Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Health Tracks, Revisited

It is easy to kill a player character, so that decision doesn't really interest me. However, a player saying, "This cause right here, this one is worth me dying for," is damn interesting to me as a GM. I enjoy the way that Fate, per Dresden Files, has a stress tracks to determine when a conflict ends, as well as allowing the player to choose to take long term wounds to stay in the fight as well; similarly, Fate bribes the characters to be willing to lose a conflict by gaining Fate Points by conceding before a roll is made.

I, previously, riffed on an idea by setting stakes overtly in what you were willing to risk. On my Facebook page it received a lot of flak because it broke how people thought it should work - because the principle is that minions should be less likely to risk death. They made a decent point, even with my preference of sacrificing reality for a really good narrative, i.e., modeling fiction, not physics.

So how to deal with health came up again in terms of how to model cinematic damage. And there were a few two ideas there that I wanted to capture:
  • The more you get beaten up, the more you demonstrate your determination to fight, the better you fight. Tenra Bansho Zero, an Japanese Fantasy game, flat out has two stats: Vitality, which once lost, you are knocked out, and Wounds, which give you a bonus to fighting instead of losing vitality.
  • There is no real death spiral in cinematic fighting, ala Savage Worlds, there's a shaken/stunned, maybe an injured, incapacitated/taken out, and dead. And the last is rare for the hero.

So how do I combine these? To do something vaguely White Wolf inspired (i.e., rating of 1-5) not unusual, I'd envision the track looking something like this (and remember, my young toddler probably has more artistic skills than I do):

The principle is the same, bad stuff happens to you, you mark off Body or Spirit tracks depending on the nature of the bad stuff. If you don't want to mark off the bad stuff, you mark off a point of Grit, get a die bonus - with more and more grit showing how bad you want to risk it.

Then the question is, how you do recovery Grit? The first way that comes to mind is through time, you slowly regain more and more Grit. In the short term, you might take long term penalties, i.e., wounds to regain the Grit.

I'm not entirely sure how to make it work, as I don't really have any other bits to hang off it, but it was an interesting enough concept I wanted to record it, so in six months when I get bored at work and want to play around, I can think about how to incorporate this into a more holistic system.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Things I Need To Work On: Pacing and Scene Control

Despite primarily being a GM for the last decade and change, there are some things still I don't do all that well. For example, I suck at in-character voices/accents that aren't absurdly silly. I can do some wonderfully good insect demon, scary little demon girls, and the similar ilk. And at this point, I never going to be a Nicole and master those particular theatrical arts.

However, something, if I'm going to continue being a GM most of the time - I need to work more on my pacing. It showed up in my Exalted game, it showed up in my Changeling game, and it is showing up in my Dresden Files game (oddly enough my Adventure! game didn't have many of those moment, but some of that may be distant hindsight being rose filtered, or a bunch of really awesome players, this being my blog, I'll go with the latter).

So let's talk about what makes a scene. You can get advice all over the place, and admittedly fiction isn't always a good translation to gaming (because you only get one chance, generally to have the scene, and you don't get an editor to review and revise it to make the dialogue sing), the best summary I've seen is that a scene has three purposes:

  1. Establish or reveal facts about a character;
  2. Establish or reveal facts about the setting; or 
  3. Move the plot forward.

It is the third purpose, moving the plot forward, that's my sticking point, as the first one is more dependent on the players as far as establishing facts goes, though certain situations may be engineered to bring that about; and the setting details, I think come out in play fairly clear. But my players are free to argue with me.

I think my problem comes down to the third one, where I'm stuck on how to encourage my players to move the plot forward. One the best examples of this was in my Exalted game, where there was a Big Bad Deathlord, nigh indestructible, though each had an Achilles Heel, through various hijinks it came out that this Big Bad's weakness was Love.

Now me as a ST figured this wouldn't be too difficult a solution. I was willing to go with just about (note that caveat) any solution that fit within the theme of Love, figure out what the Deathlord loved and lost (ala Rosebud), or social-fu her into loving something and using that to defeat her. A session or two pass, and the players are stumped, and I think had gotten to "Puppies are love, right, so let's just throw puppies at her." Shortly they bumped into a Fae, with a sword named "Love", which WAS the Fae's emotional of Love forged into a blade, and many sessions later, we had a PC fake betraying the party to be his love of a previous life, and then slide Love into her.

A bit hokey? Yes. But it seemed the only solution that worked.

Maybe it is just me being bad at figuring out what motivates my players - my Changeling game became synonymous in my head for doing it's best to negate Chandler's Law, every time I'd throw a direct threat with some loose ends for them to follow-up on, they'd negate the direct threat, but ignore the threads. Even when those threads would burn them in following sessions.

Maybe I'm just not blatant enough. Whatever the reason, this is something I'm going to need to focus on so my players stop getting bogged down in the beginning and middle of arcs - just not sure how to do that without it feeling too forced or like a trail bread crumbs for the players to follow.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

40k Only War Bug Bit Me

So, based on the recommendations of my friends, I picked up the new 40k book from Fantasy Flight Games: Only War, and it arrived Friday.

And yeah, the gaming ADD bug has bit me hard. New! Shiny!

But can you blame me? Fantasy Flight put out a beautiful book, in a universe that eminently gameable - 40k. Yes, it is grimdark and bleak, but if you are okay with that, it just works. As a GM, I don't have to figure out why the other "heroes"/"supervisors"/etc. aren't here doing this task, there's just the PCs so if they want it done, they will need to do it themselves! Or get shot by the Commissioner trying and showing insufficient valor and fortitude. 

I'd run as one part grim and dirty combat, of going house to house, with the panic of not knowing what was inside the doorway. One part will be the preposterous of orders and commands, contradictory and impossible, that fills the stereotypical soldier's life. Then finally, the comedic silliness that is part and parcel of the gaming table, as translated into the actions of bored soldiers who are on permanent deployment and will never be going home.

I'd want to run it as a series of Campaigns, from start to finish, as a war/conflict moves forth on various planets. Very much in line with Gaunt's Ghosts. I'd need to come up with some sort of tracking system so as the arcs progress, the players can watch as how the fight moves forwards and backwards.