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Author Topic: [Gangs of the Factory Zone]_Too much setting for a story game?  (Read 3018 times)
Andre Canivet
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« on: October 16, 2009, 02:07:51 PM »

Hello.  This is my first post at the Forge, I hope one of many.  I'm hoping to get some feedback on a design I've been working on for far too long.  It started as a fairly traditional, tactically-oriented design, which I have been struggling to make into a story game.  But I'm having problems knowing where to focus, and what sort of mechanics I should be using.

Let me tell you about it.  Gangs of the Factory Zone is a sort of Space Western in the vein of anime & manga series' like Trigun and Battle Angel Alita.  The primary setting is a terraformed and re-colonized Mars, in a sort of industrial area and slum just outside the planet's primary spaceport.  It's the frontier between a heavily cyberpunk world and a mystically charged native culture.

To answer the basic questions:

What's it about?

Gangs is about life in an industrial slum and how to escape it, framed by the question: and considered against a  backdrop of poverty and near-slavery,  crime, vice, colonialism, religious proselytism and persecution, etc.  In a more abstract sense, it's about the downsides of capitalism and globalization, and about the choice between a survival-of-the-fittest mentality and a more cooperative society.

Who are the characters and what do they do? <What do the players do?<My key concern:

Setting and Character types: are elaborate setting and elaborate character types appropriate for a story game?  Or should it be distilled down and more focused on situation?  In short: is this a good foundation for a story game?  Or is it too involved?

I'm also concerned about the mechanics (mainly: how detailed / involved should the mechanics be?) but I can save that for a later thread.  I don't have a lot of experience with narrativist facilitating games, but I seem to be determined to make one.  Any insight into the process would help immensely.

Thanks in advance,

Andre
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2009, 04:49:39 PM »

url=http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=28330.0]frozen dawn game[/url], here in first thoughts as well, it has 'what you can do' rather neatly built into setting, with a bunch of factions with very different attitudes to technology.

I mean, I'm thinking violence of various varieties against other people may be the various things you can do, but does the book fill that in, or just fill in alot of settingfrozen dawn game, here in first thoughts as well, it has 'what you can do' rather neatly built into setting, with a bunch of factions with very different attitudes to technology.

I mean, I'm thinking violence of various varieties against other people may be the various things you can do, but does the book fill that in, or just fill in alot of setting?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2009, 05:28:25 PM »

"Involved" can be good for a story oriented game. It gives more meat for players to hook into, and gives more opportunities for characters to truly explore different situations and tell stories that are relevant to their concepts.

Games that are too simplistic have a nasty tendency to produce the same story over and over again.

Do you see your setting as being a one shot, or an opportunity for ongoing play?

...

And honestly, as lone as you keep in mind the old adage of making sure there is a story hook on every page, then I don't think you can ever have a game that is too detailed.

(Note that many games become too detailed IMHO when they start quoting lists of stats that don't really lure players in, or simply provide new ways to kill things that aren't much different to the old ways of killing things...Yes, I'm looking at you GURP, RIFTS and D&D).

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2009, 08:28:47 AM »

On the front of varied character types, it can work, if the relationships between them work. If the existence of one type totally fubars another, (for example by just taking all their conflicts and themes and trumping them, or otherwise rendering them a non-issue) then obviously you can't have both! Equally you may find that certain characters just push in too dissimilar a direction to put them together.

Presumably you originally created those different types for tactical reasons, do any of them have specific story interest to you? Ie could you just play with one type for the whole game and be happy with it? If not you could adjust it to give it some depth.

In terms of the detail level of scenes, one way to think about it is to consider what you want to have happened in say a two hour session; one big scene? A few shorter ones? And how much should the character or situation have changed by the end of that? Then you could decide how much you want to have change over those scenes.

Another way to go about it is to consider the rate of change from another angle, asking "what will the players want to know?". If you imagine that there is a bit of tension and then release as the mechanics are implemented, what is the thing they should be worried/curious/excited about? Is it always the same "size" thing, and if not do you want to handle conflicts of different importance differently?

it's about the downsides of capitalism and globalization, and about the choice between a survival-of-the-fittest mentality and a more cooperative society.
What about putting that conflict between the actual players in the game, perhaps with a cooperation/trust mechanic or a tradeof between money/pay links and community? At the moment your resolution system seems quite unclear, and it's good to try to tailor it to the themes and experiences you are trying to create. What interests you in fortune in the middle? And don't worry about saying it wrong, it's more important to me that you say what you want than you get the terms right, that can come later.

If the characters are discovering the best way to survive, is it unknown to the players whether the characters will survive? Or is the question only how they do?
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2009, 10:50:23 AM »

Hey guys,

Thanks for responding (and so quickly!) and for humouring my insanity.  I apologize for the long post, but I hope I can address your questions:

Callan<Michael<Josh<
In terms of the detail level of scenes, one way to think about it is to consider what you want to have happened in say a two hour session; one big scene? A few shorter ones? And how much should the character or situation have changed by the end of that? Then you could decide how much you want to have change over those scenes.

You're giving me a lot to think about there; I've been so focused on mechanics and setting, that I hadn't given much thought to how a session should play out.  I think a two hour session should have at least a couple of major scenes, or one major scene and two or three minor ones.  A minor scene could be finding out a new detail that advances the plot.  A major scene should have an emotional impact and preferably some kind of confrontation, whether social or physical.

The most recent version of the game has a central mechanic where players place bets to determine their effectiveness in the coming conflict.  The resource pool they bet from is found by adding up all the abilities that apply, including attributes, special skills or powers, their ethos score (if their particular ethics are relevant), tags (a bit like aspects in Spirit of the Century)<
What about putting that conflict between the actual players in the game, perhaps with a cooperation/trust mechanic or a tradeof between money/pay links and community?
Quote from: JoyWriter on October 17, 2009, 08:28:47 AM
What interests you in fortune in the middle?

I like the idea of Fortune in the Middle because it seems to allow more opportunity for narration, while putting less emphasis on bookkeeping and mechanical outcomes.  In traditional games there's all sorts of worry over specific modifiers (e.g. lighting & cover penalties), and rolling for each tiny detail, which seems tedious.  If you can just set a base difficulty, make a roll, and narrate most of the details... it just seems more elegant that way.  Not to mention, faster.  I got my start playing Rifts, where a single combat scene could take four to six hours to resolve; and a lot of the bad habits I learned there carried over into my own designs.  I want to get away from that.

With regards to survival...  I had always assumed the characters' survival was uncertain; but you've got me thinking; maybe the character arc would be more intense if survival were never in question; only how they survive?
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2009, 09:47:48 PM »

Quote
yes, that's my worry; that too much setting will dilute the premise.  In terms of finding a better life and what you can do... well, violence and the threat of violence is a major theme, but it could also take the form of organizing the community in political protest, or becoming a spiritual leader; or just working hard, or becoming a criminal, to gather enough money / favours / connections to move out of the place, or stay and be a bigshot.  The story doesn't necessarily have to end there, but there will come a time when the characters have effectively beaten the zone, at least in a personal way. 
This is kind of pinging my gamist radar - are you sure this is a premise? Or is it a big ass challenge to get over (and there are various approaches to beating the challenge - like working hard, or becoming a spirutual leader, or becoming a criminal, etc. Perhaps even like how in nethack one can try and beat it as a barbarian, or a tourist...different vectors on the same problem)?

While just as premise, it doesn't seem to have any punch - at what (potential) moral cost is it to work hard? At what (potential moral) cost is it to become a spiritual leader? Or criminal? Currently it's more like choose what sort of hat you wear, based just on whatever your preference or whim happens to be.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Catelf
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2009, 08:25:46 AM »

A Comment:
Callan S., i may have misunderstood you, but a clarification may be in order anyway.
Who says it has to be at a moral cost that the Beating of the Zone comes to pass?

Andre, you say the inspiration is mixed from Trigun and Battle Angel Alita: As far as i've read those Mangas, it is more a question of remaining true to ones self (And your own morals, more or less) while doing what has to be done.
There, i think, is where parts of the "Fighting" occurs: will the characters be able to remain True to themselves? Will their morals change(or not)?
However, this is often a question of Narration while playing, rather than following the Rules.

Also, your solution on the question of Skill and such is as good as any.
            Catelf
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2009, 09:14:34 PM »

b]Callan: I'm grateful for your gamist radar; as I need to get away from my Rifts habits.

While just as premise, it doesn't seem to have any punch - at what (potential) moral cost is it to work hard? At what (potential moral) cost is it to become a spiritual leader? Or criminal? Quote from: Catelf on October 18, 2009, 08:25:46 AM
Andre, you say the inspiration is mixed from Trigun and Battle Angel Alita: As far as i've read those Mangas, it is more a question of remaining true to ones self (And your own morals, more or less) while doing what has to be done.
There, i think, is where parts of the "Fighting" occurs: will the characters be able to remain True to themselves? Will their morals change(or not)?  However, this is often a question of Narration while playing, rather than following the Rules.

Catelf:
While just as premise, it doesn't seem to have any punch - at what (potential) moral cost is it to work hard? At what (potential moral) cost is it to become a spiritual leader? Or criminal? Quote from: Catelf on October 18, 2009, 08:25:46 AM
Andre, you say the inspiration is mixed from Trigun and Battle Angel Alita: As far as i've read those Mangas, it is more a question of remaining true to ones self (And your own morals, more or less) while doing what has to be done.
There, i think, is where parts of the "Fighting" occurs: will the characters be able to remain True to themselves? Will their morals change(or not)?  However, this is often a question of Narration while playing, rather than following the Rules.

Catelf:
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2009, 12:36:30 AM »

Quote
Warrior Monk
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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2009, 01:25:37 PM »

I also vote for your skill system, classes end up being too restrictive, even when you have too many options. Now, about relating characters to each other it doesn't have to be that difficult if all share the same objective and that can be easily implemented as a mechanic: make a table with a list of objectives a Zero could have (being a notorious criminal, gain control of the city, etc etc.) and have one of the players roll on it for everybody. That would be the objective they share, every character for their individual motives but that's what got them together in the first place.

I found an old D&D random adventure generator and worked on it to adapt to the setting for my game. The fun thing is this: you can feed this generator with your setting and your players and let them affect the way organizations in your setting clash and gain advantage over each other. Then you keep tracking of the relationships between the party and these organizations and make them react accordingly. In the end you'll have less work to do as a GM and will be able to avoid most of railroading in the narration, since even the GM won't know (or need to know) where the story is going. Give it a thought, it may end being helpful, letting players decide what the game is actually about.
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Catelf
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« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2009, 11:19:11 PM »

I think that was a good idea by Warrior Monk there, but for another reason:
It enforces the Mood of the Game!
Since it is kind of Dystopian (world gone wrong, more or less), and the population within it may have very little control over their situation, it can be truly proper to let the Players Roll to determine their Objective. However, one can also let each Player roll for the Individual Goal, and then, one of them(perhaps the one with most Leader talents or such) roll for the Uniting Goal.
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2009, 06:08:45 PM »

Thanks for your help, Callan!

Warrior Monk & Catelf:  That's a good idea.  I like the idea of the players influencing the organizations and vice versa, and I did indeed hope to have player character goals drive the story, with minimal need for GM guidance (or even prep), so some random adventure generation may work.  I'm not sure if I want to do a unifying goal, though.  I suppose they need a reason to associate, if I follow traditional party-style play. 

But I've also been pondering play in which the characters don't necessarily have to be together much of the time, or even know each other, necessarily.  That way, the players could take turns playing out scenes that focus more on their individual characters, with the PC's only crossing paths occasionally.  Players whose characters aren't involved in a scene would still have influence over the story, using some as-of-yet-unknown metagame currency or some other mechanism to steer the narrative.  It might be as simple as taking on the roles of important NPC's.  Then, if the PC's do decide to join up as a team, their relationships are formed naturally over time as their separate paths cross.  The only problem is that I have almost no idea how I could make this work, although I know there are games out there that do this.  So, I've only really been pondering it.  It may require quite a lot of setup before playing out each scene.
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Judd
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« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2009, 04:11:14 AM »

My key concern:

Setting and Character types: are elaborate setting and elaborate character types appropriate for a story game?  Or should it be distilled down and more focused on situation?  In short: is this a good foundation for a story game?  Or is it too involved?

I'm also concerned about the mechanics (mainly: how detailed / involved should the mechanics be?) but I can save that for a later thread.  I don't have a lot of experience with narrativist facilitating games, but I seem to be determined to make one.  Any insight into the process would help immensely.

Thanks in advance,

Andre

Do not try to make the best Story Game you can.  Do not try to make the best indie RPG or Forge derived or whatever game you can.

Try to make the best Gangs of the Factory Zone that you can and do it in a way that doesn't leave you broke or risking more than you feel is appropriate.  Everything else is debatable.

Lush, dense setting are absolutely possible and playable.

How does the game drop the players into the setting and/or link the characters to its elements?

This reminds me of a book I need to get back to and finish, Desolation Road by Ian McDonald, about a railside town on Mars.
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Warrior Monk
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Posts: 85


« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2009, 10:10:06 AM »

But I've also been pondering play in which the characters don't necessarily have to be together much of the time, or even know each other, necessarily.  That way, the players could take turns playing out scenes that focus more on their individual characters, with the PC's only crossing paths occasionally.  Players whose characters aren't involved in a scene would still have influence over the story, using some as-of-yet-unknown metagame currency or some other mechanism to steer the narrative.  It might be as simple as taking on the roles of important NPC's.  Then, if the PC's do decide to join up as a team, their relationships are formed naturally over time as their separate paths cross.  The only problem is that I have almost no idea how I could make this work, although I know there are games out there that do this.  So, I've only really been pondering it.  It may require quite a lot of setup before playing out each scene.

A friend of mine is running a game like that, where some rules for random encounters with npcs keep players making solo scenes. It works ok with 4 players or less, but it becomes a bit boring for the rest of the players, mostly because some players tend to monopolize the time of the GM and even rules to constrain that doesn't do too much. On the other hand, players who don't participate actively in an agressive way by asking the GM all the time and keeping him busy can't get much from the game. There's even a sort of not-written rule on his game where the rest of the players can suggest narration options to the GM while another player is doing a solo scene, but it seems is not enough for keeping all players involved most of the time.

I'm not saying it's not possibble to implement a mechanic for solo scenes that keeps everybody busy, I found a nice one on "Classroom Deathmach", where each player designates a best friend and a nemesis among the players. Then after every roll he makes, his best friend narrates all positive outcomes and his nemesis narrates all the negative outcomes. I haven't played the game, so I can't tell how good it actually works. If anybody heard of an interesting mechanic that keeps everybody busy on solo scenes, please, I'd also love to know, it would do a lot of good to my pal's game.
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Catelf
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2009, 10:36:23 AM »

I agree.
I dare say, that the problem with other Players getting bored can show up even with 4 and less Players!
I suggests a kind of "Short Games", where a GM + only One Player, possibly two, of the full Group, plays out, and where the other Players do not have to be present!
After a while, the players should be aware of some Main Goal, that is enough to possibly even make them Want to "Band together".
Then, Bring the full Group together.

Only problem there, is that it risk enforcing one as the individual as the GM, which you've said you'd prefer not, or something like that.
This might still work with Rotating GM's, though, but SOMEONE must still be informed of all that has transpired in those "Short Games", in order to collect the threads, and suggest directions for further Shorties, as well as the main ones.
I think it might work: Playtesting is very important here.
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