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Author Topic: La Famiglia: First Draft  (Read 4709 times)
Jake Norwood
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« on: February 19, 2003, 05:52:28 PM »

I would like to turn everyone's attention to the first (and partially incomplete) draft of La Famiglia, a Mafia game that revolves around Reputation. I'm really proud of it, as it's been my pet project for quite some time. I intend to publish it in PDF format by the summer.

http://www.theriddleofsteel.net/otherstuff/lafamiglia.htm

As an annoying side-note our site has been on the fritz for the last 2 days, up one minute and down the next. If you don't get through to the site just try again.

La Famiglia is Copyright 2003 Jacob P Norwood DBA Driftwood Publishing

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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ThreeGee
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2003, 06:20:58 AM »

Hey Jake,

That's great! Reading the rules makes me want to find some people and start playing. Will you be adding background to explain "La Cosa Nostra" to people who are not familiar with it?

Later,
Grant
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2003, 09:24:20 AM »

My plans are to write this up full-blown...you know, 50 or 100 pages, complete with history, sample hooks, maybe even maps of early chicago and new york.

Glad to hear that it's up. My server people say the problem is fixed for good, so now's a good time to go and check out the game, everyone!

Last night we made a Family and started on Personaggi. It's a little time-consuming (and needs to be tweaked some), but it's really fun the whole time. The Blackjack mechanic is pretty cutthroat, which makes me happy.

My plans are to make this another Nar/Sim hybrid, ala TROS, but the Sim isn't really coming out that much, which is okay. I guess what I want is:

-Narrativist player-driven action stuff, provided by players seeking to add to or recover Reputations
-Simmy "Exploration of Color"
-TROS-style "you are more important than your character" when it comes to the mechanics of combat and task resolution. I want there to be a difference between a snub-nose and a shotgun, for example, but I don't want such differences to run the game. My current thoughts are to give bonus chips in certain cirumstances (such as to cause injury, etc, if you have a bigger gun).

Thanks for looking over this, everyone. I anxiously await more feedback.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2003, 09:59:25 AM »

Very sweet Jake.  I can see the entire recent movie Knockaround Guys being scripted as an extended example of the mechanics of this game.   From the opening scene where the kid acquires a permanent reputation as not having the heart for the business; to the blow to the family's rep from losiing the money; to the greatly declined rep of the boss whose viewed by his own underlings as a has been; to the pilot's ongoing reputation as a burn out flunkie.  The entire movie.

One question I did have mechanic wise is how negative reputations come into play.  If I have a Reputation of Unreliable at 10 chips, how does this work mechanically.  I obviously can't simply bet the full 10 chips and bust on purpose thereby losing the chips.  I also obviously don't want to win the hand and double my bad rep.  Are bad reputations used by the Boss to bid against you...fueling his own chip expenditures with your chips?

Instead of bonus (or in additon to) bonus chips you might allow different ways to Cheat at the blackjack game as a way of bringing in crunchier sim bits without messing up the great rep/chip system.

Couple I thought of.

Free Hits
A heavy pistol might grant 1 free hit, a shotgun or submachine gun 2 or three (other situational advantages and the like similiarly rated).  You can ditch 1 Hit card you don't like and draw a new one for each free hit.  Less likely to go bust armed with a machine gun against a guy with a knife.

Card up the Sleeve
As some form of bennie (perhaps representing a once per session perk from a particular advantage or talant, or perhaps as a GM metagame award), a player (or character, whichever works better) is dealt a single card which he keeps.  At a relevant point in a future black jack round (i.e. where that bennie would apply) the player can swap the sleeve card for any of the cards dealt.
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2003, 10:07:43 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Very sweet Jake.  I can see the entire recent movie Knockaround Guys being scripted as an extended example of the mechanics of this game.   From the opening scene where the kid acquires a permanent reputation as not having the heart for the business; to the blow to the family's rep from losiing the money; to the greatly declined rep of the boss whose viewed by his own underlings as a has been; to the pilot's ongoing reputation as a burn out flunkie.  The entire movie.


So true. And that's what drove everyone...when I sat down to write a mafia game I said "it has to feel like the mob--so what makes the mob turn?" Well, in the movies it's Reputation.

Quote
One question I did have mechanic wise is how negative reputations come into play.  If I have a Reputation of Unreliable at 10 chips, how does this work mechanically.  I obviously can't simply bet the full 10 chips and bust on purpose thereby losing the chips.  I also obviously don't want to win the hand and double my bad rep.  Are bad reputations used by the Boss to bid against you...fueling his own chip expenditures with your chips?


My current thoughts are either to (1) let the Boss or your oppoment use your chips against you or (2) to have them count against your total (so if you have a 12 positive and 5 negative then you play with 7).

Quote
Instead of bonus (or in additon to) bonus chips you might allow different ways to Cheat at the blackjack game as a way of bringing in crunchier sim bits without messing up the great rep/chip system.

Couple I thought of.

Free Hits
A heavy pistol might grant 1 free hit, a shotgun or submachine gun 2 or three (other situational advantages and the like similiarly rated).  You can ditch 1 Hit card you don't like and draw a new one for each free hit.  Less likely to go bust armed with a machine gun against a guy with a knife.

Card up the Sleeve
As some form of bennie (perhaps representing a once per session perk from a particular advantage or talant, or perhaps as a GM metagame award), a player (or character, whichever works better) is dealt a single card which he keeps.  At a relevant point in a future black jack round (i.e. where that bennie would apply) the player can swap the sleeve card for any of the cards dealt.


I especially like the "card up the sleeve" bit. I also considered that certain chip bonuses are granted only if you win, or if you lose, or simply after the hand is played out, but their use is pre-determined.

Thanks for the feedback.

Jake
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2003, 08:22:46 PM »

Here's the Text so far. There's allready a few things I've changed, but this will have to do (since the dang site is down AGAIN).


***********************
La famigliaA role-playing game about respect and reputation in the mob
 
This is a game about the Mob. It’s gritty, a bit random, and rather unfair. It’s a game about the perception of strength or weakness—of Reputazione, one’s Reputation. In the Mob reputation is everything. And that’s how this game works, too. Everyone has Reputazione: your characters, other characters, even organizations like the Police or your Famiglia. Gaining the right reputation is a lot of work and takes time; losing it can happen in moments. That’s the Life in the Mob. Your Life.
The PlayersAs with all RPGs, at least 2 players are always needed. One takes on the roll of Il Cappo—the Boss—and the others are i Gioccatores—the Players. The Boss’s roll is essentially that of the GM, with a few twists we’ll cover later. The Players are like actors in a troupe; not one, but multiple characters (usually 2 or 3) belong to each Gioccatore. Finally, one “character,”—the Family—is an entity shared by the Boss, the Players, and the Cards.
Destino e Reputazione
The “mechanics” of La Famiglia revolve around casino-style gambling. Namely, around Cards and Chips. All Reputations are measured in Chips, and all conflicts are resolved using Cards. In a nutshell players gamble their appropriate Reputations (Chips) on the actions they make in a game of Black Jack with their opponents. The winner takes his opponent’s chips and uses them to define in-game effects, conflict results, and to gradully increase or change his own Reputations. The loser simply loses those Chips that were at stake, and his Reputations suffer. Gang wars start over this sort of thing, because around here Reptuation really is everything.
Creating Personaggi
Each Player gets a few Personaggi—characters—to begin play with. The number of Personaggi per Player depends on the Chip total from their Rank in the Family (part of one’s Reputation as a Family Man. Thus you could have a bunch of thug characters, or a made man and a thug, or some other combination. As long as all their Family Ranks add up to the level set by the Boss at the beginning of play, it’s good to go.
Choosing Rank
The Ranks of the Family are:
Less than 0 Chips—Walking Corpse
0 Chips—Mercenary or Normal Joe
1 Chip—Stoolie
3 Chips—Thug
5 Chips—Foot Soldier
9 Chips—Professional (Enforcer, Wheelman, Hitman, etc.)
15 Chips—Made Man
21 Chips—Boss (of a gang or crew)
25 Chips—Don (il cappo di la famiglia)

For most games the Boss will grant 18 Rank Chips to be divided amongst the Personaggi of each Player. No Player can have more than one Mercenary, Walking Corpse, or Normal Joe on their Roster at any one time (but should that Mercenary be taken into the Family, then a new one can be made). These Chips are put into the Reputation as a Family Man box next to the name of your Rank in the Family (Mercenaries write “Mercenary”).
 
What does Rank do? In short, it allows you to use the Family’s Chips in appropriate situations as if they were your own. This can be a good source of extra Chips, but if you lose too many, then the Don will take them out of your hide.
Other Reputations
In addition to one’s Reputation as a Family Man, each Personaggio has 8 other Reputation Groups (for a total of 9 categories). All 9 are:

•   Reputation as a Family Man
•   Physical Reputation
•   Mental Reputation
•   Reputation with the Ladies
•   Reputation with the Almighty
•   Professional Reputation
•   Reputation in Violence
•   Reputation for Talents
•   Public Reputation

Each Reputation Group is divided into more specific individual Reptuations. These are open-ended and the sample list below is only an idea of the possibilities. Anything unspecified by a Personaggio’s Reputations is considered “average or unremarkable” and therefore has no effect on conflict resolution in-game.
Reputation as a Family Man
•   Rank in the Family
•   Loyal to the Family
•   GoodFella (can be trusted according to Omerta, or “the rules”)
Physical Reputation Examples
•   Tiny (Big, strong guy)
•   Tough as nails
•   Tall (we mean really tall)
•   Short (like Danny DeVito)
•   Slim (like a rod)
•   Fat
•   Athletic
•   Quick Hands
Mental Reputation Examples
•   Razor-Wit
•   Calculating
•   Dim Witted
•   Iron Will
•   Cool-headed
•   Hot-headed
•   Good liar
•   Poor Liar
•   Honest
•   Drunk/Lush
•   Hedonist
•   Spartan
Reputation with the Ladies (or Gents, I guess)
•   Loyal to wife/husband (must be/have been married)
•   Disloyal to wife/husband (must be/have been married)
•   Loves (name of dame/guy)
•   Fond of whores
•   Kind to women
•   Mean to women
•   Player/Smooth talker
•   Bumbles around lades/gents
Reputation with the Almighty
•   God-fearing
•   Religious (Dogmatic)
•   Superstitious
•   Science/Reason before God
•   Atheism
•   Hates God
•   Hates the Church
•   Protestant (not Catholic?!?)
•   Jew (this can be practicing or by blood…who cares)
Professional Reputation
•   Wheelman
•   Hitman
•   Bookie
•   Lawyer
•   Ex-cop
•   Honest dealer
•   Cheat and Scoundrel
•   Mechanic/machinist
•   Bartender
•   Gambler
•   Sticky fingers (thief stuff)
•   Deep pockets
•   Broke
•   Nice Car (or other piece of noteworthy equipment that “completes a character”)
•   Knows People (contacts, etc.)
Reputation in Violence
•   Likes guns (all guns; you can take this one with the more specialized versions, below)
•   Likes handguns
•   Likes rifles
•   Likes big guns (Tommy guns, shotguns, etc.)
•   Likes explosions
•   Likes knives, bottles, and sticks
•   Boxer
•   Sadist
•   Masochist
•   Pacifist
Reputation for Talents
•   Golfer
•   Card Player
•   Ball Player
•   Artist
•   Singer
•   Musician
•   Funny Guy
•   Trivia whiz
•   Master Chef
Public Reputation
•   Popular/Folk hero
•   Villain (in public eyes)
•   Wanted by the cops
•   Dead man/Walking Corpse (wanted by another Family…or your own)
•   Troublemaker
•   Peacemaker

Establishing One’s Reputations
Each personaggio enters the world with several reputations already established. These Reputations are built with a Bankroll of 50 Chips (the starting number of Chips can be changed by the Boss). Character creation begins with each Player choosing/inventing a specific Reputation. (Obviously any number of Reputations—positive, negative, and in-between—are possible in each given Reputation Group. Use the examples above to create your own in addition to borrowing from the list.) He then places his “bet” of how many chips he’d like to place into that Reputation from his starting Bankroll. All parties then play the dealer in Casino-style Blackjack. The rules will be coved more later on, but the modified version for Character Creation is:

•   If you get Blackjack (21), then you get 150% extra Chips for the Reputation at Stake (thus If you bet 10, then you can put 25 into that Reputation, but the original 10 are spent).
•   If you win with anything less than 21, then you get to put 100% extra into the Reputation at Stake (thus 10 Chips becomes 20).
•   If you Push (tie with the dealer), then you put exactly the amount of the bet into the Reputation at Stake (10 Chips stays 10 Chips).
•   If you Lose, then you lose the Chips at Stake but can play for the Reputation at Stake again. Alternatively you can take the Reputation with half the Chips bet and the Boss will put the other half into a Reputation of his choice as if you had Busted (see below).
•   If you Bust, then you lose the Chips at Stake, cannot play for that Reputation again, and the Boss uses the Chips you lost to buy another Reputation of his choosing for you—usually something bad or cumbersome (like Ugly, Fat, Broke, etc).
•   If you Surrender then you can place half of the Chips bet into the Reputation at Stake; the other half are lost.

This goes on until all Players have spent all of their Chips. If a Player wants/needs more Chips to create a given Personaggio, that can be arranged. The Boss can extend a “loan” of up to 15 Chips in exchange for 150% of the borrowed amount Skeleton Chips (these will be discussed more later on). Skeleton Chips represent vices, misdeeds, or Reputations that could ruin or even kill a man, but that are hidden “in the Closet.” As long as the Skeleton Chips remain in the Closet they will never directly effect a Character’s Cards or Chips…but if they come out, then you’re in serious trouble.
Finishing Touches
Work out your new Personaggio’s name, nickname (based on his Reputations, of course), and any other important personal information not covered by his Reputations. Things like equipment are fickle, are handled on a case-by-case basis (in other words, Circumstance, Story, the Cards, and the Boss decide…with your input, of course). Finish out the Peronaggio’s record sheet (and any other Characters on your Roster) and get down to business.
Creating La Famiglia
The one thing that most all Personaggi have in common is their Familigia—the Family. While someone might kill a man for their own Reputations, the Family does it as a matter of course, and as one of Business. If your Family is weak, you’re all dead. If your Family is strong, even your own worst and most cumbersome Reputations become trivial matters. The number of Family Chips you can use is equal to your Rank in the Family. Occasionally you’ll be given a chance to use more Family Chips, such as special jobs given out by the Family Boss or Don. Family Chips can be a great blessing, allowing even Thugs to out perform other “equals,” but these Chips are not without price or risk. Any Family Chips used must be restored at the end of a conflict. If you put back more than you took, then the Family grows. If you put back less, then the Family’s Reputations and influence suffer. If this happens to much or too often, then the Family is likely to takes those Chips out of your hide, so beware.
Establishing the Family’s Reputations
Families, like Personaggi, are built out of a 50-Chip Bankroll. The same gambling method and Blackjack rules are used as when creating Personaggi as well, except that each Player plays for one Reputation at a time. Thus if there are 4 Players, then each one of them would choose a separate Reputation for the Family and play for all 4 at once. This gives all the Players input into the Family’s creation. The list of Reputations is also a bit different; there are more “required” reputations (Personaggi only have one), and the “open” Reputations are more business-related than individual-related.
Reputations of Influence (all required: every Family has these)
•   Political Clout
•   Payroll (meaning cops, newsmen, and informants on the Payroll)
•   Bankroll (how much raw financial power the Family has)
•   Respect (how much fear and obeisance the Family commands in the populace; how even it’s lesser members are treated by outsiders)
•   Dependence to other Families (to whom?)
•   Control over other Families (over whom?)
•   Don’s personal influence
•   Consigliere/Lawyers (legal and political counsel)
•   Arsenal (quantity and quality of guns/weapons)
•   Manpower (quantity and quality of men)
Reputations in Business (open: choose or make your own)
•   Old Blood (how “traditional” and Sicilian the Family is)
•   New Blood (how “progressive” the Family is)
•   Legitimate Business (how much of the Family’s business is legit)
•   Illegitimate Business (how much of the Family’s business is illegal)
•   Gambling
•   Prostitution
•   Booze/Bootlegging (during Prohibition especially)
•   Murder
•   Extortion (the Black Hand)
•   Money Laundering
•   Narcotics (post WWII especially)
•   Messy/Careless
•   Clean/Professional
•   Treats its people well (or poorly)
Finishing Touches
Round your Family out with a name, a Don or Boss, a little bit of history, and its territory. All the Players together should decide on a date to play in, if that hasn’t been established already.
Playing the Game
Game play revolves around the actions of the Players’ Personaggi and the effects of those actions on the Reputations of both the individual and of the Family. The Boss (GM) should see to it that Players’ Characters’ Reputations are constantly both at Stake and allowed to shine. If a given action reflects well on someone’s Reputation, then that Reputation (called the Reputation at Stake) increases; if it reflects poorly, then the Reputation at Stake decreases. Easy.
Cards and Chips
Cards and Chips take the place traditionally held by dice in most role-playing games (RPGs). As with most games that focus on story, only those actions which are notable, difficult, important, or contested should come down to the dice (or, in this game, to the Cards). Using Cards and Chips to resolve every action in game would be time-consuming, risky (because a Character’s hard-earned Reputations are always at Stake), and generally redundant. The Cards come out when the story could take a sudden turn, or when something is really riding on the actions or decisions at hand.
La Famiglia requires at least one standard card deck (for Blackjack; Poker decks are work fine; multiple decks shuffled together are highly recommended) and a heap of Poker Chips (one box of 50 white, 25 red, and 25 blue are fine for most groups of players; these rules are written assuming that that’s what you’ve got). Pencils, scratch paper, and Personaggio record sheets are a must as well. Playing on a card table or billiards table is a bonus, but certainly not required.
Blackjack: the “Game Mechanics”
Whenever notable, difficult, important, or contested actions come into play, each Player (including the Boss) Buys In to a game of Casino-style Blackjack for each of his Personaggi (Characters) involved in the action/conflict at hand. The Boss usually acts as the Dealer, although this duty can easily be relegated to any unoccupied Player. The Boss can set a maximum bet/buy-in for a given action/conflict, but he doesn’t have to.
Each player is then given a card face-up starting on the Dealer’s right, the Dealer getting his card face-down and last. A second card, face up for all participants (including the Dealer), is then distributed in the same order (always from the Dealer’s right). The game now begins in earnest. Each Character is given the following options (actually, each Player has these options for each Character involved in the game individually, but that’s confusing…):

•   Hit: Take another card face-up. You can do this as many times as you want until you Stand or Bust.
•   Double: Increase your bet by 100% (double your Chips) and take one more card. You are then considered “Standing.” This can only be done once, when your hand has only 2 cards.
•   Split: If your initial 2 cards are of equal value you can split them into 2 separate hands by buying-in again. A second card is laid over each hand, which are then played separately.
•   Surrender: “Fold” your crappy hand and lose half of the Chips at Stake on the spot (but keep the other half). This can only be done after receiving your 2 initial cards…after that, you’re in for good.
•   Stand: Finish your turn. Whatever cards you have determines the fate of the Chips at Stake.

Each Character plays individually against the Dealer, whose final hand has not yet been revealed (he’s only got two cards currently, one face-up and one face-down). When all characters have either Bust (gone over 21), Surrendered, or decided to Stand then the Dealer reveals his hidden Card. The Dealer must Hit until he reaches at least 16 and must Stand once he reaches 17 (but he can choose to stand at 16; otherwise he has no options). Whatever Chips a Character has left on the table act as currency in the resolution of the conflict. How many Chips end up in front of each participant is determined by the outcome of the Blackjack game (this is similar to the resolution used in Character Creation, but broader).

•   If you get Blackjack (21 on the initial 2 cards), then your Chips at Stake increase by 150% (thus If you bet 10, then you have 25 for use in the conflict at hand).
•   If you win (beat the Dealer, either through better cards or because he Bust and you didn’t), then your Chips at Stake double (thus 10 Chips becomes 20).
•   If you Push (tie with the dealer), then you neither win nor lose any of the Chips at Stake (10 Chips stays 10 Chips).
•   If you Lose (the Dealer has better Cards than you or you Bust) then you lose your Chips at Stake and are at the mercy of everyone else’s Chips (10 Chips become 0)
•   If you Surrender then your Chips at Stake are cut in half immediately (thus 10 Chips become 5).

The propensity and ease of losing Chips should keep Players and their Reputation-dependant Personaggi on their toes and playing carefully. In the Life, a man with no Reputations is a dead man.
Chips: The Currency of the Game
In La Famiglia Chips, which represent the strength of one’s Reputations, fulfill two in-game roles: buying Results and increasing or modifying one’s own Reputations. Both of these functions revolve around what’s been gained (or lost) in Chips at Stake following a round of Blackjack. Whatever Chips are on the table can be used by a Character (actually it’s the Player, again, but since a Player or the Boss could have multiple Characters, it’s easier this way…really) to buy Results at the Prices set by the Boss or by the game itself. Some important benchmarks/guidelines/modifiers of the Price of a Result follow:

•   Small detail/modification   1Chip      (“Color text”)
•   Simple detail/modification   3 Chips   (Easily conceived Results)
•   Moderate detail/modification   5 Chips   (Fair but harsh in the circumstances)
•   Large detail/modification   10 Chips   (Unlikely detail, or one that dictates another’s actions)
•   Yeah, right…         20 Chips    (Near-impossible Results, or a great deal of Control exercised over another Player’s Character)

Results are always bought up (or down) according this chart. You can’t buy 1 Chip off of a Detail you don’t like to lower it down—you have to buy it down (or up) to the next level. Anyone reasonably involved in an action can buy Details or Modifications.

The bulk of Blackjack rounds, however, will be contested: two or more Characters opposing one another. In such a situation all participants discuss their actions or intended Results before the Cards are dealt, specifically concentrating on places where Participant interests come into conflict (such as in combat, where one player may shoot at another: the Price for the attacker to hit the defender is set by the defender with however many Chips the defender chooses to use out of his winnings…more on this later). After the Blackjack round is resolved Results are then bought according to the Prices set by one’s opponent (these, too, are paid for…but out of the opponent’s winnings). An example is in order.

Fast-talkin’ Louie is trying to convince his Don—who he disappointed mightily just yesterday—to extend some mercy in the matter of Louie’s screw-up. Louie has 20 Chips to play with for this conflict; the Don has 30. The pre-Blackjack discussion determines that Louie wants mercy (as we already established), that the Don has no desire to extend any initially (placing our Characters in direct opposition), and that Louie will be placing an initial bet (Buy-in) of 15 Chips (this is worth a lot to Louie), while the Don (who doesn’t want to risk so much on this) is only betting 10. The Dealer hands out the initial cards, which are:
Louie: 6 or 16 (Ace and a 5)
Don: 13 (7 and 6)
Dealer: 3+? (3 and a 6, hidden)
Louie feels pretty safe with that Ace, so he calls Hit, and gets a King (worth 10); feeling safer with a 17 he decides to Stand.
The Don decides to Double, seeing as he’s got plenty of Chips and he would like to really wail on Louie here. The Don’s Chips at Stake just climbed to 20.  The Dealer lays down a 2, totaling the Don’s hand to 15. That’s not so good, but he can’t hit again because he Doubled.
The Dealer now reveals his hidden card—a 6—leaving him with a total 9. He has to Hit until 17 and Stand at 17. His first hit is a 4, putting him up to 13. He Hits again and gets a 10—Bust!

The final results:
•   Louie beat the Dealer, so he’s got 30 Chips to buy Results.
•   The Don Doubled and beat the Dealer, so he’s got 40 Chips to buy Results.

Because the primary action here was directly opposed each side now sets a Price (bought with his own Chips) that his opponent must buy off before he can begin establishing details of what happened. Louie sets the Price at 25 Chips and decides to hold onto his other 5 Chips to counter-act any particularly nasty details that the Don Proposes. The Don Pays the Price of 25 Chips and then uses his remaining 15 Chips to buy one Large Detail (that Louie Begs for his life like a woman) and one Moderate Detail (that Louie has to personally fix the problem—in game terms, Louie has to replace the Family’s lost Reputation Chips himself). Louie uses the 5 Chips he saved to buy the Large Detail down to a Moderate one: instead of begging like a woman he sheds tears and asks forgiveness, but retains some of his dignity.


Chips used to buy Results and Details are not permanently spent—they go back into the Character’s Bankroll at the end of the round. They can then be used for another round of Blackjack (if a conflict hasn’t been completely resolved) or returned to one’s Reputations (if the conflict is over for now). Only those Reputations brought into play (Reputations at Stake) can be improved with winnings.

Example:
Louie leaves the Don’s place with his Reputations intact, even if he is worried about his hide. He started the recent Blackjack game with 20 Chips and left with 30. He can now distribute his winnings (10 Chips) amongst the Reputations that were at Stake in the previous example.
If you leave a conflict with fewer Chips than you started with, then the difference has to be taken out of the Reputations at Stake (or by placing Skeleton Chips in your Closet, which is described below).

Example:
If Louie had lost his original 15 Chips in the first example, then those would have to be taken out of the Reputations he used in that conflict (the Reputations at Stake) in any combination. Sucks, huh?

***********************
Okay, so it isn't done, but I feel really strongly about this game right now.

Jake
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simon
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2003, 02:03:10 AM »

Cool!!! I wanna play this game! The blackjack mechanics are just great. I also sympathise with your wanting to hybrdise sim and nar. But you mentioned having problems with the sim side. What are they? Introducing Italian as you do helps 'colour' the game, but what sort of sim world do you want. Old maps of Chicago etc. also seems a good idea. What about having families with branches on both sides of the Atlantic (in Itlay and USA)? You could then simply bring in what will probably be the more exotic setting of Italy (along with the camora from Napoli, N'draggata or whatever they call themselves from Calabria, etc.) And you'll have a sort of rough and ready made world ripe for exploration. This could be use to the full if American characters, although belonging to a bigger family with roots in Italy, do not really know the Italian culture as well as they might.  Just a thought.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2003, 07:22:47 AM »

Hi Jake,

I hate to do this, but ... I don't see the Simulationism, man. Lots of Exploration, but it's all aimed at hammering out the importance of Reputation and its outcomes (meanings) during play, which reeks of Narrativist to me.

But! But but but! I do not want to get into a GNS debate in this thread. I'm interested in seeing the game develop as you want it to, or with the suggestions that people provide which really float your boat.

I suggest leaving GNS stuff out of the discussion until the game starts getting baked with some play. Given con season starting up, you can bet that might happen soon ...

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2003, 08:00:33 AM »

Just a small point, but aren't there often ranks between made man, crew bosses, and family bosses? Especially in the larger families? And what about "Il cappo di cappos" (I'm guessing at, and probably murdering, the Italian here). But the heads of the syndicate in each city. And then their national heads, should they exist.

In looking about for info, I stumbled across this site.

http://www.vendettasimulations.com/

Neat. The structure it sets up is, of course, probably not reailstic. But it's cool to have lots of ranks, IMO, and these guys have a lot.

Mike
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2003, 12:20:00 PM »

Thanks for looking this over, guys.

Ron-
Quote
I hate to do this, but ... I don't see the Simulationism, man. Lots of Exploration, but it's all aimed at hammering out the importance of Reputation and its outcomes (meanings) during play, which reeks of Narrativist to me.


Actually, I couldn't agree more. I want it there, but it isn't there yet. Reputation, being an abstract  measure of how important something is (and not how "good" or "skilled" someone is) is resisting my attempts. I think the "exploration of color" is first-row for me, and I think the difference between a shotgun and a pea-shooter is important, but that's about it on the early pre-play GNS scale.

Mike-
That's a cool link. I've got the "electronic encyclopedia of organized crime" here, and it's been helpful, but it's also a bit dense. I agree that there are lots of possible ranks. I'm trying to figure out what the best way to present them are (much of which is hammering itself out in early testing).

So here's my question: we all (or those of us that care) have our own idea of what a Mafia game needs to be. Based on what you all see in the current direction of things, what do you want to see. IOW, what does a gangster do in-play, in your estimations?

Jake
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2003, 01:01:22 PM »

Well, I think the salient thing is the intra-family tension. Goodfellas isn't about the particular jobs that they're doing, it's about things getting messed up by the nature of the relationships that occur in organized crime. same with every other Mob film. Why do things get messed up? Because it's an inherently flawed system. How can you expect criminals to not do criminal things to each other? Fear? The fear of jail does not stop them from committing crimes. So it's not going to stop a criminal from stealing from another criminal when he thinks he can get away with it.

Basically, you need to just have some generic action, breakin jobs, beatdowns, etc as a backdrop. Then you need to tempt the characters during this process of everyday mob life. This is tough, because you also have to tempt the player.

The question is, what is the goal of the character. And why does the player want that?

I'm tempted to say go real Gamist here. The simple answer is for each player to be trying to become the new Boss (then they get to run the game with the old Boss coming in as a newbie). Sounds cool to me.

Another option is just to have players select some goal for their character at the start (perhaps keeping them secret; Tony wants to get his head on straight, but can't let the other guys know he's seeing a shrink). Then the GM just has to dangle bait in front of the characters, and hope they betray each other.

That's the key. You have to have somebody break at some point for some reason. If it all goes smoothly, then the game becomes Mobsters & Mayhem.

What sort of goals can you make the player's select that will allow you to tempt the players into having their characters do things that the family won't like?

Mike
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2003, 02:30:11 PM »

Excellent Points Mike.

The key conflicts in mob movies center around the following two things.

First:  The mobster benefits from being part of the mob and doing what he's supposed to (the shared respect, the protection of the family, the lifestyle, etc).  The mobster benefits MORE by doing what he supposed to do for the family PLUS trying to cut some side deals for himself, whether skimming a little off the take, pulling a couple of independent jobs, or going around the boss to add dealing drugs to your repetoire.

Second:  How does the family respond when they find this out.  Knowing that EVERYBODY in the organization cuts themselves a little something, it one of the perks.  How much is too much.  Where's the line between looking the other way and dropping the hammer.  Look the other way too much and not only do you lose money but you encourage others to push the envelope and you start to look weak.  Drop the hammer too hard and you alienate important members of the organization who may betray you to rival families or become involved in an internal coup.

The key is that the individual NEED the family and the family NEEDS the individual.  Neither can survive independent of the other, its like a symbiotic relationship that inevitably falls apart when one side turns parasite for short term gain.  

To be effective the family ALWAYS has to be on the verge of tearing itself apart.  Even during the "golden years" the conflict still simmers below the surface like the Cold War moving up and down the DefCon scale.  

The players have to be constantly confronted with choices that have the potential to increase or decrease the DefCon status.  Generally the choices that are most profitable for the character will be the ones that move the family one step closer to collapse, and the choices that save the family from collapse involve the most self sacrifice.

The mob family is a case study in social entropy and this needs to be reflected through play.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2003, 02:55:36 PM »

You know, this is exactly the same problem that's being discussed in the theory thread on Star Wars and being tempted by the Dark Side. If the player sees the slippery slope coming, and he does as it's the point of play, then what can you offer him to take the bait? That's why I was saying that the hard part is tempting the player. Sure you can dangle a bag of extra cash in front of the PC, and hope that the Player will have him take it. But what does that really get the player?

In Sorcerer, the same temptation exists. But Ron saw the problem, and knew that he needed to have characters who are after something. Hence the description of Sorcerers who are people who are after something, a priori.

What are mobsters after? Well, by the definition of this game, they are after reputation. This is problematic, however. We want to tempt the characters with stuff that makes trouble for him, but the character goals all have to do, gamewise, with reputations, which are something that by definition people know about.

Hmm. I keep coming back to traditional mechanics for defining some other generic "Goal" that's separate from Rep. And all the examples I can think of have to do with money.

Again, Gamism seems like a good solution. He with the most cash at the end of the game wins, could be a good way to go.

Or, maybe something more cyclical. Money is the other primary goal to be sure. Maybe they can be played off against each other some how. Use money to gain rep, but only if you steal enough to do so? Hmmm.

Mike
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2003, 03:41:23 PM »

Okay, good stuff here--exactly what I was looking for, and vaild points that hadn't hit me yet.

How do we get players to make costly decisions that drive stories? Gaining and losing reputation does a lot of it, driving vendettas and all sorts of things. Players will treat these things like SAs (the idea, really, is a game that only has SAs and really nothing else on the sheet). Good stuff there.

The "on the side" issue is one that I hadn't thought of. We could have players track money (perhaps making one's wealth a required reputation); there's also the issue of gaining rank in the family to become a boss of some sort yourself one day. That'll be easy to do, but how to model greed...? I don't want players to track individuals dollars and cents, but that would begin to present a solution. Argh...

The "Goal" issue is a good one. I have a planned mechanic called "skeletons in the closet" (which the write-up hints at) that will cover those reputations that haven't gotten out. Players will work hard to eliminate these reputations (or at least hide them well) so that they never come into play (meaning so that no one ever finds out). This mechanic could start guiding towards this sort of "secret Goal" issue.

Anothing thing is multiple-characters-per-player. The reasoning behind this is:
(1) To get multiple experiences from one session/game/campaign/whatever
(2) So that female players can control a thug and a sexy dame in one game, and so be part of more of the action without DnD-ing the gender roles.
(3) So that you can have regular character death (isn't whacking a buddy part of the genre?) without ousting a player. You could even have one PC whack another PC that both belong to the same player.

The problem with introducing gamist elements will be the tendency to use your whole roster as endlessly loyal buddies that will always help each other out.

Lastly, concerning the family itself, I want to include a Pendragon-esque "winter phase" so that some changes to the family are beyond the players' purview, driving more stories as the earn back lost reputation or exploit what they have.

Jake
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« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2003, 04:20:29 PM »

Quote
How do we get players to make costly decisions that drive stories? Gaining and losing reputation does a lot of it, driving vendettas and all sorts of things. Players will treat these things like SAs (the idea, really, is a game that only has SAs and really nothing else on the sheet). Good stuff there.


Actually I think you need something beyond reputation.  Something else that ultimately drives what the characters are trying to do.  They are not accumulating reputation for reputations sake (which I think is what you have now).  They are accumulating reputation because reputation is the currency of the mob world, and like any currency the only purpose is to allow you to buy....what.

That's what's missing.  Its what makes SAs in Riddle work well.  You don't increase the SA simply to increase them, you increase them in order to improve your character.  Why, because the underlying theme of the game is the idea of riddle seeking.  Whether pursued distinctly or not there's an underlying goal to the game of one day becomeing the greatest swordsman around (shifted to sorcerer or some other profession for other characters, but I think TROS works best for swordsman characters).  The purpose of the game is to become a great swordsman, the SAs provide the currency that will get you there.

Raw flat out wealth is possibly the purpose you need for La Famiglia.  As Mike suggests perhaps he who gets the most cash wins.  In this case Reputation isn't important except to the extent that it assists you in acquiring wealth.  You want Reputation with the family so you'll be given a position of greater responsibility...why...because that position carries greater opportunity for personal gain.

You need some mechanic out there that represents what the game is REALLY about.  Something that players will be willing to risk their reputation in order to get.  Because that's what drives the mob movies.  There's always somebody whose saying "If I get caught...I'm a dead man" but they do it anyway.  Look at the main character in GoodFellows.  Look how many ways he screwed his own reputation up in pursuit of the drug deals...

In the thread for Clinton's new game it was asked if there was any other game that allowed you to pick your own way of earning experience...your own "victory conditions" as it were for the character.  I harken back to the old board game Careers.  In Careers you went around the board making choices to enhance your ability to collect money, happiness, or fame.  He who got enough points of these won.  The trick was that you as a player set what combination of the 3 you wanted, how many points of money, how many of fame, how many of happiness constituted winning the game for you.

I'm thinking those same three choices might be just the ticket for this game.  Money, of course, is just the flat out wealth idea like Mike had.  Fame, maybe the character actually wants to make a name for himself like Al Capone.  See his name in headlines like the Teflon Don.  Imagine the trouble a Fame seeking character like that could bring to a family.  How many Reputation chips is he willing to lose to grab a headline.  Hell turning states evidence might be a quick way to celebrity status (again look at Goodfellows).  Happiness.  How about the proverbial guy whose in the business but what he really wants is just to be a happy family man.  Aside from the obvious Romeo/Juliet sorts of problems this could cause, you'd have a character who'd have the classic my family vs my Famiglia problem seen in many movies.  How much reputation might I be willing to lose in order to keep my marriage.  Too much and I'm a dead man.  So what do I have to do to earn enough rep to keep that from happening.

Now I think you have a game with built in conflict.  Right now I see Reputation Hordeing to be the name of the game and only a confrontational Boss forcing players into risky situations will get them to change that.  But with a mechanic that captures something like the above...you have SAs.  You have players eager to generate their own conflicts.  First conflicts that let me earn Rep, then conflicts that let me risk that rep to gain what I'm really after.

You may need to rethink some of the categories you have under reputation now.  Some of those may instead be more goal oriented then rep oriented.  I'm thinking the big reputations that matter should be Omerta centered.  Those are the rules.  You live by those and your a goodfellow.  But I bet careful study would show that those rules will get wealth, fame, or happiness only for the very few at the top.  So most of the guys at the bottom will never achieve their victory conditions if they live by Omerta...they'll gain a rep as a Goodfella, but not the victory they were after.  So now the dance begins...violate Omerta, gain a little wealth.  violate Omerta, gain a little fame.  violate Omerta, gain a little happiness.  Get caught...lose a bunch of Rep.

That seems to me to be a pretty effective dynamic.
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