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Author Topic: [Cold Soldier] Core Mechanic  (Read 1807 times)
Bret Gillan
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Posts: 425

That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


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« on: January 07, 2011, 08:53:47 PM »

Game
Design Discussion

So after the first playtest, I found that the core mechanic is totally broken. Luckily it's not broken beyond repair. I have some ideas for fixes.

I sat down to play with Carly, and we opted to stop before hitting the endgame because it was boring. The fiction was great, the memories were cool, but she never, ever failed, and the optimal choice for which card to pick up from your Memory was always apparent. And as the GM, having to continue to come up with tasks for the Dark Master to send her on when she is succeed and succeeding and succeeding becomes extremely hard. Setbacks are necessary for an interesting story.

So quickly I sat down and ran through some dummy hands. Out of 36 hands, the Soldier only failed 5 times. I have made it way too easy to succeed.

I have a few proposed fixes though:

- If you invoke your Weapon, rather than giving you an extra card, it replaces your current card. Part of the reason why the Soldier has such an advantage is that they can choose from 3 cards when they pluck one up for a Memory. In an initial misguided attempt at increasing the difficulty, I gave the GM two cards per conflict. It might have been odd luck, but in 18 hands the Soldier did not fail a single time. So I think what I need to do is decrease the choices the Soldier can make with the cards. I tested this out and I think it works well. It becomes a choice between Weapon and Memory, humanity and monstrosity, and a bit of a gamble. The advantage is still the Soldier's but it's not as dramatic.

- GM wins all ties. I think this makes gameplay easier (rather than having to remember if a Jack of Clubs beats a Jack of Hearts) and gives the GM a slight but much-needed edge.

- This one's a bit drastic but will add a neat wrinkle to longer games. Numeric cards equal to or less-than the number of cards in your hand no longer count towards success in resolving a task. If you have five cards in your hand and you draw a 5 to the GM's 3, the GM wins. It's a balancing mechanism, and I think it will also encourage the Soldier to resist the Dark Master.

These need to be playtested, though.

Some other notes:

- I'm unsure of who to give the authority of narrating the Soldier's appearance to. Probably the player as it'll come up early and they might have ideas in mind, but an argument could be made for the GM. I think the whole "you've risen from the grave and here's this strange body" is carried out when someone else is telling you what you look like. You can't plan for it and it's a wrinkle you have to incorporate.

- If there are other walking corpses, do they share your weapon? Or are you unique?

We've hung onto the notes and the Soldier so that we can try again with some rules changes after I've had time to think about it.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2011, 11:26:40 PM »

Quote
- I'm unsure of who to give the authority of narrating the Soldier's appearance to. Probably the player as it'll come up early and they might have ideas in mind, but an argument could be made for the GM. I think the whole "you've risen from the grave and here's this strange body" is carried out when someone else is telling you what you look like. You can't plan for it and it's a wrinkle you have to incorporate.
Just a thought on this - does the appearance have to be determined in a way that says it's an objective, universal truth? Couldn't you just have the appearance described from various PC/NPC perspectives, thus being a subjective view which leaves creative room for one persons view to contradict the other, simply because they see things differently? It's something I was stabbing at in my 24h game, describing things in a subjective truth, rather than some sort of objective, universal truth. Also I think it's a little more fluid and smooth, because all of us at the gaming table simply see things from subjective positions - to try and assign someone to speak in objective truths is to try and dress up someones subjective view as more than that.
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2011, 01:31:36 AM »

The only thing that seemed problematic to me is that the Dark Master has so little to do mechanically. Maybe differentiate between the two roles less so that both players have more similar roles. The final scene could pit the Dark Master's goals against the Soldier's more directly, the Dark Master could be building his own hand ect... depending on where you go with the development of this I have a big desire to hack it.
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whduryea
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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2011, 09:11:38 AM »

One possible solution concerning weapons:

When the soldier uses his weapon, it could function as it does in the original text, except that the GM also draws a card and the cards drawn by the GM can be used to help build his poker hand at the end of the game in the same way that the soldier can use his memory cards. This seems like it would help to resolve two of the concerns you've expressed about the game: it would offer a clear trade-off for using your weapon forcing players to choose between short-term and long-term advantage and it would offer the GM more strategic options during the endgame.

I also like the idea for there to be consequences for using the weapon given to you by your master, since every time you use it you are effectively becoming less of your original self and more the master's war machine. So, if your final conflict is with the master, it makes sense that he would have more power to leverage over you if you've allowed yourself to indulge in the (contaminated) tools that he has given you.

My gut feeling about your discounting cards with value equal to or less than the number of cards in your hand mechanic is that it would muddle play more than it would add strategic complexity. But that's really just an instict without actually playtesting the mechanic.
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terrible games about terrible people in terrible situations/
terrible games about terrible people in terrible situations
Bret Gillan
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That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2011, 08:07:05 PM »

William, I love that idea. I plan on incorporating it into my next playtest.

masqueradeball, in play as the G< I found that I was responsible for so much of the fiction, describing the Soldier's present state and how they perceived things, coming up with the Dark Master along with their task and agenda that I had plenty to do. Mechanically their role is static, yes, but it's also not really the Game Master's job to "win" against the Soldier.

Callan, you can probably handle that material better than I can. I think individual players of Cold Soldier could play with perception, but I don't believe I can address it as a design goal.
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FetusCommander
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also Rudy


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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2011, 02:50:39 PM »

Hi Bret!

William and I did a short playtest of your game today, and we posted the audio of it on our podcast.

All in all, it went really smoothly and was a lot of fun.  We played with your suggestions of the GM winning ties and the new weapon mechanics suggested in this thread (we didn't use this mechanic: "Numeric cards equal to or less-than the number of cards in your hand no longer count towards success in resolving a task").

Under the new rules it seemed pretty even, with the GM actually winning more than the soldier.

Some minor issues:

-It might just be because of our group's particular role-playing play style, but having the soldier unable to speak seemed to limit the role-playing options a little bit. 

-Winning on ties seems like it tips the scales a little bit too much in the GM's favor.

-There were some areas in the text, like setting creation, where we weren't quite clear who was supposed to narrate certain events.  It wasn't a major problem, but some more clarity as far as that might help.

Cheers,
Rudy
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Rudy Johnson
Paolo D.
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Posts: 78


« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2011, 09:43:27 AM »

Hi guys! :-)

I'm following the development process and I'm really excited about this game.

A suggestion:

-It might just be because of our group's particular role-playing play style, but having the soldier unable to speak seemed to limit the role-playing options a little bit.

Bret, maybe you want to add some example to the game text about how the player could express the soldier's emotional state. Maybe some precise techniques too - I'm thinking on something like some Jeep techniques, but modified a little for a tabletop game... Do you know what I'm talking about? I can provide some links if you want to go deeper in this.
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Bret Gillan
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That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


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« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2011, 04:37:55 PM »

Paolo, I do think that's a good idea. I've taken it for granted that any table can sit down and play a great game with a mute character. At my table it hasn't been a problem, but I go gaga for Ki-duk Kim movies (slow, contemplative stuff with mute protagonists) so I'm probably the odd person out. I don't know a lot about jeep so I would love some links.

Rudy, the actual play recording was fantastic and greatly appreciated. I am totally aware that my rules text is messy as written, so I'm sorry for the unclear text and muddling that occurred in your game. I'm hoping to give it a thorough rewrite soon and clear some things up. Also, I appreciate your enthusiasm. It's a definite motivator to know there are people besides myself who like this game.

In my AP experience I think there was a lot going on to encourage descriptions of the character, their appearance, what they see and how they behave, and also some inner-monologues. This is some stuff I'll have to incorporate into the text. One thing that stood out to me, though, is that as the GM you made a lot of demands on the character to speak. It's an easy conflict target - he can't speak? Okay, this NPC will be belligerent with him, demand a response, and then when he doesn't speak escalate things. It was a conflict you hit on a lot in your session. I don't think that's out of bounds, but a bit more diversity of NPC reaction or provocation would probably help. I am glad you guys had fun. It was fun for me to listen to the recording. I laughed and also died inside when the first task for the soldier was to go get the Dark Master some booze. So good job.
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Paolo D.
Member

Posts: 78


« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2011, 10:46:00 AM »

A Jeep technique I was thinking about is Inside-Outside. This and many other are explained at http://jeepen.org/dict/.

My point is: playing a mute character is, probably, something uncommon enough in rpgs to deserve some procedures about how actually play it. :-)

I would like to suggest you, as a start, to try to explain us how do you play it in first. How do you usually put evidence on the soldier's thoughts and emotions when you play Cold Soldier?
Maybe we could elaborate a procedure from that.
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Paul DuPont
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2011, 06:09:00 PM »

I really like your basic concept for this game. It already inspired me to complete a 'casual' RPG design I was working on. Specifically the fact that the GM has a specific role to play.

Have you tried using mechanics that encourage the player to narrate complications for his character. For instance, in Fate, a player gets fate points when he describes a difficulty happening because of a character fault he has. Another example is the Token Effort system from "In Spaaace!" where the loser of the bid gets a token to compensate for his loss, thus increasing his ability to win next time. Of course, you would not do it quite the same way in this game, but sometimes it is nice to reward a player for failing. I thought that might make sense for a character who is an undead. The character might get a card for failing to avoid the masters control or some such.
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Paul DuPont
Chronic Thinker and RPG Designer
Live as if Enchanted!
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