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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 38 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: a sub-system for my game focused on collaborative storytelling  (Read 2963 times)

Posts: 16

« on: November 11, 2011, 07:39:54 AM »

I have been working on and off on a game for quite some time now. I’ve picked it back up recently and looking to polish it up piece by piece.

The first part I’m looking at is the “Story (Sub)System.” This is a meta-level system that allows all players, including GM, to take part in the creation and development of the plot.

The overall goal of the entire system is to be simple. The simpler, the better. Inspiration for this game comes from Microlite d20 and other simple games.

There are two goals for this particular “sub-system”

The first is to create the perfect pick-up game. As a preface, I will say that I love Spirit of the Century. Thus far, it is my go-to game. However, it is not without its faults. The book’s section on Tips & Tricks (the general GM’s section) was one of the best of any rpg, for the purpose of the pick-up game anyhow.  For the system, I’m working on, I want the players and game master to sit down at a table with no prior planning and kick off a great session.

The second is to influence play style. I’ve attempted to introduce numerous gaming systems to my group. I’ve realized there are two categories: those that do no influence play style and those that do. Those that do not allow players to have their default play style, which in my experience reverts to D&D. Players create characters individually, the GM creates the setting and plot by him/herself, and they all sit down at a table. Each player may have created intense backgrounds and motivations for their individual characters, but there is nothing that ties them to each other or the plot itself. Except that they all meet at a tavern and are give a quest. Now I realize I may be playing “badwrongfun,” but this has just been my experience. For my particular game, I wanted to create the feeling of a movie or a novel. The story has meaning because the characters are tied to it and to each other.

That all being said, here is the story sub-system for my game.

Each player begins with 25 story points and gains 5 after each encounter. Story points are used to bid on plot framing or scene framing and purchasing components or facts into a scene.

Step 1: Players secretly wager a number of points.
Step 2: Player’s bids are revealed.
Step 3: Winner loses wagered story points, but gains authority over creating one plot element or framing the upcoming scene.

Step 1: Following scene framing, players take turns introducing components or facts into the scene one at a time, each component or fact costing one story point.
Step 2: Once the table is content with the scene and all its components and facts, play recurs.

Plot Framing
To construct the main plot, players bid for authority to create elements (situation, goal, opponent, and disaster). Each element is bid on separately. To construct a personal plot or side quest, the player introducing the plot creates all elements and requires no expenditure of story points. A character may have up to two personal plots at a time and may create these at any time. Side quests may be created at any time, but cost 3 Story Points to create. Side Quests are associated with an extra, event, or location that grants them.
Elements: [Character/s] is in [Situation] and must accomplish [Goal]. Can [Character/s] defeat [Opponent] when [Disaster] happens?

• Situation (The change, event, trouble, danger that forces protagonist to act)
• Goal (The specific thing that the protagonist/s sets out to achieve)
• Opponent (What stands between the protagonist/s and the goal)
• Disaster (The consequences of failure)

Each encounter that concludes favorably and progresses towards the achievement of a Plot Card is considered a milestone; representing gaining a clue, having a revelation, or completing part of a process. Milestones may be removed in the occurrence of a scene ending in a drawback or failure; representing losing progress, missing opportunities, or discovering a plot twist. The target number of milestones must be met or exceeded for the goal to be resolved. Main Plots have 7 milestones, Personal Plots have 5, and Side Quests have 3.

Scene Framing
To construct a scene for an encounter, players bid for authority to choose which plot card to advance, create the scene setting (time and place), and set the scene’s objective. Objectives may include possession or relief from allies, adversaries, events, locations, or items and information. Players may then take turns purchasing components and facts. Components include characters, equipment, and the terrain and hazard conditions. Facts include any plot revelations or information that will be exposed during the scene and any political or natural events occurring during the scene.

Posts: 16

« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2011, 07:47:22 AM »

And I was just asking for some general feedback or advice.

Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2447

« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2011, 06:00:08 PM »

Encounters that conclude favorably earn milestones. Is there a one-to-one correspondence between encounters and scenes (i.e. one encounter per scene)? Or can there be multiple encounters per scene? If only one, you should consider getting rid of one of the terms, either encounter or scene.


"[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

Posts: 16

« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2011, 02:03:58 PM »


There are two types of scenes:  encounters and exploration. Encounters are scenes that contain conflict. Exploration scenes is a catch all for everything else: travel, shopping, finding allies, resting, etc. The differentiation is made in another area of the rules. Exploration scenes are pretty much transition scenes to the next big encounter. It is encouraged in the rules to speed through them as the focus is on conflict.

Now that it has been brought up though, I think I will include this in the scene framing section and allow players to choose the type of scene (exploration/encounter) as well.

Concerning Scene Framing, I think I may back track and re-adjust costs for inserting components into the scene, i.e. inserting a group of minions will cost less than inserting the main villain.

The one concern is on Facts. There are two types of Facts:  Scene Backdrop (political or natural events, i.e. ballroom dance, earthquake) and Story Change Device (realization or discovery, i.e. "Luke I am your father...")

How do I go about setting costs for these?

Are there any other scene components I am forgetting?

Posts: 16

« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2011, 03:59:43 AM »

The next issue I am having with this system:

I have decided to make this game somewhat GM-less. Instead of having a group of players and a GM, there will be two groups of players. One group playing the Protagonists and the other playing the Antagonists. However, these sides will have unequal number and unequal power. There will be unique components and shared components.

1. Unequal Number, Unequal Power:

Unequal Number meaning that there will usually be 1 to 6 players on the protagonist side and 1 to 2 players on the antagonist side. Unequal Power means that since there are a fewer number of antagonists, they will have more Story Points to compensate.

2. Unique components and shared components:

Unique components are the individual character's avatars (either the heroes or the villains). Each protagonist player will control ONE hero. The antagonist players may share on villain (for the main plot card) and have control over other villains as well (from the heroes' personal plots or any side plots occurring). Protagonists will control the heroes' companions and followers as well. Antagonists will control the villains' henchmen and minions. All other components, usually just extras for color, will be shared amongst the protagonists and antagonists (depending on who purchases them for the scenes).

It will be encouraged in the game text that this is still not a competitive game. The antagonists are not trying to simply kill the protagonists. They are all at the table to make a great story. The antagonists come to the table knowing that they will lose. Its just making that process fun.

The only problem I am coming up with now is Setting difficulties. I want there to be a defined method for setting difficulties for skill challenges and other tasks. The best solution that I have come up with is just having a Story Point be spent for each level of difficulty added.

Example: During Scene Framing, a protagonist player purchases the Fact that the information the players need to advance is located in the scene. The antagonist player purchases a condition (a hindrance to the characters), and states that the information is located within the safe (1 point for purchase). The player spends an additional 3 points increasing the difficulty of cracking the safe from negligible to difficult. (on the scale: negligible --> simple --> mundane --> difficult --> and so on).

(this brings up another problem: is the difficulty for cracking the safe the same as just breaking it open? It would be two different skills after all....)

What do you think? (and please post thoughts or responses to prior posts as well!)

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