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Author Topic: [Inn at the Edge of Forever] Basic Mechanics  (Read 3621 times)
andrew_kenrick
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« on: February 07, 2006, 03:34:42 AM »

Hey all - I've lurked here for a long time but am finally getting around to actually making posts. The Inn at the Edge of Forever will be my second indie game, the first being Dead of Night, but will be my first deep foray into solo game design.

The Inn at the Edge of Forever is inspired by Spirited Away. It takes place in a magical inn where gods, spirits and monsters go to relax. Players take on the role of the servants of the gods and the more mundane visitors to the inn, telling tales of the adventures they have. At it's heart it is a game about magic and reality.

I'm using a slimmed down version of the Fulcrum Rules Rumble devised for Dead of Night - that is, stats are based in pairs that add up to 10, task resolution is 2d10 + stat with a target of 15 or 10 + an opposing stat.

The Inn uses a single stat pair - Real and Unreal, which must add up to 10 in total. Real governs a character's ties to the real world and lets him do things like punching people, remembering his way home or jumping over a big chasm. Unreal governs a character's ties to the magical world and lets him manipulate the world through magical means, by firing fire from his fingertips, sealing up doors and turning his foe into a frog.

Each stat is the opposing stat to the other, so when a character tries to use magic on an opponent their Unreal check is opposed by the target's Real stat. Because the stats work like a seesaw, the more magical a character is (and therefore the higher their Unreal, and the lower their Real), the harder it is for them to be effected by anything real (because their high Unreal stat is used as the target), but the easier it is for them to be manipulated by magic (because their Real stat will be low. The opposite is also true - the more real and less magical a character is, the harder it is for magic to effect them.

And that, in a nutshell, is it. There is some more cleverness involving specialisations/skills, but I'll save them for later.
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2006, 03:39:35 AM »

And of course I've forgotten the first rule of presenting rules for discussion - ask a specific question.

Although there is an additional level of complexity with Truths and Secrets (skills/talents tied to either Real or Unreal and used to provide bonuses and flavorful descriptions), those are the rules in a nutshell. Do you think the interplay between Real and Unreal works, or do you think it is open to abuse? Is there enough complexity within the basic mechanic, or is it too simple?
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
Jack Aidley
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2006, 04:59:56 AM »

Have you seen Trollbabe?
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- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter
Matt Machell
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2006, 05:56:09 AM »

Hey Andrew, nice to see you posting here. I second Jack's mention of Trollbabe, it uses a similar polarised scale, but the devil is in the details. As a more general thing, The Power 19 is a set of questions that are quite helpful for nailing down what a game is about and how it all fits your vision. It'll also avoid circular threads of "have you considered X already? Yes." posts.

Back at the point. You've given us a dice mechanic, but not much to hang it off. Some things to consider, that will impact how "simple" the mechanic is:

Who gets credibility to interpet a roll? Who calls for rolls or sets what's at stake? Who narrates how a successful roll works or doesn't? Can a success or failure be modified somehow? How does the resolution fit into the rest of the game, for example can real and unreal change, if so how and when?

Defining those will help us 'get' if it's just a simple resoulation mechanic or if it's a simple mechanic that means something more in the game as a whole.

-Matt
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andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2006, 08:03:14 AM »

Quote
Hey Andrew, nice to see you posting here. I second Jack's mention of Trollbabe, it uses a similar polarised scale, but the devil is in the details. As a more general thing, The Power 19 is a set of questions that are quite helpful for nailing down what a game is about and how it all fits your vision. It'll also avoid circular threads of "have you considered X already? Yes." posts.

I've heard of Trollbabe but never picked it up before ... Might well check it out if you think it's worthwhile.

As for the Power 19, I'm working on all the answers at the moment. I'll try and post them later today.

Quote
Back at the point. You've given us a dice mechanic, but not much to hang it off. Some things to consider, that will impact how "simple" the mechanic is:

Who gets credibility to interpet a roll? Who calls for rolls or sets what's at stake? Who narrates how a successful roll works or doesn't? Can a success or failure be modified somehow? How does the resolution fit into the rest of the game, for example can real and unreal change, if so how and when?

Ok, in order:

The person who wins the roll gets to interpret it. If they fail one of the GMs interprets it instead.

The GM or one of the assistant GMs gets to call for rolls and decide the stakes.

A success or failure can be modified by using up Secrets (I guess I need to post more about them next, huh?) to either force a reroll or turn a success into a failure or vice versa.

Real and unreal can change, but as one goes up, the other comes down. I see it more as a one-way street once you're in the Inn - the longer you stay there, the less real you become and the more a part of the Inn and the magic that it's made of you become.
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2006, 08:06:09 AM »

Hey Andrew.

Players take on the role of the servants of the gods and the more mundane visitors to the inn, telling tales of the adventures they have. At it's heart it is a game about magic and reality.

Are the players telling the tales, or are their characters?

-Vincent
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andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2006, 08:09:17 AM »

Ok, in answering the questions in the last post I've raised another few issues that I'd better explain.

First off is how the game is played and GMd. The game consists of each of the PCs telling a story to one another about their exploits in the Inn. The stories may interweave or they may be utterly unconnected. The PC telling a story is the protagonist, but the antagonists are controlled by the other players. I'm lifting the GMing mechanic mostly from Polaris, so each of the players gets to GM a different player, whilst the others act as assistants and play NPCs.

So in any given story you have one PC, one GM, and a number of assistant GMs who play NPCs. Other PCs may pop up in the other PCs' stories where they will be controlled by their player. Although it is the PC telling the story, and therefore they introduce it and outline the basic plot, the actual events that happen in it are played out by all the players.
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2006, 08:10:12 AM »

Quote
Are the players telling the tales, or are their characters?

The characters are telling the tales about their own exploits to one another. A story within a story, perhaps?
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2006, 08:18:57 AM »

Nice. I hoped you were going to say that.

So I might say, "so there I was, face to face with the Spitboy King -"

and my opponent player might say, "- who would have impaled you, roasted you and eaten you for supper -"

and I might say, "- so I did the charm to pass for a spider -" and here I roll my Unreal vs. the Spitboy King's Real? Something like that?

-Vincent
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andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2006, 08:30:19 AM »

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Nice. I hoped you were going to say that.

So I might say, "so there I was, face to face with the Spitboy King -"

and my opponent player might say, "- who would have impaled you, roasted you and eaten you for supper -"

and I might say, "- so I did the charm to pass for a spider -" and here I roll my Unreal vs. the Spitboy King's Real? Something like that?

That's exactly it. Originally it had a GM and the GM would run the story for the players, but this wasn't quite how I wanted it to be. I wanted the PC to be the one telling his own story, which is how I think it will work now.
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2006, 08:30:53 AM »

A character is further defined in the Inn by truths and secrets.

A truth is a facet of a character's real attribute - things he knows, things he can do, all to do with the real world. So it might be a personality trait, like "brave" or "foolish", or it might be a physical trait, like "athletic" or "slow and steady." It could also be a physical skill, like "rides horses" or "good with a sword." It could be something broader or more ephemeral, like "is a dog" or the character's name.

A character starts the game with a number of truths equal to his real stat. Whenever a real check is made a character can add +1 for each applicable truth.

Likewise secrets are facets of a character's unreal attribute, for secrets hold power at the Inn and the more of them a character knows, the more powerful he can be. Secrets can be anything connected to the workings of magic and the Inn, such as "bearer of the sacred flame," "knows the secret art of the furies" or "knows the real identity of the masked witch."

A character can have a number of secrets equal to their unreal stat, but starts the game with none defined. A secret can be defined at any time and, like truths, adds +1 to unreal checks when applicable. Because secrets are that much more ephemeral they can be made to apply in many situations through creative storytelling.

I want to do some more fun things to do with truths and secrets, such as invoking them, whereby a character loses the use of them for the story but gains a special effect such as a reroll. My main worry is that secrets are that much more powerful than truths, and therefore the unreal is that much more powerful, because they can be applied to many things and defined as and when needed. Should there be a negative consequence to secrets, a drawback of some kind?
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
ks13
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2006, 09:49:19 AM »

Quote
I want to do some more fun things to do with truths and secrets, such as invoking them, whereby a character loses the use of them for the story but gains a special effect such as a reroll. My main worry is that secrets are that much more powerful than truths, and therefore the unreal is that much more powerful, because they can be applied to many things and defined as and when needed. Should there be a negative consequence to secrets, a drawback of some kind?

As I read the description, I was thinking the same thing, that the preference would be to take Unreal to gain access to Secrets. The Truths are well balanced in that if invoked, it is "used up" in the story. For invoked Secrets, I would replace the Secret with a Consequence - a type of negative truth that could be used to hinder the character, i.e. a truth that another character can invoke against the protagonist. This way, you use up a resource and gain a complication, which should offset the benefit of the on-the-spot creation of Secrets.

Also, are the stories revolving mainly around what is happening in the Inn, or is it just an explanation to bring the characters to together and allow them to share their stories?

-Al
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andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2006, 09:57:04 AM »

Quote
As I read the description, I was thinking the same thing, that the preference would be to take Unreal to gain access to Secrets. The Truths are well balanced in that if invoked, it is "used up" in the story. For invoked Secrets, I would replace the Secret with a Consequence - a type of negative truth that could be used to hinder the character, i.e. a truth that another character can invoke against the protagonist. This way, you use up a resource and gain a complication, which should offset the benefit of the on-the-spot creation of Secrets.

Hmm, that's kinda neat. So you could invoke a truth and it's out of play for the adventure, but if you invoke a secret it's not only out of play but also comes back and bites you?

So, I invoke my secret from an earlier example, "knows the real identity of the masked witch," to gain an automatic success or whatever, and as a result I gain a complication as a consequence, such as angering the masked witch for revealing her identity and having her interfere with my story.

I was wondering about having you lose secrets entirely - after all, once a secret becomes common knowledge it's no longer a secret ... Not sure how to integrate that yet, I'll stew on it some more.

Quote
Also, are the stories revolving mainly around what is happening in the Inn, or is it just an explanation to bring the characters to together and allow them to share their stories?

Entirely in the Inn. The Inn is the be-all and end-all of this setting.I envisage it as a fantastical labyrinthine complex with countless rooms and corridors, and thousands upon thousands of mythical guests, so there should be plenty of scope for adventures and antagonists.
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
ks13
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Posts: 67


« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2006, 05:29:47 PM »

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Entirely in the Inn. The Inn is the be-all and end-all of this setting.I envisage it as a fantastical labyrinthine complex with countless rooms and corridors, and thousands upon thousands of mythical guests, so there should be plenty of scope for adventures and antagonists.

Very cool. Just like the bath-house then.

Quote
So, I invoke my secret from an earlier example, "knows the real identity of the masked witch," to gain an automatic success or whatever, and as a result I gain a complication as a consequence, such as angering the masked witch for revealing her identity and having her interfere with my story.

I was wondering about having you lose secrets entirely - after all, once a secret becomes common knowledge it's no longer a secret ... Not sure how to integrate that yet, I'll stew on it some more.

Exactly. You reveal a secret, gain a bonus but a price will have to be paid, and no one is sure when exactly it will happen. I see the other players taking advantage of this, using your consequence to a similar effect as their own Truth, but of course without losing anything. And yes, once a secret is revealed it is no longer a secret so it becomes removed from play. Or more accurately, it becomes incorporated in the story. And once the Consequence is used, then the slot opens up for the player to declare a new Secret! This should continously drive the stories forward.

Regarding the dice mechanics, I like the Real/Unreal opposition, but think that an always opposed die mechanic would serve the feel of the game much better, and with something smoother than dice+rating vs TN. I have some suggestions if you think you want to consider other options.
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andrew_kenrick
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« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2006, 12:22:08 AM »

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Exactly. You reveal a secret, gain a bonus but a price will have to be paid, and no one is sure when exactly it will happen. I see the other players taking advantage of this, using your consequence to a similar effect as their own Truth, but of course without losing anything.

But who would define the consequence? I guess that would fall to the GMs. I guess the role of the other players is to make your story as humiliating or foolish as possible, whilst making their own look heroic and wonderful.

Quote
And yes, once a secret is revealed it is no longer a secret so it becomes removed from play. Or more accurately, it becomes incorporated in the story. And once the Consequence is used, then the slot opens up for the player to declare a new Secret! This should continously drive the stories forward.

I like this idea. I was wrangling with the metaphysics of revealing secrets, but still having them as secrets. This quite neatly solves the problem. But for the new secret to be added the consequence needs to be used up, which means it could hang over them for a future story if not used in the one where it was gained. Perhaps the player could introduce his own consequence into his story if he wanted to, in order to get it out of the way, so to speak?

Quote
Regarding the dice mechanics, I like the Real/Unreal opposition, but think that an always opposed die mechanic would serve the feel of the game much better, and with something smoother than dice+rating vs TN. I have some suggestions if you think you want to consider other options.

I think the Real/Unreal opposition is integral to the game - it embodies the conflicting realities and charts a character's transformation from one to the other. I'm open to other suggestions for the mechanic though.
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
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