Challenge: Make a dream based rpg.
Most rpgs have some sort of a conflict resolution system. Even narrative driven games need some way to handle conflicts, even if it is just conflicts between players. In yesterday's lore entry, I laid out the driving conflict in our game: the struggle between the dreaming players, who want to preserve as much of the possibility space for Yggdrasil to grow through, and the godking antagonists, who are pruning Yggdrasil for their own gains.
This conflict will shape every game session. The resource system is built around it. The game's resource in the abstract is the forking branches of Yggdrasil. Right now we are calling the resource "narration points", primarily from their function, but we will pick a better name for it later. At the beginning of each game, the NP are present in small individual player pools and in a large world pool that all players and the antagonist will have access to. When this pool runs out, the game is over. Players use NP to shape the dream world to their wishes. These changes, or lateral movements through the branches, have the same effect as when the antagonists use them. They narrow the possibility space and push souls out of the tree. Players have to manage this as they attempt to stop the antagonist.
So on to how and why we roll dice! The conflict that we are resolving is actually between you and the dream world that you are in! Each world has its own rules and physical limits, much like our world. When you want to make a change in the world that violates those rules, like making a cup of coffee appear out of nowhere, you use NP and roll some six-sided dice. We don't just check for success or failure though. Our system is a little novel and a bit more complicated than that and is meant to drive interesting and strange narrative moments. Let's look at some of the theory behind how many games use their rolls so we can understand why our system is different. Note: I know that there are much more complicated systems out there, but the fake example system I'm using is like a prototype for most other systems, especially combat focused ones.
Above we have a number line (with no numbers on it, just bear with me). Lower rolls are to the left and higher rolls are to the right. For this example, we are going to say that high rolls are good and low rolls are bad. That line in the middle is the threshold of success. If you are over the threshold, you succeed, and if you are under it, you fail. That is a pretty typical way to look to gage an attempt at an action.
What do failure and success really mean though? Well, in most cases, a success means that you did what you intended to do, you took an intended action (IA). You smashed the orc in the head! Good job! A failure means that you did not do what you intended to do, you took an unintended action (UA). You missed the orc! O crap! That is all fine a good if all you care about is success and failure, but what if you want more out of your rolls?
What happens when we separate the intention of an action from the result? Now we have a new axis for our plane of possible outcomes! We have the old axis of UA/IA (which actually had our new axis folded into it if you think about it) and a new axis that has 2 new extremes. We have expected results (ER) and unexpected results (UR). This gives us 4 possible states (if we ignore degree, which we will) instead of just 2!
We have the familiar complete success (IA/ER)! You swung your axe and intended to brain the orc. You did it! The axe is swung and the orc is brained! Good job!
If you didn't do what you intended but you got the result you expect, you have a weird success (UA/ER). You tried to swing your axe, but tripped over your own shoelaces, stumbled into the brazier, and knocked it into the orc's head. Good job?
If you did what you intended but get an unexpected result, you have a twist (IA/UR). You swung your axe alright, but you missed, and gave the orc the opportunity to knee you in the groin. Good job orc!
Finally, we have an absolute failure (UA/UR). Not only did you trip over your shoelaces, but you also forgot to zip your fly and got tangled up enough in your pants that the orc thought you were silly and not worth his time. He walked away, and left you in a heap. You were an absolute failure. Bad job!
So that is neat you are saying, but how do you get there with dice? HOW DO WE ROLL? You scream at the top of your lungs.
I'll tell you! Goodness...
First off, you only roll when you want to do something that breaks the rules of the world that you are in. Then you have to decide how much you want to break those rules. If I just want to make a cup of coffee appear in my hand so I can drink it, that isn't much of a change. If I want to reverse gravity and pick up a mountain so that I can bash a city to pieces, that is a great big giant change. The magnitude of the change determines how many NP you spend, how many dice you roll, and the threshold of success. Once you know how much you want to break the rules, you then have to declare the action that you wish to take and your expected result. Then you roll those dice! What did you get?
If there are no doubles, triples, etc. just pick one of the die and use that number. If it is above the threshold, you have a complete success, and below, an absolute failure. That seems just like the other rpgs, you whine predictably. Shut up. It isn't. Remember, an absolute failure is more than just a swing and a miss. You couldn't even swing the damn axe. You suck that bad. Why would you ever do that? There actually is a reason that you would do that, and I will get to it in a minute. Also, I haven't mentioned what multiples do...
If you have multiples of any number besides 1 or 6, you have to take that number. If you have multiple multiples (like a double 4 and a triple 2) , you have to take the one that there is more of. If there is a tie, you pick. You also use a different scale. Use the same threshold that you used before, except now you either get a twist or a weird success. Neat right? The more difficult the change that you want to make is, the more likely it is that something will go funky and you will have to narrate your way through it. I think that is cool! Unexpected stuff is cool!
You have to take multiple 1s or 6s over anything else. They have more "gravity" than the other multiples if you will. A multiple 1 is always an absolute failure. A multiple 6 is always a complete success. Ties and multiple multiples of 1s and 6s are handled in the same way as regular multiples.
So why would you ever choose to have anything but a complete success if you have the option? Well, complete successes bend the world to your will and use the maximum number of NP. You did what you wanted, but you paid a price. The possible branches were thinned and souls were forced off of the tree. A weird success still accomplished what you expected, but it did it in a weird way. This costs you less NP (probably half) because it introduced wrinkles into the change, allowing some souls to migrate along other forks. A twist will not cost you anything. Things changed, but in an unexpected way, keeping all of those forks open for the happy souls. An absolute failure nets NP into the world pool. Things went so wrong in strange and unexpected ways that you actually created more forks for the souls the travel on. Yggdrasil likes random chance, and you just gave it something random as hell.
If the world pool is running low on NP and it looks like the game might end, you can intentionally fail! You might buy yourself a better opportunity down the road to really stick it to that antagonist. I think that is neat. You can also accrue points into your personal pool by rolling 1s. Any 1 rolled puts more NP into your personal pool.
So tomorrow, I will talk about the other things that you can do with NP besides make changes, how the antagonist functions (a hint: autonomously!), and how the world pool functions in more detail. Should be fun!