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Author Topic: Karma Damage, meta-experience idea  (Read 6152 times)
Aelios
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« on: December 04, 2002, 02:33:32 PM »

I'm new to The Forge but have been lurking for a few days, so forgive me if something similar has been discussed before. I'm looking for creative criticism that will help me design a system for my particular setting and play goals.

While reading one of the threads on Attribute + Skill and Currency I thought of the following as a possible system for character damage and experience, as well as being both currency and providing a meta-game mechanic. Quite a lofty goal I know, but I think it could work.

Every character starts with a "pool" of 10 Karma.
Every session each player is given 1 Karma token.
When a player thinks another player has played excepionally well they present the token, which adds +1 to the (permanent) Karma pool. This is how characters gain "experience."
Karma can be used in the following ways:
-Every time a character loses an opossed action they burn/spend/use 1 Karma point (temporary); unless the result would cause physical damage, in which case the Karma pool is "damaged" 1 point (long term).
-Points can be spent permanently to raise an attribute/skill/talent.
-A point can be spent (pemanently) to give the player temporary GM powers (director stance) over the current scene.
-A point can be used (temporarily) to gain automatic success.

The Karma pool "heals" 1 damage per day/week/whatever.
The Karma pool "refreshes" temporary burn/expenditure/use every scene/day/whatever.
If the Karma pool becomes depleted the character is exausted/knocked down/swooned and all futhur actions are minimally effective. No character ever dies unless they are intentionally murdered.

This mechanic combines several ideas and seems like it would accomplish many things without being overly complex.
-Since players assign experience it encourages them to encourage each other, making the game more fun for everybody.
-There is no "death spiral"
-There is no "experience bank" that holds an essentially useless number of points. Every point means somthing and has an immediate effect on the character.
-It places no special weight on combat damage vs social "damage" (as in different point pools). (A narativist mechanic?)

It seems much more Gamist than I would prefer my games to be. (Simulationist I suppose, although I don't think I'm simulating anything as 80% of the game is ad-lib within the framework of a consistant setting: characters follow quests and fulfill goals toward some objective.)

What are the drawbacks of using something like this? When whould this mechanic be most likely to fail? How do you think a mechanic like this would shape play, player expectations, or character behavior? How could this mechanic be improved?

What, specifically, do you like about this mechanic? What kind of style would this mechanic be most appropriate for? Have you seen any system with a similar mechanic?
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Daion
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2002, 06:36:36 PM »

Id have to say that, in my opinion that is a great system, that is one reason why I plan on using (a varient of it) in my game as well. Just the one thought that ya there is a very slim chance you came up with that in your head, but I can tell you, i never could, and I am getting my version from Shadowrun™.

Though I have to agree that that systme deos work well, though I prefer the axact version from SR. But anyway, if you haventy allready... Take allook in the SR book.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2002, 07:08:44 AM »

Daion, I think what Aelios is proposing is significantly different from Shadowrun in a number of ways.

But it is hard to be sure. Aelios, you've left a few things ambiguous in your description. First, is the Karma Pool you refer to held by individual characters or the group as a whole? I think you mean individual, but I'm not sure.

Also, I assume that a player may not reward himself (giving the banana to the monkey)?

When taking an automatic success, would this be something that the player has to declare before resolution, or after. If after, then you'll never see a player take "damage" as he can instead use Karma to succeed, and this makes the loss only temporary. If the decisoin had to be made before resolution, however, then not taking an auto success means that the player is risking losing long term points. This is probably an acceptable balance, but only playtesting will tell.

Also, I assume that you are going to allow "development on the fly" ("Oh, I never mentioned that I spent four years in a Quadrium mine?")? Or is development only between sessions?

This all said, stuff like this has been done quite a bit before. The player reward mechanic is something that people have been bandying about a lot lately but I've yet to see in a published game. The idea of points that can be spent for successes, or to increase abilities is very much like Hero Points in Hero Wars.

Still, HP are not used as a resource for determining ability to continue successfully in that game, or any other aI can think of. So, yes, all this in combination seems pretty new. In any case, I'd be interested to see how it plays.

BTW, the idea of having only one resolution system is very cool, IMO, but not Narrativist particularly. In fact, the system as a whole is only Narrativist in the sense that it will probably not "get in the way" of players addressing Narrativist Premises, and in that it does not seem particularly Simulationist, or Gamist. Until we see it in the context of a whole game, I think that such an assessment will be difficult. Do you have a game in mind for the mechanic?

Mike
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Aelios
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2002, 08:09:38 AM »

I've been toying with different systems for a long time in an attempt to find one that fits my style of play. Reading articles on The Forge has helped me tremendously in that effort. The game it is designed for is here: http://www.wyrdtech.com/asmythe/index.html (In need of major updates.)
It is a not written to conform to a particular G/N/S, but it will always be simulationist to me; and you would be hard pressed to turn it into anything remotely gamist. I guess I'm looking to give players the freedom to narate a story in a simulationist world. Shadowrun was an influence, but not an especially strong one, Sorcerer, ArsMagica, and Orcworld also need credit.

The idea is to have individual Karma for each player, players may not reward themselves, and to allow development-on-the-fly. The success/HP problem occured to me after I posted and I eventually decided to drop the success conversion altogeather. Directorial power is much more fun. After much more deliberating on how to "balance" Karma I came up with the following:
(Aptitudes are like skills, but more open-ended.)
--
Karma can be used, spent, or damaged. Used Karma refreshes every scene, Damaged Karma heals 1 point every day, Spent Karma is gone forever.

    * Every point of mental trauma uses 1 point.
    * Every point of physical trauma does 1 damage.
    * Using 3 points gives the player the power to direct part of the current scene.
    * Spending 3 points raises an aptitude by +1
    * Spending 15 points raises an attribute by 1.
* Each Karma Token recieved adds +1 to Karma.

Points of trauma are gained as a result of being on the losing side of an agressive contested task. Each success by which you lost the contested task is a point of trauma. If the Karma pool gets depleted (the sum of used Karma and Karma damage equals or exceeds total Karma) the character is KOed. While KOed the character is very weak and every task attempted has a minimal effect, as if no successes were rolled. Magical healing can turn Karma damage into used Karma but can never refresh the Karma pool. No character ever dies from Karma loss, characters only die if they are deliberately and intentionaly murdered.

By using three points of Karma the player may take a few moments to describe to the rest of the group something that happens during that scene. This should always be something creative and inspirational. Using this power to give the big bad monster a heart-attack is niether creative or fun; using this power to describe how a tittering bird nearby brings back an oponents childhood memories of his sister, causing him to pause and giving the character an opening to strike, is a good use of directorial power.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2002, 08:44:56 AM »

Why make mental damage subordinate to physical by making it less permenant. Why not just have differing kinds of both? So there would be sorts of both Physical and Mental damages that would use, damage, or remove karma permenantly. Lot's of ways to determine which is which. For example, you could use a stakes system where the player gets to decide what sort of stakes are being played for. In a "Use" stakes conflict, the results on both sides would only last until refreshed (barfight). In a "Damage" stakes conflict either said could lose karma until healed (political campaign). Permenant stakes would be only for the most important conflicts (climactic game ending battle with the Bad Guy TM).

Just one idea. Lot's of other ways to handle it, including GM fiat (one case where I'd actually accept fiat). Anyhow, something to consider.

Mike
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Aelios
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2002, 09:04:52 AM »

Thank you Mike, that's an idea definitly worth considering.
Previously I had reasoned that the mind is much more adaptable than the body, thus it recovers faster. And I'm not sure how mental damage should be adjucated. But there is no reason why mental/physical use/damage/expenditure can't run with full variation as long as everybody is clear what's at stake.
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Daion
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...
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2002, 09:21:17 PM »

Well I never meant to be an ass or anything, just I really dont like ppl stealing things... I re-read your idea, and there are a good many differences. My apologies if I offended you.
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Andrew Martin
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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2002, 11:05:16 PM »

Welcome to The Forge, Daion and Aelios!
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Andrew Martin
Ziriel
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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2002, 03:18:36 AM »

Quote from: Andrew Martin
Welcome to The Forge, Daion and Aelios!


Hey Andrew, you beat me to it. ;)

I had a quick question...

Quote from: Aelios
If the Karma pool gets depleted (the sum of used Karma and Karma damage equals or exceeds total Karma) the character is KOed. While KOed the character is very weak and every task attempted has a minimal effect, as if no successes were rolled. Magical healing can turn Karma damage into used Karma but can never refresh the Karma pool. No character ever dies from Karma loss, characters only die if they are deliberately and intentionaly murdered.


When you say a character only dies if they are intentionally murdered I was wondering what would qualify in your mind?  If the arch villian attempts to assassinate them does that qualify?  Or were you thinking that this decision would be one that the player made, for example, sacrificing his character in order to achieve some grand goal?

Overall you have some interesting ideas.  Keep it up.
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- Ziriel

Personal Rule #32:   13 people can keep a secret  if 12 of them are dead.
Aelios
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« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2002, 07:30:23 AM »

The "intentionally and deliberatly murdered" thing is to rule out accidental death or death from insults. All that would be needed to kill somebody is for a chararter (PC or NPC) to *want* to kill them. Assassinations are definitly intentional.

No offence taken Daion, thank you for your comment.

I also wanted the Karma reward to be more about playing the game than playing the character. I've run some games where one player will abuse the game for his own amusement. He was there the first time I tested the Karma Token idea (below). Interestingly most of the other player told me after the game that they would have given him their token if he wasn't such a butt head; while he told me that the Karma Token was not an appropriate way to award experience.

--
At the begining of each session each player has a Karma Token; at any time before the next session a player may give their token to any other player when they believe that other player has done something to deserve the honor. Some examples of things that may deserve a Karma Token could be: playing exceptionally well, saving the party of characters from certain death, solving a puzzle or advancing  the game's plot, or even things like buying the pizza, making an especially funny remark, or anything else that makes the game more fun for everybody. The Karma Token permanently increases the Karma of the person it was rewarded to.
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