Helping Creation

The final part of my outline rules for coming up with ideas concerns ways that players can get more dice to roll. We’ve already covered some of these: I’ve said that good descriptions of actions will get additional dice. However, that’s a reward for player actions. I think we should also have character actions that improve the chances of success in the same way.

The immediate question, then, is what sorts of actions these should be. I think it might be best for them to be specific actions. That is, a character needs to have a particular item, resource, skill, or something in order to be able to take the action at all. Then, the character rolls a particular dice pool, keeping a particular ability, to see how effectively the thing is applied. The number of bonus dice you got would depend on the result of the roll, but the difficulty for a certain number of bonus dice would vary depending on the thing in question.

So, for example, an item might let you roll Analysis, keeping the character’s knowledge of a genre, and grant 1 bonus die if you succeed against a difficulty of 3, 2 if you succeed against a difficulty of 6, and 3 if you succeed against a difficulty of 9. A particular skill might let you roll Creativity, keeping the character’s knowledge of a topic, and grant 3 bonus dice if you succeed against a difficulty of 8, but nothing otherwise.

In general, these actions shouldn’t be able to help with all the actions involved in coming up with an idea, although some might. For example, a library of books from a genre might only be able to help with rolls using the character’s knowledge of the genre, whereas a meditation technique might only help with rolls based on Creativity.

It would be a problem if characters tried to use these actions every single time. This makes perfectly good sense for the characters, but it would mean that the players were taking the same actions repeatedly, and that’s a recipe for boredom. We could guard against that with simple “only use this once” rules, but that doesn’t fit with the other rules we’ve been using so far.

Instead, let’s give each action a resistance, which adds to the difficulties required to get a certain number of bonus dice. First, if you try to use an action, and fail to get any bonus, the resistance increases by the amount by which you failed. This ensures that, once it gets difficult to use an action, it will quickly become impossible.

Second, if you succeed, the resistance increases by the amount by which you beat the difficulty for the bonus you received. So, if, for the first example action, you rolled an 8, you would add 2 to the resistance, because you beat the difficulty for getting 2 bonus dice by 2. This means that successes will gradually make the action harder to use.

Bonus dice for the pool hit diminishing returns fairly quickly. For example, using Troll, we can see that if you are rolling 6 dice and keeping 3, your average roll is 14.3. That’s an improvement in average result of almost 4 over rolling 3 dice. On the other hand, at 9 dice, the average is 15.8, which is only 1.5 higher. The second three extra dice in the pool have less than half the effect of the first three. At 12 dice, the average is 16.6, about half the gain from the second extra three. This means that you don’t want to put all your bonuses on one roll; you want to spread them out a bit.

If an action becomes harder to use every time you use it, and you have a variety available, you are going to want to use as many different actions as possible. You probably would use at least one on every roll, but you’d try to spread them out, to get as much benefit as possible. Of course, there might be some critical rolls at which you would want to throw everything you had, but those would be special cases. In general, the characters would take different actions to prepare for each attempt to improve the idea, which is exactly the result we are looking for.

We might also want to allow for items or qualities that always add to the pool for certain sorts of action. As long as these are limited, they are interesting, and because they don’t need to be rolled for, they don’t create the boredom problem. An example might be a character who always gets 1 bonus die when using Creativity to create a work themed around the night. It might even be OK to do this for a whole genre, as long as the game was going to work on more than one genre. A character who gets 3 bonus dice to Creativity when working on a science fiction project is very likely to write a lot of science fiction, and to produce inferior work if she tries to enter a different field. That could well be an interesting piece of characterisation, as long as the game wasn’t just about writing science fiction.

So, we have three main ways to get bonus dice.

The first is player actions, primarily descriptions of the character’s actions. The better these are, the more dice the player gets.

The second is character actions. These actions could be taken by characters other than the one who gets the bonus, and thus they help to encourage cooperation between characters and players.

Finally, there are items and qualities that always add a bonus in a limited field.

Obviously, character actions are more limited than a constant bonus, so it should be easier to get access to such actions than to constant bonuses. Bonuses from actions can also get bigger than constant bonuses without posing too much of a threat to game balance, as long as the difficulty for the large bonuses is set fairly high.

The big advantage to this, from my perspective, is that it gives us many more ways to differentiate characters, and to have items affect in-game actions in a concrete way. This is going to produce this game’s equipment list, and list of character advantages and disadvantages, and give them a nice place to sit in the rule system.

At this point, I don’t actually want to go into more detail about them. The structure is clear, and that’s my current concern. Thus, this completes the first discussion of the creation of ideas. Next, I want to talk about realising the idea: turning the concept into an actual work of art.

Posted in Game Design.

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