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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Raspberry Heaven: A game about happy times in an anime high school  (Read 3097 times)
neko ewen
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« on: July 03, 2007, 07:00:37 PM »

Yesterday I came up with a game idea that I'm really jazzed about, though it's very much in the "First Thoughts" stage.

"Raspberry Heaven" is meant to be based on slice of life anime and manga like Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, Strawberry Marshmallow, and Hidamari Sketch. It's mainly about quirky high school students and their pleasant everyday lives, concentrating on a small group of friends. The game is intended to be sort of a celebration of friendship, which I guess makes it sort of like Best Friends turned inside out.

I'm currently leaning towards having it be a GM-less game, based around framing scenes. The game text would include descriptions of (and possibly special rules for) a bunch of different events relating to Japanese high school life, ranging from silly conversations during lunch to the yearly cultural festival. Tenatively, characters are defined by attributes (things like Scholarship, Athletics, Will, etc.) and Quirks (Baka, Softy, Diligent, Space Cadet, etc.).

Here are the major issues I'm looking into right now:

1. In the source material, there is a core group of characters who heavily dominate the action, and "NPCs" are the exception to the rule. I generally prefer games where each player has a single character to fully identify with and develop, but in this case there's the question of balancing screen time, especially if other players are going to become spectators for the duration, not to mention dealing with how PCs can enter a scene.

2. I'm thinking that in the game characters will have to periodically face "challenges," like tests, athletics festival events, confronting weird teachers, etc. Like the matter of characters jumping into scenes, this opens up the need for some kind of currency and/or randomizer. I'm thinking it should be more along the lines of characters being able to do things like organizing a study group (which becomes a scene) and getting a bonus (or possibly just eliminating a penalty) on the test if it goes well. The milieu doesn't really lend itself to conflict per se, so I probably need the currency to reinforce happy thoughts in some way.

3. Of the four titles I mentioned above, three are in "yon-koma" (4-panel) format. It's a relatively common format in Japan, where comics are composed of four panels arranged vertically. There's also this thing called "ki-shou-ten-ketsu," which is sort of a four-act model for storytelling (introduction, development, climax, resolution), and yon-koma comics can be thought of as that model rendered in miniature. I'm considering trying to integrate this into the structure of the game somehow, but at the moment I have no idea how to go about it.

4. Especially given that Raspberry Heaven is meant to be grounded in a fairly realistic (if in some ways idealized) and academic setting, I'm wondering if the game could benefit from drawing on some of the techniques and conventions of educational tool type role-playing. I still need to reach much, much more, but I was struck by the emphasis on setup and debriefing, as well as a common assumption that there will be spectators (one author called it a "fishbowl" arrangement). Some of the books I was looking at in the library today were mainly collections of setups, moral quandaries for students to try to unravel.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2007, 07:21:36 AM »

I think the main question you need to ask yourself is what effect you want playing the game to have on the group, and what kind of enjoyment you want the players to draw from the session. "The celebration of friendship" could be approached in many different ways, I suppose. What's going to drive the game forward? Could you describe, in broad strokes, how you envision a typical session to pass?

1.Generally, I think one or more of the following things could work here:

-Giving the players some way to influence the events in a meaningful way from the position of audience, so that everyone could have an impact on the fiction all the time.
-Giving everyone a role to play in every scene (or in most scenes), by handing NPCs to non-spotlight players.
-Providing tools to create a situation that would make everyone engaged by the fiction all the time, and interested in what happens with other players' characters and NPCs.

I think balancing screen time will be a problem only as long as every player is interested only (or mostly) in his spotlight character. Once you engage everyone in the situation as a whole, it's no longer an issue - you only need to give everyone roughly equal means of input.

There was an interesting thing that came up in my playtests of Absolute Destiny Apocalypse. Initially, every player had his own character, created by himself, and a cast of NPCs was created by the whole group, in a round robin manner. What surprised me was that the players were invested in NPCs at least as much as in their spotlight characters, if not more. If the PC wasn't present in the scene, I've been giving her player the role of an NPC (provided there was more than one in the scene). But even when this wasn't a case, I've found that players were invested in all the events, also from the perspective of a spectator. So, I got rid of individually created characters altogether (even though there are still spotlights). In the end, the GM turned out to be superfluous, too. His main role in the game was running NPCs - but as it turned out, he was basically doing the same things as the rest of the group, only without having his own spotlight character.

As for dealing with the issue of PC entering a scene - I can see that you tried to regulate it in Tokyo Heroes, but I'm not convinced if rigid rules for this are really needed in that game. What if you considered situations in which the PC actually shouldn't be able to simply enter the scene, instead? Then, it should be easier to decide whether you need some special mechanics for this, or if it's sufficient if the entrance can simply be barred by group consensus (i.e. if nobody sees a reason for the character not to enter the scene, she can). Now, the importance of this being regulated obviously depends on what input the player can have from "outside" the scene and what input he can have from "inside". However, I don't suppose it would be all that important, unless you'd like PCs presence in the scene to affect the arena of competition somehow (but I don't see any arena of competition in this game anyway).

2.The important question here is, what purpose do you want these "challenges" to serve? From what you write about your design goals, it doesn't sound like you want it to be a school life's simulation game. For example, do you think character's success or failure in facing these "challenges" will be meaningful enough in itself to engage the players? Cause, it seems like such things won't really matter here. What I think would matter, is how such situations highlight PCs personal issues and inter-personal relations, and how they reinforce the theme of friendship.

I think you need to give players tools to put PCs in situation that they can't face without the support of their friends, rather than just "challenge" them. Then, the main part of the game covers the support, I suppose, and what's the conclusion of that support.

The core conflict here seems to be between the power of friendship and character's personal troubles. Now, the problem is that from what I know, in the source material it is generally resolved favorably and in the end friendship prevails. So, I don't suppose it would be good to have rules for determining if friendship helps to overcome the troubles or if friendship lasts - cause it simply will. What you could have tools for, I think, is rather one or more of the following things:

-Does the friendship last due to it helping the PC to overcome her troubles? Or does it last despite her failure to overcome the problems (and helps her to deal with the failure instead)? Or maybe the PC sacrifices her goals in the name of friendship?
-Is the friendship strengthened in the process or will it only remain as strong as it was? (Cause I don't think there should be a possibility of it being weakened.)
-How exactly does the friendship help to overcome the troubles and influence PCs life? (Here, I think some pacing mechanic would fit well - i.e. the rules don't have to tell whether friendship helps or not, cause it does, but rather when it should happen in the fiction, and possibly give some idea about the way it happens.)
-Which of the PC's friends has the main input in supporting her and ultimately helps her overcome her troubles? (This has a potential for making the game somewhat competitive, as you could have the players struggling to be the most supportive. Obviously, there's a question of whether you'd want or need such competitive element - depending on the answer you'd have to either reinforce it or ascertain that competition is irrelevant.)
-What are the effects of friendship on PCs life? How does it change her?

And by tools I understand either mechanics that would process the players' input to produce answers for these questions, or rules and structure that would prompt the players to come up with the answers without dictating them (possibly some combination of both).

Now, this is obviously tied to the way the characters are defined mechanically. I suppose attributes and Quirks as you describe them would matter in a school life's simulation game. But depending on the road you take, they may not be the best way to define the character.

Cause, would it really matter that Yuki is smarter than Reiko and Reiko is more athletic than Aki? This could have some importance if it determined the ways in which the girls can support each other. But maybe it would be more important to know that Yuki likes Reiko more than Ami, and Ami likes Yuki more than Reiko, and to know that Reiko can understand Ami's problems better than Yuki, but Yuki can provide more reliable support?

3.Go for it. You suggest the four act structure in Tokyo Heroes, and there, it simply screams to be integrated into the system in a more formal manner. You could base sequences of scenes on the structure, giving every scene in the sequence different role and involving different parts of the system in each stage. Or, you could give every player a certain number of scenes to frame in each act. Or, you could have some mechanical triggers that would move the game into the next act. Or, you could have conflicts structured in these four panels. Or something Wink

4.Dunno about that and you could experiment with it. But frankly, although I had only minor contact with educational role-playing, I think educational techniques are geared towards different priorities than producing enjoyable play, as is usually the case with normal role-playing techniques. I'd say, be careful not to force anything into the game unless its inclusion is justified by the design goals and supports play.
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neko ewen
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« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2007, 01:18:49 PM »

Thanks for taking the time to write that much. ^_^ I'll have to really sit down and ponder all of this stuff, but here's what I can say off the top of my head:

I think I mainly want the game to be a vehicle for encouraging the players to cooperatively create fun "anecdotes." The game is meant to be a succession of the little things that pop up in life that you might tell your other friends about later (or want to hide from them...).

Part of my thinking with giving characters traits that determine/reflect their ability levels is that they then have the opportunity to help each other out. Tomo might seem to have rocks for brains, but if Chiyo and Yomi help her study she can probably pass the upcoming history test. Chiyo can't run fast and is worried that she'll drag the class down in the relay race, but Sakaki is going to give it her all so that they can win. My interpretation of the source material (which admittedly I might be too attached to) is that the fact that the characters are friends (or will become friends) is pretty much a given. The issue is how their quirks and abilities come together to help them deal with the trials of high school life.

I think the main think I need to figure out with regard to using the 4-panel/act format in the game is what role it would actually play, beyond being mere flavor text. It might serve to delineate when stuff can be introduced in a scene, and some other things with the rules.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2007, 03:59:03 AM »

Hi Ewen!  I was reading your posts about anime games on your blog and I was wondering if there was a game lurking back there somewhere.

I'm not going to write as much as Filip, but maybe this will be helpful:

Do you want the game to be:
1) We will help each other, so that we can triumph.  (There is no doubt about the helping each other, or the triumph)
2) If we help each other, then we will triumph.  (there is no doubt about triumph, if the helping happens)
3) We will help each other, so that we have a chance to triumph.  (there is no doubt about the helping, but triumph is still in question.)
4) If we help each other, then we'll have a chance to triumph.  (both the helping and the triumph are uncertain.)

My thought is that the fourth is the most interesting, but it also gives the players the option of making the game a game which isn't about happy times, but might be about one girl being excluded and rejected whilst the others for a clique.

What are your thoughts?

yrs--
--Ben
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FredGarber
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« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2007, 08:34:21 AM »

My reading of your ideas says that rather than Skills which help a character, a character consists of Flaws that must be overcome (with the support of the group). 

As a non-anime HS example, I was watching Hex recently, and Ella's flaw is Lust: It's unimportant that she's Athletic, Telekinetic, and Knows A Lot of Witchy Stuff.  What's important is that as play develops, Ella's Lust gets her in trouble, since she starts chasing after inappropriate boys.  Thelma and Leon all have to deal with whether to help Ella get over her Lust challenge or not.

So Tomo's Flaw (Dumb as Rocks) presents a challenge for the PCs.  A Pop Quiz Test is announced in Scene 1, Scene 2 has Chiyo and Yomi choosing to spend their currency to alter Tomo's chances to avoid Extra AfterSchool Tutoring, while Sakaki saves her currency for a future challenge.

I would have as a mechanic that the effectiveness of the currency would be modified by the Friendship Bond of the two characters. If the character chooses to add to the roll, and it succeeds, the Friendship bond grows.  If the character chooses to subtract from the roll, and it fails, the Bond Grows as well (You remember the time we both skipped school to go shopping?  That was fun!)  Otherwise, the Bond drops (You tried to help me study, but no thanks, you are dumber than me!)

In my above example, Sakaki might feel her Bond with Tomo is already high enough that she doesn't want to risk decreasing it with Tomo's high Flaw score.  Meanwhile, Chiyo is hoping that her Bond will increase so that Tomo's cheering during the footrace will help offset her own flaw (Slow as Turtle) in the upcoming challenge. (*)

Because the players are spending currency to increase their bonds, I would have these Bonds decrease over time.  That way the mechanics drive the players to spend their points (and therefore interact with each other) in order to keep their relationships working.

-Fred

(*) Yomi spent her point AGAINST Tomo, hoping that Tomo goes into the AfterSchool Tutoring Program, because then Yomi can use her newly increased friendship with Tomo to hang out and get to meet Tetsuo, the Handsome Teacher's Aide, thereby dealing with her own Flaw, Boy-Crazy.
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neko ewen
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« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2007, 12:01:34 PM »

Hi Ewen!  I was reading your posts about anime games on your blog and I was wondering if there was a game lurking back there somewhere.
I have this bad habit of coming up with ideas for and starting creative projects and not quite finishing them. Part of why I'm so excited about this one is that I'm unusually confident I can bring it to fruition.

Quote
I'm not going to write as much as Filip, but maybe this will be helpful:
Filip is rather prolific (just the other day he literally sent me an e-mail about one of my other games that was 8 pages when he printed it out, which is deeply appreciated, but, you know, wow), and you've helped me focus on what I need to work on.

So, I'm inclined to agree with you that #4 is the best or at the very least most interesting choice. Anything else runs the risk of taking away risk and chance to the point of making things boring. For a minute there I was floundering with a game that had no real mechanical meat to it.

I also decided I need to tighten up the game's structure, so that game sessions are specifically centered around an event that involves some challenges. The book would have a set of "episodes," put in chronological order, each of which explains a given event in the school year (cultural festival, midterms, etc.) and major scenes and default challenges associated with them. The athletic festival would be one of the more elaborate ones, since each character has to pick at least one event to participate in from the list, and their collective successes and failures would in turn contribute to their team's outcome.

My reading of your ideas says that rather than Skills which help a character, a character consists of Flaws that must be overcome (with the support of the group).
With one or two exceptions, you pretty much read my mind as to what I came up with after reading Ben's post this morning. (And incidentally Hex is on my list of neat British shows to check out, along with Spaced). Here's where I'm at currently:

Character creation starts off with picking three Quirks from a list. Each one makes the character "good" at some things and "bad" at others, and they stay "average" at everything else. I got rid of the idea of having numerical attributes per se as too abstract. When a challenge comes up, you roll 1d6 if you're bad at it, 2d6 if you're average, and 3d6 if you're good at it. For a typical challenge you need to get a 6. I prefer them to be double-edged rather than just flaws, with the idea that the characters also have strengths that they can bring to bear to better help their friends.

Characters have "Dream" tokens that they can spend to help out friends, and this is where my plans for the game are still vague. Tentatively, the idea is that characters have Bonds to each other (base of 2), which determine the flat numerical bonus that using a Dream adds to their roll. You have to be good at something (or just better than them?) to help, and you have to be able to do something in-game that would help them (corner Tomo for a study session and make it productive). Using currency to sabotage friends isn't something I had considered at all.

Right now I'm not at all sure (1) how characters would earn Dream tokens, and (2) how bonds would increase. In both cases, the structure of the game calls for it to be fairly well-defined. I'm tempted to have something where each quirk has a "key" that nets you tokens for doing a specific detrimental thing, but I suspect that's too fuzzy and requires keeping track of everyone's keys on top of that. Having a "closed economy" like in Best Friends is another option, but I have no idea how it'd work. I originally got the idea for bonds as a game mechanic from a Japanese RPG called Yuuyake Koyake ("Sunset"), and in that you can strengthen bonds basically by spending the game's equivalent of Fan Mail. It might be better to have changes in bonds tied to overcoming challenges, and I'm not sure whether raising bonds should require burning up the resource that's also used to help friends.
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Zach
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« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2007, 12:31:53 PM »

Hello. Mainly I'm posting to claim the bonus points mentioned at Yaruki Zero for understanding the game's working title. As for further thoughts though, let's see...

Characters have "Dream" tokens that they can spend to help out friends, and this is where my plans for the game are still vague. Tentatively, the idea is that characters have Bonds to each other (base of 2), which determine the flat numerical bonus that using a Dream adds to their roll. You have to be good at something (or just better than them?) to help, and you have to be able to do something in-game that would help them (corner Tomo for a study session and make it productive). Using currency to sabotage friends isn't something I had considered at all.

It has precedence, however. Yomi plays pranks on Chiyo-chan and Tomo's teasing Yomi doesn't seem to have a positive effect. Rivalries like the one Kagura believes that she has with Sakaki could also fall under this mechanic. Maybe each character has one negative bond amongst the group. The could be a function of their trait (the Sarcastic Prankster gets one negative bond of choice, Genki Athelete gets a negative bond against her chosen rival, etc.)

It wouldn't represent animosity, since all of the main characters are friends, but still a divergence point for goals.

Right now I'm not at all sure (1) how characters would earn Dream tokens, and (2) how bonds would increase. In both cases, the structure of the game calls for it to be fairly well-defined. I'm tempted to have something where each quirk has a "key" that nets you tokens for doing a specific detrimental thing, but I suspect that's too fuzzy and requires keeping track of everyone's keys on top of that.

Could each of the scenarios in the book have key points for raising bonds? For example, if you help the unathletic character train for the bread-eating race, one of you (or both of you) can increase your bond by one. Alternately, she can drop the bond by any amount (on account of losing the race, feeling the target of pity, or something of the like.)
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Intergalactic Cooking Challenge is pretty slick. Also of note is the sample size.
Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2007, 01:19:31 PM »

Quote
(just the other day he literally sent me an e-mail about one of my other games that was 8 pages when he printed it out, which is deeply appreciated, but, you know, wow)

Yeah, I tend to get longish with such stuff. But "page by page" feedback is the kind I find most useful personally, and I've been receiving longer rambles myself Wink You have some projects that I'd like to see developed eventually, so I think it's worth the trouble.

Quote
So, I'm inclined to agree with you that #4 is the best or at the very least most interesting choice. Anything else runs the risk of taking away risk and chance to the point of making things boring. For a minute there I was floundering with a game that had no real mechanical meat to it.

Well, keep in mind that there is no absolutely universal solution for any design problem. Ben's #4 is the safest route, as it's the most standard way to approach the issue of including an engaging conflict in the game. However, it doesn't mean that it's not possible to create an interesting and entertaining game using different setups (i.e. with the certainty of tryumph or whatever). It would be harder to place the meat in some less than obvious location, but experimentation could just as well turn out worth it. Maybe not having the meat could be worth it too, possibly - take Jonathan Walton's Avatar game, for example. There's no real mechanical meat to it, only structure for freeform storytelling and pacing.

So, I think there's a lot of options for you here, and at this point it's impossible to say which would work better - but it's worth considering as many of them as possible. We can at most suggest you some potential directions here, especially at this stage.
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Jake Richmond
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2007, 06:15:19 PM »

Quote
3. Of the four titles I mentioned above, three are in "yon-koma" (4-panel) format. It's a relatively common format in Japan, where comics are composed of four panels arranged vertically. There's also this thing called "ki-shou-ten-ketsu," which is sort of a four-act model for storytelling (introduction, development, climax, resolution), and yon-koma comics can be thought of as that model rendered in miniature. I'm considering trying to integrate this into the structure of the game somehow, but at the moment I have no idea how to go about it.

You really, really should. Perhaps each scene could be broken down into four steps? A kind of 1-2-3-4 beat, then move to the next scene?

Jake
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neko ewen
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« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2007, 07:09:09 AM »

You really, really should. Perhaps each scene could be broken down into four steps? A kind of 1-2-3-4 beat, then move to the next scene?
Okay, I think I've got it. A scene has 4 steps:
1. Ki/Introduction: Whoever's turn it is, they do the framing/setup of the scene.
2. Shou/Development: The scene begins in earnest.
3. Ten/Climax: The Challenge happens; you roll dice and figure out what happens.
4. Ketsu/Resolution: The aftermath of the Challenge; the scene ends.

Hello. Mainly I'm posting to claim the bonus points mentioned at Yaruki Zero for understanding the game's working title.
Heehee. =^.^=

Could each of the scenarios in the book have key points for raising bonds? For example, if you help the unathletic character train for the bread-eating race, one of you (or both of you) can increase your bond by one. Alternately, she can drop the bond by any amount (on account of losing the race, feeling the target of pity, or something of the like.)
I really like that, especially since it could help get rid of the need for tokens/currency, which I'm starting to think the game doesn't really need. I want it to emphasize hanging out and speaking in character over fiddling with the rules anyway.
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