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Author Topic: [Pentripolis] Answers to the Power 19  (Read 1893 times)
xenopulse
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« on: May 02, 2007, 01:11:24 PM »

Before I get to the actual responses to the Power 19 about Pentripolis, let me point out that the game will give players several choices that influence the answer to some questions. One such method of choice is the play style questionnaire. By answering several questions, the players agree on such things as the distribution of authority, the lethality of the game, and whether the GM makes rolls in secret. Templates will exist to simply pick a pre-determined play style, which allows the players to skip the whole question process and still have their needs met and their style clearly defined.

This is a First Thoughts post (spontaneously prompted by Andy's suggestion), so please realize that the mechanics that are now in the public document linked above are nowhere near finalized and have not yet been playtested. Expect a lot of changes over time before we even get to the first comprehensive playtest.

1.) What is your game about?

Pentripolis is a game about stories in a dark urban fantasy city. It's about exploring secrets, passionate characters in conflict, intrigue, sex, and warring factions.

2.) What do the characters do?

The characters invariably find themselves caught up in the conflicts between different important NPCs and factions and will play a deciding role in their resolution. They might even start and manage their own faction to gain control over a part of the city. Further, the characters get in conflict with one another over secrets or resources and, bit by bit, learn the truth about the city itself.

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

The players drive the story forward based on their characters' ruling passions, with one character per player. They explore the city and its secrets along with their characters. The GM guides this process along as a helper rather than a decider, though the weight of the GM's position is determined through the play style determination. The GM's primary responsibilities are to throw out meaningful conflicts and decision points for the players and to reveal to them, through those conflicts and the connected factions and NPCs, the secrets and behind-the-scenes intricacies of the setting.

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


It will be built and presented with a clear focus in mind: all NPCs will be listed with openings to which the characters can connect (such as nemesis, brother, mentor...), secrets of which they know and how they can best be revealed through play, and clear guidelines about how to make the best use of the characters. That means that instead of just dumping a lot of info on the GM, all of the important parts will revolve around how to actually USE the setting in play. Everything will be based on seeds that evolve through each group's playing.

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

There are going to be different character creation methods, depending on the style of campaign the players want to play. They all have in common that the characters' abilities are based on their nature and nurture, that is, a fundamental set of essences (Faith, Fear, Love, Lust, Pride, Rage) from birth and events throughout the character's life. The events are also always associated with another character or faction, thereby tying the character into the existing power struggles. Other creation methods are group-based (either as a party of characters or as competing ones) and connect the characters through events and openings, which are links such as family ties or relationships.

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

It facilitates different styles of play due to the play style determination. It does not necessarily, but can, reward creative actions, accurate simulation, and pushing for meaningful conflicts.

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

Aside from social rewards, the only mechanisms for rewards in the game are: 1) potentially more events for the character if the player pushes for more frequent meaningful conflicts, and 2) the condition offer mechanism that allows one player to offer another a guaranteed achieved result of a skill use based on the first player's description of the actions taken. Depending on the play style, that could reward creative actions, simulation of most likely events, or immersion during which the players determine the outcome they feel most represents how an action would affect their characters.

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

At the core lies a traditional distribution: the players each control a character (and possibly faction), and the GM controls everything else. That said, the play style determination allows for more player control over the events in the game, such as having a veto over their character's death or being the ones to determine how NPCs connect through openings to their players (that is, when the player character meets an NPC, it could be that player who says "she's my old mentor" instead of the GM).

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

It focuses on inter-character conflicts, ties characters to other characters and factions, and allows the players to uncover secrets through the eyes and involvement of their characters. Single-character games also allow many players to connect well with their one character by virtue of that focus.

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

All resolution mechanics are tied to effects that characters have on one another or resources that influence these effects. A unified mechanism is used: players pick a tool and skill to use, roll 2D10, calculate modifiers, determine the effect rating, and pick a condition to inflict. The higher the rating, the more conditions you can choose from. For example, in rising value, the sword tool could inflict the scratched, unbalanced, hurt, wounded, incapacitated, and killed conditions, while the sexuality tool could inflict the flustered, excited, humiliated, lustful, and paralyzed conditions. Each condition has certain effects and ways to be removed.

Resolution mechanics are only used when characters try to affect one another. They are not used for tasks that are unrelated to character conditions (those are decided, depending on play style, by player or GM fiat).

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

It focuses explicitly on character conflict and the ways that characters influence each other. Furthermore, things such as secrets can be used as tools.

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

They advance over time through the most important events and decisions in their lives. There are no such things as experience points or levels. Instead, players add events to their characters that happened during play and associate them with one of the essences, then buy associated abilities. If you want to have the Dark Avatar ability that boosts your Shadowed Soul magical skill, for example, you need rage and fear events.

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

It continuously links the characters to other characters and factions, does not reward or punish specific actions or success (a disastrous failure would count as an event same as a glorious victory), and prompts the GM to confront the players with meaningful conflicts and decisions.

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

I want the players to weave cool stories, have meaningful conclicts, and be excited about finding out secrets through play in ways that directly connect to their characters.

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

Extra attention will be paid to the NPCs and secrets and how to bring them out in play, the array of resources for character customization and links, and the play style determination. This includes fleshing out the factions to a point where they are evocative and interconnected, but still leave specific openings for the players to connect their characters and make them their own.

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

I'm most excited about three things: the unified resolution mechanic of conditions, the play style determination, and the way secrets and NPCs will work in play.

First, the resolution mechanic is something I've wanted in my games, because it allows such a breadth of characters and conflicts, including rhetorical battles, sexual manipulation, and magical competitions.

Second, the play style determination is a way to customize the game to a specific group's preferences. It also simultaneously illuminates the differences that are possible and make the play style clear to everyone involved.

Third, the NPCs and secrets are designed to be used. Too often have I bought a game with a cool setting but no guidelines on how to tie the characters into it or bring out all the cool things in meaningful ways (I'm specifically looking at you, KULT). In this game, everything will be created with an eye on how to use it during play, rather than how much fun it is for the GM to read the stuff.



To the heart of Pentripolis, of course Smiley The City of Gold and Poison. The City of Passions. But most of all, the City of Secrets.

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

I intend to publish a first finished version as a beta or "ashcan" at some point, due to the complexity of the mechanics involved. Once it has been in circulation for a while, a potentially revised version will be published. Further, the core of the game will always be openly available under a Creative Commons License.

19.) Who is your target audience?

Mostly established roleplayers who enjoy passionate characters, exploration of a rich and secretive setting that's flexible rather than going along a pre-destined plot, and crunchy mechanics that allow for tweaking their characters and factions.
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2007, 08:14:14 PM »

Tell me more about #10.  Are the conditions taken from a list, are they created on the fly with each roll, are they created when first introduced?
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xenopulse
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2007, 05:23:33 AM »

At this point in the drafting phase, the conditions are all from a list, and there's going to be a lot of them.  There'll have to be an easy way of finding and referencing them, of course, and I figure that people will soon memorize the most common ones.

I'd considered an approach of having basic effects that people could combine to custom conditions, but I'll have to see if that works at all. The way it is now, it's pretty easy to give different tools their own individual pros and cons. And it's actually the kind of crunchiness that many players are used to.
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2007, 08:26:42 PM »

Cool.  Do you envision having little cards for all of the tools that the player can hold in their hand with the conditions listed?  That would seem to be a cool way to handle a character. 

Can you select any of the conditions you qualify for or just the one that matches the effect rating.  The latter can have some neat implications where you might have to hold back to avoid killing someone when you only want to scare them. 

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xenopulse
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2007, 09:03:30 PM »

In a perfect world, I envisioned cards or spiralbound booklets for tools and conditions.  I have to see how practical that is. Smiley  I guess in general tools are more permanent and can be entered on the character sheet, but it's the conditions that come and go.

Right now, you can choose any condition of your effect rating or below.  That means you don't overkill if you don't want to.  Though now that you say that--I just realized that a "berserking" or "enraged" condition could easily force you to pick the highest condition you can.  Thanks for that inspiration!
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2007, 02:14:15 PM »

Heya Christian,

I'm going to pelt you with a few questions.  I hope that's okay.  Feel free to answer or not answer any of them you choose Smiley

What special equipment or supplies (if any) are needed to play your game?

What is the ideal number of participants for your game?  Why does it matter/not matter?

What is the set up of your game like?  How do the participants prepare to play?

How is the initial situation of the game, the moment the characters begin to act in the fictional world, created?

What parts of your Setting can the participants change?  What can they not change?

Is there an endgame mechanic in your system?  Why/why not?

What part of your game do you think the participants will have the most trouble understanding?  Why?


Peace,

-Troy
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xenopulse
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2007, 10:01:31 AM »

Hey Troy,

Good questions! Let me list them here so I can organize my thoughts.

What special equipment or supplies (if any) are needed to play your game?

At this point, only the usual supplies (dice, pens, paper...), though a special deck of cards or two listing conditions and/or tools might be involved.  Those would be provided and available to download and print.

What is the ideal number of participants for your game?  Why does it matter/not matter?

I'm aiming for a traditional setup.  Unlike Beast Hunters, which was conceived as a two-player game with the potential for more, this is specifically a group game that will benefit from PCs helping and opposing each other.  I am thinking that 4-5 players (including GM) will be a good number--enough to bounce off each other, not too many to lose focus.

What is the set up of your game like?  How do the participants prepare to play?

Again, unlike Beast Hunters and its ritualistic opening and closing, this will be more informal.  I might include recommendations on how to get people focused, bringing people back up to speed after breaks from sessions, and so on.  One reason for this is that I'm trying to create a game for more sessions (i.e., "campaigns") rather than a pickup game.  I'll be spending some time thinking about this, though.

How is the initial situation of the game, the moment the characters begin to act in the fictional world, created?

There are different ways to set up characters, depending on play style.  In any case, characters will be created with:

a) Ten events in their background that relate directly to factions or other NPCs and tie them into the setting;
b) Openings for further connections that are direct and current links; and
c) A ruling passion that drives them toward a goal.

Contrary to a kicker, which is an event that happens to the character, the ruling passion is a clear internal drive for something very specific that the character wants. This will allow the players to always have a compass of what to do with their characters, right away.

What parts of your Setting can the participants change?  What can they not change?

Players can change the balance of power among the factions, establish and run their own factions, and create whole sections of the city or its incarnation in other worlds (to give away a bit of setting detail).  They cannot indirectly change the setting through authorial power.  That is, all change must be something that can be brought about through the actions of a (potentially very powerful) character.

Is there an endgame mechanic in your system?  Why/why not?

No.  I like endgame mechanics for short-term games, but not for longer-running ones.  The game is also not thematically focused in the way that, say, My Life With Master is.  I think you need such a focus to make an endgame mechanic feasible, because it needs to be related to and triggered by the activity regarding the thematic focus.

What part of your game do you think the participants will have the most trouble understanding?  Why?

That's hard to say at this point in the drafting phase.  I think it will have a definite learning curve like, say, Burning Wheel, where you have an array of mechanics that players will need to get used to.  Which one of these parts will be the toughest remains to be seen.  However, I'm trying to make it all based on one very simple mechanic of a roll and associated effects.

To answer the question with regards to the current draft, probably the interplay between tools, skills, and abilities.
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