Master Mines

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ParaCon’s Big Three

Since we’ve been dead for a few days, I thought I’d post up the Paranormal Containment Big Three.

What’s your game about?

It’s about dealing with your secret double life, which if found out will get people around you killed — folks like your friends and family, folks like the average guy on the street who don’t ask to see something he shouldn’t.

How’s your game about that?

You’re an unwilling agent of a shadowy government agency set out to suppress & eradicate magic and the supernatural — unwilling, because you’re a mage or otherwise hooked into the paranormal, and the agency has a shoot-or-recruit policy. You picked the latter. This means you have to often deal with missions to suppress people and events that threaten Containment.

Most people who find out about the secret and aren’t useful are summarily killed. This includes your family, who will grow suspicious of you over time. This includes innocent bystanders who will witness you get exposed during the mission.

What behaviors do you want your game to reward?

Behaviors that generate trust or betrayal among the group — without having “trust” and “betrayal” as actual mechanics in the game. I want to create a setup where I foster having to make decisions about whether I screw my character over or I screw the group over, and have to deal with other people making that same choice that impacts me. I want to reward getting into those situations, and ideally I’d like to reward them with the situation itself, from a player enjoyment standpoint.

I’m unsure about the last bit, but then this idea is only around a week or so old.

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August 28, 2007 Posted by | Paranormal Containment | Leave a comment

Chat about Paranormal Containment

So, here’s a slightly-cleaned-up chat log with Daniel Solis about my ideas for Paranormal Containment:

Continue reading

August 24, 2007 Posted by | Paranormal Containment | Leave a comment

Mission Pacing Mechanics

Now, I don’t want to turn this into the Ryan Macklin Dice & Pony Show by outposting my fellows, but I had an idea in the show just now that I have to note down.  (Which means I’ll be late for work, but that’s what working late is for.)

First of all, if the d10 or d12 is dropped, that’s not Exposure Risk, that’s definitely Exposure.

On mission pacing.  The mission (to borrow a bit from Wilderness of Mirrors) has a certain number of Mission Dice — say, half-Exposure and half-non-Exposure.  For any given player, the first time he rolls in the mission, he’s rolling against one die on the GM’s side.  The GM takes half-non-Exposure dice (rounded up) and half-Exposure dice (rounded down), so, uh, one non-Ex die.  If the player succeeds, the next time he has to roll, he’ll roll against two dice, then three, then a cap at four.  Should the GM not have enough non-Exposure dice to fill half of the amount he’s rolling, then he takes from the Exposure dice instead, and that’s where things suck.

So, if a player succeeds, we take those dice out of the system, and his next difficulty will be one die higher (at a cap of four).  If he fails, we put those dice back in the system and add an extra Exposure die — so, the mission is going to go on longer and become more risky.  (An emergent play goal: if you fuck up a lot, your fellow agents will want to throw you a blanket party — that’s acceptable, as this is an attempt as a high-character-stress game without actually creating a stat called “Stress”.)

Finally, I’m looking at this as a troupe-GM game (what some folks call “GM-less”).  During the mission, the players take turns GMing scene their characters aren’t involved in, as the agency has a mandate that a team not operate in the same location at the same time (to minimize paranormal leak).  Jerry was telling me about how he digs this idea, because it makes the agency seem more faceless.

Okay, off to work!

August 24, 2007 Posted by | Paranormal Containment | Leave a comment

The Mechanical Two

So, in Master Plan #4, I came up with two questions about mechanics. Based on the idea that we do mechanics in order to answer questions that we either don’t have an answer to or don’t want to answer in a non-mechanical fashion, here’s my questions:

1) What questions do your mechanics seek to solve?

2) How do you want your mechanics to solve those questions?

So, as I’m thinking with old Damned Anonymous ideas and retooling them for Paranormal Containment, I’m starting with an old idea: roll three dice, drop a certain number of dice, starting with the highest, and total the rest. Higher is better, compare against something else (another roll or target number). Anyway, that’s what I started with. Here are answers to my own questions:

What questions do my mechanics seek to solve?

In addition to determining success with individual mission objectives & complications, I want my mechanics to simultaneously indicate whether an agent risks Exposure — either Suspicious with their family & friends or Witnesses during the mission that need to be dealt with. So, in a high-view sense, it’s a four-spot grid: success or failure as one axis, exposure or, uh, not-exposure as the other.

How do I want my mechanics to solve them?

The core idea: roll 3d6, each with different colors (one white, two of separate other colors). Drop highest die. Total other dice — that’s how well you did, with higher being better. That’s success/failure. That dropped die? The color of that die determines exposure risk — white means none, but the other colors mean a risk because of something, like being spotted by an ATM camera, being clumsy (remember, you’re an agent because you’re a magus, not because you’re trained to be an agent), or because a supernatural effect is noticed.

Dice may be added to the pool — right now, I’m thinking a d10 and then a d12. If you add those to your 3d6, you still drop your highest die, but you’ll have more dice to bring to the success. But if the dropped die is (as it’s likely to be) one of those larger dice, the exposure risk is more likely. But, what’s the advantage to doing this? Well, that’s the rub. I want to create a “speed of mission success = dialing back agent liability” and/or “degree of success over target = something worth having later” element, otherwise it’s just “hey, here’s a way to have higher numbers that sucks! Try it!” And that’s not going to fly.  (Of course, I could take yet another page from Don’t Rest Your Head and just create an increasing sense of difficulty and a perceived need to bring those elements in.)

Later, I’ll talk about the elements I want as emergent play: trust & betrayal. For that, I’m looking at adapting Prisoner’s Dilemma into the game.

August 23, 2007 Posted by | Paranormal Containment | Leave a comment

The Next Game: Paranormal Containment

So, no, I’m not done with Know Thyself.  I am taking a short break for feedback, aside from what designer’s notes and other info I need to put up this weekend for the website.

But I’m starting a new project now, Paranormal Containment.  I was noodling over an idea, and mechanically-speaking it fits many of my older Damned Anonymous ideas better than D.A. did.  Here’s what I told a couple friends today:

Paranormal Containment – an RPG about being an unwilling agent in the Paranormal Containment Agency, a secret goverment agency set up to keep magic on the down-low, if not utterly eradicated.  Unwilling, because it turns out you’re a magus.  And they have a “shoot or recruit” policy.

“Damage” is tracked not as how hurt you are, but how suspicious your family is of you and how much of a liability you are in the Agency.   It’s called “Exposure.”

I may post up the entire chat log with Daniel Solis, as I got a lot of good material out of it.  But really, I just wanted to talk about the fact that I’m starting a new game.  And I want it solid enough for a second-tier playtest at the February LA con.

August 23, 2007 Posted by | Paranormal Containment | 2 Comments