Monday, February 8, 2010

Information Beats

Recently, Robin D. Laws has written about information beats. Reading it gives me the sense of some profound new way of understanding and designing games just on the tip of my tongue. Jason Corley's recent thread on Story Games in defense of the much-maligned "giant, detailed setting" books, seems deeply tied into this. Both, in effect, ask us to see an RPG in terms of pacing and controlling the flow of information. I think they have something there, and I'd really love to see what happens as game designers start thinking of mechanics that really handle questions, reveals and pipes.

This all led me to an idea for the Fifth World; a subtle change, but one that, I think, could make all the difference. Right now, at the beginning of the game, you declare a goal you want to pursue. You place that goal on the map, and then you tell us about the obstacles you face. For each obstacle, you put a coin on the goal. Then, when you set a scene in pursuit of your goal, you cast some coins. Heads reduce the number of coins on the goal, tails put more on. You win when you have removed all the coins on the goal.

The change I have in mind really just involves changing some names; like, instead of "goal," you have a question. Heads don't give you successes, they give you answers; you take one coin away from the stack. Tails don't give you setbacks, they give you more questions; you put another coin on the stack. It doesn't change the mechanic at all, but it feels like a significant shift in the tone. One I feel pretty good about.

1 comment:

Jason Godesky said...

Having slept on it, this seems less attractive. Sure, it puts a new spin on investigative or mystery plotlines, but it seems to hedge out the straightforward, hack-and-slash possibilities. I rather liked that my system could handle a dungeon crawl, composing a song, or (as happened in one playtest) a permacultural land restoration project with equal ease.

I can also see this pattern working with tracking, with some different terms: "the Other" instead of the goal, you call the stack the trail, each coin represents a track or sign; heads remove tracks from the trail, bringing you closer, while tails add more tracks, setting you further apart.