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RPG» Forums » General Discussion » RPG Design

Subject: Make Boring Stuff Fun Design Challenge rss

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Emmett O'Brian
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Encumbrance, food and water supply, ammunition, long slow treks, they're things that frequently add tension to a story told in a book but rarely go well in RPGs.

The challenge? Pick a subject that usually bogs down play and is thus usually ignored and post an idea that would make things fun and interesting.

Prize: 20 GG plus any tips to this post. (Cause' that's what I have.)

Judges: Me and the first two people to post that they want to be judges. (You can't win if you're a judge but you can enter ideas for people to riff off of.)

This is an unofficial contest, and it's very open ended. It's mostly just for fun. You'll be judged on how much I (we, once there are more judges) want to use the idea in our sessions. Clarity will help a lot so vague suggestions will have less weight than full instructions. No, you can't just post what an existing RPG does already although there's probably a game out there that does something similar so you're on your honor that you're just not plagiarizing something.

Contest ends 3/15/2014

So go ahead, be amazing.
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Emmett O'Brian
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The contest is closed and I've geekmailed the other judges for their initial choices.

The winner is
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and his hierarchy chart. Although there are some usage issues that are unclear, the application was simple enough and covers a lot of territory that is way too complicated in most normal play.

Congratulations to Morganus! We would really like to see the idea playtested and updated for more clarity. It would be great to see something like a page worth of instructions and descriptions that really flesh it out.
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Justin Rio
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I always struggle with wanting to account for "the boring stuff" when I'm GM'ing. Several things get in the way, including the systems themselves. I would like to be a judge.
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Matthew Taylor
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I really enjoy a campaign when the minutiae of everyday life is available to us. I'll happily spend a session just setting up camp, making a meal and having conversations round the fire until we decide who is taking first watch.

I'm rarely able to find a group happy with this pace however.

I'd be interested to see ideas that can spice up these kind of things. I'd like to be a judge.

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I think the key is to make the game ALL ABOUT that thing. Or at least mostly about that thing.

If your game is about being big heroes, then make your game about being big heroes. Don't put in a bunch of stuff about encumbrance and light radii and wandering monster checks every 6 turns. That just distracts.

Likewise, if your game is about harrowing descents into subterranean hells that break you in body and soul, then don't put in expectations about being big damn heroes.

You need something to put stress on that thing; to provide the players something to struggle against. Or else there's not much point.

So that's theory. The practice:

- Torchbearer (2013). Makes the game about inventory management. Inventory is incredibly tight. Without inventory you will die, because every four turns things get worse for you. Only rations, bandages, etc., can stave off the inexorable degradation. Managing your inventory is key. But if you bring too much stuff, you won't have room to bring back the phat lewt that you find in the abandoned underworld.

- Adventurer Conqueror King System. Makes the game about economics. It's a D&Dish game that starts out dungeon crawling. If you live long enough to become major players in the region, you start establishing bases of power and the nature of the game shifts. Now you have to pay mercenaries and keep the supply trains flowing (for fighters at least -- thieves start gangs, wizards build towers to research higher level spells, clerics build temples to proselytize). Beyond that is an even greater level of influence that becomes even more about managing and protecting your resources. The game has meticulous yet gameable detail for every aspect of trade, agriculture, mining, etc. ... as well as threats to them, to drive adventure.

Other examples include Traveler, OD&D itself, and so on. So what's boring to you?
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Ian Toltz
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Not my idea, but I once saw an awesome ammo idea that went like this... Your ammo is represnted by a die. d6, d8, d12, whatever. The bigger the die, the more ammo you have.

Every time you shoot, you roll your current ammo die. If you roll a 1, your ammo die drops a notch. If you're on a d4 and you roll a 1, you've only got one last [arrow/bolt/bullet].

Fast and simple, almost no paperwork, and has some lovely tension to it, as the ammo goes faster and faster when it gets low until you're left with your one final shot. Better make it count!

You can also share ammo in this system. If someone else is at least 2 steps below you, you can lower yourself one step to raise them one step.
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William Hostman
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Asmor wrote:
Not my idea, but I once saw an awesome ammo idea that went like this... Your ammo is represnted by a die. d6, d8, d12, whatever. The bigger the die, the more ammo you have.

Every time you shoot, you roll your current ammo die. If you roll a 1, your ammo die drops a notch. If you're on a d4 and you roll a 1, you've only got one last [arrow/bolt/bullet].

Fast and simple, almost no paperwork, and has some lovely tension to it, as the ammo goes faster and faster when it gets low until you're left with your one final shot. Better make it count!

You can also share ammo in this system. If someone else is at least 2 steps below you, you can lower yourself one step to raise them one step.


I remember trying that in a game in the early 90's (I pulled the idea off WWIVnet)... worked far better with a TN of ≤2 or ≤3 lowering the die code. Otherwise, it just goes on WAY too long.

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Ian Toltz
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aramis wrote:
Asmor wrote:
Not my idea, but I once saw an awesome ammo idea that went like this... Your ammo is represnted by a die. d6, d8, d12, whatever. The bigger the die, the more ammo you have.

Every time you shoot, you roll your current ammo die. If you roll a 1, your ammo die drops a notch. If you're on a d4 and you roll a 1, you've only got one last [arrow/bolt/bullet].

Fast and simple, almost no paperwork, and has some lovely tension to it, as the ammo goes faster and faster when it gets low until you're left with your one final shot. Better make it count!

You can also share ammo in this system. If someone else is at least 2 steps below you, you can lower yourself one step to raise them one step.


I remember trying that in a game in the early 90's (I pulled the idea off WWIVnet)... worked far better with a TN of ≤2 or ≤3 lowering the die code. Otherwise, it just goes on WAY too long.



On average, it takes 8 rolls to roll a 1 on a d8, 6 on a d6, and 4 on a d4, so on average a d8 ammo die would give you 19 (8+6+4+1) shots. If you only attack once per round, and a typical combat is 5 rounds, that d8 will on average last you 4 combats. Bump it up to a d10 or a d12, throw in some good luck, and you could totally have your ammo last ten or more combats.

It's definitely a long term thing. It's not going to work well if the PCs are just doing short dungeons with civilized pit stops where they can refresh supplies.
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Emmett O'Brian
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Thanks for the responses! Myself, Justin and Matthew are our judges and Matthew has generously donated to the pot.

The heat is turning up already! cool
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Alex Nguyen
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Some other thoughts on this great topic

"Boring stuff" doesn't just include the usual for some folks. For example on some days of the week, I love that Hollowpoint scenes are "never about shopping, counting ammunition, getting a passport, or renting a car any more than we need scenes about them going to the bathroom: time’s too important to worry about everyday needs." That said for some folks the definition of the "usual" stuff when it comes to boring wanders over to include connections and relationships with other characters also. It's understandable at the same time that it's strange; sometimes you just wanna hack and slash, but our interactions with people are such an important part of real life I'd wager if you incentivized the "interaction" thing it'd be a safe bet that it'd be accepted even in a hack and slash campaign. It's probably at the core of how RPGs emerged from war-games in the first place.

Whatever the definition of boring is for your particular campaign let's call it the B-Factor in this example.

Here's the mechanic

Some games do an Advantage / Disadvantage -- Edge / Hindrance thing that tries to balance the heroic wiz-bang stuff with weaknesses for a more dimensional character. You earn points in one by taking points in another. The problem with this is that the Disadvantage/Hindrance part of the game just gets ignored (a sort of dump-stat of its own) unless the group incentivizes it somehow.

My twist on this whole thing is to combine the B-Factor with the wiz-bang. And we make sure it's not ignored by putting it on rails so to speak. You get a list of wiz-bang items/stuff/characteristics/whatever and each thing is DIRECTLY tied to a B-Factor item. There's a points or dice pool where you earn the right to access the wiz-bang "thing" as you "do" the B-Factor thing - and all of this happens in-game.

The specifics have to depend on each group's definition of what's boring.
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Mario Silva
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First contest here so if I do it wrong well...

I'm going to talk about it with my own system (supers) in mind although i think the idea is pretty universal.

The problem: Making traveling great distances, being closed in prison, spending time at home, watching a sunset on a beach a game worthy experience.

Base Concept: Space and time become a character (antagonistic, neutral or allied)

If a space is antagonistic it will attack you physically, so crossing a desert is a duel between the hero and the desert. If time is antagonistic it will attack you mentally, passing hours in a sinking ship may not be physically aggressive but the wait will attack your psyche with fears, doubts,etc.

Neutral space time will react to your interventions.

Allied space time will help you, healing, feeling better. If you're trying to do something hard, having the time space as an ally will improve your chances and create the going home feeling that sometimes disappears in adventure centered games.

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Matthew Taylor
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USP45 wrote:


The specifics have to depend on each group's definition of what's boring.


Looks interesting; Can you give us a worked example for something you find "boring"?
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Alex Nguyen
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Mathew Taylor wrote:
USP45 wrote:


The specifics have to depend on each group's definition of what's boring.


Looks interesting; Can you give us a worked example for something you find "boring"?



Example

If you're playing Superman, we probably don't want to directly tie the Wizbang ability to fly with the B-factor of going to the bathroom, foremost because it doesn't make sense in the canonical universe but equally importantly because it wouldn't be any fun for the player. (edit: And because I think going to the bathroom is fun! I get a lot of RPG reading done in there.)

Let's say Superman from above is in an action-packed campaign that's mostly comprised of trying to punch Lex Luthor and not so much talking to Lois Lane. After a bunch of action scenes a change of pace might be nice but no one knows it. Maybe the punching scenes can be tied to the Lois scenes then. In order to earn enough "points" (or beads, or tokens, etc.) to trigger a Lex scene you have to roll some dice (depending on the mechanics of your system) and "win" the required amount of points, which don't necessarily have to end up positive for Supes. The "winning" is the scene trigger. And who knows, having an interaction with Lois using dice mechanics might turn out to be fun after all, propelling it off the B-Factor list.

/insert Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor in the above if needed/
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Eric Jome
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EmmettO wrote:
This is an unofficial contest, and it's very open ended.


Here's my entry. It is a bolt on system for shopping, suitable as a house rule for most common kinds of systems.

You'll need:

- a regular deck of playing cards

Follow these steps when your character goes into the marketplace to buy something;

1) Specify what you want to buy and how much you're willing to pay. The GM calls this out as either Easy, Medium, or Hard difficulty. It might be easier or harder based on either factor - no such item exists? Your price is too low?

2) The GM begins flipping up cards; each card represents an amount of time that passes while you're shopping. If the shopping is Easy, you stop as soon as you have 2 cards that are the same COLOR. If the shopping is Medium difficulty, you stop as soon as you have 2 cards that are the same SUIT. If the shopping is Hard, you stop as soon as you have 2 cards that are the same VALUE.

3) If you have skills that you could check to help with your shopping trip, test those before the first flip. A success should give you at least 2 cards (optionally 4 cards on a critical success) without spending time. For example; if you have a Haggle of +7 in a d20 system, perhaps a roll over 20 would be 2 free cards and a roll over 25 might be 3 free cards. Note one increment of time must always have passed.

4) If someone is helping you shop, give each player a card when one time increment has passed.

5) Option: Different types of time increments (minutes, hours, days, months) might factor into the GM decision about the difficulty of the shopping trip. If the default is "hours", perhaps working on a scale of minutes moves it up one rank, while agreeing to work on a scale of days moves it down one rank. Or you might only have a particular time scale available in a given genre, location, or setting.

6) Players can, at any point, stop taking cards. If they change their request enough to change the difficulty, they can have the item if the lesser request is met - spend more and already have 2 Clubs? Done! Otherwise in game situations may call their attention back if too much time passes.

Assume most prices in the rules for a given system are either Easy or Medium. Of course, the GM can rule a given item is trivial at a suggested price point, requiring no shopping. Or impossible (beyond Hard) if a suggested price is outrageously low.
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Andrew Hauge
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I think I'll have to mull over this one, especially because I love what Torchbearer does for a lot of these things.
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Emmett O'Brian
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To give a little help in this challenge let me give some broad categories that I've used in the past. These are general techniques so we'll want to see the ideas even more fleshed out.

Helpful boring
A lot of boring stuff is there to make things hard on the player characters. To wear them down, or to limit their abilities. For example, does the party have enough food and water. The players don't want to track that because it's a negative to them once they run out. The GM has to remind them and a lot of times the GM forgets or doesn't feel like forcing the players to do the accounting.

By making the boring stuff helpful the players will actually want to do them. For example, eating a meal gives you an extra HP. Eating more takes a constitution check. (Big tough guys can eat a lot.) Drinking water gives a plus 1 to Reflexes. Suddenly the players are all over eating meals and drinking their water.

Personification
Shiva's suggestion is along these lines. You make the boring thing the equivalent of an NPC. The players have to defeat the NPC or maybe the NPC is helping them.

Get Rid of Math
There's often a lot of accounting in boring stuff. Approximating the math in a way that removes or greatly simplifies math is one way of making these tasks easier to handle. Sometimes the fun emerges from the task at this point as the tension the story element imparts becomes easier to see. This is along the lines of Asmor's suggestion.

I wanted to throw these concepts out there in the hopes of giving people more ideas. Remember the important thing is to be specific. The idea might be gold, but how to implement it may be fuzzy. Be as specific as you can and give the full implementation.
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A Yin Yang approach to gear, weapons, treasure, water, food and other kinds of carried items. Since there's basically two reasons a player is concerned about stuff: too little & too much.

A character has 2 choices, either be heavy or light (pack-mule or minimalist)

When a heavy character wants something reasonable within the game (get a drink, pull out a second weapon, light a fire, a tent maybe?) The player doesn't need to roll and it is assumed the character packed the said item.
When a light character wants something that isn't really basic (like clothing, his primary tool or weapon, one meal) the character must roll in order to actually have the said item on himself, the more times you need to roll, the harder it should be.

In opposition, when a light character is climbing a mountain, scrounging the sewers, or crawling under barbwire, he won't need to roll for encumbrance. The heavy character does.

Any character can change this disposition by picking or letting go of stuff. Since the rolls keep getting harder and harder within a scene, members of a group can share the weight, a light character can carry some heavy guy stuff (meaning swapping places for a roll) giving a fair advantage to team work . Things like vehicles and rides, as well as caches, bases and such can be used to swap from one to another.
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In a more mechanical heavy system you can turn the idea into + -. The bonus you can have in one is diametrically opposed to the other. A +2 bonus in Loaded would equal a -2 in Sleek.A 0 would represent someone with a keen sense of necessity and balance. Like this you can emulate a more gradual gearing up and stripping down. Be careful not to add too many intervals or you'll end up with something too complex, which is the opposite of this exercise.
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Emmett O'Brian
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Ok! Now that you've had some time to think about it, what about consumables? What can be done about getting characters to eat something other than iron rations?
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Ian Toltz
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EmmettO wrote:
Ok! Now that you've had some time to think about it, what about consumables? What can be done about getting characters to eat something other than iron rations?


The obvious answer is some kind of buff, much like World of Warcraft does.

Different food gives different buffs. You can only have one food buff at a time.
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EmmettO wrote:
Ok! Now that you've had some time to think about it, what about consumables? What can be done about getting characters to eat something other than iron rations?

A maintenance check, regardless if it is a tool, a weapon , armor, wardrobe, rides, machines, whatever, they need maintenance, the way i see it the higher the stat the higher the difficulty, it is easy to eat most anything but it's not easy being at the peek of human condition without a proper lifestyle, exercise, hygiene and diet.

A failed check would lower your stats or bonuses: Failed roll: You're famished, beaten and your blades are bold, but enemies are coming, you must stand your ground.

Also note that social and mind stats can also be considered. I really need a hot cofee to focus on this case.
She took a bite out of it, she was starving, there was nothing to appreciate, it was far from the delicacies of her palace, how low things had gone.

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Emmett O'Brian
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We're a little more than half way through the contest, there's a frankly HUGE prize of 315 geekgold on the line. We've got some great input so far but I expect RPGGeek can do more! Come on guys, get your thinking caps on!
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I think people are waiting for the deadline to deliver.
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Emmett O'Brian
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shiva666 wrote:
I think people are waiting for the deadline to deliver.
Well, that sounds boring.
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Fixing Shopping
(Cake solution: I divide the cake, you choose which half you want)

The most boring thing in the world to me in games is shopping. I do not enjoy paging through books for just the right thing. I also like coming up with my own cool toys that I would like to have. So here's an idea to make it faster and more interesting.

Player describes some item that they would like to purchase and they make a choice: Attributes or Complications. Whatever they pick, the GM gets control over the other.

Attributes:

Player: may give the item 3 functional elements: This might be a +1 to attack, glows in the presence of Undead, Makes the user immune to fear, what ever they like.

GM: Same as player. The item must still function in the way the player intended (armor is still armor, a weapon is still a weapon, etc) but the GM dictates exactly how it does the cool things the player wants it to do. It might give the character protection from the undead, but it may also draw undead to them (Standard, "yes, but..." GM stuff).

Complications:

Player: The player picks 2 options from the list below.
GM: GM picks 2 options from the list below.

The item isn't readily available, the player can't have it right now.
Someone else is looking for the thing, and therefor, now looking for you.
The item is exorbitantly expensive.
The item is fragile and in need of special care.
The item is dangerous or unpredictable.
The player owes anyone a favor for the thing.

Probably important: I tend to play a lot of lighter fare where this idea would be easier and faster to integrate. If one were playing Pathfinder this would take some really intense knowledge of the system.
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Trekking rules

These rules are meant for those situations in a game where the PCs have to walk long distances. They are meant to be easy, quick and fun.

First, each character needs a trekking rating (TR). It is a rough measure of how experienced the PCs are in this thing. A trekking rating is a number between 1 and 10. The bigger, the better. First, take the game's attribute meaning stamina/toughness/constitution. Divide the maximum by 10, rounding up. Thus, if the maximum stamina is 18, you get 2. If the maximum toughness is 100, you get 10. Every that amount of points in the attribute gives one point of TR. For example, in the first case, 5 points of stamina means two TR, in the second case, 76 points of toughness means 7 points of TR. If there is no such attribute, the TR starts from five. Alternatively, the GM/Player can give an arbitrary number to begin with.

Secondly, a suitable skill is taken into account. Such skills might be Movement&Manouver/Trekking/Survival. Once again, divide the maximum by 10, rounding up. Every that amount of points in a skill gives one point of TR. Add this number to TR. If there is no suitable skill, do not add anything. Maximum is 10.

Each time the party goes trekking, you have to decide how long that day the characters are walking. Then take a die of that amount. Thus, the hours may be 4,6,8,10,12, or 20. Each character throws a die. If theresult is more than his/her TR, something happens. Roll a d12 once below. If the result makes no sense, don't roll again.

d12 Event
1 A boot breaks, slowing down the character. He needs a new boot.
2 A poisonous insect stings the character. Health goes down one point.
3 Rain goes inside the character's pack and wets everything.
4 Sprained ankle. The character needs help walking. This lasts for 1d4 days.
5 An animal tries to steal the character's food. It can be anything from a squirrel to a bear.
6 The character has a flashback and tells it to the whole party.
7 The character finds a minor piece of equipment. The GM decides what it is.
8 Repacked after a pause, the backpack is now easier to carry. Decrease encumbrance by one.
9 The character finds a shortcut. Reduce trekking time by one die, down to 1d4.
10 A small animal starts to follow the character. It may be domesticated as a pet.
11 A glint in the spring leads the character to 1d10 coins worth of gold.
12 Exciting day. Roll again twice, ignoring a result of 12.
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