Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #16 - Blogger Roundtable #2 - Spare Parts

This month's prompt:
What is a favorite mechanic or idea you've encountered in an RPG that you think would work well in other games? Please explain the mechanic/idea, tell us a bit about the game it comes from, and give some ideas of how it could be used in other games. You can discuss more than one mechanic or idea if you like.
OK, that's a doozy, a great topic, but one that I've already touched on previously. In fact this is going to be a short blog because it's going to spend a lot of time pointing to other posts I have written previously, but that's OK.  So I'm going to give you my Top 5, and make up for the lack of new material with a whole lot of referenced old material!

Honorable Mentions
These are already written and worth mentioning anew, but for various reasons they don't really fall onto the list.
  • The Stunt Mechanic from Dragon AGE is great, but its not something easy to port to new systems.
  • GM Fiat, is something I like as GM, and a lot of games nowadays have it in some form or another, so I don't think it counts, but it's worth mentioning.

#5 - No GM Dice Rolling

I love love love how the Cypher System frees the GM from the shackles of dice. This mechanic would be higher, but converting it to other games would take a decent amount of work, and some games just wouldn't really work "right" with asymmetric dice rolling.

#4 - Complications/Trouble Aspects

Trouble Aspects come from FATE, and Complications (at least as I know them and am referring to here) come from Mutants & Masterminds. These two games couldn't be any more different if they tried. One is a crunchy, point-buy, mechanic driven, d20 based, supers game, and the other is FATE. They do have one thing in common though, they don't just encourage character faults/flaws, the require them. At char gen.

In FATE your Trouble is an aspect of your character that is designed to be if not negative, at least somewhat troublesome for the character. It's the part of the character that can most easily get pinged by the GM for a bit of fiat, or a Compel as FATE calls it. If your Trouble is "Curious to a Fault" the GM can use that whenever a mystery and the character cross paths to drive that character to investigate, often to the detriment of whatever else is going on at the time.

In Mutants & Masterminds Complications act the same way. M&M Is a superhero game and character Complications can take the form of secret identities, relationships (often with non-heroes, sometimes with villains!), flaws in the character's super powers (kryptonite!), and the like. Much like a Trouble, these are leveraged by the GM as a way to pull the character in two directions at once (and Superman save Lois AND stop Luthor???), expose a character to their weakness, or put them in a situation where they have to try and keep their identity secret.

Strip away the specifics and both Complications and Trouble Aspects are meant to give the GM additional information about your character and to fill them in on some of the character less stellar points. Most people find that a flawed hero is a more interesting protagonist and that works as well in RPGs as it does in cinema. Even a fantasy dungeon crawl game can benefit from this. It may be tied to class powers (somatic components anyone?), or even be a class feature (preferred enemy). It could also be a piece of minor color (the cleric is a lecherous man who has to struggle against his vow of celibacy).

Regardless it gives the GM a tool or two and it gives the characters more depth, both of which are good things.

#3 - Scaleable Results

It's a little odd to be including this since I would not have thought of it a month ago. Usually When I see systems like this they are somewhat ... vanilla. If you hit x number beyond your target you get a little extra damage, or a little better effect, a lot of times its nothing to write home about.

And then I played Dungeon Crawl Classics. +James Walls gets a little credit here, as it's his fault I played it, but after seeing the crazy scaling of the magic spells in that game ... boy howdy do I wish more games had similar mechanics. Going from a single magic missile to a volley of ball lighting that each tract a separate target? HELL YEAH! A single paralyzing touch becoming a scattering blast of paralyzing rays? YES! Sure these kinds of boons aren't something that will happen a lot, but that's half the point, the difference between just passing a spell check and blowing it clear out of the water SHOULD be big, and DCC sure as hell delivers, granting eight distinct levels of success on most spells. Your Holy Sanctuary could grant a mere +1 for a single turn if you just squeak by, but with a big enough roll you can permanently sanctify a 10,000 square foot area!! (That's ~930 square meters for you metric folks!)

I've seen scaling result bonuses in other games, but it wasn't until DCC that I saw how awesome the could be if game designers allowed them.

#2 - Bennies

I like stuff that let's players control their destiny just a bit more. I already did a blog post for this though, so check that out.

#1 - One Unique Thing

Yup, I already did a blog post about this one too. The best part about the One Unique Thing is that it's 100% portable to other systems without any work required. As a non-mechanical way to further develop character and help engage the players in the game world from day one it can't be beat.


So that's that; my favorite five things to steal from other games (at least for now). Hopefully you maybe try some of them, but even if you don't maybe this got some wheels going in your head about what stuff you like that you can steal for other games.

Want to see some other blogger's takes on this subject? Check out:

+James Walls at http://ilive4crits.blogspot.com/2015/01/when-is-it-players-turn-mouse-guarding.html

+Scott Robinson at http://strangeenc.blogspot.com/2015/02/aspects-as-near-universal-design.html

+Lex Starwalker at http://www.starwalkerstudios.com/blog/

+John Marvin at http://dreadunicorngames.com/2015/02/04/bloggers-roundtable-of-doom-the-montage/

+John Clayton at http://blog.filesandrecords.com/2015/02/instant-backstory-just-add-imagination/