Master Mines

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Mythender…the beginning

So, I’m talking with Robert Bohl right now about Mythender, and I’m working on the draft right now. I said I would have a first draft up by Friday on the Story Games thread, Festival of Flawless Victory. I’ve been hesitant to post about it here before I had a first draft up, but I have talked about it a bit here and there with people, and I did post a tidbit about it on a friend’s journal. Here’s the bit that Robert asked me to post up:

What I can say without turning this comment into an exercise in “talking about a project to avoid working on it” is the following:
(1) small Challenges have an implicit contract that the PCs will succeed. However, if that’s the case, why do them at all? Let’s unpack some of those reasons:
* Because not doing them would cost time — like how taking that shortcut through the dangerous woods is faster, if not more perilous, than going around on the road.
* Because it must be done, like having to defeat the blackguards who have come here to kill you.
* For glory, training, practice, or some other reason where avoidance isn’t in the PC’s mind.

So, if we accept a game where the PCs only risk dying during climatic scenes (which isn’t right for every game, but is for mine as it’s inspired by anime & epics), then the PC will always win these issues. Why even bother with them in your game? Because while PCs win, they don’t always come out completely unscathed. This mechanic involves a Risk — either damage, an artifact lost, something like that; a Challenge Test — rolling once or more than once to attempt the challenge unscathed; and Rewards/Consequences — where XP is earned depending on stats used, and consequences, positive and negative, happen (including losing what’s risked, if you failed).

For climatic battles, well, that’s a long, long subject in this game that I can only boil down to phrases like “tactical narration” (in short, you know how in most games you do something, and then you talk about what you did? in Mythender — the name of my game — you talk about what you’re doing, and then you do it. It sounds like an insignificant change until that change is leveraged to produce a different style of play…at least, that’s my goal with this currently-untested system), and “Final Fantasy limit break-style XP system” (which, uh, is a topic I haven’t completely unpacked to myself yet).

The premise of the game: You are badass warriors from all across Europe who have come to the frozen north, to mythic Scandinavia, during the beginning of Christendom’s influence in the land to slay its pagan beasts. My primary influences are: Beowulf, D&D, GURPS Vikings and playing Final Fantasy VII with Beast Hunters. I told Christian Griffen that I’m making a BH heartbreaker here.

Here’s my rough outline for my rough draft:

I. Intro
II. Overview
III. The Challenge System
IV. The Battle System
V. The Social Conflict System
VI. Heroic Characters — Making them and pre-gens
VII. Mythic Scandinavia — Adventures & Monsters (a full-on setting & GM chapter)

I’m only committing to chapters I to V in my rough draft, maybe parts of VI. By the end of today, I want I & II done up and posted here. I want you to ping me if that hasn’t happened by Monday, December 17th.

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December 16, 2007 - Posted by | Mythender

5 Comments »

  1. This sounds pretty cool, Ryan. Reading the stuff about featured vs. everyday conflicts reminds me of TSOY and its Bringing Down the Pain mechanic, where most conflicts are just a roll but either side can say no to a simple roll and drill down to something more intense with higher consequences.

    To add to your list of reasons to do “easy” conflicts, you may get some sort of resources out of it, like cool points or something. Also I’d add that sometimes it’s fun and good for the story to the heroes to look like badasses.

    I wanted to counter where you said, “PCs only risk dying during climatic scenes, . . . then the PC will always win these issues.” Why is that the case? You can lose without risking dying.

    I like the idea of narrating first and mechanics second, but how do you narrate when you don’t yet know if you’ve succeeded at the conflict?

    Comment by robertbohl | December 16, 2007 | Reply

  2. I wanted to counter where you said, “PCs only risk dying during climatic scenes, . . . then the PC will always win these issues.” Why is that the case? You can lose without risking dying.

    The word “dying” was used partly because I was tired, partly because of the context. So, I’ll change that to “defeat” — characters in the sorts of stories that Mythender seeks to evoke don’t lose at everyday shit. An unclimbable cliff? Yeah, they’ll scale it. Now — and here’s where I think it’s important — they could have a setback here, a small issue of some kind, in doing a task like this. But, it’s not a failure to have a setback, like being wounded or losing some precious item, if the action you set out to do still succeeds.

    That’s a key part of that system.

    I like the idea of narrating first and mechanics second, but how do you narrate when you don’t yet know if you’ve succeeded at the conflict?

    With one exception, you are going to be successful — even in the big ol’ Battle system. But, you have to re-define success. You know those Errol Flynn-style climatic sword fights, with the constant maneuvering and parrying between foes of equal skill? Consider this: put on in your minds eye and consider everything either side does as successful.

    Does that devalue success? Maybe. In fact, I think I am, for the right reasons, because I want to inflate the value of failures, but not just that. There are degrees of success — think about the almighty traditional “critical success.” In the Battle System, your little successes accumulate, and allow you to buy the critical successes needed to generate that blow that causes the opponent to stagger or that bellowing roar that makes them pause and fight you with less resolve.

    Your little successes buys you that, but even more important is that there is a strong teamwork element to that system — its not your successes as a single person, but your successes as a team. If I generate some success and you generate some and Mike generates some, maybe we’ve got enough to hurt the beast we’re fighting, and Chris uses the successes we’ve generated plus his own to put the hurt on it — they buy that massive critical.

    Clearly, I should get back to writing my draft.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | December 16, 2007 | Reply

  3. Excellent. This is very interesting stuff. Good luck, Ryan.

    Comment by robertbohl | December 16, 2007 | Reply

  4. Ryan, I am excited to see how this turns out. I often find that games that don’t allow the players to fail can fall flat on dramatic tension.

    Then again, I am writing a game where the characters aren’t going to be stopped by piddly tasks either, so I want to see where you go.

    Comment by commondialog | December 18, 2007 | Reply

  5. I often find that games that don’t allow the players to fail can fall flat on dramatic tension.

    Actually, the game does now allow for failure, but its an option chosen by the player when unlocking better rewards for succeeding — at least, in the challenge system that I detailed in this post.

    Here’s the paradigm in Mythender:
    * Most “trad” games treat failure as status-quo, and success as changing the status-quo. Status-quo maintains the current state, doesn’t change it.
    * Failure doesn’t exist in Mythender, but critical failure definitely does
    * Critical failure is something you work for and earn the results & effects in battle.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | December 18, 2007 | Reply


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