It's interesting to me when people come up with ways to mix up a game that don't interfere with the way it already works. I like stuff like that.
Mechanisms for Tabletop Roleplaying, by Levi Kornelsen, gathers together several mechanisms previously posted to his website, Amagi Games.
The supplement comes in the form of a 15-page, landscape format PDF, with nicely illustrated pages, scattered with occasional pictures and a few illustrated examples.
The mechanisms included are:
The Countdown Stack
The Wrath Count
Each of these ideas can be instituted in your game of preference without interfering with the way things work already. These mechanisms all bolt-on and add an extra layer of interest or control.
I'm sure I have come across something like the Countdown Stack before. Mythos Expeditions introduced a pool mechanic that sets the characters well-being up against bad weather, rough travel and poor rations. Dragon Age has a threshold mechanic that requires characters achieve a specific quantity of success before completing a task, as does Foreign Element.
The twist here is that the Stack can be something good or bad. You might have a countdown to see who reaches the lost tomb first, or it could be a countdown to see whether the characters make it to safety before they're overcome by the zombie hoard. The additional novelty comes from the notion that character actions and player decisions can draw from or add to the pool. If you spend extra time researching a cure for the plague, you can take a counter from the stack for an extra dice or a certain success. Perhaps someone spends time at the fence poking sharp sticks through zombie skulls, adding an extra counter to the stack.
All very neat.
Temptation Dice takes an idea that has cropped up a lot recently - the bonus advantage die - and layers on a dilemma. You can roll an extra dice and make use of it, but it comes with a price. Depending on the game, this might be a single extra die or more than one. The section offers an interesting notion on the idea of the devil and the angel on your shoulders. Roll an two extra dice - one white, one black - and have the result tied to acts of either self-sacrifice or depravity, determined by the players on your left and right.
This one will really depend on your game, the themes, and the potential pitfalls of character and motivation. It might not work with every game - but I can certainly see potential in those where you have characters who are not necessarily on the level and working solely for the good of all.
Action Scenery - a mechanic not covered on the author's web site - offered an interesting way to add extra pulp to your combat. Cards included in the supplement suggest ways that characters might take advantage of furniture and scenery, or fall foul of them when the roll doesn't go there way.
You can use this mechanic straight off the page or take the idea in your own direction, coming up with cards specific and flavourful for your game setting. Each action has positives and negatives suggested, along with potential opportunities. You can align these with the success mechanism of your game to enliven your combat encounters, throwing them out on the table for players to consider as exciting alternatives to just pounding on enemies with a sword.
The Wrath Count scratches an itch many of us will have had when gamemastering. You have a party of characters faced off against a hoard of adversaries - but how do you divide the baddies against the goodies. Yes, some games will includes tactics for monsters, and sometimes you might just assign them evenly or randomise; why not let the acts of the characters themselves influence the focus of the enemy?
The Wrath Count mechanism assigns each character a token or two, then changes the total depending on how they interact. If a character injures or kills an opponent, they acquire far more Wrath than the cleric in the background laying on hands to heal his companions - although that very act will add a Wrath token to the healer's count.
The final mechanism, Escalated, reminds me a little of Motivations in GUMSHOE. Each character has a list of relationship types, both positive and negative. When a player chooses to solidify one of these relationships by setting pen to paper, they benefit from some form of refresh or reward.
The act of claiming the reward cements the relationship and forces story-focussed change in the way the characters react. You can up the strength of the relationship - from Implied through Overt, Abusive and up to Murderous. Each stage offers a new refresh, but also implies far stronger reactions.
You'll do anything for love, right?
Of all the ideas in Mechanisms, I love the idea of the Wrath Count the most and plan to try it out next time I run a game. I like a mechanism that puts the onus on the players to change the way the non-player characters react to them. In the past I have always tended to go for random decisions about who comes under attack, but this makes more sense.
You can grab the document for free (or Pay What You Want). Alternatively, you can get everything but Action Scenery from Levi's website.
“I would have made this instrumental, but the words got in the way...” —XTC, “No Language in Our Lungs”
“Self-discipline isn’t everything; look at Pol Pot.” —Helen Fielding, _Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason_
You sold me: I probably won't use all of these suggestions, but they're exactly the kind of thing I like to have in my GM's arsenal of tricks and techniques, waiting for the right moment to arise.
It's a really neat little collection of ideas that won't work for every game, but will definitely have you thinking. You will see the value in at least one of the ideas and find yourself determined to make use of it. I used a Countdown Stack yesterday (more or less) in my Fate Accelerated game. And, I definitely plan to use the Wrath Count system when I next run Dragon Age.
- Last edited Sun Mar 8, 2015 8:36 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Mar 8, 2015 8:36 pm