Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hit Points and Consequences

Risus Monkey wrote recently about the utility of using consequences as a component of games. While he was talking specifically about Risus, it’s a useful tool that can be used in a wide variety of narrative games, and one that I’ve incorporated into my own “D6F” house rules.
The way I’ve chose to do it, however, is a bit of an experiment, so I’m excited to see how it flies in game play. While the standard options for gameplay are usually either use a stress scale with consequences or use hit points, I choose both. I want to have my hit points and eat them, too. Here’s how it’ll work:

All characters have hit points. But whenever a character takes damage, her player will have the option to take that damage as a consequence comparable to the amount of hit point damage, rather than as actual hit points. So, for example, she could opt for either “Stunned” or 3 points of damage, “Busted arm (Wounded)” or 7 points, “Incapacitated” or 20 points, etc.

Consequences are taken as a temporary Aspect, but the severity of the consequence determines how long the Aspect persists. I haven’t worked out an exact scale yet, but something like “Stunned” will only last a round or two, whereas “Incapacitated” could last several weeks or months of game time. It could even lead to a permanent Aspect, such as “Gammy leg” or "Hook" if it were serious enough.

Buster should have taken the damage...
I anticipate that players will choose to take light consequences early in the fight, since they will wear off quickly, and more serious consequences only when their characters are truly threatened with death. Effectively, this will give players a way to avoid death by a thousand paper cuts and hopefully lead to bigger, more dramatic climactic battles. At least that’s the idea.

There may very well be good reasons why system designers give the option to do either a scale or hit points. Maybe it gets too complicated during actual play. Who knows? The only way to find out is game testing. It seems totally manageable, though, and should bring some interesting, imaginative, and fun choices to the table.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On Points

As I discussed in my last post, I’ll be using an Open D6 + FATE rules combo (D6F) for my upcoming Kimatarthi campaign. One of the main points of convergence that I see is in the use of Character Points (or FATE points, as it were…). In both systems, points can be spent to gain bonuses, modify scenes, or otherwise moderately impact the game narrative.  As per the Open D6 rules, D6F will manifest the bonuses as an extra wild die added for each character point spent, and will also use Character Points for character development. As per FATE, spending a Character Point will be related to a character’s Aspects. Where D6 and FATE depart is in how the points are earned, so this gives me some room for tinkering.

In D6F, I see three ways to earn Character Points. The inclusion of Aspects, as per FATE, gives players the ability to earn character points when their Aspects are compelled or when they create in-game drama. Character Points will also be earned for successfully completing adventures and otherwise moving the story along. But the third way to earn points is ripped from a totally different source – Old School Hack.

Oh yes. In addition to normal rewards and compels, character points will also be distributed by the players, among the players like Awesome Points in OSH. Because who doesn’t love a bowlful of awesome? Our group loves OSH, and part of what makes the sessions so much fun is chucking candy rewards at each other for entertaining the rest of us.  Awesome points keep players engaged in the story, keep them striving to perform, and provide serious incentive for the players to work as a group. Too often in games, players tune out their comrades while planning out their next perfect, damage-dealing move – something that it impossible if you need to keep your teammates invested in your character to level up. Awesome Points are one of the crowning features of OSH, and I really think they will contribute to the fun factor of any campaign.

Friday, May 11, 2012

D6F - Playing to Disadvantages (and Advantages)

As noted in my previous post, I’ve decided to run my campaign with a base D6 rule set, but with some good stuff from FATE grafted on - a beast I like to call D6F. The main thing I’m taking from FATE is the use of Aspects, which describe what a character is like, and give bonuses for using them in relevant situations.

The D6 system does have a similar mechanic in its use of Advantages and Disadvantages, but I find it unsatisfying. There are a lot of systems that incorporate the idea of character flaws into the game, but do so for the purposes of character depth only. FATE, on the other hand, makes disadvantages a critical part of game play and players are rewarded with FATE points for making their lives more difficult. So there’s a payoff beyond plain game flavor.

Take, for example, my character in our GURPS Knights of the Astral Seas game. I took a handful of disadvantages in order to get a few more character creation points, but they basically mean nothing now. Honestly, I’m not even sure what they are off the top of my head because I don’t ever use them. There’s no penalty for not playing them, and when I have role-played to them, it has often felt like a forced non-sequitur.

To its credit, D6 does give the Advantages/Disadvantages rule set some real in game purpose, but at the end of the day, it's still just a matter of character depth. I’m a real believer that human behavior responds to incentives—both in the free market economy and in gaming.

So, by making the D6 Advantage/Disadvantages into FATE Aspects, the mechanic will become an active part of play. What does this mean? Well, FATE’s FATE Points easily become the D6 Character Points (note: don’t confuse FATE Points with the D6 system’s Fate Points – ugh.) Players in my D6F system will have to spend character points to invoke the advantage of an Aspect they have. Similarly, they will earn Character Points for invoking a disadvantage or by subjecting themselves to a compel.

But wait – there’s more! In the D6 system, Character Points are not only used for doing cool stuff during the game, they are the mechanism for character development. So by taking disadvantages and creating more trouble for themselves during play, the players will actually be earning points to build their skills and attributes.

So now, instead of simply having to play out a character’s “Misogynist” Aspect with periodic derisive comments, they can actually earn Character Points to buy new skills or do awesome stuff simply by reminding the GM that bartering with the lady shopkeep may not go as smoothly as anticipated.

I think this blend of the systems nicely captures the best mechanics of both. Naturally, there are a number of corollaries that follow from this marriage, so stay tuned!