Saturday, June 28, 2014

Big Eyes, Small Mouth // Pen and Paper Ideas // Game rules and the Narrative

So... My intracranial beehive is working on pen & paper stuff. I'll link some.

How to run BESM inside Solar System. This is a bit fuzzy still, but I think I'm on to something. Perhaps implementing psyche and shock as passive defenses on energy and health pools, respectively

Also, some BESM house rules. Neither of these are likely to make much sense without familiarity with the involved systems.

Big Eyes, Small Mouth is... interesting.

My initial impression of it, wayback, was that it had a nice system for modelling characters, but the gameplay, especially combat,  was rather clunky.
Here's a basic situation:

A skilled combatant nearly always succeeds in their roll: Few levels of Combat Mastery has them failing only on a roll of 12. Even then, a defender rolling under their DCV will defend against the attack, which gets frustrating fast. Seems obvious.

Back when I started roleplaying, I truly wanted a rule for every situation, AND I wanted to use the official rule, if such was available. This lead to me gaining a Master level understanding of Dungeons & Dragons 3.x ruleset.

The downside of this, rather simulationist-gamist approach, is that you easily end up with hundreds of rules to remember. When I became a Dungeon Master, I spent a lot of time creating things using established rules.

At some point, I ended up getting excited about BESM, and I bought the rule book. Character creation was fun, but I couldn't quite grok running games, and tests didn't seem that impressive - I did come from the mentality of a player squeezing every drop of power available, to survive in a rather hostile world, where the overgod (DM) quite literally was out to get them.

I never got that much enjoyment out of killer DMing, but I see the fun in playing under one: Every time you survive anything, it feels like an accomplishment, and you don't feel at all bad for doing what the character would do under such circumstances - jockeying for maximum power and survivability.

During a lull in D&D gaming, I began wandering, reading other rulebooks - The Shadow of Yesterday, Spirit of the Century, various White Wolf games, and at some point the narrativism started to click.

This did show up in my DMing, and I began homebrewing classes and coming up with house rules and rulesets. I mean, if a player wanted to play a, a Ninja / Evoker hybrid, why make them jump through the hoop of digging through a library of rulebooks, when I could just write a class that suited them in an afternoon, while also making sure they fit into the world.

At this point, I was starting to get fed up with some aspects of D&D, such as an experienced wizard being a better fighter than an experienced militia member, just due to their level bonuses. I began looking for satisfying alternatives, while thinking of the kind of things I wanted to run in games.

Exalted had impressed me with it's idea of Stunts, and having a carrot to induce player behavior, as well as the amount of agency it gives to players.

In D&D, you can describe jumping to tables, swinging from chandeliers etc.... but either you end up spending your turn doing those things instead of attacking, while making skill checks with real consequences if you fail, for no real benefit allowed by standard rules... or you just roll attack, the same as everyone.

Just because you can have fun games with flawed rules, doesn't mean the rules aren't flawed.

Back to BESM, and a skilled attacker always succeeding in their attacks:
In stories, Goku doesn't fail in attacking with a kamehameha, Kenshin doesn't fail in swinging his sword, nor does Ranma punch improperly.

Basically, the importance is in using Trick Shots, (What I learned from BESM Ex) which apply a penalty of +1 to +6 to both you and your opponent, or as it was pointed out in the Manga Kenji....
What is important in a real fight, is just not strength and timing. If your opponent is good, they can read or guess your intention, and thus counter even the best attack in the world. You must add deception to your attacks, so they won't be able to defend against them.

Of course, there's a problem with, well, the Crunchiness.
Even if game is good and solid, and well thought out, if you need the equivalent of a Bachelor's degree to even play the game, it's not that good.

I'm looking at you, Exalted 2nd edition, and your ten-step attack resolution.

Then again, if you end up with very little crunch and very narrative-driven game, it eats away immersion into character, as well as suspension of disbelief, for me. One of the reasons I'm not really quite fond of action points, fate points, and similar - not their usage, which is fine, but their theme, of fate and destiny intervening.
It means my character isn't good enough to survive on it's own, doesn't it?

Partially, it's just a naming thing. Solar System used Vigor, Instinct and Reason, and those worked fine, for me.

Neither doesn't necessarily affect gaming, although crunch heavy kind of often does. I think the gamist aspect is...

Gamist aspect is simultaneously the most, and the least important bit.
Without it, a game tends not to be fun, unless it's basically narrativist-driven drama - so that sort of compensates, but without a game, you cannot test your simulation, and there's no order in the chaos.
However, calculating a bunch of three-digit numbers, checking against immunities and resistances and so forth, just isn't fun.

So... how do we handle sufficient amount of gamism - enough fun rules to play with, resources to spend, gain and lose, difference in having the high ground, between a knife and the Excalibur? Yet, not getting into multi-digit numbers, multiplication and division, stacks upon stacks of tables?
...I'm working on it.

I'll get back to it in a later post. Promise. Something about Descriptors, Tags and Aspects...

Narrativism doesn't necessarily take any 'space', but it's useful, as while the game tells you if you're hitting that guy in the face, narrativism is about why you're hitting that guy in the face.
Having some game effect supporting the narrativium is also good: It gives an impetus for everyone to insert some role and story into their game, as well as giving some formal structure.

Say, according to your backstory, you're looking for the six-fingered man who killed your father. When you're deep in the undermountain, this may fade into irrelevance quite easily, but what, if, like in Solar System's Key Framework, you gained experience or advancement points, whenever you heard a rumor of the six-fingered man? What is finding out a fact about him, or seeing him gave you more? What if getting your revenge will net you the equivalent of an immediate level-up?

You'll be HUNTING that bastard who killed your father!