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Author Topic: [Monster Hunters] First post  (Read 2910 times)
Anders Larsen
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Posts: 270


« on: February 25, 2006, 04:58:51 AM »

I have followed the discussions in the forge for some time now, and it have given me a lot of new ideas of how to design a roleplaying game. To test some of these ideas I have started working on a simple game I call Monster Hunters. I do not know how serious I am about this game, but I will take it to a state where it is possible to playtest, and if people like it, I will properly make it freely available on the internet.

And just a little warning: English is not my first language, but I hope you understand me anyway.


Monster Hunters

In this game the players plays monster hunters. Monster hunters are people that make a living by getting rid of monsters that no one else will or can take care of. Mostly they are hired by small villages or farming communities, that is plagued by some monster, and that is so fare away from anything that no one else believe it is there duty to take care of it.

The important thing in this game, is that the monster is not a standard monster that a band of warriors just can track down and kill. It should demand skill on many different levels to get rid of the monster. For each game the gamemaster have to make a new unique monster, and he should create a community that is plagued by this monster. The task to get rid of the monster have to be challenging on three different levels: A social level, an intellectual level and a physical level:

Social: The monster should be connected to the people in the community, directly and/or indirectly. Indirectly the monster can influence people by fear. This can course old conflict to reappear and split the people in the community, in a time where they should unite against the common enemy. The direct connection can be that the monster have been summoned by a person to do his bidding, or the monster is a human that is possessed. Or other cases where human desire or stupidity have brought forth some foul creature(s). The monster hunters's job is to solve these social conflicts so fighting will not break out among the people. And if a person is the source of the monster, the monster hunters should seek out this person and stop him.

Intellectual: A monster should have a mythology. It should come from some place, and there should be a reason for why it is here now. And there should be rules. Rules for how it works, when it can attack, what it does when it is not attacking, what are its weaknesses and so on. The monster hunters should search the area and study old books to get an idea of how this monster works and why it is attacking the community.

Physical: A community can be hard pressed under these attack. There have to be organised defences, people have to be trained, the city guard have to be mobilised, tactic have to be formed and, eventually, the monster have to be kill. These things are also the job of the monster hunters.

The game are set in a standard, but not well-defined, fantasy world, where monsters are known, but not too common. When the game starts the characters are on there way into the community they are assigned to cleanse.

There will be a section for the gamemaster that describe how to make an interesting monster for this game.


Rules

At this point the rules are not well defined, but here are what I have:

There are three attributes: Social, Investigation and Fighting. These attributes correspond to the three levels of challenges.

There are a number of abilities that each are associated with a attribute. Example of abilities are: Detect motivation, seduce, diplomacy (Social). Solve riddle, track, research (Investigation). Shoot, reconnaissance, shield (Fighting).

A test is made using a normal dice pool of 6-sided dice, where 5 and 6 are counted as successes. The number of dice used is the value of the ability plus the value of the associated attribute. So a character that have a diplomacy of 2 and social of 4, will have a pool of 6 dice.

A character have a number of 'option points' that can be spent to increase the number of dice in a test. Per option point spent on the test, one extra die is added to the dice pool. So if the player spent 2 option point on his diplomacy test, he get to roll 8 dice instead of 6.

'Gain actions' is actions a character have to perform to gain option points. These action can be: crack riddle, find clue, form tactic, kill opponent etc.. Gain action have a value that shows how many option points is gained when the character preform the action. Gain action have to produce some kind of result, before the option points is given.

The Player should write down some 'reactions', which is small messages to the gamemaster, about how the surroundings should react to the character. It can be "No one likes me the first time they meet me" or "Every time I have earned some money, they are taken away from me" or "I always run into unpleasant people" and so on. Every time the gamemaster use a reaction to get the character in trouble, the player will get some number of option points (properly 3).

The gamemaster should make a number of 'secrets'. secrets are kind of clues that the characters can find doing the game. A secret can be used to get a bonus to tests that is related to the secret. A secret can be knowledge of a weakness of the monster, that can give a bonus to the attack roll against the monster. It can be a secret a person have, that can be used to gain an edge in a debate against this person.

The idea of secrets are not well developed at this point, but they should become an important element to tie the story into the mechanics of the game.

Questions

An important aspect of the game is that the gamemaster prepare an interesting monster. But what makes an interesting monster? I have some ideas, I to some degree have explained here, but I really want to hear other peoples opinion about this.

'option points' is the ecosystem of the game, and it is meant to be very active; you gain a lot of option points, and you have to use a lot to get anywhere. The intention of this is to make the game more intense. Do you see this happening, or is there a better way to make the game intense?

The idea of 'secrets' is to tie the story into the mechanics. I really want to hear peoples thoughts on this. Is there other ways to tie the story into the mechanics, that is more interesting?

Any other comments are of course welcome.


 - Anders

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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2006, 06:45:02 PM »

Hi Anders, welcome to the Forge!

In relation to interesting monsters, one I've given before is that each player describes something that they find horrible...like eyeballs being sucked out, or being skinned alive, etc. One horrible thing from each player. And this one monster does all these things (you figure out how).

Quote
'Gain actions' is actions a character have to perform to gain option points. These action can be: crack riddle, find clue, form tactic, kill opponent etc.. Gain action have a value that shows how many option points is gained when the character preform the action. Gain action have to produce some kind of result, before the option points is given.
Who decides if option points have been earned?

Many games have mechanics where the GM decides and it's a bit of an illusion that the player is empowered by that. Imagine in real life, a game where your told you can throw a ball where you like. But it involes going to throw really hard, but instead of letting go, passing it to another guy, who throws it where it looked like you were going to throw it (or just where this other person wants to throw it). You weren't really empowered at all. Many RPG's have game mechanics that do exactly the same thing - your PC could be trying to throw a ball where he wants in the game world, but really it's the GM throwing it. Does this seem familiar?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2006, 03:49:30 AM »

Hi Anders, welcome to the Forge!

Thanks.

In relation to interesting monsters, one I've given before is that each player describes something that they find horrible...like eyeballs being sucked out, or being skinned alive, etc. One horrible thing from each player. And this one monster does all these things (you figure out how).

This will make the game somewhat darker than I have intended, but I like the idea. And since I am in the idea phase of the development, I am open to anything.

The player may even get rewarded in some way, when the gamemaster uses his idea for a horrible thing?

Quote
'Gain actions' is actions a character have to perform to gain option points. These action can be: crack riddle, find clue, form tactic, kill opponent etc.. Gain action have a value that shows how many option points is gained when the character preform the action. Gain action have to produce some kind of result, before the option points is given.
Who decides if option points have been earned?

Many games have mechanics where the GM decides and it's a bit of an illusion that the player is empowered by that. Imagine in real life, a game where your told you can throw a ball where you like. But it involes going to throw really hard, but instead of letting go, passing it to another guy, who throws it where it looked like you were going to throw it (or just where this other person wants to throw it). You weren't really empowered at all. Many RPG's have game mechanics that do exactly the same thing - your PC could be trying to throw a ball where he wants in the game world, but really it's the GM throwing it. Does this seem familiar?

I have actually been concerned by this myself, I have thought about to possibilities:

1) Before the game the player and the gamemaster will together write down concrete examples of what results of a gain action will produce option points (maybe 4 or 5 examples). While it is not possible to write down examples for any given situation, it will give a good foundation for deciding if an action deserve option points.

2) It is the group as a whole that decide when option points should be given. A player can declare that he should gain option points for what he just did, and the rest of the players and the gamemaster will then vote about it. A player could also declare that he believe an other player should gain option points for what he just did. This will also be put to a vote.

Is there other ways to do this?

 - Anders
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knicknevin
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2006, 11:30:17 AM »

Reading this, the first thing that struck me was how much of the storytelling could be farmed out to the players, to the point where I think you could almost do without the GM at all...

Imagine if, instead of making Social & Intellectual rolls to discover things that the GM had written, making those rolls allowed the player to write something. If you want the monsters to be standardised and have meta-game abilities (e.g. a vampire's powers have actual effects on what players can or cannot do, as well as their characters: at the simplest level, this might be the loss of Health points, etc) then there could be a catalogue of abilities the players could pick from, each with their own cost in terms of how successful the player's roll was.

I think the model I have in mind here is very similar to InSpectres, but if you are looking at making this a much more 'scripted' game, then I'd take a look at the way town are constructed in Dogs in the Vineyard. In either case, I think both those games are excellent examples in what issues to consider when making a game that focuses on a socialise/investigate/take action arc.
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StefanDirkLahr
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2006, 12:41:33 PM »

I really like this idea! Hunting down real monsters, complicated monsters, sounds like great fun, with or without a GM.

I'd also agree that the structure is very reminiscent of Dogs in the Vineyard - you create a town with a problem, then you have a group of characters come into town to resolve that problem, and then deal with the consequenses of their actions.

On those lines, i'd tempt you to consider the social aspect the primary one - monsters are often complicated: they're somebody's family or love, they hold power over the town, they divide the town, they've help the townsfolk as much as they harm them, or even are wholly supported by the locals!
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2006, 01:53:23 PM »

I may have been inspired by Dogs in the Vineyard, though I have actually never read the game; I have only read about it. But it is not always easy to know where inspiration come from.


Knicknevin:

I am not comfortable with the idea of a GM less game, because I have never tried it, and I don't really know how it is handled.

But I like the idea that the player can contribute to the story. The game is intended to be of the more scripted kind. But maybe the gamemaster could make certain elements of the story, and the player could then write the rest of the story, by having some ability that give them power to direct and create events.



Stefan:

I believe you are right that the social aspect is the most important. It is where most of the conflicts will be. I like that the monster can be a 'friend' of the community, and maybe only one or two people have a problem with this, and it is those people that have hired the monster hunters. This will make the monster hunters the enemy of the community.


 - Anders
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Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2006, 03:21:27 PM »

As mentioned before, the developing of the game is in a phase where I collect ideas, so here is a collection of very unstructured ideas I now am playing around with:

The gamemaster makes a collection of clues, or secrets as I am calling them. The secrets will mostly have something to do with how the monster work and its connection to the community. The characters can find these secrets and use them to there advantage. On thing about secrets is that they are always true.

The gamemaster should properly also have some more general idea about the monster and the structure of the community.

The players have some meta-game abilities. If they succeed in these abilities, they can direct and create event, even to the degree where they will gain option points for what they do.

If a player fails in a meta-game ability, things turns bad, and he may end up facing his worst nightmare (the horrible thing, Callan was talking about).

When the monster hunters investigates the monster, they will find the secrets. When a secret have been found, it have to be true, no matter how the players have directed the event until that point.

As I said, this is just loose ideas. I don't know yet which direction I will be going. So comments are still very welcome.

 - Anders
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StefanDirkLahr
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2006, 04:23:09 PM »

You may want to compare & contrast with this idea and this idea over on Story Games, if you haven't already.

Not to try to push you toward an approach such as that, as i prefer GMed games myself, but if you're focusing on the exploration/investigation aspects of monster hunting they might clarify how the pieces of a case can stand in an RPG.
I've always considered mysteries to be the penultimate *hard* thing to pull off with any success in an rpg.

You might want to (further) check out the way towns are constructed in Dogs, or possibly the fixed scene progression + cards method used in The Shab al-Hiri Roach
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2006, 08:12:20 PM »

I have actually been concerned by this myself, I have thought about to possibilities:

1) Before the game the player and the gamemaster will together write down concrete examples of what results of a gain action will produce option points (maybe 4 or 5 examples). While it is not possible to write down examples for any given situation, it will give a good foundation for deciding if an action deserve option points.

2) It is the group as a whole that decide when option points should be given. A player can declare that he should gain option points for what he just did, and the rest of the players and the gamemaster will then vote about it. A player could also declare that he believe an other player should gain option points for what he just did. This will also be put to a vote.

Is there other ways to do this?
This might not match your agenda. But you could have several action types listed (search, hide, patience, for example. More if you want, of course). The GM has five points (or whatever you want to set it to). The GM distributes the five points secretly across the actions, then describes the scene, which should revolve on his distribution. The player listens and estimates which actions are the ones that will beat the scene. The player assigns his points (he has seven points, or five if you want to be mean). Then they compare to see if the player matches or beats all the action types. If he does, he gets the points!

This isn't like being able to throw the ball yourself, but it is like being able to guess where someone else has thrown and hidden it, for points (which is more of an active move on the players part, than handing a ball to someone else to throw).
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Philosopher Gamer
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Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2006, 01:10:20 PM »

You may want to compare & contrast with this idea and this idea over on Story Games, if you haven't already.

Not to try to push you toward an approach such as that, as i prefer GMed games myself, but if you're focusing on the exploration/investigation aspects of monster hunting they might clarify how the pieces of a case can stand in an RPG.

These are interesting links. And no, I am not going for a GM less game, it does not seem right to me.

I have tried to restructure my thoughts a little.

The focus of the game will be the monster and its relation to the community, and then how the monster hunters are going to solve the problem of the monster.

When the player make their character they should write down some mental and psychological faults, which can be weaknesses, fears, instabilities etc.. I will call these faults 'cracks', because when something goes wrong, they risk being forced open.

The player should also choose abilities and other stuff for their character.

The player will have some abilities to direct events. Which can be used to find clues, get information and other things. The events the player creates may give the character option points (depending on which gain actions the character have).

When a player fails a try to direct events, the table will turn, and the events will try to direct the character. The cracks will begin to open, and the character will slowly succumb to the power of the monster. This can be directly: the monster have some magical power it can use to exploit the character. Or indirectly: Some weakness of the character will draw him into a conflict in the community, where the character should have stayed above that.

In the extreme (when the player fails many rolls) the character can risk succumb completely to the monster, and there by 'loose'. This does not necessary mean that the character can not be played anymore, but he will now be the enemy.

I had at some point thought about some kind of health scale, but I think I will drop that idea, and instead use this character degeneration as a measure of (mental) health.

There should properly be some mechanic that make it necessary for the players to use the event directing abilities fairly often, if they want to catch the monster.

There should of course be ways for the character to recover from this degeneration, but I don't know what that could be yet.

When the gamemaster creates the monster and the community, he should have the character sheet in front of him. He can then use the cracks (and properly other things) that is written on the sheet, to make a monster that is specially challenging for the characters.

In this way, the monster and its influence on the community and the character, will be the important part of the game.

I now feel I need some ideas for for making the investigation aspect of the game more interesting.

 - Anders
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StefanDirkLahr
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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2006, 07:10:23 PM »

I'm not quite sure what you're describing, wrt the events: Have you read Chris Chinn's Flagging article, yet?

I really like the idea of "Cracks", or at least calling them that! Have you thought about extending the metaphor and allowing a Character's initial Cracks to develop into severe Breaks?

You did mention allowing the character to Shatter, in mental breakdown or burnout, which is much better than simply dying would be!

However, i don't know if i like thinking about that in terms of "succumbing to the monster", if only because it would limit the way the monster can be thought of & actualized in play. But maybe you want that!

See, i was thinking that the Monster could be built out of a deck of traits taken from a selection of the real monsters of the world's folklore - as a GM prep tool - but if you want the monster to be more nebulous, and more directly fed off of the characters' weaknesses that would probably be better. Probably have more weight, too!
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Callan S.
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« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2006, 07:28:44 PM »

There should of course be ways for the character to recover from this degeneration,
No, it doesn't have to.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2006, 07:43:13 AM »

I'm not quite sure what you're describing, wrt the events: Have you read Chris Chinn's Flagging article, yet?

I have heard about Flags, though I had not read that article. The concept of Reactions is actually inspired by Flags.

The events, or the ability to direct event, is a way to make it possible for the players to influence the story directly. The downside of doing this is that they risk that the Cracks will be torn open. But it is not clear to me exactly have this should be handled.

I really like the idea of "Cracks", or at least calling them that! Have you thought about extending the metaphor and allowing a Character's initial Cracks to develop into severe Breaks?

You did mention allowing the character to Shatter, in mental breakdown or burnout, which is much better than simply dying would be!

Cracks is meant to be something that can develop into Breaks (I didn't call them Breaks, though I like that name).

However, i don't know if i like thinking about that in terms of "succumbing to the monster", if only because it would limit the way the monster can be thought of & actualized in play. But maybe you want that!

See, i was thinking that the Monster could be built out of a deck of traits taken from a selection of the real monsters of the world's folklore - as a GM prep tool - but if you want the monster to be more nebulous, and more directly fed off of the characters' weaknesses that would probably be better. Probably have more weight, too!

I used the term "succumbing to the monster", because I want to keep the monster the focus of the game. So it is the conflict surrounding the monster, or even the monster itself, that will get to the character and force the Cracks open.

This will hopefully not limit the realisation of the monster. It should just be some elements that is added to the monster, and the conflicts surrounding the monster, that can tear in the characters Cracks.

By the way, you mentioned that you consider mysteries to be hard to pull of in a rpg. Could you elaborate on that point? I have little experience with mystery rpgs myself.

There should of course be ways for the character to recover from this degeneration,
No, it doesn't have to.

I am concerned that if the character can not recover, the players will not take the risks.

 - Anders


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