Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

[Grand Tour] Some Thoughts and Ideas

After my last post, there were two comments in particular (#7 & #8) that really left me thinking and have been bouncing about in my head for a while. This is the result of that.

First, Ryan asked if the game is about being in the trip, or about retelling a trip that has passed. An excellent and essential question that I thought I had addressed, but realized I had not.

The game, in all the ways I have envisioned it, has always been about telling the story of a trip. At first I thought there was no difference whether it was in the present or past tense, but since Ryan threw that out there, I have been mulling it over. I would rather the game happen in the present, say with a statement like, “And thus begins our grand tour,” as opossed to “And thus began our grand tour.” That choice of verb tense has made me realize that the mechanics I need to build have to support a present-tense storytelling experience where all the participants, or Travelers, are equally involved in telling the story but also being surprised by the unforseen twists that come during any tour. Which leads me to my next point.

Robert Bohl suggested that I “give in” to my system hack desires and start writing Grand Tour as a Primetime Adventures hack, then take it from there. I like his idea. I sometimes feel self-conscious about doing system hacking as opossed to writing rules from the ground up, like I’ll be looked down upon, like I’m not a real game designer (I know it comes from the fact that my main source of system hacking design is d20, but that is an issue for another day). So screw that. PTA showed me a lot of very interesting things about story framing and simple conflict resolution with ubiquitous items such as cards that I’d be a fool not to allow myself to be inspired by it. So Grand Tour, as it stands, is starting life as a PTA hack geared towards telling stories of people traveling on a tour.

What I most like about the PTA resolution mechanic is how the suits and colors play into the results of the conflict. I have also been inspired by the rash of games lately that are using rich rolling (to use Fred Hicks’ term), extracting as much information as possible from one roll. So coupled with the paragraph above and my target verb tense, what I need to do is create a way for the card-based resolution to yield a variety of information that can be used to dictate how the narration for a scene should go. Suit, color and value will obviously feature heavily here, but what I am trying to figure out is a way for the results to also introduce the complications.

I have a couple of ideas rolling around that I want to put down in writing: for example, having each suit represent an aspect of the Tour like Budget, Entertainment or Stamina, so that when a particular card comes up, based on the suit, it dictates something about the scene that needs to be incorporated; or having certain cards in the deck represent complications, so that if they come up, something just went wrong and all players are surprised by it; or having each player be represented by a suit or an individual card, so that if that suit/card comes up, it dictates who is involved in the next scene.

So that’s what I’m working on, grabbing PTA and figuring out what works and what doesn’t for the game I want to write, so that I can start hacking the system to accomplish the things I need specifically.


October 23, 2007 - Posted by | Games in Development, Grand Tour


  1. Polaris began life as a Sorcerer hack, so you’re in good company.

    Comment by ptevis | October 24, 2007 | Reply

  2. This is very cool, Dan (or is it Daniel?). I’m glad you’re going with this, and in particular I think the use of suits to enrich the PTA resolution mechanic is very exciting. Might I suggest laying out all the rules of PTA on a sheet of paper (there aren’t that many), and breaking them into three categories: Keep (or alter slightly), change, and drop (or alter almost to the point where they’re removed).

    For example, are you going to have something like spotlight? That could be a problem for your game, or it could be really exciting.

    How much are you going to change the PTA resolution system? Is it still going to be red cards win, high card narrates, and suits inform the narrative? Clubs & spades being different kinds of disaster and hearts & diamonds being different kinds of success seems like a good start point for that, for example, if that’s how you’re going to go. However, if you are going to scrap the win/loss thing and use the suit layout as more of a narration guideline, that’s a more significant change.

    Comment by robertbohl | October 29, 2007 | Reply

  3. Hey, Robert. It’s Daniel. 🙂
    What I’m doing is going over the PTA book and listing each rule and making some notes as to what I’d like to do with it. I like your idea of dividing them into 3 groups.

    I don’t know how much I’m going to drift it yet. Right now, my instinct is to keep it as straight-up PTA as possible so I can see how each change affects the whole. I like the standard PTA resolution guide of black over red, etc. What I’m going to be looking for is a way to add a new layer of information on top of that, like all spades mean a complication in the trip plans, with the value dictating the extent of it.

    I have to say, accepting to myself that this is the option I want to pursue has reinvigorated me in regards to the game.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | October 29, 2007 | Reply

  4. Awesome!

    It’s Rob, by the way, for me. It’s just that “Robert Bohl” is a much more euphonic name to publish under.

    Comment by robertbohl | October 30, 2007 | Reply

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