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Author Topic: Miniatures-Driven Roleplaying Rules  (Read 11398 times)
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« on: February 16, 2007, 11:53:05 AM »

Hi all -

I'm working on a system right now which is sort of an 'alternate direction' RPGs could have evolved back in the seventies. Instead of trying to make visual aids which match the imaginative experience, or eventually leaving minis, etc. behind forever for talking-play of the kind that inspires us a lot of us here, I'm trying to write a ruleset in which the physical attributes of the minis, gaming terrain, etc. dictate what's happening in play to a fairly large degree.

Example: You start character generation by picking out a painted miniature. If you take a lady barbarian miniature with broadsword and fur bikini as your mini, that tells you that your character uses a broadsword and doesn't wear armor.

This thread is mostly me looking for helpful suggestions about systems that have tried this before, ideas you have along these lines, etc. I've been playing a lot with kids lately (who tend to really like tangible play aids IME) and I got some dwarven forge mastermaze stuff for Christmas and it's sort of giving me some ideas about (yet another) different way to play these odd games we like.
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Ryan Macklin
Member

Posts: 13

Comrade Mastermind


WWW
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2007, 03:42:30 PM »

Hello!

Reading this, I can't say I have any system in mind that does this for RPGs (though I do recall this being a part of my single Warhammer 40K experience).  However, there was an Actual Play thread for Atomic Sock Monkey Press' The Zorcerer of Zo.  In this particular adventure, the GM bought some inexpensive toys and stated up characters based on them for a game where the players were characters from the Island of Forgotten Toys.  Then he wrapped them up and gave them out as gifts when the game started.

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=302189

I don't know how much that might help with inspiration, as it was the GM enforcing that idea on the system rather than the system doing this by default, but hopefully there's something for you there.
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Ryan Macklin
Master Plan: The People's Podcast About Game Design
http://masterplanpodcast.net/
Leviathan
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2007, 04:19:57 PM »

Ryan's comment reminds me of a set of recent comics on Something Positive not long ago. Old toys being used instead of miniatures with custom stats based on what the toy was like. With regards to the idea itself, I think it could be interesting, but whoever was running it would probably want to hand pick the miniatures ahead of any particular game that would be options. I can just see someone (glances around to make sure no fingers are being pointed at him) bringing in a minature that didn't at all fit with the direction the DM/GM/whatever wanted to go. Dragons, crazy over-teched monstrosities or whatever struck their fancy. It might fit the game setting, but could easily throw off the dynamic if not regulated. Heck, even something seemingly benign could become problematical. (Though it does give me a use for that ancient minature of the man loaded down with enough gear for two horses that I have.)

I don't know of any system that exists for purchase that would work the way you are talking about, but I imagine there have been a number of homebrew systems for it that have met with varying success. Like I mentioned before, the biggest pitfall I can imagine would be in making sure that there was a proper balance with the finished characters based on the initial mini.
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D. X. Logan - Boundless Allegory Designs
Currently Playtesting "The Cursed" - http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=23209.0
komradebob
Member

Posts: 462


« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2007, 08:26:09 AM »

Er, sorry, I'm on the run, so just a quick comment or two.

Check out HG Wells  book "Floor Games". There are free online copiesaround.

Check out how Everway uses vision cards and questions. You can apply a similar method with miniatures.

Also, down in my sig is an lod attempt I had to work on something similar.

I'll comment further, but right now I'm off to the zoo for chinese new year celebration.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
johnwedd
Member

Posts: 32


WWW
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2007, 08:39:22 AM »

i remember toying with this idea. i'd had semi-workable rules. based mostly on a chess board, and primary tactical. but each unit had unique movement, attack and defense abilities. adding in a simple resolution system would do the trick. if your willing to make very complex maps.
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komradebob
Member

Posts: 462


« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2007, 09:34:53 AM »

Just a quick thought on movement:
Over at rpgnet, I'd posted about Beer'n'pretzels minis game design. One of the responses mentioned something I thought was awfully smart, which came from some sort of Three Musketeers game:

Q) How fast do figures move?
A) Figures move at the Speed of Plot.

It's an awfully good idea and takes out one of the most annoying, fiddly bits that seems to get thrown into just about every minis game I've yet encountered.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2007, 10:25:04 AM »

Hi all,

Thanks for the great feedback, and keep it coming. I'll try to get more detailed responses to many of the individual ideas when I can. komradebob, the rules you link to are promising, they seem like with the right group at least they could lead to a really fun dreamy kind of play. You seem to want to focus the action later on - I'm tempted to hook up your preliminary award cards mechanics with PTA somehow - one of the troubles of the kind of game this is I think is going to be keeping everyone on the same page as things move forward while still maximizing freedom for imaginative input.

As usual with me I'm spending an awful lot of time looking at D&D, The Fantasy Trip, and computer games for ideas - I guess I'm feeding the figures into a tactical combat generator because, well, that's just the kind of gamer I am. But anyway, this props -> imaginary stuff path, or these paths, those kind of pathways are what I'm looking for.

Specifically, the spontaneous transformation in play of visual cues, scenery, terrain, etc. into SIS stuff.
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Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2007, 06:32:48 PM »

It strikes me that this is a really great way to encourage player involvement in the storytelling process.  Introducing an encounter to the story is as simple as finding a model you like.  What's over the next hill? Bring your own scenery to the game, and you get to decide!

Embrace the random! I think that a good basis for your game would be a random table that tells you what miniatures and scenery to use next.  The story would be created by all the players by interpreting the results of this table. 

Embrace the bizzare! If you don't have Space Marines fighting next to Barbarian Princesses, doing battle with lizard riding mutant warriors, then I think you've missed an opportunity.  Go heavy-metal science fantasy on it!

As a starting point fo a rules mechanic, I'd suggest looking at miniatures rules, rather than RPG rules.  Vincent Bakers "Mechaton" would be a good place to start, as a game which allows you to field just about any kind of model.  The basic rules are free!  Simply put, you have about six dice to assign to "ranged" "melee" and "shields" (you could call this "armour" for a more generic feel).  Thus, almost any model can be quickly statted up.  It's well worth a look as a very innovative mech combat game, and also as inspiration for your own game.

On the other hand, it might be cool to have a system that rewards incorporating details from the miniatures and from the scenery into a narration about what happens.  Some tweaked WuShu could do this.  "I leap off this outcropping (1) using my giant sword (2) to strike at its bandaged forearm (3)".  This could get repetative though? 
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komradebob
Member

Posts: 462


« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2007, 06:54:54 PM »

A computer problem ate my last post! Arg!

Simon hit on part of what I was going to suggest, actually. If you start out with most of the terrain, bits, and people/character models to the side, and only build one smallish area to begin with, you can make creating the next part of the board and the next scene part of the game as well.

As for random tables? Why not? Come with a blank chart filled down the side for die results, and a space for a label at the top. Then. create the charts as you go along, based on what you have to play with, player input, and how the game is developing.

As for the Wushu comparison- absolutely! Even though I've been bucking for some ultralight type mechanics. let your inner tactician out for the action scenes! The barbarian hides behind those trees, while the ogre sneaks up around the wall and the elfen ranger prepares to pounce on the ogre's head and ride him like a horse! Absolutely bring that stuff into play! ( I understand that Iron Heroes also has good advice for this sort of thing without minis. It might be worth checking out for ideas).

About the award cards: That was totally stolen from PTA. My idea was to give folks some training wheels by giving some specific examples of stuff they could award. My hope was that after trying it a few times with the examples, that players would find their own, more personal reasons to give awards.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Darcy Burgess
Member

Posts: 476


« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2007, 08:20:21 PM »

Hi Sean,

Also worth checking out: Krasnoarmeets.  It included some pretty swank stuff -- including painting!

I'd also like to suggest that the minis/terrain should not dictate what's happening "to a fairly large degree".  They are it.  No deviation from their strictures whatsoever.  Otherwise, you're undercutting their purpose, power, and validity as elements of the SIS.

Cheers,
Darcy
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Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2007, 11:30:13 AM »

Thanks, Darcy. That Krasnoarmeets thread and game are really useful right now. I owe James for being such a great DitV GM, so stealing some stuff from him would be nice.

I agree with your disagreement, so I think you're underestimating my literal-mindedness. The figures don't actually cut each other up with swords no matter how detailed they are. But yeah, the idea is, the toys are the baseline of the SIS, you build up from there, but you don't undercut the toys.

Can you elaborate on that "speed of plot" idea, komradebob? For those of us who tend to calculate speed as a function of race and armor?

-----------------------------

So, back in I'm-still-recovering-from-D&D-land. (Though I really appreciate those of you who are going way out beyond it, keep up the good work.) Here's a thing I like: equipment.

You get
- the armor your mini is wearing
- the weapon(s) your mini is carrying
- a dagger, if you want it
- the clothes/gear your mini is wearing
- one satchel with a modest amount of stuff (what would fit in a shoulder-bag, basically)
- small jewelry

and that's it. If you want more, buy and paint a mule mini, etc.

I like this because it's another approach to managing encumbrance without those lists, weights, etc.

I also like it if the following dynamic is observed in play: there's usable stuff at the adventure site. So, your mini has a sword, that's cool. You want a spear. If you grab one off a spear rack in play, you're good to go, you have a spear until you use it up. But what's not on your mini and in the small allotment of 'carry-ons' doesn't carry over from adventure to adventure, etc.

-----------------------

Another way of looking at D&D, old D&D, was as a recipe book for building your own Dungeon/Magic Realm/Heroquest/Runebound/Heroscape/Descent etc. type game, as a kind of meta-boardgame, with repeat play value. It's pretty easy to put roleplaying on top of that kind of game if you want. 
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Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2007, 04:55:45 PM »

I was thinking about this idea on my way home the other day, and a few things struck me.

First, you could easily make this a GMless game.  If everyone is responsible for running their own miniatures, and for making up rules for their own terrain, the thing supports itself.  You can even make this support hard-core gamist play by saying that you get XP for every NPC model you own which gets killed, and MEGA XP if one of your models kills a PC. 

Second, I think a system that rewards incorporating details from the miniatures and the scenery into narrations of what happens is essential if you want any kind of shared imagined space.  Otherwise gamist plaers will treat it just like a wargame.  If you reward describing what is happening in the SIS, with reference to the models, I think you'll get a lot more engagement with the game as an RPG, rather than a wargame.  If that's what you want. 

Regarding equipment.  It's cool to want to define exactly what each model is carrying, but I think it's cooler to not define it, until it is used "in game".  Say a model has some oddly coloured belt pouch.  It's cool to say "That's where she keeps her rations and stuff", but it's even cooler to let the player say, in game "Oh damn, I'm poisoned? Well, lucky I've got some antidote in this belt pouch" or if the model has some weird sci-fi gun, to say "Activate STUN mode!" or whatever.  I think rewarding creative interpretations of the models (with restrictions that preserve gamist "balance") is a cool way to go.

I think the ideal form for this game to take, in my mind, is one where you can get half a dozen people to come to the game, bringing whatever models they like, stat everything up either ahead of time or within a few minutes, and get down to a wild, fast paced adventure.  Letting people do whatever the models and the scenery would seem to allow should be a big part of that.  Traditional GMful games rely on an "impartial" GM to keep the game on track.  I think this game would rely on every player's love of and respect for their own models.  Everyone is the expert on their own models. 
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komradebob
Member

Posts: 462


« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2007, 09:01:27 PM »

"Speed of Plot" is a term that eco5norway used on this thread ( post #17) over at rpgnet:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=309308&page=2

It sounds very similar to a concept called "variable length bounds" that I've heard used in some wargames.

Basically, it's like scene-cutting or fast-forwarding, or even slo-mo. How far does a figure move? It moves far enough for something else interesting to happen. I really don't know how else to describe it.

One warning about that game I was working on: It doesn't handle action scenes well. That is one of the major points I'm starting to work on now that I'm tinkering with it some more.

Also, for a two player game, coin-flipping between two options works just as well. For two players, use the "Yes, but", "Yes, and" and "Instead" as sentence/idea starters rather than the full-on mechanic.

Simon's suggestions are again pretty close to what I've been thinking of. I'd like to have both the "family" version of something like this and a more "adult gamer" version. The bring'n'play idea has a ton of appeal to me, especially as a minis fan.

You might try crash building something. I think you hit it right with the "reset" concept to the basic figure. Grab some index cards to keep handy. Perhaps instead of xps, the player can choose to keep a few extras in later adventures that aren't shown on the figure ( a bit like Frodo's hidden mithril armor, perhaps?).
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Samael
Member

Posts: 14


« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2007, 02:35:22 PM »

It seems like some of the mechanisms of Donjon would work well in a game of this sort.  Specifically, I'm thinking about Successes being used for placing terrain, for making that declaration of having the antidote in the pouch, etc.  It sounds interesting to me, but then, I'm a wargamer in addition to being a role-player.
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"Life is much too important to be taken seriously." -- Oscar Wilde
Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2007, 03:49:39 PM »

That's an interesting direction to go.  I think this could really help encourage narration in a game that's otherwise gonna be more like a wargame than an RPG.  I think a key element of any rules would be that NOTHING can contradict what is shown plainly on the models.  You can't call something weak when the model clearly makes it look strong.  You can't use a crossbow when your model is clearly holding a sword.  But maybe you can use successes to describe things that are left ambiguous by the model.  That dinosaur miniature doesn't look so fierce.  Maybe it's a herbivore? That mutant is wearing a breathing mask - I think severing the breathing tube will suffocate it.  Anything that encourages players to interpret the miniatures.

Thinking about it, while I totally understand the "speed of plot" ideas presented by komradebob, I think that, given that the game uses miniatures, this is a great opportunity to use some interesting movement rules.  Miniatures games benefit from some tactical elements, and, in my opinion, tactical choices can easily become thematic choices - roleplaying.  One of the cool things about Mechaton is that every time you roll you're presented with several "live" options, about how to distribute dice, and movement is one of the options.  Off the top of my head, I think your game would need two kinds of movement - tactical and overland.  Tactical movement moves your model in relation to other models, while overland movement introduces new terrain elements. 

This is still an exciting idea, and I look forward to seeing where you go wih it.
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