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Author Topic: [3:16] Roger's Analysis and Review  (Read 5335 times)
Roger
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« on: October 20, 2005, 08:14:35 AM »

3:16
By Gregor Hutton
16 pages, pdf.

I've divided this into two parts. The first is an analysis of the design of the game. The second is a review of the game.


The Design of 3:16

I'll be using terms from the Glossary and from the RPG Design Patterns book.

Each character consists of:

Two Skills:
1. Fighting Ability
2. Non-Fighting Ability

Two Resources:
3. Strength slots
4. Weakness slots

One Gift:
5. Strengths

One Flaw:
6. Weaknesses

Two Derived Attributes
7. Level
8. Weapons

Two Attributes:
9. Rank
10. Kills


Gauge Relations:

Level is derived from Fighting Ability plus Non-Fighting Ability. There is a 1:1 one-way Currency relationship between the Strength and Weakness slots and the actualized Strengths and Weaknesses. The Weapons gauge is determined by Rank.

Resolution System:

The game has a generalized task resolution system, with Fortune-in-the-Middle. There is a Safety Valve mechanism in place which requires converting a Strength or Weakness slot into an actual Strength or Weakness.


That's my design analysis of the game. My review of the game follows.

This game is a bit sneaky. It bears some superficial characteristics of supporting Gamist play. However, anyone trying to play it with a Gamist agenda is going to be quickly disappointed. The wound system, for example, is pure Color -- the rules specifically state that characters cannot be killed under normal circumstances.

The game has a good amount of support for Narrative play. It has a compelling Premise: What happens to people when they leave their society and go off to war? What happens when they return to society?

However, it makes (in my opinion) the classic error of Narrative games. It answers the Premise. It tells you what conclusion to reach.

My advice to the author is to excise his own conclusion from the game. Trust the players to reach their own conclusions. That's probably both easier and harder than it sounds, but I think it's vital to the success of the game.


In general: There's a certain audaciousness with this game that I must applaud. Not in the Setting or the Color -- games which push those limits are a dime-a-dozen. It's the mechanics of the System that impress me. Two skills -- Killing Things and Everything Else -- has a wonderful boldness to it. I look forward to the next draft with great anticipation.


Cheers,
Roger
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2005, 08:24:26 AM »

Heya,

Quote
However, it makes (in my opinion) the classic error of Narrative games.  It answers the Premise.  It tells you what conclusion to reach.

My advice to the author is to excise his own conclusion from the game.  Trust the players to reach their own conclusions.  That's probably both easier and harder than it sounds, but I think it's vital to the success of the game.

I believe I agree with Roger's statement here.  It's important to let the players discover the answers for the Premise on thier own without overt presure (force) from the game or the GM.  This is part of the reason I have to kinda stay away from Narrativist designs myself until I get a better handle on how to do it.  I always want to write in the answers or develop a singular path to reach them. 

3:16 (or is it "3-16" ?) is good, though, and I look forward to what Ron has to say about it.

Peace,

-Troy
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greyorm
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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2005, 11:41:07 AM »

I read through 3:16 last night and found I had a love/hate relationship with it. For me, the game's Premise rocks, I love it a whole bunch (heck, eXpendables is my own tribute to "blowin' up aliens"). I dislike the basic mechanics. It feels like there's not enough there for me to hold onto, it's too heavily narrative-focused, enough that it feels like sand slipping through my fingers (and just so there is no confusion: by "too narrative", I don't mean Narrativist).

Now, I know that's entirely personal preference, and structurally the game may work very well. I don't know, because I haven't had a chance to play it yet, and I've discovered that is really the only way I can get a feel for and understand a system. So if you'll indulge me, my critique there based on that alone, and thus you may also ignore me on that basis alone.

There are only two stats. This bugs me. There's, well, no gameplay there, at least that I see. Not enough tactical choice for me. Second, anything not covered by stats is simply narrated by whomever happens to be the Acting Character. That also bugs me, but as I haven't played I can't say that why I'm thinking it bugs me is in any way relevant. I'd love to see an example of play (which I realize you didn't have time to write up).

There are no rules or guidelines regarding X is this hard, Y is this hard, and Z is easy. This is an easy addition to make.

Ok, Range on weapons and descriptions. Range is completely narrative in nature, particularly the difference between Close, Medium and Long ranges. there is no functional difference between that guy standing over there and that guy standing WAY over there. Make Range actually mean something mechanically in play or don't bother with it.

Similarly, some of the descriptions are likewise mechanically meaningless. Ok, an energy canon is cumbersome and hard to run with...which means what, exactly? Are there any penalties to the character's potential actions because of this? Grenades can blow up your own marines: how is this determined? This one is easier to answer: I assume that throwing a grenade and losing narration means the opponent can narrate you taking flak damage? (though I admit I may not be understanding the system enough to make that assumption)

Armour. Armour keeps you Brits from being killed, while Armor keeps American soliders safe. Heh. Ok, seriously. It keeps you from dying...but you can't die anyways. Keeps you from being injured? Ok. That works. It basically negates the narration of a wound a little more than half the time?

Similarly, levels of wounding are good, but meaningless in play. If I'm at Red, what does that mean for my die-rolling and ability to narrate, etc? Anything? Right now, spouting blood from every pore just looks like Color (no pun intended).

Again, for equipment and etc. It might be cool to have some sort of play notations about using these items (like the Barge, the APC, etc.) How much damage can some of them put out (how many kills does the APC do when I'm using it?)

Now, I really like the concept of the Flashback and how it is used. This is incredible and I wish certain other games (*cough*Immortal*cough*) used something like this to cement the importance and utility of flashbacks mechanically, rather than just as "here's something else you can do in play, but it doesn't matter if you do or not."

There are tantalizing hints about what the marines do when they get back to Earth...but that's it. It is stated that they don't get a hero's welcome? Well...why not? This is not apparent, given that apparently everyone on Earth loves the 3:16. Make this explicit or remove all reference to it.

I see potential for lots of different campaigns, here, particularly at climax (in Return): why were the marines sent out? No, I mean really. That's never really explored as a concept in the text.

Well, that's all I've got. Great design and layout, and congrats on winning a Ronny!
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2005, 01:33:46 PM »

The flashback mechanic -- narrate backstory and take over the narration in the present day -- is frickin' brilliant. The division of abilities into "fighting" and "everything else" is a fun jab in the eye to traditional games. Everything else -- mmm, underdeveloped, as folks have said.

Thought: The flashback mechanic keeps putting the focus back on Earth (or earlier missions, but, Earth pre-enlistment is the more interesting bit to me). Could the flashbacks therefore somehow tie in mechanically to the Endgame, when the "present-day" characters return to Earth to take their horrible revenge on all the things established in flashback?

I think the Premise isn't "Is blowing up aliens bad?" I think it may be something like "the people you love let you become a monster -- whatcha gonna do about it?"

Also, is the title a satirical reference to John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life")?
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2005, 04:30:20 PM »

Also, is the title a satirical reference to John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life")?

Bingo. (Or maybe, and I apologise to Stone Cold Steve Austin in advance, ... Terra 3:16 says I just kicked your ass.)

Thanks for the feedback, I'm really appreciative of the thought you've all put into this.

I would say that I deliberately intended it to have different meanings to different players. Is it about... Just getting kills? Advancing in rank? Growing your character through narrated history (of strengths and weaknesses)? Survival? Going home? Telling a story? Simulating action flicks like Aliens and Starship troopers? Having fun? Wondering what right your character has to kill every damn thing in the Universe? Why you? Why not?

There are some things in there that I'll flag up.

Rank ... I think you will be surprised in play how much power this can have (and I hope it doesn't end up like the Stanford Prison Experiment).

Wounds ... yes you can die. Black = Dead. You take 4 kills and you're out of there. I think it is weak for troopers not to die, but I understand some folks might whine about it. My point was that if you want to live you have to use a Strength or Weakness (and since you get 10 to start there should be no complaints). If you've used them all up and the Lieutenant calls in an Orbital Bombardment. Well, tough. There's more troopers where you came from. And if the Lt or Sarge keeps sending you into the nest of nasties, you either get dead, promoted or your superiors killed...

Abilities. I feel the game only needs the two abilities (Killing and Other Stuff) as anything else is an attempt to somehow replicate things in some sort of simulated manner. This game is an abstraction, and the ridiculous number of Kills is a factor in that too. I feel that there is no need for difficulties either, for the same reason. Or for wound penalties. Troopers will fight to their last breath, let's not give them minuses while they're drawing it.

Weapons/Range. Range is functional. Sarge can shoot the little critters when no one else can as they're a km away. The Lt has to wait for things to get real close. At intermediate range the troopers and corporal get to go bananas... until close combat sees them limited to one kill per turn (maybe against more foes?) or dropping grenades at their own feet. As for modifiers... too much hassle for no reason. The energy cannon has to be described as a awkward and slow to move, but the text has no game effect apart from that.

APC. Probably has gun ports, turrets with energy cannon and energy rifles, grenade launchers, electroshocking hull, etc. ... err, watch Aliens? Let your mind run wild.

Entrenching Tools. You guys dig the trenches.

Endings. I didn't answer what happens when/if they get home. Some players want happy endings, some don't. They should find their own ending as they see fit. The way I play characters I'd end up like Trooper Smile -- dead on Zephyr. I think some players will keep a Strength or Weakness back to help them narrate an ending on Terra though, that's my gut feeling. As a group there are big questions about how you see the Terran Council and whether they would be happy to see 3:16 or 2:29 or whatever return? Introducing crazies into a crimeless society? With all these weaknesses you've described?!

Advancement. Through survival. Survive a story, gain a level. Maybe even narrate yourself a promotion if someone died, y'know?

I really would love to see the look on the face of someone playing the Lt when they get d10 billion kills for a PK bomb. That's satisfaction.

Anyway, that's me done for the moment.
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CSBone
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Posts: 65


« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2005, 04:07:56 PM »

Congratulations Gregor!

I would like to be jealous that you won and I didn't but compared to Space Rangers, 3:16 better executed in just about every particular.

You fiction was long enough to give flavor but not too long to detract from the game.

Your overall mechanics seem solid and your Flashback mechanic is inspired.

And I really liked the artwork. Actually, I was stunned by the artwork. The brightly colored raw sketches really brought the overall feel of the game home to me.

Which leads me to my only real question/suggestion.

Did you consider an MOS mechanic for your "Other Stuff"? It might give you a little more differentiation for characters and add another level of feel to the game without messing with the simplicity of your Killing/Other Stuff mechanic.

My only other real criticism somebody already got...What if I don't want to "Hate" home? There should be an awful, beautiful, tragic possibility of the warrior who simply can't be allowed to return home...but tries anyways.

I can see the scene...having killed her way from the spaceport to her home she kneels upon the front stoop, a handful of dirt in both hands. She screams for forgiveness from the uncaring sky as her terrified parents look on and the police open fire...

To me, this is the scene I'd want to end with...a broken, unstoppable killing machine of a soldier coming home to the only peaceful rest they have left.

BTW; Matt 3:16...brilliant.

C. S. Bone
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Kirk Mitchell
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2005, 01:47:19 AM »

The game is incredibly tight. Nothing comes to mind in regards to improvements without the text in front of me (I'll make some notes later). However, I do agree, you should probably give players an option about the last one. How about "Loves Home" or "Hates Home". That way you get the two extremes. The way I want to play this game is The Forever War crossed with Aliens, and the coming home to something other than what you expected is in The Forever War big time. I highly suggest you read it.

Other than that, congratulations and great work!

Luck,
Kirk
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2005, 07:54:37 AM »

Thanks for the reading tip and feedback, I'll check it out. This kind of response is invaluable to any game's long-term future.

Here was my reasoning behind the 10th Weakness: I dictated that final weakness so it would provoke a conflict (on Terra) to end the game. My feelings were that player characters would be taken back to Terra by that weakness, and they then had to either (a) follow through with it and try to kill Terra, or (b) use their Strengths or Weaknesses to narrate an alternate ending.

Given the feedback about this point I'm thinking now about not mandating that 10th weakness but instead leaving it open, with the advice that the players should think real hard about what they are going to do now that they've reached the edge of our supercluster of galaxies. A supervoid (of the same scale as the supercluster) lies between them and the nearest other supercluster of galaxies. Huge. Dark. Near impossible to cross. Perhaps they head into the Supervoid and die frozen in the dark many years later? Or perhaps they head home to Terra and find it gone? Or it is there, an eternal paradise now safe forever.

CS's ending sounds like a really great narrated Weakness for a character to end a campaign though -- all that the character ever wanted was to get home and see her parents ... and as she does so she is gunned down. Tres cool.

The development points I saw in advancement were that anyone maxing out FA early would then have to put all further increases into NFA. Is the character sated on violence and learning more about not fighting? And on the flip-side the ones who maxed out on NFA early are putting their FA up as they go up in level. Are they becoming more violent?

While you may have left Terra with dreams of being a good person and never compromising your integrity, what effect will all those kills have on your character? To wipe out everything else in the Universe (including "rogue" units from Terra, i.e. mirrors of yourselves) is pretty heavy. I can also see some players just glossing over this as they increment their kill rating, and that's all right too if that's what they want out of gaming.

Keep 'em coming.
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2005, 08:11:34 AM »

Oh, and about Margins of Success (MOS? right)... I figured that I wanted a quick handling time (as quick as possible) and in a conflict we just needed to find (a) who is the Acting Character, and (b) do they succeed?

If they don't succeed then they flip down to being a reacting character.

The margin of success is up to the narrator. I guess that you are limited by the number of kills when using a weapon, and the length of a turn in describing an ongoing success.

It's like the weapons, I kept the most complicated damage down to adding two d10s together. It's either 1 kill, d10 kills, 2d10 kills or d100 kills. To allow real quick handling time. It's about the story rather than the dice on the table, really.

I forgot to stick these kills in...
-----
Nuclear reactor - d100 thousand kills
Solar Destruction d100 billion kills
Minor Disaster - d10 thousand kills
Natural Disaster - d100 thousand kills
Major Natural Disaster - d10 hundred thousand kills
PK bomb - nominal value of d10 billion, at least
-----

Perhaps I could have put "skills" in, had 8 (or whatever) "attributes" and a margin of success mechanic, but my reasoning was that I should take it to its (simplistic and functional) extreme. So I resolved not to put things in just "because every game has them".
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Kirk Mitchell
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« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2005, 02:13:15 AM »

Oh, I just thought of another thing. You say that the end of the game should take place on Terra. I think that there is some thematic power in having everybody die on some forgotten rock at the edge of the galaxy. You went out and spent years of your life to fight for something you aren't sure you believe in anymore, not sure it even exists anymore, and you will all die where nobody is ever going to find you and nobody is ever going to remember the sacrifices you made.

"Bleeding everywhere, Trooper Dax felt his strength ebb away. He was going to die. Next to him was Trooper Gein. Her last breath stilled. Looking down at his starchart, Dax positioned himself facing Terra. A Bug raised its head and Dax shot it three times in the face. Staring out into the supercluster where he knew Terra was, somewhere, Dax died."

You have a hell of a lot of extremely powerful thematic possibilities. I can tell because I could actually write an example for this game. I never write examples for games. The trick here is to figure out how to balance between them.

Put my name down for pre-ordering please.

Oh, also worthy of note would be the "GROPOS" episode of Babylon 5 (season 2). You may want to consider what it is the 3:16th division does when they aren't killing. Maybe wreaking havok at said cosmic beach, only to have some bad shit come down, perhaps because, perhaps in spite of their presence. Don't give any mechanics for this, but it is something to think about. Also, here's another thought on what happens at the end: In Firefly there are some baddies called Reavers. They are described as men and women who went to the very outreaches of space, hit the void and went buggy. Now they spend their time killing, raping, torturing, cannibalising and generally being unpleasant. There's another possibility that links itself closely to the "go home and kill the only other thing left to kill". But again, that's something that could probably be encorporated without the need for new rules.

Kirk
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greyorm
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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2005, 11:13:07 AM »

Or, of course, the endgame comes and you go home...and...Terra is gone. Somebody or something blew it up while you were away. There's some interesting thematic possibilities there, too. A whole slew of spin-off ideas. Mainly, are you all that's left of humanity? What do you do now? Do you deserve to be the representatives of humanity? After what you've done, does humanity deserve to continue to exist?

Of course, all that might be well beyond the scope of 3:16.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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