Saturday, February 09, 2013

Playtest math

So I made a tweak, to make the mano a mano rules for a fight go a bit longer. Then Will and I playtested. Several rounds lasted many many draws. One time exhausting the deck.

Tweak: A player can choose to take on a lasting disadvantage in order to get a second draw.
Then that card lasts as a maximum on any draws of the same suit until the end of the next scene, or next episode (if you lose anyway, it lasts through the next scene, if you win, through the next episode)

Playing with Will with just that tweak, we were able to keep playing for a long time.
Now this was consequence free fighting. Would a player decide she is willing to suffer a long term disadvantage just to get a chance to win? I suppose the circumstances will have a big impact. Typically fights are pretty important.

Bonus Draws: How will bonus draws play into this? If players know the cards, they can wait and almost guarantee victory (assuming the npc goes downs without a disadvantage).

Background Cards: Probably will have a big impact for the same reason.

Consider given advantage for those scene changes that could benefit one side.

Note: Discard cards to a discard pile, reshuffle when the draw deck is empty.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


So the economy of actions in this game may involve the issue of sacrificing or taking on disadvantages to overcome obstacles. Plusses 1. Players need to decide when it is worth it. + 2. There are consequences 3. Players choose when to suffer lasting consequences not the dice 4. Players get second chances (no automatic failure). Minuses 1. Bookkeeping (limit to scenes) 2. Potential for abuse (take disadvantages at the end of a scene). 3. Potential for failure in spite of taking disadvantages. Interesting 1. Can disadvantages be good for role-playing? How? 2. When do they wear off (I am thinking the end of the next scene in the case of a success [even extending between episodes], end of that scene in case of failure) In keeping with my idea of a limited scope of rules of ability scores. The idea of temporary backgrounds interests me. A card the at player holds onto for a little bit then discards has some potential. So playing around with it. Twist: The Bonus card gotten only disadvantages draws of that suit. A question arises: how many times can one do this? Okay until you get a another of the same suit? That seems a decent limit, though people may not want to be disadvantaged in many ways. Perhaps allow the second disad to result in some positive result. A parting shot.

Mano/Fray tweaks

I've done a few tests of the mano a mano system, and it looks too quick for me. I do like the basic system. It is pretty easy to follow. I think the trick is to allow some means of overcoming the instant loss. One option is to use bonus draws as a mechanism. Now either the player already has some bonus draws (in which case that needs to be explained) or the player can purchase them somehow. One thought is to allow the PC to use a bonus draw, but suffer some sort of penalty later; for example a persistent wound. A wound would cause a disadvantage in future draws (either granting two draws to an opponent, or two draws and take low card to player in challenges). One interesting option would be to make the new draw give the PC a disadvantage related to the card. So a Club draw is a physical wound, a Diamond Draw is a mental disadvantage (due to a concussion?), A Heart draw (some kind of emotional disadvantage... fear/anger?) and a Spade draw some kind of background disadvantage (perhaps an inability to recall things - concussion?). So a LOSS need not be a loss of the fight, but a loss of something. Of course, with a redraw one still might not win, but the odds go up considerably. With the Fray rules, from a story standpoint I am not worried, but from a game play standpoint I am. Players may not be thrilled that their characters have no impact during the combat round. One possibility would be that unopposed actions can happen. So if your plan doesn't get stopped you can do it... I need to think about this. On one hand the system should be very quick so we don't have a lot of waiting around to then be ineffective. On the other hand,it is possible that some players may not have any impact on a scene at all. Perhaps again, the buying into a scene with a disadvantage is the way to do this.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Game Theory 2

Fights... What are the canonical cinematic fights? 1. Mano a Mano (duel, brawl, or tournament) in this two characters usually evenly matched fight it out for a bit, in the end one walks away the victor the other is down for the count, dying or dead. 2. The Fray (gun fight at the ok corral, mayhem) Lots of people are fighting, bullets are blazing it is chaotic, and hard to follow. Usually multiple people or monsters on both sides. 3. Sniping (assassination, sneak attack) One person attacks another, usually unaware. $. Dungeoneering. A group fights their way through one foe(s) after another, marshaling resource, applying healing, and managing ammunition. I am going to ignore $ at the outset. Not something I am interested in simulating in this game. 3. This seems to me more a matter of planning than of randomness. I propose to simple let these succeed in the cases where it is appropriate, perhaps with a minimum of randomness thrown in when the planning is missing. 1. My card draw system. Each opponent draws a card from the same deck. a. If the cards are the same suit, the higher card wins the fight quickly and effectively. There is a slightly less than 1/8 chance a particular person will win this way. A 1/4 chance someone will. This might be depressing to someone who invested a lot into the fight. b. If the cards are the same color, the winner gain an advantage. They draw again, but the person with the advantage draws two cards. This increases the odds of winning dramatically. c. If the cared are different color, the winner gets an opportunity to change something about the scene. For example they could move the fight onto a precarious surface, or outside, or hit the lights so it was dark. This might effect the fight in beneficial ways. Characters can also do things to gain an advantage or throw the opponent at a disadvantage. When you have the advantage you get to draw two cards. A typical fight, with no one at the advantage, using this system seems to run about 3 draws, with some being finished in 1, others going 5 or 6 even as much a 13. With an advantage it would go even quicker. Will this add enough tension and suspense to the game? 2. The Fray. The card system might become too complicated for a gun fight or fray type situation. Suggestion using cards. Each PC draws a card, GM draws twice. High gets to succeed at an action using that cards theme (Heart = Emotion, Spade = Background, Diamond = Mental, Club = Physical). Ties both get to succeed. Example. Serenity crew versus Niska's gang of five. Round 1. Draw MalKS Zoe4C Jayne3S Simon8D Kaylee10D River9C Wash2D GM Kd 3H Mal and the GM both succeed. Mal shoots can takes out one of the Gang. One of Niska's goons hits Jayne sending him to the floor. Round 2. Draw MalJH Zoe4S Jayne7H SimonKD Kaylee10D River9C Wash10C GM 4D 5H Simon wins. He pulls River out of the line of fire. Round 3. Draw Mal10H Zoe9H Jayne9D Wash10S KayleeQC GM 2C 3C Kaylee wins, she shuts the airlock door cutting off two baddies. Round 4. Draw Mal7S Zoe8D KayleeAD WashAH GM 7H JC Kaylee and Wash tie. Kaylee escapes. Wash takes out the last goon.

Game theory

Game Theory I am considering running another campaign. I don't want to go into details about it here, yet, but focus on some rules issues. I've pretty decided to eschew normal systems and run this from scratch. So I've been thinking about things I want to do with the rules. 1. I want to empower the players to do interesting things. I don't want to make certain things too easy, or other things too difficult. 2. I want surprises and some randomness in the game, but I don't want it to dominate play or result in bizarre consequences. 3. I want combat to more of a threat and less of a reality. When a guy shows up with a gun, or knife, that should typically be the end of a dispute not the beginning. However, it should be possible to have a fight. 4. I want simplicity so that knowledge of the system doesn't become more important than good roleplaying. Okay. Those are very Metagaming. In this particular game, I foresee the characters as being basically humans. Using the model of Start Trek, Firefly, CSI and other ensemble stories, I see the PCs just making decisions, doing things and dealing with the consequences, not so much with their spacial abilities, but their general wits and wills. That said I want people to get some benefit from their particularities... Like ensemble pieces, the main characters are fairly interchangeable most of the time, but one or two is called for when their particular talents are needed. Strong man is called in to lift the heavy thing. Combat gal is relied on to take care of the guards. Sneaky guy sneaks, etc.. In most ensemble stories these sort of specialist maneuvers are pretty rare. Everyone can fight when called on to fight, everyone can run the ship, find the evidence, talk to the people, etc.. No one is the specialist all the time (even shows highlighting the particular skill sets like the A-Team are this way.) So my thought is that a "character" sheet consists of a background story or background facts, with a pretty clear limit. The background can be filled out, but should be seen in a fairly general light. A doctor is pretty good at all medical stuff, a scientist is pretty good at all science stuff. But each might have a specialty in which they are are really good. Here is my hypothetical rule.. Each scene a character can employ their background ONE time to enhance their odds at doing something difficult (or bypass a challenge directly if appropriately trivial). So if I am an ex-army sniper. I can take one shot during the combat in which I apply my background bonus. Once the fray begins, our abilities become less relevant, and each person is effectively equal. Effects: Characters will get a moment in the sun, but it will be only a moment, not enough to depend on. Good or Bad? The hope would be that this would avoid a character by attrition (over a long campaign, so in so is demonstrated to be the X) Dangers: If the Strong Suit play is too good, it might end the scene. If it isn't strong enough, no one will feel it is useful or important.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Hogwarts Adventures: Game 3

Stacey and Gandalf are given a full complement of spells.

We find our young heroes in Care of Magical Beasts class where Hagrid takes them to visit a Fwooper (hardly ever seen in England). The kids get earplugs, since hearing the creature can drive a person mad. They see the bird, Hagrid attempts to "silncio" the bird, so they can talk about it. It sort of works, but not long enough, it screeches, one kids goes mad and Hagrid has to carry him to the hospital wing. On the way they saw a strange woman who looked like a cloud beckon them, but when they told Hagrid about her, she disappeared.

They head back to the dormitory, Spotty, Stacey's cat, is agitated and demanding attention. So they decide to take their pets (Gandalf brought Merlin his Owl) to their next class. Herbology with Prof. Sprout.

Their they learn of the zumazuma plant, a power magical herb. They are sent off to remove any Dragon Snails from the leaves of the zumazuma. About the same size as normal snails, dragon snails, have horns.. oh and they breath fire. Only quick and sporty Stacey is able to pluck one from her her plant without getting singed, including a curious cat by the name of Spotty, who runs off whimpering from the burn. They collect the snails in a fire-proof bucket and give them Prof. Sprout to dispose of. She said something about dragon snail soup.

Stacey asks Prof. Sprout if they can go find Spotty, and she agrees. Gandalf sends Merlin after her, and he too soon disappears deep in the garden.

They wander in calling for Spotty, but so far no sign of the cat in the vast East Gardens. While calling for her, they hear a voice respond asking them who they are looking for. They look around but don't see anyone. Eventually they discover it to be the Tulips in the garden. The ask the Tulips if they've seen Spotty.
"Yes, yes she went East!" They all cry in unison.

The kids head east.

After traveling a bit, they come upon more Tulips, who claim they haven't seen a cat. They engage the Tulips in more conversation, and it becomes clear the Tulips are not lying. (I don't remember the exact exchange that lead them to this. I think the Tulips said it wasn't their cat, and it was purple or something. Flagrant Lies). A successful Study Roll helped them realize that these were Tale Telling Tulips, which always lie.

Both Stacey and Gandalf were disappointed, they couldn't see how they could find Spotty and Merlin. Then they asked which way the cat went. The Tulips replied, South. So they talked about it and knew it couldn't be South. Did it go West? They asked. Yes sir, it went West. They realized it couldn't have. Did the cat go North? No no. I said it went West. They realized that North it was. They repeated this exchange at every intersection with these treacherous tulips, and eventually found their way to the Hedge Maze.

I actually downloaded a simple enough looking Hedge Maze photo and let the kids find their way to the center. It took longer than I thought, but the kids didn't get bored.

Eventually they found their way to the center. There was a statue on a large pedestal with a Sphynx atop it. Being my kids they instantly recognized it. I was about to read them a riddle, when they started talking about "four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon..." I was pleased, but told them that no, the riddle on the pedestal was different.

I had a print out in big font, but they read it themselves.

A silver road leads to my majestic home.
I bring it with me ‘ere I roam.
I never run, or race in fear.
I'll burn you good, if you come near.
I eat my way through forest green
But never leave my home serene.

It took a little coaching. But pretty soon they guessed a Turtle, which does bring its home with it, and doesn't run. But, I pointed out, a turtle can't burn you. The puzzled over it a bit longer, and almost simultaneously spoke. "A Dragon Snail!"

A hidden doorway in the pedestal opened revealing stairs down into a secret chamber. They heard a "meow" and "hoot" and discovered their lost pets. They also found a treasure. Two magic rings linked (like a stage magician might link two rings). They retrieved those as well and brought them to back to Hogwarts. They asked Prof. McGonnagle about the rings. She verified they were magic, but didn't know. They looked for Dumbledore, but he was out. So grudgingly they visited Prof. Snape, who, with a look of sadness, but then corrective cynicism told them the rings were bound by a companion care curse. Only two people who care about each other would be able to wrest them apart, and free them of the curse. Useful emotion, Snape added.

Will was quick to suggest they hold the rings and say they care about the other. Stacey refused. She was not ready for that level of commitment yet. This surprised me a bit. Stacey would like to try the rings out with Hermione, since they are cousins. Hermione was unavailable at the time. Later they saw Dumbedore who told them that the Sphynx sometimes helped people find companions they didn't even know they would care about. And that the future might be different from what they expect. Stacey was unimpressed. Oh well. They didn't obsess about the rings or anything. I was disappointed, I even made cool cards with pictures, just like the ones from Arduin Grimoire, only these rings didn't instantly (irrevocably) kill or turn you into a female dwarf or anything bad. Well, maybe they will appear in another episode. Serves me right for trying to railroad them into a display of sibling affection.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Yet more changes to our childhood memories

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hogwarts Adventures -Year One Episode 2

I had high hopes for this since we were trapped inside our home by Hurricane Irene. I figured I would have a little longer. Sadly, I forgot that my college needed my hands on attention during said hurricane, and I was forced to shorten things up. IT worked out okay because it wasn't going as smoothly as I wished.

We started off with some Magic Classes as promised. I thought a little Study Test for each spell would be a good way of introducing the dice mechanics to the kids. Sadly I forgot that William has an aura of good luck, and Sophie, not so much. So Gandalf (Will) ended up with half again as many learned spells as Stacie (Sophie). That set a sort of unhappy tone for the beginning, but it turned out okay. Stacie turned out to be pretty resourceful, and Sophie's excellent Memory paid off in the end.

We find the two apprentice wizards in Prof. Snape's potion class. My Snape is much improved by the way. The kids were impressed by my impression.:) They were working on a Mutagenic Potion that allowed one object to take on the properties of another. They were cautioned never to include living creatures in the mix.

The wizards spied those ne'er do wells Goyle and Draco trying to abuse poor Neville Longbottom. After some general taunting Draco used the Wingardiam Levioso spell to levitate Trevor, Neville's trusty toad into the air. The kids, responding as kids frequently do, did not intervene directly, but instead called on Prof. Snape's attention to the crime. He angrily cast the Desino spell (a dispel magic I added to the repertoire). Poor Trevor fell helplessly into the potion that Neville was working on, and was instantly transformed into a grey blob of some kind, still possessing his toadlike abilities, bt now imbued with other strange powers. The Trevor Blob began to hop and slide out of the room. Snape ordered the class to retrieve it. Stacey and Gandalf were fist out, and just in time to leap from one moving staircase to another (barely making it) to follow the Trevor-Blob through Hogwarts.
Their hunt led them to locked doors where they had to apply their Alhomora (unlock spells), and dark corridors. Stacey used the Lumino spell, Gandalf relied on the Aciso to summon a candle for light. They eventually tracked the blob into the caves beneath the towers, and used the Petrifico Totalus to the paralyze the blob and bring it out.
They were unable to end the enchantment with a Desino spell, and so instead took the Trevor-Blob to Dumbledore. The head master is not one to do for a student what they can do for themselves, but he gave them a potion they could give the Trevor-Blog if they first could lure a special fly into it,and then get the Trevor Blob to consume the fly. They beseeched the head cook for some syrup to lure a fly, and managed to convince her to lend it to them. It didn't take long to catch the fly, enchant it, and feed it to the Trevor-Blog thereby releasing him from the charm.
I had to speed through the last bits as the hurricane was causing some panic to the college (phones out, and no WiFi!), but I think the kids we're satisfied. This did tell me that an hour and a half, maybe two is the maximum I should aim for with them, any more is too much for their attention-spans. So it worked out.
Observations - although Gandalf had an extensive list, he was fond of picking one spell, and trying it every chance he could. With her more limited selection, Stacie was quick to connect the opportune spell with the right circumstances. She barely chased the Trevor-Blob in the caves before whipping out the Petrifico.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hogwarts Adventures: Year One

So, I've been waiting with both hesitation and excitement to share my love of Role Playing Games with my kids. They've been asking to play since they realized that is what I do on Tuesday Nights (and why they need to clean their play room). I've tried a few little things, totally informally, but they haven't worked well. Then I made a promise. When you can read well enough, we will play.
Well, that time has come.

We also just finished reading (me to them) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The kids love it, I could to practice my voices (I think I have Dumbledore and McGonagall down pat, my Hagrid is iffy, and my Snape needs work). They loved it and have been running around the house brandishing wands. So I did it.
I made some Character Sheets, and the worlds most basic rules, and we did it. I decided not to let them play Hermione and Harry (their first choices, and forced them to make their own characters).

Sophie was faster. She made Stacy Granger, cousin to Hermione. Her parents are muggles, but know about wizards. She has a cat named Spotty (who doesn't have spots). She is most talented at Magic, then Studies, then Sports (the three only character traits from the rules).
Will has trouble with names, but he settled on Gandalf Ley (pronounced Lee), also the child of muggles, but unaware of his heritage. He has a Great Gray Owl named Warlock. He is best at Magic, average at Sports, and worst at Study (I think).

They picked their wands. They both luckily got into Gryffindor House (There was no avoiding it).
Sophie failed her first attempt to transfigure a match into a pin, and was required to visit Prof. McGonagall during office hours, where she succeeded.
On her way back, she spied Mrs. Norris. She was pushing a small cart with some objects on it. She ran back to the nearby Gryffindor Dorm, but could not convince Gandalf to accompany her (Will seemed to want to listen more than play).
Stacy followed the cat into a secret room where she discovered all sort of things missing from classrooms, dormitories, and other rooms at Hogwarts. She carefully hid from Mrs. Norris (making Sports rolls like a champ) and returned to Prof. McGonagall's office with the loot stolen by the cat. She was praised for her bravery (a fitting quality for a Gryffindor) and her house was awarded 10 points!

They wanted to keep playing! Sophie remembered almost every detail to tell Carly. They both asked if we could play tomorrow. So I am pretty pleased.