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Showing posts from December, 2009

Putting together an index

It's the end of the year, my Game mechanism of the week project is winding down and I'm putting together an index for the assorted entries.

Looking back through them all, I see that I've repeated myself a couple of times with some mechanisms that are very similar (for example, my entry on Flow is very similar to my final entry, my karma resolution entry mentions GM fiat, even though that has it's own entry). At least these duplications tend to be more than 6 months apart, possibly allowing for a bit of evolution in my thought patterns.

It's also interesting to see which of the entries has developed the most number of comments. Ro-Sham-Bo drew far more attention than I had been expecting.

It's also somewhat depressing to look at entries where I've had ideas for Quincunx over the past year, and I've even playtested it multiple times (including at Gencon Oz), but it seems no closer to completion than it did at the start of the year.

Hopefully the index will be…

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #52: No Mechanisms

The Senryaku, the Art of War, has 36 stratagems for mastering the ability to fight.

Stratagem 36...

Run Away.

Know when your battles are stacked against you and don't waste your resources in these foolhardy pursuits.

So I present that the last mechanism a gamer should have in their repertoire is no mechanism at all.

In my experience, some of the best moments in roleplaying occur when players and GM put aside the rules and let the intimacy of the moment take them. This could be allowing the story to take it's course, truly immersing in a situation and forgetting it's a game at all, or really becoming one with the character.

A good set of mechanisms facilitates this type of moment, a good GM recognises it and allows it to flourish, a good player allows others to have their moment in the spotlight without stealing their thunder and calling for a judgment according to page XX.

It's a lot harder to do than might be first thought, it's almost zen-like in it's attainment. Th…

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #51: Changing the Mechanisms to Suit

As I wind down my game mechanisms for the year, I've had a few preconceived ways to finish off the series. I'll be using two of these, both of which are really meta-mechanisms.
The penultimate mechanism is the notion of changing a game's mechanisms to account for what is happening in the fiction. Changing the way characters are able to interact with the world depending on how they have done so in the fiction so far.
At a long term perspective, this can be accounted for through experience points, especially in games where these points are used to purchase character upgrades rather than simply advance through levels. It gives the players some way to inform the group as to how they'd like a story to progress.
John buys a whole heap more stealth for his character, so it's obvious he'd like a bunch of situations where hiding is important. Charlie buys up his character's piloting skill, so it's obvious he wants more chances to get some vehicle action happening.

A New Gaming Theory and Lexicon

I've been a member of The Forge for a few years now. One of the things that took me a while to adjust to in that gropup was the usage of specific terms that describe elements of gaming theory. The problem is that many of these existing terms have a different usage in common language, or they are used to describe something in a way that just doesn't quite give a good mesh between the actual word and the element being described.

Story Games is always quick to shoot down someone when they mention Gamism, Narritivism or Simulationism...and whether the motives are honourable or not, I think it's good that they do this, because the words in themselves are poorly defined (or hold different definitions to different people). Confucius began one of his books by saying that much conflict in the world derived simply from a lack of shared definitions, that a common language would prevent many of the world's wars.

I've hinted that I'm working on a new theorum of game design. N…

Game Mechanism of the Week #50: GM Fiat

You could call it Deus Ex Machina, the hand of god, or if you are really against the concept you might even call it "railroading". I've wondered many times over the course of the past year whether it even constitutes a mechanism.

If you're not familiar with the concept of GM fiat it works pretty simply like this.

The GM simply decides whether your idea will work, the motivation between this choice is usually based on where the action will take the game or story. It can be done well, but it often gets a bad rap because the concept is usually associated with GMs who do it poorly.

In traditional rolplaying games, a group of players gathers to play through a story. There is a subtle difference; they don't gather to communally tell a story, they gather to put a group of characters through a series of set pieces pre-defined by the GM. When a GM uses GM fiat as one of the mechanisms for their game, they simply allow characters to take the actions that will logically lead t…

Game Mechanism of the Week #49: Saving Throws

The bane of a high speed gamer.

This bugbear of gaming appeared early. I pull out my tattered old D&D Red Box...Save vs Rods or Breath, Save vs Poison or Death Ray, Save vs Staves or Spells.

We move through several generations of games..

I move on to a generic product from the Palladium lineage, Heroes Unlimited...Save vs Coma/Death, Save vs Magic...my favourite nonsensical saving throw...Pull/Roll with Punch/Fall/Impact, and dozens of others to cover resisting any type of effect that could possibly hinder a character.

Lets move onward to advanced games where storytelling is more important than mechanics (or so was the claim)...I'll pull out the more socially oriented of White Wolfs original World of Darkness, Vampire the Masquerade (I could have pulled out the more combat focused Werewolf, but we expect more detail in its combat resolution mechanisms)...even in this combat is divided into a roll for attack, a roll for damage, then a roll to soak (and hopefully avoid a chunk of th…

Game Mechanism of the Week #48: Tables

I'm surprised I haven't really delved into the topic of tables earlier. I know I've thought of the idea a couple of times over the past year, but usually in context with some other mechanism.

Love them or hate them, tables are a part of many games.

The random monster and treasure tables in many early RPGs.

The devilishly elaborate tables that refer you to other tables when engaging the combat sequence in Rolemaster.

Tables designed for rapid generation of cities, regions and worlds in a variety of Game Master guides.

The curious tables scattered through the sourcebooks of RIFTS and GURPS.

Even the "modern" indie games fascination with oracles, due in no small part to the game "In a Wicked Age", are really just a new form of random data table accessed through the draw of cards rather than the rolling of dice.

I used to love tables, because you could introduce all sorts of elements into a game at random times, or when specific triggers were met. My early games (…

Game Mechanism of the Week #47: Outsiders

I hate it when I'm at work and I can write a bunch of notes on a scrap of paper, each of those notes forming the trigger for a great blog entry about game mechanisms...only to lose those scraps of paper when I sit down at the computer. It's happened quite a few times over the course of the past year.

...and it's happened again now.

Since a new idea has come to mind, I'll consider it as something worthy to write about.

Player characters are all outsiders. This is a part of the quintessential hero myth, if the hero was like everyone else, they wouldn't be interesting to tell stories about. If a group of player characters were doing the same stuff that everyone else is doing, then it probably wouldn't be worthy for us to dedicate our imaginative efforts toward them.

A lot of early games played of this specifically. You are an adventurer who travels from town to town, ridding the local dungeons of their unsavoury inhabitants, and trading unearthed treasures for tools t…