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Author Topic: [Today] Answering the Power 19  (Read 2936 times)
Eric J. Boyd
Member

Posts: 114


« on: January 24, 2006, 02:12:05 PM »

Answering Troyís Power 19 questions (see here) seems like an effective tool for focusing a game's development and rooting out problems, so I thought I'd give it whirl for my October 2005 Ronnies entry "Today" as it moves into further development. You can find a more detailed discussion of the current rules revision here.

1.) What is your game about?
Today is about the day people face their deepest pain and either conquer it or give up.

2.) What do the characters do?
The characters confront (or are confronted by) three people associated with their pain and wrestle with harmful behaviors and beliefs that pain has spawned in their lives. They also turn to the people who love and support them for help in making it through the day. By the end of the day, they transcend their pain and transform themselves or fall prey to madness and self-destruction.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
Today has no Game Master. Each player controls a character, and another player controls the adversity impacting the character, both in terms of people and setting the stakes of failure. A third player role plays the supportive people in the character's life. The game is focused on setting stakes that threaten to destroy the character's positive relationships and allow harmful behaviors and beliefs to run amok in the event of a failed test, and allow a reduction in the power of pain and the redemption of pain-filled relationships if success occurs. After a number of scenes, the players end the day and narrate an epilogue for their character, informed by the current level of pain and the effects of previous tests on relationships and behaviors.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
Today assumes a setting of modern-day Amercia in its examples, but the system can be applied to any time and place. Pain is a universal, and grappling with deep pain is a theme suitable for any setting.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Character creation involves briefly describing the character's pain, three people associated with that pain, three manifestations of that pain in their current life, and three people in supportive relationships with the character. There are no ability scores.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
Today rewards narrativist play and strategic dice management used to achieve a dramatic story, no matter which set of stakes wins out. I'm concerned that conservative play will mechanically allow a good result for a character, but without creating any exciting scenes or stakes. If this proves to be true, I'll want to find a way to punish overly conservative play.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
Strong narration is rewarded with bonus dice for use in future tests. Adverse players are encouraged to set nasty stakes for failure in order to increase their chances of narrating the resolution and netting bonus dice for their own characters. A character's player has the option to reroll dice and get another chance to pass (or fail) a test; in exchange, they must narrate a flashback scene detailing how the character's pain came about.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Success or failure is determined by looking to the highest die result among a pool of several dice. Dice and bonus dice are different colors. The color of the die used to determine success or failure also determines which player gets to narrate the result of the test. Any narration must conform to the stakes each side developed earlier in play.

9.) What does your game do to command the player's attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
The subject matter is universal and accessible, and the theme allows for powerfully emotional play. There is no down time; players almost always are responsible for some task in a scene. The system encourages dramatic stakes to be created for each test that will engage players. Strategic options exist for merely surviving the day or directly confronting pain and trying to redeem damaged relationships.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Today uses a pool of d6s, some coming from the character's own strength of resolve and others coming from bonus dice gained from the creation of nasty stakes for failure. The character's player can choose before rolling to cancel a number of high dice in order to lessen the power pain has over them in the future, reverse the damage wrought by failed stakes, and to redeem relationships founded on pain--but only if they succeed in the test. The highest result on any uncancelled die determines success or failure; in addition to winning or losing stakes, the result can increase the character's inner strength or the power of their pain.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
Tests directly affect relationships and behaviors of the characters, both damaging or improving them. This centers the narrative on grappling with pain, in addition to increasing mechanical atrributes.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
Characters do not increase in power, but they do have the chance to transform their lives and free themselves from pain. Tests can directly improve damaged relationships and bring harmful behaviors and beliefs under control should the player choose to include these elements in the stakes that they set for success.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The game is about conquering pain, and that is the way that characters advance, not by gaining power or wealth.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
Dramatic and emotional play that takes damaged but sympathetic characters and allows them to win personal victories or suffer compelling failures.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color?† Why?
Pain and its surrounding behaviors and relationships; because these are the foundation of the game.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
The thematic elements of play strongly resonate with me. I believe roleplaying as catharsis can be valuable and enjoyable.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games canít, donít, or wonít?
Today is a game about people without powers or authority finding inner strength and defeating their demons. The game cuts close to the bone because it is real and true to life. Of course, it is also adaptable and could be used to bring these themes to bear on more traditional settings in a direct way that other games do not.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
I'd like to pursue PDF publishing, and perhaps a limited print run for sale at gaming cons.

19.) Who is your target audience?
Mature gamers who are interested in playing with emotional conflicts and flawed characters who succeed through personal strength.

So do any of these answers fail to make sense or present problems? 6 and 7 are toughies--I know what I want play to look like, and I have to ensure my system gets me there. Hopefully some playtesting over the next couple weeks will firm these answers up further. Thanks in advance for any thoughts.
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Troy_Costisick
Member

Posts: 802


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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2006, 05:15:16 AM »

Heya,

Quote
I'm concerned that conservative play will mechanically allow a good result for a character, but without creating any exciting scenes or stakes. If this proves to be true, I'll want to find a way to punish overly conservative play.

-Okay, that's good. What is something that the players would not like to have happen to their characters and/or their narrative powers?  IE, what kind of temperary limitation could you put on them that would hamper their player-goals?

Quote
Strong narration is rewarded with bonus dice for use in future tests.

-How is this stated?  I mean, what is "Strong Narration" in your game?  Who or what has the authority to decide what is and isn't?

Quote
Any narration must conform to the stakes each side developed earlier in play.

-How do sides agree on stakes?

Quote
Tests directly affect relationships and behaviors of the characters, both damaging or improving them. This centers the narrative on grappling with pain, in addition to increasing mechanical atrributes.

-Good answer to #11

Quote
but they do have the chance to transform their lives and free themselves from pain.

-One thing that is a common misconception is that Character Advancement means an increase in numerical values.  Glad to see that you recognize that isn't the only option.

Quote
Pain and its surrounding behaviors and relationships; because these are the foundation of the game.

-Describe the Color your game puts around Pain?

Quote
I'd like to pursue PDF publishing, and perhaps a limited print run for sale at gaming cons.

-That seems very sensible.

Peace,

-Troy

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Eric J. Boyd
Member

Posts: 114


« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2006, 08:39:38 AM »

-Okay, that's good. What is something that the players would not like to have happen to their characters and/or their narrative powers?† IE, what kind of temperary limitation could you put on them that would hamper their player-goals?

I've been mulling this one over for a few days and I'm still not sure I have a good answer. The opposing character already has incentives to set harsh stakes--they grant bonus dice for the test, but increase the odds that the opposing character will get to narrate the result and earn bonus dice for his character's next scene. The character's player needs some reason to risk pushing big stakes even though the chance of failing increases--can the dramatic/thematic reasons of wanting to transform or improve themselves and their world be enough, or do I need mechanical reinforcement too? I guess I'm asking how much gamism do I have to anticipate in designing an unabashedly narrativist game?

Quote
-How is this stated?† I mean, what is "Strong Narration" in your game?† Who or what has the authority to decide what is and isn't?

Storng narration is narration that is particularly dramatic, emotional, or revealing of the character's nature during play (still vague, I know). I've got a sort of PtA fanmail-esque mechanic that allows the other two players who did not narrate the conflict's resolution to award bonus dice if they like the narration. It seems to work wonders in PtA, so why not borrow from the best?

Quote
-How do sides agree on stakes?

Ah, an interesting sticking point. Currently the opposition sets it's stakes first, followed by the character's player. Setting big stakes has a mechanical or dramatic effect on the test being made (granting bonus dice. directly impacting relationships and behviors, etc.). But currently the two sides do not have the ability to reject or negotiate the stakes set by the other. Do you think such a structure can work, or do stakes need to have negotiation to be effective at moving play forward?

Thanks for the thoughtful response, Troy.


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