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LORE: Reward/Improvement Mechanic

Started by LandonSuffered, June 27, 2005, 09:00:20 PM

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Hello, folks!  I am designing a game and have run into a small dilemma. I started designing a game close to a year ago and then put it on the shelf for awhile. After discovering the Forge a couple weeks ago and voraciously devouring its articles and contents (in addition to purchasing Sorcerer, & Sword, InSpectres), I have gone back to my little fantasy game with renewed inspiration and enthusiasm.

However, I have run into a snag with the reward/improvement mechanics.  My original idea was to have a set list of "rewards" (that provide character bonuses) that would require a character to actually incorporate ideas and "story" into their exploration in order to acquire them.  You can think of them sort of as D20 "feats" that you have to earn through specific interaction or experiences...they are not simply awarded by acquiring "levels." Also, similar to feats, a beginning character may start with one or more of these "rewards" at the beginning of play.

Now, having encountered a few new ways to look at game design, I have developed the idea of a reward system whereby players add descriptors to their characters during a game session that would confer bonuses and/or actual abilities in future sessions.  Without elaborating, as long as the descriptor meets certain requirements (pertaining to its utilization), the player can freeform create any descriptor they want (there's no set list).  The character begins play with no descriptors.

The problem I have is that these two reward systems seem to encourage two completely different games.  This 1st option (call it Option A) is for a "high concept simulationist" game that encourages players to delve into story creation (not premise addressing) in order to gain rewards and "improve" their character.  The 2nd option (Option B) appears to me to be a more gamist-oriented design with a drama resource mechanic that encourages player one-upsmanship as they try to make "the coolest, most powerful dude."

I don't think that it is really possible to include both reward systems in the same game design, but I don't really want to create two games...and, hell, there really doesn't seem to be enough material for two games.  I would really appreciate any thoughts or ideas people had for me...should I go with one option over another? Should I scrap both? Am I wrong to not try to include both into the system?

Oh...and what my game is about:  it's a fantasy game where people are either magically gifted or not, and then go in search of "adventure." Technology level is low to high middle ages and one of the design goals of the original concept was the ability to create (or closely approximate) any character from fantasy literature from the get-go...just like opening a book to chapter one.  Changing the reward system to Option B actually makes the original goal secondary and seems to instead ask the question "Can you gain power without losing the ability to relate to ordinary people?" It's pretty far removed from D&D to call it a fantasy heart-breaker; it's heavy system, light setting (or highly adaptable "races" for example, though they can be created using the same system as for "humans").  My working title for the game is LORE (Love Of RPG Experience).

Andrew Cooper

LS (you got a real name?),

Welcome to the Forge!  We like new folks.

I'd love to help you out with some comments but I really need some more information, I think.

First, what kind of game are you attempting to create?  You said you didn't want to include both of the Reward systems you mentioned in the same game.  (Probably smart as it would introduce some incoherence to the system.)  Is one of them fine for your game?  Are you trying to create a Sim design?  Gam?  Nar?  Some functional hybrid?

What are you wanting to be the length of a game?  Is it a 1 session style game?  Multiple sessions but not many?  Long (many session) game system?


My real name is Jonathan.

LORE was first conceived before I had any kind of GNS vocabulary.  Looking at how I originally designed it, I would put it square in the Simulation category (create a character you'd like as a vehicle for exploring the world; the character can change and improve but does not do so linearly or exponentially), but with incentive (the reward system) to start/explore "story arcs" rather than act (or rather react) only to a GM-created situation.  Length of game would be 2 to 4 multiple session stories/adventures.

However, in hindsight, the whole thing seems a little ill-conceived – personally, I don't think I've ever met a simulationist that would actually want to play such a game...and the "story incentive" reward system isn't nearly as strong a drive as simply making "addressing premise" (whatever it is) implicit in the game system (Narrative).

The Option B reward system still sticks in the Sim design, but has dramatic resources (that change character effectiveness) added in place of the Option A reward system.  What this would seem to do (it hasn't made it to the play-testing stage yet, so I don't know)  is take away the "create story" incentive and instead installs an "explore character" incentive that includes a gamist element of "whose character is more effectively explored."

I like both Option A and Option B myself.  Option B would seem to have more "juice" in it for players (because of the gamist element), but detracts from the "Sim becomes Nar" goal as originally designed. borrow from the Forge provisional glossary, I may have been attempting to find El Dorado with my original conception.



It looks like you're becoming very aware of your designing habits Jonathan.  That's great!  So let us help you further your design :)

I do agree with Gaerik that only one rewards system is necessary.  Good idea to drop one.  But let me ask you this, can you tell me what you are trying to explore with your Sim game?  Is it: Character, Setting, Situation, System, or Color.

I'm going to probably guess it's not color, so of the other four items which is closest to what you are going for?  Is it characters from fantasy novels (character)?  Is it a vaguely defined yet engaging world (setting)?  Is it an over-arching problem the players must engage, overcome, and explore (situation)?  Or is it something like "what would it be like to be a cast wizardry spells?" or "what would it be like to fight with the techniques of a knight in medieval Germany?" (system)?"




Hmm...that's kind of the problem, Troy.  When I first started madly scribbling notes I wasn't thinking of what I was trying to explore.  In some ways (what RE would call "fantasy heartbreaker" ways) I was trying to correct BS that seemed so prevalent in other games...namely, that players are not able to create the character they want.

For example:  I asked my wife (a non-gamer with little experience other than a couple sessions of Ars Magica) to describe a fantasy character that she would enjoy playing.  Without any prompting, she created something pretty much equivalent to a mid-level "ranger" of 3rd edition D&D, right down to an "animal companion" and trap-setting/stealth/bounty hunter skills (this from a woman of Mexican origin who has never read a "fantasy" book in her life and had to be coaxed to even see a Lord of the Rings movie).  She even had a significant (if not impressive) backstory to how the character "got that way."

Here's the problem: sure we could play D20 D&D but then she'd either start at 1st level (and be unable to do the things or play the character she envisioned), or I could have her create a mid level character in a game with a steep learning curve...and the time taken to explain the nuances would put her off from even starting,  She doesn't want to learn a bunch of rules and "tactics"...and she doesn't want to play through the amateur ranks up to a level of proficiency (she covered that in her backstory).

So it's not really about exploring setting...the game can be any kind of fantasy setting from Greyhawk to Melnibone to Hyboria.  It's not really about exploring system...the system just has to work.  It's not really about exploring character...although it is about defining character through play (kind of like "character as theme"). And situation...well, there's no set situations except as defined by the players (including the GM) and the setting (decided on by the players) at the outset of play.

Is this too abstract/un-defined to be a game?

Andrew Cooper


It actually sounds like you're unconsciously aiming at a game that focuses on Exploration of Character as its main goal.  Most of what I hear you saying is about being able to create, play and explore the character you want.  However, I do think your focus was on a very unconscious level to begin with and now you seem to be homing in on it after giving it some good, critical thought.

I'm a newbie designer too, so take my advice with that in mind but here's the questions I've been trying to answer and keep in the front of my mind while designing my own system.  I think they'll help you focus your design effort and then your question about a Reward System will probably start to answer itself.

Why do you want to design this game?  Are there any other games out there that already do what you are wanting?  If so, why not use them?  Are you designing just for your own group and its needs?  Are you wanting to publish?  Is it practice for figuring out how to do this whole game design thing?

What are the players supposed to be doing?  Players in D&D do much different stuff than players in Capes or Universalis.  What are your players doing?  Are they cooperative?  competative?  both?  more one than the other?

What do the characters do?  Think about the differences in characters in The Riddle of Steel and characters in um... say Sorcerer.  You can tell what the characters are supposed to be doing by the mechanics used to create and play them.  Look at D&D even.  It's a fairly focused game if taken exactly as written in the core books.  So now answer what characters in your game are supposed to be doing.

These are three really broad questions that I think will help you focus on the correct reward system (or any system within the rules).  If the rewards system doesn't add support to what the players or the characters are supposed to be doing, then toss it.  

This answer (and the questions I posed) are probably a bit broader than the scope of your original question, so if you wanted to split this into another thread, then I'd certainly understand that.