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[The End of the World] Power 19

Started by mrteapot, February 05, 2006, 04:50:42 PM

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My 24 hour zombie game is complete, but needs work.  Particularly reediting, playtesting and revision following the playtest.  And a title that I spent more than forty five seconds thinking about.  It's the closest I have to a finished game, so further examination is worthwhile.  Even if that game doesn't get published, then I'll learn something, hopefully, that would aid the other couple games forming in my mind (like the samurai game that spurred this publishing idea in the first place).

I'm using the Power 19 a design tool from elsewhere to help clarify my thoughts on the game.  Read the explanation of them here if you want to know more.

The questions, with my answers for the zombie game:

1.) What is your game about?

It is a zombie game wherein the zombies are less of a threat than your companion and untrustworthy allies.  It's about trust, and the breakdown of morality as society collapses before your very eyes.

2.) What do the characters do?

The characters try to work together to survive the dangerous situation they find themselves in while simultaneously trying to betray their compatriots.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?

Political scheming to ostracize their enemies in the party, like what you'd see on Survivor or in a game of Settlers of Catan.

The GM's job is to aggravate the situation as much as possible.  When two players are working well together, try to give them a scene where they'll wind up on opposing sides, or where one's dark secret comes to light or something.  Keep increasing the stakes and the tension so that the decisions players face become harder and ahrder as the game goes on.  Portray the zombies and the outside world, as well, though both these are just tools for the primary goal of the GM: create interal strife and conflict among the players.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

Thus far, the setting is almost nonexistent.  No information is given on what causes the zombies, which is the entire point.  You can use the game for any sorts of zombies or apocalypse that you wish, but the real important thing is that the setting is imposing stresses on the group until the group begins to break down from these stresses.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

Characters each hate one other PC, and are trying to eliminate that character from play.  This creates tension and the possibility of betrayal.  Not only that, but characters are built collaboratively, with each player having a chance for input on each other character, reincforcing that each character relies on the others for survival.  In fact, the most important value a character has is the trust other characters have granted them, reinforcing the need to work together.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?

The game rewards, and needs to reward, to opposed goals: working together and betraying your friends.  These need to both be interesting and useful strategies so that the tension remains: you don't know when your allies will turn on you if both ways give them a benefit. 

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

Having your allies trust you increases your effectiveness in a given conflict, which is an effective reward.  Betraying an ally increases your pool of Trust that you can redistribute.  This gives you more control over the party, as your word now has more weight than others.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

The GM has control over most things, but players can voluntarily lower their pool of their Trust to change certain facts, such as the setting of a scene, the presence or nonpresence of NPCs, etc.  The players could also initiate a conflict relating to anything the GM brings into play to oppose the GM without a guaranteed loss.  (This part may need some more rethinking.)

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

This is a very hard question to answer.  I'm not interested in zombies at all, though that may engage some number of potential players.  I think the tension and politcal maneuvering is more interesting and engaging, and hope a) others will agree and b) the game did a good job creating this sort of behavior.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

A diceless horror game still needs to have uncertainty, so the game relies on the other players to create that uncertainty.  The other players grant you amounts of Trust, but can take it back at any time.  This Trust is the primary determiner of success, though extended conflicts feature a minigame system determining how well you succeed, whether you or your allies are injured and what the consequences of your actions are.

I wrote up a dice based system for the game as well, which nonetheless is still about the amount of Trust others have put into you more than your own abilities.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

As stated above, they're all about the level of Trust your allies grant you, and that Trust can be revoked at any time.  This reinforces the need for cooperation and also the potential for betrayal, thus creating some sort of tension, I hope.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

Characters get more trust in their pool when they betray others in the group and when the character that they hate dies.  This never increases the total pool of the party, just your individual pool (I think - it's been a while since I read the rules actually).

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

Character advancement only comes through acting underhanded, which is what I wanted.  Character advancement is almost entirely selfish as well - consolidating power in your character. 

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

Horror, or more specifically tension.  Uncertainty as to what will happen, with a recognition that your life is at stake.  How this is supposed to work is detailed above pretty well, I think.  Something more like Hitchock's horror than stuff jumping through windows sort of horror.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

Characters get a couple of emotional buttons for the GM to push. Something that frightens the characters, something that enrages them, etc.  These are basically stolen from Unknown Armies, and may need reexamination.  They're there, though, to give the GM some hooks and to make the interaction of characters more complex and interesting. 

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

Player level interactions are the most important part of the system, rather than anything mechanical.  The decision to betray or not rests primarily on what retaliation you'd expect from the other players and their characters.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can't, don't, or won't?

It's an entire game system set to focus on certain themes of zombie movies - and of human interaction in general.  The closest game I can think of to how I hope the game to run would be Paranoia XP played straight - you are surrounded by untrustworthy allies, looking to accomplish a common goal but at the same time backstab one another for private goals.  But, despite Allen Varney's best efforts, the Paranoia I've seen all seems to be comedy, often black comedy, and laser guns rather than personal horror.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?

If I'm still happy with the game after playtesting and revision, I'll probably publish it as a PDF on  If I'm not, I'll put it up for free on my blog or something like that.  The 24 hour version will likely stay up at and stay free, which means any pay version will need substantial revision to really be worthwhile.

19.) Who is your target audience?

I hope that some people will buy it just because they like zombies and zombie movies, and find the game idea interesting.  But since I myself am not interested in zombie, I think I need to make clear to other potential customers that the zombies are just a tool for dealing with the themes of trust and interaction talked about above.  I'd prefer people buy the game for these themes than the zombies, though explaining that is a non-trivial task.  It's a lot easier to sell a game based on genre elements - zombies - than on hard to pin down things like themes.  This question might need additional thought put into it as well.


How do you (help) keep the players from actually hurting one another?

Survivor always seems so mean and petty to me, but i love Die Siedler von Catan...
Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream


What happens to eliminated players, those whose characters have died?
Do they get to become Zombie (co-GM) players?
Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream


Quote from: Sempiternity on February 05, 2006, 07:24:18 PM
What happens to eliminated players, those whose characters have died?
Do they get to become Zombie (co-GM) players?

Yeah, I've got some rules for that.  They probably need work, but so does everything in the game.  I think a game with a high character death rate like this would need something to keep players of dead characters occupied, and a genre with the undead already in it provides some interesting options for bringing back dead characters as antagonists.


Quote from: Sempiternity on February 05, 2006, 07:21:20 PM
How do you (help) keep the players from actually hurting one another?

Survivor always seems so mean and petty to me, but i love Die Siedler von Catan...

Do you mean how do I stop character level conflict from escalating to become player level conflict? People at the table becoming angry at one another over fictional events they imagined happening?   I'm not sure that I, as game designer have the capability to stop this from happening.  I just have to assume the players are mature enough to recognize and deal with the sort of game that they're playing.  Perhaps I should add some advice for dealing with conflicts like that, though I don't think there's any way for the rules to help such a conflict.