Wks8\fzgK1<(ifd; N?1Fm?~dGIL&}utH&* ۅ7 %>RL=P%)z'c蓈pS-'ի"LJlcfNJ,j\K=MTLraW,ut &ulg5ׇSvu̻'GϢ<&Iϛ\&] vuyq ]KEHRenϵ4w3K" Jb/I툰Iin恞#o'X@ o/<Mb.d3Nad2;2#)Fu!2])<.X_;vQ;6 A{*+DP7HP1+ėT̘GSW%wog\Sw[Kzb[>=TOkJzV7.l5:+ !W7>VC*F_Og/ )9%IIl~)=I (Z8\h\z`صt>Ms|B*`H2J#.0fGP&CIZα}3 X#wrR5t.|2)>ʑaZvn:n :~J3vE,%"Nx6WH6rC1醿YU 8aɵ[?O& SƴEq( 0i( 872P'e=l*r|wԗ#`c }tŷ>(I2:/€0BRM^jo|]>p4/@ڽ"jR$y'ӄM$Bz [`[i|M# \i.E͵xX||zFϧ/d޽69A,>t)Q_\3M#4MP0s~)e %. <^Ĭ7 ʓn*u9Ϋ&7X~**5B< Hf;=%;",e^X HUV')o񬽃+F%˜+,^ԯ>ch?n\<&TګU>>2/D9S;[ZK^mu.kBk*Zks %uL΍]ⶮM=?#QْZChֹ PS٣XTMcp

The Impossible Dream

#6: Putting Theory to the Test

by Hunter Logan
May 12,2003

 

It's time to put everything discussed thus far to the test. I've been describing a hierarchical design process, a process where a designer can begin with the very general and work to the very specific. This creates a hierarchy with levels, and the finished play flow looks like an outline. The top level of the hierarchy provides a broad overview of game play. Detail is added on lower levels. As detail is added, the design becomes more specific. In this installment, I will refine my thoughts about play flow and show how everything I've discussed thus far can help you produce the functional core of a game system.

Refining the Universal Play flow
I've been flogging the idea of play flow for a while now. My thinking about it is becoming more refined from the effort. This is the pattern I've been following:
  • Build to Event.
    • Description. The players discover the current situation.
      • Situation is described. This may set an event in motion.
      • Situation is clarified.
    • Decision. The players decide what to do about the situation.
      • If the situation leads to an event, go to II. Event.
      • If the situation does not lead to an event, return to I. Build to Event.
  • Event. Something happens in the game.
    • Decision. Players decide how to handle the event.
    • Resolution. Players resolve the event.
  • Continue Play. Return to I. Build to Event.

The pattern is useful, but it's not as elegant as it could be. I based it on the idea that the event is the pivot point. Players build to the event and then resolve the event with decisions at each step. That isn't always the case, though. The description given during I. Build to Event may very well place the characters in the middle of an event. Then, the event is no longer the pivot point because it already exists. So, the pivot point becomes event resolution. In response, I devised this alternative. I think it's more elegant and more accurate.

  • Description. The players discover the current situation.
    • Situation is described.
    • Situation is clarified.
  • Decision Point. The players decide what to do.
    • If the situation requires resolution, go to III. Resolution Point.
    • If the situation does not require resolution, go to IV. Continue Play.
  • Resolution Point. The players resolve the event.
  • Continue Play.
    • Situation is different as a result of player decisions and character actions.
    • Return to I. Description.
An Actual Design
I want to stop playing with theoretical play flows and show how all this stuff can help a designer create the core of a game. This design is an experiment I am developing in my spare time. I want to emphasize that it's not my intent to turn this column into my game designer's journal. I just needed an example to help validate my theorizing, and this is what I've got.

The Early Decisions
In Installment #1, I suggested a Play Flow First approach to design. I think play flow is the most important design consideration, but it's not necessarily the first step in the design process. I am usually methodical in my work, so for me, it makes sense to start a design by choosing which player goals I want to support. From my Big List, I decide to actively support Conqueror, Creator, Storyteller, and Tactician. I may support other goals along the way, but these are my primary interests at the start.

These goals lead to my desired BoP. I want my game to have a GM, but the players may have a lot of control over what happens in the game. I think my play flow will most resemble example VII in my Balance of Power article.

I look briefly at Cohesiveness, Complexity and Verisimilitude. If I follow my own process, Cohesiveness should fall into line - At least, I think so. For complexity. I want to keep the actual mechanics as simple as I can, but I want to provide options. That leaves verisimilitude. I like action, political intrigue, and a swift pace for play; but I also want believable results. If pressed, I think player satisfaction is more important than perfect accuracy. I keep these ideas in the back of my mind while I write.

The Basic Play Flow
As a result of my early decisions, I rework the play flow as follows:
  • Description.
    • Situation is described. The GM describes the situation for the players.
    • Situation is clarified. The players ask questions about specific details. The GM answers as appropriate with the intent of causing an event.
  • Decision.
    • Players reject the situation.
      • Players attempt to alter the GM's description or set some other event in motion.
      • The GM evaluates the effect of the players' efforts.
      • Continue play. Go to B. Players accept the situation.
    • Players accept the situation.
      • If the situation requires resolution, go to III. Resolution.
      • If the situation does not require resolution, proceed to IV. Continue Play.
  • Resolution. Players resolve the event.
    • Players declare actions.
    • GM and players determine an outcome.
    • Players may use resources to change the outcome
    • GM evaluates the effect of the players' efforts.
      • If the event is not resolved, return to A. Players declare actions.
      • If the event is resolved, go to IV. Continue Play.
  • Continue Play.
    • Players evaluate current status.
    • Return to I. Description.

Resolution Mechanics
Now, I want to add resolution mechanics. I like to think play flow and resolution mechanics work together in support of my design goals, but in many ways, the two are quite independent. A designer can easily devise and insert any of a thousand different mechanical arrangements into a given play flow, and each arrangement would change the game play. So, I think about the problem in terms of my preferences. I like simple mechanics and the feel of a die roll, but I have a bias toward Ability. I don't want the encumbrance of heavy math, and I like unified processes. Exceptions are a hassle, so I want to make sure the method of rolling dice and evaluating the outcome is fairly constant. After considerable fiddling, I work out a solution for event resolution:

I begin with Die Result vs. Challenge
where Die Result = Die Roll + Attribute + Position Modifier

The Die Roll
I choose 2d6 for the Die Roll because it generates a bell curve. A player has a 44% chance of getting a result from 6 to 8. I prefer a narrower, more reliable range of results; but other people prefer to gamble. They want a wilder ride, so I decide to manipulate the result curve two different ways: Lucky and Skilled. The Lucky roll will have a much wider range of results and provide risk with reward for the gambler. The Skilled roll will provide a limited range of results, allowing player skill and character expertise to carry the day. I plan to let the player decide at character generation whether he wants a character that is Skilled or Lucky. Here are the die roll manipulations:

Skilled Die Roll
Die RollResultPercentage (%)
2-33
3-26
4-5-119
6-8044
9-10+119
11+26
12+33


Lucky Die Roll
Die RollResultPercentage (%)
2F*3
3-36
4-28
5-111
6-8044
9+111
10+28
11+36
12S**3

*Automatic Failure. Die Result is 0. Make Penalty Roll curved as shown and subtract the result.
**Automatic Success. Die Result is 8. Make Bonus Roll curved as shown and add the result.

Bonus/Penalty Roll
Die RollResult
1-30
41
52
63


The Attribute Range
Now that the die roll is sorted out, I look at the Attribute. What I really want to do is establish an attribute range. I think 0 to 8 is a good range for my purposes. The rating for a competent, trained character is 4.

The Position Modifier
If the character has a significant advantage or disadvantage in the situation, the GM may supply a Position modifier.

Position Modifier
PositionModifier
Terrible-3 to -5
Bad-1 to -2
Neutral0
Good+1 to +2
Excellent+3 to +5


Unopposed Outcome
The Variable Scale is my primary tool for evaluating the outcome of unopposed character actions. The GM assigns a Challenge rating to any action the player declares for his character. If the Die Result equals or exceeds the Challenge, the character is successful. I added an Absolute Evaluation, the Quality column, to point out the strength, efficiency, or outward impression of the character's effort.

The Variable Scale
Die ResultQualityChallenge
<0DisasterNo Roll
0PatheticNo Problem
2WeakEasy
4AverageAverage
6StrongHard
8HeroicUnlikely
>8SpecialImpossible

Quality Notes
  • Disaster. The character did something very wrong. The worse the result, the worse the disaster.
  • Pathetic. Below lowest acceptable standards. The character failed.
  • Weak. The character does very little, and may look clumsy doing it.
  • Average. The character made a competent effort. For many jobs, this is the minimum threshold for success.
  • Strong. The character did well.
  • Heroic. The character did exceptionally well and looked good doing it.
  • Special. The character did something in a way that is truly unbelievable. Even people who saw it happen may have a hard time believing that it happened. The player describes the outcome.

Difficulty Notes
  • No Roll: The GM decides that the player need not roll the dice.
  • No Problem: There is no real reason a competent character should fail.
  • Easy: The job is easy for a competent character.
  • Average: This is common job for a competent character.
  • Hard: This is a tough job, even for a competent character.
  • Unlikely: This is a tough job even for an expert.
  • Impossible: There is no obvious way a character could do this, but the player may still want to try. The GM sets the Challenge >8; usually 11 with 9 to 15 as a possible range. If the character fails, he either has no idea what to do, no idea how to do it, or no way to do it.
Relative Outcome
Now, I extend my mechanics to include relative outcomes. These are most useful for opposed resolution, but they're also good for situations where the GM wants to determine degrees of success or failure. For opposed actions, the opponents both generate die results and the GM compares the results using the Relative Scale as an additional tool for evaluating the outcome of actions. For unopposed actions, the player rolls against the Challenge and the GM determines the outcome based on the Relative Scale.

Relative Scale
DifferenceResult
-5/worseDisaster
-4Defeat
-1 to -3Losing
0Push
+1 to +3Winning
+4Victory
+5/betterSpecial

  • The Difference becomes the Position Modifier if the player wants to take additional action or try a different method for resolving the event.
  • Disaster. The character has lost and something especially bad has happened.
  • Defeat. The character has lost.
  • Losing. The character is getting the worst of it.
  • Push. Opponents are fairly equal in their efforts. The Unopposed Scale determines the outcome. Weak die results mean both characters failed. Average or better die results mean both characters achieve some measure of success.
  • Winning. The character has gained the upper hand.
  • Victory. The character has won.
  • Special. The character has won and something especially good has happened. The player describes the outcome.

The Play Flow with Resolution Mechanics
This play flow is rather complicated. I devised five different methods of resolving events. These are the methods I actually use when running a game. These methods are Unopposed, Opposed, Played, Combat, and Chaos.

  • Unopposed resolution uses the Unopposed Scale for resolution. This is my most common method of resolution.
  • Opposed resolution uses a comparison of die results between a character and his opponents. This is used for negotiations or combat between the PCs and their opponents.
  • Played resolution is based on player intent and character ability with only minimal use of die rolls or resources. This is both the most demanding and perhaps the most rewarding method of resolution.
  • Combat resolution is based on opposed resolution, but it includes a countdown for multiple characters where the order of events is important. This is strictly for combat. I don't use it unless the order of events is crucial, such as in a duel or a climactic battle.
  • Chaos resolution is freeform. It includes a countdown, but it allows the GM to handle many different, simultaneous actions using Unopposed, Opposed, or Played resolution as needed. This is how I prefer to handle situations where players are headed off in several directions at once.

  • Description.
    • Situation is described. The GM describes the situation for the players.
    • Situation is clarified. The players ask questions about specific details. The GM answers as appropriate with the intent of causing an event.
  • Decision.
    • Players reject the situation.
      • Players attempt to alter the GM's description or set some other event in motion.
        • Players declare desired changes.
        • GM declares the modifiers.
        • Players roll the dice.
        • The GM determines the initial outcome.
        • Players may spend resources to change the outcome.
        • Once resources are spent, the GM and players determine the final outcome.
        • Continue play. Go to B. Players accept the situation.
      • Players accept the situation.
        • If situation requires resolution, go to III. Resolution.
        • If situation does not require resolution, proceed to IV. Continue Play.
  • Resolution. Players resolve the event.
    • The GM decides how he wants to resolve the event based on the situation. He may choose Unopposed, Opposed, Played, Combat, or Chaos.
      • Unopposed Resolution
        • Declare and Evaluate Intent
          • The player declares a course of action for his character.
          • The GM qualifies the action and provides modifiers.
        • Determine Initial Outcome
          • The player rolls the dice.
          • The GM and player evaluate the die result using the Unopposed Scale and determine what happened.
        • Determine Final Outcome
          • The player may spend resources to change the outcome.
          • The GM and the player evaluate the new result and determine the final outcome.
        • Determine Status
          • If the event is not resolved, the player declares a new course of action. Return to B. Resolution.
          • If the event is resolved, Proceed to III. Continue Play.
      • Opposed Resolution
        • Declare and Evaluate Intent
          • The player declares a course of action for his character.
          • The GM qualifies the action and provides modifiers.
        • Determine Initial Outcome
          • The player rolls the dice.
          • The GM and the player evaluate the die result use the unopposed and Relative Scale to determine who has the upper hand.
            • All participants have weak die results: Nothing happens.
            • All participants have average die results: Essentially a draw.
            • All participants have strong die results: All combatants do well.
            • A large difference in die results indicates a clear advantage for some participants.
        • Determine Final Outcome
          • The player may spend resources to change the outcome.
          • The GM and the player evaluate the new result and determine the final outcome.
            • All participants have weak die results: All efforts fail.
            • All participants have average die results: Still a draw. No one has a clear advantage.
            • All participants have strong die results: All participants do well. In a duel to the death, the participants may injure or kill each other.
            • A large difference in die results indicates victory for some participants.
        • Determine Status
          • The event is not resolved. The player declares a new course of action. Return to B. Resolution.
          • The event is resolved. Proceed to IV. Continue Play.
      • Played Resolution
        • Declare and Evaluate Intent
          • The player declares a course of action for his character. The detail depends on the situation and the player.
          • The GM determines qualifies the action and provides modifiers.
        • Determine Initial Outcome
          • The player rolls the dice.
          • The GM evaluates the die result using the Unopposed Scale to determine the strength of the character's effort.
        • Determine Final Outcome
          • The GM roleplays the NPCs involved in the event, describing their actions and declaring their intentions. The player roleplays his character.
          • The GM and the player evaluate the result based primarily on declarations and roleplaying to determine the final outcome. For the player, effective roleplaying may seal the deal while poor roleplaying may kill it.
        • Determine Status
          • The event is not resolved. The player declares a new course of action. Return to B. Resolution.
          • The event is resolved. Proceed to IV. Continue Play.
      • Combat Resolution
        • Initialize Countdown
          • The players choose combat as their characters' course of action.
          • The GM qualifies the participants, determines modifiers, and calls for a combat die roll.
          • The players (including GM) roll dice for combatants.
          • The GM qualifies die rolls from highest to lowest. The countdown is set at the highest current die result.
        • Resolution. The players resolve actions for the current count.
          • If there is a tie, the GM takes steps to resolve the tie.
          • The players resolve the action for the combatant with the highest die result as an Opposed action.
          • Players then resolve the action for combatants with the same die result as Opposed actions.
        • Determine Status
          • The count decreases by 1.
          • While the count is above 0.
            • If the combat is not resolved. Return to b. Resolution.
            • If the combat is resolved. Proceed to IV. Continue Play.
          • When the count reaches 0, the combat sequence ends.
            • If the combat is not resolved, return to a. Initialize Countdown.
            • If the combat is resolved, proceed to IV. Continue Play.
      • Chaos Resolution
        • Initialize Countdown
          • The GM determines the order of player declaration, either around the table (left to right or right to left) or in groups based on the situation.
          • Resolution. The GM resolves actions in the determined order.
            • The GM qualifies the current character's action, determines modifier and method of resolution (unopposed, opposed, or played).
            • The GM and player resolve the current action by the prescribed method.
          • Determine Status. The GM determines whether or not all actions have been resolved.
            • If actions remain for resolution, the GM advances to the next character. Return to ii. Resolution.
            • If all actions are resolved, proceed to IV. Continue Play.
  • Continue Play.
    • Players evaluate current status.
    • Return to I. Description.

That's it. There is still a lot of work to do to finish this game, but the core is firmly in place. Next installment, I will discuss the ubiquitous and useful Play Sample. Thanks for reading. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
"; } ?>

Previous columns

Other columns at RPGnet

TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg