Removing Obstacles

My general mechanic for coming up with an idea includes rolls to reduce the difficulty of a statistic or to increase the number of dice available to roll. In this post, I’d like to look at what you should roll to reduce the difficulty, and how you should role-play it.

First, a quick preliminary. I’m going to try out “resistance” as the name of the difficulty of one of the statistics of an idea, and save “difficulty” for the number against which you are rolling. Thus, each statistic has a quality and a resistance, and when you are trying to improve a statistic, the difficulty is the sum of the quality and the resistance.

So, the first thing I want to look at is actions that aim to reduce the resistance of a statistic. What sort of actions could they be? It would help if I clarify what, in the game world, the resistance is supposed to represent.

I think the resistance of a statistic represents the ways in which the current state of the idea restricts its future development. In developing the idea, the characters have decided not to pursue certain possibilities, and have also directed their thinking along certain channels. This makes it harder to improve the idea. So, when they reduce the resistance, they are breaking some of these restrictions.

Of the talents we have specified so far, Empathy does not look relevant. Creativity, on the other hand, does. It’s about thinking outside the box, and that includes thinking outside boxes you have made for yourself. What about Synthesis? That also looks relevant; it’s about putting together patterns, and that could certainly reveal a way to move forward.

If we tie each talent to a different statistic, then Creativity goes best with Transparency, I think. It’s about coming up with new ways to get something down in concrete form, so even though it doesn’t actually produce a way to realise the idea, it can suggest new ways to approach the problem, and thus reduce the resistance. Similarly, we could tie Synthesis to Resonance. Seeing the patterns in the elements that give the idea its emotional impact makes it easier to see how to increase that impact, because you can see how to add elements that complement what is already there.

We still need a talent for Originality, and I’m going to suggest Analysis, the opposite of Synthesis. Analysis is about breaking things down into their component parts, so here it would make clear exactly what was, and wasn’t, original about the idea, and thus show you where to make changes if you wanted to make it more original.

That gives us, once again, three talents for the three statistics, and, so far, four talents per character. However, I’m getting a bit uncomfortable about the way talents are tied to particular statistics. They might be better as different approaches to the same problem, but then, in order for them not to be functionally identical, something in the game statistics would have to make a difference to the way the talents worked. I’m not sure that this is a good place to increase the complexity, as it would probably mean more statistics for each idea. Thus, I’m not going to change this policy yet, but I still might.

If we leave the talents for now, the next question is about the abilities to use.

There is an obvious option that we can’t use. We can’t say that characters should use knowledge of a related genre that they haven’t yet applied. This makes sense; it would give a new perspective on the problem, and thus could help to clear away roadblocks. However, it makes the mechanics strongly path dependent. You would have to keep notes on which genres had been applied, adding to the record-keeping. I don’t want to make things more complicated than they are already, so this idea is no good.

What about keeping the same abilities, but switching the statistics to which they apply? That is, knowledge of the genre you are working in would apply to Originality and something else, knowledge of the topic of the artwork to Transparency and something else, and knowledge of other genres to Resonance and something else.

This might work. Knowledge of the genre is going to be very helpful in working out which parts of your idea are actually original, and thus it fits the way we’ve described reducing the resistance of Originality. It would seem sensible for knowledge of other genres to also apply to Originality, for the same reason, and knowledge of the topic doesn’t seem sensible this way round. It might help you think of something new to say, but it doesn’t help you work out whether someone has said it before in a particular artistic genre.

Again, given the way we have described reducing the resistance of Transparency, knowledge of the topic should be helpful. It will help you to think of other aspects of the topic that can be used to express it, and that might make the idea easier to express. The other ability has to be knowledge of the genre you are working in, because knowledge of other genres is already committed in two places, and, again, this makes sense. You can think of ways that other creators have approached a similar problem, and then go on to see whether you can apply that to your work.

Finally, what about knowledge of other genres and Resonance? Fortunately, this is also easily justifiable. You are trying to see the overall way in which the idea is inspiring emotions, and that will be assisted by being able to look at examples from other genres. Likewise, knowledge of the topic can help in the same way.

So, to reduce the resistance of Originality, you can use knowledge of the genre or knowledge of other genres. To reduce the resistance of Transparency, you can used knowledge of the topic, or knowledge of the genre you are working in. Finally, to reduce the resistance of Resonance, you can use knowledge of other genres or knowledge of the topic.

The fact that this is structurally the same as the rules for creating ideas is good, because that should make it easier to remember the mechanics. The fact that the abilities apply to different statistics may be confusing, but on the other hand having them apply to the same ones fails to emphasise the difference in the actions. The use of different talents might be enough to do that, so I’d have to consider applying the same abilities to the same statistics in both situations, but, again, that’s something to look at after playtest.

As for the description of the actions, we can use the same basic techniques as for the actions used to improve the ideas. For example, “I compare the idea to the concepts of several existing novels, teasing out the bits that can be said to be original.”. As before, good descriptions here would be worth bonus dice, from 1 to 3.

I think that gives me the basis for reducing resistance. Next, I have to look at actions that give more dice to roll.

Posted in Game Design.

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