Mechanics development (part 3 of 3) #NaGaDeMon

Featured image is Dark Rain Shinobi by Evgeniy Shaluhin

Thanks to some great input from a friend and published game designer (thanks Doug!), I’m rethinking a lot about my basic mechanic. So… here’s what’s not changing:

  • Still using a standard deck of cards w/ jokers 🃏
  • Black ♠️♣️ means good 👍🏾, red ♦️♥️ means bad 👎🏾
  • Black and red still cancel each other out
  • Whichever has more cards in the draw, black or red, determines positive (Benefit) or negative (Drawback) effect
  • Jokers still mean a critical success

But I’m now looking at changing everything else (again thanks Doug) …

  • Success based on hitting target number 10 with number of cards equal to the difficulty.
  • The Difficulty of the action is the number of successes you need: easy is 1 success, average is 2 successes, hard is 3 successes, extreme is 4 successes, and so on…
  • Skills decrease the target number: basic Skill needs 9 or higher, advanced Skill needs 8 or higher, expert Skill needs 7 or higher, master Skill needs 6 or higher.
  • Ace is a 1 again
  • Royal cards provide access to special abilities called Powers*
  • All number cards (not royals) now provide possible Benefit or Drawback effects dependent on color, in addition to their number being used to compare to target number for success.
  • The number of cards you draw is based on the PC’s Aspect (sub-attribute) that best pertains to the test.
  • Attributes allow you to draw additional cards that discard and replace cards drawn with the Aspect. But the card to be replaced must be chosen before any Attribute cards are drawn. Attribute 1 means draw & replace 1, Attribute 2 means 2, Attribute 3 means 3, etc…
  • Powers* are triggered by royal cards.
  • Jokers are one automatic success, a Power* trigger (as if you drew a black 10 and a black royal card), and reshuffle the deck after the action is done.**
  • Jokers can not be cancelled out. (But if there are more red than black cards showing a Drawback can still happen.)

Alright here’s an example of play…

A player decides they want to do something and declares their Action. It is a non-combat action. The difficulty is easy, i.e. the player only needs 1 success. Normally a success is needing to draw a 10 (or Joker), but the PC has a pertinent basic Skill, which means the player can now draw a 9 or 10 (or Joker, of course) to succeed at the action. The PC’s pertinent Aspect is 3 which means the player will draw 3 cards. The PC’s pertinent Attribute is 2 which allows them to draw & replace 2 additional cards. The player draws a J♥️, A♣️, 4❤️, which means they got no cards at 9 or higher, so the action is a failure with a Drawback right now. But luckily they can choose to replace 2 of the cards because the PC’s Attribute is 2. So they choose to do that and replace the A♣️ and 4♥️ hoping to cancel out the ♥️ in the J but keep it to trigger a Power. The player then draws a 10♠️ and a 5♣️, so the player get’s their success with the 10 and now there are more black cards than red, so there is a positive Benefit. And with the J♥️ still showing the player has a “J” slot Power* that triggers. Which in this case the “J” slot is a combat Power* and since this was a non-combat Action, the Power* has no effect. Now roleplay the success and the positive Benefit, then the action is done.

*Updated 11-12-2018 to replace Talent with Power*

**Updated 11-12-2018 to include wording about Jokers reshuffling the deck when they are drawn**

This mechanics convo continues from New Mechanics and Mechanics continued…

Mechanics continued… (part 2 of 3) #NaGaDeMon

Featured image is Mr. Morgenstern by Tracy H.

So in my last post I introduced that I’ll be using a deck of cards as the primary mechanic engine for the game. After doing some play testing I feel I needed to change it up the variables.

So the deck is going to be modified. We’ll go ahead and split the deck. Players deck is all black cards plus the jokers. GM deck is all red cards.

I also stated how I wanted each card in the deck to be interpreted. Here’s a reminder:

  • 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 = number listed
  • Black ace/royal = positive effect
  • Red ace/royal = negative effect
  • Joker = success with critical effect

A test/challenge will proceed thus. The player will state the action they are doing, apply any applicable special rules, and then draw cards from the player deck until 2 number cards are drawn (or a joker), keeping all cards face up in front of them until the action is complete.

The GM then states what the difficulty and draw(s) card(s) from the GM deck equal to that difficulty. Here is how the difficulties will be for set challenges:

  • Easy difficulty = 1 card
  • Average difficulty = 2 cards
  • Hard difficulty = 3 cards
  • Extreme difficulty = 4 cards

The two hands are then compared:

  1. Joker is a critical success and triggers a special ability (to be determined later)
  2. Any red ace/royals cancel any black ace/royals, and vice versa.
  3. Then compare totaled number cards (2 of ♠️+ 6 of ♣️ = 8 for the PC), total red vs total black. If black is higher the action succeeds, if red is higher the action fails.
  4. Remaining royal/aces break ties. If it’s still tied, then each involved draws one 1 card, adding it to their total and count again. Repeat again if still tied.
  5. Any black royal/ace left creates a positive effect, even if the action fails. (Multiples magnify)
  6. Any red royal/ace left creates a negative effect, even if the action fails. (Multiples magnify)

After comparing and determining success or failure, positive or negative effects, etc… roleplay what happens and then discard the cards that were used in this challenge.

The mechanics convo continues in Mechanics continued… and Mechanics development (part 3)

New mechanics (part 1 of 3) #NaGaDeMon

Featured image is Goblin by Darek Zabrocki

Life has lately been pretty stressful, and so I’ve decided I need to do something that gives me joy and will be a nice distraction. So starting this blog is that thing.

The month of November is National Game Design Month (aka NaGaDeMon – http://nathanrussell.net/naga-demon/) and so I’m going to take time to finally work on designing a roleplaying game. I have multiple friends who have designed games and so I thought it’s my time to take a stab at it. Here’s my attempt.

The first thing I’d like to address for my NaGaDeMon game is mechanics, or more specifically the base mechanic for resolution of challenges and uncertain actions. Here are the two basic ideals I have come up with for my basic mechanic:

  1. No dice
  2. Non-binary results

Item #1 – No Dice – So, in roleplaying dice are almost a ubiquitous necessary item. I’ve just been working lately on the idea that I’d like to use something other than small objects being thrown across the table. I want to do this because I’ve heard that most dice, because of their manufacturing techniques are not really that great at being statistically average. I’ve also seen a few great attempts on not using dice (Amber, Castle Falkenstein, Deadlands Classic, Dragonlance 5th Age, Nobilis, and others). So there are some references for doing this, just nothing seems to have strongly taken over for dice. (You can see this quite evident in Deadlands, since Reloaded uses diceless mechanics far less than Classic.)

But I want the game to still have a randomization feature, so I don’t think I’ll go full diceless (i.e. no randomizer) like in Amber or Nobilis. So I think I’m going to use a deck of cards, rather than dice. Initially this means that it will be easy to work with since you can find standard decks of cards everywhere. But I think ultimately I want to create a custom deck, with cool art that can enhance the play of the game and maybe give a good mood for what is going on. (But more on that later).

Item #2 – Non-binary results – This item has become an interest of mine since reading FFG’s Genesys system and games based on the Apolocalypse Engine. I’d like to use the deck of cards to give results that are more than just pass/fail. A standard d20 roll just tells you if you were successful or not. I’d like for the basic mechanic to tell you more than that. The goal is to allow for some description and roleplaying to happen with the dice, that is more than just I successfully/unsuccessfully picked the lock, or I hit/didn’t hit the orc with my sword). So I’m thinking I’ll develop that cards in the deck provide different options other than just numbers for successes, etc…

So here’s my Base Mechanic proposal:

  • A deck of 54 cards will be used.
  • Number cards will represent numbers (except Aces)
  • Royal/face/ace cards will provide a non-binary result (red means bad, black means good)
  • Jokers activate something good that is grander than normal, like a critical, etc…
  • Red and black royals/aces cancel each other out at a 1 to 1 ratio
  • Jokers and royals/aces do not cancel each other out

Performing a Base Mechanic challenge:

  • Draw from the deck until you have two numbers cards from the deck.
  • Special abilities may give you the ability to change this base mechanic.
  • Base – add the two number cards together, this is your “result”
  • Compare your “result” to the “difficulty” set by the GM
  • If it’s a head-to-head roll, compare it the “result” of the adversary
  • Royals/aces provide roleplaying effects in addition to the compared result.
  • Red royals/aces provide negative effects, black provide positive
  • Jokers are considered a “critical” and may trigger a special ability

The positive and negative effects provided by the royals and aces give players and GMs a chance to do a little more depth in the result. Maybe the character succeeded but did so with a red royal/ace, so then there is something that additionally happened that was possibly hindering to the party as a whole. So here’s how the results table can look (rated from worst to best):

  • Failure w/ negative effect – number below difficulty, and showing more red royals/aces than black
  • Failure – number below difficulty, equal red and black royals/aces
  • Failure w/ positive effect – number below difficulty, and showing more black royals/aces than red
  • Failure w/ critical – number below difficulty, with joker(s)
  • Success w/ negative effect – number above difficulty, with more red royals/aces than black
  • Success -number above difficulty, and showing more black royals/aces than red
  • Success w/ positive effect – number above difficulty, and showing more black royals/aces than red
  • Success w/ critical – number above difficulty, with joker(s)

Does this make sense? I welcome your feedback on this, and I plan to flesh it out a little more as I continue to develop this game. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.

– Josh

The mechanics convo continues in Mechanics continued… and Mechanics development (part 3)