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Author Topic: [On the Run] Power 19  (Read 8020 times)
Blake T. Deakin
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« on: February 20, 2006, 01:28:09 PM »

Questions appearing at the end of this post...

* * *
1.) What is your game about?
My game is about convicts escaped from a maximum security penitentiary, attempting to flee the country. The game focuses on what the characters are willing to do in order to realize their goal. Conflict amongst the escapees is as much a part of the game as conflict with external forces such as the government.

A game is intended to take roughly 2 hours to play. This may be a “hard” time limit (see 17).

2.) What do the characters do?
The characters have a singular goal: get the hell out of Dodge in the most expedient and low-profile way possible, hopefully leaving John Law in the dust.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
The players attempt to create and implement a believable escape plan wherein their characters flee from the state where they were imprisoned to another neighboring country. At times they will frame, participate in, or modify scenes (without their direct character participation). Scenes may include a conflict, but it is not a necessity.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting is our world, present day, untouched. The arena in which the game’s conflicts will be fought are rooted in the player’s knowledge (and perhaps misconception) of law, justice, and the criminal mindset.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Players are tasked with choosing the crime for which they were imprisoned, as well as whether or not their character was actually guilty.

The characters write down some traits which they feel describe their character and discuss them with the group.

Finally, they each create one resource and narrate a brief scene surrounding that resource. A character might have a resource of “Knowledge of police procedure”, and could narrate a scene at the police academy. Alternately, he might have a resource of, “Old I-ROC Z, purrs like a kitten,” and might narrate a scene of him fixing up his old car on bail right before they slapped the irons on him and took him away. Some resources may not be available when play begins, but may be brought into play by player narration.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward?
The game encourages the players to think and act like criminals. Noose mechanics make the players feel harried, while Sway mechanics will either get them working together, or pit against one another (probably a bit of each throughout play).

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
The system will encourage players to avoid conflict as much as possible, because it will increase their exposure and increase the threat of future conflicts. The system shall also encourage players to entrust power in others, but will incentivize them to not allow that power to be kept for too long.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Any given narration is ultimately credible, though in extreme circumstances the table as a whole may revise any narration. Disputes are handled by GM fiat.

Narration rights are not static throughout gameplay. At the beginning of the game, scene framing rights lie almost completely within the purvey of the player characters. However, as the game progresses (conflicts occur), the Noose pool grows, enabling the GM to frame scenes and introduce more and more conflicts.

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation?
The game starts rolling purely by player interaction. The GM may suggest scenes for the players to frame, but he has no ability to force them at first. The GM is able to introduce conflicts at first, which will render Noose dice that may then be used to frame scenes as the game continues. It is the hope of the designer that players will become invested in their characters during the initial “brick-laying” scenes of the game in which they have complete control and remain interested as the game progresses to a point where they have completely lost control.

Players have the ability to influence other players' die rolls, so it behooves them to pay attention to all ongoing conflicts.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Resolution is conducted by rolling a certain number of six-sided dice. This pool of dice may be modified by character traits, die pools which the players may draw from (some communal, some not), and may be augmented or reduced when other players expend from their die pools (again, some are communal, some are not).

Success in conflicts generates Escape dice, while failure whittles them away. Escape dice are the metric of the likelihood of the cons actually getting away. Escape dice, when earned, may be added to the communal Escape pool, kept as Sway dice, or converted into Resources (a die pool type which may only decrease in size after inception, and may be mitigated, removed, or stolen).

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
Communal dice pools vs personal dice pools represent the dichotomy of the situation which the cons are in: must they stick together to survive, or are they better off on their own?

Augmentation or reduction by fellow players occurs due to “Sway” within the group. A character who holds sway over others may have it because he has intimidated them, other characters trust in him, or he seems to be the only one with “a plan.”

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
Characters may gain resources as play progresses. Other “more personal” advancement is immaterial.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The players are either criminals, or if they've been wrongfully convicted, have at leas lost their faith in the justice system. For the most part, their social trajectory is immutable. The only thing of interest to them, at this point, is the next tool that is going to enable them to get away (resources).

14.) What sort of effect do you want your game to produce for the players?
The players should at first feel anxious, trying to get the ball rolling with their escape while they have scant moments to stop and catch their breath. Early on in the game through to its conclusion, the players should feel beset on all sides, both dogged by the authorities as well as troubled by the intentions of their fellow escapees.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
Sway (how it is earned, and how it is taken away) has been given special consideration. It is the opinion of the designer that most characters will not have much difficulty using and discarding NPCs along their way to try and escape. Therefore, in order to give conflicts at the table more merit, the inclusion of Sway to allow other players to exert some control over others (while simultaneously encouraging controlled players to resist) will make conflicts particularly complex.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
The game is designed to build in a crescendo. The PCs will begin in control, but will feel that control slipping from their grasp as the game progresses. It is the designer’s hope that the game will grow more and more frantic until the inevitable conclusion, be it getting gunned down Bonnie & Clyde style or boarding that plane to the Dominican Republic.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
The characters in this game have a single, selfish goal: escape justice that society has meted out to them. While many other games could play on this theme, it is the focal point of On the Run’s design. Many games can handle the PCs playing the bad guy: in OtR, the PCs are the bad guy, and they’re probably going to get worse in order to “win.”

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
Probably free distribution on the internet. Maybe print a few vanity books for myself and friends.

19.) Who is your target audience?
People who love The Fugitive. People who love success by the skin of their teeth, or losing in the most dismal way possible.

* * *

My questions:

Does this sound interesting? A viable game? I can't stress enough that I am looking for honest answers to this. I'm terrible at gauging whether or not something sounds like it might be fun. I'll take radio silence as "totally sucky." :)

Do you see any major mechanical issues? I'm looking, essentially, for things that might be pulling against each other in a weird way. Of course, I'm not going for realism, but when things "make sense" in addition to making a game playable, I feel much happier with the design.

Any other questions? I've left some of the meat of the mechanics out because they didn't seem like they belonged, but obviously, my answers are meant as a synopsis, and don't encapsulate fully my design.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2006, 09:03:58 PM »

Heya, Blake. Good to see something about your project.

In question 7, you don't really seem to answer the question. You say what will be rewarded, but not...you know...how.

As to your questions:

Does this sound interesting? A viable game?
Yes and yes. Heck, if you want to drag Frank along to my place, I'll see if I can grab Jon and Krista, and we'll put it through its paces. Honestly, though, I don't know that a question like this will get you much in the way of useful feedback. You designed your game, you think it rocks -- if someone else doesn't, so what? They're not your target player anyway, so why worry if it's interesting to them?

Do you see any major mechanical issues?
Uhm....I didn't see any mechanics. I saw some terms and general "how things kinda work," but no details. Which is cool, I guess, since that might be too much to take in at once, but I can't really address the question. Of course, I'm no good at looking at mechanics and figuring how they'll play out anyway.

Any other questions?
Have you looked at/read/played The Mountain Witch and Carry? My first impression (which could easily be wrong) is that your game has some similarities to both of these. I don't know if your mechanics work that way, but I'd really like to see something where character selfishness and betrayal makes me (the player) feel like I just got knifed in the gut by my buddy, which is what Trust does in The Mountain Witch.
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Blake T. Deakin
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2006, 06:27:57 AM »

In question 7, you don't really seem to answer the question. You say what will be rewarded, but not...you know...how.

Sorry, I see how this could use clarification. I haven't quite figured out the nuts and bolts of this yet, but Conflicts are intended to be a double-edged sword: they can put you closer to your goal of escape, but can contribute to the Noose pool. Violent conflicts increase the cons' exposure, making capture more likely.

Have you looked at/read/played The Mountain Witch and Carry? My first impression (which could easily be wrong) is that your game has some similarities to both of these.

I've read and played MW, but not Carry. There are some similarities to MW. However, in my mind, cons on the run don't really trust each other. The setup will probably be that they formulated a plan together in prison, and so can't, say, kill each other at the outset. However, I'm hoping the calculus of the game sets up such that at some point in play, it may become desirable to put someone out of the picture.

The fundamental difference between my idea and, say, MW is that Sway dice are awarded through play, so you can conceivably alter your playstyle to stymie the appropriation of Sway before it "becomes an issue," e.g. you have a gorilla at the table with so many Sway dice he can nearly guarantee your failure in conflicts.

Also, from a non-metagame perspective, Sway doesn't necessarily represent trust. It'll be easier to explain this if I tell you how its had.

Sway dice are accrued through play by either succeeding in Conflicts and keeping dice to yourself, or being rewarded it by other players. This reward from other players can represent people who are afraid of you, believe you might have the right idea, or maybe just think you can do the least amount of harm. Once you've been rewarded sway dice in this way by a person, they are, essentially, your bitch. Only one person can be rewarded sway within the group at any one time, and if anyone wants to change that (or remove themselves from a Sway-granting relationship), it takes a conflict (I'd imagine many of these will be violent). 

The benefit to the person granting Sway is that they're going to be giving you free dice (Sway dice rewarded from players will be constant, like 1 per conflict, haven't decided on this yet) which, ideally, you'll use to help them in conflicts.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2006, 08:17:08 AM »

Wait, wait...I'm confused. I do something that gets me Sway. I can now choose to keep the Sway and use it for myself whenever I want, or give it to another player in the hope that they'll use it to help me when I need it? Am I understanding this correctly? Because, if I am, I can't see what incentive anyone ever has to give Sway to another player.
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Blake T. Deakin
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2006, 08:22:25 AM »

Wait, wait...I'm confused. I do something that gets me Sway. I can now choose to keep the Sway and use it for myself whenever I want, or give it to another player in the hope that they'll use it to help me when I need it? Am I understanding this correctly? Because, if I am, I can't see what incentive anyone ever has to give Sway to another player.

Sorry if this is unclear. When I give Sway to someone else, they're going to accrue bonus dice.. either by conflict, or whatever. These are free dice that appear out of thin air.

The economy of the game should be such that if no one decides to engage in this kind of relationship, dice are scarce enough that getting away is very difficult. However, there are risks to doing so.
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Graham W
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2006, 09:07:40 AM »

Hi Blake,

I wrote a "chase" game for the October Ronnies, called Get Out Get Away Get Wise Get Back Get Even. It's very differently executed from your game, but it might be worth a look, for ideas.

The problem with that game was that it tried to maintain the "breathless" chase style throughout the game. I playtested it a couple of times and quickly realised that it got dull: one chase scene was just like the next. Later on, I rewatched The Fugitive and realised that, actually, very little of that film is about chasing. It's much more about human relationships and making plans.

It sounds as though you've got a different focus - on criminals working together to evade the law -  which I think will work better than with my game - which focussed exclusively on the chase.

Good luck with it!

Graham
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2006, 02:04:35 PM »

Let me see if I'm getting this. Player A does something that gets him Sway. He can now choose to use Sway to benefit himself, but once it's used, it's gone. Alternately, he can give Sway to Player B (who gets to use Sway as a limited resource), but then Player A gets bonus dice at irregular times to assist them. Determined, I assume, by some mechanic.

So, if I use Sway for my own character, it's a non-renewable, limited resource. If I give it to another player, it works that way for them, but I get a renewable, irregular resource for myself. That about right?
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2006, 02:59:15 PM »

Andrew, I think I understand it. Blake, please tell me if I get this wrong.

Bruno, Rocko and I are escaping. Bruno attempts to pry open a locked door, so I lend him a hand by giving him Sway. This Sway isn't something I have, I simply choose to say "Hey, Bruno. Take a point of Sway" and boom, he's got a point of Sway. If Rocko does the same, Bruno's got two points of Sway that he can roll into his attempt to pry open the door. As I understand it, he keeps these points for the most part, unless he loses them in a conflict. What this means is that Bruno is more powerful than either Rocko or I. (I believe I remember reading that you said that only one character at a time can have Sway?) This is good because it means he's got extra resources to get us out of trouble. This is also bad because if he decides to sandbag my efforts in something because he doesn't like the outcome, then he's got the dice to do it.

The other way to get Sway is interpersonal conflict. Bruno can pop Rocko one, and possibly gain Sway in the process, because Rocko is intimidated by Bruno. On the other hand, if I decide to pop Bruno one, I can make him lose Sway, and if he's got none (or loses more than he had) I can gain some. I gather that Sway can also be lost in conflicts not involving another PC.

If I understand this correctly, I think you've got an elegant interpersonal conflict system that will make it so the players have to trust each other somewhat, but never too much. The only problem I see with this is the party mentality. If all of the players decide to work together and not ever try to screw each other over, then basically you'll have a lead man, and a few backup guys who will gain power over time until they're fairly unstoppable. If you can find a way to encourage the players to play fast and loose and never be too trustworthy or trusting, then you'll have something pretty awesome.
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Blake T. Deakin
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2006, 06:30:23 AM »

Andrew, I think I understand it. Blake, please tell me if I get this wrong.

Bruno, Rocko and I are escaping. Bruno attempts to pry open a locked door, so I lend him a hand by giving him Sway. This Sway isn't something I have, I simply choose to say "Hey, Bruno. Take a point of Sway" and boom, he's got a point of Sway. If Rocko does the same, Bruno's got two points of Sway that he can roll into his attempt to pry open the door. As I understand it, he keeps these points for the most part, unless he loses them in a conflict. What this means is that Bruno is more powerful than either Rocko or I. (I believe I remember reading that you said that only one character at a time can have Sway?) This is good because it means he's got extra resources to get us out of trouble. This is also bad because if he decides to sandbag my efforts in something because he doesn't like the outcome, then he's got the dice to do it.

The other way to get Sway is interpersonal conflict. Bruno can pop Rocko one, and possibly gain Sway in the process, because Rocko is intimidated by Bruno. On the other hand, if I decide to pop Bruno one, I can make him lose Sway, and if he's got none (or loses more than he had) I can gain some. I gather that Sway can also be lost in conflicts not involving another PC.

If I understand this correctly, I think you've got an elegant interpersonal conflict system that will make it so the players have to trust each other somewhat, but never too much. The only problem I see with this is the party mentality. If all of the players decide to work together and not ever try to screw each other over, then basically you'll have a lead man, and a few backup guys who will gain power over time until they're fairly unstoppable. If you can find a way to encourage the players to play fast and loose and never be too trustworthy or trusting, then you'll have something pretty awesome.

The party mentality is something I'm very concerned about. I believe Sway dice will have some static abilities when they get to a certain point, such as the ability to pull people in and out of scenes as they're being framed or frames scenes for another player that are potentially... difficult to contend with. Something to represent using Sway to "make someone else take the fall..." At any rate, this is something I've been considering carefully, but didn't bring up thus far -- thanks for mentioning it.

And while you guys are conceptually on the right track for what I'm after, the actual execution I'm going for is this:

At the beginning of play, no bonus Sway is being given to any play due to inter-party "ties". I need to come up with nomenclature for this so its clear, because Sway dice can be had in this way, but they can also be earned by winning conflicts. Originally I was going to separate these pools, but couldn't think of a great reason to do so.

At some point during play, a player will decide he wants to award Sway to another character. He essentially chains his character to that other one -- giving Sway represents acquiescing to the fact that the other person either know's what's best, or, say, their willingness to beat someone with a pipe if they disagree with their commands. Giving Sway is voluntary, but once you've done it, it is permanent until intentionally undone. Every X (X is some condition which is undefined, perhaps every conflict), the person who is receiving Sway will gain, say, 1 die per person granting them sway. Once this relationship is established, no one at the table can be "top dog," and removing the person who is in that position requires some type of conflict. That person is removed, likely against their will, and can't occupy that position again for the rest of the game.

For example:

Bruno gives Rocko Sway. For each conflict Rocko enters, he gains 1 Sway die because Bruno is "in his camp."

Shiv tries to convince Bruno to give him Sway. Bruno is unable, of course, because Rocko is currently the "straw boss".

Shiv has, essentially, three choices: remove Rocko as the man in charge so he can get sway from Bruno, do nothing, or throw in with Rocko himself.

Of course, if Shiv tried to get another con, T-Bone, to give him sway, T-Bone would be unable to do so either. This is because in the party, Rocko is currently in charge. This is to prevent exactly the situation you mentioned: for the same reason a GM might be concerned a player might engage in an optimal play practice wherein everyone gives Sway to one person, who gives them out completely judiciously, I think a player is going to also be concerned that a single player could potentially damn everyone else. Therefore, it might be considered desirable to hedge bets and have more than one person be "in charge," which I'm specifically disallowing.

Please let me know if this is unclear.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2006, 09:16:34 AM »

Okay, wait. So, if we have a group of five PCs (A, B, C, D, and E) and B gives Sway to A, A is the only one who can have Sway, even if D and E want to give Sway to C?
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Blake T. Deakin
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2006, 10:19:08 AM »

Okay, wait. So, if we have a group of five PCs (A, B, C, D, and E) and B gives Sway to A, A is the only one who can have Sway, even if D and E want to give Sway to C?

A is the only one who can be awarded Sway by other players.

A,B,C,D,E may earn Sway (their "private" pool) by winning conflicts. A won conflict generates dice which can either be kept as Sway, turned into Resources, or put in the Escape pool.
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Blake T. Deakin
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2006, 10:20:03 AM »

That is until someone "removes" A as leader.
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2006, 01:05:45 PM »

Hey Blake,

I think maybe you might want to do a separate post about the mechanics you have so far, and link this thread.  I think that would clear up a lot of confusion.  I helped you with some of this (acting a sa sounding board) and I'm confused about some of it (for example, why would I want to give someone Sway if it makes me their bitch? What's the benefit to me?).

I'm not a big fan of the potential 2-hour time limit, especially as a hard limit.  It should be able to expand or contract to meet need, like MLWM, I feel.

You say you'd like to see someone get offed during the course of the game.  What does that player do, then?  Watch?
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2006, 01:26:15 PM »

Yeah, I'm pretty much with Rob on this. I'm not seeing why I would give Sway to another character, rather than keeping it for my own. Other than that, everything seems sound and interesting, to go back to your original questions.
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Blake T. Deakin
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2006, 01:32:33 PM »

Yeah, I'm pretty much with Rob on this. I'm not seeing why I would give Sway to another character, rather than keeping it for my own. Other than that, everything seems sound and interesting, to go back to your original questions.

I'll try to answer this conceptually. The GM starts with a small Noose pool which he can throw into conflicts. It stands to reason that individual Cons can stand up to these conflicts early on.

However, there comes a point where Noose gets to big. The GM is giving you terrible complications, or framing scenes which will have dire results for failure.

Now, unless you were particularly lucky on winning Conflict rolls early on and generated a lot of Sway for yourself, you're not going to have many "bonus" dice to throw into any conflicts. And those free dice you gave to so-and-so? You're expecting him to use them for your benefit.

In other words, it should be a foregone conclusion that if no one grants Sway in this manner, the cons will not escape.

I will write up the core mechanics and get them posted ASAP to see if that helps clear up any other issues.
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