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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 62 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [eXpendable] Design thoughts on the Scene  (Read 5092 times)
greyorm
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« on: January 24, 2007, 07:18:16 PM »

I've been thinking about my nascent RPG design Expendable lately, and the scene-building mechanics necessary for the game to really move. Unlike in ORX, I am using the term "scene" here in a non-cinema and non-literature (non-Narrativist?) sense: defining it specifically as a set and specific physical location and its envrionment.

Being able to represent each scene in terms of the system's mechanics is important, as players can choose to redirect damage that would otherwise occur to their characters into the surrounding environment (or NPCs, or even PCs).

I am trying to figure out how to go about designing environments, the process of it, so I can create instructions for a GM to follow for their own games and have a base on which to understand the dynamics of such design myself.

For the moment, I am taking a look at the centrality of dungeon building in D&D and trying to model something similar, at least in terms of how one approaches creating the place where the game scenario happens.

I eventually came to the tentative conclusion that the design of each environment should consist of the same process involved in drawing and populating the map of a dungeon in D&D (ie: "...and in this 10x10 room are four orcs and a treasure chest."). What we end up with is a formula of "<this location> with <these features>".

The features of a location all being part of the semi-unique, destructible environments of each area, with each feature bringing semi-unique effects into play when damaged or when damaged enough: you can move through the area, you are blocked, you gain some benefit, you gain some penalty, you cause an event elsewhere (knowingly or not).

(This is similar to what happens with dungeon monsters, traps, treasures, etc. in D&D.)

Unfortunately, I feel as though something is missing from this in regards to designing the environments, because the above is fairly basic...some way to help guide optimal design of each location's features and effects.

As an example, if a shoot-out that happens in a corridor full of steam pipes, redirecting the damage to the steam pipes causes vision and heat problems in that area: either penalties or injuries, and those can be advantageous or disadvantageous to one side or the other. Figuring out how to help the GM design that sort of environment and consequence consistently for every location in the adventure is the purpose.

But this ends up being more complex than it seems: what if the destruction around the room has no immediate effect? Like a room full of computer equipment used to monitor the various non-essential systems of some colony? You redirect the damage into it and...so what?

What immediate effect does that have? There's potential that you won't be able to use those systems in the future, but that's only potential. The redirected damage should keep floating around the local environment and affect the characters or their enemies somehow: that's the point of the mechanic.

I wonder if some/all the redirected damage should be kept by the player as a resource? Mark a certain amount of damage (or allow some damage to be set) as "Undetermined Effect" that can be used later in some capacity either for or against the player.

For example: you cause 3 dice of damage to the ship's bridge systems and sometime later, the GM or the player can assign those dice to either as a bonus or penalty. I could perhaps even give control of those dice to the GM or player depending upon a character's current moral status (Innocent, Guilty, Repentant).

Thoughts, ideas, opinions, more details necessary?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
greyorm
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2007, 06:42:59 PM »

I have been brewing and stewing with Expendable over the last few weeks since I posted about developing the mechanics of each scene, feeling as though I would never figure out a decent solution to the problem. I was about this -->  <-- close to scrapping the game as unworkable.

I knew part of the difficulty was that I could never list every possible environment or problem or effect that might crop up in play. I could list some basic ones and leave everything else up to the GM to decide on, but I've never felt comfortable with that sort of half-assed design style.

Basics, though, were what I needed. AC, hit points, damage, saves...these are basics you can describe monsters with in D&D: everything has them. What then were the basic building blocks for a scene in Expendable? What could apply usefully everywhere?

Remember, mechanically, Expendable is all about gambling on the dice falling right, making bets on momentary outcomes, and trying to cut your losses -- with your soul and your life both on the line. In the end, unless you are very lucky and very good, you'll be answering the question: which one do you choose? That's what Innocence and Guilt are all about...but we'll save that for another time.

Alright, here's how we're going to deal with environmental damage/scenes in Expendable until I can playtest this idea:

    1) Every area has a total number of dice assigned to it.

    2a) Each area's dice are split up among Effect pools.
    2b) Each Effect pool is tied to one of the Attributes.

    3) Damage to an Effect pool is a penalty against the Pool's Attribute.

    4a) Each area has a Threshold, after which all damage done in the area starts translating into aggressive damage.
    4b) Aggressive damage becomes a seperate threat in that area and is treated exactly like any other hostile, attacking force.
    4c) Aggressive damage is either contained (affecting only one area) or uncontained (affecting everyone in the vicinity).
    4d) Aggressive damage can follow the players from place to place, and must be dealt with like any other hostile and removed from play.

    5) The exact behavior of damage effects, and what Effect pool it goes into is described by the player.

I can already see a few problem areas, and some uncertainities that can only be refined by actually trying this method out in play, but I am thinking this is a good, solid base to work forward from.

Point is, the Attributes were the key, and staring me right in the face all this time: they directly affect the player, and they account for our mechanical shorthand description in the gameworld for all the stuff characters can do and deal with. You mess with them and you mess with your character.

Not directly, because there is a chance it might not affect you. There's a chance maybe you can spin that environmental damage to your advantage: give your enemy a disadvantage while buying yourself some time, because maybe they've been relying on that Attribute you just hosed the use of...
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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