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HOF: an idea for a game (long)

Started by James V. West, January 06, 2002, 11:59:16 PM

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James V. West

This is an idea I’m working on (and I apologize for the length and the typos in advance):

Hof- a game of swords, devils, and family.

In a nutshell: Players are Kinfolk in a savage fantasyland just crawling from the ruins of a past era. Blood is final, and honor lies in keeping the family together. But the world is full of wickedness and wonder and it’s getting harder by the day just to stay alive and keep to the right path.

All PCs are Kinfolk--either siblings or cousins. The Family is part of a Clan, and there are many Clans in Hof.

PCs have Vices which are really bad and/or disturbing things they are drawn to and that, if not kept in check, would cause serious trouble for them and the Family. A Vice is something that the player really does not want her character to do or to be involved in (one possibility is that Vices are not determined by the player of the PC in question, but by other players--possibly even kept secret from them). The game puts players in situations where they must deal with one another’s problems as well as defend the Family and Clan against rivals.

The Hof setting is somewhat whimsical, having a good dose of “backwoods” flavor to it. Its a pastoral-type land, and PCs would likely be involved in a farming community of some kind, or perhaps raising animals. There are a lot of very detailed elements in the setting, including a couple of fully-functional dialects and languages (based on English roots) and some science-like magic. The map would be fairly detailed as well, but would have plenty of room for additions.

The central theme of the setting is that it is rising from the ashes of destruction and no one knows what happened for certain. Rumors range from Clan wars to god wars. The one sure truth is that Hof’s gods are scattered and uncaring while the wicked things from Hek (the underworld) seem to be having a field day in the world of men.

What I’m mostly concerned with is nailing the idea of family ties. I want players to really care about the other PCs and the whole Family. In the chargen process, players have to co-operate in defining their relationships, and I’m toying with the idea that they also get to design their Family’s lands. But I think it might work better if the Elders of the Family were already a given (created by the GM, or taken from those provided in the game).

The mechanics, although far from fully developed, go along these lines:

There is only one game stat and its called Strength (or perhaps Blood, I’m not sure yet). Its a range from 1-20, higher is better. It can fluctuate during play up and down, although not by more than a point or two at a time. Its a measure of life, skill, luck, passion, presence, and virtually everything that’s important.

Task res is based on rolling 1d20 vs a target number. But, the target number is named by the player instead of the GM. A player can name a tn (Challenge) of 3 if they want. And if they roll a 3 or more, it is a good roll. This is regardless of what they are trying to do.

The catch is that the game functions on something tentatively called Effects (I’ll say FX for short, for now). If you win a roll, you have to use an fx to get anything out of it. Fx cost points called Goods. The Goods you earn for a roll are equal to the Challenge. Therefore, the higher you set the Challenge, the more Goods you earn. And the cooler or more useful an fx, the more Goods it costs. So a measley little 3 Goods might let you sneeze at an opponent in an inappropriate manner, but the wicked stuff like maiming requires much more.

Likewise, on a bad roll, you get Bads. The number you get is equal to 20 minus the Challenge. Thus, if you did happen to fail on that Challenge of 3 you’d get hit with 17 Bads--and that would be...bad.

The GM has a pool of points at his disposal (we'll call it GMP for now). These are a tangible and limited number of points he can use to bascially screw with players, or help them. If he wants to make your die roll higher or lower, he can. If he wants to make an fx cost more, he can. If he wants to toss some bad stuff your way he can.

You have to use your Goods or Bads as soon as you earn them. The game will feature lists of fx grouped by style or purpose. Characters must actually “buy” these groups to use them properly. In this way, you could have a PC with “Stylish Horsemanship” fx at his disposal. With enough Goods he could invoke fx like “Cleared It By A Mile” to leap an obstacle while on the run, or “Easy There Girl” to cool down a hot-tempered steed.

Another class of fx are “meta” fx that do things that just don’t have anything to do with what’s actually happening in the game. Like improving your Strength rating, or getting a little bit of author or director control (not unlike a MoV). When you do this, you forfeit your hit (good die roll) and let the GM fully narrate the conflict/encounter.

Meta fx also let you improve at using fx of your choice. You essentially buy them as special skills and the cost to use them drops by one each time you make an improvement on it. In this way, you can use “Puddy in my Hands” to make men (or women) do what you want--and it will cost you less than normal.

The idea of fx is that they have very specific rules and effects in the game, but the exact aesthetic details are left up to the player to dictate (a requirement for using them).

Bads are handled much the same way. You spend them on negative effects (possibly called “Defects”). This way you get to choose your own fate, so to speak.

Die rolls are always made my players. NPCs can have Strength ratings (important to determine resistance to certain fx), but the die roll always comes from the player’s hand even if he’s the one being attacked or swindled or whatever.

There are some other rules, such as how to determine death and how to handle Vices (although that one is sketchy at best).

What I like about the system is that it puts a lot of control in the hands of the players but maintains the randomness I love. Adventures in this game should feel like a family sitcom except darker, often much more sinister, and with all the fantasy elements at play. Imagine Family Ties meets The Waltons all done in the imaginary landscapes of Frank Frazetta.

Obviously the fx element is going to require a lot of work. If everything is based on fx, then there needs to be a wide enough range of them to satisfy all needs. Of course, fx can be invented by players. They just need to work out the details and let the GM determine its cost to use.

I think of fx in two ways: 1) its like you’re casting a spell ala the old school spell lists, only you do it for every action in the game and 2) its like getting a Monologue of Victory with explicit rules and limitations.

Any comments are desired and welcomed, but specifically I’m looking for the following:

1. Are there any obvious and glaring problems I'm not seeing?
2. What are the pros and cons of the family ties premise, especially since all the PCs are going to be close relation?
3. Does the name-your-own-difficulty approach coupled with the fx concept sound workable?

hardcoremoose

James,

Weren't we just talking about how we seem to be on the same wavelength?  Well, when I first heard about HOF I compared it to WYRD - the use of FX to buy effects reminded me of the way I used player currency in that game.  But now I see a different, and closer, parallel.  Check this out, 'cause it's weird...

The one game I have that's not entirely up on my website is Appalachia Now (ironically, AN is the most popular of my games among my friends).  AN is a game about backwoods clans of hillbillies who just happen to be the only survivors of global alien conquest.  The experience point mechanic for AN works almost identical to what you describe for your resolution mechanic: players name their own target number and roll 1d20 (adding in bonuses for stuff they did during the game); if they beat said target number, they get that many experience points!  

It works pretty well actually, but I had never considered using it the basis for a whole system.  Very cool!

- Moose

Zak Arntson

Quote from: James V. West
There is only one game stat and its called Strength (or perhaps Blood, I'm not sure yet). Its a range from 1-20, higher is better. It can fluctuate during play up and down, although not by more than a point or two at a time. Its a measure of life, skill, luck, passion, presence, and virtually everything that's important.

I think Blood or Bloodline is perfect.  Though I'm wondering why you want the granularity of a d20.  I would think that a smaller die would make things easier for math-impaired players. That way I don't get overwhelmed by rolling the die, having to calculate 17 Goods and divvying them up.  I'd suggest a d10 or even some d6-related system. And give each Good or Bad more oomph behind it.

Quote from: James V. West
You have to use your Goods or Bads as soon as you earn them. The game will feature lists of fx grouped by style or purpose.

The idea of fx is that they have very specific rules and effects in the game, but the exact aesthetic details are left up to the player to dictate (a requirement for using them).

A pregenerated skill list?  (cringe :)  Unless the skill list is more like "suggested skills." You will have to make sure that the players can be sure how one Good translates to fx, and somehow make it fair across the board.

I do dig this idea of fx. I've toyed with this kind of concept in a few of my own games (see the Practical Fantasy one at my http://www.livejournal.com/users/zaka).  But with mine it's usually a die pool w/ one success = one fx (in your game's lingo :)

Quote from: James V. West
1. Are there any obvious and glaring problems I'm not seeing?
2. What are the pros and cons of the family ties premise, especially since all the PCs are going to be close relation?
3. Does the name-your-own-difficulty approach coupled with the fx concept sound workable?

1. Other than my gripe about the big die causing too much math (I'm a big fan of no subtraction and very little addition in a system).
2. I really like the family ties. I think you should go the route of the player group making the entire Clan/community group. That way they will feel very close to the group, causing a tight interest. And with simple enough character creation you can have the players play different PCs each session, all based around the clan.
3. YES YES YES!!!  I think players should be given far more creative control. I'm very against the traditional "GM lords over all but the PCs" Actor Stance that seems to be the norm. I think it will really engage the players by making them consider how much effort they should put into something.

Paganini

James, I really like the idea! The setting doesn't exactly grab me, but that's just me. And some of it is really funny. Like Hek. :)

I would suggest NOT going with a single stat, rather, I'd have multiple stats sort of like in Dragon Fist that determine what FX you get to use. Frex, you might have a MIGHT stat that would allow you to do might based things. ("Yo, hot lips, watch me bench press this cow!")

If you do decide that it's imperative to your vision that you use only a single stat, I'd go with the name Potentcy. It gives the idea that you're rating your character's overal level of impact and skill, without giving any specific information about what abilities or skills your character is good / bad at. Plus, if you think about it a different way, Potentcy is great for a red neck sort of game. :)

joe_llama

Hi James,

You have pretty darn good ideas, I tell ya! :)  

1. Are there any obvious and glaring problems I'm not seeing?

There is only one game stat and its called Strength (or perhaps Blood, I'm not sure yet). Its a range from 1-20, higher is better. It can fluctuate during play up and down, although not by more than a point or two at a time. Its a measure of life, skill, luck, passion, presence, and virtually everything that's important.

The Strength (Blood) stat looks good, but how does it work? What does it do?

The GM has a pool of points at his disposal (we'll call it GMP for now). These are a tangible and limited number of points he can use to bascially screw with players, or help them.

Doesn't this contradict the basic feel of players actually having control over the game? I believe there would have to be restrictions on how much GMP the GM receives.

Characters must actually "buy" these groups to use them properly.

How do they "buy" these groups? Is there a second pool of character points or does it all come from Goods and Bads?  

You have to use your Goods or Bads as soon as you earn them.

This is something I find a bit hard to handle.

Let's say I want to boil an egg - if I call high challenge and succeed, what kind of spectecular result could come out of it?

Let's say I want to snap my fingers - if I call low challenge and fail, what kind of catastrophic event will follow? (perhaps my bones will snap? ouch!)

Suppose we even find the results above acceptable, they would happen again and again, being rediculous at first but eventually will just be annoying. (Perfectly boiled eggs and recurring bone fractures is my idea of a 'bad day')

Perhaps the Goods and Bads are cumulative and can be used whenever the player wants to. This obviously raises more problems that require attention. Currently I have no answers to such problems but if this road will be followed, I promise to give it further thought.
   
The game will feature lists of fx grouped by style or purpose.

I have to agree with Zak on this one. Is a skill/fx list really necessery? It will certainly increase 'search time' in the game (and the size of the rulebook).

I would use a 'generic' scale instead (e.g. 'simple' fx cost around 4 Goods, 'spectecular' fx cost no less than 15 Goods) - it brings down search time and increases freedom of interpetation.  

An alternative solution is your solution:

Of course, fx can be invented by players. They just need to work out the details and let the GM determine its cost to use.

This would effectively make them 'descriptors', am I right?

Another class of fx are "meta"fx that do things that just don't have anything to do with what's actually happening in the game. When you do this, you forfeit your hit (good die roll) and let the GM fully narrate the conflict/encounter.

Bear in mind that such fx allow players to enslave a GM into doing all the work. Again, this calls for some restriction.

Die rolls are always made by players.

I like this one very much. As a GM, I haven't rolled a gaming die in two years. Dice are like gambling - look but don't touch.

James, I'm just brainstorming here, no harm intended. I hope any of this helps.


2. What are the pros and cons of the family ties premise, especially since all the PCs are going to be close relation?

Family ties are great for 'troupe-style' games. As far as I can remember, all my troupe-style characters were connected to fellow chracters in one of the following ways:

1. Family/location ties (same blood/clan/homeland/etc.)
2. Same patron/boss/employer
3. Similar goals/destinations
4. Shared emergency/disaster

Of course, all relations above overlap somewhere, but these can be easily seperated.

Generally, if your game is 'troupe-style', there's nothing better than family to emphasize it.

3. Does the name-your-own-difficulty approach coupled with the fx concept sound workable?

Yeah, it's great, I love it! Needs polishing a few gray spots, that's all.

With respect,

Joe Llama

Paganini

Quote from: joe_llama
You have to use your Goods or Bads as soon as you earn them.

This is something I find a bit hard to handle.

Let's say I want to boil an egg - if I call high challenge and succeed, what kind of spectecular result could come out of it?

"You watch the egg as it rolls around in the boiling water. Something strange seems to be happening... before your eyes the white outer membrane shears away revealing [roll roll] HOLY COW! IT'S SOLID GOLD!"

Skippy

First the compliment: overall, I really like the simplicity and control.  I'm working out issues myself with player-defined (actually negotiated) difficulties.

One thing that jumped out at me: If I choose a 20 difficulty, and succeed, whoa Nellie!, right?  If I choose a 20 difficulty and fail, I get zero bads? (20-20=0)  Homer voice: Whoo-hoo! I can't lose!

Hasta,

Skippy
____________________________________
Scott Heyden

"If I could orally gratify myself, you'd have to roll me to work."

James V. West

Hey, thanks for all the replies! There's a lot to chew on here.

Moose: I have heard of your game AN but I've never actually read it. I knew it was about hillbillies and I want to play it sometime! Them's my peeps!!

Zak's words:

"I think Blood or Bloodline is perfect."

Yeah, I'm leaning this way. Probably just Blood.

"Though I'm wondering why you want the granularity of a d20...I'd suggest a d10 or even some d6-related system. And give each Good or Bad more oomph behind it."

This system has been growing and changing for quite awhile now and the original impetus to make it was that I wanted to use a d20. I just like em. Plus, I get a bit more range for the fx with a 20 scale. I never liked d10s for some strange reason. However, you're suggestion is duly noted and being meticulously considered.

"A pregenerated skill list? (cringe :) Unless the skill list is more like "suggested skills." You will have to make sure that the players can be sure how one Good translates to fx, and somehow make it fair across the board."

I also cringe at skill lists. I don't think of fx as skills since many of them I've written are basically just cool-sounding stuff to make happen. However, this is something to think about. My original concept of the system (which was going to be heavily gamist) and the current concept of the entire game may have some rough edges that need meeting up. In other words, nothing's final yet and I haven't come close to working out the logistic of taking the "fx lists" route.

"I think you should go the route of the player group making the entire Clan/community group. That way they will feel very close to the group, causing a tight interest. And with simple enough character creation you can have the players play different PCs each session, all based around the clan."

These are great ideas and I'll consider them for sure. But they do clash with my intent. I want to make a classic "I am my character" game, but I want to get some serious player emotional investment in there. Hence, the family ties premise.

My only concern with letting the players invent the entire family or clan is that, from my experience, I find it more fullfilling if I feel like I'm part of something bigger than what I invented. Of course, with a group doing the inventing, you'd get much of that feeling.

Does anyone else have some insight about this? Should NPCs such as fathers and mothers be created by the GM or come from the game itself? I feel like this would lend them more credibility.

Paganini's words:

"The setting doesn't exactly grab me, but that's just me. And some of it is really funny. Like Hek. :)"

Thanks. I see the game as being humorous in a lot of ways. Weird creatures, weird magic, weird family stuff..but all of that is a backdrop for the drama of the whole family thing.

"I would suggest NOT going with a single stat, rather, I'd have multiple stats sort of like in Dragon Fist that determine what FX you get to use. Frex, you might have a MIGHT stat that would allow you to do might based things. ("Yo, hot lips, watch me bench press this cow!")"

Multiple stats is something I really want to avoid. One score is all the game needs, at this point. The reason I want to go this route is that stats like "might" are too narrow for my tastes. Strength (or Potency, Blood, Virility, or whatever) is not just skill, not just power, not just experience, but also importance. It really points to the character from outside, not inside. Does that make sense? Because it fluctuates, a pc can have a low score like 4 and still be a badass. It just means he's less important to Hof and is more likely to meet his maker (one of the primary uses of this one stat is to make "resistance" rolls against such nasty things as death--I hope that answers joe llama's question about Blood).

Answers to some of joe llama's points:

- The GM has a limited number of points per gaming session. He can use them to help, hinder, or otherwise mess with pcs. He does have some big powers in this way such as being able to alter dice results, increase fx costs, and so on and so forth. The balancing factor is that he is limited and each use costs him. This idea is very, very rough as I haven't begun to draft the rules for it yet.

- PCs buy fx groups (and please remember that the terminology is merely utilitarian at the moment--it'll change most likely) at char gen by spending off their initial Blood score. Then, they can add new ones by using the Meta fx I mentioned during play.

- Goods and Bads must be used immediately because I don't like the idea of cumulative points. Plus it lends more weight to the Challenge.

You'd never make a die roll to boil an egg or snap your fingers, unless there was some really important reason why. So die rolls would only come in times of conflict or possibly in times when a player wanted to invoke a meta fx like increasing Blood or something.

However, there is a rule in the notes about having "Stored Goods". This can happen if you don't use all your Goods. Say you get 15, and you use an fx that costs 12. You'd have 3 Stored goods. The idea is that you'd get 3 pennies or some other token from the GM and you could use them to make rolls for other meta fx. This is a very rough idea right now.

- FX lists. This is one of the central ideas behind the system. I conceived it because I wanted a more "gamist" approach to something akin to MoVs from The Pool. Yes, it would increase search time. That is the truth and its something I have to ponder.

But I like the idea so much, I'm willing to sacrifice a little bit of speed to try and keep it. However, in the end, if it seems too clunky, I'll try another approach.

- Troupe-style play. I like it too. There are many ways to get players to have characters in the same story, but family seems like one of the most direct ones. Plus I just like the idea of a group of gamers being confronted with feelings like "Hey, that's my sister!!". Seems like a rich bank for dramatic gaming.

Another Paganini interjection:

"You watch the egg as it rolls around in the boiling water. Something strange seems to be happening... before your eyes the white outer membrane shears away revealing [roll roll] HOLY COW! IT'S SOLID GOLD!"

Yeah, right! This is actually right on the money for the feel of the game. Whimsical one moment, then dark, then dramatic. Adventures would center around familiy issues, but those issues would stem from and be framed by really warped, weird shit.

Skippy's Wisdom:

"One thing that jumped out at me: If I choose a 20 difficulty, and succeed, whoa Nellie!, right? If I choose a 20 difficulty and fail, I get zero bads? (20-20=0) Homer voice: Whoo-hoo! I can't lose!"

You know what? I had not thought of that. Damnit, you're right! But there's an easy solution. I could range Challenges from 2-19 since 1s are always bad and 20s are always good anyway (yes, that's pretty much why I like d20s). Plus, even if you name a 20 CHallenge and fail, you still fail. Even if there aren't any Bads laid on you, you still didn't do something right. Bads are meant to be boosts to failures or additional extra crappy stuff that happens (like your best dog Puk dies or something).

Geez, there's a lot to think about here. Let me chew on this stuff. Thanks so much for the help.

Please keep the hammers on the dog!

Zak Arntson

Instead of a laundry list of skills ... I can see each skill being described in its metagame terms.

So like, James has all the costs for the metagame fx worked out.  But if you buy something like "Automatic 2 fx if successful," you as the Player has to give it better definition.  YOu would write it on your char sheet like:

* Beer Belly - When drinking - Automatic 2 fx if successful"

The first two parts are player-invented (so no skill lists), but the last metagame part is from the game.

James V. West

Ok.

That was a great idea, Zak. I do like it, but it still undermines my ultimate desire: to have laundry lists of fx.

But let me look at this again.

In truth, what these proposed lists would actually be are suggestions for fx (as someone might have already pointed out). Players could use them as guidlines for creating their own.

But taking this in a slightly different direction, I could go this route:

Fx are special things characters can do. Not necessarily magical (although they certainly can be), but just unique. Kind of like the way your old girlfriend had that knack for guessing what kind of shirt you had on over the phone line or your uncanny good luck with vending machines. Not a skill, per se, but a knack.

Of course, this would also completely alter the primary means of getting stuff done in the game by rendering fx as special occasions instead of the norm. Worth a thought.

Paganini

Quote from: James V. West
Multiple stats is something I really want to avoid. One score is all the game needs, at this point. The reason I want to go this route is that stats like "might" are too narrow for my tastes. Strength (or Potency, Blood, Virility, or whatever) is not just skill, not just power, not just experience, but also importance. It really points to the character from outside, not inside. Does that make sense? Because it fluctuates, a pc can have a low score like 4 and still be a badass. It just means he's less important to Hof and is more likely to meet his maker (one of the primary uses of this one stat is to make "resistance" rolls against such nasty things as death--I hope that answers joe llama's question about Blood).

Sure, I get it. It's like a hero rating only sort of in reverse. It's a redneck rating! The more you have, the more important you are to the game.

You could call it "Beer."

:)

Quote
Yeah, right! This is actually right on the money for the feel of the game. Whimsical one moment, then dark, then dramatic. Adventures would center around familiy issues, but those issues would stem from and be framed by really warped, weird shit.

:)

Quote
Skippy's Wisdom:

Quote
"One thing that jumped out at me: If I choose a 20 difficulty, and succeed, whoa Nellie!, right? If I choose a 20 difficulty and fail, I get zero bads? (20-20=0) Homer voice: Whoo-hoo! I can't lose!"

You know what? I had not thought of that. Damnit, you're right! But there's an easy solution. I could range Challenges from 2-19 since 1s are always bad and 20s are always good anyway (yes, that's pretty much why I like d20s). Plus, even if you name a 20 CHallenge and fail, you still fail. Even if there aren't any Bads laid on you, you still didn't do something right. Bads are meant to be boosts to failures or additional extra crappy stuff that happens (like your best dog Puk dies or something).

You know, there's a really easy way to fix this, if you want to. Just subtract from 21, rather than 20.

However, I'm not sure that this basic mechanic isn't flawed. The higher you set your target number, the more likely you are to succeed, but the less risk you're actually taking. It seems to me that as the potential returns go up, you should be laying more on the line. That is, if you're going to be getting scads of Goods if you win, you should be risking scads of bads. (Wow! I'm rhyming!) Maybe you should do it like this: Have the player state the amount of risk that he wants to take by stating his target number. If he rolls greater than the target number, he gets goods. If he rolls the target number or less, he gets bads. That way, low target numbers will be easy to succeed at, but you won't get very many goods, while high target numbers will be difficult to succeed at, and you'll get lots of bads if you fail. It also means that it's impossible to succeed with a target number of 20.

Frex, if I choose a target number of three and fail, then I only take three bads. But if I choose a target number of 15 and succeed, then I get 15 goods!

The only thing is, anyway you do this, this game will be a nightmare to run with anyone who has even the slightest bit of munchkin tendancies. The probabilities are so easy to figure people will be doing breakpoints in their head. That is, when does the chance of getting bads outweigh the benefit of possible extra goods?

James V. West

Hey

Actually, if you set a high Challenge, your chance of success is lower because you want to roll it or above. So a 17 Challenge would be tougher to get than a 10. You would get 17 Goods for success, or 3 Bads for failure.

Aiming low means a better chance of getting a success, but with few Goods to use for effect so it would be a kind of bland success. It also means if you do fail, you get a buttload of Bads.

One little random element I want to include to kind of make this whole Challenge thing a little more "challenging" is one of the GM's tools that is tentatively called a Reverse (like in Uno :-)). If the Gm has the points to do it (and I don't know what that would be just yet), he can Reverse your Challenge. So if you wuss out with a 3, he can instantly make it a 17 (Reversing it would mean subtracting it from 20). Likewise, he could turn your valiant 17 into a wussy 3. BUT, maybe the Goods and Bads would NOT be reversed, so if he made your 3 a 17 and you failed, you'd still get 17 Bads.

I want the system to have that kind of playfullness to it. Despite the fact that earlier I made the game sound more narrativist than gamist, I'm going for a pleasant blend.

Here's a new take on the idea of effects, which, for now, I'm calling Actions and Familiars (take all these terms with a grain or three of salt). I also go into a bit about Floating Goods:

The various things you can do in the game are broken into a list of Action Groups. These are ultra-simple things like Fight, Swindle, Resist, and Spellbind. You choose one as your primary Action Group. Each Action within the Group has a set cost of Goods to use it--but it costs less for your primary Group. You can use any of the Actions unless some pre-defined reason would prevent it.

You get to add “Sub-Actions” to the Group for your character. These are your Familiars--things that are unique to your character. You write their description and define their specific effects and the GM sets the initial cost. For example, you could have “Quick Tongue” as a Familiar for your Swindle Actions. You define it as a fast talking Action that basically confuses your target into agreeing with you. He gets swindled. The drawback is that he will realize the trick after only a few moments, giving you no time for a proper exit. If the standard Swindle Action gives you time to get away without raising suspicion and costs 10 Goods, the GM decides your Familiar is only going to cost 5.

Now, say you are swindling someone out of a valuable trinket. You name a Challenge of 10 stating that you are going to Swindle. You roll 1d20 and get (lo and behold) a 10. (now here is where the idea of Floating Goods comes in) You decide to use the cheaper Familiar “Quick Tongue”. That costs 5 Goods, leaving you with 5 more (since the Challenge was 5). You narrate/describe/act the swindle with surprising finesse and the trinket is in your hands.

But, as per your own description of the Familiar, the victim realizes the scam as soon as the item leaves his palm. You could be in big trouble. But you have 5 Floating Goods. You say “I use a Good to cause a minor distraction to buy some time.”. The GM agrees. You say “A bird shits on his head. A red feathered wonker.”. (laughs around the table).

And then you do something cool with the item, possibly using your remaining Floating Goods, etc. and all that.

This came to me tonight after literally pacing for an hour thinking about this game. I love this stuff.

This approach makes characters somewhat simple in what they can do, yet also provides a lot of room for customizing. It effectively cuts the problematic "laundry list" of skills down to a manageable and streamlined series of basic Actions easily memorized or recorded on a sheet plus it keeps the coolest part: making your own junk up.

Anyway, the game is supposed to be simple. A little funny, a little darkish and twisted. How the family element works in is still in the air. I know that all PCs must be related to one another, and I know that it ties in strongly with the setting to have a close-knit family. Other than that, I’m still pondering it.

Garbanzo

James-

Loving all the hickdom stuff (spent my formative years in KY myself), but as for the mechanics, I'm only with you 50%.  

Name your own difficulty: great.
Pages of pseudo-exhaustive fx lists: I dunno.  

Most importantly, by browsing our latest hip games, we quickly see that lists are passe (gasp!).  But also it seems cumbersome.  And it doesn't feel workable.  Lists aren't going to be able to cover the craziness that happens in a game session, which means they're just going to be ballparks.  And I'm not sure a list of 15 fx for each skill will serve to grant player control or directorship.  
What part of the fx lists most appeals to you?  Just the pure retro feel of it?  In which case they could be kept as flavor - in the skill description, purely as examples.

If they're just ballparks, why not make a single list (One List to Rule Them...) with adjectives/ examples/ whatever as benchmarks, and let the players go from there - forcing players to give you crazy on-the-spot descriptions straight out of their head/ass.  


The name-your-own difficulty is only exciting as connected to the gambling.  Otherwise, it feels the same as [insert system] - try something tough, you've going to get a higher difficulty number.  


The innovation seems to be the gambling mechanic for the gaining and losing of Stuff.  Deciding whether to try for 16 goods or to wuss out and roll for 6.  This part can be wholly speperate from nailing down the fx.

Instead of
Player Bob:  "Ok, I'll shoot the trailer hitch so it rolls free - [flipping to "Huntin'" table] this is a difficulty of 15."  And rolls.

howzabout
Player Bob: "Damn, this is gonna be tricky.  I'm in the hole here - I'm rolling for 15 goods." [rolls] "Ok, now I've got 18.  I shoot the tongue so the trailer rolls free.  How much does that cost me?"

and possibly
Evil GM: "You're short by 4 goods.  You wanna take the miss, or want me to keep these as floating Bads to shower unmercifully upon you at a later date?"

This explicit commodification of die pips feels pretty interesting to me.  New, fast, fresh, crazy.  Love it.

-Matt

James V. West

"Loving all the hickdom stuff (spent my formative years in KY myself)"

Coolness. What part?

"Name your own difficulty: great.
Pages of pseudo-exhaustive fx lists: I dunno."

Yeah, you guys have hammered the idea home and it sunk in. Exhaustive lists of fx would not be that cool. As Zak pointed out, letting players do it themselves is cooler.

So, my current scheme is that there will be a list of Actions (like Fight, Resist, etc--same as I outlined above). You'd pick one to be your prime Action. That means you'd get to create fx (might be calling them "Familiars". not sure) that you think are cool. The fx would have very specific metagame effects, and some broad description of what it is, but the details would have to be created on the spot when you use it. The GM determines the cost when you actually create it so it always costs the same.

I'll have to nail down some solid examples of what I mean, but I like the concept. Let's me still make some lists (as examples), but keeps it wide open. The appeal would be in the flavor. I mean, two characters could have 10 point "Fight" fx that have nearly the same metagame effects, yet the descriptions and styles could be wildly different--and the manner in which they have to use them.

Essentially, these things function like skills and abilities (the Action being the ability and the specific Familiar being the skill), but they have a potentially wider range.

Also, there would be an Action (or whatever it ends up being called) that is purely for metagame purposes. You couldn't get any kind of special "pricing" for it, so everyone pays the same for the fx in it. This would be for stuff like improving Blood and adding new Actions and new Familiars.  

"The innovation seems to be the gambling mechanic for the gaining and losing of Stuff.  Deciding whether to try for 16 goods or to wuss out and roll for 6.  This part can be wholly speperate from nailing down the fx."

Yeah, this is close to what I'm thinking. You basically have to name your Action ("I'm going to persuade him to do this"--thus you're using your Persuade Action). Then you name the Challenge, make the roll, and spend the Goods on whatever Familiar you want to use that you can afford.

And having leftover "Floating Goods" can be used for the stuff I mentioned earlier like casuing disctractions or making minor tweaks to the details ("Instead of dropping my snuff box down the shaft, it lands next to the barn goblin's corpse.").

"This explicit commodification of die pips feels pretty interesting to me.  New, fast, fresh, crazy.  Love it."

Cool. I'm still brainstorming it like mad. I'll try to have a more solid and readable version of the rules done soon so you geniuses and madmen can help me decide why its not perfect.