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Author Topic: [Alternativ (working title)] Power 19  (Read 2333 times)
Filip Luszczyk
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Posts: 746

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« on: March 24, 2006, 05:19:46 AM »

OK, this is Power 19 for a project I've been working for about a year. It went through over 10 versions of the rules, and I changed practically everything but the card mechanics in the process. I'm quite satisfied with the current version, although it still needs some work. Right now I slowly translate playtest rules from Polish, and I probably won't finish it by June or July (I wish I could devote more time to the project, unfortunately I won't be able to do that for next few months). Anyway, I post Power 19 because I'm curious of reactions. Maybe I get some usefull feedback on this basis.

Alternativ is just a working title and it will most probably change. Maybe I'll call the game Friday Night's Fever (well, I had fever and it was Friday when I started the project :)), or differently.

1.) What is your game about?

It is a prep-less, heavily tactical game in which you play a protagonist of a story in a fictional world, who deals with issues important to you and other player's.

1a). Who exactly is a protagonist in this game?

By protagonist I mean a character who shows above average levels of one or more virtues central to the series. By default (for a typical modern comic/cinematic-style action series) these values are Daring, Style, Finesse and Drive. They can differ for a specific campaign.

1b). What kind of stories do you think of?

Stories about characters dealing with their personal problems, as well as more global issues.

1c). What kind of fictional world do you have in mind?

The system is universal in that it can be used for almost any setting, though setting serves only as background and stage for the story about the protagonists. The game is intended mainly for use with backgrounds from Anime and comic books, still you can use it for practically any setting as long as you want that specific reality to serve as your stage and to bring its color to play. It is possible that there will be a number of sample campaign models (similar in scope to those from d20 Modern) with ready to go color, potential story seeds, antagonists, character archetypes and series ideas.

1d). What issues do the protagonists deal with?

With any issues players want them to deal. With anything that seems important to them. Starting from personal relationships and flaws, through shadows of their past to global problems. Some of these story threads will be handled during a single story, others will hang other long chapters of characters life and recur throughout the whole series.

1e). How do the protagonists deal with their issues?

By acting according to the four key values of a given setting, by default Daring, Style, Finesse and Drive. And by making good use of any traits that make them interesting. And thanks to the player's tactical thinking and luck.

1f). So the story is most important in this game?

No, it isn't. What's most important is to have lots of fun while playing heavily tactical conflicts. Story is just a product of play, and by no means is it an end in itself. Still by making the series increasingly interesting and emotionally investing it gives additional purpose for playing all those conflicts.

2.) What do the characters do?

The characters deal with issues which players find important - by acting according to the key virtues of the series and by making good use of traits which make them interesting (possibly including supernatural powers and powerful objects). And they get transformed in the process. Usually they are enriched by dealing with their issues, though sometimes they lose a bit of themselves on their way. And sometimes they willingly sacrifice that little bit in order to attain their goals.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?

Players decide what course they want the story of their protagonists to take, and work towards that goal by simply controlling the characters, putting them in conflict with some outside forces and staking the development of selected Threads. What mostly means that they play a lot of heavily tactical conflicts. During which they think tactically in order to move the story in their chosen direction. A lot.

GM (called the Background Animator or maybe the Stage Animator) controls every element of the story that is not directly controlled by the players. And he tries to put his background in conflict with the protagonists, and maybe to involve the characters in some threads which are especially interesting for him. What mostly means that he challenges players in lots of heavily tactical conflicts. During which he thinks tactically in order to oppose their goals with everything he has got and hinder their lives, making the story more interesting as a result.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

The game is about protagonists and their issues. It is not a story about the setting. PC's are in the center of attention, everything else is just background and color. So there is no default setting, although any can be easily adapted as a stage. Or the background can be improvised on the fly as the story goes - because interesting color is more important here than rich and internally coherent setting.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

It allows players to select story Threads in which they want their characters to be involved from the start, and to decide what differentiates their protagonists from an average person in the world (high levels of key virtues and the most characteristic traits). And it is fast as hell - which is important, since the game is intended to be as prep-less as possible. In fact, character creation is the only preparation needed.

And since traits are freeform and created by the player, the system can be used for any character and any setting. Moreover, since all traits have roughly equal mechanical potential, no kind of character should be more effective than the others. It's not about what things a character can do, but how interesting she is.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?

It encourages gamism - conflicts are highly tactical and without a great deal of tactical thinking it is nigh impossible to control the development of the story (or attain any payer's or character's goals for that matter).

It encourages active development of the story by the players.

It encourages playing the characters in accordance with one of the four values most important to the series (thus reinforcing dominant theme).

It punishes spoiling other players fun (e.g. by introducing unwanted color or by pushing the story in uninteresting or disturbing directions) and it does so thanks to giving everyone narrative veto power.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

Tactical thinking is rewarded by winning the conflicts and thus attaining goals. It is also the key to increasing the level of Threads and completing them. As such tactical thinking allows for a temporal increase in available resources, growth in power and development of the story.

Active development of a story - creating new Threads and increasing the level of existing ones is rewarded by making more resources available. Completing Threads allows for character advance, and at the same time reduces available resources, stimulating players to develop the story further by creating and increasing other Threads.

Playing in accordance with key values of the series, specifically those most important for a given character, is rewarded by increasing cost effectiveness of his abilities. Acting in accordance with proper virtue is also rewarded by minor mechanical bonuses.

Spoiling others fun is punished by banning certain descriptions and actions by peers.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

Every player controls one character and can influence everything that is connected with the protagonist. Background Animator controls everything else. Everyone has a veto power (though vetoed player can always demand whole group to vote) and there is practically no GM's fiat, or very little (not much on the story level, and not at all on the purely mechanical level). Whenever someone describes something to happen, it happens - unless anyone else successfully vetoes it, demands a conflict or initiates it himself.

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

It offers a lot of tactical options encouraging tactical thinking during conflicts. And as a product of play it creates story which will hopefully be interesting and emotionally investing for everyone involved, giving additional reasons for playing more tactically engaging conflicts.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

In short, say yes or roll the dice. There is no resolution mechanic apart from conflicts. Everyone can do everything a normal person could do, and everything he can support with traits and powers possessed. Unless he is vetoed or someone demands a conflict or initiates one.

Conflicts are heavily tactical and apart from dice they make use of a deck of playing cards (or two, or three or more decks mixed together). They are played CCG style.

First the stakes of the conflict are settled and players have option of bidding their relevant Threads (which may result in increasing the level of a Thread if the conflict is won, or losing them if it's lost - anyway, developing a part of the characters story). It is possible to change stakes and bid additional Threads between rounds.

Next, Background Animator uses special pool of points (called Tension, fluctuating during play depending mainly on players successes and failures) to create a challenge for them. He quickly allocates these points betwen "hit points", resource pool used for boosting actions, and increased hand size. The challenge is created as a whole and played by GM as if it were one PC. NPC's are not individually stated and in fact, they are not treated differently from any other kind of difficulties. They even don't have their own hands, regardless of their importance and numbers. Although at the story level the challenge can be described however the GM wants, mechanically it's just GM vs players.

Then every round each player involved draws up to 5 cards on hand and the GM draws his own hand of 5 or more cards. Cards limit their options - every color is connected with one of key values (e.g. Spades with Daring, Hearts with Style, Diamonds with Finesse, Clubs with Drive) and allows for an action corresponding to that virtue. This also limits which traits can be used to improve actions. Any number of cards can be played as action cards on the beginning of a round. Starting from the best action card players take their actions (there are few options like "attack/struggle", "maneuver/hinder", "recover" etc. - I'm still looking for good abstract labels for these actions). Cards left on hand can be used for reactions (e.g. "defend" or "counter") or for boosting (every card is connected with one or more special effect from the list). All actions and reactions are abstract in nature, can be used both in combat and in any other kind of conflict and can be described freely. Actions and reactions are resolved by rolling certain number of d10s (3d10 by default, modified by traits used and card effects played). Every full 10 points amount to one "hit" or negate one. There are different means of modifying rolls, connected with additional tactical options (e.g. "stealing" opponents dice and the like).

Conflict is played until everyone on the opposing side yields or is left with no "hit points". Being rendered out of conflict means that a player loses some of his traits, so it pays to yield before it's too late. On the other hand, it is possible to sacrifice traits in order to gain additional "hit points". After the character loses too much he can become completely broken and finish his story with some not-so-happy end - otherwise it is impossible to kill a PC (unless his player allows for such a possibility). Or any NPC chosen as a Thread by someone for that matter (unless by completing the Thread).

Relevant Threads can be used in conflict to gain additional resources.

10a). But why are you mixing cards and dice and all?

Because I want it that way ;) Cards present and limit opportunities, dice decide on the winner.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

They require lots of tactical thinking. Card mechanics allow for dozens of tactical choices, and there are many options too. At any time during conflict player is involved in making some tactical decisions.

Limiting available actions makes gameplay more diversified and encourages interesting descriptions. And since nobody can be sure what cards he gets, there is no uber character build - so there's no point in putting character's effectiveness before his story value.

Since Threads relevant to the conflict increase resource pool, players are more willing to take part in conflicts important to their protagonists stories. Thus, players prefere conflicts which develop the story and such are chosen over meaningless cardplay.

Sacrifice mechanics allow players to succeed when it's really important to them - at the same time potentially creating stories about characters giving away part of themselves for their personal goals or some higher purpose.

Character's are in the center of attention - the whole opposition is treated as a single challenge.

And since challenges are generated quickly on the fly, there are no preparations or bookkeeping on the GM's part.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

There is an automatic end of session experience.

It is also possible to increase mechanical potential of the character by completing his Threads.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

Players actively develop the story in order to complete their Threads. Since it pays to always have some Threads at high level and not to complete all of them right away, there will also be main issues with which protagonists deal throughout the whole series.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

I want it to give them satisfaction from good tactical thinking and competitive play in conflicts against the Background Animator. I also want it to let them enjoy a good story that will hopefully be produced as a result of play.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

Conflict resolution mechanics, since they are the core of the game and present tactical options it is about.

And Threads mechanics, which allow for background story development as a result of tactically driven gameplay.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

See above.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?

There aren't many conflict resolution based RPG's which allow for such a great amount of exciting tactical thinking. There aren't many RPG's with CCG gameplay qualities which at the same time require only a standard deck of playing cards. The game allows a story to be told as a result of mostly gamist driven play. And it is practically universal, as long as you want a game which does mentioned things. And there aren't many prep-less universal systems which still allow for fairly complex gameplay.

It in no way simulates our reality. But it is intended to emulate some qualities of comic books and Anime.

It in no way helps in role-playing real characters. It allows you to create characteristic fictional protagonist who manifest above average levels of virtues important to the series. But no "real person".

It won't give you rich setting, if any. Characters and their issues are more important than the stage.

And it won't force you to answer any "tough questions" if you don't want to.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?

Well, I plan to publish it as a pdf one day. Still, these are quite distant plans. Currently I'm involved in finishing stages of another project, and until publication I don't want to involve myself too deeply into development of another book. And I'm busy with life ;)

I want the final product to be as polished as possible. Not to mention that I want to self-publish and that's something totally new to me since I lack any experience ;) So it's a perspective of months, maybe a year or so. I'm not in a hurry ^_^

19.) Who is your target audience?

Mostly Anime and comic books fans, especially with strong gamist preferences. And probably those, who need crunchy universal game system which isn't another mainstream simulationist variation on GURPS or BESM (oh yes, you can consider this game my heartbreaker ^_^).
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2006, 05:56:06 PM »

Hey Filip,

I have found that the p19 are pretty good questions to focus your thinking about your game, but they are not good for directing conversation! You're clearly here for feedback, though, so I ask you this: What questions do you have about your design?
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Filip Luszczyk
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Posts: 746

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« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2006, 06:39:41 AM »

I'll try to be more specific then. I'm conscious of the fact that it is not possible to say much on the basis of Power 19, without seeing any actual rules. Still, the feedback I want is just general opinions about the general concept. So:

1.Does it look interesting in any particular way? After reading Power 19, are you completely indifferent, or do you feel that you'd like to receive some more information for any reason?

2.Had something very similar been done before? I suppose there can be some similarities to PTA, but I haven't read that game, so I'm not sure about this. Probably different agenda, though.

3.What do you think about the idea of putting both dice rolls and cardplay in the same kettle? Doesn't it seem overcomplicated, or does it scare you of long handling times, or anything?

4.Does the lack of default setting worry you? Maybe I should at least focus on some specific genre, like superheroes, pulp adventure or supernatural martial arts? More specific colour instead of abstract and generalised, free-form traits?

5.Does it look like it's going to support gamist agenda well? What about narrativist priorities - does it seem like the system could emerge as functional hybrid? Should I completely focus on one agenda? Or, if there really seems to be potential for hybridisation, should I somehow improve narrativist aspects? (Or maybe you don't see any narrativist aspects at all, or there are some sim elements which could use some improving or anything in these lines?)

6.What about the whole idea of prep-less game with a lot of tactical crunch? Do you think that character creation and further development should offer a lot of options? In current version you just divide some points between four stats, pick some free-form traits (deciding which of the main "virtues" they are based on, whether they are common or extraordinary traits and whether they represent some greater mastery or simply basic abilities/competences/powers) and finally select starting Threads. Does it look too simple for a game that tries to offer lots of opportunities for tactical decisions, or is it just fine given that the conflict resolution itself offers enough options? In previous versions I've been playing with the idea of more complicated trait creation rules.

7.Do you see any possible problems with such a generalisation of challenges? Isn't it too abstract that the whole opposition, no matter what's the nature or numbers, is represented as a whole challenge, controlled by GM practically as it was one PC?

If you'd like to ask any questions about the specific rules or concepts, just ask. At least I'll try to present them in general before I'll get to translating the whole document.
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