31 May, 2010

Unexploited Resource #1: Dominos


They're symbolic of roleplaying games. Love it or hate it, even if you've played a dozen games that use other randomising mechanisms, everyone who is aware of the hobby associates it with colourful polyhedra.

Don't get me wrong, I like dice. They are a convenient form of number generation. Personally I like cards better, because there is more flexibility to them and you can create some more interesting effect with the art of drawing cards. But dice have been done to death...and cards have had their run in recent years as well.

Even miniature battlegames are starting to get some good card lovin'.

As an aside, someone suggested a roleplaying game based on the card driven miniatures skirmish game "Malifaux"...I wish I could find it, but there was also a post on the Malifaux forums where a gamers says that all RPGs "MUST" use dice, otherwise it's just not an RPG (I'm paraphrasing a bit here because I can't find that post).

So, besides dice and cards what other great resources can we use in our games?

I began my game mechanisms with the idea of tokens in a bag, Daniel Solis has apparently done something similar since then in his Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple game. It's certainly something that could be exploited further, but what else...??

My first proposal: Dominos.

I'm using dominos as the driving force for my current project "Bunraku Nights", and I've found Noumenon thanks to a thread on Story Games, but on the whole the domino concept seems really untapped.

Despite this, I can see some instant advantages...or at least some cool ways to exploit them as a resource.

  1. Dominos have two numbers on them. (I'm using them in Bunraku Nights with one number representing an active number determining your effect on others, while the other represents a passive number determining your ability to resist the effects others are inflicting on you.)
  2. You can form chains with them. This is a traditional play style with dominos, so most people understand the concept. You lay down a [5|4]...I have a [4\2], so I add it to your to make a new chain [5|4][4|2]. (I'm using this idea in Bunraku Nights too, you can modify your own strategy by adding to your own chain, or you can impact on someone else's strategy by adding to their chain.)
  3. Doubles traditionally create branches in a chain. (I played with this in Bunraku Nights, but it was just getting a bit too complicated...but I think Noumenon incorporates this somehow).
  4. Unlike dice which can be flipped over by unscrupulous players, a domino keeps the value etched into it's surface. Like cards it's harder to cheat with them.
  5. Dominos are a finite resource. A set of double 6 dominoes contains 28 tiles. You can play with them as a finite pool of resources for the purposes of timing effects or gathering from a zero-sum pool.
  6. You might choose to invoke effects that rely on the highest value of a domino randomly drawn. This skews the results in favour of certain values (7 chances of getting a 6, 6 chances of getting a five...etc...one chance of getting a zero). This could be useful when playing with variable randomness (one result is common, another is less common...the final result is exceedingly rare).
  7. The exact same could be applied to the low number on a randomly drawn domino.Or the deviation between the numbers displayed...
  8. In fact you could end up with two random events occurring simultaneously through the single draw of a random domino. Or apply two factors to a random event (Damage/Area of Effect, Magical Effect/Strain on the Magician, Hit Location/Armour Penetration, etc.)
  9. You can collect a pile of dominos and use them strategically when the right moment arises, rather than simply rolling an arbitrary die and getting a result that may not make sense (of course same games need this random element rather than a strategic form of play).
  10. Even the simple flexibility of having a variety of domino scales to choose from...from the double 6 sets (with 28 tiles) to the double 9 sets (with 55 tiles). You can scale them to have any set of maximum doubles...
I'm sure there are plenty more specific ways that dominoes could be used in play, these were just the first 10 to some to mind.
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