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[Lucky Jones] Thinking about the reward system

Started by hix, January 18, 2006, 07:50:09 PM

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So, before I get to work on redrafting my Ronnies entries, I want to finish Lucky Jones - a game set in the world of family sitcoms - that I've been writing and playtesting for a while.

You'll find the basic rules here. It's 13 pages long; kind of a refined beta-draft that I've tried to keep it as simple as possible.

I'm going to be running 2 playtests of it this weekend at our local con. Anyone else who wants to playtest it or comment on it, I'd love the feedback.

What I'm particularly interested in for this thread, though, is the reward system. Each scene focuses on a single PC. At the end of each scene, the player rolls a d6 to determine if their Family Member gets closer or further away from getting what they want. That dice roll can be adjusted up by a single point (using a Bonus), rolled again if it's unsatisfactory (using a Reroll), or discarded (which is a simple way of describing Penalties, which are more a punishment than a reward). I think the core of the reward system is in the sections titled 'How to Adjust the roll' and 'How the Game ends'.

But the way these 3 pools are earned seems a little ... unnuanced (?) maybe. It feels like every player gets the same reward regardless of their input into the game. That problem is coupled with my suspicion that the reward system might be too complicated and finnicky - there are Bonuses, Rerolls and Penalties to keep track of.

Fresh insights appreciated!

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs


After playing the game of this on Saturday, I have two main things that I think need work:

1. Failing a roll was way too mean. Definitely should be easier to recover than it was that game - maybe always switch tracks to the same level?

2. Too many kinds of bonus/penalty. I think that having separate reroll and +1/-1 to a roll bonuses is too much. They should all be the same - probably rerolls, as these are more tense. The penalties were a little difficult too - you had to choose to use them as soon as possible or else you ended up getting twice as much grief from them. Which means there was no tension in the good story/bad story choices for people with penalties. The person giving the bad story knows it will be taken. My suggestion would be that penalties allow "The Knock" (i.e. the person generating adversity) to make you reroll. This keeps a chance of success, but they are still really bad.

Also, I think that the cast players (i.e. everyone but the three special players for a scene) should be free to introduce as many extras as they wish. I can't really see a reason to limit that at all.

The limit to how many 'family scenes' you can have might also be good to discard. In that game we had players who had either succeeded or failed for the episode and we had nothing left to do. We would all, I think, have liked to help out the others with more family scenes if we could have.


PS. Sorry that couldn't be as comprehensive as the essay you wrote on Badass Space Marines, Steve.


Mike, I agree with everything you've pointed out. I've also started an actual play thread about those Kapcon games.

1. Failing a roll was way too mean.

This is related to my impression that the game takes too long to play. Ideally, I'd like episodes to last 45 to 90 minutes.  Right now it's more like two to three hours. Restructuring the way you swap between tracks should go a long way to fixing that.

2. Too many kinds of bonus/penalty. <snip> They should all be the same - probably rerolls, as these are more tense.

I'll start a thread at to see whether any other players felt the same. I know I was the one who was worrying about this but weirdly it didn't seem to me like there were any problem at the table. So thanks for saying that. It's taught me the value of actually asking questions!

However, I have also discovered that there could be a long-term reward cycle (in the form of Penalties) operating in the game. Penalties are earned by failing to get what you want by the end of an episode. If I adjust how Penalties are used, so that you can either use it on yourself (giving yourself a slight disadvantage) or pass it to another person (giving yourself a slight advantage), then I think this will create a Fruitful Void.

That's the first time I've ever been able to sense what a Fruitful Void would feel like, so I'm quite excited!  Basically, I think that being able to trade Penalties between players will force them to ask the implicit question "What sort of family are we?"  Are they a group of individuals who'll crap on the people around them for some medium-term gain or will they suck it in and make sacrifices for each other?


Removing limits to players' contributions ... yep, those limits blew apart over the course of actual play that weekend.
Limits on Family Scenes, however ... I'll have to think on that. I like, at least, the idea that you have to have a family scene with everyone before you can repeat yourself.

Thanks for the thoughts, dude.

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs