04 August, 2008

Game Mechanic 1.0

I've decided to document some of the game mechanics that I come up with periodically.

I've developed systems based on dice rolls, cards, counters and hand gestures, and each of these has applications to different styles of game. The problem with these conceptual ideas is that I can never decide on the type of game best suited to the mechanic. A poker based mechanic may lend itself well to a wild west game, a tarot mechanic may be good for a game about occultism or mysticism, but where do you place a complex die mechanic?

I've looked at plenty of games over the years and have seen many that have focused on a gimmicky mechanic.

Roll 3 dice, ignore the highest and lowest results and keep the middle die. Then compare this to a difficulty value that's generated by rolling a second die and cross referencing this to a table.

[The result of the die might produce a nice bell-curve, and the cross referencing effect might ground it well in the reality of the game world, but the combined effort is fiddly and time consuming and may slows down the play of the game...especially in combat sequences where numerous people are making die rolls at once and interacting with one another in comnplex ways].

I've seen plenty of these systems, some of which address their settings, while others just seem to be complicated for the sake of complication.

So my aim over the next couple of months is to intersperse a couple of game mechanic ideas that could be applied to a number of situations, and maybe develop a bit of discussion about what sorts of games these systems might be most appropriate for.

On to the first system...

Tales [d6]

This is the system I'm using for my generic game engine, Tales. It's not designed to reflect any specific themes, the concept is more of a chassis that other mechanics can be added to.

The core concept of the system is that everything is resisted, and no-one knows the full extent of that resistance until they've made an attempt at something.

The player rolls a standard die, and adds a number equivalent to the forces favouring the change. Their opponent also rolls d6 and adds a number equivalent to the forces hindering the change. If a character is affecting the general world, then the player's opponent is the GM. If the character is targeting another character, then the player's opponent is the player of the target character.

Simple, and there are a few games that have used this core.

If the opposing forces of stasis and change are balanced, then there is an even chance of the effect occuring (or not). If the opposing forces are not balanced, then the changes of success or failure vary accordingly.

The average number added to a die should be equivalent to the number of sides on the die being used. In this way, if 10 sided dice were used, then the typical modifier to each side should be about +10. A weak force should apply a bonus equal to half the die sides, a strong force should be about one-and-a-half times the number of sides. The weakest forces provide no bonus, the strongest forces typically encountered provide a bonus equal to twice the number of sides.

Using these figures, the numbers don't get too huge, and you don't have to play with negatives.

Die Sides No ForceWeak ForceAverage ForceStrong ForcePowerful Force
4 +0+2+4+6+8
6 +0+3+6+9+12
8 +0+4+8+12+16
10 +0+5+10+15+20
12 +0+6+12+18+24
20 +0+10+20+30+40

Looking at the values, a d4 based system doesn't leave a lot of scope for variablity in the values, and a d12 based system can rapidly get into numbers that are large. Most people like their sums to use small numbers with single digits. So the d6 and d8 versions are probably easiest to use. d6s are far more common, so it becomes a more approachable game to use these.

In any contest, two equally ranked forces have an even chance of succeeding. A force that is one step lower than the opposing force has a 25% chance of succeeding. A force that is two steps lower than the opposing force cannot succeed.

For example: d6+3 results in a value from 4 to 9, while d6+9 results in a value from 10 to 15.

This becomes something to seriously consider in the game.

Do you want a mechanic where there is no chance for someone to succeed when the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against them, or do you still want there to be some kind of success chance?

This is where a numer of systems have deviated. Some systems apply an automatic failure result if the face on the die shows a 1. This basically means that no matter what the difference in skill level between two opponents, then there is always a "1 in X" chance of the little guy winning (where X equals the number of sides on the die being used). Similarly, rolling the highest possible result on a die could count as an auto success (such as using critical hits on a natural 20, in many games).

Other games allow a die roll to "explode" if the high number is rolled. If a 6 shows on the six sided die, then it may be rolled again and the new value added to the 6. This basically equates to a "1 in X" chance of a better result, but not necessarily a guaranteed success. Most systems using this concept expand it further by allowing multiple "explosions".

Neither system is more "realistic", both have their advantages in different styles of play.

For Tales, I didn't want to keep adding numbers together or keep rolling dice. The aim is simply to get a fast game mechanic, a single roll to get a result but a chance for anything to succeed. So I combined the 1 is an "auto fail" option and 6 is an "auto success", but since the game is all about telling stories I added a difference.

More to come shortly...
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