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Author Topic: Down with Just a Few SMACS  (Read 3706 times)
Le Joueur

Posts: 1367

« on: April 27, 2002, 10:23:00 PM »

Originally, I wanted to really impress everyone with a mini-shot of Scattershot, but heck, I just can't bring myself to finish this.  So, in keeping with the new 'rough cut' philosophy, I am presenting this as is.

I came up with the following example game because of a new Cartoon Network superhero commercial using a cast pulled from a number of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons (with what sounded like the original voice actors) I saw on CNN.

This game takes Scattershot out to the edge of what it can do.  I will probably work this out until I can make it a freebie for conventions and the web site.  What appears here is the seed for the idea; the final product won't be at all based on the original Hanna-Barbera characters, but it takes a long time for me to create examples, and I decided to just 'get this out there' and worry about 'massaging the text' later.  The formal version will not use any licensed characters, I just wanted to get this 'down on paper' quickly, so I'm using hopefully familiar properties as examples.  No copyright is implied.

Let me preface this example game with the synopsis of infra-stage Scattershot, or what we have been calling Zero Stage (until we can come up with a name for it).  This derivative was originally conceived as a 'hands free,' 'eyes free' version of the mechanics so that play could continue at the mall, on the road, or anywhere that dice and character sheets were impractical.  I'm not going to rehash the original Scattershot presents: Just the Mechanix here, so you'll probably have to read both to understand what's going on.  Sorry for all the 'rough edges.'


Solo play is pretty much reduced to picking your persona from the exemplars and telling everyone what happened to your persona between sessions.  Characters are represented by looking at your hand, four fingers and a thumb.  (Other species may modify to suit.)  Characters (persona included) are described by five characteristics (as detailed in the Specific play section below).  The index finger represents the single most important or memorable characteristic of the character, the thing you most want people to remember.  Each finger after carries this on down the line.  (Every superhero of the tights-and-cape variety has some relationship to the 'secret identity' concept; theirs might not be secret but the lack of secrecy becomes its defining quality; that's what the pinkie represents.)  The thumb represents the character's drawback, be it an Achilles' heel, an obsession, or some other limitation; these are the things the character must struggle against at least once a session.  They 'build character' in the character.  (If necessary, you may need to use more than five; count all those above four as collectively the 'fifth characteristic.'

Almost the entire game takes place in General play, so I'll come back to that in a little bit.

Specific play all but ceases to exist.  The usual invocation of complications instead becomes a transition to Mechanical play.  It is even more important to be very careful about the timing of this switch than in the higher stages of Scattershot.

All Ratings are reduced to the same status as advantages, disadvantages, and 'character.' You only make note of those significantly outside of natural. Since we're not using numbers, you can pretty much pick your own terminology.

Invoked Ratings function a bit differently and I'll discuss that a bit later in the Mechanical play section.  Magnitudes are no longer used to give specific measure to things; they are used in comparison with the Magnitude or Resource 'advantage' of the target.  Resource Ratings are generally depleted informally; for example, by a bit, some, half, most, all but a smidge, and every last bit, however seems appropriate according to the Genre Expectations.

You may also convert characters 'down' to 'zero level' Scattershot.  Using the 'Bonus' column from the UE Chart, you can convert all ratings into advantages and disadvantages.  (For example, 8-12 translates into 1, or natural, not worthy of note, or no advantage; 13-15 translates to 2 or exceptional, a definite advantage, just not a very big one, and so on; you may use numerical rankings or invent a group consensual prioritized list of terms.)  For the most part, things formerly used as advantages and disadvantages are all reduced to 'character,' and might not qualify to be 'on hand.'  This does not mean they aren't pertinent, merely that they don't define the character.

Mechanical play is still characterized by simply 'going around the circle' with each player having two actions for each of their persona on their turn.  All Actions are automatically assumed successful; no MIBs are used.  This includes contested Actions.  As usual any party may contribute experience dice (which are no longer rolled, but rather counted one for one) on either side of the contest.  You can still buy and sell successes like normal, just not on a pointwise basis.  A single experience die (or complication) can make a success into a moot point; two can make it a failure.  (Remember sometimes you may even want to turn a success into a failure.)

In the case of success, you compare the Magnitude that the Rating used with the Action to the Defense or Resource it is supposed to affect, altering the latter informally as seems proper (the Genre Expectations should be your guide).  If the Magnitude used with the Action is far greater than the Resource, the resource is likely depleted.  In the reverse, the Resource is only reduced somewhat.  Relatively similar 'advantages' result in a significant reduction of the Resource.  (Don't forget, you cannot win any experience dice on an action you spent experience dice on.)

Failure results in a wasted turn.  Critical Junctures occur only when someone uses an experience die or benefit to improve upon a success (or to intensify a failure) and are handled as usual in all stages of Scattershot.

A character may Forfeit an Action in the same way as in the other stages.  Scope, Duration, Involved or Following actions, and flurries are also pretty much unchanged.

You can still Seize, Hold, and Check Combat Advantage, but here multiples are only noteworthy if the opponent cannot match their number (this can result in something like a 'bidding' war); the effect of any number of Combat Advantage is the same as a single complication for the victim.

Be careful what you say in Mechanical play, because if you say it, you're character starts doing it.

General play now overshadows pretty much all else.  Mechanical play resolves pretty quickly and combats are often simply skipped based on a quick "who's better" judgment (made usually at the behest of the group, per any suggestion offered; it depends on what the style of play is).  All Ratings, now advantages and disadvantages merely inform play (like in 'higher stage' Scattershot) as opposed to 'controlling' it.  More importance is placed on adhering to the Genre Expectations (and the expectations associated with the Sine Qua Non of a persona).  For Self-Conscious narratives, the expected sequence of escalation is to be enforced by all parties.  Proprietorship also becomes much more important in the absence of more detailed mechanics.

To play the Scattershot presents 'Saturday Morning/Afternoon Cartoon Superhero' game: you'll need to be ready to 'play the Joueur,' use very Self-Conscious game practices with highly Gamemasterful sharing (see The Scattershot Gaming Model for details), reliving those terribly corny superhero cartoons from the seventies.  They provide the basis for the Genre Expectations.  Remember, if it ain't corny, it ain't happening.

The point is to garner as many Experience Dice as you can (to 'capture the genre!').  There are two modes of play in SMACS, Refereed and Versus.  In Refereed play, all players play superheroes and the gamemaster takes the part of the Narrator.  The gamemaster awards experience dice when players exceptionally 'evoke' the genre, and the Narrator also plays or maintains the 'Threat' by being the Narrator.  In Versus play, each side takes turns gamemastering, the supervillains primarily awarding Experience Dice while the superheroes play and vice versa.  Superheroes and supervillains should sit on opposite sides of the 'table' or mechanical turn sequence can get quite confusing.  In versus play, it's important to remember that if your side is 'tight' with the Experience Dice, they can expect the same from the other.

A poor poker analogy follows to explain how to play:

The Deal
Choose your persona from the list of Exemplars:(I've only detailed a few for the 'taste' of what you could've expected.  It's also a mix of original characters and the characters from the source material, I was in the process of switching when this was written.)
    Comic Relief
    Marvin, Wonderdog, Gleek

    Lois Lane, Wendy

    Robin (the red one from Warner Bros. Batman cartoon)

    Junior Hero
    Zan, Jayna, Robin (as voiced by Casey Kasem), Nightwing, Flash

    Rank Hero/Villain (almost all supervillains appear to be in this category)
    Nimrod (after both Green Arrow and Hawkeye)
      Index: Archer
      Middle: Trick arrows
      Ring: Adventurer/big game hunter
      Pinkie: Hollywood playboy
      Thumb: [/list:u]
      Aegis (After Iron Man)
      Index: Powered armor
      Middle: Palm blasters
      Ring: Flight
      Pinkie: Millionaire inventor
      Thumb: Bad heart[/list:u]
      Gyrfalcon (After Hawkman), Aquaman
    (Some original villains:)
      Von Neumann (after Ultron)
      Sparrowhawk (nope, never seen her before, she's a flying Gyrfalcon groupie who wants to steal his technology)
      Tesla (after Zzzax)[/list:u]
    Signature Hero
    Wonder Woman
      Index: Parry bullets
      Middle: Super strong
      Ring: Stealth plane
      Pinkie: No privacy/secret ID
    (Not sure what to put, all those cartoons were heavily sexist; that was the disadvantage.)[/list:u]
      Index: Mind over matter
      Middle: Utility belt
      Ring: Bat-Vehicles
      Pinkie: Millionaire playboy
      Thumb: Sidekick/hostage[/list:u]
      Green Lantern
      Index: Energy shapes
      Middle: Flight
      Ring: Life protected
      Pinkie: Test pilot
      Thumb: Can't affect yellow[/list:u]
      Index: Invincibility
      Middle: Flight
      Ring: Super-Anything
      Pinkie: Mild-mannered reporter
      Thumb: Kryptonite[/list:u][/list:u]These exemplars are listed according to rank.  The rank itself confers certain functions and expectations upon the exemplars within it.  
    (For example, Sidekicks can 'force' their partners to come to their aid and Icons can be invoked as often as necessary to do the same for everyone.  This is one of the major mechanisms for 'forcing the hand of others' during play that makes it playing the Joueur.)  Promotion between ranks can occur between sessions (at the cost or payback of 1 experience dice per rank up to and including the current), but must be followed by a session in which the persona is changed in this way.  When a character exceeds the sidekick rank, they choose a permanent battle cry (which can be used to evoke genre when they have no actions they can or want to perform).

    To make your own character:
    See Scattershot presents: Universe 6, The World of the Modern Fantastic and then convert 'down.'

    Some of the Genre Expectations:
      No one ever dies (but they might be thought dead, until the climax).
      Any call for aid must be honored immediately (by the specified hero).
      Supervillains will
    eventually betray each other.
    The supervillains will lose; The superheroes prevail.
    The dialogue is not only the corniest thing you've ever heard, but rings like some of the all time worst radio plays.
    Tell, don't show (you don't describe your character doing something, your character's dialogue must say what their doing).[/list:u]The Ante
    With Gamemasterful sharing (and strictly in Mechanical play), everyone takes part in creating the circumstances of the beginning of the 'episode.'  In his best 'Ted Knight' voice, the Narrator will announce an opening line (as with many Scattershot games, they're will be a laundry list 'to get you started;' it'll have elements like, "High atop Mount Everest.." "In the deepest part of the Ocean..." or "In a hidden part of the Amazon Jungle..." and then a second list for Refereed play with elements like, "A group of scientists find themselves..." "A secret invasion is taking place..." or "A catastrophe is brewing...", in versus play the villains immediately begin their dialogue) and then play moves to the Narrator's right (per normal Scattershot mechanical play).

    Each player will continue the Narrator's monologue adding to the threat or menace.  The players and the gamemaster award the speaker experience dice (out of the common stock) for anything they find clever, amusing, or that suits the genre perfectly, and the better it does, the higher the award (participants may award more than one die each, but the maximum for any turn is equal to the number of participants).  These are what will be used later in play; the more you get here, the better use you can put them to later.

    The Threat will necessarily gain either an advantage or some experience dice (Did I mention that the Narrator takes part in this round?) from every addition (turn) of the Narration (even if its one of those 'lives in a setting that limits the heroes' advantages).  If a speaker fails to deliver this in a corny, genre expected fashion, they do not get any experience dice for their turn.

    After at least one round (everyone gets at least one turn in the ante), whoever fails to receive an award for their Narration (and 'being too long-winded to be worth adding on' definitely counts when 'keeping in the genre') has whatever they narrated voided and must give the 'scene transition,' like "Meanwhile, back in the Great Hall of the Justice League...." This person must set the next scene, in which the heroes are introduced, and it must be based on their persona!  (Of course, if properly 'hammed up' this transition can lead to an experience dice reward, and possible, if played right, some kind of 'strategic' advantage in the narrative.)

    For example, let's say that Batman's player fails to garner any experience dice for his input into the Narrator's monologue.  His part is voided and he must set the scene to start off.
      Batman: <Aw. Not even one die?  Sigh, okay....>  Meanwhile at Waynr Manor, Bruce Wayne is having a picnic for all of his friends from the Hall of Justice.  Always in the public eye, Wayne, and all his friends, have adopted their secret identities.[/list:u]
    The Opening
    The person to the right of the one that set the scene (even when the Narrator), begins the 'establishing shot.'  Like the ante, this will be at least once around the group.  The Narrator's part is to either insert teasers for the threat (even as 'turning points' for the exposition, if they are thematically appropriate - for example, if the Threat is a hurricane, it may begin to rain).  More experience dice are earned here for the same reasons.  Good awards usually come to those who set up rivalries or personality conflicts or begin a good 'running gag' (note; these also offer opportunities for increased rewards later).  Some individual problems are allowed but, as always, don't count unless someone awards it.

    A couple of examples; Zan begins an angst journey, doubting his place in the Superfriends with a smashingly corny dialogue or Robin (the elder) and Supergirl start a sexism-based 'who's better' argument.  Another solo example would be someone revealing a mysterious problem (like an illness, a power loss, or a personal problem) 'secretly' to another persona (this pays off when it gets used against them later).
      Superman: Now that we're alone, Bruce, I have something I need to tell you.  I don't seem to be able to control my powers anymore.

      Batman: My god!  What's the matter?  Is there anything I can do?

      Superman: I don't know.  My powers just fluctuate without cause.  I'm most worried about my vision powers.  Who might be hurt if I lose control of my heat vision?

      Batman: Actually, why don't I give you these?  I had these lead sunglasses made for work in Wayne Industries Kryptonite laser laboratory.  They ought to help your 'sight problem.'[/list:u]One must  be careful here because dialogue may count as only one action from the initiator, but it requires forfeited action on the part of the respondent.  Don't get fooled into forfeiting both of your actions frivolously.  Notice how Batman made himself an integral part of Superman's problem?  That means he will be involved in its solution or Superman's player will suffer from lack of 'payback' dice at that time.

      After the first round, the person who first fails to receive an award (who's soliloquy has thus been voided) produces the 'call to action,' like "The trouble alert begins flashing..." and describes how the heroes will respond.  As before this player
    can use this for one last shot at getting experience dice by creating a particularly genre explicit description of how the superheroes travel to the scene of the problem.  Or they can use it strategically, like Wonder Woman's player announcing they all fly to the scene (meaning that Batman and Robin will have access to much of their bigger gear, but Aquaman pretty much has to ride with her, depriving him of his ocean going resources) or that they all use the JLA transporter (rendering Batman and Robin also separate from the bulk of their resources).

    The Play
    Starting with the turn of the person to the right of the one who narrated the 'call to action,' each participant delivers a 'line' of dialogue.  Each 'line' is not limited to one sentence, but instead is limited to a single concept of action.  Remember, in Scattershot presents 'Saturday Morning/Afternoon Cartoon Superhero,' you don't describe what you're character is doing, their dialogue does.

    As before, suitably corny Actions or manners of expression deserve experience die rewards (coming right out of the common stock).  When such engages another entity or entities within the game, their proprietor(s) must choose whether to oppose, aid, or ignore the engagement per the genre expectation (this reaction too is fertile for rewards).

    (The rest is left as an exercise for the reader; I don't really have time, but I think the details are pretty obvious.)

    'Playing Off' Other Players & Strategy
    (How you can force others to expend their experience dice so that in the end you have more.  Things like 'getting into trouble,' losing control of your powers' and the like.)

    Rising Tension
    (Basically everyone individually, or in teams, gets their vignette and then it's on to the conclusion.)

    The Turning Point
    (The battle reaches it's climax and the players begin trying to guess what clever trick will be used to finally 'knock out' the threat.  Extra dice are awarded afterwards to the hero who pulls it off, even though they spent dice to achieve it; this is not an 'instant reward.)

    The Heroes Win!
    (Don't forget the last chance to win a few experience dice as the heroes stand around trying to cram the action into some kind of na´ve moralization.  Remember, the cornier the better.)

    Whoever Wins, Wins?
    (After all that, total up who has the most experience dice.  You'll notice that conservative play yields the least lost, but other players may see that coming and act to 'force your hand.')

    (Another example would have followed showing how to do the same thing with villains as half the participants.)

    One of the reasons I put this up (other than my partner thinks it rocks) is to show how Scattershot can be used to create many different types of games.  Armed with only one 'house rule' ('the loser changes the scene'), this is simply a 'hands-free,' very Self-Conscious, highly Gamemasterful-sharing game of Scattershot where everyone is expected to play the Joueur as close to the over-the-top Genre Expectations as possible.

    Fang Langford

    Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
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