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Author Topic: [On the Ecology and Behavior of the Mud Dragon] Breezy, but dangerous  (Read 2738 times)
Ben Lehman

Posts: 2183


« on: December 21, 2010, 09:38:21 PM »

So I wrote a game five years ago called "On the Ecology and Behavior of the Mud Dragon." It's been played, like, twice I think, once by me which didn't go well and once by some Poles who apparently had a pretty good time. http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/on-the-ecology-of-the-mud-dragon

The game is about Mud Dragons, which are the less majestic but more evolutionarily competent 2-3' cousins of great dragons. Mud Dragons are pathetic, stupid, cowardly, etc. They're the protagonists of the game. They have some sort of wild scheme to avoid boredom, steal some shiny things, or kidnap a princess.

The way the game works right now, you have an attribute (all of which are negative: patheticness, for instance, or clumsiness). You have to roll over that attribute on a 20-sided die to succeed. Otherwise, you fail.

Additionally, there are tokens, which you get from swapping a success to a failure by saying how, despite your dragon's success, circumstances conspire against him. You can spend these tokens when you fail to "succeed in spite of yourself" basically your dragon fails, but gets what they want anyway.

The problem right now is threefold:
1) The token economy is too locked up: people really don't like to turn their (rare) successes into failures.
2) Challenges don't happen unless the dragons try to do something. This ends up encouraging the players to be really passive.
3) If the GM pushes the players into challenges (by having them be attacked, etc.) then we end up a in situation where failure is simply boring, because as written right now there are no particular consequences for failure.

This is all lame. Can anyone throw out some ideas on how to fix it?

« Last Edit: December 21, 2010, 09:42:41 PM by Ben Lehman » Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 17707

« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2010, 09:30:36 AM »

Hi Ben! Hee, hee, heeee!

OK, for consistency with the game text and because it's funny, I want to explain that "success" in this game by calling it "failing at being lame," in which lameness comes in various flavors: Patheticness, Laziness, Stupidity, Clumsiness, and Petty Greed. So to seize a person's ankle, for instance, as I might care to have my dragon do, I must roll above its Clumsiness of (say) 12 on d20, thus failing at being clumsy and indeed seizing the person's ankle.

The more I look at the token rules now, the more unnecessary they seem. In fact, they kind of undercut the fun. It seems to me that Mud Dragon play ought to embrace spectacular failures and successes, with no particular investment in juicing certain rolls. So the fundamental incentive for getting tokens at all seems missing. Also, as you mentioned, it means giving up on some of that very fun right here in the moment. Therefore the means seems like no fun at the same time as the end seems irrelevant. My current thought is simply to junk the tokens.

If it seems like some other technique is needed to give the dice a little "jump" (in the emotional sense, not the boost-the-roll sense), then it shouldn't involve success or failure, and should be conceived from scratch. I was going to leave that up to your fertile imagination but then flashed on those three plastic dragons sitting in my Blue Moon box ... ooh! could there be three plastic dragons sitting there on the table, usable for something, or gettable in some way? Yeeeahhh ... OK, now I turn it over to you.

Regarding #2 and its unfotunate corrector #3, my take is that we have to go back to the game's primary Color. This is the ultimate underdog game. OK, we're brownish, underfoot, and probably smelly, and if I read one phrase in the text correctly, possibly not above congress with sheep, but ... we're dragons, dammit! If I want to hoard foil gum-wrappers, you can bet your sweet ass there is nothing in the world that can stop me from trying, even if I do have to get run over by a Mac truck in pursuit of my dream. If Farmer Barnaby tries to get me out of my garden patch ("his," he calls it, ha!), I'ma gonna bite his ankle, you see if I don't. And no matter how much my own patheticness, laziness, stupidity, clumsiness, and petty greed trip me up, I'm in there pitching. Yah! Yah, yah, yah!

In dragons of yore, it was arrogance, majesty, and wholesale carnage. Now, it's impudence, kooky determination, and whatever it is you call it when you totally acknowledge all your shortcomings but dare your opponents to tell you something you don't know.

So, what I'm saying, is that the players have to embrace the Goals with all the smelly pride they can muster. I especially call attention to Petty Greed, and suggest that if a Goal is to, for instance, acquire shiny things, we should all know what those shiny things are, and distinguish them carefully from other shiny things that we'd have to avoid being distracted by, through failing at Petty Greed. Or to put differently, Goals aren't petty. Err, to our characters, anyway.

I'm almost tempted to say play should start with the player-characters in their planning session. OK, I just used an internet dice-roller to make my character. Patheticness, Laziness, Stupidity, Clumsiness all start at 11, and Petty Greed's at 14. Now I roll: I am Sleepy Booger, boosting Laziness and Stupidity to 14 but getting two of whatever non-dice mechanic is going to replace Tokens. I also have groucho glasses, the perfect disguise!

Now I prep. I get 4, 19, 2, for the first three tables. We're in the Swamp, we can get a Princess (!!), and opposing us is our own ineptitude. (H'm, more on that later) The Princess is ... um, roll 17, so she's, well she's, she's so, ummm, OK, she has a nice smile. For the elements of the plan, a 19 and a 1 tell me we're going to use grave-robbing and brute force.

Let's stop here for a second. Do these tables really help me? I think they mostly do with a couple of major problems. First, "our own ineptitude" as opposition is no good - because by definition, we're facing that anyway via the resolution system. That's gotta get replaced by something else. Second, a princess is a big deal, and I think a key factor in princess-ness that ought to be brought forward is that she might want to get captured by a dragon. But I'm willing to let that be less imperative; it's just an idea to help cement the scenario a little better. It also strikes me that the higher the Hotness roll a Princess gets, the more she might be helpful and friendly.

How about the plan? H'mmm again. It seems to me that it's kind of a bummer to lock this down for the scenario. I'm thinking maybe the two rolled elements are the core of the initial plan, which we'd concoct in the first scene perhaps. Then maybe we can get access to the table again somehow. Oh, and it strikes me that by definition, although we have not quite managed to acquire and utilize these elements yet, they are of course available, and if seized, will be very helpful to our rolls.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm already pumped about the Goal and the plan. I want to do this. Sleepy Booger wants to do this. And if whatever technique is used to replace tokens - and I suggest that it be fucking fun, not merely tweaking already-existing mechanics like rolled values,

More ...

1. Experience and Throwbacks are currently related to Tokens, so would need some adjustment.

2. Going to 21 should not remove a character from play as stated. Failure is supposed to be fun in this game. It should do something else quite significant. Hell, maybe that's the Throwback right there!

So, those are my thoughts at present.

Best, Ron
Ben Lehman

Posts: 2183


« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2010, 04:10:30 PM »

I think you're right that the tokens are pretty superfluous. The thing that I would like to keep is the "fail, but succeed in your goal despite yourself."

I'm thinking now that I might be able to keep that through a different mechanic. Say "rotten luck," which you could retest with to get that result*. Experience could just be a flat reward for failure, or something like that, or maybe you just get experience from accomplishing goals. Like now, Throwback could be triggered by too many successes, or by player choice.

I think I want to keep the dynamic nature of the attributes, and draw that out more, maybe with them going up with failures, going down with successes, or something.

I think maybe "your plan involves" should be more of a random stuff table and less of a pre-set whatever, or maybe just needs to get axed entirely. I think I need to fine-tooth the prep tables and take out things which don't exactly work (your own ineptitude and monsters! were pretty big ones, for me).

*I'm not particularly happy with this mechanic: It's just what I came up with off the top of my head.

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