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Author Topic: [The Cardboard People] Feedback  (Read 4144 times)
Kirk Mitchell
Member

Posts: 268


« on: August 21, 2005, 03:11:07 PM »

My game Cardboard People has been updated (if anyone actually remembers it). I'd like some feedback please. Anything you think is good or could use improvement or whatever.

Quote
The Cardboard People
   Copywrite © 2004 Kirk Mitchell

You are an outcast of the world. You sleep in the garbage with the rats and the rest of the waste. People pass you by on the street without a second glance. You are a vagrant, known to others of your kind as "Cardboard People". You see strange things that everyday people with their houses and nice clothes don't.

You are the homeless guy in every movie that spots the main characters doing something weird. What the movies don't show is how you get drawn into the chaos too. With your fellow Cardboard People, you must band together to survive: The rest of the world is the reason for your difficult position, and your strange neighbors aren't always friendly either.

CharGen

You must draw up your character sheet on a piece of cardboard. It could be from a cardboard box or a cereal box or anything, so long as the character sheet is on cardboard. I don’t care how expensive cardboard is. Scrounge for it. That’s what the game is about!

Name: Your character's name. Maybe even your own name. Simple really.

Mind / Body: Split 5 points between Mind and Body. Your Mind score relates to anything requiring mental effort. Your Body score relates to anything requiring physical effort.

Presence: Decide on your starting presence. And please spare us the numbers. Write something like “Highly noticeable”, “Practically invisible” or “Occasionally glanced at”. This is how much you are noticed by the normal people (and the authorities). This is altered by your actions and their noticeability. Here's a hint: normal people don't like you and getting noticed by the authorities is a Bad Thing. The more noticeable your presence is the more often you will be observed and the more authorities will be savvy to your activities.

Sighting: Write down a description of your first sighting of a strange thing. Your game starts immediately after this incident, so the sighting must have the potential for active danger and be something that can be acted on and reacted to. Every time you get into a conflict that is directly related to your sighting, you get an extra roll.

Mechanics

On Narrative Freedom

If you want to do something, you do it. Simple. You want to open the door, then you open the bloody door! You don't have to look to a GM for permission to open the door, because this game doesn’t have one. If the door is locked, then you can say you break the window or pick the lock, so long as you explain how you can (where you learned it or whatever). If you want there to be a cardboard box to hide behind in a alley to avoid a police patrol, then there is most likely a cardboard box in the alley to hide behind. You as a player have narrative control. Be imaginative. If there isn't anything to hide behind in the alley, there is most likely a fire escape to run up. You are responsible for what you create though. If something that you made in your narrative freedom shows up again later on, you are in control of that particular item, character etc.

The World

While the previous segment details how you are able to react to events, you are also able to create events. Find some way of working your group into an order, by drawing numbers from a hat, going in clockwise direction from the person with the earliest birthday or whatever. In that order, from first to last, each player must create an event. All of the players react to the event, and then the next player creates an event. An event must create conflict for the characters and the players to respond to, from someone’s father dying to a SWAT team raid on the apartment building one of the characters lives on. Again, you are in charge of the items and characters etc. within the event. If somebody wants to interact with something from one of your events, you control the actions of the item or character to be interacted with. If nobody can remember who owns a particular item or character, don’t fuss. Assign it to somebody who wants it. Or flip a coin.

Conflicts

Whenever you get into a conflict (an significant event when there are important things at stake to win or lose) determine whether it is a Mind or Body conflict. This will determine whether you use your Mind or Body scores. Before you roll, determine what is at stake to win or lose in this conflict. This may be anything from "Getting on the boat in time or not" to "Living or dying". You will only die if you put your life as a stake.

Once you have determined what is at stake (everyone else, don't be afraid to call out and make suggestions. Everyone should get their ideas into the game) roll a die. It doesn't matter what kind, be it D6, D8, D10 whatever, so long as everyone uses the same kind. If you roll an odd number, you lose the stakes. If you roll an even number, you win the stakes. Here now, is where things get interesting. You have the option of continuing to roll as many times as the points in the conflict type (Mind or Body). Each time you roll you must add another thing that is at stake to win or lose though, and the roll applies to ALL the things that are at stake. If you roll three times, and you lose on the third time, you lose ALL of the stakes, whether you won any of the previous ones. On the same note, if you roll three times and you win on the third time, you win ALL of the stakes, whether you lost any of the previous ones.

Chaos Theory

Once you have finished with the stakes, narrate the actions and how the stakes were won or lost. Try and make it as interesting and graphic as possible. Now that your conflict is resolved, what is termed here as “ripples” begins. Ripples are those events that start out small and bump into other events until eventually you end up affecting everybody. In this game, the ripples system determines how other characters are affected by your actions. All of the other players pick up four dice and roll.

If there is one more even number than odd numbers, a good thing happens to your character.
If there are two more even numbers than odd numbers, a very good thing happens to your character.
If there are three more even numbers than odd numbers, a fantastic thing happens to your character.

If there is one more odd number than even numbers, a bad thing happens to your character.
If there are two more odd numbers than even numbers, a very bad thing happens to your character.
If there are three more odd numbers than even numbers, a terrible thing happens to your character.

If the number of odds and evens is equal, nothing happens to your character.

You then narrate what happens to them according to the above list and how it came about as a result of your actions. No conflict goes without repercussions and, you are all in this together. Don't be afraid to royally screw people over, but remember that what happens to them is situational. You can't have them spontaneously combust (unless you are dealing with a psychic or something otherwise supernatural), but you can have them be blamed for a murder that you committed. On the same note, please give them their due if something good happens to them. Even player characters need a break now and then.

Order of Actions

For clarification, the order of actions the players take throughout the game is as follows:

Player creates event
All players react to event
Conflicts resolved
Ripples commence
All players react to respective ripples

Repeat.

Thanks,
Kirk
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Graham W
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2005, 11:43:35 AM »

Kirk,

It's a nice system, and such an open system that I'm trying to get my head around it. Can I ask a couple of very trivial questions?

Firstly, isn't it technically possible that I get four more odd numbers than even numbers? Secondly, if I can do anything with while narrating, what happens if I kill all the other characters?

Graham
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Kirk Mitchell
Member

Posts: 268


« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2005, 04:25:37 PM »

Ooh. I never thought of either of those...

Hmmm. Well, I suppose that there are two options in terms of rules design when it comes to PC killing: I could rule that sure, go ahead. Just make some more, or I could prohibit character killing. Part of me wants to say "Hell yeah! Kill 'em off. I don't care! Their shit-easy to make anyways", but it does seem a bit opposed to the "You only die if you put your life at stake" thing. I'll have a bit of a think about this. Thoughts? Suggestions?

And yes, I suppose it is technically possible to get four straight odd or even numbers. I'll just make it that something nigh-impossible happens to your character either way. Superhuman or incredibly (un)luckey. That's the simplest way of doing things.

Kirk
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Graham W
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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2005, 10:06:43 AM »

I probably didn't phrase that very well. But I was wondering if there were any limits on the narrative scope.

On the specific point of character death: given the theme of the game, character death needn't necessarily stop them taking part. A player could narrate their dead character as a vengeful ghost, or a spirit in Heaven looking down, or a poltergeist, or a hallucinatory voice that guides the other players. (If the game was a bit more supernatural, they could be a vampire or a zombie).

And the dice: if you roll four dice, I think you can only get the following possibilities:

- Four odd numbers
- Two more odd numbers than even (=3 odd, 1 even)
- Equal numbers of even and off numbers (=2 odd, 2 even)
- Two more even numbers than odd (=1 odd, 3 even)
- Four even numbers

...but that still suits your purposes fairly well, with a little tweaking.

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Jasper
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« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2005, 04:19:16 PM »

Hi,

My first reaction was some slight discomfort. Getting a kick out of playing homeless crazies would really not be a big attraction for me. But that's probably not really what you're after. Maybe you discussed it more in an earlier post, but what kinds of things are the PCs involved in? I really liked the reference to movies, and the ubiquitous homeless guy who sees more than anyone else. Does that get tied in more? I think it should. Something conspiratorial. If it's just about homeless people, throwin into random action sequences...well, it'd fall flat for me.

Anyway, as regards player killing of PCs... If you want to stick with the "you have to put your own life on the line to die" bit (and I think you should), how about this: you can narrate that you want a PC to die but as soon as you do, that narration is held up. The player of the to-be-killed PC gets a chance to take up the challenge and accept a conflict, or not. If he says no, the narration can't include the PC actually dying--coming close, a near miss, is okay, but no actual removal-from-play. If, instead, the second player agrees and we have a second conflict, then run that as usual, except that if the second player loses, the original narrator gets to complete the death narration.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
mangaocid
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Posts: 40


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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2005, 04:33:16 PM »

Hello,

I really love the free narrativism in this !! Rock on! One suggestion/question....Why not allow the players to create conflict to the behaviors of each other? Like, for instance....
Bob:"I'm shooting him in the head"
Ralph: Slides token across table, signifying a conflict "Your eyesight is uneasy, making it hard to aim, and instead you hit his shoulder"

This would allow for a lot more interaction while still giving a free flowing narration....players can interject if they don't like the idea of what is happening....just a thought.

DJ
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Kirk Mitchell
Member

Posts: 268


« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2005, 04:39:04 PM »

Yes, I was aiming for the more conspiratorial thing. Also, go out and read Niel Gaiman's Neverwhere (not only for the reference, but it is just a fantastic book). Its about homeless crazies. Only they are not so crazy. Just very, very cool. Lets use Back To The Future. The homeless guy who mutters "Crazy drunk drivers!" In this game, he would get sucked in through the time vortex thingy left behind by the car (Like the wake of a boat) and end up somewhere weird. What crazy hijinks will he get into then? I'm just pulling shit out of the air, but that's sort of the stuff. Also, perhaps he witnesses a bank robbery which turns out to be something bigger and much more sinister.

Naturally, when narrating, narrating the death of another player character comes under the conflict heading, in which case they have the choice to put their life on the line. I'll have to make that more explicit. The only way outside of a conflict to potentially kill player characters is through Ripples. There would be where I might say "too bad". Or in that case, perhaps the ripple might result in a new conflict instead of being a foregone conclusion. How does that sound?

DJ: Hmm. I'm not sure I really like the idea of influencing other player's characters quite in that way. Its one thing to screw with the world, but I'm not sure I want to make it work that way. That could be in the narration of the winner of the conflict though (depending on how well they succeed, of course).

Kirk
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mangaocid
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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2005, 04:41:39 PM »

Basically, the idea would be to determine if all players agree with the conflict....Because it's one thing to say " I shoot him" it's another to completely kill someone. Allowing them to conflict with each other and decide as a group if it's a good plan, creates a new interaction

DJ
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Kirk Mitchell
Member

Posts: 268


« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2005, 04:18:13 AM »

I tried to be explicit with the social contract issues in the majority of the game text, but I'll add something in about all parties having to agree to getting into a conflict.

Also, instead of simply narrating what happens as a result of a Ripple, I will alter the rules to have the ripple result in a conflict. Hmm. Interesting potential here. All it takes is one conflict to set off a ripple. If each ripple leads to another conflict, then that makes it really easy to set off a crazy chain of events which drags all the characters into all sorts of trouble. All it takes is one trigger action to set the whole game going, and going fast. What do you think?

Finally, I will fix up the dice rolling thing. I made a bit of a mistake there (thanks for pointing that out Graham).

Another example popped into mind: The Day After Tomorrow (the recent Disaster Movie one, which I didn't like much). There is a homeless guy there, and he gets involved in stuff over his head. There's another scenario. Really, whether it is "just homeless people with action scenes thrown in" or something much more complex and conspiratorial with the homeless right in the thick of it is up to the players. But mostly what I think of when I look at this game is the magical world of London Underground and its denizens from Neverwhere. That's how I'd play the game.

Kirk
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Jasper
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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2005, 06:05:29 AM »

Quote
All it takes is one trigger action to set the whole game going, and going fast. What do you think?

That seems exactly like what something called a "ripple" should do. You'll have to playtest it, to adjust how easy it is to get sucked in, and how irresistable it is, but it seems like a good thing.

Returning to the setting/set-up...it seems like the game needs more of a hook. Conspiracy would be one way to go, though not the only way. If you leave it totally up to the group then you're not offering any mechanical support for it. I'd recommend a stronger decision about how play is going to progress -- do the homeless guys eventually gain knowledge and power of some kind, even if only over their lives, or are they (just) endlessly buffetted around by strange happenings? If I'm a player, am I merely trying to ensure my character's survival, or is there something more?
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
daMoose_Neo
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« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2005, 06:25:10 AM »

With the free-form nar, you may want to consider some absolutes that are ALWAYS true to avoid stepping on toes and the like, as DJ mentioned with the "I shoot him in the head."
My Imp Game operates with more looney-tunes style world and physics, so I ruled out hit points and character death: a character only has something stick with him or her if they really want it, including death. No player is ever "out", but alternatives can be presented. We've had Imps haunt each other after death, had one come back as a zombie and other interesting types. Graham had the right idea for your game: someone in the afterlife watching out and interacting with the living world. While we're tossing out movie names, Ghost w/ Patrick Swayze. The one other ghost he encounters is a homeless guy who through sheer force of will can interact with the living.
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!
mangaocid
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Posts: 40


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« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2005, 06:49:26 AM »

Also, instead of simply narrating what happens as a result of a Ripple, I will alter the rules to have the ripple result in a conflict. Hmm. Interesting potential here. All it takes is one conflict to set off a ripple. If each ripple leads to another conflict, then that makes it really easy to set off a crazy chain of events which drags all the characters into all sorts of trouble. All it takes is one trigger action to set the whole game going, and going fast. What do you think?

That's AWESOME! I really like that idea, because now the game can really go in a direction more unexpected and less Linear than that of simple narration. Can't wait to see that in writing and try it out!

DJ
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Kirk Mitchell
Member

Posts: 268


« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2005, 11:46:57 PM »

Quote
...Ghost w/ Patrick Swayze. The one other ghost he encounters is a homeless guy who through sheer force of will can interact with the living.

I've never seen that movie, but that's a pretty cool concept. Even if you die you just can't get a break... I think the rules would be exactly the same (only you can't die). You can still interact with people, you can still cause ripples and get mixed up in crazy stuff. Just one little problem...you're a ghost. Its very cool. If everybody dies, then you can keep on playing as a bunch of ghostly bums or introduce some new characters. Cardboard People are incredibly easy and quick to make.

I'll polish up the rules a bit and come back with the alterations (Dice; ripples/conflicts; death; setting hook ... Anything I missed?). Who wants to playtest?

Kirk
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Jasper
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« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2005, 03:21:33 AM »

Quote
Anything I missed?

Well, it's not like you have to, but you didn't answer my question:

Quote
...do the homeless guys eventually gain knowledge and power of some kind, even if only over their lives, or are they (just) endlessly buffetted around by strange happenings? If I'm a player, am I merely trying to ensure my character's survival, or is there something more?

Maybe I'm just not getting it. To me it seems like you've got a good set-up but it doesn't really go anywhere...I mean, I'm intrigued by the whole "bums who see too much" idea, but I want more.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
Kirk Mitchell
Member

Posts: 268


« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2005, 10:17:39 PM »

Quote
Well, it's not like you have to, but you didn't answer my question

Sorry about that Jasper (I was in a hurry). So basically what you are driving at is some sort of character progression mechanic? Something that lets the characters grow and gain some focus? Essentially what I was originally aiming at was the "just endlessly buffetted around by strange happenings" concept. I mean, whether they actually manage to succeed in changing anything is up to the players, but I don't think that is what you are getting at. Lets discuss into this further: What are you looking for in a game like this ("I want more.")? How do you envision the characters developing? This is a game that I want to play myself, yes, but it is also a product (a free one, but a product nontheless), so I have an interest in knowing what you see in the game.

Also, I've re-written the rules.

Quote
The Cardboard People
   Copywrite © 2004 Kirk Mitchell

You are an outcast of the world. You sleep in the garbage with the rats and the rest of the waste. People pass you by on the street without a second glance. You are a vagrant, known to others of your kind as "Cardboard People". You see strange things that everyday people with their houses and nice clothes don't.

You are the homeless guy in every movie that spots the main characters doing something weird. What the movies don't show is how you get drawn into the chaos too. With your fellow Cardboard People, you must band together to survive: The rest of the world is the reason for your difficult position, and your strange neighbors aren't always friendly either.

CharGen

You must draw up your character sheet on a piece of cardboard. It could be from a cardboard box or a cereal box or anything, so long as the character sheet is on cardboard. I don’t care how expensive cardboard is. Scrounge for it. That’s what the game is about!

Name: Your character's name. Maybe even your own name. Simple really.

Mind / Body: Split 5 points between Mind and Body. Your Mind score relates to anything requiring mental effort. Your Body score relates to anything requiring physical effort.

Presence: Decide on your starting presence. And please spare us the numbers. Write something like “Highly noticeable”, “Practically invisible” or “Occasionally glanced at”. This is how much you are noticed by the normal people (and the authorities). This is altered by your actions and their noticeability. Here's a hint: normal people don't like you and getting noticed by the authorities is a Bad Thing. The more noticeable your presence is the more often you will be observed and the more authorities will be savvy to your activities.

Sighting: Write down a description of your first sighting of a strange thing. Your game starts immediately after this incident, so the sighting must have the potential for active danger and be something that can be acted on and reacted to. Every time you get into a conflict that is directly related to your sighting, you get an extra roll.

Mechanics

On Narrative Freedom

If you want to do something, you do it. Simple. You want to open the door, then you open the bloody door! You don't have to look to a GM for permission to open the door, because this game doesn’t have one. If the door is locked, then you can say you break the window or pick the lock, so long as you explain how you can (where you learned it or whatever). If you want there to be a cardboard box to hide behind in a alley to avoid a police patrol, then there is most likely a cardboard box in the alley to hide behind. You as a player have narrative control. Be imaginative. If there isn't anything to hide behind in the alley, there is most likely a fire escape to run up. You are responsible for what you create though. If something that you made in your narrative freedom shows up again later on, you are in control of that particular item, character etc. What you don’t have control over is what happens to other characters. If you want to do something to somebody else (or want something to happen to another character), consult the conflict rules.

The World

While the previous segment details how you are able to react to events, you are also able to create events. Find some way of working your group into an order, by drawing numbers from a hat, going in clockwise direction from the person with the earliest birthday or whatever. In that order, from first to last, each player must create an event. All of the players react to the event, and then the next player creates an event. An event must create conflict for the characters and the players to respond to, from someone’s father dying to a SWAT team raid on the apartment building one of the characters lives on. Again, you are in charge of the items and characters etc. within the event. If somebody wants to interact with something from one of your events, you control the actions of the item or character to be interacted with. If nobody can remember who owns a particular item or character, don’t fuss. Assign it to somebody who wants it. Or flip a coin.

Conflicts

Whenever you get into a conflict (an significant event when there are important things at stake to win or lose) determine whether it is a Mind or Body conflict. This will determine whether you use your Mind or Body scores. Before you roll, determine what is at stake to win or lose in this conflict. This may be anything from "Getting on the boat in time or not" to "Living or dying". You will only die if you put your life as a stake.

Once you have determined what is at stake (everyone else, don't be afraid to call out and make suggestions. Everyone should get their ideas into the game) roll a die. It doesn't matter what kind, be it D6, D8, D10 whatever, so long as everyone uses the same kind. If you roll an odd number, you lose the stakes. If you roll an even number, you win the stakes. Here now, is where things get interesting. You have the option of continuing to roll as many times as the points in the conflict type (Mind or Body). Each time you roll you must add another thing that is at stake to win or lose though, and the roll applies to ALL the things that are at stake. If you roll three times, and you lose on the third time, you lose ALL of the stakes, whether you won any of the previous ones. On the same note, if you roll three times and you win on the third time, you win ALL of the stakes, whether you lost any of the previous ones.

People Die

Yes, unfortunately this is true. However, when a character dies it will never be without a reason, because you decide the stakes you want to risk. Also, even if you die, you won’t be getting out of all your troubles quite so easily. You might remain behind as a Ghost to haunt your old friends, rise again as a Vampire, be brought back to life by some crazy scientist as a Frankenstien wannabe or just be some sort of group hallucination that haunts the minds of your former colleagues. The rules are still the same as usual, your character is simply in a different state.

Chaos Theory

Once you have finished with the stakes, narrate the actions and how the stakes were won or lost. Try and make it as interesting and graphic as possible. Now that your conflict is resolved, what is termed here as “ripples” begins. Ripples are those events that start out small and bump into other events until eventually you end up affecting everybody. In this game, the ripples system determines how other characters are affected by your actions. Each ripple that hits a character must be the beginning of a conflict for them (which in turn will start off another ripple). All of the other players pick up four dice and roll.

Four odd numbers – You must begin with high stakes (but not necessarily death. Death is always optional)

Two more odd numbers than even (3 odd, 1 even) – You must begin with risky stakes

Equal numbers of even and odd numbers (2 odd, 2 even) – The conflict begins normally

Two more even numbers than odd (1 odd, 3 even) – Whoever you are in conflict with must begin with risky stakes

Four even numbers – Whoever you are in conflict with must begin with high stakes

The player who rolled the most odd numbers gets to deal with their conflict first. When you roll for the ripples of that player’s conflict, the rest of the players must roll again. How they are affected by the previous ripple is altered to the latest roll. The player who rolled the most odd numbers gets to deal with their conflict next (see a pattern here?). Continue to do this until all of the players have dealt with their conflicts. When the last player has resolved their conflict, everybody rolls for ripples and the process begins again. If nobody rolls any odd numbers, you are just too damn lucky. Roll again. If everybody has the same number of odds and evens, roll again.

What do you think of the revisions?

Kirk
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