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Author Topic: [PlotPoint] - Game Design/Introduction  (Read 4014 times)
b00jum
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« on: August 06, 2005, 11:49:16 AM »

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b00jum
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« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2005, 11:52:55 AM »

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Nogusielkt
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« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2005, 08:55:53 PM »

PlotPoints are currency for shared storytelling.   They are the most basic reward system in the game.  Each player get a number of PlotPoints at the start of the game (during creation).  As play proceeds, players can spend PlotPoints to influence rolls and suggest game/plot elements.  The exchange is an arbitrary system set by the GM.  It creates an economy that is continually renegotiated according to the dictates of plot and circumstance.

Example (from real world play).  The players need to get ahold of a fair quantity of Mint to give to the cyclops (He really likes Mint Tea).  They can't go back to where they know there is some, so they have to forge ahead into the unknown.  They come down from a mountain and see below them a swamp.  One of the players takes his accumulated PlotPoints (4) and "borrows" a few from other players (totaling 6) and while handing them to me says "We look out into the swamp and try to find some Swamp Mint!".  Its a fair number of the PlotPoints out on the table and.. influencing the setting change is the fact that I have an encounter available to meet the swamp witch and had no hard/set way this would happen.  Thus:  "You spy in the mist shrouded distance an island in the swamp covered in what looks like swamp mint".

Skill success is obvious (better the difference in die roll, the better the success), but what about damage?

This is the fun part.  The players get to describe their own damage.  Player rolls a 2, the ogre rolls a 6.  The player then describes what happens to them.  The more vivid/descriptive, the more PlotPoints they earn (In my current economy about 1-3, normally 1).  Its easy to earn no PlotPoints with a lackluster or little description.

Other ways to earn PlotPoints:

Moving the plot along (finding/talking to a significant person), Being Descriptive in action, Generally good roleplaying.

Limits to PlotPoints.

As a GM I put a high price on certain changes to the world, most especially if it conflicts with a solid/good plot thread.  I'm open to new plot hooks/suggestions especially if it develops or extends something existing.   The real limit is things that break genre.  Ex: Can we have the Aliens rescue us?  No - there are not enough PlotPoints in the game to do that.


The whole plotpoints thing escapes me.  I understand how it can be entertaining to some people, but it seems far too arbitrary to me.  In your example, the GM set a goal of needing mints.  Then the GM set the next area as naturally mintless.  I think that screams "I'm looking for a plot point bribe".  It just seems like a cycle to me.  Players go along with plot, get rewarded with plotpoints, players spend plotpoints to advance the story the GM wanted them to advance in anyhow, repeat.  So, how's the "borrowing" work?  I assume that all players must be in agreement, but I've been wrong before.  As for players describing their damage... it's great to start, but eventually becomes VERY old.  I worked as a moderator for an online message board rpg.  The whole game is based upon roleplaying and describing all your actions, but it wears on the person trying to decide if it was good or not and may wear on relationships if someone thought it was cool, but the GM did not.  Some people won't have a problem, but one of the goals of my game was to avoid social conflicts like that.  Sorry for the negative response, just wanted to be honest.  Here's to hoping your kid game teaches kids the proper way to play games.
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b00jum
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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2005, 11:44:30 AM »

The whole plotpoints thing escapes me. I understand how it can be entertaining to some people, but it seems far too arbitrary to me. In your example, the GM set a goal of needing mints. Then the GM set the next area as naturally mintless. I think that screams "I'm looking for a plot point bribe". It just seems like a cycle to me. Players go along with plot, get rewarded with plotpoints, players spend plotpoints to advance the story the GM wanted them to advance in anyhow, repeat. So, how's the "borrowing" work? I assume that all players must be in agreement, but I've been wrong before. As for players describing their damage... it's great to start, but eventually becomes VERY old. I worked as a moderator for an online message board rpg. The whole game is based upon roleplaying and describing all your actions, but it wears on the person trying to decide if it was good or not and may wear on relationships if someone thought it was cool, but the GM did not. Some people won't have a problem, but one of the goals of my game was to avoid social conflicts like that. Sorry for the negative response, just wanted to be honest. Here's to hoping your kid game teaches kids the proper way to play games.

I'll hazard a guess that PlotPoint mechanics will escape an entire segment of the gaming community 8)  PlotPoints have been around in various forms for a number of years.  Mind you, I'm not trying to justify it *just* cause it been around. 

A list of Hero Point systems (mechanic similar or equivalent to PlotPoints)
http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/systemdesign/heropoints.html

My write up:
http://www.tulgey.org/twiki/bin/view/Gaming/PlotPointSimilar

This last list is from some of the great feedback I've been getting.

Arbitrary:
  I agree that the system is arbitary and thus open for failure from a GM going by "whim" and thus the players never get a sense of an actual exchange system.  The design challenge here is to balance a free form mechanic with a set of rules that don't conflict with the design goals of simplicity and playabilty by younger gamers (age 7+). 

Bribery Cycle:
  yeah, I havn't thought about it as a bribery cycle, but I guess you could look at it as an exchange system for shared storytelling or a means of bribing the players and getting bribed in turn (or both at the same time).  I'll hazard a guess that its a matter of both perspective and how its played.  Its a good critique and a phenomen I'll watch for.

Borrowing:
  Since the rules are so light, I didn't have a mechanic for players borrowing PlotPoints.  The player asked for some of the other players points and they gave them to him.  It felt perfectly natural to me, so long as the other players were in agreement.  I'm not to the point of having a "mechanic" to deal with borrowing, but I can see the possibility of abuse.  Again, another thing to watch for as I play test.

Players describing damage:
  yeah, I agree that its needs to be moderated.  Currently my plan is to moderate it as the GM.  The real goal is to have a non "point" based system that reflects damage that is more descriptive/narrative than linear/mechanical.

Social Problems in arbitrary exchange.
  Well, so far its not a problem, but then we've only  been playing with the latest incarnation of the rules for a few sessions.  I can forsee that this is the reason that the Hero Point / other Plot Point mechanics have more guidelines to them. 

Thanks again Nogusielkt for the feedback.  I'm not offended by the negative tone as I posted this to get feedback.  I aware that much of the games flavor and playability cannot be conveyed by a rules write up, but thats the challenge - to communicate by words alone 8)  Also, as its very much of a beta system, I'm trying it out to see where it may need to go next.

Suggestions of intersting mechanics that adhere to the original design goals are very welcome 8)



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Adam Dray
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« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2005, 06:47:22 AM »

Welcome to the Forge, Glen!

It sounds like you're having some really rewarding play sessions. Sessions that mix young children in with adults can be very challenging, since the kids will often defer to what they think the adults want them to do. The big challenge is designing a system that gives kids the backing and the confidence to contribute stuff of their own imagination and to keep the adults from shepherding them around!

Since you've playtested a couple games, it sounds like, maybe you could post a bit about your games in Actual Play. I'd love to see how the game went, what the players did, and how the game design influenced their actions.  I'd like to see an example of Plot Points in action.

You're right that metagame currency has been around for a while. I think you're wrong that you don't need some kind of system to govern it. At the very least, your rules should provide strong guidelines to the GM and players about appropriate use of Plot Points. Consider rules about internal consistency, what is too much, when to be stingy, and so on. It's a game geared towards children, you say, and thus it needs to be simple. Yes, but 1) you are playtesting with adult players as well and 2) you, the GM, are an adult and have to make all kinds of adult choices about how to handle children players. That calls for some hefty GM advice, I'd think. It may come naturally to you but you may be better at such things than other GMs. =)

I think the borrowing aspect is cool. Don't squish it. Cooperation and teamwork and trust are great skills to teach to kids.

As for damage, why not just give some very general guidelines. Like describe some ranges that produce "a teeny bit of damage," "a little damage," "a lot of damage," and "a huge amount of damage." Then let everyone figure out what that means during the game. Some rules to help players understand consequences will help.

I don't have time to read the game link right now, but I'll check it out later and see if I can give some more informed feedback!
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2005, 08:22:07 AM »

Glen,

What age of kids are you targeting with this system?  I know you mentioned a 9 year old in your post.  Are we talking 5 year old kids or 9 - 12 year olds?  It's a pretty big difference.

I second Adam's advice.  Plot Point usage should be more defined.  That doesn't mean make it complicated.  That just means define what they can/can't do.  If you haven't looked at Universalis, I suggest giving it a look.  Also, consider Pace.  Both are games that use points like that.  Universalis uses them in a very similar way to your game.  Tokens in Universalis are spent to add things/events to the SiS (Imaginary World, if you like).  Simplifying a system like that would be something like what you are looking for, I think.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2005, 08:47:37 AM »

Hi!

That's a cool set of goals and, honestly, a pretty cool system to go along with it.  How do you decide what die the players get to roll for what actions?  How do you decide what die the GM gets to throw?

In terms of making the plot point system a little less arbitrary, I would consider taking the giving / interpretating of plot points out of the sole hands of the GM.  The game that I'm thinking of that already does something similar but by no means identical is PrimeTime Adventures, where any player but the GM can give "points" to fellow players.  It's worth considering.

It is also worth considering having plot points for scene framing (so the player says "we come to a forest and..." rather than the GM) and a more rigorous system for costs (trivially solves a present problem = 5 points.  Adds a complication = -2 points, etc.)

Food for thought.

yrs--
--Ben
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2005, 01:33:56 PM »

One very big question you should ask yourself is if the GM is ever going to be a kid, or will always be a moderating adult.  From what you've posted thus far, you make many references to "the story" and "the plot" but have not specified how that story/plot is determined.  It sounds like it's created and maintained by the GM, and whether or not something "forwards" the plot is solely up to GM discretion.  This can work with a moderating adult and (mostly) child players, who will accept adult fiat -- whether or not that will fly with all adult players or with child players and a child GM is a lot less certain.

As for damage: what about allowing the players to describe damage and then decide on a restriction that the damage causes?  "I got hit in the leg, I can't run," or "My shoulder was chomped on, my right arm can't do anything complicated."
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GaryTP
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« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2005, 01:49:05 PM »

Hey Glen.

Prince Valiant is a great RPG to look at in terms of presenting a game in an easily-to-learn format, chock full of solid gameplay examples. A very good kid-friendly system.

You also might check out something called Whimsy cards in terms of a simple storytelling mechanic. (A deck of cards with simple plot devices on them.) Here's a link for an explanation.

http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/systemdesign/cards/whimsycards.html

Gary
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