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Author Topic: [Bridge Crew] Dynamic Dice Pools  (Read 3756 times)
knicknevin
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« on: September 24, 2005, 05:11:50 AM »

I'm working on a tongue in cheek, Star Trek-style game in which each player is dealt a card representing a different bridge officer and they play that officer throughout the game, but there are also 2 other cards: the Captain and the Alien, both of which rotate from player to player, with the Captain narrating a problem and giving an order to the other players, except the Alien, who represents the other side in that conflict.

The issue I'm having is with the dice pool system I'm using, which has dice from d4 to d12 in each pool; I want the dice to be dynamic, with a lot of swapping, losing & gaining them and I'm stuck between two broad types of pool system, not to mention other minor effects that relate to both.

System 1: Each player has their own personal pool, consisting of 2 of each type; when the Captain issues an order, the player uses 1 die from their pool against the Alien, who uses 1 from their's. After the challenge is resoolved, the winner gives the die they used to the Captain and adds the loser's die to their pool, then the Captain & Alien rotate.

System 2: There is an Engine pool used by the crew and an Encounter pool used by the Alien; each player chooses 1 die from the appropriate pool and, after the challenge, the winner keeps the die they drew and adds the loser's die to the pool they used. In future challenges, you can add one of you personal dice to a challenge and take the best of the 2 reults you roll, but both dice are at risk if you do so.

There are other points that modify your chances of winning or losing and could change the fate of the dice, e.g. you can 'Shoot to Kill' in a challenge, causing the loser to lose extra dice, for example, but the broad outline of options is as above... so which of these seems more appealing? I'm not just thinking about this in terms of role-playing, but also the practicality of having multiple pools of different die-types and aiming towards a victory/end-game condition such as having to roll a certain total on all your dice or get so many matching/sequential numbers. Feedback please?
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mutex
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« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2005, 01:56:33 PM »

I'm diggin the feeling.  It's like classic Star-Trek with a similar mechanic to the Shab-al-Hiri Roach.... erm, sort-of :D
Definitely, the Alien should get a dice pool boost, because it's one vs many.  I also like that you don't seem to have the Captain get a direct boost, but those following his orders get gift dice from his pool.  I imagine that you would find people still winging it, but in general they'd try to incorporate the Captain's orders into their actions to get the free dice.

How often do you imagine the roles of Captain and Alien would change hands?

Also, don't forget that a good last resort option in any science fiction flick is to "Reverse the Polarity".  That could be like a one-time dice-pool reversal or something.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2005, 02:12:30 PM »

Definitely, the Alien should get a dice pool boost, because it's one vs many. I also like that you don't seem to have the Captain get a direct boost, but those following his orders get gift dice from his pool. I imagine that you would find people still winging it, but in general they'd try to incorporate the Captain's orders into their actions to get the free dice.

Gosh... you know, I hadn't pictured it like that, but you've solved another problem I was having, that of letting a player 'mess around' with the Captain's order and do something different... if players only get to draw from the Engine pool when they are following orders but otherwise have to draw on their own pool, that might just work. The Alien, I agree, should always have the option to draw on the Encounter pool because they are a lot more dice lined up against him.

How often do you imagine the roles of Captain and Alien would change hands?

Basically after every challenge: the winner becomes the new Captain, after all dice swapping is sorted out, then the ex-Captain becomes the new Alien, so the two cards chase each other around.

Also, don't forget that a good last resort option in any science fiction flick is to "Reverse the Polarity". That could be like a one-time dice-pool reversal or something.

Well, I do have a Technobabble rule that lets you roll one extra die but then you have to get rid of the highest result rolled; basically, you have less chance of success but if you do succeed, you can narrate a result that would normally be impossible on that kind of action, e.g. causing damage with the comms gear or using the shields to move the ship, etc.
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MikeSands
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« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2005, 03:38:19 PM »

Well, I do have a Technobabble rule that lets you roll one extra die but then you have to get rid of the highest result rolled; basically, you have less chance of success but if you do succeed, you can narrate a result that would normally be impossible on that kind of action, e.g. causing damage with the comms gear or using the shields to move the ship, etc.

I'd suggest that you should drop the "get rid of the highest die rolled." In this sort of show, technobabble rarely fails and usually does something special too. This is working on the assumption that you want people saying stuff like "Things are going badly, so I reverse the polarity on the photon zinger to bypass the enemy frobulator."

If you just want to encourage this sort of dialog, then technobabble should be all bonus with no drawbacks.

If you are concerned that people will try to put this on every roll (likely but not necessarily a problem) then maybe specify that technobabble can only be used a certain number of times per session? Maybe this could be based on character type, so that the engineer gets lots but other characters less?
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knicknevin
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« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2005, 01:54:40 AM »

If you just want to encourage this sort of dialog, then technobabble should be all bonus with no drawbacks.

I don't want to hand out too many 'get out of jail free' cards though and I want to enocurage players to be creative with what their own crew member can do without just ignoring their specialities; I might throw in something like this to end the 'episode' with, but it will have to be earned, i.e. you have to spend a certain number of dice or roll some result that is harder to get with fewer dice.

The crew cards aren't going to be heavily statted, they will just have a bonus to carrying out one type of order, so the game is fairly simple and I don't want to start deviating from that too heavily; I think even character death will be impossible, with 'extras' dying in the crew's place or some technobabble brining an apparently dead character back to life.

So, steering this discussion, with no subtlety at all, back to my original post, which pool system do you think is the most dynamic & managable?
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2005, 08:13:29 AM »

I do have a Technobabble rule that lets you roll one extra die but then you have to get rid of the highest result rolled; basically, you have less chance of success but if you do succeed, you can narrate a result that would normally be impossible on that kind of action

Given that you're emulating a genre, consider if these sorts of actions really have 'less chance of success' than accomplishing goals in a more straightforward manner.  From my vantage, these sorts of actions have a higher success rate than normal actions.  However, they're only used in climactic situations (at the end of the show) or have unintended fallout (when done at the beginning of the show).  Perhaps the players can 'unlock' the Technobabble option after they've racked up enough plot points or increased their pool enough or some other 'far enough into the story' determination.  If they go Technobabble before it's time, it can work, but the Alien gets to add in some complications.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2005, 11:17:06 AM »

Yeah, I'm scrapping my first take on Technobabble now, since it no longer sits with the dice pool dynamics I went for; in the end, I went for the 2nd option, having one pool controlled by the Captain and one by the Alien, with players earning dice, taken from these pools, by successfully following orders.

Good idea though Joshua: I was looking for some kind of cap to the narrative and spending your dice on Technobabble would certainly fit the bill, e.g. when you have earned enough, you get to throw them in to narrate a creative solution to whatever the big issue is.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2005, 11:10:02 AM »

OK, question 2...

There is now a Commision pool, which is used by the Captain to 'bribe' the Crew into carrying out an Order, and an Encounter pool, which the Alien uses to add spice to conflicts: players also have Officer pools which all dice they earn (including those they earn while they are the Captain or the Alien) are put into.
So: players start with very few dice in their Officer pool but add more as they progress and succeed at various tasks... where does that end though? Should I go for a strictly narrativist ending, e.g. it ends when the players reach the end of the story? Or should there be more of a gamist goal, e.g. when any player can roll a total of X using their Officer pool, they can narrate the climax of the story? Comments & feedback please.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2005, 11:18:50 AM »

If your 'chassis' is Star Trek, I'd say that the individual game session is over when a climax is reached, but the same characters are assumed to go on to other adventures in the next 'episode'.

I can't tell by what's here if the players customize the individual officer roles into real characters, or if they're more like Clue characters (Mrs White, Miss Peacock, Colenol Mustard -- names, no personality), though.  If there's something worth keeping around for the next game, you might design a reward system that encourages the serial, episodic play that you'd find on television.
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Eric J. Boyd
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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2005, 11:34:48 AM »

Neat concepts. I like the idea of adding something a bit more gamist. Your system seems to allow the main pools to be depleted, so what if that was a trigger for an end game of some sort? Maybe once the Encounter pool loses its last die, have everyone roll the dice in their Officer pool and let the player with the highest result narrate the final scene.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2005, 02:16:11 AM »

That sounds like a neat idea, thanks Smithy! I'll see baout incorporating a mechanic like that this weekend.

As to continued play, then no: the characters are too simplified to sustain anything like that. Of course, players could agree to continue playing with the same Crew session after session, but there is no real room for growth other than purely narrative: I really see this as a one-shot game, but with enough flexibility to be replayable indefinitely, though I do have some ideas for an extended version of the game which are still in the embryonic stage.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2005, 10:44:12 AM »

OK, so this is my 'oh-my-God-its-so-obvious' solution: when you are Captain, you have the option to Save The Day, instead of giving an Order. If you decide to Save The Day, you roll all the dice in your Officer Pool, but not Commsission dice, and the Alien rolls all the dice in the Encounter Pool, but not any Officer dice. Whoever gets the higher total wins; if the Captain loses, then he puts half of his dice, rounding up, into the Commission pool, but if he wins, he ends the story however he wishes.

Feedback?
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MikeSands
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« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2005, 02:21:27 PM »

I'm going to restate what I think the mechanics will do over a session here to confirm I have it right.

So... at the beginning the Encounter and Commission pool are large.

As game play goes on, Officer pools grow and the Encounter pool shrinks

Then, sooner or later, Officer pool is large enough for the current Captain to Save the Day and wrap everything up. And if they fail, I guess someone else can have a go pretty soon.

Sounds pretty good to me.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2005, 01:11:58 AM »

That's it spot on Mike. The flow for an Order carried out successfully is Commission to Officer (the Crew) and Encounter to Commission; for an unsuccessful Order, the flow is Encounter to Officer (the Alien) and Commision to Encounter. Even a series of unsuccessful Orders will eventually give players substantial Officer pools, though the Encounter pool will also be substantial; a series of successful Orders increases the average Officer pool size at the expense of the Encounter pool, which shrinks rapidly.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2005, 05:07:23 AM »

OK, a complete draft of this game can be seen at:

http://spaces.msn.com/members/randomsolids/PersonalSpace.aspx?_c11_BlogPart_blogpart=myspace&_c=BlogPart&_c02_owner=1

Apologies for the presentation, but I don't currently have anywhere else to host my work (hint, hint)
Any feedback on this game? I'd quite like the crew cards to do something else besides help with carrying out orders but I can't decide what... any suggestions?
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