Modular Gaming Components 9 - Private Face versus Public Face

 I've got my lunch-time high school gaming clubs playing Vampire the masquerade at the moment. They've all been playing mortals, and the offer for the embrace is going to hit soon.  One of the things that a few of the players have really connected with is the idea of "Nature" and "Demeanor" in that game. After playing D&D and similar games where a character is pigeonholed into an alignment that's often a vague fit at best, this method of describing a characters underlying motivations rather than their actions, and tying opportunities for enhanced protagonism into the character's defining personality, really gelled.     For those not familiar with the system, all characters have a "Nature", which is an archetype that reflects their inner motivations and agenda in the world. There's maybe 20 basic archetypes that can be slotted into this spot, with more in the various sourcebooks for the game line. If you do things that align with you

Modular Gaming Components 8 - Special Dice

They exist , and they've existed for a while.  In some ways I like them, and in some ways they're annoying... ...but custom dice are there and they do influence the way a game is played. I mentioned in the last post that I like the obligation system in the FFG Star Wars games... here's the bit where I say that I don't particularly like the custom dice in that system, but I can see how it can be modified and exploited to get some interesting effects happening in a game. At the simplest level, that game system offers degrees of success, and then the possibility for side effects happening as the result of a task. However, there are plenty of other ways to do this without spending too much money on an extra set of dice that you'll only ever use for a single game. The down side to this sort of effect in play is the fact that sometimes you need a bit more imagination to work out what kinds of side effects might go right, or might go wrong, when a task is performed. So it

Modular Gaming Components 7 - Obligations

One of the things I do like about the Fantasy Flight Star Wars games is the obligation system . It basically means that characters get a leg up in the world, by linking themselves to key elements of the world. A bit like I described with the lifepath system ideas in the previous post . An obligation is basically something that you owe someone due to something they've previously done for you. To pay off that obligation, you need to do something of equal value (or with interest). By starting a campaign off with this, you instantly begin with a positive and a negative, and that gives the story an instant kick of momentum. This is either something I'd add into a lifepath system, or something I'd allow players to choose for their characters if they have something in mind.   I also like the idea in the Star Wars games where an obligation has a percentage associated with it... in 5% increments. You basically roll a die, and if it's lower than your obligation, then you can'

Modular Gaming Components 6 - Life Paths

Over the next few posts I'm going to look at a few of my old Game Mechani(sm)s of the Week and see how they might be applied into different games as modular components.  I kind of started this with my last post about Otherkind Dice , but I'm making it a bit more formal over the next few posts. So now I'm looking at the idea of the Life Path .  Traveller, Cyberpunk, Mekton, Mutant Chronicles, Burning Wheel, there are a few others too... The idea of a lifepath system is to show that a character doesn't exist in isolation, they have already connected into their world they have been living and have developed as a response to the events that have happened in the world around them. Many of the lifepath systems describe a character's life year by year, offering a key event each year that defined their life at that time.  The thing about a lifepath systems is that it can immediately give context about the world where a series of RPG sessions will be setting their stories. 

Modular Gaming Components 5 - Otherkind Dice

The last couple of modular components have been fairly vague, and nothing specifically mechanical about them. So this time I'm going to add something back a bit more crunchy back into the list. I love Otherkind Dice.  I first mentioned the concept back in 2009 , then revisited it in 2010 when I first designed the game FUBAR ( Available for free over on DrivethruRPG ). I looked at is as a concept called Danger Dice back in 2011, and indicated that is was my favourite game mechanic back in 2018. I even revisited the concept earlier this year when I went through the process of designing a game from scratch.  The idea is simple and can basically be applied to most games that have a resolution system based on determining the outcome of specific actions and tasks, rather than focusing on the outcome of entire conflicts. That's a pretty weighty sentence, and after all the academic papers that I've been reading over the past few weeks it's kind of to be expected, but I'

Modular Gaming Components 4 - Imbalance

 You know what I said in the second post ... ... ignore it.  I'll clarify that a bit. When I said that a switch needs a good balance to it, weighing up the pros of the potential advantage and cons of the potential disadvantage, that's still kind of true. But a good narrative isn't always about balance.  I've written that players are often participating in roleplaying sessions for a combination of escapism and telling a good story. That escapism often requires letting them do things easily and show off their characters strengths, but a good story often has obstacles where the characters are underdogs and have little chance of success. Imbalance often swings between extremes. Sometimes the heroes are on top of the world, sometimes they are facing drama, sometimes they have no idea what they're doing because they don't have all the facts. I like to make sure things swing in all sorts of directions, as long as it can be justified by the narrative. 3rd Edition D&

Modular Gaming Components 3 - The Relationship Map

 Apparently, according to some sources, the first game to do this really well was Sorceror (written by Ron Edwards and published by Adept Press)...but I distinctly remember seeing implementations of relationship maps back in World of Darkness games in the 90s. The idea is that different characters in the story are connected to each other, Points (or nodes) on the chart indicate who they are, and lines between them can be used to indicate who connects to whom...but there can be more than this. Relationship maps can be simple... ...or quite complicated... They can link only the characters in a campaign, or they can link characters to places, and to objects that may be important to the story. The links can also depict more than just a connect between elements of the setting. I like to add symbols to the lines between nodes, or colour code them. In this case, the nodes are groups, because these are the important units of the story. Within each group there could be a separate relationship m