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Author Topic: Mezzo Game System - Playtester's Wanted  (Read 3275 times)
Shimera9
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« on: September 06, 2010, 09:08:28 AM »

Mezzo is a rpg I've been working on.  The game can perhaps best be summed up by a few key features:
  • Emergent Characters: Character details and traits are defined during play, allowing for a more fast and loose play style.
  • Narrative Arcs: The game has built in mechanics to support rising tension, a climactic conflict, and bringing things to a close.
  • Collaborative: Mezzo is design to work without a GM.  All players have equal ability to shape the game.
  • No Player Lock Out: Players can influence events even if they have no character under their control.  This means loss of a character doesn't leave the player sitting on their hands.

You can find more information on the game on my blog (http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/).  Below is an imagined play section the inspired much of the system:

Quote
J: "Alright, who wants to go first?"
C: "I'll go. I think I've got a good idea on how I want to start."
J: "Go ahead."
C: "Alright, it's in an old monastery. Stone halls, gargoyles on the roof and all that. Anyway, a couple of robed figures are walking down a hall. After they pass, another guy in robes slips out of a side passage to a nearby door. Bits of lightning dance from his fingers across the doors lock."
M: "So that's your guy?"
C: "Yep."
J: "Is opening the door supposed to be a challenge?"
C: "Yeah, it sounds like a good first test for the character and I'd like to start building up some points."
J: "Alright, it sounds like you're adding a unique ability by picking the lock with magic. Are you ready to spend one of your edges to back that up?"
C: "Yeah, it's a pretty cool ability and I like having him be a sneaky guy."
G: "Hold up. You've already said people go down this hall and what you're doing is pretty suspicious looking. I'm placing a threat on that challenge. If the threat goes off, you'll be spotted."
J: "Fair enough. C, are you going to split you attention to keep an eye on the threat?"
C: "Nah, I'll just focus on the lock and hope I can get in before it goes off."
J: "Alright, roll em."
*rolls*
C: "Yes! In on the first try!"
G: *shakes fist* "Next time gadget, next time!"
J: "Alright, you're in. What kind of room are we looking at?"
C: "Let's say it's the bedroom of one of the higher ups."
M: "So are you trying to catch the guy asleep?"
C: "No, I'm just looking for something."
J: "Did you want to cash in your success for that?"
C: "Not yet. Let's up the ante a bit. I want to search the room."
J: "Are you spending an edge on that?"
C: "Nah. I'll hold off for now. I can search without that edge right."
J: "Yep, you just don't get any modifiers."
C: "Alright, let's do this."
G: "If they hid something in the room, they might have laid traps too, I'm placing a threat on this. If it goes off, you sprung a trap."
C: "Heh, your throwing threats out left and right, aren't you. Alright, it'll make my reward that much better anyway."
*rolls*
C: "Excellent, looting time!"
G: "Not so fast, the trap went off, too."
C: "What kind of trap?"
M: "Ooh, I've got it. How about an animate statue, like one of those gargoyles?"
G: "That would work, but let's make it something smaller, like a little stone imp."
J: "Alright, so where does it come from?"
M: "Let's put it by the fireplace. It could be disguised as a poker holder."
J: "Sounds good. So just as Hoody McCloakington is poking around the fireplace, one of the poker holders starts moving. I assume it's going to swing its poker at him."
M: "Go for the knees!"
C: "I'm dodging that!"
J: "Go ahead. But you don't get any modifiers unless you spend an edge on that."
*rolls*
C: "Phew, just made it. I'm taking that thing down."
G: "How? It's made of stone and you don't have any weapons."
J: "You could spend an edge to pull one out of your robe."
C: "True, but I'm not sure I want to burn one just yet. The thing's small and this is a bedroom, right? With all the usual items."
J: "That sounds right."
C: "Alright, I'm going to grab the chamberpot and try to trap it under there."
J: "You can do that. The pot will be near the bed though, so the imp can act as you're moving over there."
G: "Like M said, go for the knees. Let's see if it can slow Hoody down."
C: "I already dodged away though, so I should be just out of range."
J: "Alright, let's make it a contest, speed vs speed. If the imp wins, it can spend its successes on an attack. If Hoody wins, he can spend his success on his chamberpot attack."
C: "One minute, I want to spend an edge on this."
J: "You already dodged without spending an edge, so you can't boost your dodging ability until the end of the adventure."
C: "But I should be able to boost how fast I can run, right? I'd like making him fast."
J: "Alright, go ahead and take the bonus then."
*rolls*
C: "Yes! That gives me points to spare. I'm trapping that thing."
G: "Rolling to dodge.."

Those interested can find the play test document here (https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1dOkL12RiYSTlNBlGUsmHhshNtNXJrHphAXRAq9CWIl4&hl=en&authkey=CLSY8rsC&pli=1#).
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Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
Shimera9
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2010, 07:14:15 AM »

After doing a quick playtest, I noticed some players can stall out on ideas.  As such, I'm thinking of adding an idea deck to the game.  Here's the summary from my blog on what this would do.

Quote
First, it would give the players a source of new ideas. This can be especially helpful if the players run into trouble figuring out what happens next.

Second, it would give me an interesting way to package settings and scenarios in a collaborative environment. In DM run games, you can just give all the details of a scenario to the DM. In a collaborative game, doing so means one player knows whatís going to happen ahead of time. While thatís certainly a possibly, using a deck gives us an interesting alternative. The key elements that make up a scenario can be revealed to one or all players during play. The players can than connect those pieces in different ways to create their own stories from the provided ingredients.

Here are some of the things Iím thinking of working into these rules.

    * Drawing Inspiration: Any player can draw a card to reveal new ideas.
    * Personal Cards: Each player can sacrifice initial influence to put cards into their hand. This sets their hand size for the game.
    * Seed Chains: Players can link cards to those already used. Doing so generates influence. This means a player who spends their initial influence on cards may generate more influence in the long run, but they to have to put in a little extra effort to do so.

If I do go this route, I intend to present this as an add on. I like the idea, but I want to keep the requirements to play to a minimum. As such while I may recommend these cards as a helpful tool, I want to make sure the system doesnít need them to work properly.
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Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2010, 06:27:37 PM »

Hey, I remember this. I believe I found your ideas pretty promising. Good to see you're still working on it.

I'm on a work computer tonight, which cannot access the new editor version of Google Docs, so I cannot check out your playtest draft. I'm going to try to remember to do so when I get home in the morning. Do you mind if I copy the text over to my Google Docs in the older editor format, so I can look it over during the slow periods at work tomorrow night? That'd be the best time for me to get a good amount of reading done.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Shimera9
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« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2010, 06:52:09 AM »

No problem there.  I slapped a Creative Commons liscence on the playtest doc, so you're free to copy and distribute it.  It's good to see a familiar name.  I was thinking of mentioning the playtest in the original thread, but I wasn't sure if it be considered necroing the thread.
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Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2010, 03:19:57 AM »

It would have been, yes, and then you'd have gotten frowny Ron in here to split it off, so you made the right call by making a new thread.

As an up-front disclaimer, my feedback will be entirely based on a read, as I don't really have any possibility of playing right now.

I've got the doc saved old-form in my Google Docs, and I'll look at it tomorrow night, when I've got quiet time at work.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Shimera9
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Posts: 48


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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2010, 10:00:11 AM »

Alright, I've added the Seed Deck idea in an Extra Options section on the main playtest doc.  If there's interest I'll see about building some sample decks.  In the meanwhile, I'll probably just use an existing deck like Munchkin, Drakon, or Once Upon a Time.
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Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2010, 07:54:29 PM »

Hey David,

I spent a good chunk of last night going through your document, and I'll finish it up tonight. I'll be passing up commenting on the newest addition because of the hoops I have to jump through to view the document here at work, though, at least for now. I hope you don't mind, but I almost literally went through your document with a red pen and a highlighter. There're corrections in there, but mostly it's questions and a few suggestions. I'll share my marked up document with you on Google Docs so you can see it. The comments in there can be taken as either suggestions, or beginning points for discussion, whichever you prefer.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Shimera9
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Posts: 48


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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2010, 07:22:17 AM »

I got the document and am phasing over some of the changes.  I probably should have hauled Alyssa in for editor duty earlier as she's good at catching the typos.  I'll work on getting those worked out this week.

As for the ideas, I've already addressed a few in the email, but let me put some up here so we have more potential feedback.

The biggest point seems to be a misunderstanding on the Resolving Conflicts section.  The section isn't just about what to do when player's argue.  Those mechanics actually lay down the ground work for the rest of the game.  Anything that happens within the game is subject to those rules.  I may need to rewrite it, but it breaks down something like this.

1. Player puts out a suggestion on what they want to happen.
2. If opposed, each side can take a few minutes to state their case.
3. If still opposed, put it to a vote.  The outcome can be decided by either:
 A. Taking the middle value.
 B. Letting the dice decide.

These same mechanics form the basic for the action check system, which in turn fuels the challenge system.  The dice mechanics for the game are right there in the "Leave to Chance" section.

The next point of confusion seems to be introducing terms before they're explained.  Adding entries to the "Terms" section may help with that.  I also think some rearranging my help.  For example, I may want to move Adversity into the character section.

You also mentioned an interest in Setting Laws.  I do like how they let you encourage certain playstyles.  You could easily add something like "Fortune favors the bold" to reward risk taking.  In fact, the rules for setting themes at turning points take advantage of that.  By adding a temporary setting law, the winners of the game's turning point can have a big impact on how the plot arc resolves.
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Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2010, 09:31:13 AM »

David,

I cannot guarantee that I'll get to this this month. I want to be able to seriously think about my responses, and I'm going to be very busy through the first week of next month, and my access to the internet will be very sporadic within the same period in any case. As soon as I have the time to really dig into it, I'll get back to it. Keep an eye out.

Also, for further discussion of the rules, you may want to hit the Playtesting (if you've managed to get any done) or First Thoughts forum. You'll likely get more eyes on it than just mine.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Shimera9
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« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2010, 06:45:39 AM »

Lance, that's understandable.  I've got limited time to work on this myself, so I know how that can be.  It will take me a while to go over the all your suggestions anyway.

It looks like the next update will focus on typos, layout, and clarification.  The comments about the actual mechanics are relatively light at this point and can reviewed after I clean things up.  Any other eyes are certainly welcome.
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Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
Shimera9
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« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2010, 08:24:25 PM »

Good news, everyone.  Mezzo is now in it's second round of playtesting.  The rules are have undergone some minor change, but everything in there should be familiar to those who read the first document.  The biggest change was actually restructuring and rewriting to make things easier to understand.  I've also switch to presenting many of the rules in a more standardized trait block format.  Another added bonus of this version of the optional rules for using just 6-sided dice if desired.

The complete playtest document can be found here.
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Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
Shimera9
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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2010, 08:44:20 AM »

I just wanted to let folks know I've added a new page to the blog to hold my Mezzo playtest materials (http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/mezzo-game-system/).  The page holds links to the playtest rules, a new quick reference guide, and a list of set ups for quick starting a game.  I'll probably be using those set ups form some play-by-post testing.  I know there's a play by post section on rpg.net, but I haven't tracked one down on this forum yet.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2010, 03:07:21 PM »

Hiya,

One thing that's received a lot of design attention across many games, but perhaps not enough explicit discussion, is the relationship between available ideas (Terms in your case) and relevant, enjoyable concepts introduced into play.

Some games add to a growing list of terms by drawing upon material that has been introduced strictly verbally. Others do the opposite, using a list (or in some cases like yours, a deck of cards or slips of paper to draw) as a resource, then drawing upon the list for stuff to bring into play.

Your game clearly uses the latter technique, which is fine on its own, but there are two more variables, or perhaps dials, to consider.

Sometimes the relationship is quite formal and the in-game impact has mechanical power, and other times the effect is "softer," i.e., expressed only in fictional terms without numerical consequences. And that contrast is actually independent of whether the terms' use is obligatory or optional.

For instance, in Mars Colony, the Fear cards sit on the table as a source of inspiration - and that's it. So their impact is both soft and optional. People accustomed to more quantitative and obligatory methods are sometimes confused by that. Whereas people more accustomed to the lighter, more optional touch can find the opposite methods jarring and interfering.

Where does your design fit into this scheme? Thinking at the extreme ends of each dial, the choices are:

Quantitative impact, obligatory use
Quantitative impact, optional use
Qualitative impact, obligatory use
Qualitative impact, optional use

Best, Ron
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Shimera9
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« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2010, 03:17:57 PM »

I'd say the seed deck acts as a "Quantitative impact, optional use" case.  It's an add on, so it's hardly required.  However, it does introduce a sort of mini-game of chaining ideas with other players to increase your in game resources.

You can gain those resources other ways (such as resolving plot hooks).  As such, pursuing the mini-game simply increases the rate you accumulate them at.  On the other hand, another player will gain that reward when you do, so your relative advantage in doing so is somewhat mitigated.  That being said those who participate do gain a tactical advantage.  Of course, to gain that advantage they have to build off what others do, so they can't exactly push for total narrative control.
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Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
Shimera9
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« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2011, 08:08:13 AM »

Now that the play-test doc is out, I've got two projects in mind to help support it.  The first is a "choose your own adventure" style tutorial adventure.  It would be basically a single player walk through that highlights the game mechanics.  I believe I've seen that done in both D&D and GURPS.  This may provide some good starter material.  However, it's also a fairly large project as I need to sketch out an entire branching plot.

The other project is a one shot scenario, most likely with a murder mystery theme.  The genre seems well suited to thing like emergent characters and the seed deck, as those support finding out new things about characters over time.

Any suggestions on either of those?  I know I'll want to do more research on the murder mystery conventions as I'll want to get the right balance on the seed deck.  I know motive and means should be two major elements, but I want to make sure I'm not missing any other big ones.
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