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Indie Game Design
[Silent Sound] A Second Attempt
Topic: [Silent Sound] A Second Attempt (Read 783 times)
[Silent Sound] A Second Attempt
January 06, 2006, 06:27:10 PM »
So once upon a time, I posted this game:
I can't believe it's been over a year. Where does the time go? Anyway, all the Ronnies stuff has made me want to take a look at this game again. Out of the three games I've tried to design, this one excites me the most.
Silent Sound is inspired by the Silent Hill video game series, most notably the second one. Elements borrowed from the game include the core concept of people being drawn to a supernatual small town in order to face judgment and the idea of two worlds, the real world and a scary supernatural dream/shadow world imposed on top of it. The similarities end there. This is not an attempt to create Silent Hill the RPG, so there is no attempt to capture the feeling of a survival horror game or anything like that. This game, of course, draws many elements from other games, most notably: Sorcerer, Trollbabe, The Pool, My Life With Master, Capes, SOAP and Zero to the Bone.
What I'm going to present first here are the revised elements from my first post that I'm fairly happy with. Then I'm going to present a section of "crumb" elements that I would really like to include but I can't make them fit. Perhaps they're not meant to fit and should just be excised. I can live with that.
Distribute 7 points between two attributes: Physical and Social. A third attribute Guilt is set at the highest of either Physical or Social.
Additionally, the player makes up a character Secret. This is meant to be something shady in the character's past similar to The Wrongdoings in Zero to the Bone. Only the player and the GM know that paticular character's secret at first.
Basic Conflict Resolution is just like Sorcerer. Opposed die pools comparing the highest die in one pool against higher dice in the second pool.
I really like the basic Sorcerer die mechanic for two reasons. First, it's scalable. In a game with a flat or range of target numbers you have to worry if the dice pools or modifiers will get too large. Here, you can keep scaling the opposition dice to keep up. The second reason is, it's unpredictablity and randomness. No matter how many dice you roll a single die always has a chance.
However, I also really like the simplicity of Trollbabe's or The Pool's method of simply stating discrete character goals no matter how complex the conflict is and the dice resolving that. That works best when the opposition (NPCs, etc) don't roll dice at all. So, I've found a way to unify these two approaches. See below for futher details.
The Two Worlds
The game takes place in two worlds. Silent Sound and The Shadow. Silent Sound is the real world. It is steeped in history and small town urban legends. It has an atmosphere of impending horror or horror having come and gone. However, nothing unreal ever happens here. This is the world of plain old ordinary human conflict no matter how bizzare.
Imagine for a moment little vinettes like episodes of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits (but minus the horror and sci-fi) happening all over the town. These vinettes are called Situations. They have to be discrete like this for a reason you'll see in a moment. The GM is responsible for creating the Situations but they are intended to reflect the PC's Secrets in whatever collage like manner the GM sees fit.
The Shadow, on the other hand, is a world of nightmare and horror. It follows dream logic and features any supernatural horror the group desires. Everything in Silent Sound is reflected in The Shadow including The Situations which, here, can include additional elements of the supernatural. (This is similar to the original backstory vs. the "sorcerized" version as explained in The Sorcerer's Soul). A key difference is that The Shadow is skewed to favoring the current PC's secret.
Conflict resolution is different with different consequences in each of the two worlds.
Conflict Resolution In Silent Sound
In Silent Sound a player simply states a goal for the conflict and then rolls the appropriate attribute (Physical or Social) vs. a set of GM Target Dice (See the "crumbs" section)
On Success, the player subtracts a point of Guilt. He then has the option of raising the attribute used in the conflict by one or adding a point to the Situation's Judgment Pool. Finally, if the Situation's Judgment Pool is positive, he can choose to resolve the Situation by narrating a final outcome. The goal and the character's action should be central to that resolution and the overall outcome should be positive.
On Failure, the player either enters The Shadow or subtracts a point from the attribute used in the conflict. If an attribute point is subtracted the player can either add a point to his Guilt or subtract a point from the Situation's Judgment Pool. Finally, if the Situation's Judgment Pool is negative, he can choose to resolve the Situation by narrating a final outcome. The goal and the character's action should be central to that resolution and the overall outcome should be negative.
Note: If the player's attribute score is 1 he automatically enters The Shadow, no choice.
When a player chooses to resolve a Situation, he then also picks the Situation he wishes to go to next. The character is assumed to simply walk there through the streets of Silent Sound.
Conflict Resolution In The Shadow
In The Shadow, the player states a goal for any conflict just like he does in Silent Sound. However, the player rolls the appropriate attribute (Physical or Social) vs. the player's own Guilt score for resolution.
On Success, the player either subtracts a point of Guilt (no attribute gain) or returns to Silent Sound.
On Failure, the player gains a point of Guilt and remains in The Shadow.
When a player returns from The Shadow he picks another player who has guessed his character's secret (see below). That player then chooses what Situation the character returns to. If no player knows his character's secret then the GM chooses.
Bonus Dice For Hints
Initially, there is only one way for a player to earn bonus dice for a conflict roll (in either world). If his stated action hints at his secret then he gains a number of bonus dice equal to the number of players who do not know his character's secret. Yes, this means that once every player has guessed his secret this option is no longer available to that player.
When a character returns from The Shadow the other players have the opportunity to guess that character's secret. Each player writes down their guess and hands it to the player whose character has returned from The Shadow. That player then indicates which players, if any, have correctly guessed.
There are two types of Judgment Pools. Situation and Personal.
Situation Judgment Pools are a global resource and are available to all the players except the GM. When a Situation is resolved its Judgement Pool becomes available. Any player may spend dice from these pools to affect the outcome of ANY conflict another player is facing. If the Judgement Pool is positive the dice may only be spent to help a character succeed. If the Judgement Pool is negative the dice may only be spent to hinder a character. Also, the dice may only be spent on characters who interacted with that situation in a meaningful manner (i.e. had at least one conflict roll there). Note: They can be spent *BY* anyone, even those who did not interact with the Situation.
Personal Judgment Pools are tracked by each player individually and each player has one pool for each of the other players. So if Alice, Bob and Carl are playing then Alice has two Personal Judgment Pools, one for Bob and one for Carl. When a character enters The Shadow players who know that character's secret roll their Guilt vs the Guilt of the character entering The Shadow. If they score any victories they add a number of points equal to the number of victories to the Personal Judgment Pool corresponding to the character entering The Shadow. Dice from the Personal Judgment Pools may be spent to help or hinder (spending player's choice) the character corresponding to the Personal Judgment Pool.
Once every player know's every other player's character's secret end game begins. Play continues normally with one exception. Once a character enters The Shadow he can not leave. Play proceeds until all the characters are in The Shadow. Then each character engages in one final climatic conflict that should embody a truly nightmarish version of their secret. This is resolved via the normal Attribute vs. Guilt resolution for The Shadow. The outcome of this roll determines the contents of a character's Epilogue which is narrated by the player of that character.
Attribute wins over Guilt = The epilogue should contain a positive spin on a future accomplishment or event in the character's life.
Guilt Victories < Physical and Social Attributes = The epilogue should contain a negative spin on a future accomplishment or event in the character's life.
Note: All other outcomes involve the character receiving trauma of somekind as a direct result of their experiences in Silent Sound.
Guilt Victories > Physical but < Social = The player is physically maimed in some way and may even be dead.
Guilt Victories < Physical but > Social = The player is mentally or emotionally damaged in some way.
Guilt Victories > Physical and Social = The player is physically maimed, can not be dead, and mentally and emotionally damaged in some way.
The above elements of the game I'm fairly happy with. Any feedback is, of course, welcome. However, the game has several holes I'm not sure how to fill. I also have several elements I'd like to include but every attempt to include them has resulted in a "tacked on" feel.
Section 1: Fears
1) Since Situation Judgment Pools can only be spent on players who have participated in that Situation AND positive Judgment Pool values can only be used to help a character, is there too much incentive to jump from Situation to Situation rapidly, add a few points to the pool, resolve quickly and thus rack up a bunch of positive judgment pools that can only be used to help you or not at all?
2) The "All-In" problem. Since there is a known "last conflict" it strikes me that it would be a great temptation for everyone to simply go All In with all their Judgment Pool dice and any remaining Situation Judgment Pool dice resulting in a) massive dice rolling and b) if everyone decides to "play nice" massive skewing in the Epilogues. Possible Solutions:
A) Situation Judgment Pools can not be used in the final conflict. Note: I keep wavering on whether I want to eliminate Situation Judgment Pools from Shadow conflicts all together.
A1) Should Situation Judgment Pool spending be restricted by secret knowledge the way the personal pools are?
B) Create a "cap" on Personal Judgment Pools in the final conflict. One more Guilt vs. Guilt roll is made and the result determines how many dice can be spent on the final conflict.
C) Do away with the individual personal judgment pools all together. Instead, points for the personal judgment pool are earned per above, however, they go into a single pool rather than a per player pool. You only earn points from and can spend points on players whose secret you know. This provides incentive to destribute the dice more evenly in the final conflict.
Section 2: Actual Crumbs
In the original design, the player also created a Lure for his character. The Lure is something that has brought the player to Silent Sound. In the game Silent Hill 2 the Lure is a letter from the main character's dead wife suggesting that she is waiting for him in Silent Hill. I really like this idea. At minimum it will be added as Color but I would like it to play a recuring mechanical role but I'm stuck for something meaningful.
GM Target Dice
Okay, the above version of the game makes no mention of how to determine how many dice a GM should roll for conflicts in Silent Sound. I really like the idea of The Budget in Primetime Adventures. My idea here is that the GM rolls a base of three dice and can pull more from a resource pool only the GM has access to. If the GM wants to roll less than three dice he can bank up to two into the resource pool. The problem I have is how to create and refresh that pool.
Here's the most straight forward idea I have: At the start this pool is equal to the total Guilt among all the players. Whenever a player enters The Shadow the GM gains a number of dice equal to that character's Guilt.
It feels like it's missing something but I might be over complicating it.
I really like the idea of Situations being contained in Set Pieces. Set Pieces are locations in Silent Sound like: The Diner, The Lakeshore Hotel, Appartment Complex on Lexiington Street, etc. Basically, when a player resolves a Situation they don't pick a new Situation, they pick a new Set Piece. If the Set Piece already has a Situation in it, great they join that Situation. If the Set Piece is empty then the GM creates a new Situation for it. Note: The player can choose to create a new empty Set Piece for the GM to fill.
Similarly when returning from The Shadow the chosen player can pick an existing Set Piece or create a new one.
The above, I like a lot and will get incorporated into the game somehow. Here's where I'm stuck. When a player creates a new Set Piece, either for themselves or for someone else, I'd like that player to "own" the Set Piece. However, I don't know what that means. Everything I think up (like a bonus die for all conflicts in that Set Piece) feels like tacks that don't really support the game's central idea of everyone passing judgment on everyone else. Ideas?
Walking From Set Piece To Set Piece
When a player resolves a Situation and gets to walk from one Set PIece to another this strikes me as a great opportunity to throw in a mechanic like the Confessional or The Horror Revealed where the player gets to narrate some extra bit of information about the town. But again, I don't know how to make it support the central goal.
The idea here is that one player takes on the job of being The Mapper. At the start of the game the player marks down three landmarks: The Highway, The Town Square and The Lake Shore. As Set Pieces get created they get placed on the map by The Mapper. I don't know if this would be cool and deepen the experience or be distracting and pointless.
I had this idea about players being able to promote things in the game world to the status of Thematic Detail. A Thematic Detail can be anything, an NPC, a significant object, a relationship, whatever, that has taken on special thematic meaning. The rough idea is that the player can take on a point of Guilt to elevate something to Thematic Detail status. This also ties into the Set Piece idea as players can request that certain Thematic Details appear in that Set Piece's Situation. I was also thinking of awarding bonus dice for use of thematic details but I'm affraid it detracts from the secrets and the judgment pools. Cool or overly complex?
That's the state of this game. What do you think?
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