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Author Topic: OtherKind-ish Mechanics in Action  (Read 1993 times)
lumpley
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« on: July 03, 2002, 08:11:38 AM »

So we played our Ars Magica game last night, and it was the big battle.  We had a GM, which is unusual for us, but none of my characters were present so I was it.  Our PCs were part of a small force holding a makeshift wall against the enemy's flanking maneuver.  People from the villiage we're near were fighting alongside us and we didn't want them to die either.  Our PCs were Meguey's maga Damwild and three of our men-at-arms.  (People-at-arms, actually.)

I siezed the opportunity to try out my OtherKind mechanics, modified for the circumstances.  Here's what we did.  

Roll 4d6, look at them, and then assign one each to these:
-Who narrates?  1-3, I get to narrate; 4-6, you do.
-Do you hold the line?  1-2, you give way; 3-4, you weaken; 5-6, you hold strong.
-Are you hurt?  1-2, you're hurt seriously; 3-4, you're hurt; 5-6, you're fine.
-Are your people hurt?  1-2, soldiers around you die lots; 3-4, soldiers around you die a little or are hurt lots; 5-6, everybody's basically fine.

So on every roll, unless you roll all 5s and 6s (or all 1s and 2s), you have to make (sometimes hard) tradeoffs.

Advantages add dice, like for instance Damwild cast a (subtle) morale-boosting spell on the whole company, so everybody rolled 5 dice and dropped the lowest.  Injuries and disadvantages take advantage dice away.  I suppose that if you're reduced below 4 dice, you roll 5 and drop the highest, but it never came up.  For blatant magic, you can change one of your dice to a 6.

It worked well.  The fight lasted five or six rounds, by which I mean that every PC rolled five or six times, or got skipped because she was out of the thick.  15-20 rolls all told, I'd say.  It took around an hour to play.

1. It was weird for us to have a formal narrator with exclusive power.  Usually we narrate organically, with all of us contributing as we like.  Emily put a higher value on narration than Meguey did.  Meguey pretty much put low dice first into narration, while Emily deliberated about it every time, and occasionally wished she'd kept the narration when she hadn't.

2. Time flowed in an interesting way.  I left it to whoever was narrating.  Sometimes events overlapped ("While that's going on over there,  this happens over here") and sometimes they didn't ("After all that's done, this happens").  Sometimes the narration covered a few seconds of action, sometimes minutes and longer.  I tended to narrate short.

3. The mechanics occasionally created distance between the players and the PCs.  I never rolled so I don't know first hand, but it looked like sometimes it was hard to make a roll be about what the PC does, not about what just happens.  One roll for an example: Emily's character Aliseum rolled and Emily was waffling about the low die: do her people fall back safely and leave an opening, or do they sacrifice themselves to hold the wall?  Emily was moving the dice around on the table and it was pretty clear she couldn't see the decision from Aliseum's point of view, she was just trying to decide.

4. As Andrew Martin has pointed out (let's see: here), the mechanics don't reward or even allow planning before the roll.  That's cool with me and I thought it was great for battle, but they really don't.  Events were both unpredictable and momentous, and we could never really foresee what the PCs would have to do or how it would go.  Even magic: one roll, Meguey rolled, arranged the dice, and said "I'd better cast a spell, or they'll overrun us."  She described the spell (not its effects, I got to narrate) and changed the hold the line die to a 6.

5. We were always going to win, that was the point, but the battle had a satisfying sweep.  It started pretty bad, with two of the PCs badly hurt and a break in the wall.  Damwild's magic and then a very high roll by Emily's Aliseum turned the tide, and about two thirds of the way through, I let the advantage dice cascade.  There was whooping and foe-bashing, it felt good and hard-earned and finally decisive.

I'm pretty happy.

-Vincent

Oh: OtherKind is here.
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contracycle
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« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2002, 07:01:25 AM »

Brief question.  Your die mechanics above - and I know they were an off-the-cuff - don't seem to leave much room for niche protection or personalisation.  Did you see any problems here, did the players manage to express their characters dramatically?  How would you feel about characters having modifiers on certain types of results?

Am I correct in understanding that you used situational categories here, rather than ther abstract categories in Otherkind like Safety.  Do you feel this worked, was good or bad?  Or perhaps, where the situations selected as corresponding to the abstract categories?

Both the situations you have used for this model have been historic: do you feel that there would be any modifications needed for tehnological character powers?
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2002, 07:37:53 AM »

Your second question first.  The situational categories we played with yes corresponded to OtherKind's abstract categories.  The exception was Are your people hurt? which doesn't correspond to OtherKind's Life.  In OtherKind, killing your enemies is a bad thing; in our game the other night, getting our people killed was.  So I went with that.

Who Narrates, Progress Toward Your Goal, Your Own Health/Safety/Convenience, and The Other Thing You Have to Worry About, those are the categories.  In theory, you could instantiate them on the fly: the GM could say "Okay, roll to pick that lock.  Um, who narrates, do you pick the lock, does it make your headache worse, does Mitch get back with the cigarettes before you're done.  Go."  That's kind of the direction I see the mechanics going.

Let's see, niche and personalisation.  In fact it turned out fine, but we were making leadership rolls more than personal combat rolls.  The characters made different and personal decisions (Aliseum kept her people alive at expense to the position, while Damwild was willing to sacrifice her people to hold the line, eg) and naturally in the narration, they acted like themselves and not like each other (when Behras got set on fire he rolled in the mud, while when Soltis did he ran screaming, eg).  But, and it's a big but, the characters were already distinct and individual in our minds.  We've been playing them for a long time.  I don't think it would have worked if we'd made the characters fresh that night.

So OtherKind needs much stronger characters.  Andrew Martin said that, too.  But otherwise I'm not too worried about it; I think that people want to narrate their characters' uniqueness, and the mechanics let them.

Oh but I'd feel very comfortable with characters having unique modifiers.  OtherKind has sort of a scheme for that, but it's probably not adequate, at least not without much stronger characters.  The magic system we used -- describe the spell and change one die to a 6 -- worked brilliantly, and I think you could adapt it for more general use.

Lastly, dunno about technology.  Probably the rules'd work as is.  Ever since reading about BioHemostats and self-chilling beer cans (sorry, no reference, you pop the top and it releases a safe refrigerant into an aluminum coil inside the can, chills your beer from 85 to near freezing in 10 seconds, costs 8 cents a can, something like that) anyway ever since, I've wanted to play a near-future cyberpunky thing again.  Probably if I do, I'll use some variation of the OtherKind rules.  If you try it, let me know what you do.

-Vincent
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2002, 11:29:58 AM »

Quote
Who Narrates, Progress Toward Your Goal, Your Own Health/Safety/Convenience, and The Other Thing You Have to Worry About, those are the categories.


Perhaps :  Narrative Control, Progress, Personal Cost, Other Complications?

Perhaps if you have player vs. player rolls, it could go: You can either get first choice, or the rest.  So player A could pick a die, and choose Personal Cost, but Player B can choose where the rest of the dice go.  Of course, this would make it very hard for player vs. player contests to swing wild, but still an interesting bit of strategizing.

Chris
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