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Author Topic: A heartbreaker to call my own  (Read 2535 times)
Ari Black
Member

Posts: 21


« on: February 26, 2011, 08:06:11 PM »

Hello all! I've been gaming for a good number of years now. I started out with D&D 3 but moved on to Vampire and others shortly after. I ran a few D&D campaigns but, under the influence of White Wolf games, grew disenchanted with D&D and ended up making a homebrew meld of D&D, Changeling, and Vampire. I ran a fairly successful campaign in it that dissolved a few years ago.

Since then, the PA/PvP D&D podcasts pulled me into D&D 4 which I found I liked a lot more than 3rd ed. even though I was resistant to it at first. It's a much cleaner system, I find. As I've played it more, though, I've found it undergoing the same bloat that 3rd ed. did. I had a few system ideas that I was working on and discussing with friends and they merge into a "ground-up" homebrew that had the basic tenet of removing the overarching levels of D&D (current manual: http://www.a3rpg.com/A3 Manual.pdf). I'm running a campaign in it now and one of my players mentioned that I should do a search for "fantasy heartbreaker" which is how I found my way here.

I started by reading Ron's articles on heartbreakers, which were disheartening, I'll admit. However, I'm still inspired to try and I'm going to use the points he makes in the articles as benchmarks to test my system again.

I am interested in games that are more "freeform", Primetime Adventures for example, but my playing group doesn't take to them very well. I've spun up a little system of my own inspired by some of the mechanics I've seen in other games. Right now I'm calling it Mirage. It doesn't mean anything, just a working title. The point is to maintain the player/GM hiearchy but bring the actual mechanic to it's simplest form (http://www.a3rpg.com/System.pdf). I'm worried that I've missed something crucial making the mechanic so simple but I very much like the idea so far. Comments on either appreciated.

  Thanks!
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Jason Pitre
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Posts: 101


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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2011, 08:28:22 PM »

First things first, welcome to the Forge and I am sorry if I come across as argumentative or aggressive.  I am not a representative sample of the boards and there are a large number of very helpful designers around who I am certain will provide you with feedback.   Here are a handful of questions raised in my quick examination of your posted document.

1) So, if I understand it each time you use a chip you wind up cycling them to your opponent.    The GM is strictly antagonistic to the players, and the players always work together against the GM?   If this is the case, why would players _ever_ be in conflict with each other?  Is this intentional?

2) How would you judge stakes?  If the Player declared stakes as "I get John to smile", what prevents the GM from saying their stakes were "Your home is destroyed including your wife and children and the cure for Cancer."  As you have outlined the system, there doesn't seem to be anything keeping the stakes even remotely similar in scale. 

3) It is your intent that the grizzled veteran and the pastry chef be exactly equal in skill in a battle (or a pie-baking competition) as each other?   It's a potentially valid approach, but it is best if you make decisions like that intentionally.
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Genesis of Legend Publishing
Telling New Stories around the Digital Fire
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Ari Black
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2011, 09:26:42 PM »

Jason,
  Your response was neither argumentative nor aggressive. You're drawing my attention to fatal flaws in a system that I've put out to this forum for exactly that reason. Now, to address your points.

1) You're right, it doesn't make sense. What I was trying to accomplish with the chip system was a mechanic that would allow the players to "boost" one another's actions but ended up oversimplifying it to the point of self destruction. I certainly do want a system that allows anyone to oppose anyone else if they wish. I will have to rethink the system that I've laid out.

2) In the situation you described, assuming both the acting character and John are both PCs, the stakes wouldn't be set by the GM, they'd be set by John. If John's player didn't want to oppose, they wouldn't put in any chips in opposition. The GM would only be setting difficulty for environmental and NPC opponents. I see your point, though, about how the GM could step in with any random horrifying situation to nullify the player's attempt. The truth is, though, that this exists in all RPG systems, that I know of, that have a GM with infinite power. It's expected that a GM will oppose for the purpose of challenging, not defeating, the players. If you feel that my system is still to permissive, regardless of what I've said above, could you suggest a mechanic that would work to restrict these armageddon scenarios without overly restricting creativity?

3) I really did intend that everyone be the same. The notion was that any differences would come from either the player's skill or items gained in the game or both. The less built-in mechanics the less people will feel restricted to thinking in the mechanic. The notion is the mechanic is a means of quick resolution of the ongoing action the players are creating.
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Jason Pitre
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2011, 09:47:23 PM »

1) Allowing players to cooperate is a laudable goal, so let's see if there are some solutions which might serve that purposes.   What if, for example, each player could choose one of four options and all options were mandatory.
  • Support Participant A (Paying a chip to their attempt)
  • [Wager on Participant A (Potentially winning all of Participant B's attempt chips
  • Support Participant B (Paying a chip to their attempt)
  • [Wager on Participant B (Potentially winning all of Participant A's attempt chips

With multiple strategies in place, the audience can choose to alter the outcome or simply to profit from the conflict.  That might allow for some logical support and for reasonable amounts of inter-party opposition.

2) Would _both_ the stakes be set by John if both participants were PC's?   If so, John could risk "getting a cold" and declare that his opponent Robert could be exiled from their tribe, with no recourse on the part of the Jack.  Typically in stakes-setting games, each participant identifies what they would like to win.   

Dogs in the Vineyard is an excellent example worthy of reference.  I recommend picking the game up for this purpose alone, even if the idea of playing Mormon Paladins in the Wild West isn't appealing.  It introduces escalation where conflicts go from words to fists to melee weapons to guns with increasing consequences for the loser.  This way, both sides are approximately matched and determine how much they are willing to escalate.

3) Why are items any different from skills?  Why would player skill, which would predominantly apply in social conflicts, be more important then character skill?  Should the trained writer and the monkey be equally capable of writing novels?    I simply seek deeper understanding of your rationale here.
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Genesis of Legend Publishing
Telling New Stories around the Digital Fire
www.genesisoflegend.com
happysmellyfish
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2011, 09:59:58 PM »

Hi Ari,

I've just got a small thought about the d20 you're using. It seems somewhat out of place - maybe a relic?

If you wanted to streamline a little, perhaps you could use a black box. Chips are placed in the box, and then one randomly drawn to determine the scene's outcome. So there could be three white and two black in the box, giving a 60 per cent chance of white winning.

This changes the odds from the d20 system (chances can swing quickly away from 50/50) but not necessarily in a bad way.

Anyway - welcome and such!
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Ari Black
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2011, 10:09:30 PM »

Jason,
  1) I never thought of the chips as being won. They were merely a mechanic for representing characters strength of attempt or opposition. Let me give you a sense of what I was imagining and maybe it'll be a bit more clear what I'm trying to go for. I use character name(p) to represent the player for that character, so if the character's name is John, John's player would be John(p).

Let's say we have three characters; Jane, Mark, and Steven. Jane(p) is initiating the action sequence and tells the group that Jane is going to make her way across the shaking bridge. Mark is going to follow and Steven is going to hold onto the bridge's ropes to try to steady the shaking a bit. The GM, acting as the shaking bridge, puts in 3 chips against Jane and 3 against Mark. Jane(p), Mark(p), and Steven(p) all put in 2. That makes the roll for Jane 9-20 and the roll for Mark the same. The roll goes well for Jane who gets across. Mark isn't so lucky and is hanging off the bridge.

The notion here is to have everyone have a chance, but not required, to act in each sequence. The player that starts the action sequence gets to set the scene a little but only has to focus on what their character is doing. The others can support or oppose, if they wish, or do their own thing. The reason I had the GM's chips being where all the spent player's chips go is because the GM will be opposing much more often to a varied set of actions.

Your idea is a good one but I wasn't thinking about the other players as an audience to the action sequence. Instead, I was trying to create a more fluid sense of flow where the players were free to try anything they could think of. The reason I was hesitant to put in any skills is that I want to have the simplest possible base mechanic. The less that's in the mechanic the more malleable it is for multiple settings. More work for the GM, yes.

2) This relates back to what I said in 1; the players aren't really setting stakes but describing the actions their characters are taking. My RP group doesn't take well to the freedom of stake-setting games. They like to control their character in response to the worlds I create. The notion with this system was to give them that but with much less mechanics and restrictions to deal with from the system.

  Thanks again.
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Ari Black
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2011, 10:12:18 PM »

Hi Ari,

I've just got a small thought about the d20 you're using. It seems somewhat out of place - maybe a relic?

If you wanted to streamline a little, perhaps you could use a black box. Chips are placed in the box, and then one randomly drawn to determine the scene's outcome. So there could be three white and two black in the box, giving a 60 per cent chance of white winning.

This changes the odds from the d20 system (chances can swing quickly away from 50/50) but not necessarily in a bad way.

Anyway - welcome and such!

That's an interesting notion. Using this mechanic, how would players show more effort or the GM create more difficulty? Am I right in inferring that the starting configuration is 3 white & 2 black and then the player adds white to increase their odds and the GM adds black to decrease them? If this is what you intended, how does one player oppose another?
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happysmellyfish
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2011, 11:30:31 PM »

Hi Ari,

Quote
That's an interesting notion. Using this mechanic, how would players show more effort or the GM create more difficulty? Am I right in inferring that the starting configuration is 3 white & 2 black and then the player adds white to increase their odds and the GM adds black to decrease them? If this is what you intended, how does one player oppose another?

Let me explain how I see this working.

At the beginning of a scene, there are never any chips in the black box. The scene proceeds along until a "conflict" crops up. THEN, chips are placed in the box.

For example, I'm playing a western and the barn is burning down. I want my character to succeed, so I narrate some fact that increases the chance of success: "Matt wraps a wet rag around his face. It should keep some of the smoke out." I place a counter in the box, to represent that fact. Say it's a white counter. Then the GM narrates some fact that decreases the chance of success: "Inside the barn, the flames spread to a barrel of lamp oil. It's really hot in there!" The GM places a counter in the box, to represent that fact. Say it's a black counter.

This continues until all players able/willing to place counters in the hat have done so. In this example, perhaps I've placed five white counters and the GM has placed two black counters. It's time to resolve the scene. I need to pull out a random counter. If it's white, my character has succeeded. If it's black, my character has failed. So, in this situation, I have a 71 per cent chance of success (from five out of seven counters being success). If either one of us were able/willing to contribute more chips, the odds would be different. I pull a counter, and either narrate my success or failure.

Does that make sense? I'm awful when it comes to writing rules.

Quote
Let's say we have three characters; Jane, Mark, and Steven. Jane(p) is initiating the action sequence and tells the group that Jane is going to make her way across the shaking bridge. Mark is going to follow and Steven is going to hold onto the bridge's ropes to try to steady the shaking a bit. The GM, acting as the shaking bridge, puts in 3 chips against Jane and 3 against Mark. Jane(p), Mark(p), and Steven(p) all put in 2. That makes the roll for Jane 9-20 and the roll for Mark the same. The roll goes well for Jane who gets across. Mark isn't so lucky and is hanging off the bridge.

The black box system could produce some interesting results here. There are six counters making success more likely, and six counters making success less likely. That is, six player counters have been placed in the box, and six GM counters have been placed in the box. Then each player would remove a counter. For the first player, the odds of success are 50/50. However, for each of the following players, the odds of success have changed. If the first player succeeds, then they take out that success token. This is good for them, but it means the next player is less likely to succeed. Likewise, if the first two players both succeed, it means the third player's chance of success has dropped from 50% (six success vs six failure) to 40% (four success vs six failure).

This might be useless for your project... but I'm enjoying figuring out the quirks. I have some ideas about how player vs player conflict would work, but it's not cooked at the moment.
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Ari Black
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2011, 08:03:54 AM »

Happy,
  This is a fascinating idea which could work. It would also make the mechanic of controlling who goes first have an affect on the probability of the initiating player's action going off as they pull from the hat first. Players who are working to oppose help each other because they all put black chips in. The same goes for players who are assisting but with white. Perhaps players who are doing their own actions can put in "neutral" chips that don't benefit either of the opposing or assisting players. Not sure, would have to look at the probabilities for the sake of balance.

Keep the ideas coming, obviously this system needs a good reworking.

  Thanks!
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happysmellyfish
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2011, 06:55:34 PM »

Maybe a more interesting way to think about this is as something more than binary success or failure.

When do you want the system to kick in? Does it trigger when there is a chance of a character failing? (For example, they are just trying to cross the bridge). Or does it only trigger when there is a conflict between characters? (For example, they are trying to cross the bridge WHILE the Nazis spray them with bullets.) It depends on the sort of game you envision, but to my mind the second is more interesting.

Not least of all, it means both sides of a conflict can "succeed." This requires goals to not be mutually exclusive, as in games like Shock. In the example above, the player character is trying to cross the bridge. The Nazi characters are trying to shoot the player character. There are four outcomes.

1 - the PC crosses the bridge, without being shot
2 - The PC crosses the bridge, but is shot in the process
3 - The PC does not cross the bridge, without being shot
4 - The PC does not cross the bridge, and is shot

Each of those seems fairly interesting to me.

Anyway, I think you need to decide how much simulation you're aiming for.
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stefoid
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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2011, 02:53:58 PM »

Oh, that reminds me of a thread I read a while ago.  Someone was talking about a simple resolution system that had inbuilt consequences -- darned if I can remember what it was called, but in retrospect, it reminds me of a simplified version of 'moves' used in apocalypse world.

It was something like you roll a certain number of dice, one for each 'level of competence' the character has, and for each 'success' you get to choose one thing from the following a list:

- it works
- it doesnt take long
- there are no negative consequences
- something else I cant remember.

something like that.  It struck me as a very simple mechanic that had a lot of possibilities for interesting narration.

you could use something like that for your chip system, but instead of rolling dice and counting 'successes' you could just let the player spend chips instead.  Like, I want to spend two chips on this action, and I choose "it works" and "there are no negative consequences".  Therefore the narration must take into account that it takes a long time and something else I cant remember.
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stefoid
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« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2011, 02:57:10 PM »

Wow, you know what, I think I just got myself a new resolution system for 'Uncle Louis' -- thanks Ari Black!
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Ari Black
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2011, 03:41:07 AM »

Wow, you know what, I think I just got myself a new resolution system for 'Uncle Louis' -- thanks Ari Black!

Share and enjoy :)
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2011, 07:43:26 PM »

It was something like you roll a certain number of dice, one for each 'level of competence' the character has, and for each 'success' you get to choose one thing from the following a list:

- it works
- it doesnt take long
- there are no negative consequences
- something else I cant remember.

something like that.  It struck me as a very simple mechanic that had a lot of possibilities for interesting narration.

Look at Ron Edwards' S/Lay w/Me and Vincent Baker's Otherkind.

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
Ari Black
Member

Posts: 21


« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2011, 04:18:00 AM »


something like that.  It struck me as a very simple mechanic that had a lot of possibilities for interesting narration.

Look at Ron Edwards' S/Lay w/Me and Vincent Baker's Otherkind.

Paul
[/quote]

Excellent suggestions! I read the play description Typin, the lion, and the Orb of Marstat. Poor Typin...

Do you know if Ron has posted the manual anywhere?
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