Sunday, January 18, 2015

Advancement Schemes (Brainstorming)

When it comes to character advancement, I'm mixed. I love getting new doodads and "stuff" for my character to do; but I've always wanted something that made sense. However, most games are absolutely horrible at incentivizing downtime for advancement - there's always one more emergency to deal with, you never get downtime to heal and recover. There's also the idea of just creating the character you want to play, and then minimal character advancement after that point - however, those games don't ever seem to grip what a lot of players want.

Somewhere in the back of my head, there's a game brewing about playing mercenaries and troubleshooters, people who solve problems for people at the edges of society, probably using Cortex Plus (which powers Smallville, Firefly, Marvel Heroic). So I'll be using Cortex Plus lingo here.

I picture the game having three phases - planning for the mission, the mission, and civilian life. 

Planning for the mission is where the players generate the game session, preferably through email, where being given a premise by the GM, they set the obstacles and challenges. The better they know the problem, the less challenge it is worth. In short the players create the payoff for their characters. This is done preferably during email so the GM has time to prep some related materials, though I'm sure some GMs could just improv a session from spending 10-15 minutes.

The mission itself is your standard play session full of hijinks and chaos. 

Civilian life can be less stressful - this is where you spend those dice that the group generated during the mission phase, as well as any bonus dice generated during the mission per the GM's choice (or perhaps some sort of in-game action). Spend dice to advance your character, or spend dice to reduce stress/wounds taken. Each spend of dice is a scene where a character is highlight, and other characters can join in to assist.

Generating the payoff would look like the following, lifted liberally from Smallville:

  • 2d6 - baseline difficulty, can be raised to any combination up to 2d12 (the hardest of all missions). 
  • 1d6 - an obstacle that is known and with an in place countermeasure, "We don't need to worry about the access control system, I have a skeleton key card."
  • 1d8 - an obstacle that is known, but will need to be worked around on the mission, "There's an access control system, but we're going to need to get a passcard from somewhere."
  • 1d10 - an obstacle that is only vaguely known, "They have to have some sort of system in place to control what the access system is, but I don't know what it is."
  • 1d12 - There's something unplanned that is going to happen. It is going to suck.

Once the mission succeeds - during the civilian downtime you get to work on your character, healing wounds, learning to skills, recovering your spirit. Mechanically, these involve dice rolls of the PC vs the GM.

The GM's dice pool is generated from the following:
  • Stress: d4 + Stress Eliminated 
  • Asset: d6+Asset Created/Modified
  • Skill: d8+New Skill Rating
  • Distinction: d10+New Distinction Rating
  • Attributes: d12 + New Attribute Rating
The Player rolls a dice pool equal to the existing rating, or related skill and a number of dice from the payoff - note there is only one payoff pool for the party, so any dice spent are spent entirely. 

Advantages: The players will be in a better place to set the stakes of the challenges they'll face, and be in a position to screw themselves over. 

Disadvantages: Very easy to generate stress during a mission, could pose some some challenges if the characters aren't significantly advanced. 

I know I personally hate playing the character that will eventually someday if the game progresses far enough will be the character that I want them to be. So maybe a game where it is very much a case of "design the character who you want to play at the start of the story, and we will see where things go from there." Maybe something to work when generating the characters - Marvel Heroic had the problem of not having enough structure to hang character creation off of for a great number of people, "design the character that feels right to you and your table and here are some guidelines" apparently wasn't enough for a number of people.

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