Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trigger Discipline: New Conflict Mechanics

The big thing I wanted to add to Trigger Discipline's conflict rules was the idea of escalation- one classic element of most anime battles is that the characters take a while to "get serious", only using their strongest techniques, etc. once the conflict has had some time to ramp up. The recent brainstorms (about having stats for a character's inner virtues) have inspired some additional mechanics that round things out nicely. Here's the new core rules:

-A conflict is still divided into 1 or more individual faceoffs each round, with the each of a faceoff's two sides making a contested roll between the participants once per round (in whatever order the Director wants, makes no difference ).

At least one side of each faceoff has to consist of a single participant (even if the in-game nature of that 'participant' is a group of NPCs ). If that participant's up against multiple enemies, they make one set of rolls as usual and then compare the results against each opponent seperately. All of this is unchanged from the previous version of the rules, aside from some new terminology. However, what follows are some pretty major alterations. . .
-Each participant has a pool of dice, which they freely assign to their Trait, Power, and GAR rolls (both sides assign their dice in secret and then simultaneously reveal how they've divvied them up before rolling).
I can assign all my dice to my GAR roll, which means I have very good odds of getting more successful GAR dice than my opponent, which means I can get a GAR success (which will trump the Power and Trait successes my enemy will probably get). Two things keep this strategy from being broken: One, GAR scores are lower than Trait and Power scores, so the die results have a larger random element to them. Two, a Single success does relatively little to help you win a given Conflict. More on this in a minute.
-After a faceoff's rolls have been made, an Interact phase occurs.
During each interact phase, characters engage in a contest of wills- they talk smack ("What kind of wussy punch was that?"), debate philosophies ("A true warrior fights with his heart!"), etc. Mechanically, each side chooses one of their 5 Inner Virtues (each of which has a score that's usually between 1 and 5), and rolls a d6. If the result is equal to or less than the score, their character succesfully utilizes that inner virtue and their die pool's size increases by one. "But Dagda," you ask, "Won't people always pick their best score?" By default, yes! But the default scenario is a rare one, because the rewards for a Single, Double, and Triple success have changed. . .
-A Single Success lets you declare an Inner Virtue that *both* sides will use during the next interact phase.
Meaning you'll want to pick whichever virtue you have the most of compared to your opponent. If I have 5 Cunning and 3 Kindness, and my opponent has 5 Cunning and 1 Kindness, I'm better off choosing Kindness- so I narrate the start of a speech on my character's part about how he's fighting for the sake of others, and lecturing my enemy because he's just fighting for money.
-A Double Success also earns you a Victory Point
Get X victory points and you win the conflict, inflicting a point of plot damage to everyone on the losing side. Someone who takes plot damage either loses a point of plot armor or, if they have no plot armor, loses the use of one of their scores (Gar, Power, or Trait). Losing the use of all 3 scores takes you down for good. Many NPCs have no plot armor and will be instantly taken out by even a single point of plot damage. SPEAKING OF WHICH. . .
-A Triple Success also inflicts a point of Plot Damage on your enemy and nets you a point of Fanbase.
In other words, getting a Triple Success is often an instant takedown.

That's the core of it! There's some more rules I'm considering on top of this, including some different mechanics to represent underdogs making a comeback when the opponent seems to have them outmatched (both to represent anime tropes and address playester's complaints about being unable to recover in battles that start out with a string of unlucky rolls).

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Field Report

Just a quick sci-fi piece I did a few weeks back, for a discussion on alien perspectives of humanity.

Most worthy and honorable [saints] of the council, it is my solemn wish that this annual report shall prove to be free from arrogance. For the duration of the past [16.52 years], I have endeavored to perform suitably as a replacement for my former master. It is with fearful humility that I find myself forced to challenge his conclusions with regards to the sentience-supporting planet [Earth]'s primary species of interest.

As the superior members of the council are surely aware, [humans] are classified as an inferior non-[murderous] gatherer species. My predecessor initially declared that humanity was composed of numerous sub-species, which dwell together in groups; he believed this was why they had been able to form a [false] civilization which allows them to advance without the aid of [blessed extraterrestrial enslavers] in a similar fashion to [untranslatable name 1] and the [untranslatable name 2]. However, our fact-auditor invalidated this conclusion after translating the human's records regarding their own genetic information. Upon his retirement, my former master's final report thus theorized that humans are instead obeying the will of hive minds which communicate to them via a medium our outpost's sensors were incapable of monitoring.
He believed that human brains themselves had the secondary function of receiving and generating these signals, which explains the abnormal levels of energy they require to operate- [20 watts] for adults, a full 20% of their daily energy consumption. I hereby pronounce this theory to be without merit. My dutiful observations, aided by the continued maturation of our translation programs, have forced me to adopt a new hypothesis using data we previously assumed to be erroneous.

It is with reluctant confidence that I declare humans to be individually capable of adopting multiple [identities]. For example, it is considered normal for a single individual to be capable of simultaneously fulfilling all [parental] roles while also serving as a resource-gatherer and a resource manager. They have no need for [mental purging] rituals, and can even spontaneously develop new [selves] when placed in new situations. This results in an incredible resistance to [paradox breakdowns], as reflected by the strength of a typical human's [sense of humor]; the range of stimuli types their minds can derive [amusement] from is extraordinarily broad. Nor is this the limit of this species' adaptibility.

Recent translations of humanity's records regarding their own species conclusively indicate that they are capable of naturally developing [unnatural] selves in a conscious response to paradigm shifts created by their own advances in technology. Despite their nature as inferior gatherers, upon developing primitive [weapons] humanity immediately began to utilize them to simulate the nature of a [murderous] species, becoming predators of superior organisms. This artificial role developed despite a complete absence of [divine intervention], and we have identified hundreds more that have appeared since. Our [role enforcer] has already declared that this includes multiple [warrior] roles, and that the majority of them do not conform to any known classifications; [he] expects similar results in other areas. It may hypothetically be possible to declare that every human's identities are in fact unique, similar to that of other humans but lacking anything inherently identical.

Because of this capability, human [society] appears to be several orders of magnitude more complex than anything previously encountered. They seem to be capable of communicating [viewpoints] in an incredibly efficient manner through the use of complex linguistic techniques and the simultaneous conscious use of multiple mediums; I theorize that a human who achieved comprehension of the contents of this report could relate the entirety of it to another member of his species in under [5.28 hours]. While their [false] technology is primitive, human society appears to be advancing it at an exponential rate.

This report shall be accompanied by all acquired data, as is my duty. I await renewed enlightenment through the all-comprehending council's forthcoming conclusions.


Inferior observer,

"The council of saints declares that humans may potentially be capable of independently achieving interstellar travel and influencing the development of other species, which means they may be [infant gods] whose society possesses [perfect purity of truth]. All preparations for humanity's enlightening enslavement are [heretical] and must cease immediately. [Religious authorities] are committing suicide to [serve penance] in your place, so that you might study human society to the absolute fullness of your potential.

You may well be recording our new [gospel]. Do not falter, and do not interfere with the development of humanity at any cost. A delegation of [high priests] shall arrive to assume leadership of your project and augment its capabilities in [168.7 years]."

This is the council's word.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trigger Discipline: Statting One's Inner Nature

The following's an attempt to make a comprehensive set of scores that cover anime & manga character's personal strengths and weaknesses- i.e. aspects of one's inner character that help or hinder how they do in a fight. Though it's likely going to see use in Trigger Discipline, my intent is to pursue the concept first and then see where it leads.

At the moment I've got five virtues in mind (I'm also naming their corresponding deficiencies for descriptive purposes):
[Despair vs. Acceptance]: A character with a poor score is a drama queen, weighed down by their inability to cope with various hardships and tragedies. A character with a high score provides a reassuring presence when others feel they can't go on.
[Ignorance vs. Cunning]: A character with a poor score focuses on obvious, superficial aspects of the matter at hand. A character with a high score instinctively cuts to the heart of things, making them excellent at seeing through deceptions and solving gordian knots.
[Idiocy vs. Genius]: A character with a poor score is simpleminded or just plain dumb. A character with a good score can easily wrap his head around complex matters and is endlessly making plans within plans.
[Callousness vs. Kindness]: A character with a poor score thinks nothing of others and never seeks meaningful bonds with those around them. A character with a high score treasures shared experiences and forms close, supportive relationships.
[Reluctance vs. Mettle]: A character with a poor score is halfhearted and easily scared off. A character with a high score can do whatever needs to be done without faltering.

Alternately, I could describe each of these qualities as a type of willpower.
-Acceptance provides faith, a sense of confidence that stops you from giving in to despair.
-Cunning provides clarity, letting you pierce through shallow concerns to intuitively grasp the things that really matter.
-Genius provides concentration, the focus your mind relies on to work very quickly when the need arises.
-Kindness provides devotion, allowing you to draw strength from your bonds to the people around you.
-Mettle provides resolve, enabling you to "give it your all" without hesitating or holding back.

I've got a pretty good idea of how these scores will be used. Each starts at 1 and can can be raised as high as 5. When you make an Willpower check you roll 1d6 and succeed so long as the die result is equal to or less than the score in question. Sometimes two dueling enemies each choose which score they're rolling against, sometime one decides which score will be used by both sides. (The consequence of a successful roll is an increase in the size of your die pool during combat, as the battle escalates. I'll explain this further in a later post)

So the significance of a score is something like this:
0-Terrible (Always a failure)
6-Amazing (Always a success)

You start with 5 scores of 1 and given number of points (say, 10) to spend on increasing them, plus the option to choose one or two of the following templates (which must be compatible with one another):
Savant: One of your virtues goes down to 0. Another has its maximum limit raised to 6.

Weakling: Choose a virtue. Said virtue will start at 1 each scene but then increase by 1 at the end of every turn until it reaches its normal score. After that, each time you make a Willpower check using that virtue, failure penalizes your actions for that turn in some manner while success causes the virtue to raise by 1 more.

Hidden Strength penalizes a score by 1 or 2, but that penalty turns into a bonus when the chips are down and a secondary condition is met (obviously, this one's still rather vague). Hidden Weakness is the same except a bonus becomes a penalty.

Competent changes your restrictions to 2-4 and lets you reroll each failed Willpower check once- but only if you use a virtue whose score is less than the one you first rolled against.

The end result of these mechanics will be to further blur the line between character interaction and gameplay in Trigger Discipline. I'll get into this more next time.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

So what've I been up to?

Well, the usual- work and classes mixed with tons of game design ideas/projects, I just haven't been writing any of them up for this blog. Here's what I can name off the top of my head- these are all potential posts, so if there's one you'd like to see? Just say the word.

-Fantasy Craft is out! It is amazing, for a whole host of reasons. There are a number of game designers out there whom I respect, but there is only one case where I go beyond respect to outright dreaming that I can one day reach this level of game design skill.
--As a test of the system's versaility, I came up with "builds" that could make 5 different kinds of swordsmen (experts at fighting with the standard sword, no greatswords or fencing blades allowed) as well as rough character concepts to go with each one.
--I had an interesting brainstorming session on /tg/ for using the system to run a game based on Berserk. Step one was to not tell them it's based on Berserk- that the concept is "Badass Mercenary Quest" or something similar.
--While I'm at it. . .I kinda wrote up the Fantasy Craft statistics for Guts. You know, like last time, except in this case I have versions for him throughout the series.
--Kjallak Havengard is a character I made for a Fantasy Craft game I'm involved in- a sea captain with ambitious dreams, involving the restoration of his exiled clan to greatness. The post would delve into both his build and character concept.
--One element of Kjallak's background that would merit a post of its own is his cultural background, which can basically be described as a cross between the Vikings and the societal structure of Imperial China.
--I've also started to run a game of my own- set in a (probably) non-fantastic medieval setting, no less. I won't be giving too much detail yet (for fear of players reading the blog and encountering spoilers), but one thing that would be worth posting about is the experimental "half-montage" format I used to kick off the game. So far it's worked well.

-While on a family retreat, I had a conversation with a younger cousin of mine (early middle school age)- and all she wanted to talk about was a series of children's fantasy novels she was currently geeking out on. This warmed my heart to no end. So I wound up. . .well, I won't mince words. I grilled her on the content of these novels and in the space of an hour had custom-built a roleplaying from scratch. It turned out pretty nice, too.
--A report how the actual game went merits a post of its own. Since the players were this middle-school cousin, two of here elementary school-age younger siblings, and our grandmother. None of whom (barring this recent appetite for fantasy novels) have ever been particularly geeky. The results were verrry interesting.
--I could also do a post on how exactly I went about the task of building the rpg. Since it was essentially me applying my design principles and seeing them bear fruit in some very satisfying ways.

-Divers: This one's. . .interesting. It's a campaign setting, could fill a number of posts. The concept's hard to describe. One massive oversimplification I came up with was "Matrix+Bleach+Silent Hill- There's something going on behind the modern-day world we know. Those who can perceive this can enter the parallel existence themselves, and in the process gain supernatural powers as they transform into a closer reflection of their true inner nature."

-World Of Darkness' amazing Slasher supplement inspired me to go back and revisit. . .my old idea for setting a campaign in the world of the FF7 series. I know it sounds deranged, but these two concepts are peanut butter and chocolate, seriously.
--And of course, such a concept was enough to merit actually sitting down and writing out the Mutants & Masterminds-based rules that would actually be used to play a game in that setting.
--As a part of this, I came up with some semi-original powers known as Jenova Powers. Doesn't exactly sounds like some grand feat of game design, yet they're easily one of my proudest creations in the past year.

-I've also been tapped by a group of student-level developers who are taking a stab at making a browser-based post-apocalyptic MMO, under the working title of "Cobalt Dawn". They needed a game designer, primarily for the combat system (which I've largely finished, drawing on and refining my work on the never-released combat system for the old Vrilwar game- talk about a nostalgia rush!)
--I've also been having lots of interesting ideas regarding character abilities and development over time, plenty of which can be applied to a tabletop game fairly easily.
--Which reminds me: Just about the most fascinating thing about this experience, for me, has been the similarities and differences between the design priorities of a tabletop RPG and those of an MMO-RPG. Definitely enough material for another post there.

-Plus plenty of other miscellaneous stuff besides. A piece of short fiction narrating an alien civilization's perspective on humanity. A concept for a video game where camera follows NPC's perspectives and the player character is frequently offscreen. A campaign idea where the party members become adventurers after parasitic ghosts (who feed on death) latch onto their life-forces. Another video game concept combining Fallout 3 and Tekken. . .I could go on.

-And I could always do more work on some existing concept; lord knows there are plenty that never got their due, and several others where I've done little to keep people posted on some very interesting ideas I've head (especially Trigger Discipline).
I've thrown up a poll, but if you want something in particular then the comments in this thread are the place to start.

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