand for a total of 18 (though the NPC could get a 19, 20, 21, or blackjack).

That's just a quick idea using blackjack as the resolution system.

For dice, look at a 6d6 dice game called Farkle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farkle). This is a game all about risk. In brief: Scoring is easy: 1 = 100, 5 = 50. These are the basic scoring dice. Everything else is junk unless it comes in patterns. 1-1-1 = 1000, 3 of a kind of anything else = 100 x the face, 4 of a kind = 200 x face, 5 of a kind = 300 x face, 6 of a kind = 400 x face, a straight (1-6) = 1,500 points, 3 pair = 750. Anything else is a Farkle. Normal gameplay is to 10,000 points and takes a bit to get there. A player rolls all 6 dice to start. If there are any scoring combinations, the player may choose 1 or more of those combinations in order to start his score. If he uses up all 6 dice, he may throw them again and add any further scoring to his score total. If at any time during the rolling process he rolls a Farkle (no scoring dice or combination at all) he loses the current score. Once the player passes (before Farkling) the score is added to his total.

Now, how does this relate to your game? Thinking about the scoring mechanism is key. The GM sets a difficulty number and the player must roll to beat that difficulty number by following the rolls above. He can push it as far as he wants but if he Farkles, he fails. Allow all the players to contribute if it's a group-based resolution.

In return, for opposed checks, the GM rolls to beat the player's score. This would mean that if a player got 3,000 points in an attack on a NPC, the GM would have to beat that 3,000 in order to avoid being hit. It's Visa Versa for the players as well. If someone attacks a character and scores 3,000 points, the player must roll to avoid that damage.

If either stop before reaching the target number, reduce damage by the remaining. So if a player was attacked for 3,000 and they stopped at 1500, they would take half damage. (You may need a calculator handy for this though).

With this variant, players roll until they reach their risk limit where they're too afraid of failure to continue.

Of course, you can create variants of Farkle using different dice (d10s, poker dice, etc.) or even using cards. It's just an interesting way to handle combat and resolution mechanics. You could also have stats and perks/talents that help with the risk by allowing them to "undo" a farkle with a reroll for a Fate point, double their current tally or their overall score, reroll all 6 dice, what have you.


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: stefoid on March 04, 2010, 09:44:09 PM
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: It didnt -- it rolled a fumble.




Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: etothepowerofx on March 05, 2010, 04:56:11 AM
The blackjack idea of getting as close to perfection as you can without screwing up is a really good concept that most systems sorely lack. I would probably mod it so a fumble, like stefoid was probably trying to say, isn't so common.

There are many situations where that isn't an issue though, or where it isn't logically equivalent.

For instance, if I were trying to find my car keys, I don't think it's possible that i wouldn't be able to find them because I looked too carefully.

I think the blackjack idea, whether with cards or dice, has it's place in many situations, but certainly not all.
as a matter of fact, poker would be the same way.

Reading your (excalbur) post made me wonder if it were possible to incorporate each of the classic games into the system, using each one for a specific kind of circumstance. Blackjack would be used for situations like the ones you described, where putting too much emphasis on doing something can cause disastrous results-- an attack with an axe, for instance, if done with too much deliberation, can be dodged easily, and then puts you in a vulnerable position trying to  recover your balance. Poker would be useful if you are going against a group, each with their own motives, trying to have the upper hand over every other person. Bridge is the only team based card game I know, where you let your partner know what you have in your hand by your bids, but it's a little complicated to adapt. Plus, as a game it wasn't played  until the 1900s i think.

If I want to use classic games, I think the best way is to try a few different ones, although I have no idea how to do team affairs. Maybe teams can work together and swap cards.

I think blackjack would be a perfect engine for marksmanship checks. You take steady aim, and hit your target. Wait too long, and you miss your chance. It's a beautiful mechanism for that specific type of task. If only I could match every type of task with a corresponding mechanic!

Euchre and Cribbage could be candidates, if I knew how to play 'em.

Anyway I sense this topic winding down, I'd like to earnestly thank everyone for making my first thread such a helpful experience. If I ever get this to the playtesting phase, I'll show you what I have.

If anyone has any suggestions of card games or variations that can be used for specific checks in a western-themed game, I am all ears. Specifically, how would I do something like team vs team combat?


Title: Re: card-based mechanic for cowboy genre
Post by: Excalibur on March 05, 2010, 05:35:41 AM
Because of Decktet, I decided to look around to see what other suits are available for cards. It turns out that Germany has stuff like Leaf, Acorn, Clubs, and Bell of all things. Then there's the 5-suit deck with Stars. Not to mention the suits of historical cards...

Due to this, I think I'm going to work on a special deck of cards that has multiple suits per card to see what I can come up with in terms of a resolution mechanic and/or a game.

We'll see :) I might even use it in my current game.