05 July, 2009

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #27: Ro-Sham-Bo





I've heard a few options recently for "Diceless" systems. Some of them are quite clever, and some of them seem overly simplistic.

But what is a diceless system and what ramifications does a diceless paradigm impose on a game. There are said to be three forms of resolution in roleplaying Fortune, Karma and Drama (with references here and here). Dice are a fortune method, so that leaves karma and drama as methiods to resolve actions.

I've already offered a concept for using beads as a method of randomisation. But hard-core diceless fanatics seek to create a game with no usage of randomisation what-so-ever.

Amber was the first game I encountered that claimed to be diceless. I played it a couple of times (the most notable of which was a home-brew based on a combination of Amber and Mage: the Ascension). This uses a karma system, where the player with the best score simply wins, with a bit of control from the game's GM to determine what that win means in the context of the story.

Many of the Australian Freeform games I've been a part of have used the drama system. This probably due to the inventors of this game style coming from a thetrical background. These have their merits as well, but force of personality plays a huge role in the game (often marking some characters as far more important than they should be dramatically, simply by virtue of a good player acting behind them).

I'll look at these two phenomena in future weeks.

But for the moment I've been toying with something else that's somewhere between a fortune based resolution mechanism and a karma based one.

Players use the numbers on their character sheets, then play a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to modify the outcome in some way.

White Wolf's second incarnation of the Mind's Eye Theatre products uses this as a basis for game play. Play RPS, if it's a tie, compare character traits (if your character's traits outweigh your opponent's by at least 2-to-1, you can call for a rematch...and there are other complications that come in).

It's great as a quick system, until too many of those complications come into play from too many special powers.

But I'd like to see something that brings the character's traits into play from the beginning, adding a bit more complication up front to avoid a whole heap of excess complication at the end.

Consider this.

Two character declare their intentions, then reveal the relevant traits. Such traits could be attributes, skills, power levels, it doesn't really matter and could easily be defined based on the type of game being played. You might even get the chance to add two types of traits into a total for comparison. Then play RPS.

If you beat your opponent, you might get to double your respective traits. If you lose then your opponent get's to double theirs. If you tie, then traits are simply compared.

You could even play the five way version, where if you beat someone using an adjacent sign (eg. scissors-vs-paper, or rock-vs-lizard) you get to double your trait value...while if you beat them using an opposing sign (eg. paper-vs-spock, or rock-vs-scissors) you get to triple your trait value.

I haven't really thought of a good use for a mechanism like this except as an alternate fortune method of resolution that involves a bit of player-vs-player psychology.

If someone can think of a good use for a mechanism like this, let me know.
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