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Author Topic: How You Use It...  (Read 3007 times)
Klaus Graziade
Member

Posts: 19


« on: June 24, 2009, 02:05:59 PM »

Dear Forge,

Well, I've been sitting on several ideas for a while, and I'd love some input on a particular idea that's been giving me trouble.  In my current project, I looked at the wonderful game "The Pool" by James V. West for some of my inspiration.  I really liked the idea that a character can draw from a pool of dice for a conflict.  Using this idea as a launching point (and not trying to copy "The Pool" directly), I started thinking about the whole tie between stats and skills.  (For brevity, overarching categories will be called stats and specializations are skills...at least that's what my friend called them for the longest time, so it stuck in my head).

My basic system follows this: each character has a set of common stats (3 or 4, still debating which ones to use) that serve as their "pools."  Whenever it comes time to do something that can not be resolved through narration, a character draws dice from their pool and tries to roll successes (ala many other binary dice pool systems).  You always get AT LEAST one die, but extra dice draw from the pool.  Personally, I'm a fan of how this works: you have to weigh your options and be prepared to "exhaust" your pool.  Of course, there are recovery mechanics for your stat pool.  But here's the issue: the skills.

I like the idea of free form skill creation.  But here's the real question: should I tie the skills to a particular stat or let them remain untied and have them be applied to how they are used in a certain situation?

I'll give an example of each.  In the former circumstance, if a character has the "I can wield a really big sword" skill tied to her "Physical" stat, she can only use it in physical circumstances (fighting, etc.).  However, if she wants intimidate someone, she would require a separate skill to do so, and probably tied to a different stat.

Contrastingly, if a character has the same skill as above, but it was untied, she would freely be able to float it among her various pools depending on the circumstance.

So finally, to reiterate the question after all the yakking of mine: Should I tie the skills to stats or should I let them be free?  What do you foresee as benefits and problems with each variation? 

As always, if you need some clarification, don't hesitate to ask, and I'll try to post a reply really quickly.  Thanks in advance.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2009, 07:31:18 AM »

It's really hard to give advice about such a thing with so little information about your game. All I know is that you like The Pool and you want attribute dice pools, and you want skills.

First of all, what is your game about? Maybe it's a game that can be used to play anything, in your mind, but give me an example of the kind of game you want to run with this. How important are learned, practiced skills to characters in this game? How broad or narrow are these skills?

Second, you're asking a question that smells of the "realism" problem. The answer is, make your game as realistic/believable as you need it to be. My gut feel is that a game with attribute resource pools is built around a story-structure design philosophy, not realism, so build your skill system appropriately. Look at how Dogs in the Vineyard handles "skills." It doesn't! You have four attributes that are essentially d6 dice pools. Then you get a handful of dice (some d4s, some d6es, some d8s, etc.) to distribute to a bunch of freeform traits that you get to make up. "I used to gamble 2d6." "Blindfolded shooting 1d8." "Never met a man I couldn't talk out of a fight 3d4." They're not skills, but they CAN BE skills. They're not at all tied to the attributes.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Klaus Graziade
Member

Posts: 19


« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2009, 11:23:17 AM »

Thanks for the reply, Adam.  I'll jump right into your questions.  In my game, characters assume the role of Witch Hunters, whose prima facie role is purging heresy in the realm of a the Faith.  However, because these Witch Hunters are held with high regard by the Faithful, they act like ombudsmen, adjudicators, and lawmen as well.  I guess that is a little like dogs, though I can't find a copy to read. Sad

Anyway, I like how you suggested using freeform traits that don't really tie into anything, but CAN be skills.  That seems like the avenue I would like to pursue.

I am curious about the "Story-Structure design philosophy" you allude to.  If there is any reading you could suggest, I would be much obliged!

Thank you again!
~Klaus
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Adam Dray
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Posts: 676


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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2009, 12:12:04 PM »

I'm basically saying, forget about realism. Players will pretty naturally check each other on the level of realism that they want in a game. You don't need the rules to model every ballistic chart and stuff, right?

"Story-Structure design philosophy" is a term I just made up. I'm talking about a design philosophy that uses mechanics to create a certain story structure rather than model "reality."

One example of this is Misspent Youth (a game of pissed-off punk kids in a fucked-up future). It breaks play into about a half dozen scenes and gives the GM (sorry, "The Authority") advice for each of these scenes. The scenes follow traditional literary story structure, so there's a beginning scene, a rising tension scene, a denouement scene, and so on.

Another example is Primetime Adventures (a game that pretends your story is a tv series and you're all writer-actors; the GM is called the Producer). You can treat the "we are all writer-actors" as literal, but people don't really play out anything but the on-camera action. (That is, you don't play out the actors getting mad at the director and going on strike.) The tv-series thing is just a way to model how to get cool stories out of an RPG. The game mechanics have you "pitch" your series, choose theme music, and hammer out "sets" for the characters and use them during the series. Each player also sets a number, 1 to 3, for her character's "screen presence" in each episode. It helps everyone know who should be shining the brightest in each scene and it has some teeth (you get more currency for conflicts if you have a stronger screen presence).

The point I am making is that you can look at your game design and ask, "how can I use rules to help players tell a story?" instead of "how can I use the rules to help players model a world?"

I love the premise of your game, by the way. Witch Hunter inquisitors? Awesome!

You REALLY should check out Dogs in the Vineyard because it will give you an example of one way to solve many of the challenges you are facing with your own design. Based on what little you've said, I would venture that your premise is a LOT like Dogs. You can buy it from the Unstore, by the way. PDF is $15, book is $22 + S&H.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
David Artman
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Designer & Producer


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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2009, 07:08:55 AM »

...characters assume the role of Witch Hunters, whose prima facie role is purging heresy in the realm of a the Faith.  However, because these Witch Hunters are held with high regard by the Faithful, they act like ombudsmen, adjudicators, and lawmen as well.  I guess that is a little like dogs, though I can't find a copy to read.
That's totally Dogs in the Vineyard. You really might want to get yourself a copy and ask if, maybe, you'd be just as happy drifting its setting (there's about 40 "hacks" that put DITV into other genres and setting).

It might actually help to know you goal in designing a game at all: are you looking for play that you haven't found yet? (If so, DITV is your Grail.) Or is it a desire to deliver a product to market? (If so, be prepared for being considered derivative, should you elect freeform traits.)

Not trying to piss in your corn flakes; but the term "fantasy heartbreaker" doesn't only apply to fantasy.

And all THAT said: create whatever you want for the sheer joy of the doing, NOT the finishing. And then try to enjoy the hell of the finishing, because it's a LONG grind, lemme tell you.
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Klaus Graziade
Member

Posts: 19


« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2009, 02:18:55 PM »

Quote
That's totally Dogs in the Vineyard. You really might want to get yourself a copy and ask if, maybe, you'd be just as happy drifting its setting

That's wild.  I had heard things about the game in the forums (it seems to get referenced a lot), and all the things must have crept into my mind.  Regardless, I'm glad you think I should plug ahead.  Although, it might be time to reconsider my plot, especially as I've become a bit estranged from my original setting.

~Klaus
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2009, 07:06:53 AM »

Hi Klaus,

I also encourage you to keep working on this game idea, especially returning to and embracing the original inspiration.

In the interest of research and possible inspiration, I encourage you to check out Clinton R. Nixon's The Shadow of Yesterday, in which skills and dice pools operate a little bit like what you're talking about. That system has been expanded upon as "The Solar System," and if you hop down to the Arkenstone Publishing forum at this site, Eero will be able to answer any questions you have about how it works.

Best, Ron
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2009, 12:46:49 PM »

I'm slowly shifting towards the "tie to a stat" idea, for the following reason; when defining the properties of a home made trait, it is conventionally made of two parts, the bonus and the description, which serves to limit the areas to which it can be applied. This limit also acts as a reminder of how that character behaves, now the more you require the actual description to act as a balancer, the less space there is to describe the character by it, so any structural system that does that already increases the freedom to use creative descriptions. Apart from tying it to a stat, you can produce those kind of structural patterns by setting traits in opposition or other things like that.

What things about your concept still holds interest for you? What did you first imagine people doing? That will help us recommend stuff. And I agree with Ron about looking at TSOY, it seems quite close to your interests.
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Klaus Graziade
Member

Posts: 19


« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2009, 03:27:33 PM »

Thanks for all the replies; your insights have been really helpful.  Like JoyWriter, I too am gravitating towards "tie to a stat."  I like how you suggest that this can reinforce how a character behaves.  For example: if a character has her "sword" skill tied to her physical stat, it is clear she uses it for fighting.  However, if it is tied to her social stat, it is probably much more of an affectation or show of bravado.  I think that's probably the way to go.  I initially drew up an idea called "epithet" that I am likely to revive.  The idea was that anyone with a certain profession can probably do the basic things of their profession with some skill, so this eliminated the need for too many skills on the list.  This also solves the whole sword-fighting problem that occurs when you use it for bravado rather than combat!!!

Quote
What things about your concept still holds interest for you? What did you first imagine people doing?

So I still love the idea of witch hunters, inquisitors, warden-priests, or what have you!  I tried reversing the idea towards being those who were hunted, but I'm not as infatuated with that concept.  I'd much rather be the hunter.  I often envision them seeking out heresy, preaching faith to the unfaithful, battling along the unclear lines of what is and isn't an act of faith, god, etc.  The idea was that the "self-restraint" of the supernatural world wavers and while some things are clearly evil [wicked spirits, etc...all based on my love of Slavic folklore (thanks grandma)], somethings (people, ideas) are not so clear.

Anywho, I'm trying to be concise and failing miserably, but I hope that helps.  I want my "witch hunters" to be more complicated than fanatics yelling "BURN HERETIC BURN!!!!"!
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Luke
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2009, 06:55:24 PM »

Hi Klaus,

Based on what you say below, I think you're not ready be designing skill systems for your game.

The idea was that the "self-restraint" of the supernatural world wavers and while some things are clearly evil [wicked spirits, etc...all based on my love of Slavic folklore (thanks grandma)], somethings (people, ideas) are not so clear.

Anywho, I'm trying to be concise and failing miserably, but I hope that helps.  I want my "witch hunters" to be more complicated than fanatics yelling "BURN HERETIC BURN!!!!"!

Consider what's thematic for this concept. It sounds like self-restraint, faith, fanaticism, belief and sympathy are all at play in your concept. How are they in your game?

-L
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Klaus Graziade
Member

Posts: 19


« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2009, 08:59:03 AM »

Quote
Consider what's thematic for this concept. It sounds like self-restraint, faith, fanaticism, belief and sympathy are all at play in your concept. How are they in your game?

Thanks for the reply - you've definitely given me a bit to think about.  I am curious, though, do you mean how they are in the game mechanically or thematically?

~KG
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2009, 06:45:13 AM »

I can't speak for Luke, but making the appropriate themes appear in a game is often about giving them somewhere to live in the moment to moment of the resolution system.

Now this can be appearing as trade-offs people must choose, as pre-requisites for action, as substantial unavoidable elements of the setting, as questions that guide character creation or other choices, or as in-built results or side effects of actions. There are much more ways to do this, but the idea is that "what happens in this game" in terms of rules matches up with "what happens in this game" in your concept.

If some part of your original concept can easily fall out the side and be forgotten, then you can examine whether it actually can be ignored without "spoiling" things or whether the rules need to be shifted so it has a more central place.

Now this next part will probably only make sense once you've got the hang of the first bit, but don't tie the game up so tight that it fits exactly to your original concept with no room for difference; get in all the elements you want, but keep the application of those ideas as wide as possible, so people can make it their own.

This kind of thinking can get you a game that plays like you want but may look very different to what you've seen before!
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