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Author Topic: Using card-based mechanics  (Read 5520 times)
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« on: December 26, 2005, 02:16:35 AM »

Hey guys.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how cards (whether CCG or non-collectible) can be most effectively integrated into roleplaying games. I want to know whether you guys appreciate using custom cards, and what your take on their effectiveness/uses is.

I've got a specific game idea in mind, and what I'm looking for is:
a.) whether cards would be effective in this case.
b.) your opinions on card-based mechanics in RPGs in general.
c.) Links to any threads that I should read up on, in regards to card-based mechanics.


Anyways, the game idea is still in early stages. Basically, I want a game that's set in deep jungle warfare. I want this to be against the backdrop of interplanetary conquest - They're fighting across a primarily jungle world.

The soldiers of {Insert name of galactic empire here] were raised in slave camps/worlds, and they've been conscripted as the {empire's} slaves.
If they do their time, gain their status points, then they get pardoned and freed.

I'm thinking players control squads. Each squad consists of the Cards that are in play on that character's side. Just like any "creature" or "soldier" in a CCG (except these wouldn't be collectible... more on that later.)

Players narrate their squad through a GM-narrated world. Successes allow you to draw cards.
Anyways, the cards are troopers, "bases", tools, etc.

Successes earn troopers "status points". These are check marks on their to-do lists for being pardoned. I haven't figured this part out mechanically yet, but for the moment lets say putting a penny on a card gives it a +1 bonus to troop morale, because they are more successful.
However, as soon as they earn enough points, they are pardoned: shipped out, without a care to their comrades.

So, that's my game idea.
I'm thinking maybe there are a total of 60-70 cards in total, and players form a deck of 30?
So there is customizability....
But at the same time it definately isn't a CCG.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2005, 06:08:19 AM »

I love how the mechanic implies that the guy one point away from being shipped off is obviously the guy who you'll choose to have slapped down by a random sniper's bullet, rather than any of your grittier, more useful soldiers.  "He was just a week away from retirement!"

I think you've got a good sense of how to model the state of your squad by putting cards down on the table.  I think there is a lot more that you can do by thinking about all the other things that cards do at the same time:  what does it mean to have only a few cards in your hand?  what does it mean to have a lot?  what does it mean to draw a card?  what does it mean to play a card?  what does it mean when you start running out of cards in your deck entirely?  is there a difference between discarding cards and removing them from the game entirely?  if so, which happens in which circumstance?  are some cards only appropriate to some circumstances, and just cluttering up your hand otherwise?  can you combine cards on the table in some way?  and so on, and so on.

If you can't tell, I'm actually quite enamored of the possibilities of card systems.  I think they merit a good careful look.
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2005, 03:21:28 PM »

Wow, thanks for the positive feedback.
You asked a lot of questions that I hadn't even begun to think about yet.

For example: I have the in-play mechanisms, as well as the drawing mechanisms. But I totally had nothing going for the discard/in hand mechanisms at all.


But, here's an idea. If you think there are better ways to utilize card mechanics, please jump in: this is just off the top of my head.
Some cards are limited in usefulness - especially in certain scenarios. The Rottweiler Tank (a deadly tank to be sure) is only of use in specific times. Same with Timmy the Communications Specialist.
So, if a card is picked up, it's brought to your hand. A card can be played whenever it makes sense to splice it into the storyline.
You get a +1 bonus for each card in your hand. Call this the Reserves Bonus, I suppose. This bonus represents that Timmy the Communications Specialist is helping out at base camp, doing their chores so they don't have to (which is definately a morale bonus. haha.), and being their for support.

Once a card is played, however, it can't just be returned to your hand. But I would make some cards that did return stuff to your hand. (Withdraw Troops - Return two soldier cards to hand.), (Dinner Bell - Return as many soldiers are desired to your hand), (Retrieve Resources - Return any card to your hand.)

When you are out "in the world", you take any amount of cards that are in play with you.
Thus, you want to have in play no more than what you'll use - because if they just sit around at base camp (but aren't in your hand) then you get no use, and no Reserve Bonus.
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2005, 05:32:01 PM »

Combine cards:
I'm thinking that there might be equipment upgrades?

For example, Sergeant Mkoll (for those of you who know WH40K fiction) might come with Light Armour, Grenades, and a Lasgun.

However, I might draw a Markton Elite Sniper Rifle. Sergeant Mkoll might be my best choice for it, and I'd slip it on him - like enchant creatures or more recently equipment, in Magic: The Gathering.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2005, 07:49:58 PM »

Hi, Joe.

My own game With Great Power... uses multiple decks of standard playing cards for resolution. I gave lots of thought to the ways that cards and roleplay interact. My question is: What makes this an RPG? As I'm interpreting your description, the imaginary game world is influenced only by the color text on the cards, not by the imaginations of the players. How do the players put their own unique creative investment into the game?

In WGP..., I addressed this problem by *not* having specific cards link to any specific thing in the imagined game world. The way that cards interact (such as, when one card is higher than another) a certain type of event occurs in the game world (such as victory.) The details of how that event manifests in the game world are tailored by the players at that moment. Having a few easily-achievable categories of results gives players the choice of which option to take--they are rarely limited by not having the "right" card.
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2005, 09:13:54 PM »

Hmm... Micheal, good question.

At this point, what I envisioned was this: The cards are basically the character sheet: the bonuses, the characters, and the equipment. It's like handing a player several pregenerated character sheets.

The roleplaying and the interaction is entirely the characters.

(I do, however, really like the ideas you suggested.)

However, you brought up another good point: Does multiple decks work well? In WIth Great Power, how does that fare?


I was thinking seperating Trooper, Equipment, and Other? Is that effective? I'm thinking: Likely, no,.

Also, the different warring factions would each have a deck. Thus each player would be playing a different list of cards.
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Graham W
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2005, 05:27:36 AM »

Joe, with regard to Michael's comment...

My own game With Great Power... uses multiple decks of standard playing cards for resolution. I gave lots of thought to the ways that cards and roleplay interact. My question is: What makes this an RPG? As I'm interpreting your description, the imaginary game world is influenced only by the color text on the cards, not by the imaginations of the players. How do the players put their own unique creative investment into the game?

This reminds me of the October Ronnies, where several of the games were classified as "Parlor Narration".

I think the problem Michael's describing is more or less the same as Parlor Narration. Basically, how do you make sure this is a roleplaying game, not just a CCG game with narration tacked on?

If you're interested in this, it might be worth doing a search on "Parlor Narration". Here's a couple of old threads I found. Firstly, the Ronnies winners thread for October. I found Ron's analogy of playing Monopoly with a silly hat on particularly helpful...

[Whitecollar Punks]Ronnies feedback

And here's the feedback thread for Whitecollar Punks:

October winners

Good luck with the game!

Graham

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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2005, 07:44:33 AM »

Here's a specific suggestion on the "roleplaying game vs. card game with narration tacked on" question. First, to remind you of Michael Miller's comment:

What makes this an RPG? As I'm interpreting your description, the imaginary game world is influenced only by the color text on the cards, not by the imaginations of the players. How do the players put their own unique creative investment into the game? In WGP..., I addressed this problem by *not* having specific cards link to any specific thing in the imagined game world....

My own apocalypse girl (badly broken rough draft here) tackles this problem in a mirror-image of Miller's approach: I have the players define what the cards mean in terms of the story. Thus the mechanics tell you how to generate and use a card of, say, Power 2, Loyalty 3 -- but you the player are required to write down whether that card with those statistics represents "Sergeant Joe," or a "Mega Power Tank," or "Sergeant Joe's abiding sense of dread." In actual playtests, this seems to work (unlike all my other mechanics...), breaking the "parlor narration" box: Players ascribe fictional meaning to the game-elements they create and actually let that fictional meaning affect their strategy.

So what I'd suggest to you is that you do not a card like "Timmy the Communications Specialist" or "Sergeant Mkoll." Instead, make the players name their soldires. Just that tiny step will give them a sense of having created a character, which leads them down the road to emotional investment.

If you want to get more complicated, I'd further suggest that you take your idea that "The cards are basically the character sheet" are run with it. Don't just have a card labeled "Combat Infantry Training" and then stack cards like "Sniper Rifle" and "Body Armor" on it to enhance it. Also have cards like -- off the top of my head, here -- "Beserker Fury" (bonus to combat, penalty to survival rolls); "Cowardice" (bonus to survival, minus to anything else); "Class Clown" (bonus to morale of rest of the squad); "Longing for Home" (bonus to survival rolls, 'cause the guy refuses to die without seeing his family again); and on and on. Then let players combine cards to create unique individuals.

In other words, every element on a traditional character sheet can become its own card, and a given character is a combination of cards. Maybe a minor character is represented by just one card representing their role in the squad -- "Combat Infantry Training" or "Communications Specialist Training" or even "Class Clown" for the guy who never seems to do anything useful but that everybody likes -- whereas a major character is a combination of a half-dozen or more.

(You could also do this for major items of equipment: e.g. instead of having a single card labeled "Mega Assault Tank," you'd combine a bunch of cards like "Tracked Vehicle," "Heavy Cannon," "Long-range sensor array," "Armor," "Armor," and "Armor" again. But do this deliberately: Whatever element of the game you decide to make customizable this way will become the focus, and you may not want people spending all their time designing cool uber-weapons instead of designing characters that feel like actual human beings).
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2005, 01:19:04 PM »

Quote
Maybe a minor character is represented by just one card representing their role in the squad -- "Combat Infantry Training" or "Communications Specialist Training" or even "Class Clown" for the guy who never seems to do anything useful but that everybody likes -- whereas a major character is a combination of a half-dozen or more.

My original thought was that they could "buy" these feats just like a levelled d&d character could.

We could go with your idea, however, we now encounter a different problem - the cards were supposed to represent "resources" being shipped into the planet. So, if we go based on your suggestion of "stackable" characters, we need two different decks -
One for Resources coming in, one for Group development.


But then, where is the chance for characterization? It seems less like roleplaying if you don't get to decide what kinds of behaviors your troopers have.

I was thinking cards are like pre-generated characters. You have a whole bunch of cards to build your deck with, and you build a deck of 30 or 35... something like that.
Then you use the cards you draw as pregenerated characters with which to ROLEPLAY.
the idea is that you'd then have to explore the world, specify actions, control several characters, interact, etc.


So, in light of that design goal, do you still suggest stackable characters? I'm open to the idea, I'm just not sure it currently melds with my vision.
Which would you rather see?
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Joe J Prince
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« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2005, 04:50:31 PM »

How about going with the two decks, but assigning a cost to each of the stackable cards so that players get to buy whatever enhancements they want for their PCs?
Perhaps with status points?

You could even add a cost to each character card, this would help ensure deck balance.

This would also provide plenty of opportunity for collectibility!

I'll trade you a berserker rage for that Nabusian energy rifle...

Cheers,
J
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2005, 05:47:22 PM »

How about going with the two decks, but assigning a cost to each of the stackable cards so that players get to buy whatever enhancements they want for their PCs?
Perhaps with status points?

You could even add a cost to each character card, this would help ensure deck balance.

This would also provide plenty of opportunity for collectibility!

I'll trade you a berserker rage for that Nabusian energy rifle...

Cheers,
J

Oooh - So if I read you correctly, the decks are built using a point-buy system, but then shuffled and drawn randomly?
THAT part of your post I really like. That way, it could be a CCG, without getting into the "I'm better because I've spent more" thing.



However, the using status points to equip guys is a definate no. The idea is that guys get "shipped away" as soon as they reach "quota" - Status points boost morale, but then get the guy shipped out once he's done his time.
It's prison time, served in war. The only reason they don't try and escape is that they have NOWHERE to go.

But, here's what I'm thinking now:
  • Various "factions" each have their own armies. You can play the Terran Empire, the Planet Natives, the Inquisition, or the Mercs for example. These aren't what I'm going with, they're just a random example.
  • Each faction has two types of cards: Resource Cards, and Improvement Cards.
  • Players create a 30 (or something) card Resource Deck, and an Improvement deck of any size... based on a combined point total.
  • The total points is customizable per game. Just like in warhammer (and similar tabletop wargames) how you can play a 1,000 point game, or 2,000.... Average sized campaign is 200 points lets say.
  • The campaign style can be different: Players can be opposed factions, allied factions, different squadrons of the same faction... They can fight other factions, each other, or against inhabitants/monsters in the world.
  • The situations, conflicts and enemies are created like any other roleplaying game
  • The conflicts are resolved with dice rolling, using the cards as character sheets.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2005, 08:24:17 PM »

where is the chance for characterization? It seems less like roleplaying if you don't get to decide what kinds of behaviors your troopers have.... I was thinking cards [that] you use the cards you draw as pregenerated characters with which to ROLEPLAY.

I was assuming that if you have a deck of personality traits to draw from, you presumably have several personality cards in your hand at any given time, from which you choose which traits to play and in what combinations: "oh, I drew Berserker Rage, finally, good. But do I want to play it on my guy who's already got Hero, Infantry Training, Commando Training, and Wiseass, and then risk losing it all to one bad survival roll with that Beserker penalty, or do I want to play it on the expendable guy with just basic Infantry Training? And, darn it, it's awfully appealing to make the uber-cool hero guy turn out to be the one who flips out under pressure...." Or something like that. So you'd "get to decide what kinds of behaviors your troopers have," just within the parameters of what cards you had drawn -- which is restricted, sure, but less restricted than completely pregenerated characters.

And restrictions can be good for roleplaying, too: maybe, on your own, you'd never even have thought that hero-guy would start going crazy, but now you have the card, and it'd be so easy to play it on him, but what does that say about the story you're creating? This is where the interplay between the strategy and the fiction can become surprisingly powerful.

the cards were supposed to represent "resources" being shipped into the planet. So, if we go based on your suggestion of "stackable" characters, we need two different decks -
One for Resources coming in, one for Group development.

If you're being strictly realistic, yeah, character development can't be "bought" with the same kind of resources as better equipment, training, and so on. But in a lot of very good roleplaying games, and especially in point-buy systems (which I'm fond of, too), everything is fungible. As a practical game-design issue, creating two disconnected sets of resources that don't convert easily into each other but which both affect character effectiveness creates lots of opportunities for broken places in the rules that players can munchkin abusively.

Besides, to quote the other Joe, I like being able to say "I'll trade you a Beserker Rage for that Nabusian energy rifle."
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2005, 09:59:00 PM »

Quote
And restrictions can be good for roleplaying, too: maybe, on your own, you'd never even have thought that hero-guy would start going crazy, but now you have the card, and it'd be so easy to play it on him, but what does that say about the story you're creating? This is where the interplay between the strategy and the fiction can become surprisingly powerful.

Okay, you guys have sold me on this one!
"Trait" cards are going in.

Quote
As a practical game-design issue, creating two disconnected sets of resources that don't convert easily into each other but which both affect character effectiveness creates lots of opportunities for broken places in the rules that players can munchkin abusively.


Just as far as the game backstory goes - I think I need to keep incoming resources seperate from fostered growth.
Maybe one gets represented in cards, another in "feats"?

I like the idea of cards for both, but I think they need to be in seperate piles. You can't ship "wiseass" in from off planet. You can't foster "tank armament" within the group.
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