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Author Topic: A boardgame, 2 cardgames & an RPG in one box?  (Read 3345 times)
d3nial
Member

Posts: 11


« on: December 20, 2004, 03:50:53 PM »

Here's an idea (maybe a crazy one) for a package game which includes components for 2 different card games, a boardgame and an RPG in one set with a single theme: 19th Century Oriental Opium trade.

The boardgame has been well and truly designed and play-tested, ditto for the 2 different card games, however the RPG side of it is still quite nebulous.

The components of the set would be: the board and counters/pieces for the boardgame, 2 sets of cards and then the RPG stuff (probably just rules and character sheets?). The 2 sets of cards consist of 1) a deck of Port cards & a deck of Voyage cards - these are used in the boardgame but can also be used to play a cardgame which is a simplified version of the boardgame; 2) a set of playing cards (based on a regular 4 x 13 card deck + jokers) with extra notes/rules printed on the cards for use in a cardgame with the same theme/flavour or for use as regular playing cards.

What I would like some feedback on from the forum is the mechanics of the rpg in 2 main topics:

1. Integrating the rpg with the other games: In the boardgame players travel from port-to-port in the Orient trading opium and tea, along the way dealing with weather, pirates, corrupt officials etc.

Idea #1: Would it be viable to have these voyages and visits to port role-played in conjunction with the board game, for example the players could all play members of the ships crew and role-play the encounters with merchants at sea, the pirates and the various happenings in port (visits to taverns, markets, dealings with the underworld etc). Instead of following the necessarily brief and abstract rules that the boardgame provides for these encounters the outcome of the role-playing would take precedence - which may be better or worse (note: the rules for movement and drawing of voyage cards would be in place). If such a mode of play was adopted would it be necessary to have the players all form one crew or like the boardgame, to be on different competing vessels? Perhaps players could form partnerships and have competing vessels but with 2 or more players as part of the crew on each vessel?

Idea #2: the board game is simply a role-playing aid, like a map and miniatures, and none of the boardgame rules are used at all.

2. Core mechanics for the rpg: I have an original mechanic using the 52-card deck which is quite rules lite, or I was wondering about using the TriStat d6 rules. I'll post the 52-card rules (from a little game called "Gun Slingin' Card Sharks" I wrote in 2001 - which can easily be changed to "Salty Dogs & Card Sharks" for this game) below.
TriStat d6 could work quite well too as it seems quite adaptable and is well established. A 3rd alternative is a BlackJack mechanic, where players are dealt a hand anytime a test is necessary, relevant skills confer a "fudge-factor" or plus/minus 1 through 7 (could be more I suppose), with the aim being to get 21. A natural blackjack would be a critical success. Also, number of cards dealt to players could be restricted by attributes. I'm thinking of a simple Strength, Speed & Smarts system, with a rating between 1 and 3 initially (attributes can exceed 3 through advancement) which means you can only be dealt the number of cards up to your attribute (eg attempting to swim through a huge swell to get aboard a ship with STR 3 and Swimming 5 means you get up to 3 cards dealt to you and you can fudge the result by up to 5 points in order to get to 21 - a natural blackjack would result in a penguin-like swim and leap onto the deck!).

Or am I just being too clever by half? Should these be packaged seperately?

d3nial
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Kesher
Member

Posts: 174


« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2004, 09:43:31 PM »

Quote from: d3nial
Here's an idea (maybe a crazy one) for a package game which includes components for 2 different card games, a boardgame and an RPG in one set with a single theme: 19th Century Oriental Opium trade.


I like the general idea, though two different card games seems maybe a bit redundant.  Seems like it might end up being a pricey thing to both package and sell, though.


Quote from: d3nial

Idea #2: the board game is simply a role-playing aid, like a map and miniatures, and none of the boardgame rules are used at all.


This would be my instinct.  I like the idea of going at the same setting in three very different ways (boardgame/cardgame/rpg).

Quote from: d3nial

2. Core mechanics for the rpg: I have an original mechanic using the 52-card deck which is quite rules lite, or I was wondering about using the TriStat d6 rules. I'll post the 52-card rules (from a little game called "Gun Slingin' Card Sharks" I wrote in 2001 - which can easily be changed to "Salty Dogs & Card Sharks" for this game) below.
TriStat d6 could work quite well too as it seems quite adaptable and is well established.


I've become a true believer in the maxim that a generic system, adapted for a setting, becomes a generic game.  It can't help but miss whatever you see the point of the game to be.  "18th Century Opium Trade" seems evocative to me, and calls for a system that gets at what you find to be interesting about it, yah?

Quote from: d3nial
A 3rd alternative is a BlackJack mechanic, where players are dealt a hand anytime a test is necessary, relevant skills confer a "fudge-factor" or plus/minus 1 through 7 (could be more I suppose), with the aim being to get 21. A natural blackjack would be a critical success. Also, number of cards dealt to players could be restricted by attributes. I'm thinking of a simple Strength, Speed & Smarts system, with a rating between 1 and 3 initially (attributes can exceed 3 through advancement) which means you can only be dealt the number of cards up to your attribute (eg attempting to swim through a huge swell to get aboard a ship with STR 3 and Swimming 5 means you get up to 3 cards dealt to you and you can fudge the result by up to 5 points in order to get to 21 - a natural blackjack would result in a penguin-like swim and leap onto the deck!).


Which is exactly why I like this better; it has some potential juice.  Opium Trade says to me danger, uncertainty, shifting alliances, backstabbing, obsession, moral degeneracy, opportunism, betrayal, violence and, you know, guys in smoky rooms with long pipes (can you have an opium den on a ship?)

A gambling mechanic, especially one like blackjack (which has always sounded "pirate-y" to me...) could get at some of that stuff.  Would players take turns as the "dealer" in conflicts?  Would there be a way for them to build a stable of "wild cards" to use as a resource?  Could cheating be a normal part of play?

Also, don't sell yourself short on attributes.  Strength, Speed and Smarts don't really say "Opium" to me.  How about Flesh, Morals and Cunning?  And how would they tie into whatever the themes of the game are?  Could becoming an opium addict permanently cripple your Flesh score?  Would betrayal after betrayal slowly erode your Morals?

Anyhow, sorry for all the question marks; I'm just in one of those moods...
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d3nial
Member

Posts: 11


« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2004, 03:28:01 PM »

Appreciate the feedback - and questions are great, I don't harbour any delusions that I could have thought of everything!

In terms of the packaging, my position (geographically & financially) mean it would be very difficult for me to get this thing produced in some kind of physical package. I use the term "package" in a broad sense. The most likely outcome, at least initially, is that all of these will be available on a website (some elements free, some for a modest charge).

Q. Would players take turns as the "dealer" in conflicts?
A. No, the RPG would have a GM who plays the role of the dealer.

Q. Would there be a way for them to build a stable of "wild cards" to use as a resource?
A. Not an idea I had initially considered, but I have recently thought that maybe skills could be in groups (i.e. commerce, maritime, combat, investigation, domestic, academic, street, technical) with a rating of either 0, 1 or 2 representing unskilled, competent and expert. Each level allows a corresponding number of cards (i.e. 0, 1 or 2) to be held in that slot. When playing a hand you may get dealt 2 cards (for a "Flesh" rating of 2) and then have the option of playing a card from your "maritime" slot to improve your result.

Example: in a lashing storm Alves attempts to stow the sail of the junk he's comandeered and steer away from the rocky shore. With "Flesh" 2 and Maritime 1 he gets dealt 2 cards (say a Jack and a 7 for 17), the card currently held in the maritime slot is a 5 so it's of no use, if it was a 4 he could play it for 21 and achieve an excellent result.

Once a card is played from a skill slot a new card is dealt to the player. The cards in slots could be face-up or down (haven't thought about the implications of this one too much).

On the resolution, haven't decided if each (unopposed) test should be against the dealer, or simply to achieve 21 (opposed tests would be against the dealer). For example, the margin to 21 could represent the degree of success:
natural blackjack = critical success
21 = excellent result
20 = very good result
19 = good result
18 = reasonable result
17 = marginal result
16 = 50:50 result
15 = marginal failure
14 = moderate failure
10 - 13 = failure
9 or less = major failure
Bust = major failure

Alternatively, the hands could be played against the dealer/GM:
Natural blackjack = critical success
Beat dealer by 4 = excellent result
Beat dealer by 3 = very good result
Beat dealer by 2 = good result
Beat dealer by 1 = moderate result
Tie with dealer = marginal result
etc mirrored for losses, except dealer blackjack = critical

Admittedly, using skills groups is very "un-crunchy" but that's ok - I aim for fast flowing rules lite style anyway.

Also, players would have the option to use blackjack rules for "double-down" and "splitting".

If a player has the necessary stat to be dealt 2 or more cards in a test they can opt to double-down after the first card is dealt. Only one more card can be dealt (no slots can be used). Normally this means the dealer pays more, in Hai Lung this could halve your margin of success, rounding down (so 20 becomes 21, 18 becomes 20, 15 becomes 18 and so on).

If a player splits (having been dealt a pair), each hand would be played normally though no new slot cards could be dealt until all that player's hands are resolved. The GM could decide in conjunction with the player if the outcomes of each hand are sequential or combined.

Q. Could cheating be a normal part of play?
A. How so? Like palming cards? Hmmm, optional rule maybe, up to the group and GM if they want to. How else would they cheat?

Q. How about Flesh, Morals and Cunning? And how would they tie into whatever the themes of the game are? Could becoming an opium addict permanently cripple your Flesh score? Would betrayal after betrayal slowly erode your Morals?
A. Flesh, Cunning and Will (instead of Morals) would be good. Will could be eroded in the way you suggest for Morals. [Just thought of something: Becoming an addict would give you a face-down card (Addiction Slot) you could use anytime, the risk is that you must commit to playing it before you see its face value.] To be honest, addiction is not really a core theme of the game, it's more about cut-throat commerce - the consumers are the addicts but adding it gives the game some spice.

Keen to see any other questions. Thanks.

d3
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Kesher
Member

Posts: 174


« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2004, 07:00:22 PM »

Quote from: d3nial

In terms of the packaging, my position (geographically & financially) mean it would be very difficult for me to get this thing produced in some kind of physical package. I use the term "package" in a broad sense. The most likely outcome, at least initially, is that all of these will be available on a website (some elements free, some for a modest charge).


Ah, didn't understand.  I guess the term "packaging" threw me.  Anyhow, seems like a better idea, in a way.  I mean, someone could choose to buy/download whatever part interested them, right?  Or were you planning to sell the basic "parts" as a package (which would seem to work fine, as well...)?  Ha, I just notice where you're posting from.  I had a kiwi friend in college...

Quote

Q. Would there be a way for them to build a stable of "wild cards" to use as a resource?
A. Not an idea I had initially considered, but I have recently thought that maybe skills could be in groups (i.e. commerce, maritime, combat, investigation, domestic, academic, street, technical) with a rating of either 0, 1 or 2 representing unskilled, competent and expert. Each level allows a corresponding number of cards (i.e. 0, 1 or 2) to be held in that slot. When playing a hand you may get dealt 2 cards (for a "Flesh" rating of 2) and then have the option of playing a card from your "maritime" slot to improve your result.

Example: in a lashing storm Alves attempts to stow the sail of the junk he's comandeered and steer away from the rocky shore. With "Flesh" 2 and Maritime 1 he gets dealt 2 cards (say a Jack and a 7 for 17), the card currently held in the maritime slot is a 5 so it's of no use, if it was a 4 he could play it for 21 and achieve an excellent result.

Once a card is played from a skill slot a new card is dealt to the player. The cards in slots could be face-up or down (haven't thought about the implications of this one too much).


Seems like a good implementation.  I'd tend towards the resource cards being face down & automatically replenished or, face-up & not replenished until the end of a given "scene" or "conflict" (however you're going to set that up.)

I like the simple, flexible stat+skill system as well.

Quote
On the resolution, haven't decided if each (unopposed) test should be against the dealer, or simply to achieve 21 (opposed tests would be against the dealer). For example, the margin to 21 could represent the degree of success:
natural blackjack = critical success
21 = excellent result
20 = very good result
19 = good result
18 = reasonable result
17 = marginal result
16 = 50:50 result
15 = marginal failure
14 = moderate failure
10 - 13 = failure
9 or less = major failure
Bust = major failure

Alternatively, the hands could be played against the dealer/GM:
Natural blackjack = critical success
Beat dealer by 4 = excellent result
Beat dealer by 3 = very good result
Beat dealer by 2 = good result
Beat dealer by 1 = moderate result
Tie with dealer = marginal result
etc mirrored for losses, except dealer blackjack = critical

Admittedly, using skills groups is very "un-crunchy" but that's ok - I aim for fast flowing rules lite style anyway.


This I like a LOT; it seems pointed towards conflict (as opposed to "task") resolution, which is something I've recently really had my own eyes opened to.  My only comment about would be that maybe it's a bit too finely-grained; you'd need to be quite clear on what the difference is between a "good" vs. "reasonable" vs. "marginal" result, etc.

As for the additional rules, well, I didn't even realize that blackjack had so many rules :p  However, given examples, they'd certainly add to the whole strategizing, clever pirates & smugglers vibe.

Quote

Q. Could cheating be a normal part of play?
A. How so? Like palming cards? Hmmm, optional rule maybe, up to the group and GM if they want to. How else would they cheat?


You know, I dunno.  It'd probably be more feasible if you were using poker instead of blackjack...

Quote
A. Flesh, Cunning and Will (instead of Morals) would be good. Will could be eroded in the way you suggest for Morals. [Just thought of something: Becoming an addict would give you a face-down card (Addiction Slot) you could use anytime, the risk is that you must commit to playing it before you see its face value.] To be honest, addiction is not really a core theme of the game, it's more about cut-throat commerce - the consumers are the addicts but adding it gives the game some spice.


Hmmm.  Okay, maybe I'm not clear then.  It might be useful if you could lay out how you envision play proceeding, y'know, what you see players doing in the rpg version.  I'm not sure why I (& granted, that's just me) would want to play an rpg about being a merchant.  What do you see as the point of the game, the hook?

As for the addiction mechanic, it seems that it might (if the card were good) actually give you an advantage (at least sometimes.)  Wouldn't it make more sense to have the character lose resources?  Lessee, maybe, since you have skill levels, essentially, you could also have addiction levels (0-2, or 1-3, whatever); each level gives the GM a wildcard to play against you, whenever they want, as long as the narration of events (how things go against you) involves your addiction in some way?  AND, if you wanted to make it even more serious, each level of addiction would wipe out an additional number of resource cards, maybe chosen by the player, maybe random.  I dunno.  Just off the top o' my head.
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2004, 05:13:22 AM »

I like this angle lots.  There have been a couple of other posters who are interested in similar broader scale situations and how to write and RPG around them but I have not seen anything solidify yet.

IMO RPG conventions need to be refreshed by a return to boardgame conventions.  I think it would be a missed opportunity to produce these cards and maps etc and then use a stock RPG system; it would probably be more fun to concentrate on the topic more closely.

So the first question I have is, what is the intended nature of the 'adventurer'?  Ships captain?  Merchant fleet operator?  Sundry scum and villainy? This is a bit unclear to me.

Secondly, I would like to hear more about the bgoardgame mechanics of journeys and movement between ports.  I think whatever this mechanism is should probably stay present in the RPG so that it feels like the same game.

I think its possible to both cooperative or antagonistic in such a game, although I expect that antagonistic play will tend more toward gamism.  Certainly the crew with shared problems is the easiest model in which to understand character motivation, but it is not so easy when trying to build models of character action.  It may be best if RPG players are all ships captains, for example, whether colleagues in one convoy, freebooters in loose associatiation, or enemies.

I would suggest that the way to use your port and voyage cards is roughly speaking to use them as scene generator tools.  That is getting a voyage card like a rough storm then requires a set of actions be carried out in first person play for the ship to be safe.

Anyway I like the idea and would like to see more of it if you'd like to discuss it further.
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d3nial
Member

Posts: 11


« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2004, 04:48:35 PM »

Kesher said: My only comment about would be that maybe it's a bit too finely-grained; you'd need to be quite clear on what the difference is between a "good" vs. "reasonable" vs. "marginal" result, etc.

d3 responds: Could be a valid criticism, if so the chart could look like this:

Blackjack: Critical Success
20 - 21: Excellent result
17 - 20: Good result
15 - 16: Marginal
14 or less: Failure

The 2nd option, where success is indicated by winning margin over the dealer/GM I don't think is too finely-grained, the rules probably just need to be explicit that a "narrative" (almost cinematic) approach should be taken and the GM should describe success based on the winning margin - no hard & fast "+3 success means you achieve 66% of your objective".

Kesher said: I'm not clear then. It might be useful if you could lay out how you envision play proceeding, y'know, what you see players doing in the rpg version. I'm not sure why I (& granted, that's just me) would want to play an rpg about being a merchant. What do you see as the point of the game, the hook?

d3 responds: The point of the game (the boardgame at least) is certainly to make money, this can be through bona fide trade, bounty-type missions, out-right piracy or a combination of the above (the latter being most likely). In the RPG a slightly broader goal of advancement (like most RPGs?) would apply, sure you want to make money, but you also seek revenge against the pirate dogs that sunk your brother's ship, buy/build the grandest ship in the orient, become "dread pirate roberts" etc. Players would be merchants very much in the "Traveller" or "Rogue Trader" vein.

Kesher said: As for the addiction mechanic, it seems that it might (if the card were good) actually give you an advantage (at least sometimes.) Wouldn't it make more sense to have the character lose resources?

d3 responds: I like the idea that sometimes that fresh dose of opium actually gives you a little edge (i.e. if the card is favourable) but it's a huge risk seeing as a "bust" could be a critical failure. And how about every time you do "bust" when you use the addiction card it increases the level of addiction. Each level of addiction DOES reduce a stat card but adds an addiction card (facedown), so a severe addict may have to give away 3 stat cards (reducing all stats to 1 card each) but has 3 facedown addiction cards that will almost certainly have to be used in task/conflict resolutions. That would be some scary/intense/funny stuff to play.

Example: A local mandarin has just boarded my ship as we berthed and wants to inspect for illicit goods. I think he's bluffing and just wants a bribe, I aim to intimidate him into getting the hell off my boat and never trying to pull this kind of crap again, after all addicts rarely take a moderate course! (Reach into tunic and take a mighty snort!) - play my one Cunning Card and 1, 2 or 3 of my Addiction cards - the results could be (and should be) spectacular!

Thanks Kesher!

Over to contracycle:

Q. What is the intended nature of the 'adventurer'? Ships captain? Merchant fleet operator? Sundry scum and villainy? This is a bit unclear to me.
A. In the RPG, any/all of the above. Most players would achieve wealth, fame/infamy/prestige and power through a combination of legal and illegal acitivities (also answered above to Kesher). Does this sound solid enough?

Q. I would like to hear more about the bgoardgame mechanics of journeys and movement:
A. The boardgame uses a map of the Orient with the Java Sea, South China Sea and East China Sea marked out with hexes. Ships have a movement rating of up to 4, representing the number of hexes they can move on a turn. Usually some wind effects (0, 1 or 2 hexes in 1d6 direction) also occur - these can be increased to 3 hexes with "Voyage Card" events, such as storms or tsunamis (!). Typical voyages, between relatively close ports (Nagasaki: Shanghai, Singapore:Batavia) can be completed with only one turn at sea by fast ships, hence only one "Voyage Card" encountered; the longest voyages can take more than 8 turns especially if you encounter storms, doldrums etc.

The voyages (the whole game actually) are quite deadly, a single very unlucky voyage can reduce a fine new ship to a wreck very quickly, however the mechanics account for this and losing a ship is not gameover, just a setback.

Comment: I would suggest that the way to use your port and voyage cards is roughly speaking to use them as scene generator tools. That is getting a voyage card like a rough storm then requires a set of actions be carried out in first person play for the ship to be safe.

Reply: This is a great idea - it is actually how/why I even started thinking about an RPG. With the on-going goal of wealth/prestige/power and the use of Port and Voyage Cards to set scenes this game may actually be a relatively easy one to GM. Further thoughts on how to describe this concept in a rule book would be great.

Thanks contracycle.

Daniel

EDIT: can email the boardgame rules and some component files if interested. Thx.
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d3nial
Member

Posts: 11


« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2004, 07:24:53 PM »

Following on from the comments above, I've been thinking about it and have come up with the following mechanic for Addiction.

Opium Use is a special skill with it's own slot. Anytime it is appropriate for the narrative a PC may opt to take up Opium Use thereby gaining the slot and adding a card (face-up) in the slot. This card can be used like any other skill and would act like a wildcard skill. For example, in a test of strength (Flesh 2) a PC can be dealt up to 2 cards, they then have the option of using the card that is currently held in the Opium Use slot. The same would apply for tests against Cunning & Will.

The catch is a major failure (lose by 4 or more vs dealer or bust) when using the Opium Use skill pushes you from Opium Use to Craving, to Addiction and then to Dependency

First major failure: Opium Use -> Craving
Second major failure: Craving -> Addiction
Third major failure: Addiction -> Dependency

Craving: After the first major failure the face-up card in the Opium Use slot becomes face-down and one stat must be reduced by 1 (no stat can go below 1). In future, anytime the Opium Use slot is going to be used by the PC it must be declared before ANY cards are dealt.

For example, Dastardly Dirk is escaping, rowing away from the dock, you stuff your kerchief in the rum bottle you're holding, light it and lob it towards him. With Opium Use:Craving and Flesh 1 you declare you're making use of the Opium slot and play the card face down, the dealer hands you one card and deals the opposing hand. Dealer/GM gets 17, the card dealt to you is a Jack, revealing the Opium card as a Queen you score 20 - a +3 success - and the bottle explodes on impact setting his rowboat alight.

Alternatively, if your hand had been worth 16 or less or the dealer had a blackjack that would be a major failure - you would have dropped the bottle, set fire to yourself, fallen in the water and woken up needing a lot of opium to relieve the pain.

Addiction: Another stat is reduced by 1 and you now have 2 face-down cards in the Opium Use slot. Again, if these cards are going to be used they must be declared before ANY cards are dealt and both of them must be played face-down.

Dependency: Yet another stat is reduced by 1 (in most cases this leaves the PC with Flesh 1, Cunning 1 and Will 1) but you now have 3 cards in the Opium Use slot. Remember though that any use of the Opium slot must be declared before any other cards are dealt and all the cards (3 in this case) must be used, even if this causes a bust.

I think this mechanic makes Opium Use seem appealing (a free wild-card skill) but the consequences are likely to be disastrous in the end.

Extras: when playing a hand for a test/task you may be dealt up to as many cards as the relevant stat (Flesh, Cunning or Will), you do not have to take the full number of cards, you may "stay" if you wish.

Overcoming Addiction: an excellent success (Will + Opium Use: +4 vs dealer) will reduce your Opium Use slot by 1, from Craving to Use for example. A blackjack will reduce your Opium use slot by 2 levels, from Dependency to Craving for example. However, once you have "chased the dragon" it will always haunt you. Any critical failure on a Will test in future will give you the Opium Use "skill" again.

How does all that sound?

d3
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