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Ashen first draft. Comments on my race mechanics?

Started by Garbanzo, September 18, 2003, 09:36:51 PM

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I've got a quick web site up which should get you a first draft of Ashen.
For purposes of this thread, I'm looking for some feedback on the way I play the race card (har!), which is the core of What It's All About.

Speaking of which, cue Standard Question One:
Hey Matt: why should we play your game?

Gosh, let me tell you.
Ashen tries to do right by the idea of fantasy cultures in collision.  And, immediate clarification, these cultures are pretty earth standard.  No hivers or blink dogs as PCs.  It's more like Elizabethan secret society types plus Hatian maroons, in the homeland of Scythians and Iriquois.  More like that.

The guiding philosophy is that cultures are attitudes as much as skill lists.  Kewl Powers make for different tribes of superheroes, but alienness is watching Them always make a different decision than We would, given the same circumstances.  (You see my point at least, right?)

And the setting has all these different folks all on top of each other, forcing interactions and decisions about priorities.

The posted draft is a nicely-formatted Word file (300k), so y'all should read that.
But the foolishly short summary of relevant mechanics goes like this:

6 attributes.  Social, Mental, Physical, plus Flow, Focus, and Balance.  Any action is a combination of one from column "A" and one from column "B."  So I try to trick out my sneaky thief type, and I end up giving him Flow+2, Focus+1, Balance -1.  This has implications for personality as well as dexterity.

(Left out: skills, assets.)

No dice, but cards.  The suits go Social, Mental, Physical, Flow, Focus, Balance, Wild, Ethos.  
Wild is wild, of course. Ethos acts as Flow for characters from one culture, Physical for characters from another, etc.  
If the card doesn't match an attribute used, the face value is ignored and it counts as one.
You play a card per action, and only refresh after playing the last one.

There are 6 different types of tactics a character can employ: Aim, Multi-task, Strain, Skewer, Double, Half.
Halving is playing defensively, for example.  Regardless of who wins the round, only half as much result occurs.  While Doubling is going all out - if you hit, you do twice as much.  If you're hit, you take twice as much.  Etc.
And each culture has a bonus for one of these.  So these guys over here get a +1 for Halving, while those guys over there get a +1 for Doubling, and those folks way over there have only a -1/ extra action, and can try up to 4 at a time.
Cosmic Encounter, the RPG.

So, the Attributes set up the character with implications outside their area of expertise.  And the card refresh system ensures that these'll come into play at times.  Meanwhile, the suits and tactics incentivize in-culture actions, without any prohibitions or forced decisions.

QUESTION ONE:  How does it scan?  Any initial reactions/ suggestions?

QUESTION TWO:  In the current version is a set of metagame bonuses: these guys get to demand cards from other players, those guys can draw the top card off the deck and play it sight unseen, yada yada.  Is this exactly layering on the Kewl Powers I'm reacting against, or are they more support for the overall creative agenda - subtle differences for different groups?

Thanks, team.


If the link didn't work, it's supposed to take you to, for

Next thread: Card questions.


(I know that other folks have had some difficulty getting links to open properly.  With the hurricane and all, I haven't yet had a chance to see if an outside machine will be able to open the links.  
Anyone tried?)


(I know that other folks have had some difficulty getting links to open properly.  With the hurricane and all, I haven't yet had a chance to see if an outside machine will behave the same way my home machine does.  

Anyone tried?


I get yahoo's page not found on all of the above links
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci


I had a look and got the page no problem. I like the idea and the system, but it need mush fleshing out - you introduce some neat concpts for setting, and then ogo nowhere with them.

I'm keeping an eye open - I'd be willing to playtest.

Aidan Grey

Crux Live the Abnatural


Sub-thread: I'm having no problem opening things at work, and Aidan's ok, but Gareth's got troubles.  Any suggestions, anyone?

Yah, maybe I should've specified.  The stuff I've posted is Part the First, the mechanics part (introduction aside).  Part the Second (at this point pure vaporware) is the setting info.  So, stepping around the gaping hole of setting, what did you think of the system?
My biggest fear, I think, is that it'll all be a bit unweildy in practice.  I'm a big fan of Rules Light (or Lite, if I can get it).  But instead I find myself with Attrib 1 + Attrib 2 + Skill (+ Asset) + Card, possibly modified through Tactics.  Zoiks!  I expect it'll be smoother in play than it reads, but damn! it better be. *

In a previous thread our own system genius, Mr. M. Holmes himself, basically said, "If all the steps add key information then it's not too much."
This is my reasoning: Attrib 1 + Attrib 2 + Card is the load-bearing portion of things.  Tactics are further depth for those who want it.  And Skills and Assets afford opportunities for color.

And the question is, How does it fly?  Given my aims, does the system presented get the job done in the most elegant fashion?


*I should point out, however, that this is for one full exchange - attack and defend and damage for both parties.  One total determines who is hurt, and how much.


Heya Matt,

 I'm a fan of rules light myself (I learned this when I tried to GM rulesmaster...I mean, rolemaster :) . I don't think the "formula" you have is that difficult - no more complicated than a lot of other systems, anyway. I agree with mike, and to me, the two Attribute sets (you should give them different names, I think) are really one piece. They feel that way, I mean.

 Whether it's the most elegant - depends on how you define elegant. Does it accomplish the goal without extraneous detail? Yes. Is it "eloquent"? Yes. DO I think it would be fun? Yes.

 My only concern is that you'll need special cards. Of course, my own game, Crux, uses little glass beads, decidedly more difficult to produce than printing out a page and cutting it up. So who am I to speak up? :D

 I'm really interested in the setting info too - Í feel strongly that System Matters, and that it should support the setting instead of detracting from it (amazingly, a lot of games do this, IMHO). I think the potential is there, but seeing how the setting and the system mesh will be the real selling point for me.

Aidan Grey

Crux Live the Abnatural


Hi Matt,

I couldn't get the document from the direct link; had to get it off the site (my 2 cents).

1. How does it scan?

It seems to hang together.  Frankly appeals enormously to me for my House special (i.e., I want to jack your great system for my nifty setting).  Our world is almost exactly your "1 part historical ficiton, 2 parts dark and gritty, 1 part pulp."  May we have your permission to try it tonight (if the locals can)?  I'll be back with tales to tell, promise.

2. Do the metagame mekanix (these guys do this, that, and the other) add to creative etc. etc.?

They seem to, in that the deal with any culture is that if you swim with the current you get more done, even across groups due to stereotypes.  I like that if you don't want to work this way it fails to gain you bonus.  I want to see it deployed to talk more intelligently.


Shreyas Sampat

The mechanics looks like lots of fun to play - though some of the racial biases look weaker than others - but the idea of a specific card set instantly puts me off.  If you can come up with a dicing system or a little Java card generator for this, you're set, or ideally a way to use playing cards or Tarot.


First off -
Will!  Do it!  Give me the gift of a playtest!  (Dudes, the Forge, like, rocks!)

Shreyas and Aidan-
The whole "special deck of cards" thing is pretty rough.  I certainly admit this.  Frankly, I've been running from the start with the idea that there aren't going to be all that many groups out there playing Ashen, and so I've been worrying more about the conceptual than the physical; I've been assuming that a really sharp-looking and durable deck of cards will magically appear on your desk with each PDF download.  Just to keep the mental design problems seperate from the physical ones.

I'm going to go ahead and pretty quickly start another thread on cards to deal with this and other issues.

I'm not sure how the racial bonuses will play out against one another, (we'll see what playtesting reveals), but game balance isn't that high a priority.  The setting stuff should greatly influence culture choices.  And more important to me than having all the biases be equal is having them reinforce what's going on in the setting - one culture ascendant, another fading under the pressure.

Thanks for the input!


I LIKE weird systems, so cards are great, as long as you have some options, and provide copy/cut/laminate pages for the cards too.

On race and "game balance"- go with what you said. Game balance is a fallacy (real life isn't balanced and fair, why should the game be?).

Aidan Grey

Crux Live the Abnatural