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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 173 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Fragments: A horror game  (Read 1952 times)

Posts: 31

« on: October 10, 2009, 01:35:41 AM »

I'm in the process of designing a game for Halloween and would appreciate any advice that people can give.

What I find scary are horror films which frame the story as evidence being pieced together such as Blair Witch, the Last Broadcast or ARG games such as the one they did for Lost.

There is something about the unknown and being put in that position of the characters, trying to work out what is going on, while you typically know that something terrible has happened to characters.

So this game is called Fragments. The player characters have vanished and the game is framed by an investigator finding records of what happened, putting the pieces together. These fragments could take the form of recovered home videos, letters, emails, audio recordings or even information gained through an eye witness.

The aim of the game is to find out what the characters fate was and what the Threat was. It isn't designed for long campaigns, rather it is to create an unnerving story for an evenings session.

Characters have two attributes, abilities that define talents and skills that can aid them and a drive which gives them a bonus when they're pursuing that drive. Instead of health they have Fate points. Each time they encounter the Threat or are hurt their Fate decreases until they run out of Fate points and suffer a terrible event but fate points can also be spent gaining 10 extra information points or an additional 1d10 to their roll.

In turn each player gets to start a scene, declaring the medium of the fragment (written, video, audio, picture/photo, Interview), where it occurs in the time line and how long the fragment is (short/medium/long). The fragment details something that happens to the characters. A player character will be trying to pass on information about a location, event or a person. They can take an action for each time segment and if they beat the target number of the timeline segment they gain information points equal to how much they beat the target number by plus the bonus of the time line segment.

Players will roll 1d10 plus any appropriate skills or drive that will affect the action they're performing. The difficulty increases the further along the time line as follows:

Storm Clouds Gather: 1
It Begins: 2
Signs and Wonders: 4
Walking into the Dark: 6
The Centre Can not Hold: 8
Moments From the End: 10

It doesn't really matter what the action is, if they beat the target number they generate information. For example, even if all the fragment is is footage of a character collecting fire wood that still gives the investigator information about where they were (a wood) and what they were doing (building a fire). This can help him locate the characters and find the next fragment.

Time line segments must be purchased with information points, the further along the time line the more expensive it is but it also provides a bonus to the information gained.

I thought that to keep track of the time line each fragment could be placed on an index card. They could then be arranged as new cards were added so they can decide where each new fragment fits in relative to events already in that time frame.

Each player has a Creep dice which they can award to another player if they describe something unnerving in their fragment. This can be added to any roll and then given to another player. This should encourage spooky story telling.

The time line is divided as follows:

Happier Days: Before things started to go wrong showing the background of the characters. 0 cost and provides bonuses that can be used later.

Storm Clouds Gather: Foreshadowing of the inciting incident. Costs 1 point, -2 to information gained.

It Begins: The first time the player characters became aware of the Threat, either directly or indirectly. Costs 2 points, no bonus to information gained.

Signs and Wonders: Now the characters are aware of the threat they see more and more evidences of its presence or signs of its passing. Costs 4 points and provides a +2 bonus.

Walking into the Dark: The characters get deeper into trouble, getting the Threat's attention. Costs 8 points and provides a +5 bonus.

The Centre Can Not Hold: The strain gets to much for the characters and they start to crack up. As well as gaining information characters can restore fate points by taking flaws in this time frame. Costs 16 points and provides +10 bonus

Moments from the end: Fragments from this time frame are taken shortly before the characters vanished. Costs 32 points and provides a +20 bonus.

As well performing tasks to generate information to purchase more fragments they can also generate information about the Threat which could be anything from an alien, a supernatural entity, a serial killer or a faceless conspiracy. For every 10 points they generate they can define an aspect of the threat (what it looks like, what it wants, what it does, what it fears etc). This is decided by the players.

When a character fails at a task they generate interference points which the Threat can use to raise the cost of answering specific questions. This represents information that was lost or distorted in the fragment.

The idea is to answer all the questions about the threat before the player characters are reduced to 0 fate points. If they reveal the threat before this they can use remaining fate points to buy a good out come for them. The more points they have, the better condition the investigator finds them in.

Player characters can only appear in 5 fragments per time frame and that includes fragments they share with other players characters so a group will have to decide what things they want to do together and what they do alone.

That is the core of the game and in theory it should allow scenes to play out in a non-chronological order but that means the characters need to react to a threat that they haven't defined yet.

For example they could go from a fragment about finding cattle mutilated (Signs and Wonders) to detailing how the group barricade themselves in a wood cabin, bright light blazing outside in the middle of the night (moments from the end).

This is how I imagine the game to run:

Our player characters are Mark, Sue and Dan. The players decide that they were friends, heading up to Dan's family cabin by a local lake, one last time together before they went they went off to different universities. That was several months ago and they haven't been heard of since. The investigator has been hired by the characters families to find out what happened to them.

Turn 1
The group start with a pool of 30 information points (10 for each player) and decide to start with the Inciting Incident. Mark starts and decides the fragment will be an audio recording, a message left by Mark on his parents answer machine and it will be short.

All of the player characters decide they will be in this fragment and Mark starts the scene describing how they all awoke to find that one of their cars was on fire. Mark tries to put out the fire, Sue tries to get her belongings and Dan looks out into the night to see who might have done it.

The difficulty is only 2 so all characters succeed with Mark rolling 6, Sue 9 and Dan 4. Mark put out the fire but the car was ruined and generated 4 information points, Sue got her backpack out without getting hurt generating 7 points and Dan saw something moving in the trees generating 2 threat information points but didn't get enough information yet to say what it was, at least not enough to convey it in Mark's phone message.

Turn 2
The group now have 39 information points and Sue gets to start the next scene. She decides the scene will be from Walking into the Dark, costing 8 points plus 1 to make the scene medium length. The investigator talks to a local who worked in a gas station. He relates how Mark and Sue arrived on foot, the worse for wear (Dan decides not to be in this fragment).

Sue buys supplies from the gas station while Dan stays outside, looking off into the distance.

The difficulty is 6 and Sue rolls 4 but she has a ability bons +4 that she can use when searching, bringing her number to 8. She beat the number by 2 but gets a +5 bonus so she generated 7 information points. Dan rolls 4 so fails, generating 2 interference points.

They get to make a second action and after paying for the goods she has selected she asks the store owners if he knows of anyone in the woods. She succeds and generates 5 information points. Dan makes his roll and gets 3 information points.

The store owner says that no one lives in the woods but people avoid the area. Dan ends the scene by saying 'We have to go, he's coming.'

Mark finds this unnerving and gives Dan a Creep dice.

Turn 3
The players now have 45 points. Dan decides to make most of his Creep Dice and spends 32 points to points to have a fragment from Moments From The End. None of the other players want to lose too many fate points at this point so only Dan will appear.

The investigator finds a burnt out camcorder near the lake but the tape inside has survived. Watching it he finds that Dan was filming as he ran through the woods, crying that he doesn't know where the others are. Reaching the lake he turns and sees that the threat is behind him. He sets down the camera and leaps into the lake.

The difficulty number is 10 but Dan has a +3 bonus to swimming plus he uses his Creep dice, rolling 2d10. He rolls 15 which with his bonus brings his total to 18. He generates 8 points of information about the threat, plus the 20 information bonus for this time frame. With a total of 30 points about the threat he describes how the camera catches a man made of fire emerging from the woods (answering 'what does the threat look like') but it hesitates at the waters edge (answering 'what is the threat weak against'). Dan has lost another fate point but if he had failed the threat could have attacked and made him lose even more.

Turn 4
With 13 information points left and now they know what it is that is after them Mark decides to go back in time and have a Happier Days fragment which costs nothing. All three players want to be in this section.

Mark describes the investigator looking at a photo given to him by one of the parents. The picture displays the three friends, just before they went off to the lake.

Mark describes how he has his arms around his two friends, rolling 1d10 he gets 5and creates a Friendship drive, let him use this bonus once when he is helping protect his friends. Sue describes her backpack, showing she is prepared and gets 2 on her roll, allowing her to add a +2 bonus when she is using the contents of her pack. Finally Dan says he is wearing swimming trunks, showing what a keen swimmer he is and gets a +4 bonus to any future swimming checks.

Turn 5
Still with 13 points Sue spends 4 points to purchase a 'Signs and Wonders' fragment. Only Mark wants to be in this fragment with her. Sue describes how she and Mark discover the ruins of an old chapel in the wood. This discovery is documented through photos found on Sue's camera, discovered by the investigator by the lake.

The camera is from Sue's backpack so she decides to use her +2 bonus now. The difficulty number is 4 and she rolls 8. With her bonus that is 10 and with the information bonus she generates 8 points. She describes the chapel and notes that it doesn't seem to be dedicated to any religion she is familiar with.

Mark does the same and scores 5 information points. He adds that one of the photos shows Mark uncovering a stone wall, a fearsome figure drawn in ash. It looks as if it was only recently drawn.

Sue gives Mark a Creep dice for this detail.

I know this will require some creativity from the players but I think it could work. The slowly decreasing fate points, the knowledge that SOMETHING has happened to their characters and letting the players take control by shaping the Threat. I'm hoping that it will lead to a creepy game.

Is there anything I can do to ensure this works smoothly? Is there anything I need to explain better?


Posts: 17

« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2009, 02:30:55 AM »

I'm liking the look of it, but I do have some questions.

Is it GMless? I get the impression it is, but may be wrong. If it isn't GMless, what does the GM do?

Who do the players play? In the example it seems like the characters are the 'victims' and the attributes are those of the 'victims'. I presume then that it is an abstract  hypothetical person that the players portray when setting scenes. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Strong interesting game concept. Liking it.

Posts: 31

« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2009, 03:55:45 AM »

I suppose it could be played with out a GM as much of the game is generated by the players. I imagined that the GM would keep track of whose turn it is, the difficultly number for tasks and assigning Interference points to the Threat questions. If the players were okay about assigning these duties then I guess they could run it entirely by themselves.

You're right, the player characters are the people who are missing and the fragments detail what happened to them.

The investigator is only a framing device and could be a detective, a concerned friend or relative or even a investigative reporter. Each player gets to choose one quality for the investigator. For example they could choose the quality 'Keen Eye' which allows him to get more information out of visual fragments or 'Charismatic' to get information during interviews.

The quality which I think will be a real double edged swored is 'Hunted'. With this quality the investigator is in danger and has his own Fate points which the players can draw from instead of their reserve. The drawback is, once all the questions have been answered about the Threat but before the players resolve their characters fates the Threat attacks the investigator. If he rolls above the investigators current Fate points then the investigator is lost before the characters are found.

The good thing about the non-linear framework is that even after a character is reduced to 0 fate (meaning he is dead and gone in the present) he can still appear in fragments, right up until the end. This allows the player to still be involved and since they know they are doomed it might encourage them to give themselves a dramatic death scene.

Posts: 17

« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2009, 01:46:07 AM »

I have mentioned the game to a few of my friends. Here's a link to a
brief discussion.


Posts: 31

« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2009, 12:28:04 PM »

Thanks for discussing the game. I've tried to register on the board but I'm still waiting for the confirmation.

In the meantime I thought I'd address some issues raised.

I did make a mistake in the example given, it should be 28 information points not 30.

The bonuses gained 'Happier Days' can only be used once and then lost. It's a way to foreshadow events and give you an edge as you near the end game. Bonuses can only be used after the Happier Days segment. While the story told is non-linear I haven't worked out a way to make the game experience happen in non-chronological order.

The questions relating to the Threat can be determined by the players and the GM. The more questions the longer the game. I think that four questions is enough for one session. Standard questions could be:

What does the threat look like?
What does the threat do?
What does the threat want?
What does it fear?

The players use their fate points on questions relating to their character fates. The more points they spend the better their fate.

Where are they?
This is the location where the character currently is.
0   Unknown
1   Far Away/Difficult to reach location
2   Close by/Easy too reach
3   Immediate vicinity

What happened to them?
This is what occurred to them.

0    Unknown
1   Something terrible
2   Accident
3   Nothing

How are they now?
This describes the characters current condition.

0   Unknown
1   Dead
2   Maimed/Disturbed
3   Fine

I do like the idea of having a question that relates to the Threat and whether it will return. I think this will depend on the Threat itself. I think there is something to be said for Threats that are not fully explained, that can never be truely defeated because we are incapable of understanding them. There are always more questions to ask, which could lead to another adventure with a new cast of characters being menaced by the same Threat.

Posts: 17

« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2009, 02:01:56 AM »

No problem. I have let the people know that you have replied. BTW I run that particular board, it is basically for people associated with gaming in the Leicester,UK area. Not sure why you wouldn't have been able to log in straight away.
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