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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 23 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Dwarf Fortress] whoops! it's Right to Dream play!  (Read 2204 times)
Abkajud
Member

Posts: 285


« on: November 19, 2010, 06:45:47 AM »

Anybody ever design a game, execute it correctly, and then think "Well, crap. I wouldn't play this game"? That happened to me last night.

I did my first playtest for my tabletop adaptation of Dwarf Fortress.
Play basically consists of:
- each person portrays one dwarf, who has one profession.
- each season, you can perform labors 'round your new settlement (you're founding a settlement in this game) until you roll badly
- you start with 3 "bumps" - you can spend them to move a die result up or down, 1:1
- rolls work like this:
state your intent. you're going to get it, it's just a question of what will get in the way. roll a d6.
1- you get it. but the gm gets a doom token to make your life miserable later
2/3 - you complete your objective, but it's either slow, poorly-done, or both.
4/5 - you complete your objective, no problem.
6- you do the thing amazingly!

for 1-5, you also get a bump for your trouble. for a 6, you give another player a bump. <-- this part right here caused no end of flatness to play last night, as it meant that it was pretty much impossible to truly fail. i also didn't like the consequences of "slow" or "poorly done" at all - there was nothing else in play to really make those consequences matter.

there are also "social rolls" - interactions between players and npcs. replace "slow" and "poorly done" with "at a cost to you, physically" and "at a cost to you, socially", and the roll is basically the same. those worked pretty well, actually, and i always pinpointed exactly what was at stake, socially. but the potential physical cost seems nonsensical, looking back - i was imagining dwarfs getting into fights..

i think one very important thing to do is to make all the dwarfs share one big relationship map. i think it'd actually be totally fine to have a scenario where the only threats to life and limb come from work accidents and from monsters, but, jeez, if your cousin isn't speaking to you, life sucks!

i also think i want to remove that bit about "you get a bump for your trouble", and make it so that you only get more bumps on a 6. the doom tokens are just fine as they are; i just need to figure out more ways to spend them, and not be afraid to do so. character creation literally consists of "choose a profession. ready? go", so i really can't be holding back like i was. all you have to do is get the fort to survive til the next immigration wave (those can happen seasonally) and then you have more random characters to choose from.

overall, the big thing that kept occurring to me was - play consists of us debating the physical details of the fortress, how things should look, and so on, while the only personal interaction between dwarfs happened as an afterthought, orchestrated by me the gm, just to make sure it got included somehow. this is not how i like to play, and clearly i'm going to need to go back and change the mechanics around quite a bit to make relationships the big priority. damn it, i know that a settlement full of interrelated, emotionally fragile, industrial workers can be an exciting story-font; clearly i need mechanical support for that to happen!

forgive me if this post seems a little inscrutable - i feel like i'm having trouble getting my ideas out of my head. but the title of this thread indicates that the enjoyment we had was in thinking carefully "what does the fortress need?" and "how do we get the layout just right?" rather than questions of a more emotionally resonant quality. and, long sigh, i'm really not interested in answering the questions we asked during play. this is not a game i would play.

part of the problem with the design is that it's fairly challenging to not take it in a sort of emulative direction - the computer game it's based on is extremely detailed, full of physics simulation and the like. but it's inspired some really striking art - google the word "Bronzemurdered" for a great example (or find it here: http://www.nzfortress.co.nz/forum/showthread.php?t=20768).
Additionally, a similar google search revealed a really stirring quote (if you're a Dwarf Fortress fan):
I've said this before, but I don't think any other game has ever generated the kind of stories that Dwarf Fortress does on a daily basis.
I need to sit and think about how to grasp what's really important, what i should leave in and what must be taken out, to get people who play my game to share this sentiment.
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Abkajud
Member

Posts: 285


« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2010, 06:55:32 AM »

I like the chronicle of Oilfurnace http://www.timdenee.com/oilfurnace/ even more, by the way. Tim Denee is one of the best DF fan-artists I've encountered.
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Mathew E. Reuther
Member

Posts: 114

I came, I saw, I ordered the burrito . . .


« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2010, 07:29:30 AM »

Have you looked around at all the other Dwarf Fortress RPG related work that has been done, or are you operating on the premise of avoiding corruption? (Valid, some writers don't read the genre they write.)

I ask because I've run across a half dozen mentions in my recent research, and something sticks in the back of my head as thinking that someone has actually published something along these lines. In any case, it may be useful to take a look at doing some more research, assuming you haven't already done so. :)
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Abkajud
Member

Posts: 285


« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2010, 04:38:02 PM »

I haven't really seen anything that strikes me - I saw someone on the Bay12 Forum who's using GURPS, or a hacked GURPS; I saw someone else with a homebrew system I'll check out, called the "Signature RPG" (free!), and then... my blog, Abby's Place, is the 3rd hit on a Google search of "dwarf fortress rpg" (in quotes).

I haven't seen anything that strikes me as useful yet, and certainly I have seen no evidence at all that such ideas or design projects out there are interested in supporting Story Now play with a Dwarf Fortress tabletop game. I am determined to do so.

Today was fruitful, though - I came up with some ideas, such as identifying the relationships between the starting seven, changing play modes quite drastically (start out with an overview mode wherein the general fortress is devised, and then shifting to scene-based play), and forcing players to choose between their work, their families, and their livelihood/safety. I'm swiping the ApocaWorld notion of surplus, need, and want, and adapting it to my purposes also, to multiply the angles of conflict. More to come.
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Alfryd
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2010, 01:07:32 PM »

...part of the problem with the design is that it's fairly challenging to not take it in a sort of emulative direction - the computer game it's based on is extremely detailed, full of physics simulation and the like. but it's inspired some really striking art - google the word "Bronzemurdered" for a great example (or find it here: http://www.nzfortress.co.nz/forum/showthread.php?t=20768).
Additionally, a similar google search revealed a really stirring quote (if you're a Dwarf Fortress fan):
I've said this before, but I don't think any other game has ever generated the kind of stories that Dwarf Fortress does on a daily basis.
Yeah, the thing about Dwarf Fortress is that it *can* generate stories, insofar as it involves autonomous agents that have their agendas (i.e, exploration of character.)  But any stories that emerge do so largely by accident.

I mean, the stories of Bronzemurdered and Oilfurnace both have strong underlying themes- "Persistence and selflessness can overcome tragedy" and "Overweening greed leads to self-destruction", respectively- but there were a million little things which could have gone differently that would have wrecked those stories en route to completion.  They are the result of a series of flukes of chance.

If you want to encourage a focus on inter-dwarf relations, I would suggest devoting more time to establishing their motives and beliefs, and paying attention to creating situations where those beliefs come into conflict- either internal or mutual.  Then you have some potential for 'drama', and hence story.
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Abkajud
Member

Posts: 285


« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2010, 05:48:45 PM »

Alfryd,

Done and done. Good call, dude. I'm going to focus on choosing between work and family, safety and duty. I'll post some examples soonish.
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Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2010, 12:17:42 AM »

You sort of know what to do. So I'll just say that dwarf fortress reminds me of the campaigns in the nar essay where they go 'remember that one time when...' and maybe something notable happens once a year but most times nothing. Except in dwarf fortress as alot of play is automated, it maybe takes minutes or a few hours to get such a moment. It's like the game didn't aim for human (okay, dwarf) stories, but by accelerating simulation the pain and gusto of the dwarves sort of erupts in just the sort of ouja board way the nar essay describes. But as said, it's simply from massive acceleration.
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Mathew E. Reuther
Member

Posts: 114

I came, I saw, I ordered the burrito . . .


« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2010, 01:25:47 AM »

Nothing stops a tabletop game from having time-dilation though. Could be generational stuff that is played out, instead of the day to day, week to week stuff.
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Currently:
Knee deep in the Change System's guts . . .
Abkajud
Member

Posts: 285


« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2010, 04:56:16 PM »

Callan, Matthew, good call.

I'm actually working quite a bit on a relationship system that puts fortress politics over makin' stuff.
In fact, makin' stuff is now sort of the piston in the engine of conflict - it's simple, straightforward, and non-fiddly, and you basically go through all the laboring dwarves in the fort to see what gaps in the supply you can deal with. If you're missing something critical, the GM is advised to exploit that lack as best s/he can. Alternately, you can commission special projects, but these not only take valuable resources away from others, but run the risk of being Doomed - i.e. they might go horribly awry when used, at the worst possible moment.

But food shortages and collapsing bridges are only ways of providing fodder for the web of relationships in the fortress. Whenever you try to get someone to do something for you, you get one relationship d6 - based on how you approach them, how you convince them, etc., either Fear, Love, or Duty. Each time you roll a 6 while making demands of someone, you can take another d6 in that relationship (max of 3). Each time you roll a 1, you lose a d6 from it. [I'm debating whether to have folks choose when to drop a die or not, or whether they should lose the randomly]
To convince somebody to do something, you roll your dice in that relationship all at once, and compare the total to a target number based on how in line with dwarf ethics (the good of the fortress, to hell with the nobles, etc.) the GM thinks the demand is.

Each time you gain a die in a relationship (beyond the first), you lose a die in all relationships of a different type - for example, if you gain a die in Fear with one of the other blacksmiths, you lose a die in all Love- and Duty-based relationships.

I'm going to see if my idea for combat mechanics from that Ancient Rome concept (over in First Thoughts - http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=30668.0) makes sense for this, too - I want to keep combat straightforward and quick.
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Mask of the Emperor rules, admittedly a work in progress - http://abbysgamerbasement.blogspot.com/
Abkajud
Member

Posts: 285


« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2010, 06:42:17 PM »

I've completely rewritten the game.
Links to the new rules I'm working with now:

- main document: http://www.mediafire.com/?rbq3ljlu1afd6x3
- additional notes for starting the game: http://www.mediafire.com/?8zey91fn8ebe95h

You can send me a PM with any feedback, or email me at zac dot dettwyler at gmail dot com.
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Mask of the Emperor rules, admittedly a work in progress - http://abbysgamerbasement.blogspot.com/
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