24 February, 2009

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #9: Matrixed Experience

As a follow on to the 8th game mechanism, the following conceot expands the idea of an attribute matrix and gives it dynamic potential as an experience system.

These are all a part of the Quincunx RPG system that I'm currently working on.

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I've recently posted about my take on matrixed attributes on the forge.

While taking a walk today I considered an expansion on this concept, tying an experience system into the core matrix.

A hypothetical character begins with the matrix...

xAirEarthFireMetalWaterWood
Agenda--X-X-
ConnectionsX-X-X-
Face--X-X-
SkillsXXXXXXXX
Offences--X--
Defences--XX--


I've recently made posts about an experience system where characters accumulate enough failures with a skill to push them toward a new degree of proficiency. I've contemplated this from a dozen directions in the context of a matrix, but it kept feeling too contrived.

Today's thought pattern comes from an entirely new perspective, and I'd like to see if other people "get it".

To explain the experience system, I'll have to put the attribute matrix in context.

The game basically works off scenes, where each scene focuses on a specific character. During the scene, a challenge calls on a specific point on the matrix (a specific combination of element and manifestation), but a player may use another combination if they can justify it through the narrative. The only catch is that the character must use either the element or the manifestation in the new combination they are using (and the difficulty increases by a degree).

If a specific challenge calls for a combination of Metal and Face, the hypothetical character above doesn't have any points in this combo. But the character could use Metal and Skill as their combination because at least they know that they've got some points in that combination, it might be a bit harder than if they'd normally possessed the skill, but it's better than trying to use a skill they don't have. The player just has to narrate why their skill would be useful to the situation at hand.

In an unfocused scene, a character challenges with a single combination. In a focused scene, they might use two or three combinations of skills to accomplish a more detailed task (but they may never use the same combination more than once in a given scene).

That's the basics. It makes sense in my head because I've been working with the concept pretty carefully over the past couple of months, if it doesn't make sense to anyone who's reading, let me know...one of my aims in this game is to keep it simple and user friendly.

Now that a context has been set, on to the experience.

My simply theory is that over the course of a game, a player marks off on a dedicated experience sheet every time they use a specific element in a skill attempt, and similarly, they mark off ever time they use a specific manifestation. By the end of the game, we'll have a good idea of whether the character's actions have been more fire oriented, or water oriented, or whatever other element has dominated. Similarly, we'll see if they relied more on their own skills, on their appearances, on offensive deeds, etc.

At the end of a session, a player may add a point to any combination that includes the element that dominated their recent actions. If they've been more angry (using fire a lot), they get in increase something that draws on that anger, or makes a connection with other people who also share that anger. Similarly, a player may add a point to any combination that includes the manifestation that dominated their recent actions. If the character has been more defensive throughout their recent actions, they must add a point to one of their defensive combination points.

If the hypothetical character at the start of this post followed the actions just described, they could boost any fire and any defense, and might end up looking something like this...

xAirEarthFireMetalWaterWood
Agenda--X-X-
ConnectionsX-XX-X-
Face--X-X-
SkillsXXXXXXXX
Offences--X--
Defences-XXX--


Gaining a "Fire Connection" and an "Earth Defense".

Given the elemental context, I could ban someone from buying a combination involving "water" since this is the opposite of "fire".

But here's a second twist.

Experience is not just growth, it's an evolution. Evolving toward something, but away from something else.

At the end of a session, when a character adds two points to their matrix, they also remove one.

I'm in two minds about the point removed (some might say that this is because I'm a gemini).

My first thought is that once the elements and manifestations are tallied up at the end of the session, the character automatically loses a point in the combination of the lowest element and the lowest manifestation. But if the character doesn't have any points in this combination, what happens?

My second thought is that the character should lose a point from a combination of their choice as long as it involves the element they used least or a manifestation they used least.

Either way, this reflects that a side of the character is starting to atrophy from not being used.

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