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Author Topic: [Point of Collapse] need help developing PBP science fiction RPG  (Read 5438 times)
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« on: December 05, 2005, 07:12:46 PM »

Hey all...

I am currently developing the world of Point of Collapse, a PBP set in 2087, after world war broke out and quickly devestated the globe.

I am trying to develop a game that presents the players with an unstable world... where their actions can either help to try and stable the culture, or to incite it to change/revolt/destruction/evolution.
I also want them to be put into a world which...because of its developing changes... puts their personal values on trial and forces them to struggle internally. (Like the struggle with empathy/apathy, honesty/lying, independance/cooperation, etc.)

And the need is to have this game be resolved with only one or two "moves" in terms of conflict resolutions. Games which focus on "coin bidding" are far too cumbersome to be done via a forum. Unless, that is, all coins are bid upfront prior to rolling.

Anyways, I started a forum thread earlier. And as I'm sure all the eager, ignorant, isolated designers get, I got a warm welcome and a: learn what the fuck you're talking about before you post here.  : )

Anyways, I've done some reading, and I have some elements which I like from various games, and reasons why I want them incorporated. I've been having trouble finding a game with mechanics I like that is FIT FOR PBP.

Elements I like/dislike/want to expand on:

Player-created aspects/traits
In Fate, aspects are used to grant rerolls (or roll bonuses). They are key elements of a character, and his/her background.
In Shock, traits are used to influence the method used to overcome a situation. They are key elements of a character's personality.

The thing I like about both is that they are written by the character, and there is no list to pick from.

Fluxuating Scale for combat resolution
What I thought was great about Shock (v.0.1.0) was the scale, which was divided between two diametrically opposed opposites. The scale was labelled and created by the players involved, and ranged from 1 to 10 between... say... Honesty and Lying, or Cooperation and Coercion.

What sparked my attention was that the scale was created by players, and thus gave them a MEANINGFUL and immediate scale which showed where their actions set. (sidenote: in a way, this is what "alignments" were aiming to do in d&d. sort of.)

Sealed Fate
Someone mentioned the idea in another thread (well, several different ones) that it would be interesting for players to have a destined DOOM, and that their actions would bring them closer to the doom. And in response, it was mentioned that what would be truly great was that if the closer you came to your doom, the more bonuses you got from your connection to it.

For example, if your Doom was "die in a ditch" and the doom scale was 0 to 5.... and it was set to 3 at the moment... Fighting in a ditch would give you a +3 bonus. But at the same time, there would be a mechanic that would endanger you pushing it to 4... and then eventually to 5, when you would die. in a ditch.

I like the idea that the closer you are to unmaking yourself, the stronger you are. I think that the self-destructive element would play well in teh game I'm going for too!

Something which won't work in PBP: coins
Although I love the idea of cinematic elements, coin investment, or point investment, into resolution will not work in PBP. At least, not in the "bidding" format.

Dislike: Skill lists
I've decided that for most things, I really dislike the skill lists... They are bulky, and they are unrealistic in play. I mean, you can spend points to increase your Climb skill, when really all you've been doing is diplomacy/killing enemies/etc.

And I also don't like the idea of having big long lists.

So, if anyone has any suggestions for already made up games that incorporate my ideals, that'd be GREAT!
Otherwise, a post will come soon describing some setting stuff, and some proposed mechanics.

Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2005, 07:47:57 PM »

Okay, before going into proposed game mechanics (skip ahead to next post if you desire) I'm going to cover world history, global conflicts, new developments, etc.
Just to give you an idea of flavour, and of what I'm applying said rules to.

World History
-America fosters increased exploitation of middle east through till 2030
-China, developing into a world superpower, poses an ultimatum to America: Back out of our continent, or we will be forced to defend the interests of Asia as a whole.
-America doesn't back down, forcing China into heavy militarization. China becomes an extremist communist country.
-After China begins "advancing" troops into neighbouring countries, including South Korea, America warns them that if they don't keep their troops within China, America will retaliate.
-Believing that they have no other option, America bombs South Korea, which is known to be housing China's First Citizen's Guard (equivelent of a royal garrison). They drop nuclear warheads in a huge spread, which literally covers every square inch of South Korea.

-This bloody, aggressive, and merciless move turns South Korea into a wasteland which marks the beginning of the next Global War. This bombing occurs in 2040, and China and America quickly annex countries, force ridiculous conscription rates, and begin open warfare across the entire world.
-Russia rises as the third world superpower, and between the three most of the board is either obliterated or controlled.

-In 2050, the largest nuclear weapons used in this war to date are dropped on Russian troops in Iceland. The ocean surrounding rises up, submerging Iceland entirely underwater. Scientists have no idea how this reaction occured.
-Within days of the Iceland incident, huge tsunamis sweep coastal Europe, coming from the direction of iceland. Much of Europe is submerged for days. England's cities almost all completely destroyed.
-All world superpowers and armies finally realize the implications of nuclear weaponry, but probably far too late. They all silently agree to never use nuclear warheads again.

-The year is now 2087. The world is still at war. Most of the economies of the world are collapsing, and many countries lie in waste/anarchy/desolation.
-Despite the circumstances, some cultures/governments still push on, eager to adapt rather than collapse.


-Capitalism vs. Communism vs. Dictatorship vs Anarchy.
many believe that only radical change can save the world now.
-Chaos vs. Law
Many believe that it's every man for himself at this point, but others argue that only by putting faith in the institution can we pick up the scattered pieces of civilization.

From 2040-2050, there were several high-tech developers who prospered greatly. One of which was FutureCorp. FutureCorp ran the business of genetic modification, but this was almost a front for its other project: fostering telepathic capabilities in their test subjects.
When the psionics project of FutureCorp was found out by Envision Inc. (a company which was involved in blueprinting sentient AI-driven combat droids at the time), the two companies entered war.
This was the first major private war between companies, and marked a beginning shift from government fighting to corporate fighting.

Even though the psionics project was shut down, subjects survived with the capabilities to see the future, read thoughts, convey mental images, and even control their environment mentally.

-Nuclear Aftereffects
Parts of the world have been tainted by radiation, mutation, and... contamination.

-Corporate Control
As mentioned in the background of Psionics, Corporations began waging their own private wars, and garrisoning their factories.
example: Coca-Cola's owners realized that the only way that american pharmaceutical manufacturers could get their drugs to foreign countries was through secure, protected gobal lines. Because of their huge intimidation factor, they coerced drug companies to use Coca-Cola's army as a distribution line.
example: In 2054, Wal Mart began offering "Protected Communities" as an option for their clients. They offered protected, guarded, garrisoned complexes complete with Wal-Mart stores, apartments, independant utilities, and bomb shelters.

Yeah, that about sums up some of the background. Request more info if you can take more! (sorry about length of huge post...)

Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2005, 08:22:32 PM »

apologies for triple posting. I have justification :)

PROPOSED MECHANICS for Point of Collapse

Character element: Struggle
Combining elements of the sliding scale for resolution with the idea of sealed doom... I've come up with the idea of Struggles.

Each character has a set amount of struggles, either one or more (their choice.)

They are a set of two diametrically opposed concepts, usually moral values. For this example, we'll use Anger/Calm.
The scale is set up to look like this: Anger 5  4  3  2  1  0  1  2  3  4  5 Calm.

Now, let's say the character has the scale currently set at Anger 3.
He is attempting something that would involve anger (he is attacking the man who killed his comrades). Since he has Anger 3, he gets +3 to his role. After the conflict is over, the scale shifts to Anger 4.
However, the flip side: doing something that would require Calm suffers -3 if the scale is at Anger 3. It has a negative effect on the character.

And the doom part of Struggles:
If the player hits 5 on a scale, he gives in to the element completely.
This has several effects: The scale is locked on 5 and will not shift. (unless something epic unlocks it. And I mean epic.)
Just like as before, it grants +5 to angry actions, -5 to calm actions.
ALSO: It provides -2 to ANY action that doesn't involve anger. Not just calm actions, but any.

And, of course, the scale can swing both ways (unless locked). Meaning that if you are at Anger 4, you will want to do some actions that require Calm... the first will be at -4, but will then drop it to -3 after the action...

This creates an equilibrium: You gain focused bonuses through a singular type of resolution, but gain long term viablity by fluxuating a bit.

Character element: BackgroundIn Shock there are relationships, in Fate certain aspects or skills represent this.

I'm thinking that backgrounds are player created, but fit into one of 4 or 5 categories. They are things which represent what skills have been picked up over the course of the character's life.

This basically replaces the boringness of skill lists.

So, for example, the categories will probably look something like: (with examples of player created backgrounds in parenthesis)

Combat/Conflict (rioter, brawler, sniper, spy, recon, commander, etc)
Profession (worker, clerk, clergy, Engineer, Astronaut, vigilante, soldier, etc)
Origin (America, Montreal, London, Mountains, City, Village, Capitalist nation, etc)
Beliefs (Atheist, Capitalism, Socialism, Buddhism, Pro-Life, "corporations employ mind control", etc)
Society (upper class, beurocrautic, gangs, religious, military, drug dealers, etc)

When your actions involve your background, and agree with the direction of your background... you gain a bonus of some type to your roll.
Probably a +1 per "rank" or "level" in the particular background.
Possibly offer additional bonuses for having several applicable backgrounds?

Whereas struggles... a player can adopt as many as they'd like... they have a specific amount of "background points", governed very similarily to aspects, traits, etc.

Character element: ToolsRather than having weapons, armour, equipment, gold, resources, etc all seperate, I figured it'd be easiest to clump them all together under the category of Tools.

I also am considering classifying psionics as a Tool Set.

The tools used will be varyingly effective depending on the ways that they are used

For example:
Shotgun: close ranged 3/ranged 2/ combat 1.

The shotgun would provide +3 to making a ranged attack in close proximity. However, only a +2 if the proximity wasn't close, and only +1 if it wasn't ranged (ie. using a sawed off shotgun while in melee range).

Another example:
Telepathy: mind reading 5/ mental communication 3/ mind control 1.

The descriptors can develop different abilities, or different levels of effectiveness.
Some tools (like gold) probably wouldn't have descriptors.
Gold. Buying stuff 1/ throwing into wishing wells 1. (LOL)

Conflict Resolution
So, basically, conflict might go something like this....

a.) declare action. Declare where on your struggles this action lies. You only gain bonuses from ONE struggle, but all struggles that are involved shift.
b.) Roll (d10/d20/dsomething), add bonuses from Tools (use only highest bonus possible in context), Struggles, and background.
c.) If you beat enemy's score, needed score, then you succeed. Pat yourself on the back.
d.) Shift all struggles applicable in the proper direction (unless this was only the first in several tests during one scene/attempt/combat)

I was thinking for a moment about using "descriptors" like Fudge rather than ranks, numbers, etc... and using +/- rolls. It'd create tie-in with the struggle mechanic (have a fluxuating effect, with the middle # being 0).

So maybe roll 4d+/-. or 5. or.... SUGGESTIONS?

Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2005, 08:55:04 AM »

(apologies for such long posts)

Any suggestions?


Posts: 359

« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2005, 07:45:45 AM »

I think to help clarify your game Joe you've got to really ask the one big question.  What does the player (and by extension his character) do in this game? 

You talk about influencing whether society crumbles or rebuilds itself, how does this show itself in your game?  How do players get that much influence if they chose an office worker or clergy background?   Is the game taking place on a global scale or just locally, if locally how do your actions affect the world in a greater sense.

I guess what I'm saying is that I see a lot of really interesting ideas on how you want to do things but not as much info on your big picture goals.

Posts: 85

May Contain Monkeys

« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2005, 12:54:38 PM »

Yeah, a lot of interesting ideas. I like the Struggles mechanic, and my only suggestion in to simplify it further by making Tools and Psionics into Background categories.  That way, you don't need to detail exactly what each power or type of gun does, you'd just get a bonus to your roll if the Background applied to the situation. 

But address Caldis' concern first. 

Sweet Dreams - Romance, Espionage, and Horror in High School
The Big Night - children's game with puppets

In Progress:  Fingerprints
Playing:  PTA, Shock
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2005, 03:23:28 PM »

First of all, I'm going to give you a link to the 19 questions/answers, which I have posted on the Point of Collapse forum itself: http://www.fluffydevil.com/pointofcollapse/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7.

The game is played on a global scale, however I hope to have most action oriented in a couple seed cities... (mostly for simplicity of management).

Players effecting social change is not on a drastic scale. What is more crucial to the game, and more crucial to play... is how the world effects change on the player.

As far as tools go, I'd considered working tools into Backgrounds for a brief while. However, I drew the line in that tools are physical components, and backgrounds are character components. You cannot buy the experience gained from working in the army, but you can buy a pistol. That's the differentiation in my mind.

Does that make sense? do you see where I'm drawing the line? Also, backgrounds take a lot of investment to become really powerful. I figured on having a player start with 3-5 backgrounds... And it's this way because these are the key experiences that the character draws on.

However, someone could pick up a tool, use it to great effect... and it still isn't a key experience or crutch of the character.

Do you see what I mean?

HOWEVER, do you think I should incorporate Psionics as a background? Because THAT'S something I had a hard time deciding.

Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2005, 09:54:05 AM »

You talk about influencing whether society crumbles or rebuilds itself, how does this show itself in your game?  How do players get that much influence if they chose an office worker or clergy background?

Sorry, I skipped over this part; thought it was still worth answering.

Choosing a background represents having a lot of experience and skills derived from that part of the character's past.

If someone picked Office Worker as a background, it would likely mean they intended to do a lot of stuff with corporations, or technology, or communications (I don't know where else this experience would really benefit, but i'm sure players would find more.)

Any time that the experience gained working in an office comes into play, they get +1 per rank.

For example, Jim the PC has office worker.

Jim is in search of a small terrorist group called The Spider Ring. The Spider Ring is responsible for hacking into secure government centres, and bringing down all security systems and halting all activities therein.

Jim has been searching for them for a while, and finds out a piece of information: Their leader's name is Thomas.

Now, he'll gain a bonus of +1 to searching the internet, the city archives, and the libraries for any information on Thomas, and any connections between The Spider Ring and Thomas.

However, he won't gain a bonus if he's searching the streets for clues. He would need something like Thug (conflict), Streets (origin), homeless (society), etc, etc.

Does that add any clarification?


Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2005, 05:59:33 PM »


Here is the completed PDF draft, if it is of any interest.

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