Game Design Interlude
Sometimes I work on game systems because I have a strong urge. I.e. I have an itch I want to scratch, and I think I can produce a take on the idea which feeds that urge. At other times I get inspired by a story, a previous body of work, or a setting I am rolling around in my mind. Let me explain what I mean and discuss a little of what I’m working on right now.
Daring Adventures came about because most Pulp Action games seem to be wildly random, too rigid and by the numbers, or are too into storytelling conventions and lack adequate crunch to portray the rollicking adventures the world puts in play. In other words, the games don’t represent pulp fiction where heroes are good not just lucky, they play like a computer game, or the systems aren’t evocative of the genre.
Cinematic Fighting System (which I haven’t talked about in a long while) was born primarily from a lack of high action games with an anime bias. I made an observation that for this type of setting, the characters succeed when they dig deep more often than they do when they study hard or practice, not that many animes/mangas have characters actually improve a skill. So I wrote a diceless game which I think handles that style of story and worlds adequately.
Alloy came about when I realized that Daring Adventures could run Fantasy games, but when compared to the alternatives, it didn’t offer anything that fits my goals for a fantasy game. So Alloy arrived when I looked back at Fantasy Adventures, an old system design of mine. It handles personnel scale action and low and mid level magics quite well in my opinion. A variant of it will work for other things as well, such as action horror roleplaying games.
So here I was looking back at the 9 Worlds Project and other settings I have worked on lately, and I looked at what I had planned to design and what it would fit to. Space Patrol, Dreams of Thyrlea, Broken Trust, These Idyllic States and Epic of the Immortal Throne all fit well under Daring Adventures. Urlann (if I were to revisit it), Ascenscion Agenda, and Champions of the Seven Realms and a potential rewrite of Realmstorm fit Alloy very well. I could even see an Alloy version of Eternal Shadows. As for an Alloy version of Immortal Throne, I think the larger than life characters and wildly different low magic are more suited to Daring Adventures, but I could see it written up for that system as well.
That leaves out Extinction Code, which I didn’t show but it is an epic science fiction story. Neither of the big systems seem right for it, because it’s the kind of setting where exploring a new star system might lead to a fleet battle, a frantic chase through an alien city on a newly discovered planet, and other high energy activities but the scale of the weapons is such that a rigidly interpreted game won’t handle it as well. It also leaves out Midnight Men, which I originally designed for Daring Adventures, but which seems to be in the same boat because it’s superheroes lite.
As I was toying with creating a system which would cover Giant Mecha Real Robots Style Anime, I was starting with the kernel of an idea of paying more attention to the character’s traits and less attention to dice rolls and skills and weapon stats. Essentially I was trying to create a game system which focuses on drama even when handling high speed and high stakes action. And while what I’ve been working on lately is inspired by street level superheroes and pulp heroes, it doesn’t mean that I may not combine the two rule sets before it finishes gestating.
So what’s the big idea this time? I think an example is better than a description.
The Beacon City Stalker, a vigilante who dresses like a private detective but wears a full cowl under his fedora, is chasing a circus acrobat turned burglar through the back alleys on a Thursday night.
Traits: Clever, Fit, Intense
Experience: Detective 4, Fighter 3, Actor 2, Businessman 2
Talents: Miniaturized Harpoon Gun & Winch
Flaws: Loner, Skeptical, Soft-Spoken, Tenacious
Experience(5): Circus Acrobat 6, Thief 6
Health: 1, Fortitude: 1
GM: The crook flees down the right opening between the buildings, bringing you to a narrow alley with fire escapes on both sides. He uses his acrobatic skills to scale the buildings in record time, leaping from building to building using the fire escapes to flip and leap ever upwards.
Stalker: What’s the difficulty to chase him here? I want to know what he knows about who’s targeting that family.
GM: (I want to make it hard, but I don’t want to reclaim the Stalker’s Marker. Still, he is Slippery so that’s a +1 on top of Acrobat). 7.
Stalker: I give chase. I’m going to use Fit, and Fighter. I’ll also use my harpoon gun for the first time this scene. That gives me… 4D10 with a +1.
GM: Factoring in Tenacious, that’d be 4D8 with a +1. Ok. Roll it.
Stalker: 9, 2, 4, and 5. Well, I got one success, so I reach inside my trench coat, pulling out my harpoon gun as the pounding in my chest from the chase seems to fill my ears. I aim, fire, and with a small explosive sound my harpoon line is away. It connects with the masonry of the roof overhand, and the line falls taut over the railing of the top fire escape. I push a button and am pulled skyward, only to grab onto the fire escape and pull myself up. It takes a moment to pull my harpoon head from the masonry and vault over the edge of the roof.
GM: The acrobat is halfway across the roof, and looks back at you with a mixture of disbelief and fear in his eyes. He shakily pulls a pistol from his clothing and aims it in your direction.
Stalker: I dodge using Fit and Fighter! 4D10
GM: (The thief doesn’t have an appropriate Experience so he uses his default value of 5, and subtracts 1 from Flighty). You need to beat a 4, and I’m calling in that Marker you got last scene.
Stalker’s player picks up 3D10 and rolls.
Stalker: 1, 2, and 4, yes!
GM: Okay, it’s obvious that his fear is affecting his aim as the bullets spang off the rooftop vent covers.
Stalker: I steel myself when I see the gun. I charge him while he fires wide, adrenaline going and my heart pounding as I grasp for his shirt while winding up a punch. Fit and Fighter again. 4D10.
GM: If that isn’t Tenacious, I don’t know what is. 4D8. (His Acrobat definitely comes into dodging a punch, and Flighty would actually help in this case. Too bad he’s an extra and can’t invert it.) You need a 6.
Stalker: Okay, I rolled 7, 2, 5 and 8! I grab his shirt around the solar plexus and land a solid sock to his jaw.
GM: He stumbles backwards, the gun flies out of his hands and it’s obvious he’s down for the count. His eyes are out of focus.
Stalker: I bend down, pull him towards me and interrogate him about whoever tipped him off to the family valuables and ask if he’s got a boss who ordered the theft. I finger my harpoon gun trigger in plain sight. Intense and Actor working together for a total of 3D10.
GM: Are you invoking your Talent? And Soft-Spoken works against you here.
Stalker: No, but I’ll accept a Marker to invert Soft-Spoken and try to give him the heebie jeebies.
GM: That’s worth a +1 so what do you have? (Oh well, it’s time for him to sing. He doen’t have a tough guy trait or any special experience to resist interrogation and Flighty works against him here to the tune of -1.) You need a 4 or better.
Stalker: 7, 3, and 10!
GM: He’s suitably cowed when you make him focus on you and he answers your questions in surprising detail….