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[Unistat] My 7-hour game

Started by Andrew Morris, December 03, 2005, 02:37:39 AM

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Andrew Morris

I wasn't planning to write a universal RPG, but this just popped into my head and I started writing Seven hours later, I have what seems to be a complete game. It's in its very raw first draft form, so please be gentle if you spot any grammar and spelling mistakes (it's 2:30 a.m. as I post this).

My design goals[/u]
1) Create a playable RPG with as few stats as possible,
2) Create a game that could be played by someone who'd never roleplayed before.
3) Create an RPG that could fit on two sides of an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper.
4) Create a game that uses a giant pile of dice.

Assessment of design goals[/u]
1) Total success. Characters have one stat.
2) Hopefully a success. I'll have my non-gamer roommate read it in the morning.
3) Total failure. It ended up requiring three pages of paper.
4) Well past success. In fact, I achieved this one so well, it might have made the game unplayable for anyone who's not willing to go buy a pound or two of dice.

Neat Features[/u]
* It contains elements of traditional RPGs, but in a very limited fashion, allowing novices to get familiar with the concepts (and dice!)
* Absolutely zero prep time for players or GM
* Makes a great system for throwing together a game on the spur of the moment
* Extremely easy to learn (once you've played it once or twice, you won't even need the rulebook any more)
* The PDF is designed so that you can print it out, fold the pages in half, and use it in booklet form.

* It has no setting tied to it.
* It requires a huge amount of dice.

Any and all comments, questions, and criticisms are welcome.

Download the Unistat PDF Here
Download: Unistat


Quote* It has no setting tied to it.

This is not a weakness.

Now that you have a core system, you can make a hojillion setting expansions :D

Andrew Morris

I suppose that's a personal preference, really. I'm far more likely to play a game if it has a compelling setting. One other weakness I just realized is that it really requires a GM who can think fast enough to stay one step (at least) ahead of the characters.
Download: Unistat


So ... "sides" is just a finer-grain way of saying "dice", right?  Or did I miss a place where sides are used in the resolution system?

It looks like it might be support a strategy purloined from Nighttime Animals Save the World:  players should, early in the game, describe offensive and appalling stakes in order to entice the GM into rolling dice, and the players should roll a single die, not attempting to win those stakes.  That way they can bleed the GM of dice very quickly (since he can't choose to roll fewer than the number of players), and then have their way with him whenever it counts.  In fact, I could see a lively competition building up to be the one to most frequently and powerfully convince the GM not to say yes, but rather to roll a fistful of dice.

Of course, the GM can counter by, himself, naming appalling, powerful stakes.  That would escalate things very quickly, which could be cool.

Oh, and this:
QuotePlayer: "I want to search for fingerprints."
GM: "Okay, you find a few sets, but nothing that gets a hit on the police database."

Looks like an extremely suspect example to me.  Is the player also allowed to "Say yes or roll the dice" there?  Because otherwise, that "Nothing that gets a hit on the police database" is defining stakes and winning them all in one moment of fiat.  Know what I mean?
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Sydney Freedberg

It looks like a powerful little engine. Neat.

The "no setting" thing is sort of a problem, but perhaps not in the way you think. To use the Ron Edwards Big Model terminology, it's fairly easy to come up with Setting, if only by citing a well-known model ("a modern-day crime story, like Ocean's 11" or "in the Star Wars universe"), but it's much, much harder to translate that into a specific Situation that drives action.

I've ranted earlier expounding the idea ((first suggested here, and later refined here) that a complete game needs System for (1) character generation, (2) conflict resolution, and (3) scenario generation (aka Situation) -- in other words, andv in a different order, who the protagonists are, what they face, and how they interact. Most RPGs (Indie included) have (1) and (2), but sort of hand-wave (3), with rare exceptions like My Life with Master (Master Creation) and Dogs in the Vineyard (Town Creator) or Sorcerer (Kickers and Relationship Maps).

Your game has strong and simple character generation (1) and conflict resolution (2) but, like most games, handwaves scenario generation (3). If you can come up with some equally simple and robust engine to turn vague ideas like "let's be criminals planning an elaborate heist" or "let's be Imperial officers in the Star Wars universe" into clear guidance for the GM on "what comes next" and what game-mechanical resources to use for what (like Dogs' proto-NPCs), you'll have a more complete game, more ready to play out of the box, than most of the $30 hardback tomes out there.

Andrew Morris

Tony, that's right. "Sides" is just a short-hand way of saying "a variable number of dice having as many as, but no more than X number of sides." Sides are not useful for anything other than making dice.

The similar strategy to Nighttime Animals is no coincidence -- that's where I got the idea for the resource-swapping mechanic. I didn't write a section on GMing advice, but if I add one, it will instruct the GM to toss out large amounts of dice early on, until they're about even with where the players started, then play it as tightly as possible. This (hopefully) creates the traditional, "Oh, no. The protagonists are in hot water and nothing seems to go right for them, but they'll turn it around at the end" kind of situation you see in literature and film all the time.

The issue of players calling for conflicts is an important one. I thought it was assumed that the players could do so according to the rules as written, or rather that they could force the GM into the position of calling for a conflict, by continually coming at the problem from different angles. But I think you're probably right -- explicitly giving the players the right to call for a conflict would probably benefit the game.

Sydney, that's some good feedback. I'll look at it and see how I could go about incorporating easy-to-follow rules for situation generation. But I don't plan on selling this, it's just a journeyman project that I'll end up releasing as a free PDF.
Download: Unistat

Saxon Douglass

Ok first I'll say I really like the simpleness of it, although i'd just drop the stat. It has no impact on anything and I don't see the point in it. Instead i'd replace it with Aspects which you might have 3 of. They could be stuff like Cool, Wrathful, Intelligent, 'I
was born ready,' Well-trained, Stubborn, etc. as you mentioned but calling them a "stat" and only having one makes connections other RPGs don't. To actually tie it into play I'd maybe allow you in one conflict per session to assume you roll max on all dice you roll. The deal is that if you win you have to describe how you win based on one of the aspects. Not sure if that'd work but it's a thought.

The other thing is the layout is all over the place.  Know it's designed to be a booklet but if you're releasing this as a PDF it gets confusing! I'd release it in Booklet and non-booklet ofrm once you're done. But that's not anything to do with the game itself so that's not so important.

Laslty I think it is too many dice. Would the game work with only 30 sides or 5 d6 dice per player? And I think starting the GM off with the same amount of sides as the players would work also. The way to avoid the player stampeding of the GM is two-fold. Firstly the GM can make sure the stakes are worded in an agrreable fashion but also i'd allow a group to vote in favor of a GM during a conflict. So if half or more of the people think the GM should win they automatically do (so if one player says "I find the murderer's prints" and the GM doesn't want that to happen then the group can vote and automatically say that they don't/can't. I always like it when the collective is given power and the ability to veto stupid player conflicts would be usefull. If the players were in conflict with eachother though then i'm not sure. Well it'd work still because you'd need more than half to say "yes" or atleast half to say "no" on a conflict (since a conflict is assumed to be always benefiting one player over the other).

Just some ides but as-is it looks like a blast to play. I'll try thisin a few days and see how it goes with a few tweaks (like less dice, 3 Aspects, etc.) and see how it all works in play.
My real name is Saxon Douglass.

Saxon Douglass

Sorry, I know posting twice is bad form but without an edit button I just had to ask you something.

I had assumed while playing that with your dice when you roll them in a conflict you actually add up the values and compare that to the other persons total (i'm pretty sure it does work that way actually). But what if it wasn't variable and each die = one point with no variance? It'd mean that whoever bets highest wins instead of the randomness in there currently. Everything else would stay the same, like swapping chips after the conflict, etc. I just thought that since every action rests on this if the GM doesn't say yes a bit more static-ness might be good. Ofcourse it might not be, and the idea of betting might not appeal to you (except in this you don't raise/see whatever you both throw them out at once and who has most wins. If there is a draw you go ago putting at ATLEAST the same number). I just thought it'd solve two things - first it'd make the game more predictable (which I like, alot of people don't) and it'd also solve the dice crises this game would cause if it ever went mainstream :P. I don't have 50+ d6s lyring around but if I could just use plastic chips it'd be easy! It would lose the random/dice feel though and the plan is for it to be easy for begginers so I can see this going against that design. Anywho when I play i'll try both 5 six-sided die and 30 chips per player.
My real name is Saxon Douglass.


Of course, you're going to create compelling setting.  Preferably multiple!  However, I think it's an advantage to have created the system without being tied down to a specific setting or theme, especially when you've created a universal gaming engine.

Andrew Morris

Saxon, that's a lot of good advice that really needs playtesting to verify. I'd considered cutting down the number of dice myself, actually, but I thought I'd just go with my gut until I had a chance to put it to the test.

Sydney's comments on situation creation really got me thinking. I've got the "who" and "how," but not the "why" or even "what," and that's a weakness that should be fixed, if I can find a simple way to do it. I can't immediately see any good way to go about it, but that's what I'll be putting some thought into in the near future. Of course, adding more material takes me further away from my initial goal of having a complete game that fits on a single sheet of paper. Well, I'll see if I can de-word the write-up and pare things down significantly.
Download: Unistat

Sydney Freedberg

You can definitely reduce wordcount without reducing substance. (Death to all "What is an RPG?" sections! Death! Death!).

And your "why/what" mechanics can be as lean as your "who" and "how." You can rely on the players for creativity, you just need to give them a scaffolding for it.