Friday, March 3, 2017

Shell of an RPG system?

Blogger Aaron Parr's "Choosing from what Remains" muses on narrated consequences for actions in an RPG and player choice from a list of consequences created by the other players. His version of this would have the specific outcomes created for each action of consequence as it happens, the number of those outcomes reduced, with the acting player choosing the outcome from the remaining choices.

I like the idea but it seems like a lot of creative energy to put into each action of consequence especially when most of the created outcomes are "lost" once the decision is made. So I created the shell of a RPG system with the onus of creative narration reduced to one player, occurring after player's choice from among a presented set of generic outcomes (and no need to write out the specific outcomes):

Each player gets a suit of cards (if more than four players, hopefully someone has a deck with non-standard suits to add to the mix). Each card represents a generic possible outcome of an action:

Generic Outcomes
A) action succeeds with unexpected bonus
K) action happens as player intended
Q) action succeeds but not as well as hoped
J) Jack's are wild, player narrates outcome
10) action succeeds but with negative consequence for character (e.g. found the lost tome, goes insane on reading it)
9) action interrupted to character's advantage
8) action interrupted without consequence
7) action interrupted to character's disadvantage
6) action fails - no consequence
5) action fails - character can't make more attempts but no other consequence (eg. computer locks out on failed hacking attempt)
4) action fails - negative consequence to character (or allies?)
3) action fails with terrible consequences to character
2) action fails, but goal achieved (eg. missed shot ricochets to hit target)

When a player takes an action of consequence, all other players may "play" up to three cards of their choice from their suit. The combined cards are shuffled, a number of cards based on the player's skill level (I'm imagining a 1-5 scale of abilities/skills) are flipped face up. Player picks card of choice from face up cards; the player whose suit is picked gets to narrate the outcome.

Cards played for that action are discarded. When a player plays all their cards, they retrieve their discarded suit, randomly remove one card, and then may use the remaining cards as before.

Players who play more cards up front get fewer chances to effect narrative as play goes on. Players who offer too many success outcomes get left with only failures to play as the narrative continues. The ideal here is for cooperative play, and

One area that I know needs work is the inherent potential for players "playing their cards right" so that at really important actions, especially the climatic conflict, they can all play just successes. Which could be part of the cooperative play goal; cards are played not so that *I* win, but when the stakes are high we're all able to help each other succeed. If the agreed goal is to get the troupe to succeed at the story objective—we're playing only comedies—I suppose that's fine. After all, we go to comedies to expect a happy ending. The challenge for the players then is to know that even ending on success there should be the illusion of challenge; which when we go to a comedy, we suspend our knowledge of the outcome even when we know it will be positive.

However, this still doesn't sit satisfactorily; I feel like there should always be at least some chance for failure, otherwise there's no stake. I think the reason most role-players play with dice is because there's always the chance for failure, no matter how maxed out your character is. This creates tension, which is part of the experience of story.

Mr. Parr, responding to this "system" first posted on Google+ offered that "even" players (in relation to the player declaring an action) could only play successes while "odd" players can only play fails. This does increase narrative creativity, as then each turn of play, a player has to anticipate a different type of outcome to narrate, which I like. I could also see narrator players can always play 2 or 3 cards and one of them HAS to be a failure, the remaining card is their choice.

Anyway, still working on that bit. But maybe I'll try to drag some people over to play out this strange idea ...

No comments:

Post a Comment