January 22, 2017

Like Dropping Coins Into an Arcade Machine

Eureka! I’ve been wrestling with the way I’ve written my contest mechanics for Hari Ragat for some time now. I think I have it.

The most basic structure of a contest is to declare actions, roll, compare to find the winner, and narrate the results.

But there are also many contests where you don't want to just give up if you lose the roll. Specially if it means your character got killed. So to continue the contest, you have to pay a cost.

Basically it's like feeding coins into an arcade machine. Game over? Not yet, not as long as you have coins and are willing to spend them. As long as you can pay the cost to continue, you can continue the contest, or try to negotiate, or try to turn the contest into another kind of contest where you're more likely to win.

Different resources can be used to pay the continue cost for different types of contests. Say you lose an exchange in lethal combat. Rather than let your character die, you pay points from your shield or armor, trading the usable life of those items for another chance to be the victor. Say you lose an attempt to resist a diwata's seduction. Rather than let your character do as the diwata wishes, you pay points from your willpower.

The GM's characters also have similar resources. The more important the character, the greater these resources, so contests against them will be harder to win.

January 21, 2017

Tattoos of Mystery

You woke up one morning with fresh tattoos on your body that had never been applied by human hands. You never felt anything during the night.

No one is familiar with the style of the tattooing, nor can anyone make out what the strange symbols mean.

Perhaps somewhere there is a Baylan who can tell you what they mean, what powers they confer, and what price, eventually, you will have to pay for them.

Hari Ragat: GM Code on NPC Ties

Finally, have an opportunity to work on Hari Ragat again after a long real-life imposed hiatus.

As I was musing on how to refine my Ties mechanic for the game, I recalled a discussion with other gamers about player reluctance to define relationships for their characters. The argument was that creating or implying an NPC important to the player’s character gave the GM practically infinite power to screw with that PC’s life.

Quite a few of these players on the other hand were eager to explore relationships; they added depth to their experience of the game. I still vividly remember Tommy’s reaction to his Red Branch character finding out from the chief druid that he was to be a dad. (His wife had concealed it from him.)

This got me thinking. Players can get a lot from relationships – and not just romantic ones – if they can trust the GM with them. So I’m thinking of writing in a little bit of GM’s ‘code’ on handling Ties. These are still rough ideas, but basically, they’re to help the GM and players build trust while empowering both to create more interesting stories.

  • The purpose of Ties is to make the character’s life more interesting by adding relationship-driven possibilities, opportunities, and challenges. Ties can be to family members, love interests, rivals, debtors, allies, enemies, and so on.
  • Player-defined NPCs are considered player property. Similarly, GM-defined NPCs are considered GM property. You have authors’ rights over the NPCs that you defined.
  • The GM may not kill off a character to which any player has defined a Tie unless that player consents. Similarly, the GM may not change the details of any NPC to which a player character has a Tie, without that player’s consent.
  • The GM may endanger any character to which a player has defined a Tie at any time; part of the challenge in having a (desirable) Tie is to preserve them so you can continue enjoying their benefits.
  • The GM may cancel a Tie if the player knowingly plays their character in such a way that the NPC involved would have strong reason to break the relationship. For example, if you insult an allied datu, don’t expect him to remain your ally for much longer.
  • The GM may award new Ties on the spot as rewards for good role playing. In fact they’re meant to be one of the ‘trophies’ of the game. If you’re playing to become or to set up the Hari Ragat (High King), you’ll want to collect as many allies as you can.
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