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Author Topic: Ideas for Mechanics: Do These Fit Together?  (Read 1277 times)
Anders Gabrielsson

Posts: 31

« on: September 30, 2009, 11:18:10 AM »

Hi, I'm fairly new to the forum. I've lurked a bit but I haven't posted (unless it was somewhere around here I asked a bit about Capes some years back).

I've been thinking about some mechanics that I'd like to try to craft into a game. However, I'm not sure if they really go together or if they should be in separate games or if they won't work at all. I'll go over the separate mechanics first and then give a quick overview of how I see them fitting together. Maybe just writing it all out will structure my thoughts a bit.

If anything doesn't make sense (which I suspect will be the case), just ask and I'll do my best to explain.

Oh, and this is supposed to be for a GM-less game.

The parts

The first idea has to do with character control. I'd like a game where players don't "own" individual characters, instead collectively telling stories about a group of characters they have created together. I'm not sure if that's feasible at all, or if it will make players feel less invested or create other problems I can't foresee.

The second idea is to have the various story elements - characters, relationships etc - represented by some kind of tokens (cards, cardboard chits, something tangible in any case), and to use control over these tokens as the main way to restrict which elements a player can use freely in narration.

The third idea is an extension of the second: who gets to narrate and control over the tokens is decided through repeated auctions, where the tokens are also used as currency. Effectively, one player will put up one or more tokens for auction, and the others will offer tokens they think that player wants in return, then he picks the bid he likes the most with narration passing to the winning bid.

How they fit together

Character and setting creation will probably be structured in some way, but I'm not worrying about that right now.

The main characters will be represented by several tokens each, maybe 3-5 depending on how complex you want them to be. Each token will represent one facet or defining characteristic of the character.

Minor characters will have one token each, as will important locations, moods and themes, as well as relationships between the various characters.

At the start of each session, the tokens are mixed up and randomly distributed among the players. A starting player is picked by some method, and they begin to narrate, using only the elements for which they control the tokens. Once they get to a critical juncture (as determined by some mechanism - perhaps unilaterally decided by the narrator or through a majority decision among the other players; I haven't thought about it in detail yet, but these turns should be fairly short) an auction is initiated. The narrator offers one or more of their tokens, and each other player in turn makes a bid of some of their tokens, taking turns with raising by adding more tokens or passing to let their bids stand. The narrator selects the winner and they exchange tokens. The narrator resolves the situation using the elements on their newly recieved tokens, and then the player with the winning bid takes over narrative rights, continuing the scene or starting a new one.

In all cases, narration should stay inside the collectively determined bounds.

What I like

Using the tokens in this way gives a lot of freedom to the players to decide on what they want the story to focus on. If they want to explore a group of characters and their relationships they can create a lot of tokens for personality traits, hidden secrets and aspects of relationships and very few others, but if they want to tell a rousing adventure story the main characters can be defined mostly by their skills and abilities and there can be many tokens for locations, enemies and various problems to overcome.

The bidding mechanism (which probably needs to be developed further) should ideally create an element of bluff and push-your-luck.

What I'm worried about

Narrative control can jump around unpredictably which can frustrate someone who doesn't get in.

The game won't work at all with few players. Three is probably too few; I'm guessing it needs around five to make the auctions interesting enough. If it turns out to need more than five I'll have to scrap it - in my experience, whenever you have more than five people together conversations tend to split up.

Could this work? Are there any obvious improvements I could make?

Again, if anything is unclear, please let me know and I'll do my best to answer (keeping in mind that this is the first time I've committed any of this to writing so much of it is still a bit fuzzy).

Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster

« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2009, 01:11:35 PM »

I'm working through some similar issues now on my newest design project, Brigaki Djili.

Sorry I don't have any instant ideas to throw your way...but as soon as I do, I'll offer them to you.


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

Posts: 8

Sensible senselessness

« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2009, 08:35:26 AM »

I like the concepts, it is similar in concept at least to what I have been working out in my head. I like the idea of tokens getting passed around and drawn. This is similar to my plan of doing this by drawing cards or rolling on a chart to add complications to a scene. Yours is better it gives more control to the players on crafting their own scene rather than having a random effect from a card or chart. As an added bonus players could bid a token and then the varying types together would give you a "code" to look up by the narrator to expound upon. Two green and a red means X or something along those lines.

Perhaps at the beginning of a session you could let the players bid as to who they would like to be the "narrator" during the session. That role will let the narrator have less ability (tokens) but they also shape the game narration some too as a more traditional GM might. So not completely GM-less, instead it would be a limited GM/Player combo role.

Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?"
- Bernard Shaw
Anders Gabrielsson

Posts: 31

« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2009, 08:51:52 AM »

I like the idea of using colors to add further ideas, though I think some of that may come automatically from the narrator having to resolve the situation by using the winning bid. I'll have to think on it further.

I'd prefer to keep it completely GM-less, with all the players on equal footing, though if it works it would certainly be possible to include variants.
Anders Gabrielsson

Posts: 31

« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2009, 11:22:45 AM »

I think I've found a way to reduce the risk of one or more players being shut out of the narration.

When the narrator takes the winning bid after the auction, he places those tokens in a separate pile where they are unavailable for narration or bidding. Once all players have had at least one round as narrator, everyone adds those piles back into their regular set of tokens. This will gradually reduce the number of tokens in play for previous narrators, making it easier for the non-narrators to win the auctions.
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