Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Systems

This weekend I finished up working on Hardkore, I'm a bit sad by this because it's entirely without fanfare and I'm not sure my work will ever see the light of day. Despite this I'm moving on with new ideas. I want to create my own game and the prospects of doing so on my own terms excites me.

So I've been working on a system that's very different from Hardkore's principles of simulationism. This one is about accessibility and is designed to use familiar tenants and systems to attract new gamers. This is my first attempt which you may critique.

The foundation of the system is 3d6 and a Texas Holdem-style poker Mechanic.

I'll explain.
Characters have
Stats (standard faire Strength Dex Intelligence etc... ) ranging from 0 to +3
Skills (Also standard, Melee, Archery, Stealth...) ranging from 0 to +5
Equipment (That provides mods) ranging from 0 (no equipment) to +3 (awesome magical stuff)

Basic Action
A basic action is resolved by a 3d6 + Stat + Skill + Equipment Die Roll.

A Resisted Action
A resisted action adds in a Poker-Style Mechanic, here's how it works.

A Turn is a segment of time in which a single rolled action is conducted.
A Round is 4 turns in which a game of holdem poker determines a result in addition to the die roll results of the Basic Actions.
The Action Pool is the modifier number of the basic action the character is doing (Stat+Skill+Equipment) represented as individual points, players draw points from the pool to place bets each action.
The round consists of:
1. The Deal. - 2 Cards are delt to every player involved. The Ante is announced. The ante is the situational difficulty of the conflicts in question and is chosen by the GM. For example, a duel on a slippery rooftop in the rain will have a higher Ante then a duel in an open field. Players pull points from their action pool to place their bets and then the die roll for the action is rolled with the remaining modifiers from the Action Pool.
2. The Flop - 3 community cards are layed down by the GM. The players can again bet a portion of their action pool (minimum of the Ante, but not a multiple of) before rolling their 2nd Action.
3. The Turn - The 4th community card is laid down and another round of betting commences before the players roll their actions.
4. The River - The final community card is laid down and players that have not folded have a showdown, the winner recieves the pot of bets.

Folding means that the PC goes on the defensive for the rest of the round, they get +5 to their Defensive Pool, but cannot take any offensive actions until the Round is over.

During the round any players can choose to flip one of their pocket cards to add the value of that card to their die roll. (Aces = 1, Jacks =11 Queens = 12, Kings = 13). The card remains flipped and in-play assuming the player doesn't fold.

If one player bets more than another player's action pool and the underdog wishes to remain playing the round, she can go All-In (using all her Action Pool and rolling her unmodified Die Roll for her actions), but must go All-In for the remaining actions in the round unless her opponent who forced the All-In folds.

The winner of the round gets the pot. Each subsequent action that PC spends the pot to add a bonus to her die rolls. The number of points spent, (and thus the bonus) is dependent on the winning hand.
High Card = +1
Pair = +2
2 Pair = +2
3 Of a kind = +3
Straight = +3
Flush = +3
Full House = +3
Four of a Kind = +4
Straight Flush = +4.

Health levels at this point will start at 18. If a PC is brought to 12, then she loses a die to all actions. If brought to 6 she goes down to using one die on all actions. At zero she's incapacitated and at the mercy of the GM/other players. Damage is equal to the remaining modifier from an attack after defense is subtracted.

Defense. Weapons will have an offensive and defensive modifier. Defensive actions are unrolled and are 10 + Defensive Pool. If the player folds a round that goes up to 15 + Defensive Pool.

There's the rudiments of my system idea. Comments questions and ideas are always welcome.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bad Games

Lately I've been playing only bad games. (except DIRT for the PS3, which was well worth the $11 I payed for it at EB games) By bad I mean really BAD, especially on the RPG front. Today I want to talk about 2 games specifically because I think they're bad for opposite reasons, Vampire Wars and (all) the RPG games my best friend runs.

To those of you who aren't familiar with Facebook and it's plethora of "apps" which simultaneously ammuse and irritate the majority of it's users, Vampire Wars is a facebook App Game where you "play" (very loose term there) a Vampire. By play I mean that you create a unique vampire character by giving it a name, and then dressing it up in the very tiny handful of clothing options they give you. Then you get a handful of actions to do with this vampire you've just created. You can do "missions" which is basically click on a link and get a reward in exchange for spending a pool of various stat-points that automatically replenish over time. There's no risk in the missions, and nothing fancy or entertaining about them, simply click the link, get the feedback/reward. The missions even have these imagination-inspiring names that make you wish you could actually have your vampire do them a little, like "Defeat a rival vampire." or "Infiltrate the Spider Queen's lair" but after the first 15 seconds you stop looking at their token attempt to dress up which is essentially a slot-machine mechanic without any chance or potential for meaningful reward.

The other main action is "combat" which is more link clicking, but this involves some chance. The factors to win are how many people you've sucked into playing this stupid game with you, and how many little graphically illustrated "abilities" you've managed to accumulate through gameplay. The more of both the better. You fight other players to steal some of their stuff and get bragging rights that's represented by a numerical value.

That's basically all there is to Vampire Wars, they have a revenue generating mechanic that lets you buy a certain kind of rare currency to purchase some of the cooler stuff, but it doesn't change the core gameplay which is so sparse and pointless that I'd laugh if I hadn't been playing this stupid game for 2 weeks now.

The thing is, Vampire wars does one thing for me that keeps me logging on a couple times a day, it inspires my imagination. The game makes me remember the old LARPing days of Vampire the Masquerade when me and my fellow players were trying to plan and execute our schemes to hurt other vampires, influence and feed on mortals and protect our sleeping havens. We had to describe and role-play our actions before our arbitrating GM who would sometimes oppose our attempts and thus we went away unsuccessful as often as not. But it was fun. Vampire Wars reminds me of those fun escapades where we'd screw around and try to pull off things without getting our precious characters killed.

On the other end of the spectrum are the RPG games my friend tries to run, which I've all but sworn off of, despite the fact that he's my best friend, and I really really want to play more games right now. His games are steeped in complexity but for all his efforts they don't inspire anything in me but frustration. Where Vampire Wars is simply an advancement of an avatar that's conceptually so flimsy to barely even be there, his games are entirely concept with hardly any mechanical structure to gain purchase to. His games are all story, but the story is meant to be made by the players, but he doesn't like to give the players the means or inspiration to strive for anything, because those would be things that we could exploit, and exploiting things is the death of all RPG's it seems. I'm sure he'd say that I'm way off base, but I've spent the last 5 years trying to understand his games and that's the best I've figured.

I wish I could combine the strengths of both of these bad games and get to play a good game, but my magic lamp and genie is taking it's time arriving. Maybe I'll figure something out in the interim.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Understanding Power

Power. A lot of people don't understand what is real power or how to attain it. If you ask most people what makes you powerful, they'll tell you "money".

"Money is Power" we've probably all heard that mantra at one time or another, but it's not true.
Not true power. Money is an illusion created by the truly powerful to control people, it's a goal for regular people to strive to so they don't actually see what causes others to have true power over them. Money is only a bi-product of power, and it is in the best interests of those who actually have power to keep people striving to attain it.

There are actually 7 paths to true power. These paths are rooted in the basic needs of humanity, control any one of these paths, even a small bit of one and you control people. Control all of one whole path and you effectively have control over all people. A being that controls all 7 paths can only be a god.

1. Information
2. Food
3. Sex
4. Land
5. Water
6. Energy
7. Death

You won't find that list in any manual for global domination, but nonetheless it's the truth and it's been that way for thousands of years. There are a few points to consider about each of these keys.
- Controlling information controls how people think, but also grants a form of omniscience as well as omnipotence.
- Controlling food allows someone to eventually control life and how it evolves and if it survives. There is far more genetic modification happening in the food we eat then most people realize.
- Absolute control of sex has proven difficult it generally controls us more than we can control it. Control of reproduction is possible and done so in many alarming ways, but controlling the drive for sex without catastrophic consequence has proved much more elusive.
- By and large, governments control Land they use this control to have power over the citizens.
- Water is far easier to control than most people would believe. It's necessary and disturbingly easy to withhold from people but also easy to add drugs and chemicals to as well. It is increasingly difficult to find water without fluoride in it.
- Energy comes in many forms starting with gravity and the sun. The types that people can control grant massive amounts of power to those who do.
- Death is far more of a necessity than most believe. It is both essential and inevitable, and every spiritual organization ever conceived of has existed to control it.

Those of you who want power best study these 7 paths and work to master them, but also guard against those who would master too much of any path. More on these paths, and those who follow and abuse them in future posts.

For Those Who Hate Twitter But Haven't Tried It...

I was there with you, didn't see the point, hating the idea of a digital leash, a bunch of online stalkers stalking each other... I thought, "Nah! I like blogging, I enjoy conversing with people online but Twitter... that's too much, that shit's for crazy folks."

Here's the thing, contrary to first impressions, Twitter isn't a peep hole into everyone's private lives. No one I follow Tweets "Eating now" or "Bored at work", if they did I wouldn't follow them. They tweet interesting things, or if they're not interesting, they make them interesting by adding personal insight or humorous quip, or something else that makes the post dynamic and interesting enough to waste the 2 seconds it takes to read it. If the tweet strikes a chord with someone, they might @reply you and a conversation is started.

Pretty creepy huh. Fuckin stalkers.

A couple of my old Vox peeps amuse me with their adamant avoidance of Twitter, it's amusing because they're exactly the sorts of people that enjoy Twitter the most. They carry on huge threads of conversations in the comment space below their blogs, engaging nearly everyone and making them feel like they're interesting and contributing something too. These are the great social butterflies of the internet that I will strive to be like, making people feel good to be in their presence, happy to call them friend. These people always seem to be able to make time for even the geekiest introvert, and for that they deserve the praise they inevitably receive.

Twitter embraces these sorts of people, they're the best contributers to the network and take the most from it, it's not a one-way relationship, if it were no one would use it.

I don't criticize people who don't use twitter, not everyone is meant to, just like not everyone is meant to blog, or write, or draw, or be a public speaker. Some people would get a lot out of it but simply don't have the time, or can't afford yet another distraction, I can't fault anyone for that either. But for those who see it as a senseless waste of time they'll get bored with, when they write the best blogs and interact heavily in comments; they I can only educate, and after being shown what they're missing they're only missing out on a way to reach and interact with more people. If you want to keep things small and intimate, then yeah, don't use Twitter, but if you want to reach a wider audience, meet more people, get more information about the stuff you're interested in and have a better network of contacts and friends... then you owe it to yourself to give it a try for at least a few months.

...and if and when you do, follow me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Making Things More General

Hi folks. I'm writing this directly onto the internet text field, hence the ugly font.

I'm starting to get frustrated that I'm not writing as much as I once was so I'm going to eliminate the self-imposed restriction of "just RPG" content here so that I write more stuff that just comes to mind. My Vox blog was originally for this purpose but Vox is sliding into the same pit that Geocities was lost into and I have no desire to ride it down.

So hopefully this marks a new surge in content here.

Now something really cool from G, who is a fucking fantastic dude and also a Martian, and if you don't have his blog on your RSS reader right now then fix that shit.