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Author Topic: [Synergis] Power 19  (Read 1613 times)
Eric Schwenke
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« on: December 17, 2006, 05:35:00 PM »

Hey, I'm new.  I've had this idea for a "Purity-of-System" rules-set for many years that is born from my own frustrations with how many games treat character creation and advancement, and verisimilitude as well as things I got from an article on Monte Cook's site about what is great about D20 (I'd post a link, but I can't find now.)  Recently I've decided to come back to my ideas and try to do something about them.  So, to start off, here are my answers to Troy Costisick's "Power 19."


1.) What is your game about?**

It is a Rules-Set that can be divorced from the setting.  The rules allow for simulationist play in a variety of different settings, completely dependent on the whims of the GM/ Players.  While I'm planning for an uber-setting to demonstrate the flexibility of the rules to different genres, it is not necessary to use the framework inherent to the uber-setting.  At it's core, it's about characters encountering conflicts that they meet with varying degrees of success or failure, which leads to growth and change of the characters.  But aren't most RPGs like that?

2.) What do the characters do?**


They get into conflicts in situations.  They stab things with swords, pilot starships, shoot guns, harness magical power, lead armies, forge nations, rob banks, save the world, solve mysteries, etc.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?**


Players and GM pick a pre-made setting, or create one using a proto-setting generator that establishes Magic Permissiveness Levels and Civilization Advancement Ratings.  Once the basic setting is agreed upon, the GM fills in situation and color (with possible advice from players).  Afterward, players create one character each, and the GM provides conflict.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

As stated in 1.), the rules set may be divorced from any particular setting and is perfectly suited for any number of setting types.  The uber-setting being developed along side it contains alternate phases of a world (eventually galaxy) at various time periods that spring from one original reality.  These phases each have varying technological and cultural levels and magic permissiveness to drive home the point that it can all work in this system.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

After determining Personal Qualities, players choose 5 levels in one or more Disciplines.  There are about 35 standard Disciplines (others may be introduced if needed.)  Each Discipline represents a very specialized skill-set, and choosing to focus on only one Discipline leads to a weak character and uninteresting character , a one-trick-pony or savant if you will.  It is intended that practically any character concept can be modelled with the proper combination of these Disciplines and what they buy.  Each level in a particular Discipline gives a certain number of specialized points.  These points come in many different types, and the type you get varies with each Discipline.  Examples include Physical Points, Social Points, Skilled Points, Intellectual Points, and about three point types associated solely with Magic.  These points are used to buy Abilities. Abilities have various point costs as well as requirements such as Discipline Levels, Personal Qualities, other Abilities, Magic Permissiveness, and Civilization Advancement Ratings.  After that, the Player may choose traits to further describe the character.  These traits will have mechanical effects.
Character Creation is highly flexible, but also intricate, which is the hallmark of the Rules-set.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?


During play, it rewards participating in conflict, meeting goals, and acting in-character/ narrating one's character well.  During play, it potentially punishes failure, but failure can in some ways be turned into rewards as well.  During character advancement, it rewards diversifying one's character by focusing on more than one discipline.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

Failure at actions creates Angst (or Frustration if "Angst" is too Goth/Emo).  Angst gives the GM the power to fuck with the character in certain ways.  The Character's Player may (with the use of certain abilities) be able to harness a portion (but never all) of this Angst to fuel abilities or otherwise gain bonuses to rolls when engaged in conflict, but only in conflict.
Angst left unused by both GM and PC, becomes converted into Schlub Points.  Sufficient amounts of Schlub Points earns the PC a Schlub Level.  The Schlub is an anti-Discipline, and represents unrealized potential.  Schlub Levels are counted towards the total Level of the character when determining advancement rates and conflict level appropriateness but does not allow for the purchase or upgrading of abilities, and has some other minor penalties as well.  Schlub Levels can become Redeemed Schlub Levels with proper advancement, whereupon they provide generic points that can be used as any type use to buy Abilities, but Schlub Levels are only requirements for a few abilities that allow for the PC use of Angst, and no other Abilities.
Engaging in, and succeeding in Conflict gives the Character XP with which he can buy Discipline Levels. 
Player narration and acting in-character can give a player small bonuses in task resolution.
Diversifying one's character through multiple Disciplines enables the Character to acquire more interesting and powerful abilities that require multiple Disciplines.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?


The Player's narrate their characters and are given credibility based on their Abilities, Qualities, Traits, and die rolls.  The GM narrates everything else, and is given credibility for those things.  The GM may acquire credibility over aspects of PCs through use of Angst.

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?)

It allows them to make characters that are custom made to their wishes reigned in solely by power level, setting appropriateness, and the aptitude of creating new traits and abilities.  It also allows these characters, even unorthodox types, to be AWESOME.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

It's a fortune-at-the-end based mechanic using either dice or a computerized random number generator that will allow for a range of possible outcomes and a shallow bell curve.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

The game is simulationist with a narrativist slant (at least, I think).  Fortune simulates the uncertainty of outcome inherent to action.  A bell-curve reduces the uncertainty to believable levels.  The range allows for the occasional really bad screw-up, or awesome success, which helps bring tension and drama.  The "at-the-end" bit allows people to be rewarded for good descriptions and roleplaying by getting small bonuses to rolls.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

Yes.  Conflict resolution gains XP which buys Discipline Levels which provide Ability Points, which buy Abilities.  Each Level is gained rather quickly, after relatively few sessions, but gives little power.  This simulates a steady but gradual increase in power and capability

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is aboutt?

This is rather backwards, as the idea for creation and advancement was the first thing I came up with.  It is essentially what the game is about.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

A sense of freedom achieved by knowing that they can create well defined characters they want, and in knowing that they can use these rules for many different genres and game focuses.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

Color will be addressed when setting is addressed.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

Character creation/advancement.  This was the first idea I had that made me want to make this.  No prior game has given me both the freedom I crave, and the guidance needed to make characters that are both effective, and inspired.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games canít, donít, or wonít?

I firmly believe in the principal that Math is not the Enemy, and the Computer is your Friend plan on implementing highly detailed simulationist rules, but also creating software (or maybe even a computer spreadsheet) that retains all of the formulae and data necessary for the game.  I also plan on implementing software to aid character creation and advancement, and world generation.  This will allow people to have their Sim and play it too.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?


PDF publishing coupled with downloads of the play-assistance software.  Periodic supplements would follow, giving settings, campaign foci, rules for different genres (such as how to handle individual bits of tech), etc.  The Core rules, and some of the more popular supplements might warrant small print runs.

19.) Who is your target audience?

People who like Sim.  People who like being able to apply one system for all of their games.  People who like to use classes to focus characters, but not feel pigeonholed into certain character niches.   People who like their characters to have training in different areas, and have said areas influence each other in surprising but sensible ways.  People who like having magic that is handled from a simulationist perspective.  I might be delusional, I might not understand the proper mindsets, but I suspect that if I can pull this off the way I intend to it might even appeal to gamists and/or narrativists.


My questions:

1)  Based on what I've described so far, how much of a risk is there of this becoming abashed?

2)  The big danger I see in designing this is that it seems to be a sort of House-of-Cards.  It will have so many layers an points-of-contact that I'm afraid that a few maladjusted pieces will bring the whole thing down.  Has anyone both had sufficient experience with this obstacle and have been able to overcome it without gutting the work?

3)  Anything I'm not seeing or anything that I didn't answer thoroughly enough before I get to work?


PS  Don't bring up Fantasy Heartbreakers.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2006, 01:43:24 PM »

Eric,

Welcome to the Forge!

The Power 19 is a great design tool but a lousy marketing tool, so if you get few responses, that might be partly to blame. Further, I'm not sure that the Power 19 really does justice to a generic game, which often doesn't suggest a good answer for "what is your game about?" Another reason is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in Sim games here (compared to Nar or Gam games, really) but I'd like to see that change, so here I am.

I have difficulty understanding what your game will offer that I can't get from GURPS or JAGS or HERO or D20. I feel like I could apply most of your P19 answers to those games equally well.

Perhaps one question I have for you is: What is the point of play? If I translate your answers to #1 and #2, I'd guess that the point of play is to "be there and do stuff." Is that what you had in mind?

Regarding Angst, you say that it gives the GM power to fuck with the characters. That sounds pretty cool. But if he didn't have Angst, what game constraint would stop him from fucking with the characters?

In #8, you say that players have authority to "narrate their characters" based on certain character aspects but you don't say what that authority governs. So as a player, if I had the right traits, could I narrate, "My character convinces the council of warlords to make me king!" and have it stick? Would there be dice involved? If so, who would determine what traits applied to my roll and what the difficulty numbers are and so on. Is there a situation in which the GM alone can veto my idea?

I'm all for AWESOME characters. That sounds fun. You said the game allows me to make the character awesome. How do the rules make my character awesome? And, now that I have this awesome character, does that guarantee that playing him will be awesome? Can I whiff on a die roll? Do I have to start out as a low level schmuck and earn my power? If I roll lousy on my "find clues" roll, does the adventure screech to a stop because no one knows how to find the Unspeakable Horror and banish it? Cuz that ain't awesome.

Tell me more about character advancement. You have this XP system based on conflicts. If you have a "steady but gradual increase in power and capability," why bother tying it to conflict? Or do you mean it is steady if and only if you keep your character in suitable and interesting conflicts? And who decides what is suitable and interesting? The GM? If it is steady, why not just level after so many hours of play? In other words, I don't exactly understand how you intend to relate conflict and advancement. Please explain.

Quote
17.) Where does your game take the players that other games canít, donít, or wonít?

I firmly believe in the principal that Math is not the Enemy, and the Computer is your Friend plan on implementing highly detailed simulationist rules, but also creating software (or maybe even a computer spreadsheet) that retains all of the formulae and data necessary for the game.  I also plan on implementing software to aid character creation and advancement, and world generation.  This will allow people to have their Sim and play it too.

This isn't really an answer. Okay, so now we have software to do all the crunchy math for us. Where does that take me that other games can't, don't, or won't?


Your specific questions:

Quote
1)  Based on what I've described so far, how much of a risk is there of this becoming abashed?

Assuming you provide a design that really supports Simulationism at all, I don't see a lot of elements that support Gamism or Narrativism. I do worry that you've been using "Simulationist" in a very generic "simulation" way that isn't what we generally mean here when we talk about Sim play but I can't tell entirely how well you understand it. Understand that you can have a game that doesn't have support any Creative Agenda with any real strength -- at the Technique level or on the CA axis -- and still have lots of fun playing it!  I do believe that consistent fun can only be guaranteed by a group all on the same page about CA and it helps to have a game that support rather than hinders that CA.

Quote
2)  The big danger I see in designing this is that it seems to be a sort of House-of-Cards.  It will have so many layers an points-of-contact that I'm afraid that a few maladjusted pieces will bring the whole thing down.  Has anyone both had sufficient experience with this obstacle and have been able to overcome it without gutting the work?

Are you dancing around using the word "balance" here? What do you think you need to balance or adjust?

Or are you talking about mathematical interdependencies having nothing to do with "balance" or fairness or equal-opportunity for all players?


Quote
3)  Anything I'm not seeing or anything that I didn't answer thoroughly enough before I get to work?

I think I answered this in my comments above.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2006, 03:52:40 PM »

Hey Eric,

As you may have guessed from Adam's questions...Power 19 requires a slightly different angle to answer effectively for "generic type sim games" because all obvious answers to the asked questions wind up sounding pretty generic too.† So I'll ask a different sort of question.

"what is the specific itch that you're trying to scratch?"

You've thrown out some terms like character creation and advancement, and verisimilitude, and math being ok...but all that is kind of dancing around the issue that is the essential heart and soul of what you're trying to design.† Getting to that heart and soul is what P19 is supposed to help with, so lets see if we can dig there.

In my mind's eye I'm seeing Synergis games being people sitting around the table and having their characters do stuff where all of the conflict comes from setting elements the GM incorporates or players incorporate into their narration.† The mechanics serve no purpose at all except to determine some gradiation of "success" or "failure" at whatever task the players or GM envision where the outcome falls into some believed-to-be-reasonable range of possibilities that are believed-to-be-consistent-with-reality.

Similarly the advancement system serves no purpose other than to measure and pace the rate of change in a characters ability to achieve success where that change is intended to reflect some model that is believed-to-represent-how-people-actually-learn-in-real-life.

Am I accurately characterizing that?


If so than here is my question for you.

Why are the items in italics in the last couple of paragraphs important to you?

Note that's a very different question from "Why are the items important"...instead "Why are they important to you"

What is that itch that is driving you so crazy that you're going to embark on this adventure in game design that no other existant generic system scratches adequately.† By that I specifically don't mean "how is your model of reality different or better or more real" or "what incremental improvement do you hope to bring"...but much more profoundly what is so extraordinarily important to you in those italicized entries above that you are driven to design a game with those as the defining features.


Again the "To You" part is the key.† It doesn't matter whether those things are important to me (full disclosure, they aren't).† But if I'm extrapolating from your post correctly they are important to you.† Those answers are your key.

That's what the spirit of Power 19 is about.† Getting down to the heart and soul of what is driving you to design this game.† Take that very first question of "What is your game about"...the answer isn't any of that stuff about simulationist setting neutral stuff.† The answer is about a very specific idea of what the purpose of this set of roleplaying rules is and how players are supposed to use them..."why are those italicized items important to you"† IS the answer to "what is your game about".

Looked at that way...not as a series of questions to answer generically and move on...but a series of questions that strip away all of the pat generic answers and dig right to the soul of your design, and Power 19 is an extraordinarily powerful tool.† It pretty much becomes your design bible to refer to whenever you get stuck and need a reminder about what you're trying to accomplish.

Ralph
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Adam Dray
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Posts: 676


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« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2006, 06:50:08 PM »

What Ralph said. He's been doing this far longer than I have and he's waaaay better at it! =)
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
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