Monday, August 16, 2010

Shadows Design Diary, Part 2

So, as promised, here's a quick bullet point version of the system:
  • The GM (Director) never rolls dice, all dice rolls are resolved by the player.
  • All dice-rolled-for-actions (Moves) initiate a Conflict, which is similar to combat/social-combat systems in other games but which is used for all mechanically instances of play.
  • The primary attributes of a player character (Persona) are called Characteristics and they represent virtues/values that the character possess. These Characteristics are used to set various game-mechanics (Insight= Speed, Honor= Defense) to create an allegorical feel in how the Persona interact with the fiction.
  • Non-Conflict questions (things that would be handled with one-off dice rolls) are instead handled by a score called Stance. The GM (Director) has a Stance for each player character (Persona), the greater the Stance is for a Persona, the more aggressively the Director frames the narrative against him, the more often his non-diced actions fail, etc...
  • An Actor can initiate a Conflict whenever they want, by rolling their dice. The GM can only initiate a Conflict (forcing the Persona to make a Move) by reducing his Stance against him.
  • Conflicts can be won by the Persona by getting rid of their obstacles or achieving their goals, they end when the Persona gets what they want (in combat, when they defeat their enemies). Conflicts can be lost by players when they take enough "hits" (Negative Traits, in the parlance of the game). Losing a Conflict forces the Persona to surrender the tactic or approach around which the initial Conflict is based.
  • Although traits are gained by the Persona throughout the Conflict but they have no forced mechanical effects outside of the Conflict in which they were created. Actor can recall Negative Traits to gain mechanical benefits for later Conflicts. Recalling a Negative Trait involves having it limit the Persona's choices or work against his established interests in the narrative.
  • Persona have two sets of goals, the first is the Quest, which is a group goal and the second is are Investments/Desires. Investments happen when the Actor "specializes" his attributes around specific game elements and the Desire is what he wants the relationship with the Invested element to be.
  • Quests and Investments are what the Director highlights with his Conflicts, and what the Actors are trying to have work out in their favor. Achieving Quests and fulfilling the Persona's Desires are how Persona grow and change over time. Fulfilling Desires both increases and moves around the Persona's attributes while fulfilling Quests makes the characters less human and more mythical/dream beings, amping how magical in a fairytale/world creation mythology they are.
As far as theme and tone go, thats probably the least set in stone thing about the game, but whats emerged so far in the development process, is that I want the following things to be handles/highlighted in the game:

  • Grey v. Darker Grey: The fictional setting has bad guys (dick head Merchants with a mercenary army) and good guys (knights and their rebel allies) but neither is really all right. The Merchant's Coup could be cast in a heroic light pretty easily, and the knights are not perfect people, the commoners are uneducated and don't have any real answers, and the Philosophers are addicts and deviants who actually do some messed up things. Despite this the Merchants are clearly worse.
  • Unity and Loyalty and COMPROMISE: The game should focus on the tension between different rebels and their attempts to unify. Unity is necessary, the other option is defeat and return to a (now more) miserable existence. At the same time, even with the hope presented by the Accord, the rebels do not want or value the same things. I would actually really like to explore reconciliation with the Merchants as opposed to total war.
  • Fantasy: What I mean here is that the magic system that escalates as Persona completes Quests are very very magical. They can talk bridges into collapsing or woods into growing faster and do some really fantastical fairy tale type stuff. Also, the Animal Souls makes everyone different from the real world and in some serious ways much more powerful than normal people. So, at a certain point the whole allegorical element starts to become more and more apparent, until the game plays more like a dream than like a simulation of reality.
Anyway, thats the update. Still muddling through my play test experience and waiting (hopefully) for some responses on the Forge or elsewhere on the web, so more on that later.

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