Nolan's Game Thread

Started by masqueradeball, September 11, 2010, 01:17:40 AM

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   You are trying to get from here to there. There's a pool of dice in the middle of the table called "How Far Have we Come." The goal of the game is to dice from various other places (most notably your character sheet) into the "How Far" pile. There needs to be an opposing pile... hmm... How Far Have we Come competes with How Far we Have to Go.
   I'm thinking that the game will end like Moses in the desert... the whole question is whether or not you even glimpse the promised land... So there's the journey, and you might get there or you might not and the end game you roll these two dice pools against each other (every dice off will put dice in one pool or the other) to see if you get there in the end.

   This is obviously the destination, but how can it have more teeth than that? I'm thinking that characters will come up with conceptions of the city, which is like this mythical never-never land within the setting. This Dream of the City will be a score that characters have that they'll use to overcome hardships, as well as an actual description of what the city is.
   As the characters travel they might find the City becoming more meaningful/meaningless as they encounter communities and build things of their own that either fulfill or undermine their dream.
   So: The City is basically Heaven (in a simple wish-fulfillment kind of way) and the characters use their ideas of heaven to keep motivated in moving forward, but finding happiness on the road actually undermines this dream. Also, they'll meet people who have different ideas of the city, and they'll compete with themselves about what the ideal is. So, major thrust in the game: What is your characters ideal world, how does their pursuit of this ideal change it, and how does it interact with other people's ideals, and how does finding practical happiness/hardship increase or diminish.

   This is where the characters are traveling through. The desert will be a huge part of the game. Everything that's not the characters is a feature of the desert. Going with the concept of moving around dice, the desert will be represented as a bunch of index cards that you set down with descriptions of things the characters might confront... there would be two things: negative thingies (called something) and "positive thingies" (oasis) that are mechanically negative because they give the characters reasons to settle on their ideals and give up the pursuit of the city. How the cards are generated, what dice go on them and what order they're dealt with, idk.

    This is where the characters have to live if they want to keep moving. They will come into contact with societies and situations they  must survive them, but they can't settle anywhere... to much success needs to hurt people somehow. Everything that the characters do they want to do by the slimmest possible margin... They'll want to do on the EDGE. This gives me kind of a cool idea for a die mechanic... You (the player) contributes dice of (Color A), while the desert contributes (Color B, Color C). You roll all three dice and you want your dice to come up between the other two... how the hell this would work with moving dice around into the various piles... idk. I'll come back to the specifics of the mechanics later. Anyway... Edge, its the place where you want to stay in order to keep moving towards the City.

I really like the idea of doing something with skin color and perception and making this a factor in the game. Maybe an assessment of why the characters are moving and the obstacle they have interacting with other people. This would be good. Good stuff.
   So here's the premise: Your skin has changed color somehow, exiling you from your homeland, and putting you into a morass of outcasts and misfits, but you (with the other PC's) decide to leave your miserable existence and go off in search of the city. Despite being an outcaste you have all these preconceived notions of what other people are like based off of there skin color, and these things compete with dealing with people directly. This is another source of conflict. Maybe skin colors and dice colors can be related and your character's changing perceptions of the people in the game world can actually change how the dice behave?
   As for actual Skin colors, I'm thinking the PC's are "bleached" and have a sort of bone-white complexion and all of the other people come in bright and fantastic colors... With there being a number of fantasy skin-color races equal to the number of players.

Brendan C.

Neat! I really like the push pull you set up there between success and failure, how you want to succeed, but by the slimmest margin possible.

Hopefully I'll have better suggestions tomorrow when I'm less fried, but what if you had each player maybe describe, in a sentence or two, his or her original tribe? What color the tribesmen's skin was, and what the tribe's vision of the City might have been? Potentially, even, how the individual's idea of the City differs from his or her tribe's, thereby setting that player out even more? And as for coming to see others differently in terms of skin color, what if the outcasts might inadvertently bleach the skin of those they come into contact with? Making them even more likely to be pariahs?

Cool. Looking forward to reading more.


yeah, thats the direction that i'm going in, to have the players collectively create the relationships between the various skin colors and the city.

Jason Pitre

Very neat concept and I am a big fan of the success by narrow margins aspect. 

With regards to the settlements, I could see the narrow margins approach as particularly valid.  On the social roll encountering them, a failure gets you run out of town.  A narrow success gets you some supplies and encouragement to keep on traveling.  A great success leads to the settlement inviting you to stay and rest for a while until they can provide you supplies.  The key is to get assistance yet not friendship with those settlements.   At least, that was the idea that came to mind when reading your synopsis?  Is that similar to your plans?
Genesis of Legend Publishing
Telling New Stories around the Digital Fire


Spot on assessment of how I want things to work. Still tinkering. Some other gaming got in the way of a longer write up, but there's always tomorrow.


With my current love of otherkind dice, I'd consider the notion of having players roll two sets of dice when accomplishing the tasks that move them toward the city.

As an example.

Die 1:
1-2 You fail, you may not try again
3-4 You fail, you may try again with a disadvantage.
5-6 You succeed.

Die 2:
1-2 The city loses it's importance to you. You start to lose your way, your resolve pool decreases in size by 1.
3-4 The city remains strong in your mind. Regain a point in your resolve pool.
5-6 The city gains more significance to you. Your resolve pool increases in size by 1.

Resolve points can be used to overcome difficulties presented by those who want to prevent you getting to the city.

If your resolve pool ever decreases to 0, you basically stay where you are, the city means nothing to you any more. If the city is reached, the character with the highest number of resolve points becomes remembered as the hero who led the people through the wilderness.

Whether or not you consider what I've written, it seems like your on to something, it sounds like the start to a good game.

A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.


What I really like about this is the fact that it's all working towards one big showdown of dice-rolling. Am I right in reading it that way? All the other bits along the way contribute to the dice ending up in one pile or another.


David Berg

Hi Nolan,

Lot of ideas here.  Trying to find the core, the part that stuck with me was this:

Quote from: masqueradeball on September 11, 2010, 01:17:40 AMWhat is your characters ideal world, how does their pursuit of this ideal change it, and how does it interact with other people's ideals, and how does finding practical happiness/hardship increase or diminish.

which still sounds like multiple things.

I really like the formulation of:
a) we're trying to go somewhere we'll be happy
b) we have a specific somewhere in mind
c) oh wait, we might be able to be happy here

As long as, y'know, the odds of actually being happy here are low, or being happy here screws everyone else, or some other cause of tension and doubt.

I'm imagining a story like the Walking Dead comic about a survivor group in a zombie apocalypse looking for a place where they can stay safe and fed and sheltered, and sometimes it's despair, and other times it looks like a miraculous find, but every miraculous find heartbreakingly falls apart and sends them back out on the road.

Not sure if that's what you're going for here.  Just some thoughts for possible inspiration.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


  I think maybe the point of play is that the various caravan members are retelling the wondrous tales that they have heard about "The City." So maybe dice are bid about which version is true ("the city is so clean, you can even drink the water from the gutters" vs. "the city is so dry, you don't even get wet when it is raining"). And the side that wins, their dice go towards continuing on through the grueling desert. the side that loses, their dice go towards giving up and just setting down where we are now....

  So, then there needs to a conflict points that forces the two piles of dice to be rolled. And if either side wins by too much, the journey is over. If the City dice win, we made it, if the Desert dice win, we gave up?

  I don't know, this is just me brain storming. I hope it does help you in some way.
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo


The game has gone through some serious revision in my head. For right now I think the best thing I can say about what the point of play is I can say this: The point of play is to create a sort of "How we came to be" story of a fictional race/religion/tribe. Its pseudo-biblical, so wandering in the desert is going to be a decent part of play... Hope to have something meaty for people to glance at tomorrow.


I can't wait to see where you've taken this.
A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.


Oh man so excited. I've always loved that style of game, where as you're progressing toward something you're also defining it.


   The Book of Sands: A Story of Our People (hereafter just "The Book") is a story telling and role playing game in which the players tell the tale of the founding of a fictional peoples, in the style of various origin myths found throughout the world. It adds in some specific elements in order to provide structure and to separate it from any existent origin tales.
   The Book is ideally played with four players. The game is played in three session, each of which will take four or more hours to complete. In the first session the players will introduce the heroes of the story while at the same time defining them and the world that they live in. During the session one of the heroes will become lost, and that player, instead of focusing on advancing his hero through the story, will take on the mantle of opposing the other heroes for the remainder of the session, and throughout the next two sessions. Then, again, in the next session, another hero will be lost, and then again, in the third session, so that only a single hero will emerge as the patriarch or the matriarch of the future.
   In The Book the heroes begin as members of a nomadic desert tribe whose populace, though very human in their behavior, are not quite human, for they, like wild animals, have feathers and fur and scales where people just have skin. The heroes are blessed (or cursed) with losing this exterior layer, and the strangeness of their appearance causes them to be cast out into the desert.
   The God of the People, however, comes to them, giving them a direction, so they head out across the desert and towards the First City. During their trek they are tempted to give up their search for the city, but some of them, at least, persevere.
   The game culminates with the arrival in the city by the remaining heroes, who then must forge a place amongst its populace, and finally, an epilogue chronicling the future history of the race which is based off the successes and failures of the progenitor hero.
   The rest of this text is devoted to how to play through these various phases of the tale to determine which hero will rise to the challenge and what the shape of the people will be, but like a journey, play is more about the happenings a long the way than where things end up.

Session One: Before there were People
   The first session details the heroes' life in the tribe, the betrayal of one of the heroes and the heroes' eventual banishment into the wastes.

Section One: In the Tribe
   The first Section of Session is all about setting up the heroes and the tribe.

Setting Up the Cards
   The first thing to do is to set up the cards:  Start by removing the face cards and shuffling the remaining cards in the deck. These cards are then placed in the middle of the table.
   Have each player choose a suit, and give them the face cards from that suit. Have each player select one of the face cards to represent their hero and place this card face up in front of that player. Put the remaining face cards away.

Playing the Rounds
   After the deck is set up, the game can begin in earnest. The remainder of the Step will be played in rounds. Each round begins with the players drawing cards from the deck. Each player draws a single card. Its important to keep the drawn cards secret from the other players.
   Once each player has drawn, the Hero Player will be determined. To determine the HP, one player will begin counting down from 10. When a player's number is called, he reveals his card and the count stops, the player who revealed his card in this way is the HP for the round. It is possible for there to be multiple HP in a round.
   The card revealed by the HP is placed into a discard pile next to the deck, this is called the Lost Pile.
   When a player has a round as the HP, he should turn his face card face down. While his card is face down, he does not participate in the count down and cannot be the HP. When there are no face-up face cards on the table, turn all of the face cards face-up.
   Each other player will be "playing" tribulations that confront the HP's hero. These players are called the Trials. The type and scale of the tribulation they will represent is determined by the (still hidden) card that they hold in their hand.

   Whenever a player is asked to give a description in the rules, that instruction might be followed by the word Trait in brackets ("[Trait]").
   When you see this notation it means that your suppose to generate a Trait out of the description. A Trait is a descriptive word or sentence that can be incorporated by other players in their descriptions to gain a small bonus.
   The player sitting to the right of the player who offered the description is the one who invents and records the Trait that the description generates. The Trait must be drawn from the description given.

   The first thing that happens in the round once the HP is determined is that the HP describes [Trait] his hero and establishes him in location and time.
   Each of the Trials then establishes one of the tribulations faced by the HP, based on the card they possess.
   Each suit represents a different kind of tribulation: Clubs represents the desert and the hardships that it presents, Diamonds the tribe and conflict within it, Hearts represents conflict with other tribes and Spades conflict internal to the hero, normally over some personal tragedy or moral quandary.
   The value of the card is almost more important. Its the Trial's job to describe [Trait] the tribulation that the hero faces, without in any way references the number directly, so that the HP can correctly guess the number on their card.
   The greater the number, the bigger and more daunting the tribulation. Ace's are minor annoyances, fives significant dangers and tens disasters of Biblical proportions.
Tagging Traits & Edge
   Traits can be tagged by working them into a description. When a trait is tagged, it gives the person who tagged it a quality called Edge. Each time a player describes something, the player sitting to his left will determine if he's tagged any traits. If so, he puts an "x" next to that Trait to show that it's been tagged and gives player in question +1 Edge.
   A tagged Trait cannot be tagged again. If, before a description is given, there are no untagged Traits, un-tag all the Traits in play. Indicate this by erasing the "x" marks next to each Trait.

   Once each of the tribulations has been described, its time for the HP to have the hero do something.
   The HP describes an action the hero takes. The action can take any length of time, as long as it is not outside of the scope of the most immediate tribulation facing the character (as long as it would not take more time to resolve than that tribulation), but it must be a relatively self-contained and continuous act.
   Once the HP describes his action, each of the Trials will decide if that action addresses or ignores their tribulation in order of suit (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and then Spades).
   If they think the hero addressed their tribulation, then the HP will be asked to give a number. If this number is less than the number (- Edge) on the card, than the hero is harmed. If its equal to the number on the card (+/- any Edge possessed by the HP and the Trial), than the tribulation is overcome and if its greater than the number (+ Edge) that's on the card, then the tribulation runs its course.
   When a tribulation deals harm the tribulation player describes some way in which the tribulation negatively effects the hero. This negative effect is recorded as the harm (harm will come into play later, during Section 2).
   If the tribulation is overcome, than the HP gets to describe how his hero overcame it [Trait] and the card representing the tribulation is placed in a stack next to the HP's card. This stack is called the player's Found Pile.
   If the tribulation runs its course, than the Trial describes the negative effects of effects of the tribulation, and creates harm for both the hero and the tribe. He then places his card in the Lost Pile.
   If the hero does not address a tribulation, than the Trial who controls that tribulation has their Edge reduced by 1. If their Edge is 0, than the HP instead has his Edge reduced by 1.
   Once each of the Trials has had their turn, if there are any tribulations remaining, than the HP can have the hero perform another action, which is resolved as indicated above. This continues until there are no tribulations in play, at which point, four more cards are drawn and a new HP is determined.

Multi-Hero Turns
   When more than one player is the HP in a round, there are a number of additional options for either hero.
   First, it must be determined what order the heroes take their actions in, which is determined by the cards discarded to the Lost Pile (going Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades).
   Next, when one hero addresses a tribulation, the other heroes can choose to, instead of taking an action of their own, either attempt to support or compete with the acting hero.
   To support the acting hero, the player describes what his hero does to help the other and address the tribulation, and then selects a second number, if either number is correct than the tribulation is resolved and the card goes to the acting hero, if neither is correct, than the tribulation is resolved as normal, but if either hero receives harm, both heroes receive harm.
   To compete with the acting hero, the player describes what his hero does do address a tribulation and names a number. If either number wins, than the hero who guessed correctly is awarded the card, and the other hero is harmed.
   Both of these actions have long term repercussion in that they create a Bond between the heroes. Based on the supporting/competing heroes description, the acting hero can state a way that that hero feels about him, and vice-versa. Each hero gets to add an "and or but" and continue the sentence or add a modifying statement, which can change but not undo the relationship established by the other hero.
   These Bonds act like Traits. Whenever another player has his hero act in accordance with a Bond, the hero being acted toward can tag the Bond so that both heroes gain +1 to their Edge.
   In addition, instead of addressing a tribulation a HP can have a bonding scene with another HP's hero. These scenes involve role-playing or acting out a relationship between the two characters and then creating a new Bond based on the experience (as outlined above). These Bonds are immediately tagged, giving both players 2 Edge.

Section Two: Deserted
   In this section the heroes' skin begins to change, leading to their exile from the tribe and the beginning of their time in the desert.

Beginning the Section
   Once all of the cards are in either the Lost Pile or the various player's Found Piles, the second section begins.
   At the start of the session one of the player's heroes' will become the face of the tribe, and that hero's player will, for the rest of the session and in future sessions, take on the role of the opposition.
   To determine which players will continue to play their heroes and which will take over the opposition, count the number of cards in each player's Found Pile. The player with the greatest number of cards will be playing as the Tribe for the remainder of this session.
   Each of the other players will maintain control of their heroes.

Distributing the Cards & Establishing the Confrontation
   Once the opposition player has been determined, he takes the cards in his Found Pile and distributes them as evenly as possible to the Lost Pile and to each other player's Found Pile.
   Each hero player then shuffles his Found Pile and places it face down in front of himself. The opposition player does the same with the Lost Pile.
   The players than set up the Confrontation. The Confrontation is a row of cards whose positions are used to determine the development of the conflict between the tribe and the heroes.
   To create the Confrontation, have the opposition player place two of his face cards face down on the table, with space in between. Now have each hero player take the top card off of their deck and place those cards in numeric order in between the two cards placed down by the opposition player, then have each hero player place the face card they choose to represent their character face up atop the card they contributed.
   The opposition's cards represent the two extremes under which the heroes' can operate with out escalating the conflict to the point that the tribe deserts them or forces them to reveal themselves: the card on the right is called the Exposure and it represents how revealed the change in the hero's appearance has become while the card on the left is called the Suspicion and it represents how much of the tribes suspicion has been aroused by the hero's attempts to hide his new state.
   The hero player's goal will be to keep his card (and his hero) positioned in the middle of Exposure and Isolation so that he can gather resources to help him survive his time in the desert.

Taking Turns
   Once the cards have been set up, play will proceed in turns, starting with each of the heroes, and then the opposition, and then the heroes again, etc... The heroes can take turns in whatever order they like.
   On a hero player's turn, if  its unclear from previous events, he'll establish where his hero is in place and time. Once this is done he'll begin narrating his heroes actions, adding information about the surrounding environment as necessary. His narrative cannot contradict any previously established information about the fictional world, and other players have the right to ask him to explain or clarify whats happening within the fiction.
   The hero's player continues this process until he feels the events in the narrative warrant one of the following:
Tagging an Existing Trait.*
Creating a new Trait.
Forming a Bond with Another Hero.
Adjusting the Confrontation track.
Claiming a Resource.
*At the beginning of each turn, if there are no un-tagged Traits, un-tag all Traits.
Each of these options is expanded below:

Tagging an Existing Trait: If the hero player believes he's brought an existing Trait forward in the narrative, he can tag that trait (marking with an "x") to gain +1 Edge. The Trait cannot be tagged if already tagged.

Creating a New Trait: A new Trait is recorded based of the player's narration.

Forming a Bond with Another Hero: As above in the multi-hero section of Section 1. This Bond has to have come up in the hero player's narration. When a hero player wishes to create a Bond and has brought another player's hero into his narrative, he should pause the normal procedure and allow the other player to act out the interaction with him, making it easier for both players to come up with appropriate Bonds.

Adjusting the Confrontation Track: The hero player can take the top card off of their pile and add it to the Confrontation, making additional "safe spaces" for the heroes. To justify doing so the player has to narrate how his hero keeps the change hidden, or successfully bids for sympathy within the tribe, with out raising suspicions.

Claiming a Resource: The hero player can remove a card from the Confrontation that is adjacent to the face-card representing his hero and place it in a Resource Pile next to him. The cards in a player's Resource Pile will determine what Resources the character has to bring with them into the desert at the beginning of the next session. The narrative requirements for this are perhaps the most daunting. When a hero wants to claim a resource the player must first establish that resource within the narrative. Since different cards represent different resources, he must establish the appropriate type of resource into the narrative, and  then position is hero in such a way that he can acquire it.
   The resources associated with each suit are as follows: Clubs: Physical Goods (food, water, shelter, vehicles and livestock), Diamonds: , Hearts: Structures (Social values or systems from with the tribal society that will be upheld or recognized in exile), Hearts: People (family members or friends from within the tribe) and Spades: Meaning (Beliefs or values that the hero will hold onto in his exile).

   The opposition can, however, attempt to thwart the hero's efforts, by calling on his harm. Whenever a hero tries to complete one of the above, the opposition player can tag one of the hero's harms and stop the action from happening. When the opposition does this he must describe how the harm thwarts the hero.
   The hero can deny the opposition by reducing his Edge by 1. Deny the opposition does not un-tag the harm, it just allows the hero to continue with his effect.

   On the oppositions turn each of the hero's face cards are moved one step to the right. If this pushes the character past the Exposure card, then he is threatened with eviction from the tribe.
   The opposition player than narrates the actions of the tribe as it turns against the hero players in turn. To represent the effects of these movements, the opposition player, after narrating the hero into a vulnerable position, the opposition player plays a card from the Lost Pile.
   This card can than be used to discard the cards from the Confrontation. He can remove any card from the Confrontation track with a value less than the card drawn. If no cards are less than the card from the Lost Pile, than the heroes have an opportunity to reverse the situation.
   To take advantage, each hero reveals the top card from his deck. These cards can then be discarded. If the total value of the discarded cards is greater than the opposition's revealed card, than the players who discarded cards can co-narrate a scene in which their heroes manage to regain favor with the tribe.
   The effects of this scene are two fold. One, the heroes each to create a Trait, and they move their representative cards one card to the left on the Confrontation track.

   Discarded cards are placed to the side of the Lost Pile face up. When there are no cards in the Lost Pile, the cards in the discard pile are shuffled to form the new Lost Pile.

   At the start of any hero players turn, if his hero is on the right of the Exposure card, he loses 1 Edge. If a hero player has no Edge to lose, he removed from play until the epilogue, though his hero can be used by the other players in the narrations and invited to role play when creating bonds.

   The turns continue until all of the hero players have their heroes forced out of the Confrontation.
   The goal of this section is for the hero players to create Traits and Bonds and to garner Resources for their time in exile.

David Berg

Hey Nolan,

As I read through that text, is there anything in particular you want feedback on?
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development