Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You Only Cross-Reference Twice

OMG, I'm obsessed with this table I made yesterday:

(click on it to see it full-sized)

Attacker's skill is the Y-axis; defender's is the X-axis. Cross-reference attacker's skill with defender's and roll that number or less on d100. Formula is Y/(X+Y) = Target Number. Against someone of equal skill, you're evenly matched. After that, your odds of success are essentially how much "dog" you have in the "fight," as it were. This was inspired by ShanG of and his quest for his ideal dice mechanic.

I'm unreasonably enthusiastic about putting this dinosaur to work in a Top Secret-like espionage game. Why not just play Top Secret? Because... I dunno. Because I like this table, that's why.

I mean, I'd like to play Top Secret again, but I honestly think the odds of running this as a playtest of some kind are better than the odds of getting a group together to play a 30-year-old game like Top Secret. That's just the way it goes, usually. Top Secret isn't RC D&D or anything -- it's pretty crunchy, with lots of little calculations to be done and modifiers to be considered. It doesn't have the charm of a rules-light old-school classic like OD&D or T&T. There are arguably better options to serve your espionage gaming needs these days.

(I've thought about doing a retro-clone of Top Secret called Open Secret, but... then I made this table, so....)

So this, then, would be something like an homage, what with the roll-under d100 mechanic and all, but after that they don't have a lot in common. I did an embarrassing amount of work on the rest of this last night in the wee hours. It all came out in a feverish stream of skills and derived stats.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Game-Fu 8: Tales of the Glass Slipper

Today I finished off my Game-Fu entry, which I ended up calling Tales of the Glass Slipper. The extra week we were given to complete our games resulted in mine being much more complete than I could've imagined last week. There's art! An index! The impression that, at some point in the process, layout was briefly considered! I'd say it looks pretty good, considering it was created using MSWord and MSPaint.

You can take a look at it here, if you've a mind to, but be warned that it's 4+ megs. Must've been all that art. (By comparison, the latest version of Leftovers is less than 1 meg.) Forty pages in the end, including the cover, TOC, and index. That's five times longer than I'd thought it'd be, back in the day. Were we ever so young?

As for the name: The PCs in the game are members of a knightly order called the Order of the Glass Slipper. This organization is charged with something along the lines of "inventory control" for the Fairy World. When fairies run off to the World of Man with a fairy-tale treasure, it's their job to track 'em down and get it back. No pun-name for me this time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Game-Fu 8: Oh, the Hardships of Game Design

Well! That additional week to work on this game has resulted in another 15 pages or so -- so far. I'm guessing about 40 pages by the time I'm done. I can't believe I ever thought this would fit on eight pages. Sheesh.

So here's a little interesting game-design moment: I'd decided to use the "Character sheet fits on an index card, front and back" ingredient, specifically because I thought it'd be cool to have one side be the character's mortal self, and the other be the character's fairy self. Besides, there are so few stats to worry about -- Gifts, Curse, Possessions -- that I knew I'd be able to fit everything on there with room to spare.

(I still consider this a huge strength, BTW -- making a character is literally picking four or five Gifts and one Curse from a few lists,)

The way I'd finally settled on tracking damage was with Hardships -- take some damage (in short, points of effect achieved by your opponent in combat) and it turns into a short phrase describing what just happened to you. Yes, they're pretty much just consequences from FATE.  You wanna make something of it?

The original plan was to put them in three rows on the index card, in two separate columns on each side: physical and mental on the mortal side, and magical and mental on the fairy side. The lower the row, the worse the Hardship. Every point of damage becomes a Hardship, so being shot for three points of damage means recording three physical Hardships, one on the top row, one in the middle, and one on the bottom.

But that soon became rather impractical. What's a magical Hardship, anyway? The magic rules are pretty all-or-nothing; you spend your effect to determine the bounds of your spell, so there'd never be any left over to deal "damage," really. Plus, none of the different types of magic are directly damaging in the first place. Fairy tales aren't exactly rife with fireballs and magic missiles.

So okay, new plan. I'll have one column to handle all Hardships, but with three spaces on the top row, two in the middle, and one on the bottom, and assign damage limits to each row. Y'know, 1, 2, and 3 damage corresponding to the top, middle, and bottom rows. By filling them all up at once, you could take as many as six points of damage at once without going down, but you'd be really, really messed up.

Then I went to draw that on the index card, and the three spaces on the top row took up, like, three-quarters of the width of the card. So that got nixed for being impractical, in favor of just one space in each of three rows: The top for hits dealing 1 or 2 damage, the middle for 3 or 4 damage, and the bottom for 5 or more damage. If one row is full, go on to the next one.

But... well, really, that's not much different than just saying "You can take three Hardships." Five-damage hits are going to be exceedingly rare, so odds are good that you'll end up taking three 1- or 2-damage hits and filling those spaces sequentially. I worked a couple variations on that, but they all ended up with pretty much the same problem.

Finally, I realized something. The concept is sound, but why lock these Hardships down with pre-defined damage ratings? It's needlessly restrictive both mechanically and narratively. It's also needlessly almost identical to how I treat consequences in FATE, and surely I could put a little distance between us, for once.

So here's where I ended up. You can take up to 5 points of damage in Hardships. When you take damage, write down the Hardship and the amount of damage you took to get it in parentheses next to it. When those numbers exceed five, you're out.

But! I'd been working from the idea that each Hardship your opponent had would mean +1d6 for you, not to exceed +1d6 per row (just to keep the dice pools manageable). Without rows, how does that work? I don't want to do +1d6/Hardship, because again, that'll make dice pools too big. So instead, you get a number of additional d6s in your pool equal to the damage rating of the highest-rated Hardship your opponent has. Yes, this could potentially mean getting +5d6, but the odds of that are low -- and that guy's dead meat anyway, if he's already taken that much damage at once. It's far more likely that you'll take only 2 or 3 damage at once. Plus, typical NPCs will only be able to take a max of 3 damage or so.

So anyway, that's where things are. All that additional material I've written? Fluff that wouldn't even occur to me. I realized I hadn't explained a bunch of central setting conceits, but had left most of them implied. I'm still waist deep in it, but making good progress.

Also, art! I leaned on Andy to draw a few pieces for me, and they're great.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Game-Fu 8: Let It Ride

So what with one thing and another, the deadline for Game-Fu 8 has been extended by a week. This is doubly disastrous. One, I'll be compelled to work on this for another week, which means I'll be compelled to make it another week better. Two, if I'd managed to turn it in tonight, I would've gotten a +10% bonus. That's huge. Games are scored on a scale of 1-100, so 10% is nothing to sneeze at. My last entry scored an 87 and a 79 -- that would've been a 95.7 and an 86.9! Big difference.

Possibly worse is the fact that one CardinalXimenes (not of Spain, as far as I know) managed to turn his game in before the original deadline, and it's 41 pages long. With art! And maps! And an index! And, y'know, graphic design! I will have none of those things. My as-yet-untitled game (still!) is about 23 pages right now, with maybe seven or eight more to go, if I'm lucky and can manage to rein in my verbosity. I mean, art and graphic design aren't necessarily parameters of the contest, but they sure as hell don't hurt.

Anyway, my hat's off to him. That's damned impressive for two weeks' work. Competition's already fierce.

AFAIK, no one else turned an entry in tonight, so... we're all trailing that guy.

The good news is that I really like what I have. I can't emphasize that "really" enough. Mechanically, it just feels great, and I love the magic system. I just finished the chapter entitled "Fairy-Tale Treasures," so now all there is to do is a bit on running the game (e.g., what an expected evening's game play would be), statting up some adversaries (this is so, so easy...), and maybe doing a brief page of design notes, which in this case would just be a bunch of stuff about fairy tales.

Oh, and naming it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Game-Fu 8: This Is Where the Magic Happens

All the attention I've been giving Leftovers lately has put my Game-Fu entry on the back burner, but all that had better change pronto because this thing ends Sunday night. So late last night, some time after uploading the new version of Leftovers and updating the site, I sat down to tackle the one bit of fluff that hadn't been mechanically defined: magic.

I don't see magic as coming up a lot during the course of play, which may sound like a weird thing to say about a game in which the protagonists are fairies. But the expectation is that they'll be spending most of their in-game time in the real world, as mortals without the innate magical ability they normally enjoy in their natural habitat. However, when magic happens -- and there's nothing to say there can't be stories that take place partly or wholly within the Fairy World -- I want it to feel distinct from the stuff they do in the World of Man.

To reiterate how characters are defined, in the mortal world they have a number of blessings, probably three, categorized as either Body or Mind. In the Fairy World, they also have three blessings: The Blessings of the Mind stay the same, representative as they are of who the Fairy is on the inside, but instead of Blessings of the Body they have an equal number of Blessings of Magic. Magic is the realm of direct confrontation in the Fairy World, much as Body is in the mortal world. Fairies don't throw punches -- they throw illusions. They charm minds. They summon dragons.

Each category has five discrete blessings. I was going to make this totally freeform, but you always run the risk of someone picking a blessing like "Awesome!" or "Super-Soldier!" that either doesn't work with the tone of the game or is way too broad. So here are the Blessings of the Body and Mind, with examples of the kinds of things they cover:
  • Blessings of the Body:
    • Strong
      • Physical strength
    • Nimble
      • Agility, manual dexterity
    • Alert
      • Senses, reaction time
    • Hardy
      • Physical resilience, endurance, ability to withstand punishment
    • Attractive
      • Pleasing appearance
  • Blessings of the Mind:
    • Wise
      • Intuition, empathy
    • Well-Spoken
      • Personal interaction, persuasion
    • Clever
      • Intelligence, problem-solving
    • Brave
      • Courage, resolve, discipline
    • Cunning
      • Trickery, deception
Characters start with either two Body and one Mind, or the reverse. (I'm kind of dying to have an option for random character generation, but I'll cover that later.) When you're trying to do something, roll 3d6 plus 1d6 for each blessing that's relevant to the situation. The GM's the final arbiter on what qualifies as "relevant," but they're pretty self-explanatory.

For example, if your blessings are Strong, Hardy, and Brave, and you're chasing after a fleeing fairy through the mean streets of Fresno, you could reasonably roll 4d6, IMO -- the standard 3d6, plus 1d6 for Hardy. Chases are often as much about endurance as they are about speed. Strong? That's more about breaking things than speed -- sheer speed is the purview of Nimble. Brave? While it does take a certain amount of courage to even visit Fresno, let alone run through its streets, it isn't especially relevant to a chase.

Now, if your blessings were Nimble, Alert, and Cunning, you might be rolling 6d6, since all of those (to me, anyway) are pretty applicable to a chase: Nimble for speed, Alert for noticing which back alley he's ducked down, and Cunning to anticipate and outsmart him.

Anyway, it's a different story for Blessings of Magic. There are five of these as well (Conjure, Glamer, Summon, Shapechange, and Enchant), but what you can do with magic is limited to the blessing(s) you have. If you don't have the Summon blessing, you can't summon things; without Shapechange, you can't turn into a bear. And so on.

Every type of magic works a little differently, but still along the same mechanical principles used in the rest of the game: effort (the total of the kept dice in your pool) and effect (the number of un-kept dice).

  • Conjure
    • Create objects out of thin air
    • Default difficulty: 9
    • Spend effect to conjure larger, more useful, or more valuable items
      • 1 Effect: Small, useful handheld item of no special worth (+0 dice)
      • 2: Large as a tree (+1d6)
      • 3: Large as a house (+2d6)
      • 4: Large as a castle (+3d6)
  • Glamer
    • Create illusions
    • Spend effect to create larger or more convincing illusions
    • Default difficulty: Magic Rating for NPC target, or 9 +3/Magic blessing for PC target
    • Difficulty to see through illusion = 9 +3/effect spent.
      • 1 Effect: Size of a man
      • 2: Size of a tree
      • 3: Size of a house
      • 4: Size of a castle
  • Shapechange
    • Change shape
    • Default difficulty: 6
    • Spend effect to change into more powerful forms or extend the duration of the change
      • 1 Effect: Size of a man, one additional blessing appropriate to the form
      • 2: Size of a horse, two additional blessings
      • 3: Size of a tree, three additional blessings
      • 4: Size of a dragon, four additional blessings
  • Summon
    • Call forth supernatural beings from the aether -- or from, y'know, next door
    • Default difficulty: 9
    • Spend effect to summon more powerful beings or extend their stay
    • Every summoned being has at least one blessing and one curse. Indulging the creature's curse lets the summoner spend Misfortune.
      • 1 Effect: Creature has one blessing, stays for one day
      • 2: Two blessings, one week
      • 3: Three blessings, one month
      • 4: Four blessings, one year
  • Enchant
    • Charm, fascinate, implant suggestions
    • Default difficulty: Magic Rating for NPC target, 9 +3/Magic blessing for PC target
    • Spend effect to enhance the strength of the enchantment or extend its duration
    • Record amount of unspent effect. When the target is given an objectionable order, spend an effect to have him do it. Otherwise, he snaps out of it. I.e., you need at least two points of effect to really charm someone: one point to charm him for an hour, and the other to make him do something during that hour. Unobjectionable orders -- anything the target might reasonably do under his own volition -- don't require the enchanter to spend any effect.
      • 1 Effect: One hour
      • 2: One day
      • 3: One week
      • 4: One month
I'm throwing around this phrase "Magic Rating" pretty casually without having mentioned it until now. Basically, I want this to be a players-make-all-rolls game. The opposition has ratings for Body, Mind, and Magic. When you act against an opponent, you're going for the relevant rating -- Body Rating for physical attacks, etc. These range in increments of three from 6 (a very low rating, easily beatable with 3d6) to, say, 18 (not a guarantee even with 5d6). I'll go into this more in the next post.

Note that a default difficulty of 9 is especially easy to obtain considering that you'll be rolling at least 4d6, not including any relevant Mind blessings or Fortune spent on the roll.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leftovers 1.2 Is Up!

Well. That was fast.

The new version incorporates some relatively small but important changes, including combat maneuvers, advancement rules, and a way to use Bonds to enforce roleplaying.

It's called the Utah Playtest Edition because Larry & Co. are set to play it this weekend. I imagine by the time Scott and I run it (on separate occasions, even!) in April, we'll be on to the next version. The difference between this one and that one will probably just be fluff -- suggestions for how to style the Trench, how to create an evocative post-apoc version of wherever you are to serve as the Ruins, and so on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leftovers: Playtest Debriefing

Really great playtest yesterday at DiceHouse. Desmond, Brian, and Becky came out, which made for a good-sized group -- I don't think I'd want to run a game of Leftovers for more than, say, four or five players. (Then again, I think most games run best with groups of that size.)

The story involves the PCs being drafted by the Trench Authority on a mission to provide additional security for the Trench. After a number of particularly brutal Horror attacks, the Trench Authority Troopers find themselves short on both the munitions and manpower they need to do their job. The PCs' task: Make contact with a Grafter gang out in the Wasteland and negotiate a contract with them.

This is potentially a suicide mission, since Grafters are crazy cannibals, but the players are smart and think to bring a gift: a tentacle, suitable for Grafting. It was a great idea, but it required a little mechanical improvisation: I  made it a Resourceful roll, with the quality of the gift (a one-use Tool) dependent on the roll. As it turns out, they did quite well, and ended up with a d10 Tentacle. I don't know that this deserves its own subsystem, since it's a pretty specific circumstance, but I really liked what we came up with on the fly.

On the way out to the Grafter gang -- which, having forgotten to come up with a name for beforehand, I end up calling the Jets -- the group runs afoul of a Horror known as a gut-ripper, which basically looks like this:


True to form, one of the PCs has a vehicle -- in this case, a beat-up old Hummer -- which she uses as a weapon against the thing. Vehicular combat! What a fortuitous opportunity to use my new vehicular combat rules. They make short work of the gut-ripper, which was kinda disappointing because it's one of the bigger Horrors, but no big deal. They find the Jets in a surviving portion of the LA River Basin (which is just a big stretch of concrete, for those of you not familiar with the Mighty Los Angeles River), and, after dispatching of a Grafter thug sent out to test them (Becky got 'im in his big Horror eye with a slingshot and killed him dead!), meet with DJ Beastly, the gang's chief.

He listens to their spiel and agrees to help (partly thanks to the tentacle they give him) on two conditions. One, the Jets get to keep and/or eat everything they kill. Two, the PCs go kill and bring back a squidhead that's been eluding the gang for some time. The PCs accept, and before long they're bombing down the remains of the 405 headed for the remains of the oil refinery that once graced the city of Carson. These days, the refinery's a ruin, but it's in that ruin that the squidhead lives.

This ended up being quite a fight. By the end of it, we'd done two chases, killed off a PC, and nearly killed another. It was good to see that the squidhead was a real challenge for them; after the gut-ripper, I was afraid he'd go down like a punk. Instead, he crushed Brian's head to a pulp and nearly did the same with Becky. Miraculously, the d4 Strong Becky managed to slip away from the grasp of the d12 Strong squidhead -- it was an awesome bit of luck, and clutch, to boot. One more round and she would've been a goner.

Also awesome: Brian was brought back from the brink of death (or... well, he was dead, technically) with a Lesser Graft. It was his sixth Graft, and he was already Human Nature d6/Horrific Nature d10, so when he rolled those six dice we were all sure he'd lose some Human Nature. Out of all those d6s and d8s, he only had to roll a 4 or above. As it turned out, all his dice came up 2s and 3s! It was pretty funny.

The new Wound/Shock dice rules were great in play, and definitely increased the fun factor. The new way of handling Bonds turned out to be more intuitive and easier to use, plus most of the NPCs they came up with ended up being used on a roll or two. Really pleased with both of those.

I'd had an idea for "combat maneuvers," although that sounds awfully fancy. Basically, if you want to do something in combat besides just kill the opposition, you can trade in a Hit to do it. I think I may have mentioned this before. In any event, it got used quite a bit in play, usually by the players, which tells me that it was intuitive, easy, and fun. So that's in.

I also have an idea for character advancement that I actually like, because it centers completely on Bonds and Grafts instead of Traits.

It looks like Leftovers is a shoo-in for Hyphen-Con, so that'll probably be the next playtest I'll do, unless another opportunity presents itself. I know Larry Harala's running Leftovers for his group this coming weekend, so that'll be another valuable data point to harvest.

In the interest of making use of the Hyphen-Con game, I'm pushing back my target date for a PDF/POD release to the end of April. Still ambitious, but I feel pretty close to getting this finished, so full steam ahead, I say.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Leftovers v1.1 Is Up!

The latest version of Leftovers is online for your perusal. Some significant changes have been made, including how Wounds and Shocks work and how Bonds are defined, plus more on vehicles and vehicular combat (because it's cropped up in every game so far). Feedback, as always, is appreciated.

Oh, also -- we're playtesting tomorrow afternoon at DiceHouse Games, a most excellent game store in Fullerton, so if you're around, available, and interested, come on by and check it out.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Game-Fu 8: Refining

So it took me far too long to notice that my math was, to put it kindly, off. As much as I like a default target number of 7, because 7's such an iconic number in fairy tales, it doesn't really, y'know, work. Since that's the average of 2d6, rolling the baseline 3d6 pretty much guarantees at least one point of effect every time. That's too easy, especially if a character's defense is +3 per relevant blessing. The attacker is doing damage far too often, which makes combat a little too brutal for my liking.

One interesting thing about this mechanic is that even upping that number by a couple points can have a dramatic effect on the results. After all, it's not just that you're trying to beat, say, a 9 -- it's that you're trying to beat it with dice to spare. Nine's probably as high as I'd want to go. Higher than that, and succeeding at the default difficulty with no applicable blessings means having to roll 10 on 2d6, and that's unnecessarily hard. No, 9 is good. Someone without any advantages can still pull it off, but even one relevant blessing is likely to put you over the top (10.5 average on 3d6 vs. 14 average on 4d6).

This is made even more interesting by the Fortune/Misfortune mechanic. Do you really want a point of effect if the only way you can get it is by racking up a point of Misfortune? Are you willing to have less of an effect if it means nabbing a point of Fortune? I'm eager to see the choices players make in play.

Upping the default target number also has an effect on how defenses are calculated. I'm vacillating on static defenses vs. variable defenses, but the former's easier, so I'm going with that for now. Physical defense is 9 +3/Body blessing, and Mental defense is 9 +3/Mind blessing. If I limit blessings to a total of three, that should keep things from getting too far out of hand.

That brings me to damage. (Well, not necessarily, but I was going to get here somehow, so it may as well be via an inaccurate segue.) In keeping with the non-numeric character sheet -- seriously, so far your character is a collection of adjectives -- damage is measured in hardships. There are two basic categories of these,  physical (gained from damage in physical conflicts) and psychological (from social/mental conflicts), on two separate but convergent tracks. Here, it'll be easier to show than tell:

For every point of damage taken, fill in a blank with a single word that describes what's just happened to you. Start on the top row and work your way down. For example, if someone hits you with a knife for one point of damage, fill in the first physical blank with something like "Scratched" or "Cut." If you'd been hit for two points instead, you'd fill in the first two blanks, with the second blank representing a more severe result. It's the same with psychological "damage," such as that dealt through intimidation, fright, or even negotiation.

You'll notice that the two tracks converge on the bottom row. The separate tracks only go so far -- once you're damaged badly enough, it doesn't matter what finishes you off. If that bottom blank's already filled and you have to take another hardship, you're done for. That may mean you're dead, or unconscious, or cowering, or fleeing, or whatever. It's highly dependent on the situation. It's also not exactly an original idea, so I'm sure people out there are used to it already.

What do these hardships mean? Anyone attacking you can use them as blessings, but only one per row. E.g., if a Strong guy's attacking you with his big meaty fists, and you have a hardship of Bruised, he gets to roll 5d6 against you: the standard 3d6, plus 1d6 for being Strong, plus 1d6 for your hardship. If you had two hardships on the same row, he'd still only get a total of 1d6 from them, but if you had, say, two physical hardships and one psychological hardship, or two psychological and one physical, or two of each, he'd get 2d6.

Anyway, how do you recover from these things? The top row goes away at the end of the scene. The middle row has to be "healed" with a roll -- the difficulty's, say, 12. One point of effect moves it up a row; two points removes it entirely.

As for the bottom row, that's another story. Those hardships never go away until the end of the story, barring something truly extraordinary (like Queen Mab magicking it away). It doesn't just go away, though -- it gets translated into another curse. Curses are, as far as I can tell, always mental, so the new curse would have to be, too. Again, the exact nature of this new curse would be dependent on the hardship that spawned it.

Apart from magic and a situational modifiers, I think that's about it for the mechanics. Nice and simple. Such a departure from Leftovers. Not that Leftovers is a mechanically complex game, but it's a damn sight more complex than... this game. Whatever it's called.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Game-Fu 8: Mechanics

Here are some rough notes on the mechanics. This includes the following ingredients:
  • Roll-and-keep dice pools, where the un-kept dice still matter somehow.
  • Character sheet fits on an index card (front and back).
  • Karma system -- a character's actions can reward/penalize them later.
(The other two ingredients -- the Genre Blender and the Driving Force -- are setting/premise elements, not mechanical ones.)

So then.
  • Roll-and-keep-and-count -- total of kept dice is effort, number of unused dice is effect. Default pool of 3d6 vs. default target number of 7.
    • For example, if your target number is 7, and your 3d6 roll is 4, 3, and 2, you can keep the 4 and 3 to count toward your effort (i.e., to meet the target number), while the single unused die would mean an effect of 1.
    • Tasks take X effect to complete. Points of effect in combat is just damage.
    • For every 6 in your effect pool, you get a point of Fortune. Spend Fortune to add an additional d6 to a roll (1d6/point spent). You can also receive Fortune by acting in accordance with the story's moral in a way that's disadvantageous to you (see below).
    • For every 1 in your effect pool, you get a point of Misfortune. If you have more Misfortune than Fortune, instead of rolling 3d6, roll 2d6. Misfortune can be lost by acting in accordance with your curse.
  • Characters have blessings (good qualities) and a curse -- a moral failing. These are one-word adjectival descriptors. Blessings are things like Strong, Clever, Well-Spoken, Nimble, Keen-Eyed, and so forth. Curses are usually adjectival versions of the cardinal sins -- Vain, Greedy, Gluttonous, etc. -- but can also be things like Uncharitable or Paranoid.
    • Blessings add dice to the pool if applicable to the situation -- 1d6 each.
    • Acting in accordance with your curse lets you lose Misfortune -- one point per scene in which you succumb to your curse in a way that's significant to your situation and/or the story. For example, if you're Vain, you won't lose Misfortune for fixing your hair in a mirror, but you would if you spent an hour preening instead of surveiling.
  • Blessings and curses are wholly player-defined, but we're going to need some examples. Especially for Magic.
    • Magic's a bit different, in that if you don't have a blessing for the thing you want to do, you can't do it. For example, if your Magic blessings are Shapechange and Conjure, you can't Glamer.
  • Blessings are divided into categories: Body and Mind for humans (or fairies in human form), and Magic and Mind for fairies. Body covers everything physical, like strength, endurance, hardiness, manual dexterity, and agility, while Mind qualities are related to intelligence, perception, empathy, persuasiveness, and so on. Magic is more nebulous, but it can cover anything within the purview of your Magic blessings. We're pretty loose when it comes to this.
    • Whether in human or fairy form, a fairy always has the same Mind blessings -- which means that they'll have the same number of Body and Magic blessings. Is that a problem? Upon reflection... no. In the real world, Body is the realm of direct confrontation. Magic would be the same in the fairy world.
  • A character's defense against physical attacks is 7 + three times the number of his Body blessings. That becomes the target number for attacks against the character. For example, a character with two Body blessings -- say, Strong and Nimble -- would have a physical defense of 13.
  • Ditto mental defense and magic defense.
  • Armor or its equivalent gobbles effect dice.
  • Not sure exactly how damage will work, but... it'll work, I can promise you that.
    • There may be something about "death" just meaning that you revert to your fairy form -- sort of a last resort granted by the Fairy Queen. In practical terms, it's another chance to play your character as their "normal" self. But I dunno.
  • Every story has a moral, chosen by the GM before the game begins. Fairy tale morals usually boil down to "Don't be stupid, inattentive, or cruel." The game will include four or five Perrault-style morals-in-verse (but not actual Perrault morals, because they're a little cutesy and overly specific), although GMs can certainly make up their own. Every moral should include, or at least strongly imply, two basic modes of behavior: "correct" and "incorrect." For example, a moral like "It's better to suffer than to do wrong" says that nothing justifies the incorrect behavior of wrongdoing -- it's better to do the right thing, even if that means suffering. Acting "correctly," according to the moral, can earn a player Fortune, while engaging in "incorrect" behavior can earn Misfortune. Both of these are at the GM's discretion.
  • The character sheet is an index card, with the PC's human version on one side and the fairy version on the other. When the PC crosses over, flip the card over to the appropriate side.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Game-Fu 8: Premise

As much as Fairy Tale + Espionage intrigues me, I think I'm going with a sort of fairy tale-influenced cross between "The Lost Room," "Warehouse 13," and... I dunno... "G vs. E," maybe. "Warehouse 13" is admittedly not great TV, but as a premise for an RPG, it's fantastic. "The Lost Room" was interesting, even if I liked the setting more than the actual plot, and the first season of "G vs. E" (as opposed to "Good vs. Evil," as it later became) was, as we all know, absolutely bad-ass.

So here's a rough outline of the premise:
  • There's a fairytale world, and the real world. They exist side-by-side as alternate dimensions. There used to be a lot of travel between the two worlds, with fairies meddling in the affairs of humans and humans wandering accidentally into the fairytale world on the way to their grandmother's house. At some point, the Fairy Queen decided that all of this contact was bad for fairykind, so she established a barrier between the two worlds to prevent cross-contamination. Most humans couldn't find their way across anyway. Fairies still could, but doing so was grounds for severe punishment. Even so, the barrier has a dramatic effect on fairies crossing over: It turns them human.
  • Fairy tales are true stories, or at least have a kernel of truth. Centuries of these stories being told over and over has imbued them, and the fairy world, with increasing magical power. Certain artifacts from these stories that are still around are saturated in this power -- in the world of man. In the fairy world, they're just ordinary objects: a red cap, a silver pitcher, a pair of boots, a key, a book, and so on. Take them to the world of man, though, and they're suddenly supernaturally powerful. That key makes any door open onto a secret room in Bluebeard's castle. That red cap? Whoever wears it can find any location without getting lost. Dr. Knowall's ABC Book contains any piece of information that's currently known by a living person. And so on.
  • The fairy world is still accessible from the world of man, and vice-versa, through certain points of commonality -- rings of mushrooms, stone circles, strange doors, dead-end alleyways, etc. These paths are all but unknown to mankind, but fairies know of them. Each of these paths only works once per year.
  • Perhaps because it's forbidden, more than a few fairies are drawn to the world of man, even though it means being human while they're there. To compensate for their lack of magic there, they're often known to take a fairytale souvenir with them. Consequently, they frequently become highly successful, thanks to the power of the souvenir.
  • Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Queen Mab. These fairies are to be tracked down and punished, and their souvenirs confiscated. That's where the PCs come in: They're agents of the queen, tasked with going to the world of man (on official business), recovering these souvenirs, and capturing the rogue fairies.
  • Most of the action takes place in the world of man, but it's conceivable that stuff can happen in the fairy world, too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Game-Fu 8: Initial Thoughts

So the ingredients have now been posted for this more recent Game-Fu contest, and I'm already inspired by some vague ideas. As before, there's a list of System Constraints (mechanics, more or less) and a Genre Blender (pick two and puree), plus a couple that are new, as far as I know: a MacGuffin, or a PC's raison d'etre in the game, and a collection of Miscellanea, only one of which really appeals to me. And unlike last time... no image requirement. Fine with me. I lost a few points for not using my images creatively enough with Leftovers (even though the judge in question acknowledged that the images were meant to be inspirational only, and their layout within the document wasn't supposed to figure into the score -- not that I'm bitter).

It looks like regardless of what I end up doing, there are a few ingredients that I'll definitely use. One of the System Constraints is a dice mechanic I suggested -- a roll-and-keep dice pool, where the un-kept dice are mechanically significant -- so that's in, and one of the Miscellanea is a character sheet that's simple enough to fit on one or both sides of an index card, so that's in, too. That means I only need three more ingredients. But one of those has to be the Genre Blender, so really, it's only two ingredients. Another System Constraint that's, essentially, "no XP," so that's another easy one to throw into the mix, and yet another that's a karma system in which a character's actions come back to bite/kiss their ass somewhere down the line. So, potentially, I'm done with picking ingredients. That was easy.

However, there are some other character-generation ingredients that still interest me: round-robin chargen, "colors as a meaningful requirement for character," and chargen as a series of multiple-choice questions. Not all of those easily fit every genre, though, so I'm not 100% on them. (The karma thing doesn't fit every genre, either, but it fits enough that I think I can safely assume I'll use it.)

As for the core of this whole process, the Genre Blender, here are my initial thoughts:
  • A Goonies-style adventure game where the PCs are all kids (junior high, tops) tackling challenges and mysteries unknown to or far from adult authority. (Pulp Adventure/Modern Occult)
  • Another game with child PCs, but this time it's about kids who have each come into possession of a seemingly mundane object that's actually a displaced artifact of some kind from the fairy world. The kids have all struck a deal with the fairies: They can keep and use their whatsits if they help the fairies track down the remaining missing artifacts, all of which appear to be ordinary objects in our world. This one could make neat use of the index-card character sheet: the "real world" version of the character is on one side, and the Fairy World version's on the other. (Fairy Tale/Modern Occult)
  • Two words: fairy spies. (Espionage/Fairy Tale)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Game-Fu Contest and More

First: A new Game-Fu contest begins on on March 5th. The stakes couldn't be smaller -- three strangers on the Internet passing judgment on your game! -- but the point is to give yourself a deadline to produce a game you'd never thought of before. If that appeals to you, as it does to me, check it out.

Second: I'd gotten a little stuck on A Wizard Did It -- my working title for that "Discovery"-themed game I started to write for an EN World contest -- when it came to combat. Literally everything else quickly spun out of the original idea of a predominantly blank character sheet and PCs as newborn magical constructs, but when it came to combat I was left scratching my head. I didn't want to introduce anything as bland as hit points, or simple "wound boxes," or anything else that didn't stem directly from potential, functions, and specialties.

However! I think I've sorted that out.

Constructs that take damage accumulate Breakage dice. Once a construct has more than three Breakage dice, it's Broken -- i.e., taken out of play. Could be the equivalent of "dead," but it doesn't have to be. (It could be "Lose your highest function and any attendant specialties, then clear your Breakage dice." That'd be rough, but it beats dying... right?) When the damaged construct engages in an unopposed test or a conflict, add its Breakage dice to the 2d6 the GM (or opponent) would normally roll, then keep the best two dice.

But! Instead of taking one or more Breakage dice as damage, you can instead roll those dice and give the GM the resulting number of Mystery points (which the GM uses to fuel the opposition). So let's say you take a Breakage die, and you just take it. But then you take a second Breakage die, and you decide you don't want to get that close to being Broken -- so instead of taking the damage, you roll 2d6 (because it's your second Breakage die) and get a 9. The GM then gets 9 Mystery. The good news is you still only have one Breakage die. The bad news is that things will be tougher for you in the future.

Third: Was there a third thing? I'll try to think of something.

Oh, right! Leftovers is inching ever closer to publication (if you can call selling something on "publication" -- and I do!). I'm starting to think seriously about art and layout; Lulu has a 7" x 9" landscape format that I really dig. My friend Tony suggested it, actually, and I took to it right away. The plan is to get a first edition out by the end of the month.

That's pretty ambitious, but I think we can pull it off. I do have a fair bit of writing ahead of me, though... and there's that other Game-Fu contest I mentioned earlier... but what the hell, let's be ambitious.