Master Mines

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Bowing Out

As life often does, right when I get accepted to Master Mines things got more complicated. I’ve tried to keep up with the expectations of the group, but it has become increasingly clear to me that I can’t do it. I feel terrible about this, and wish I could make it work, but right now I need to focus on a smaller set of priorities in my life.

I’m not giving up on my game, but I don’t want to drag the group down by not being able to keep up. I really appreciate the comments and feedback I’ve received so far.

Thanks,

-Ben.

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Human Events | 4 Comments

Success = Failure

I was listening to the Sons of Kryos last night interviewing John Wick.  They were discussing “Houses of the Blooded,” and mentioned a mechanic in that game that basically goes like this:  If I roll and succeed, I get to decide if the action succeeds or fails.  If I fail, the GM gets to decide.  This idea really intrigued me, and I think it would fit well in the feel of Human Events, but I recognize that I don’t completely grok this concept.

I’m having difficulty thinking of many cases where I would choose to fail and more, but still not many, cases where the GM would allow the action to succeed.  They also discussed that this means the person in control gets to decide “how” the action succeeds or fails.  I think this is the part I’m not picturing correctly and I was hoping those of you with more narrative-control experience can help me get my head around the concept.  Once I do that, I can decide if this is something I want to include in Human Events.

November 9, 2007 Posted by | Human Events | 4 Comments

Schedules, Attributes and Damage

I’m back. Sorry for the delay, but with a sick family, trying to get our game ready to announce, and playing with my new iPhone, I got lazy on the game design. That’s the Schedules bit.

When I originally came up with the idea to unify a character’s traits into resources, I wanted to avoid numbers (like skill ranks and especially like attributes). This was to help me explore the use of more nebulous mechanics. I’ve come back to the idea of attributes however (in fact it was in the last 15 minutes), though not as they are usually seen. My attributes also serve as broad classifications for resources, and together they form the game’s core mechanic. I currently have 4 of them: Mental, Physical, Self and Socioeconomic (need a shorter word for this one).

Mental resources are trained skills, experience, etc. that can be called upon in appropriate situations to your advantage. Physical resources are physical skills (athletics, sports, dancing, etc.) and feats. Self resources are related to self-esteem, confidence, willpower and self-definition. Socioeconomic resources (the most common ones) involve equipment, finances and connections throughout the galaxy.

The core mechanic involves a dice pool of any even-sided die. Even numbers are successes, odd numbers are failures (or Ubiquity dice for optimized rolls). The dice pool size is the attribute rating plus the resource rating. The number of successes rolled must meet or exceed a target difficulty.

Now the Damage part. Human Events is not about survival. I’m going for a pulp feel, and as we all know, pulp is not about whether or not the hero survives or even succeeds. It’s about how he does it. Will Indiana Jones find the Holy Grail? Of course he will, but what happens along the way and what happens when he finds it? Will Luke Skywalker escape the Emperor’s clutches? Of course he will, but can he redeem his father and stop the emperor in time to save his friends?

The inspiration for the damage mechanic in Human Events comes from Chad Underkoffler’s Prose Descriptive Qualities System. In that system, when you fail in a conflict, your quality ratings go down. I like this idea, though the PDQ system allows the damaged quality to be chosen in such a way that it doesn’t relate to the conflict itself, and this works well for the fast-play nature of that system.

In Human Events, a character’s resources define him completely, so when a resource is used, that resource is at risk in that situation. Some resources may be automatically damaged by their use (finances depleted by a large purchase, for example), some can be temporarily strained (using a black market source too often may spook the contact), and some may be one-time resources (calling in a favor on a contact). Generally, though, a story situation can cause a resource to become damaged. Even an attribute can become damaged, affecting all the resources in its class.

The trick I’m working on now is how to use this concept of resource damage:

  1. as a means of conflict resolution,
  2. without trivializing the character’s peril, and
  3. without trivializing the success/failure mechanic in the shadow of narrative control.

October 24, 2007 Posted by | Human Events | 4 Comments

Introducing Me

It looks like I managed to score the position of first non-podcaster on Master Mines. I’m honored. I’m also excited about participating here.

My name is Ben Taggart. By day, I’m a software engineer. Specifically, I’m in charge of multiplayer and UI development at Airtight Games in Redmond, WA. That means that my life is almost 100% game-related. This does, in fact, make me the luckiest man in the world.

My game is currently called Human Events, a space opera rpg. I’m currently in the Designing phase, though most of my effort now is in research. I’m looking at games that handle the sci-fi genres similar to my own, as well as games that provide mechanics similar to the ones I’m looking for. My official notes are kept on a wiki here. I would appreciate any comments you wish to post there, though I will try to avoid referring people to wiki links when I post here. That being said, I will probably not be as verbose in posts here if I have already entered detailed notes on my wiki.

Human Events is set approximately 150 years in our earth’s future and includes pan-galactic civilizations and FTL travel. The setting, however, is not where I expect Master Mines to help me the most. I am attempting to design a game system specifically for a space opera setting. Traditional RPGs seem to focus on what a person can “do”. I’m trying to focus on what a person can “accomplish”. The difference in my own personal lexicon is that accomplishing something takes into account all the resources at my disposal, while doing something focuses primarily on my personal skills and abilities.

I don’t know if I’m being clear here, so I’ll try to state this in one other way. All the sci-fi RPGs I’ve seen so far place mechanical weight on things I am (I have an IQ of <IQ>), things I can do (I can hack this computer with a proficiency of <Computer Hacking>), and things I have (This gun does <Damage> damage). Everything else seems to fall under the nebulous cover of “roleplaying”. In Human Events, I intend to make a black market contact as valuable to my character (mechanically) as a gun, a ship or a skill.

At the same time, certain things will be a bit more abstracted. Combat falls particularly under this category. While combat will still be an important game element, the number of plasma pistol shots my character can survive without power armor becomes increasingly zero in any realistic future setting. This means that combat serves as a story element rather than a mechanical obstacle, and even failing in a combat encounter provides new opportunities for a character rather than taking them away.

My background is almost exclusively traditional, crunchy games like D&D and Rifts, and I’m sure this game will reflect that, but I’m hoping to combine narrative control mechanics with traditional gamist/simulationist elements to create a story-based, pulp-action experience, and I look forward to having your help with this.

October 11, 2007 Posted by | Human Events | | 7 Comments