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Author Topic: [Starry Messengers]  (Read 1626 times)
Thor
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Posts: 82


« on: January 18, 2011, 02:43:02 PM »

 The setting of Starry Messengers is one in which the Italian city states get the secret of Aether flight from the Chinese via Marco Polo. The states are in competition and all sorts of wild clockpunk renaissance stuff will be included. I am envisioning a game where doctors check your blood for humors and clockwork soldiers follow you into battle. There will be ray guns of a sort but they are no substitute for a good brace of rapiers. Exploring the planets and seducing the inhabitants, cornering the market on Venusian glass, Being the talk of the town after smuggling a Martian out of the Vatican and exposing the church. And of course dueling on the top side of your Aetherflyer while Ottoman ships are closing in.

Our first playtest is herehttp://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=29120.0

One of the conceits of the game is that characters are defined by their four humors and every scene in the game will cause a change in their humors. Somewhere I have a list of skills and the humors associated with them, but I won't bore you with them at the moment.  In the first playtest his was how I explained it:

At the point of conflict in a scene the player announces what they want the character to accomplish and the skill they are going to use to get there.  The Humor associated with that skill decides the number of dice that the player rolls for that and reduces that humor by one. Then roll the dice . The player decides which of the dice they have rolled they will use for the skill test and determine whether it is a success or a failure. Again they are rolling a bunch of dice and choosing the one they want. If the roll is a success there will be an accompanying increase in another Humor and if there is a failure there will be an increase in a different Humor.  The Idea here is that you want to push the players into doing different things each turn and this will drive the story in unplanned directions. My initial thinking is that every Sanguine Skill would increase Choleric if you succeed and Increase Phlegmatic if you fail,  with similar effects for the other humors.

So lets say that I am trying to kill the guard at the gate. Swordsmanship is a Melancholic skill and I have a 5 in Melancholy. I get five dice and reduce the stat to 4. then I roll the dice and determine which one I want to use. Why would I choose to use a failing dice instead? If I am intending to use a skill in an upcoming turn which will call for a humor which I am very low in I may want to take the failure this turn to pump that Humor up for the coming turn.

We found that the number for the humor didn't work as the number of dice. I didn't love the way the scenes flowed. Nobody took a failure to pump anything up. and because of their character types they tended to use up all of the points in whichever humor they used the most.

My questions at this point is, how to best use the humors as dice pools without sacrificing their flavor.

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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
stefoid
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2011, 11:09:46 PM »

Dont know that I like the 'gaming' of the humours as an idea and it seems that it isnt working out in practice anyway.

What are they supposed to represent?  Would it be better if they responded to more, umm, logical rules of cause and effect without the players explicitly having to manipulate  them?
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Thor
Member

Posts: 82


« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2011, 05:42:52 AM »

In the short term they represent the pools of ability your character has in that scene. One of the design goals was to have a character which was different after every scene. The benefit of this is that you develop an ecology of actions. If I am going into a fight it is better to succeed at a choleric skill like planning or fail at a sanguine skill like carousing both of which will increase my plegmatic pool for the upcoming battle.

In the longer term they are an artefact of the thinking in a clockpunk setting. I really wanted a universe which does not obey the natural laws of our universe and the four humors provided a ready made alternative.
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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2011, 07:05:09 AM »

Thor,

What abilities did you have attached to each of the humors in your playtest?

Paul
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Thor
Member

Posts: 82


« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2011, 07:07:43 AM »

At that time there were no abilities attached. Humors were associated with skills. Using a skill took a point away from that humor and gave it to another based on the outcome.
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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2011, 07:17:37 AM »

What skills were attached to the humors?
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Thor
Member

Posts: 82


« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2011, 07:30:03 AM »

We cribbed the skills list from Flashing Blades and assigned each skill a humor based on our understanding of the humors. We found a breakdown equating the humors to Meyers Briggs personality types and ran with it.

Humour                        Modern     MBTI     Ancient characteristics

Blood/Sanguine              artisan      SP       courageous, hopeful, amorous

Yellow bile/Choleric         idealist       NF     easily angered, bad tempered

Black bile/Melancholic     guardian     SJ     despondent, sleepless, irritable

Phlegm/Phlegmatic          rational       NT     calm, unemotional

So for example Bargaining would be Choleric and Brawling Melancholic.

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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2011, 08:07:00 AM »

So, the skills were all just color. If I wanted to impress a woman, I could choose to display melancholic martial skill, or sanguine poetic skill? If I wanted to stop a burglary, I could choose melancholic swordsmanship, or phlegmatic negotiation?

If individual actions define a character, the incrementing and decrementing of the humor pools is telling the players that their characters are going to have to do all of these things. The characters are going to have to be poetic, and martial, and unhinged, and cautious. In essence, the players are all playing the same character. So, why should they care about setting up any individual future action enough to take a failure on a current action?
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Thor
Member

Posts: 82


« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2011, 08:44:35 AM »

Skills were chosen as appropriate for the character type. And the humors were consistent throughout. My sword skill and yours have the same humor.

Yes this is a game about being renaissance men (persons). That said  I think this is a fairly straight forward little adventure game. You want to do this thing because it is either cool or on your way to doing something cool.

The ecology of the humors will in effect keep players from hitting the same note every turn. Or, if they do they will receive diminishing returns. I also think that in the long run there will be parts of every skill set that are governed by one of the humors.
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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2011, 09:05:02 AM »

I think the renaissance man concept is compelling.

My theory would be that when we're all aspiring to be renaissance men, all basically playing the same character, that what we actually care about is outcomes. So maybe what the various humors do is make spheres of outcomes available. I simply can't achieve success in violent situations without using my melancholy. I can't achieve success in artistic spheres without using my sanguinity. But maybe what I can do is accept consequences in an artistic sphere to move dice to whatever sphere sanguinity feeds into, so I can try for success in some endeavor I couldn't otherwise succeed at.
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Thor
Member

Posts: 82


« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2011, 10:26:25 AM »

I don't see how they are all the same character. Skills inform the decisions about both applicability and difficulty in any scene.

Outcomes of scenes redistribute humors. Part of being capable requires that you can succeed in a scene and move humor points to the where you need them. It isn't that you need to be well rounded to be a Renaissance man but you need to be well rounded to allow your character to excel at whatever task awaits.
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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2011, 01:51:00 PM »

So, each player character had a different set of skills available to them?

And how did you set target/difficulty numbers?
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
stefoid
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Posts: 657


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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2011, 08:07:21 PM »

In the short term they represent the pools of ability your character has in that scene. One of the design goals was to have a character which was different after every scene. The benefit of this is that you develop an ecology of actions. If I am going into a fight it is better to succeed at a choleric skill like planning or fail at a sanguine skill like carousing both of which will increase my plegmatic pool for the upcoming battle.

In the longer term they are an artefact of the thinking in a clockpunk setting. I really wanted a universe which does not obey the natural laws of our universe and the four humors provided a ready made alternative.

I understand how you are using them, and I just wanted to know what they actually were, which you later answered anyway.   Humours seem to me to be a kind of moody personality type thing, which seems at odds with how you are requiring players to 'game' them according to fixed mechanics.  i.e. if you use humour A now it will go down and an arbitrary other humour B will go up.  arbitrary in the sense that it is a rules mechanic that causes the changes to the characters humours, not the fiction. 

Personally, rather than have fixed mechanics govern the changing humours, with players making fairly arbitrary meta-game decisions to push one in order to pull another, I would have the consequences of character actions feed into the humour system instead.

Like if you killed someone unfairly your character might get more melancholic.
If you were wronged your character might get more choleric.
If you fell in love you might become more sanguine.


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Thor
Member

Posts: 82


« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2011, 07:32:27 PM »

To my mind it seems less arbitrary than most pool refresh mechanisms.
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Yes, The Thor from Toledo
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