A game I’ve had in my drafts in RPG Maker forever is a non-combat game in a small settlement where you help people solve their problems, the solutions to which often conflict with each other, forcing you to make value judgements.
Okay this makes me extremely happy on many levels, because now I get to talk about one of my favorite games! John Harper (author of Lasers and Feelings, played on a FatT bonus episode recently) wrote a game called Ghost/Echo, which is exactly what I love about what happened here.
That game is so interesting to me because you can redefine anything you want about the game (what are Ghosts? What are Echoes? Where is the Ghost World?) to play different genres, styles, or concepts in the game. There is something so fucking interesting about leaving stuff thematic but vague enough that your game can be explored and played and turned around in different lights. It’s really cool, and makes me want to write more games to see it happen again.
That sounds really cool. Golden sky stories is a Japanese tabletop rpg that sounds close but not precisely like what you’re doing? I’m really interesting in how your game turns out!
Last thing I made was this entry for the 200 Word RPG challenge : Tall Tales and Tankards.
It’s a micro-drinking-game where you and friends can pretend to be adventurers telling tall tales about their cool scars; sick treasure and the marks they’ve made on the world. Also you can out-drink other players to mess with their tall tales. And do cool stunts.
Really into this! I love the ritualistic approach to tabletop game design.
Fun and nuanced way to get people in the same headspace. The shared creation of a character all players are tied to kind of reminds me of the excellent Always / Never / Now. Although it clearly takes center stage here!
(I love that drinking-story game concept! I like the idea of the economy of narrative being related to player feats - like taking a drink, in this case.)
Speaking of creating a character as a group, one of the things I discussed recently in the waypoint discord game design channel and that I’m interested in hearing y’all’s thoughts about is how games manage the political and social economy of multiple players controlling a character.
Sort of like how a game like Everyone is John has all of the players controlling one character. I have played more free form games with ensemble casts where players have malleable “ownership” over a character.
Do y’all have experience with games like this? Do y’all have thoughts about how those games work?
RPG characters in a completely normal modern setting are my main interest. I’ve had a few thoughts about trying a LeCarre / The Americans type of Cold War spy game in a Blades in the Dark context (another game that does espionage missions quite well), but it’s not really my area of expertise outside of those two inspirations. You might check out Blades in addition to The Sprawl; from what I’ve read of Sprawl they have a bit in common.
Currently yes, though it’s possible I trust the people I’ve played with historically to abuse that kind of thing less than other people might
Let’s talk about dice a bit.
Compare Apocalypse World to Blades in the Dark. Both these games have a 3-tier success structure for rolls(Full Success/Partial Success/Failure) but use different mechanics.
In Apocalypse World, you roll a 2d6 and add a relevant modifier. 10+ is a success, 7-9 is partial, 6 or less is a failure. A starting character will generally have a +2 on what they’re good at, which leads to:
-41.65% chance of full success
-41.65% chance of partial success
-16.7% chance of failure
Or, with a +3, we get (58.3%/33.32%/8.38%)
In Blades in the Dark, you roll a number of d6 equal to the relevant skill you’re using and take the highest roll. 6 is a full success, 4-5 is a partial, and 3 or less is a failure. A starting character will again have a 2 at what they’re good at leading to:
-30.5% chance of full success
-44.5% chance of partial success
-25% chance of failure
…and with a 3 we get (42.1%/45.4%/12.5%)
Clearly, the Blades system more heavily emphasizes the middle outcome. Even if you could roll 8 dice (A +8 modifier would be an instant full success in AW) you would still have a 23%~ chance of only getting a partial success, though your chance of failing outright would be less than 0.5%
So, I guess my question to y’all would be: Is the reason to use one of these two systems over the other a matter of pure math, or do they meaningfully feel different in a way that affects the player experience of the game? Or, to put it another way, if the math worked out identically, would there be any reason to use one dice roll system over the other?
I personally find the Apocalypse World system much easier for new players to grok, and simpler to get right into playing. Maybe it’s because people in general are more used to rolling 2d6, and have already internalized the odds of what are “good” rolls, even people who haven’t played a lot of games.
So, I’m planning out my Dungeon World session using @unosarta 's Your Honored Guest, and know I need something else to pad out the time my players except me to entertain them, so I started writing a short game!
It’s called Digestifs, and is a game about drinking (and optionally a drinking game). My first draft is here, and I’d love to know what you guys think!
I’ve yet to play BitD (not for lack of interest, mind!), but I do feel like the cultural prevalence of Settlers of Catan has helped folks internalize the number spread on 2D6 a lot better–I admit I still mentally count pips on a number back from 2 or 12 to get the ?/36 chance of a failure or success.
Something that D.Vincent Baker described when he was writing “Storming the Wizard’s Tower” (which also uses dice pools, like Blades) is that people really like the feeling of throwing around a handful of d6s.
For StWT that was important to Baker because that game was primarily written for his children to play, and he wanted it to feel good for them. But I can see a similar argument about the Feeling of throwing a lot of dice around being itself a factor.
I do like the simplicity of 2d6+stat, for what it’s worth. I think both methods can be used to good effect :3. I think in Mouse Guard, for instance, the dice pool feels really good. In a game like Apocalypse World, maybe because I am already attached to its mechanics, but I like it less.
I’ll have to think on why.
I think the dice pool is core to the Blades play experience, which is all about risk. I know I’ve seen Harper say somewhere that the declining utility of more dice is an important feature to him; I’d say because, as a game about risky criminal maneuvers, there is an omnipresent sense of danger that isn’t necessarily so in a AW/PbtA game.
The dice pool system is configurable, which interfaces with the game systems and player experience in various ways. While AW 2d6 rolls are fairly static (you might increase your stat rarely, or take a -1 or +1 here and there), Blades has more traditional character advancement, with PCs growing steadily more competent as the game progresses; this is also important to a game which is basically all about growth, in the journeys of the individual PCs and the group’s shared PC (the crew).
The dice pool also adds a strategic layer onto player decisions, since there are various ways players can stack dice when taking an action: they can take damage for a bonus, they can take damage to give someone else a bonus, they can do a “group action” and work together where one PC takes damage; or they can do a “devil’s bargain” and take some sort of other consequence for a bonus, which is an important piece of gameplay. So players often maneuver ways to mitigate their risk for rolls that are important to them. (There’s also the concept of “position” in Blades, where the fictional situation the PC is in determines the level of consequence for a partial success/failed roll [kind of like the three positions being separate moves in AW], which adds another layer to player decisions.)
I think it’s a lot more base, at least to Americans, than Catan. Craps is 2d6, old Ameritrash games are all 2d6, Monopoly, many math problems are 2d6, etc.
I do wonder if there’s a way to make the Sprawl or any Apocalypse World inspired game work after stripping out the entire notion of classes and playbooks. Unlike in the Cyberpunk mixed with heist underpinnings of The Sprawl spies aren’t usually slotted into archetypes based on skillset.
With the exception of a Sam Fisher style covert operative/commando, most spies have the same skillset and practices, it’s just the settings and themes of their world that make them seem different. James Bond, Jason Bourne, Michael Westen, and whatever your choice of John le Carré spy can all do the same things more or less equally as well. It doesn’t seem like there’s enough divergence to justify different classes. Sure you could break it up into this one is sneaky, this one is talky, this one is gadgety, this one is killy, but limiting it to those roles feels like a betrayal of the cleverness and necessity of self-sufficiency in tradecraft. Specialty makes for other roles in the espionage genre; killing makes for assassin’s, tactics make for spymasters, gadgets make for Q. The field agents that would be the player characters really have to be jacks-of-all-trades as long as they’re not overt.
Perhaps a classless system like in Mechnoir could work to allow each spy to feel unique and have some measure of specialty but not feel restricted. But would that work in The Sprawl’s framework? Would it be easier to just adapt from Mechnoir and add the Clocks, Gear, Intel, etc. as appropriate from The Sprawl? There is almost definitely something that would better sate what I’m looking for but I only know the systems used on Friends at the Table.
@unosarta and @Noelle808 I think you’ve hit upon something that I’ve been trying to work out in the games I’m creating. Pace is easily slowed by mechanics but also other players. How often do you play a game where the majority of your time is spent waiting for someone else to make their move. This is of course most common to games of direct competition.
So I’ve been trying to work around that to keep everyone engaged. And that’s worked so far. But then I come to bottlenecks later in my games that need to be resolved. Do you simply streamline mechanics, remove them all together or try something else to keep your games going?
There is a fantastic PbtA game called Uncharted Worlds (cc @Andrew) that does something very similar to technoir/mechnoir. You create your playbook by picking a few components and putting them together (so you might be a mechanic, who was born in space, whose family owns a large corporation, and those three things would make up your playbook).
I think you’re right that the skills that those characters exhibit are extremely broad, but I’m also wary of making every character a James Bond, unless the game is about a bunch of James Bonds doing espionage against each other (which sounds like a more serious game of Paranoia). Differentiating skills is important to make sure that players can rely on each other (and maybe in some ways feel distinct? Though that’s perhaps another question).
It’s hard! I’m not sure there is one answer to that question! The answers that I went with are different (it seems), than what Noelle went with (completely ignoring the mechanics you don’t care about vs. not giving them significant detail).
There’s a compelling point that the mechanics you include are important for new players more than experienced ones. It’s not an excuse to weakly or clumsily design a game, but experienced players are more likely to be flexible about the rules they use, or understand what you are trying to get at with a confusing rule. New players won’t, and ultimately what you are doing when you underconstrain your game is that you are okay with less experienced players (including GM/MC/Referee) struggling a bit more. If you overconstrain your game, the players may not remember the rules and get confused that way. There’s a delicate balance to have between those two threads, if your audience is inexperienced.
Or at least, that’s something that has been argued by some game designers. I’m not sure how I feel about it? What are your thoughts about it?