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[Ashen] Card Mechanics - any authorities in the house?

Started by Garbanzo, September 22, 2003, 06:17:31 PM

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I just posted a first draft of Ashen with downloads available from this site, and maybe by direct link.  A previous thread discusses the basic thrust of things and, therefore, how the race/ culture mechanics play out.
This one is to talk about the cards, which Ashen uses instead of dice.

Mechanics summary:
There are six attributes: Social, Mental, Physical and Flow, Focus, and Balance.  
An action might use [Social, Flow] or [Mental, Balance], but never [Flow] alone, or [Flow, Balance] - always one from Column A plus one from Column B.
The cards have eight suits: the six attributes plus Wild and Ethos.  Wild can be read as any attribute, and Ethos is always read as one attribute, the nature of which is dependent on your character's culture.
If the card you play doesn't match one of the two attributes used, it's only worth 1, not it's face value.
(Plus skills and possessions.)

The cards interact with the attributes to nudge players into culturally sanctioned behaviors.  Here's a big chart of odds (crossing fingers that this displays ok). . .

           A   B    C   D
  1       62  50   62  50
  2        6   7   68  57
  3       10  13   78  70
  4       11  15   89  85
  5        7  10   96  95
  6        3   3   99  98
  7        0   1   99  99
  8        1   1  100 100

For a given action (let's say, picking a pocket, with [Physical, Flow].
Column A = the percentage of the deck which acts as this value for one of the two attributes involved, when the Ethos suit does not apply.  
Column B = the percentage when the Ethos suit does support - when, for my culture, Ethos acts as [Flow], or as [Physical].  
Column C = the percentage to have this number or less, without Ethos suit.  
Column D = the percentage for this number or less, with the Ethos suit.

For context, attributes -2 to +2 are common, -4 or +4 is pretty rare.  Skills range from 1-4.  Seven cards in a hand, which refresh when the last one is played.  So with two attributes of +1 and +2, with a skill of 3, this is a competent PC operating within his or her niche.  This base of "5" then gets a card, with the odds above.  Whereas a pretty bad scenario might be attributes of 0 and -2, with no skills, adding a card.  Someone can get lucky, but appropriate cards probably add 2-5 points.  So the unskilled guy at -2 vs. the journeyman at +5 is praying for a miracle, but a difference of a couple of points is tough but surmountable.
And, clearly, when the stakes are high, you want to be operating in an Ethos-supported fashion.

There's a certain amount of player-control which isn't reflected in the odds.  The percents are for a given pairing ([Physical, Flow], in the example above).  If I see that I have terrible cards for that, I'm perfectly free to do something else, maybe something [Social, Flow], or [Physical, Focus], or whatever. I'm expecting that players won't really feel screwed under most circumstances.    

Question One:
I've never played in a cards-bases game, although I own CFalkenstein, Everway, and, recently, the Dragonlance SAGA rules (thanks, Raven!).

It seems to be the case that cards-games, as a rule, use constant-refresh systems: play one card and immediately draw a replacement.  Ashen currently has refresh only after the last card is played.  The intention is to occasionally get characters in sticky situations.  
I want the players to feel a certain amount of pressure to use their less-favored cards (a low Social card for the mighty warrior, frex) before they're stuck with them in a truly dire situation.  So characters will therefore be doing more than swinging that damn axe every turn.

Is this possibly deprotagonizing, by increasingly narrowing a player's reasonable choices?  My gut says no, because a character isn't restricted to [Physical, Focus] to swing that axe.  They could use [Flow] or [Balance] and still be driving on the same street, as it were.
But all the examples I see work differently, allowing for more choice all along. I'm looking for opinions, big-time.  Anyone out there with extensive (or piddling) familiarity with card-based RPGs?  I'm driving without headlights over here.

Question Two:
I like the way these odds play out, but I can empathize with those who are seeing the ass-pain involved with a unique deck.
Can any of you Forge geniuses see a equivalent diced/ Tarot/ whatever system that would more or less meet the same aims?

Question Three:
And, pure poll question, how much of a negative would it be if a deck of cards came as a PDF?