Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Some loose mechanics with a few game related ramblings…

I’ve been playing with a way to lend more narrative authority to the players when it comes to unveiling their backstories. I want them to be able to force the Judge’s hand in revealing their own secrets. So far, the idea I’ve got revolves around the players being able to buy certain scenes with Coins (my xp system). It’s not perfect, but here’s the gist:

The three scene types are Street Scenes, Dissonance Scenes and Remembrance Scenes

Games consist mostly of Street Scenes, which are framed around an external conflict, but deal with a character’s Flaws*. These are used by the GM to get across how difficult life is for the Lost. Mechanically, these offer players the opportunity to gain Coins and explore who their character is by being put in situations that put them in direct opposition with their own shortcomings.

Once a character gains some Coins, they have the opportunity to buy a Dissonance Scene, in which they face one of their cobwebs in order to overcome it. Other players are involved in this scene, but it is focused on the character who bought the scene. These have one of two outcomes: the character defeats their cobweb or doesn’t. If they don’t, they gain a despair and it’s harder to get the next scene. If they do defeat it, they trigger a Remembrance Scene.

A Remembrance Scene is a flashback in which the other players at the table play an NPC. It revolves around the revelation of one or more of the character’s secrets. They gain a Hope at the end of it.


I’m thinking I’m going to add a mechanic in that you have to take a number of Flaws equal to whatever your current rating in Despair is. This is going to come to full fruition when I write the chapter on surviving on the streets.


On a side note; taking a break, while probably necessary, has been a little detrimental. True, I couldn’t have continued at the pre-gencon pace for very long, but my brain feels lazy at the moment. I’m not happy yet with the solution I came up with, but I think the important thing is that I start stabbing this thing again, and eventually I might hit another artery

…kind of an unnecessarily violent metaphor, but you get the idea.

I did get a little feedback from someone who read the draft and another person asking for advice for their upcoming playtest, which is good of course.

I also began a non-internet feedback group with a few friends who got inspired by my ashcan to create their own games. Basically we all meet up at a trendy coffee bar in queens every month to talk about what we’re struggling with and give each other homework assignments. We just had the first meeting this past friday which went pretty well. I’m in a completely different stage than they are, but it’s still fun to help them along with all the stuff I’m picking up from my experiences so far. It’s also a good motivator.

Speaking of motivation, I’m going back to Active. Time for the final push!


September 12, 2007 - Posted by | Games in Development, Kingdom of Nothing


  1. So, just to make sure that I understand how the structure of the game would work: You have scenes of type A, which if you win enough of give you scenes of type B, which if you win enough of give you scenes of type C, which if you win enough of let you win? Sorry if there’s another parallel layer to all of this that I’ve forgotten about.

    Comment by ptevis | September 13, 2007 | Reply

  2. yep…that’s pretty much how its structured right now. Not terribly fantasic, but the idea behind it is that players can spend or sacrifice some kind of currency to attack their background like they would attack an Orc in another game. I want them to be able to exercise plot authority, or the crux-points in the knowledge base at the table (as laid out in the posts that mike pointed out to me).

    Comment by jhimmelman | September 13, 2007 | Reply

  3. I haven’t commented on this game much because it doesn’t appeal to my personal tastes. But I have to say that when I read “players can spend or sacrifice some kind of currency to attack their background like they would attack an Orc in another game,” I was really intrigued. I like the concept of using a “combat” mechanic to gain narrative control.

    I am reminded of a scene from Walt Disney’s Three Musketeers:
    Porthos: This sash was a gift to me from the Queen of America.
    d’Artagnan: There’s no Queen of America.
    Porthos: I beg to differ, infant. We are on quite intimate terms unless you can prove otherwise.

    Humor aside, a mechanic like this means a player can prove otherwise in a way that develops the story.

    Again, as this game doesn’t appeal to my tastes, I don’t feel qualified to comment on how this aspect can be developed, but I say run with this.

    Comment by btaggart | September 14, 2007 | Reply

  4. Not quite…

    The players don’t get to make up new content for their own backgrounds, they just have control over when (and maybe how) it’s revealed. When Judd played the game, his comment was something along the lines of “I’m willing to pay you money out of my wallet to find out what’s on my secrets sheet,” which is strong. I don’t want the GM to be the one solely responsible for doleing this information out though, because if he does a bad job at this the game becomes too frusturating for the players and they quit.

    The authority break-down I’m seeking is this:

    Content (background information on the setting and characters…i.e. everything that’s invented before the story starts) is shared at the beginning of game. It’s set in stone after that, no amount of chips or coins or anything can alter it after it’s created. narrative control (the story and how it goes down) is also shared, as it is with most games. Situational control (basically scene framing) is handled by the GM, but based on things that are on the characters’ sheets. As I said before, Plot control (or the “reveals” in the plot) should be controlled by the players.

    I’d say that if the game doesn’t appeal to your tastes that makes you more qualified to post about it. Though I don’t want to compromise the game’s vision, I’d like to appeal to as many people as I can with at least some aspect of the game. Then after I get a few designs under my belt I’ll create the game that everyone loves and brings about world peace.

    Comment by jhimmelman | September 14, 2007 | Reply

  5. Ok, given that I understand the structure, I must ask: Why would I ever do anything other than have scenes of type A until have enough currency? Now, the answer may be “there isn’t.” In My Life with Master, for example, there really isn’t any reason to have scenes about anything other than trying to get Love. (That may be why I find that game less satisfying as a player than I would like.) Contrast this with a game like Contenders, where every Connection scene you have comes at the cost of a Training scene. So the difficult choice becomes “Do I spend time with the people I care about, or do I make myself a better boxer.” It may be that you don’t want to have the hard choices be at that meta-level.

    Comment by ptevis | September 14, 2007 | Reply

  6. This is something I’ll need to put a lot of thought into. From where I’m standing the Contenders mechanic seems more interesting, and it might fit well into the ‘escapism vs reality’ thing I’ve got going on…you can choose scenes about monsters and adventure to get more powers, but it takes you further away from finding out what happened to you.

    cool stuff.

    Comment by jhimmelman | September 15, 2007 | Reply

  7. Hi Jeff,

    What are coins used for currency-wise? If they are only used for scene purchases they may be superfluous. I stress on the word may. I haven’t read your text. Another option might be similar to Burning Empires where it’s hardcoded.

    In BE you have several scene types; conflict scenes, building scenes, color scenes, and interstitial scenes. Conflict Scenes are about conflict, something is going to happen and dice will get rolled. A building scene is used to improve your characters resources, standing, or to better set yourself up for a later conflict scene. A color scene involves a single player and is purely RP. It adds to the color of the setting and perhaps tells us more about the character. An interstitial scene is like a color scene but involves more people, so plotting, relationships, etc.

    You also have maneuvers that are the over arching theme the scenes fit into and a maneuver corresponds to about 2 to 3 hours of play.

    During a maneuver the players as a group get one or maybe two conflict scenes. Players not in the spotlight for the conflict scene get a building scene, and all the players get a color and interstitial scene. The GM is also limited on the scenes he/she is allowed, but that’s not germane to my point.

    Whew… that’s a lot of work to do to make a suggestion. So what I’m suggesting is that if you think certain scenes should occur in a certain amount rather than trying to finagle a currency system to make it happen, you can just say something like one dissonance scene per player per session, or whatever is appropriate. The point is this way they are still a resource.

    Now if you can use coins for other than purchasing scenes, then ignore this long post, because that would be awesome.

    Comment by iamclyde | September 16, 2007 | Reply

  8. hey clyde, I appreciate the comments! First let me go over how Coins work.

    As it stands, there are two types of currency the players have at their disposal: Coins and Tokens. Coins are a measurement of a characters Physical and Mental endurance. They’re split into two categories, Survival and Lucidity. Anytime a character wants to take an action that will require a roll, they must invest an amount of coins determined by how difficult the task is. If they fail, they lose their Coins. If they succeed, they get their Coins back. There are a few other rules surrounding what you can do with Coins, such as investing them in other people’s rolls, investing more than you would need to bring down the difficulty (anything extra you invest this way lets you double up on the Coins you put down), etc.

    In addition to Coins, I have Tokens. I mispoke when I said before that Coins were the XP system, as Tokens fit the bill a little better in this respect. Players get Tokens from the GM (and other players) for various things, such as forwarding their story along, defeating their demons, etc. Other players can also give them out for good roleplaying or cleverness. Tokens can be converted to coins or be used to buy powers/skills. I may end up merging Tokens into Coins but one problem at a time.

    So there’s a lot going on there with Coins and Tokens, but there are some really great ideas going in BE I’ll have to check out. I wasn’t aware of too many mechanics out there that involved specified scene types, but I’m totally digging them now that I’ve been hearing more about them.

    Because Coins are a resource you can use to buy other things, I’m liking the prospect of buying scenes. One of the things I decided after a few conversations at Origins and with Ryan is that I wanted my system to feel like a down-on-his-luck gambler putting everything on the line to buy back pieces of himself, and I think buying scenes fits into that fairly well.

    Let me know if you’re interested in getting ahold of the text. I’m sorry I didn’t really get a chance to talk to you at the ashcan front for an interview, but I’d be really interested to hear what you had to say about the game…

    Comment by jhimmelman | September 16, 2007 | Reply

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