Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[Quincunx] Playtesting begins

Started by Vulpinoid, August 27, 2009, 09:27:09 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


Just thought I'd share with everyone the progress on my game Quincunx.

Quincunx Playtest Rules Part 1

Looks pretty...

the mechanisms work independently...

...and they've been tested pretty thoroughly...

but now it's a case of seeing whether any anomalies occur when the whole lot is thrown together.

A second document is on its way, describing the various paths that can be adopted by the operatives.

I was unsure whether to place this in the playtesting or the first-thoughts part of theforum, but I think the ideas involved have been maturing enough to move on to the next stage.

A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.


It seems to me that if players want to get fame from a rest cycle, they should include a "cliff-hanger". In other words, resting when nothing notable is going on should not replenish your fame, especially if the episodes are live in some sense. This does add more detail, but it is optional detail based on giving people stuff, and it may even remind people to replenish fame points more. Hmm, on the other hand, perhaps the fame pool expiring is because people are getting over-exposed, and they need to give it a rest so people don't get bored of them.

On the social field, it seems like a lot of mechanics are bumping into each other, and nailing down their point of interaction may be helpful. I've seen three different ways of "doing stuff socially":

1- synergy+favours - come across a local person, try to get them on side via offering obligations, after manoeuvring through your differences.
2- "Allies" aspect - cuts across the above in vague scenes.
3- active dice - although maybe I'm just importing that from Rajah by accident.

So how should they interact? Well it seems to me that you've got enough thematic stuff going on that active dice can just be getting into the groove of the mission. Reading through again I think I did just import the "fictional ties of active dice" thing. While I'm on the subject though, I'd recommend GMs always track the size of the pool as some kind of mystery/status quo thing. So a big dice pool on a location means that stuff there starts to get complicated and unclear again, which would happen if someone gives up active dice in that location, or gets them taken.

But onto the more important interaction, that of Allies aspect vs obligations, it seems that you want to insure that the stat doesn't wipe out the interestingness of the thing it refers to. In other words, perhaps successes on "Allies" in non-vauge scenes relates to your ability to add allies to the situation. In other words, if someone turns up with a gang of his mates armed with improvised weapons, perhaps he rolled Allies to get them.

Now how it works depends on the level of detail to which you want to do calling in friends: eg you could have it so that for the price of an obligation you can use an ally for rolls based on your ally aspect, or you could have it that they act based on their own node value, but "allies" represents your ability to contact them and replaces face in interactions with them. Now I think the former probably fits the game easier; the latter involves someone rolling new dice for the allies and players rolling during scene framing, or something similar. The other one means that you can use "Allies" for almost anything, at the price of having to do extra missions for the people who allow you to apply it. It also means that someone rubbish working with you can suddenly become amazing, which seems a little off. Perhaps their skill level provides a cap for allies automatic successes?

Also I wouldn't call the scene framing dice hidden and open, I'd call them hidden, moral and challenge. I'd call the hidden dice "ratings dice" if there wasn't a risk that people might play the first time without hiding them by accident.

The very fact that you called these "quick start rules" inspired me; unlike many other games you character creation is pretty close to quick-start, so for the admin's quick start, you could have a set of npcs in an area, but with only two of the traits for each location, so when people make the adversaries an admin could quickly make plots for them. That would probably broaden your playtest potential.


Quote from: JoyWriter on August 28, 2009, 09:17:40 PM
...on the other hand, perhaps the fame pool expiring is because people are getting over-exposed, and they need to give it a rest so people don't get bored of them.

Spot on.

There are two reasons why the players would decide to call a rest interval. The first is to allow themselves to recover their dice and make attempts to dispose of the penalties they have accrued. The second reason is to replenish the fame pool.

I've been tempted to up the rate of fame pool refreshment (so that this part of the game becomes more important), but I think I'll leave that as a later step on the path of tweaking and adjustment. I might even offer this as a variable so that different player groups can decide how much of a role fame should actually play in the game.

On the social field, it seems like a lot of mechanics are bumping into each other, and nailing down their point of interaction may be helpful. I've seen three different ways of "doing stuff socially":

That's where my struggle has been.

It could have been easy to turn this into yet another game where righteous heroes roll a bunch of dice against the things that go bump in the night. But I didn't want to make a clone of a hundred other games. I wanted to create something that would really offer some moral dilemmas to the characters (and to the players), and to really ground the characters in their setting. Starting relatively quickly and openly, but locking the characters down as their stories are told. Players gradually building up a vested interest in their characters as the narrative develops.

I've probably tried a bit too hard with the social dynamics in the game, and there is probably a bit too much overlap and potential grey areas where different rules might apply to a given situation, each of which might be read in a different way.

This is going to be the focus of the playtesting, both the preliminary tests at home (after which a few minor revisions will be made), at Gencon Oz in three weeks time (after which there will be a second round of revisions made), after a decent length of campaign play has been achieved (at least five or six interconnected sessions), then after Sydcon in a couple of months time.

I can guarantee that parts of this complex social system will be streamlined, if not stripped away completely.

The aim is to make the social part of the game rich and interesting, but fully integrated and fully compatible with the rest of the rules. I hate disjoints in games (for example...roll d20 when in combat, roll d100 for skills).

Also I wouldn't call the scene framing dice hidden and open, I'd call them hidden, moral and challenge. I'd call the hidden dice "ratings dice" if there wasn't a risk that people might play the first time without hiding them by accident.

Good points. I think I'll make some suitable terminology adjustments to clarify these. 


(...and thanks for following the development of the project Joywriter)

A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.

Spooky Fanboy

I am having a bit of difficulty figuring out who rolls what dice when, and what impact they have, and how the hidden dice and whether or not people were watching them really affect them. I'll try to read over the Quickstart again, but I hope to take a look at the Paths (and I'm not sure I see the Weaknesses that come from these paths) and maybe get a better feel for the game.

It seems like things seem a bit jumbled, or I'm missing some information, or something. Sorry I can't be more specific.
Proudly having no idea what he's doing since 1970!


I had considered throwing in a scene flowchart, a step by step guide to how dice are rolled to set up a scene (on one page)...and then branches off into the four different scene types (each on their own separate page).

The artificial constraint of 24 pages that I applied to myself caused me to cut that idea out of the handbook. (The idea is that this game is a free supporting product for a comic that I'm working on and the traditional comic is 24 pages long). The paths book would also be 24 pages long, a book that gets into the gritty details of on each race would be 24 pages long...etc.

I think I'll expand it to 32 pages, and I'll redo the layout. The game could also do with a few more "in-play" examples to help clarify what's in my mind, these were cut out for the same reasons.

It's certainly become a more convoluted beast than my original double sided A4 page rules.

Thanks for the ongoing feedback.

A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.


The fame rules could probably be condensed into one section, saying:

At end of turn,
reveal hidden dice
get fame based on actions
loose fame based on passed obligations
any other one I missed

and then saying how you get to use fame. Why? Because the first scene by necessity will include no fame, because they haven't got any fame points yet. So anyone reading through would be able to play out the first scene (a vague investigation one), from start to finish, then find out what they can do with their new-found fame.

That way those two dice sitting under an upturned cup act as a reminder to check up the fame rules, and when you do, you get all of them in one place. They should fit on one page even if brought together, I'd say.

Also, when explaining the rules to my brother, he was gutted that during a fight he couldn't switch from allies/wood, commanding his pack of dogs to allies/earth to calm them, when the opponent switches to face/metal to freak them out. Have you noticed the focus on a single node leading to strategically one-note scenes? If so that might not be a problem if it is specified as part of the style, with the restriction to one strategy reflecting the emotional investment of a conflict, where it is not always easy to switch to humour when you are loosing a serious argument. Such a system would in my mind create less compromise between characters, especially given that folding a conflict would presumably end your spotlight scene.


In my rush to get all the rules in one place, and get a nice looking PDF ready for gencon Oz, I didn't realise how disorganised the rules were until I sat back and had a good read through them.

On expanding the game out to a 32 page document, I'll be providing a few better play examples, and a basic description on generating path concepts that will help to detail a character (nothing fancy, but enough that the game is playable from a single document). Consolidating fame into a single section at the end of the scene description is good, because you're right Joywriter, no-one will have fame during the first round and it only becomes a viable option as that first round draws to it's conclusion. (I'll mark it this way in the scene flowcharts).

As for the description of the scene with an operative using a pack of dogs to represent his Allies/Wood, that's great. Exactly the kind of thing that I had in mind. The node represent a basic capacity to do something, the actual methods by which that thing is achieved are up to the player's imagination (and their available filters)...."what the fuck are Filters? Why haven't I heard of them earlier?" I hear you ask.

I'll get to filters shortly.

Your brother shouldn't feel so let down. Consider this node used to be the characters intended way of resolving a situation. One character is using allies/wood, representing this as a pack of dogs. The other character is using face/metal, represented by an aura of fear.

It's not so much a case that one character is locked into a course of action specifically dedicated to their chosen node, but this is the type of action they will favour during the scene. Each character gets a number of automatic successes equal to their node value, then a bunch of dice to roll in an attempt to claim extra successes...starting with three extra dice, and gradually getting more as the game progresses. The character with the dogs could easily use their successes to negate the fear of their opponent, or they could use their successes to attack the opponent. The node sets the basis for the action, the unfolding successes and narration of those successes through the scene offer the strategic elements.

(An earlier incarnation of the rules allowed players to switch nodes mid-scene, suffering a penalty if they did so...but this was getting a bit too complex and convoluted. I'm still really aiming for a set of rules that can be grasped by a novice after a few scenes have played out, can take a back seat as the story unfolds, but can continually be used as a fall-back point to inform the narrative).

The strategy in the game now comes from the paths (which I promise to release soon for people to look at). As well as weaknesses, all paths give you traits, and abilities (in exactly the same manner as rajah Spiny Rat). One path ability might give you bonus successes for your scene if your opponent possesses a specific trait, another might lower your dice difficulties if your opponent is using a specific element. Some paths automatically negate the first penalty to a specific element or aspect. They each subtly twist the way the game is played, and manipulate the game-world narrative.

Joywriter, to put it simply for your brother, the character doesn't need to switch to allies/earth to calm down his dogs, he can use one of his dice to resolve this issue. But if he's got a path benefit linked to allies/earth allowing him to calm people down ( actuality, this would be an allies/water effect...but that's another discussion), he might be able to spend a point to bring this benefit into play. If the character is good enough, he might be able to bring this effect into play instinctively at no cost.

Back to filters.

I made reference to a concept like this in a thread a while back.

Filters are basically just a way of using the same set of mechanical constraints to influence the narrative in a variety of different ways. To characters might have exceptional movement, one has the filter of "Flight" the other has the filter of "Motorcycle". Mechanically, they both get a person from A to B more quickly, but they are described very differently in the context of the story.

That's how supernatural powers will basically work in the game.

Two players come face to face with a bunch of allies. One has a filter of "Animal Speech", the other has a filter of "Street Gangs". The allies node remains the same for each participant in the conflict, but the way they describe the actions of their companions is very different.

Filters allow a huge range of effects to be brought into the rules without generating huge numbers of rules.

I'll make sure to add a bit more of a reference to them in the quickstart rules.

A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.

Spooky Fanboy

Thank the Unseen Forces, I thought it was me!

As a note to all who write RPGs, those of us who read them love examples and a sense of how things are supposed to flow. If it helps: try to write as though you're sitting next to the person reading the game, explaining to them how it's supposed to flow. Backing that philosophy with charts and examples is a recipe for people getting how to play your game.

For example, that bit you wrote about nodes being what your PC intends to do? That should be in the game description, probably under "Decide how your PC wants to handle this situation," followed by a handy list of mundane situations and what element corresponds to them.

Brevity is the soul of wit, but clarity is the soul of communication.

All that said, your concept has me hooked, and I am eager to see more.
Proudly having no idea what he's doing since 1970!