Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rethinking Basic Gameplay, Yet Again

Well, Raccoon Creek had a lot to teach us about herbal medicines this weekend, but had few revelations to offer about the game. I'll accept that as a good weekend, though! I've started to pull together some ideas of basic gameplay, enough perhaps to try some very preliminary playtesting.

  1. The genius loci has three bowls of different colored beads, representing Flesh, Breath and Word (we use red beads for Flesh, blue beads for Breath, and green beads for Word, but so far, I see no reason why you couldn't use any distinctive marker you like instead).
  2. The other players have three bowls, and several lengths of string. The bowls, as with the genius loci, hold their own pools of Flesh, Breath and Word, which they get from the land; the strings hold the beads for their relationships, each string representing a different relationship.
  3. Offerings allow players to move beads from one of their pools to one of their relationships; so, for instance, observing or tracking a coyote represents an offering of Flesh to Coyote, so you can move one Flesh bead from your Flesh pool to your relationship with Coyote; an eloquent prayer to Coyote, on the other hand, constitutes an offering of Breath, and so on.
  4. Eating another person allows you to take their Flesh beads for your own; dreaming restores Breath from the land; listening to stories restores Word from the land, etc.
  5. So, getting down to the meat of it, how do you determine whether or not an action happens? You'll need to wager the appropriate kind of beads—you can make hidden wagers and escalating wagers.
    • Hidden wagers describe sudden, single actions: can you make that jump? In those situations, the two parties commit their beads secretly, and then reveal. Whoever has committed the most beads, wins. So if the crevice commits 10 Flesh beads, and the person jumping it commits only 8, that means that the jumper underestimated the distance of the crevice, so the crevice beat him.
    • Escalating wagers describe situations where one or the other party can escalate their effort: can you bring down that deer? Can you lift that rock? These begin with a hidden wager, but afterwards, both sides have the opportunity to invest more beads, until one or the other gives in. So, if the rock puts in 10 Flesh beads, and the lifter puts in only 8, he sees he can't lift the rock, so he tries harder—he puts in three more beads, for a total of 11, beating the rock's 10. The rock can't escalate his weight that quickly, so the lifter manages to lift the rock. Or, a hunter trying to bring down a deer wagers 10 Flesh beads on the initial shot, but the deer wagers 12. So, the hunter missed the initial shot, but he increases his wager with three more beads, bringing his total up to 13; the deer uses her last six beads to bring her up to 18. So the hunter chases after the deer, and the deer darts off as quickly as she can. The hunter puts in another six beads, bringing him up to 19. The deer has no more beads, so she begins burning through her relationships. The hunter continues to chase, and the deer becomes desperate. The hunter throws in some more beads, beating out the deer's wager; the deer has nothing more to throw in at this point. So the hunter takes the deer, after running her down.
  6. After you've determined the outcome, each player can keep a number of beads equal to the appropriate relationship; all others go back to the genius loci's pools for the land. So, the jumper tried to Hare across the crevice; he has a total of 8 beads in his relationship with Hare, and 3 of those take the shape of Flesh beads. He committed 8 beads to the jump; 8-3=5, so he can take back three beads, and gives five back to the land (of course, he also fell down a crevice, so that may seem like the least of his worries). The lifter Anted up that rock, and he has 6 of his 8 beads with Ant in Flesh, so of the 11 beads he committed, he gets 6 back, and 5 go back to the land. The hunter Wolfed the deer down, and he has 14 of his 22 beads with Wolf as Flesh, so of the 19 beads he committed, he gets 14 back, and 5 go to the land. So basically, your relationships—in quantity and quality—determine how much you can "safely" wager.

We'll try this system out some time this week, and let you know how it goes.


Matt said...

These are really cool mechanics but they are also really complicated, I don't know if it would be practical to have something with that many pieces and things to do and keep track of.

WorldWithoutToil said...

I'm liking this. I don't think they are really that complicated, when it comes down to actual game play. Testing will be required, but I can see people easily get into the hang of things.

Firstly: So far breath and word pools refresh from the genius loci bowls, but flesh comes from the character you eat. This could be problematic. First, it isn't harmonious with the other mechanics. What does the GL's flesh bowl do then? How do beads leave it? How do they return? I'd be wary making it different. Second, in your example of hunting down the deer, the deer spends all of it's flesh dice attempting to not be eaten. This is sensible and I imagine most would do this, but it leaves their flesh pool empty, thus making eating them pointless.

I love skill as a means of retaining beads as opposed to a modifier. This means anyone can perform at any level, but it costs the unskilled more. Good stuff.

I would like to see (and will likely perform, also) a playtest between open and hidden bidding on the extended bids. I'd also want to consider/test some sort of condition to end an extended bid other than one person runs out of beads. I know I've mentioned this before, but once you've committed to the bid, the incentive to pull out before going broke decreases the more you go in.

Jason Godesky said...

Matt: I'd say that the complexity has a direct relationship to how you use it. If you need to use this like a d20 roll in D&D to map out every sword swing in a raging battle, yes. But I see this more as modeling the whole battle, with the various sword swings modeled by each escalation (to keep the same example).

World Without Toil: No, I fully intend to have other ways of replenishing Breath and Word, analogous to the ways of replenishing Flesh; I just haven't put together those kinds of details yet, because I don't know if the mechanic works yet.

Right now, we've got some ideas working on how to use a mancala board.