a quote about mechanics

A misconception about Apoc World:

- No matter what you do, you roll 2d6 plus your stat and the results are always the same. It doesn’t matter if you’ve positioned yourself to make the roll easier, or if the roll would be nearly impossible in the fiction, it’s all the same. I was told this led to people doing everything they could to avoid rolling (like in Old School games… run away, attack, or convince the GM you don’t have to roll).

This casts aspersions upon my 2d6-based mechanic which is the same at generating badness no matter what you do (not really but still).

[spacerpunk] mechanical indifference

I’ve continued to grind on the right mathematical mechanics for what I’m going for, possibly writing myself into absurdity, and ultimately it came to this:

So my various algorithms, subject of much designer angst, have turned out to do about the same thing. Should I laugh or cry?

Also, oddly enough: my rigor so far has confirmed that these probabilities don’t necessarily matter as much. It turns out we’re just rolling for “narrative progress” vs “super duper progress”, with a bit of mouseguarding and opportunity-shopping by the GM to make even the most torrid success enjoyable complex.

Back to finish up fluff, then. If you’re a far-space hipster, is your musical affiliation modzerobeat or zerocore? A RANDOM TABLE WILL REVEAL THIS AND OTHER TRUTHS.

Emergent Dwarvish Behavior in Minecraft

So indeed, I was turned onto Minecraft by the Penny Arcade comic. Just played it for a bit; there’s clearly more to delve into.

Last night, I learned out how to create tools and create a safe space for myself, and then found myself walled in for the night. It was a sensible shelter: window to the outside, a corner to duck behind, a few torches.

The night wore on, with nothing but my workbench and raw materials. I dug deeper and deployed more blocks; I created a hallway to a slightly larger room for my workbench, and more torches. Then more torches still, and a higher roof as well as some steps, creating a greater sense of homeliness and space. And then I created an adjoining room: a proper corner to focus on crafting new goods, well lit from above to properly mark such an important place. Without the crafting of tools, I wouldn’t be here.

I continued to work on deeper floors, higher ceilings, and more torches in corners, desparately trying to make this little cave feel humane. I briefly mined upwards and accidentally reached the surface, revealing a dangerous vulnerability to the hordes outside; I quickly patched this mistake, and learned that it is far safer to dig below.

Morning came, and it was time to venture outside. I tried my newly forged sword on the wildlife, but was quickly bored. I dug through a new direction of my cave and discovered a nearby river. I was quickly focused with re-engineering the riverbed and even attempting to create and indoor lake, something to bring a little bit of the outside world to me.

Despite some near fatal mishaps, I created my little underground river, but I ultimately thought better of it. A gap for a river was a gap for the horde to get in. Why should I risk losing everything I built just for this river? Better to wall it off. I could still here it flowing beneath my footsteps.

Night came, and I walled myself in again. I set about to crafting more tools, and worked on making my rooms more grand, more spacious, more well-lit. Columns, walls, alcoves. This was decently interesting, but I wanted something even more special: a secretive keep for those who would travel further below, a reward for those who shared the love of a builder.

I built a spiral staircase, punctuated with torchlight, going down deeply; then a grand series of stairs leading into a narrow series of passageways. Day and night passed as I tunneled, because I was adequately entertained here.

Then came a critical question: how deep could I build? I started in the middle of a hallways: a cruel jab at anyone who would enter blindly. I simply stood upon ground and dug below myself, going deeper and deeper, waiting for clay and stone to give away to something more.

Deeper and deeper I went – only laying new torches when I could no longer see the torches above me – seeing how deep I could make this pit. I was clever about my strategy: dig down two spaces wide, so that at the bottom I could fill in one side as I climbed above it while leaving the other as a treacherous gap. I continued until I was finally too frightened of my own handiwork. I knew that I was simply too far below, and thus began constructing my ascent.

And yet, halfway up, I lost my grip and fell to the bottom. I survived, but with only a half-heart of health. My course of action was clear: snuff out the torches and build up words, filling this pit with sand as quickly as possible to return the surface. And so I did; a future explorer could quickly reach the bottom if they desired, but this little experiment was too gruesome to leave unchecked. I walled up the tunnelways, and thought uncomfortably of the explorers who would attempt to make their way through.

I walked up the spiral stairway and continued to adorn my little home. Experimenting with new touches, new lighting, trying to make it feel a little more grand. I dug sideways to discover new veins of coal and ore that could be brought to some other purpose; I filled them in afterwards, keeping the dark spaces at bay.

And finally, for reasons I don’t quite understand, my foolish builder lept from the height of his staircase and shattered his already-broken body. That was the end of him.

I can return to Minecraft with a new builder, and re-enter the same world. Somewhere, hidden in a mountain, is an empty home. I could enter, and wonder what became of the builder who was here. I could follow the staircase, and wonder what drove him to build so deeply. I could break down the clay wall and enter the catacombs, and hope to avoid any fatal pits. Or, I could adorn this stranger’s home, and try – again – to make it a home.

[spacerpunk] new mechanics + seeking feedback

If you’ve got an eye for mechanics, I’d appreciate a sanity check or your first impressions: http://games.forgreatjustice.net/tmp/spacerpunk-mechanic.html

It’s inspired by lessons from my old d6/random-table system, but while this all developed independently of the Blowback / Apocalypse World lineage of games, it has shown some more gravitation in that direction (and yet, not). It’s now based on a 2d6 roll, with various effects kicking in when you roll 10+, a bit of “mouseguarding” or whatever on your results, and a list of “opportunities/moves” when things get complicated.

As I said: sanity check. I can talk about reasons why certain things may work better than anticipated, but I won’t say much yet.

Relatedly: a word to my old mechanic. Friend: you were neat, and you got me out of some mechanical dead ends, and your freneticly random pace showed me the light. Ultimately, you weren’t quite what I needed from a mechanic, but you’re awesome.

ETA: oh man I hope this works i don’t want to do any more revisions

[spacerpunk] reconsiderations and contortions

0. oh i quite want to play this with my friends in the fall meaning i’d rather not have heavy rewrites but hey

1. I recall Vincent selling me on Apocalypse World in a significant way by suggesting that it was easily reskinned into, say, Firefly and similar space opera. Totally true – it’s genre enforcement convention are neat – so perhaps the real truth is that my game could be an ApocWorld hack? But part of me would rather do its own thing. I think my use of specific powers/actions for character Jobs/Traits is a neat bit of parallel evolution.

2. I’ve mentioned a few times that this might just want to be a Shadow of Yesterday mod.

3. I’m looking hard at my resolution system (where personality traits have a random table to roll on to determine resolution/complication/failure). I’m looking at it hard, and wondering if it needs to go.

4. I realize some of the groups I’d want to play this with are in fact slightly trad (rather than totally new-school/story-gamer style). This should obviously drive the design. Ideally I could make this be a smooth spectrum, but overgenerality is the devil.

5. I totally made a combination of ruby scripts / Rakefile / PrinceXML / HAML / Textile to let me keep the source of the files somewhat vanilla. Talk about yak shaving. (But it’s easier than writing directly in HTML, and I can automatically style what I write, and um it’s easier than worrying about my resolution mechanic.)

To remind myself what works for me, uneqivocally, right now: random oracle and a flexible sandbox world combined with a frenetic DMing pace.

Scott Pilgrim / D&D hack

On SG, I seem to have come up with a framework for a Scott Pilgrim / D&D 4E hack (link).

So Scott Pilgrim / D&D 4E: frame RP scenes (a la JWalt’s PTA mod) + skill challenges where creative/ironic use of your D&D powers give you bonuses, and basically freely use whatever mechanics you can to comment on the events that happen. (I will totally make you take Falling damage when you get kicked out of the band.) Create some “banter” powers or maybe some custom Themes a la Dark Sun to add some interpersonal drama to a combat, and limit it to one or two battlemap encounters per session; these should have multiple axes of fictional stakes / conditions that matter / difficult conditions. (Alternately: you can only use a power once you’ve used it in a RP/noncombat situation and tied it to some personality traits.)

Caveat: this only works if people are fluent enough in the D&D system of choice that (a) the combats don’t occupy too much time, and (b) mixing your metaphors actually creates meaning for the group. In some cases, using 4E for the combat puts too much gametime/mechanical emphasis where it doesn’t matter for a SP-esque story.