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[Cyberbarians] Story Pacing

Started by Anders Larsen, August 16, 2007, 12:54:11 AM

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Anders Larsen

In the resent "system in a can" contest, I made this game Cyberbarians, which I ended up being rather satisfied with. I had hoped that I would be able to playtest it last weekend, but now it seems like it will take some time before a playtest is possible. So I can just as well use the meantime to clean up the system, and find possible problem - after all it was made in a week, so there will probably be a good number of problems.

For the most of the system I have a good idea of what I want with it, and I think I am on the right track (or have an idea of how to get on the right rack). But there is one thing I am very unsure about how will work, and that is the story pacing mechanic.

You can find the game here: cyberbarian.pdf. It is only four pages (one of the rules of the contest), so it should not be too hard to read through. The thing you should notice, when reading it, is Trouble and Blessings and how they relate to Personal Achievements and religious missions and how they end with a final conflict, and how this tie into the advancement. This is what make up the pacing mechanic.

To clarify I will go through the story pacing mechanic fast:

In the beginning of the game the player makes a personal achievement for his character (this is basically a kicker). In the game the AI (this games equivalent of a god) which is related to the character will at some point give him a mission - this mission is created by the GM.

In each conflict the character will (most likely) gain Troubles and Blessings, which will accumulate.

When the character is in a conflict related to his personal achievement his opponents will get some advantages depending on the Trouble the character has; the more Trouble the tougher the opponents will be. The same thing goes for conflicts related to the religions mission and Blessings. The more blessing the tougher are the opponents.

When the character come to the climax of his personal achievement or religious mission, he can announce a final conflict. This is the conflict that determined if the character is going to ultimate succeed or fail (will he kill the bad guy, will he get the girl, will he rescue the prisoners). After that, no matter if he succeed or fail, the personal achievement or religious mission have come to its conclusion. If it was a personal achievement the Trouble will go back to zero, if it was a religious mission the Blessings will go back to zero.

After the final conflict the final Troubles or Blessings (depending on what the conflict was related to) can be used as advancements.


So where is my problems with this.

First, of course, does it make sense? Will the increase if the opponents strength (as Trouble increase) be interesting or just annoying? Is it too structured? Will it make more sense not have Blessing and Trouble?

I don't know if anyone here have any experience with this kind of mechanic for story pacing, but I would really like hear some opinions about it, or maybe some suggestion of how to do it different.

- Anders

Vulpinoid

Hey Anders,

Good to see you continuing work on the game you produced for [SIC].

Sorry I haven't been able to give feedback since the end of the contest.

Are you going to try to keep the game in the [SIC] format, or are you going to expand it beyond those parameters?

If you're planning to expand, then you've got plenty of room to add in pacing mechanics and other stuff that had to be ruthlessly edited out in the four-page limit.

If you're planning to keep to the 4 pages, things could be a bit trickier. It'll stay true to the original spirit, but it will take more careful thought.

I'll have a think about it.

V
A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.

Anders Larsen


I am not keeping the four page limit, but I will try to keep the game relatively short, and I still want it to be a game which does not demand a lot of preparation (max 30 minutes).

So it is not that I have a problem with fitting in a pacing mechanic, it is more that I do not comfortable with the one I have. For some reason it is hard for me to wrap my brain around this; how I want it to work in play, and if it is a good idea at all. What I want is really just some ideas that can get my brain going again.

- Anders

ps. Don't worry about not have been able to give feedback. I know how it is, suddenly there is so many other thing going on, that you don't really get around to it.

Filip Luszczyk

I examined this part once more.

Now that I look at it, the randomnes of it all might be a problem - there is no certainty that the characters gain enough Trouble and Blessings to make things interesting, and later the impact of these values on adversity is also random. If you want it to work as a pacing mechanic, you might consider reducing this randomness, I suppose.

QuoteFirst, of course, does it make sense? Will the increase if the opponents strength (as Trouble increase) be interesting or just annoying? Is it too structured? Will it make more sense not have Blessing and Trouble?

Basically, I can't say for sure without playing the game, but these things don't strike me as unnecessary.

However, I think more structure as far as adversity levels are concerned could be beneficial here. The thing is, you have two values that accumulate during the game and make things more difficult - but the base difficulty of challenges the characters face is set by the GM anyway (i.e. he chooses the opposition as he likes, and consequently, he has unlimited resources). Now, I have a personal preference for tight resource economies, and it probably colors my judgment here, but in the current version of the game I'd expect GM's decisions in picking the oposition to have more impact on gameplay than Trouble and Blessings.

Now, what if instead of being rolled for powering up the opposition Trouble and Blessings were simply added to some budget pools that the GM spends to introduce adversity? Then, you could have a larger number of templates with Trouble/Blessings costs based on their power. I suppose the GM would start with some base amount of Trouble, and possibly some additional way of increasing it would be needed (e.g. a steady increase after each scene).

Also, an idea - what if you had the tribe mechanically characterized somehow? Possibly it could have qualities that could work in a way similar to implants in conflicts, only accessible for the whole group. Then, depending on success/failure of final conflicts Trouble/Blessings could be spent on personal or tribe improvement. Or, maybe you could have an additional value that would measure tribe's needs (akin to Blessings).

Anders Larsen

Quote
...
The thing is, you have two values that accumulate during the game and make things more difficult - but the base difficulty of challenges the characters face is set by the GM anyway (i.e. he chooses the opposition as he likes, and consequently, he has unlimited resources).
...

Yes I can see what you mean, and it is not what I want with the mechanic so it is good that you pointed this out.

Quote
Now, what if instead of being rolled for powering up the opposition Trouble and Blessings were simply added to some budget pools that the GM spends to introduce adversity? Then, you could have a larger number of templates with Trouble/Blessings costs based on their power. I suppose the GM would start with some base amount of Trouble, and possibly some additional way of increasing it would be needed (e.g. a steady increase after each scene).

There is something here I probably can use. I think that one of the things in the pacing mechanic which made me uneasy was that it does really not have any direct effect in the game, but if Trouble and Blessings translate directly to some actually adversities in the game it could get more interesting.

Quote
Also, an idea - what if you had the tribe mechanically characterized somehow? Possibly it could have qualities that could work in a way similar to implants in conflicts, only accessible for the whole group. Then, depending on success/failure of final conflicts Trouble/Blessings could be spent on personal or tribe improvement. Or, maybe you could have an additional value that would measure tribe's needs (akin to Blessings).

Though I typically don't like to tie everything into the mechanic, I think that this idea, to tie in the clan, could be interesting. This will make the players focus more on the clan and give the characters some common ground. I don't think I will add an extra value. It could also be possible to relate Blessings to the clan and then only the Trouble will go to the character.


Anyway, this gave me some new possibilities to work with. But I am still interested in hearing more ideas.

- Anders