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Author Topic: [Evil High] Narrative Combat System - Feedback?  (Read 1089 times)
Sp4m
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Posts: 61


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« on: January 17, 2012, 07:02:12 AM »

After slogging through yet another tedious 5 hour combat session in my home game, I sat down and realized...
Why does role play combat have to be so slow and tedious? Why so much rolling anyway? Most of my players are brand new to role playing games, and can give or take the dice rolling aspect... I will call them "Narrative Style" players.

For these sorts of players, and myself, I have drafted the Narrative Combat System.
The idea is that the players do the dice rolling up front, determine the basic outcome of fight first, and when wins and losses are tallied, the players and GM return to a standard turn order, to narrate what happened cinematically. The combat should go by mush faster, and be painted more vividly.

This System is designed to supplement a traditional game system. It is intended not to replace skill checks and duels, but large, multi-party combats.

Narrative Combat System (NCS)

A.   All players are assigned a value (1-5) that ranks their Physical, Social, and Mental attributes
B.   Prior to Combat, players agree upon their goals for the encounter.
     1.   There Must be at least 3 goals
     2.   Players must agree upon at least one goal per trait
          a.   Traits include Physical, Social, and Mental
C.   GM computes a difficulty rating for each of the team’s goals
     1.   These are then announced to the party as easy (Value 0-5) Medium (5-10) or Hard (10+)
D.   Players each pick one “Strength,” an attribute that adds to the Party Rating
and one “Weakness,” an attribute whose inverse subtracts from the Party Rating.
     1.   If a player has a 3 in Physical, and they declare that as their weakness for the encounter, their Party Strength is subtracted by 2.
          a.   This is because 5, (the max value for the stat) - 3, (the player’s trait ) = 2
     2.   A Party Rating is determined for Physical, Social and Mental
E.   GM compares Party Rating to Difficulty Rating for each goal, and announces degree of success or failure for each goal.
     1.   If a goal is failed, each player whose weakness contributed to a failed goal draws an Epic Fail card of the type of goal that was failed.
          a.   Epic Fail cards have text that describes a disastrous consequence of the combat.
F.   Players and GM create narrative, taking turns
     1.   Turns are not discrete amounts of time, but are tasks
     2.   As the situation evolves, players may add additional goals, though this will increase the difficulty for any goals associated with that trait, already in place.
     a. The first goal (most important) for a trait has a difficulty assigned by the GM. The second will be at least 3 higher than that. The third, at least 3 higher than that, and so on.
          b. The highest difficulty for a goal is chosen as the initial trait difficulty.
      1. If a team wants to steal a heavy crate (DR 7) and defeat the one member of the super team (DR 11) the initial difficulty for the crate is 11. Defeating the super team on top of that will mean a DR of 14, physical.
          c. if an additional goal is added to a trait during combat, that goal receives its own challenge rating, and all other challenges for that trait are increased by 3.
3. Creative use of powers or affecting the environment is such a way that provides an edge to the players will allow the players to further augment their Party Rating
   a. Each player may only augment the party rating by +1 to a single trait, with GM approval.
          1.   player drops a chandelier onto or next to foe… +1 to physical
          2.   player users power to make target ashamed… +1 to social
          3.   team solves a puzzle that reveals the key code to the safe… +1 mental

Some Sample "Epic Fail" cards (which could be a roll on the Epic Fail chart for the time being)

Social Fail: Player Earns an Unfortunate Nickname: Social Trait at -1 for next Episode
Physical Fail: Moderate Injury: Physical Trait at -1 for next Episode
Mental Fail: Bad Idea: Player Acts on a Very Bad Idea
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andrei
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2012, 10:04:43 AM »

This sounds brilliant in principle, but I see a few issues with it. These are, of course, the opinions of someone with no experience in the game.

First, the players start out knowing that a given goal's difficulty is <=5, <=10 or higher They can thus pool together just enough strength to go to 5 or 10 and thus succeed at any easy or normal task. All they have to do is determine which goals they will sacrifice and which they will pursue successfully. Playing might become a matter of energy management.

Another issue is that the way DRs are ranked is GM-dependent and, if the players choose to take risks (by not accruing a score of 5 or 10), part of the game might become a matter of reading the GM's mind.

Finally, the players might end up being forced to act in certain ways, e.g. when drawing the "Bad Idea" card, that wouuldn't fit with their personae.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2012, 12:00:25 AM »

Seems to pretty much make explicit that character death is not, by default, what's at risk. That's why those 'why are we dicing so much' moments come up - because they bank on the illusion of character death being possible but the illusion has been popped and suddenly it all seems much to do about nothing.

Anyway, since were talking about goals, I'd suggest not focusing on 'fail' or 'failure'. Really what your making here is a device that determines two outcomes. Both of which should be interesting, not just one and the other a sucky fail. I think you might find that if the rule is that you have to find two outcomes and you WANT both but CAN'T have both, that's a great set of outcomes for the battle. Forget failure and just find an alternative scenario that everyone finds compelling, even if you come to it by a narration of character retreat "We retreat into the catacombs of mount doom! Awesome!"

Explicit, in your face failure should be left for games where gamist, play to win gaming is first and foremost. If your gamist stuff is not first and foremost, neither should your failures be first and formost/explicit.
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nataix
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Posts: 8

Creator of the roleplaying game Proteus


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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2012, 02:37:30 PM »

Anyway, since were talking about goals, I'd suggest not focusing on 'fail' or 'failure'. Really what your making here is a device that determines two outcomes. Both of which should be interesting, not just one and the other a sucky fail. I think you might find that if the rule is that you have to find two outcomes and you WANT both but CAN'T have both, that's a great set of outcomes for the battle. Forget failure and just find an alternative scenario that everyone finds compelling, even if you come to it by a narration of character retreat "We retreat into the catacombs of mount doom! Awesome!"

^This!  Try to avoid the yes/no scenario in favor of the either/or.  When you get down to individual rolls for each attack, you have to have a degree of hit or miss.  If you're already dumping many of those rolls, then focus on having two interesting consequences.  You may not need to have them both be desirable in terms of good or beneficial to the characters, but if you make them both interesting (desirable to the players because it improves the story) you may find it works out much better.  This should actually increase the narrative focus of the game, as your narrating interesting and memorable events instead of just success or failure.
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Sp4m
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Posts: 61


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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2012, 03:37:05 PM »

Thank you for your feedback, there are some excellent ideas in there.

What I understand you all saying, and please correct me if I misunderstand… is that with this narrative system I should not use it to determine success and failure, because as the players’ co-narrator, we all want them to succeed.  This system can help them decide between multiple, interesting outcomes that impact the future of the game. A social defeat for a battle will result in the Super High Super Team getting good press out of it, and Evil High looking bad. A Mental failure will result in a part of the team’s plan being revealed to Super High, guaranteeing their interference later on. And a physical failure will result in the items not working quite as expected after the theft (since this theft is mandatory, this makes a physical failure more of a role-play challenge down the line and not a road-block). Players pick their priorities, and bid their points, then secretly adjust for personal goals.


A little math later, we have the outline for an encounter and aftermath. The Villains successfully stole the prototype portal gun, and made super high look bad to the press (a villain broke an old lady’s arm with a brick, and ended up pinning it on rubble caused by super high). Unfortunately, the mastermind couldn’t help but monologue when the captain of the super team was defeated, and though he ultimately got away, the next step of the villains’ evil plan has been revealed.

With that framework in place, the players and GM begin a cooperative narration.

Risks: Guess What I’m thinking.
   Pre-combat planning becomes a little puzzle of energy management. To guarantee a victory, players will balance their energy to maximize their primary option, then their secondary option. Is that fun, or will it be everyone turning their sheets into the “math guy” to let him balance out priorities?

   Another possibility will be all players may choose to min max, and take a mental penalty, act on a bad idea, or something similar…

In this particular game, character death is not an option, but Knockouts and injury are possible.

I’ll think on this.

I've got a few ideas on how to further develop this idea
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thedroid
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2012, 04:43:35 AM »

One thing I think might detract is in E. where the GM announces the success or failure of goals prior to the narration of the scene. It makes players entirely authors and not at all a part of the "audience," which might appeal to some, but others might prefer to discover the outcome as the scene progresses.

Perhaps you've thought of this, but another "dice-free" approach is just to generate long lists of random numbers from die rolls prior to the game and keep them hidden from the players, then consult them whenever you need to know an outcome.
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