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Request for insights and ideas

Started by Vulpinoid, October 05, 2007, 03:54:29 AM

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Vulpinoid

New Card Based System.

Purely a question about mechanics.

I'm working on an expanded mechanic for the game I submitted to the System on a Character sheet challenge.

The base mechanic is pretty simple.

4 suits of cards, 4 types of challenge based on the traditional tarot associations of the suits (the fact that this ties into the 4 attributes of my game "Tales", shows that I've been toying with the concept of cards for a while).

Every challenge comes down to one of the four suits (Clubs for Physical, Hearts for Social, Spades for Mental, Diamonds for Spiritual).

The concept I'm working on from here is pretty simple. The GM draws a number of cards based on the difficulty; the player draws a number of cards based on their attribute level. High card wins. From here it gets a bit more complicated, and I'm just hoping I haven't made it so complicated that it detracts from the fast flowing and story-oriented nature of the game.

To focus the challenges back onto the suits, I'm saying that cards of the relevant suit automatically trump cards on other suits. For example, if the player draws any club during a physical challenge, but the GM doesn't; then the player automatically succeeds. Of another example, if the GM draws a Diamond during a spiritual challenge, but the player doesn't; then the player automatically fails in their attempt.

Since unsuited cards will tend to fail challenges (no matter what their rank), players then get the chance to change the suits of cards through skills. Skills are categorised by the suits (and types of activities) they would normally be associated with. For example, repairing tends to be a mental task, so it becomes a Spades related skill. This means that a character will always have a suited card as long as they have a level in a skill associated with the challenge they are attempting. This also means they've got a pretty good chance of a marginal success in most challenges where they possess even a basic skill level.

If a challenge is occurring between two players then much the same system works, high attribute means more cards, higher skill level means more guaranteed cards of the right suit for the challenge. Players compare high card to determine the winner of a challenge, and if they have two cards higher than their opponent's highest card they gain an extra degree of success.

Getting a success in a challenge allows you to either narrate the way your character has succeeded in their challenge, or strip an attribute point from your opponent. If you successfully attack them physically, they are less able to affect you physically for the remainder of the scene. If you demoralise them through social attacks, it becomes harder for them to use their social skills to do the same to so...and so on.

If a character is reduced to zero in an attribute they are unable to use that attribute for the remainder of the scene. Looking back over what I've written, there's probably some inspiration from "Panty Explosion" in the system.

My original idea was that a character would be removed from a scene altogether if their attribute was reduced to zero, but I've come to think that it makes for some more dramatic moments to have characters in situations where they can only attempt to resist the things around them. Characters need to consider which battles to fight, and where their attribute points are best risked for the purposes of the story.

Also in my original idea was a reserve of energy points that could be used to refuel these attribute pools between scenes. The more significant the character is to the story, the more points they would have to play with. These would function in a manner like experience points as well. Characters can regain these energy points by contributing to the storyline, and they may spend them for temporary replenishment of their attributes, or for long term attribute and skill bonuses (though these permanent effects would come at a much higher cost).

Now, there are a few more complicated aspects of the system that I've begun to toy with.

Part 1.

Cards have so much more versatility over dice because they allow the chance to play with suit mechanics as well as rank mechanics. I've shown this through the application of skills that change suits for a better chance of success without actually changing the numbers on the cards.

I'm thinking of adding a few mechanics that change the ranks of the cards under certain circumstances. For example, if a character is beautiful and they appropriately narrate a sequence that describes how their "Beauty" helps in a given situation, they are applying an aspect of their Physical nature onto a Social challenge. Mechanically, if they turn a Club (the Physical suit) into a Heart (the Social suit) during this challenge, the suit not only changes, but the rank of the card increases by 1 as well. If the character doesn't draw any clubs during this challenge then their "Beauty" just didn't play any part in the challenge.

It's just a way of developing the character with a few more descriptive terms that actually have an impact on game play.

Similarly, there could be negative effects incorporated into the mechanic. The flipside of "beautiful" could be "ugly". An ugly character could find that they simply can't turn Clubs into Hearts during a challenge, because as soon as they try to apply their physical appearances to a social challenge they repulse the person instead. The negative effects are deliberately more powerful than the corresponding positive effects because players will always try to find ways of weaselling out of their flaws while trying to gain the maximum benefit from their merits.

I'm liking this idea because it bring in flavour concepts that actually have an effect on mechanics, but I'm bringing this to the forum because I don't know if this is getting too complicated.

Remember that the focus of the game is to tell atmospheric and descriptive stories, not to give players a mechanical nightmare.

Part 2.

With regard to the energy points, my original "System on a Character Sheet" version employed 13 energy points which could be used to correspond to the 13 ranks of cards under certain circumstances. The more points you hold in reserve, the more resistant you are to certain effects, and this again makes players consider their pool of available resources and when it is most appropriate to spend them.

I'm thinking of throwing in a bit more of an element where players need to consider the benefit of "short-term/large/temporary" benefits versus "long-term/small/permanent" benefits, I'm also considering a middle level between these extremes.

Most characters will sit at around 6 points in their temporary energy pools. Unnamed thugs might only start with 1, while the greatest legends of the game would have the full 13. The average person interacted with in the game world would have 3 or 4. The size of this pool is representative of a character's place in the storyline, it places them above the average person but gives them quite a bit to go before they become the true heroes of the world (you've gotta give people ambitions).

I'm thinking that during a scene, players can replenish their lost attributes by spending 2 energy points per attribute level. Between scenes they may replenish attributes at a rate of 1 energy point per attribute level. This means that if things get too extreme during the scene, a character can tap their inner reserves to gain a quick boost but it costs a lot. If they get the chance to relax during the downtime between scenes then it's easier for them to regain their points. At the end of each game (in campaign play), characters regenerate all of their attribute points at no cost (unless they suffered permanent wounds during the game...but that's a concept I'm still mulling over as well.)

Permanent increases aren't gained instantly under my concept system but can be accrued over time. Every time a character uses an attribute, they may spend a point from their power pool with no immediate benefit. Once an attribute has had five times its current level spent in this way, the attribute increases by 1. I figure that this type of system means characters actually improve in relation to their use of attributes, not like some systems where a character can beat up a whole heap of opponents then suddenly become more knowledgeable about quantum physics once they've finished. I'm looking at a similar system to improve skills.

So I'm putting my ideas out there to receive some input.

I don't want philosophical discussions about "Where do I see the paradigm of my system in the GNS structure?" or "...but how does this make the player's feel?".

I'm just asking for a couple of suggestions based on first glances at the system.

Where do people think it is glaringly in need of streamlining? Where do people think it could do with a bit more meat?

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

Ken

Quote from: Vulpinoid on October 05, 2007, 03:54:29 AM
The GM draws a number of cards based on the difficulty; the player draws a number of cards based on their attribute level. High card wins.

Has this system worked well in testing? My concern here would be the possibility of a high card in the smaller of the two hands completely shutting out the contestant with the higher rating (character or task difficulty). For instance (and barring the drawing of any cards of the appropriate suit), if a character is trying something that he is an expert at (say rating of 5) and the difficulty is 2 (for instance; I don't know your system) and one of those two cards is an Ace (assuming aces are the highest card you can get) and the character gets four Kings and a Queen, the character loses. Should he?

I haven't given this a lot of thought, but at first pass my suggestion is to give numeric value to the cards and add them up for effect. Then compare the totals; highest score win the challenge. This system would lean towards the side with the larger hand, but still have plenty of room for an upset, by drawing awesome cards. The points could be:

2-10=1 point, Jack-King=2 points, Ace=3 points

In the case of drawing a card of appropriate suit, the highest card would win. I like that effect, because it totally trumps the system.

Also, have you given any thoughts to bonus effects for pairs or three-of-a-kinds?

Quote from: Vulpinoid on October 05, 2007, 03:54:29 AM
Since unsuited cards will tend to fail challenges (no matter what their rank), players then get the chance to change the suits of cards through skills. Skills are categorised by the suits (and types of activities) they would normally be associated with. For example, repairing tends to be a mental task, so it becomes a Spades related skill. This means that a character will always have a suited card as long as they have a level in a skill associated with the challenge they are attempting. This also means they've got a pretty good chance of a marginal success in most challenges where they possess even a basic skill level.

How do you decide what cards becomes suited? Instead of changing a card's suit, maybe the character always has an imaginary card of appropriate suit equal to their skill level (this would allow for wins when the GM doesn't draw a suit card, but more challenging when the GM does). Just an idea.

Quote from: Vulpinoid on October 05, 2007, 03:54:29 AM
New Card Based System.
My original idea was that a character would be removed from a scene altogether if their attribute was reduced to zero, but I've come to think that it makes for some more dramatic moments to have characters in situations where they can only attempt to resist the things around them. Characters need to consider which battles to fight, and where their attribute points are best risked for the purposes of the story.

Perhaps, a character draws one less card for each attribute that has been zeroed out; or the value for each card drawn is reduced by one for each zeroed characteristic.

Do character's ever die, or just get knocked out of the scene in some appropriate way?

I like the energy point idea a lot; how do these points regenerate?

This sounds like a pretty fun game. Looking forward to your responses. Keep it up.

Take care,

Ken
Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
http://ten-centheroes.blogspot.com

Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf

masqueradeball

I really like the way you have the system laid out, and I'm currently sitting on a project of my own that uses a very similar card mechanic (though in it characters also have hands of cards, but I digress). The only thing I can think of is maybe having a way that players can opt to save cards. My first thought is that lets say I attempt a challenge and I draw my cards and the GM draws his cards and I have a K of clubs, 10 of spades and 4 hearts. Since its a physical/clubs challenge, I beat my GM's highest club, a 2. Since I won the challenge, I can either opt to narrate the outcome of a total sucess (I'm not clear on whether or not margin of success limits what I can narrate) or I can keep the K for later and allow the GM (or the player, if you prefer) to narrate a moderate success or a success that comes with some form of drawback.
Another thought is that since you have a trump mechanic, maybe their could be secondary "trumps" so that the different suits would have ranking values. So instead of clubs automatically win physical challenges, clubs would instead add 10 to the value of the card, and the next most appropriate suit would add 5 and the third 2 and the least appropriate would add nothing. The math might not be worth it, but it makes the face values of the cards more valuable and might be useful...
Also, I would encourage you to find some way to use the cards as a way to track the energy points you mentioned. I think one of the great values that cards have over dice is that they are lot easier to use as markers to represent various mechanical or story elements of the game, like how much energy a character has left.
Hope that helps...
Nolan Callender

Vulpinoid

My original query was for an expanded version of my system on a character sheet.

It was for the "Re-magi-nation" contest.

http://www.angelfire.com/psy/vulpinoid/8Sea2.pdf

In 10 days this is what I ended up with, and it still needs a lot more work...but here's the contest entry as it stood at the closing date.

V

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