Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Favorite Game Mechanics

So after a few week of concentrating on the novel I've been thinking more about tinkering with GodWar (assuming freelance work I applied for recently does not come through).  In the process of thinking what I want to do with it, I've been thinking about the mechanics I've really enjoyed in RPGs and if I could somehow bodge them together into some sort of game Frankenstein monster made just for me.  So mechanics I've really enjoyed I am thinking about including:

1. Group Character (Examples: Song of Ice and Fire noble houses, Warhammer 3rd Ed Group sheets): As stated previously, I really like a mechanic that brings the party together from the get go like belonging to the same organization, and giving mechanical reasons for the players to cooperate.  With a focused game like Song of Ice and Fire this is an easy mechanic to create, but with a wider ranging game like GodWar, where characters can be anything from angels to clockwork robots, it's a bit more difficult.  I've been thinking of structuring it so the group character is the group's legend so far, allowing them to build the group's adventures up to this point (fame achieved, resources acquired, people met) as a group.  This could also be a good means to build character relationships based on these events in similar fashion to Fate where characters get ti write interactions with other characters into their history.  While some part of this would be set by spending points, some randomness (age of group, number of major events, etc) would probably be randomized.

2. Resource Management (Examples: Pendragon holdings, Song of Ice and Fire noble houses): Possibly the same mechanic as the group character, having some sort of power base, property, or other tie to the world I think helps keep players grounded and interested in the events of the world since they have more of a stake in it.  Saving a village means a lot more if you own a building in that village.  For GodWar I've been thinking this would be part of the group character, representing property and influence gained through the group's past adventures.

3. Self-Determined Abilities (Examples: Fate aspects, On the Edge abilities): I like characters having some capacity to define their abilities as they see fit, though not sure how far to take this.  I had been working with a more Over the Edge system where all character abilities are self determined, but that doesn't really work well with the next ability.  Also that system has the capacity to be pretty abuseable, as my character in Harbinger's Over the Edge game gets a lot more milage out of his Marine ability than probably any ability from anyone sitting at the table (though he does a good job accounting for this, I am sort of useless aside from combat).  Thus I'm looking at something more similar to Fate aspects, but without stealing that mechanic exactly I'm having trouble thinking of a ,mechanic to economize and limit the use of such abilities.

4. Random Character Generation (Examples: Reign): I really enjoy mechanically equivalent random character creation ala Reign.  I don't like random character creation where characters come out unbalanced, like most RPGs from the 80s.  I like the little bits of emergent story that come out in random character generation, plus it helps get people's brains started.  As I've been planning on using tarot cards for the resolution system for GodWar I've been thinking of doing something based on actual tarot readings, but that may end up being too complicated.  Random character generation does not play well with the previously point, player determined abilities, so I'll have to come up with some way to reconcile the two.

5. Critical Hit Tables (Examples: MERP): This is really old school, but I really liked the old MERP and Rolemaster crit hit tables.  Rolling on them was a perverse joy.  I also liked their armor system as light armor made you harder to hit,but if you did get hit you got clobbered while plate armor meant you got hit a lot but rarely took much damage and did not get critical easy.  This mechanic I figure will probably have to be first one I abandon due to the crunchiness of crit hits not meshing well with the otherwise light mechanics that are the focus otherwise

6. Resource Allocation and Randomness (Examples: Marvel RPG): I want to have a mechanic where a character's skills and randomness are not the only determiners of success, but also how much the player wants to succeed.  The basic mechanic is one I've been kicking around for awhile where players draw a number of cards each around and allocate them to actions, totalling the cards against a target number to determine success.

So yeah, pulling all those together on some level.  We'll see how it turns out.  


  1. With regard to #3, let me recommend this post by Rob Donoghue, in case you haven't already seen it. Some of the stuff he's doing with skills in that article and others in its series may be of use to you more generally.

    With regard to #6, I enjoyed the way Technoir's bonus dice mechanic handles this, and would encourage you to check that out too.

  2. 1: I really like this concept. You could do something interesting with different templates that give shape to your legend. Like, "5 Man Band: Pick a leader, a secondary strong personality in contention with the leader..." Each one would suggest different types of legend, interpersonal drama, and likely rewards. You could slot in things like shopping discounts, debts from governments, etc. as they're accomplished through play, with the different templates giving different mods to such things.

    4: You could break a bunch of core traits down by the high arcana and let the player pick this (possibly from a limited draw like WFRP does), then attach minor stat modifiers to the non-arcana cards and draw them all randomly. Some elements of the cards would be fixed, and others would have options depending on your focal arcana. So, like, 4 of Wands: +2 Archery (martial arcana) or +2 Invocation (mystic arcana).

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    Shieldhaven: I had not read that post by Rob Donoghue, that is super interesting. I may steal some version of that idea, but I'll have to figure out how it plays into the resource allocation angle. Probably something with abilities trees of increasing specialization that allow you to put more cards towards an action. And I need to hunt down a copy of Technoir, I've been meaning to for awhile.

    samhaine: Yeah, I was thinking something like the legend creation establishing roles for the characters, people they've met (both allies and enemies) resources they've collected, etc but have them all inter relate so if you choose the Leader you get bonuses with these other aspects of the legend.

    My previous plan with the cards was to have a small number of abilities, sort of like in Shadow of Azathoth, that you assigned cards to for actions. For character creation you would draw some number of cards from the tarot deck and read on tables what they do. Multiples of the same number or may be same suit would give you deeper benefits, but remain mechanically equal. So for example drawings lots of Swords cards would give you increasing martial skills or some such. The major arcana would give you major events in your history, including possible arcane power sets (drank from the holy grail, alchemy training, etc). The major arcana would come with the equivalent of aspects, plus the player gets to choose some number of aspects on their own after all cards are drawn to help reinforce their overall interpretation of the character created bu those cards.