Executive Abilities

The abilities needed to execute an idea are very likely to be different from those needed to come up with it (a possible exception is knowledge of genres), but what about the talents? Do they have to be different as well? I think that we can have some overlap, which is a good thing; characters should not have too many talents. All characters will have all of them, so if there are dozens, the character sheet will get a little too crowded.

So far, Empathy and Analysis have both been used once, while Synthesis and Creativity have both been used twice. We have another six “slots” in these rules, so it would actually be possible to balance perfectly, at three uses each, but that might not make any sense. However, it would be a good idea to try to spread things out a bit. We want to avoid having a must-have stat, or a dump stat.

First, Empathy makes a lot of sense as the talent that goes with improving Accessibility. The better you understand how people think, the better able you will be to make your writing accessible to them. You will know what they won’t understand on first reading, and know how to rephrase it to make it easier to grasp.

Embedding would really have to be Synthesis or Creativity, if we used the existing talents. Synthesis makes sense; you are looking for patterns in your idea and the cultural elements you are drawing on.

What about Technique? I think I’d like to introduce another talent here: Concentration, the ability to focus on something, and to keep all the aspects of it in mind at once. This makes sense as the talent governing Technique, because if you slip up once, the technical aspects of your work will suffer.

So far, Synthesis has three uses, Empathy and Creativity have two each, and Analysis and Concentration have one each. I probably want to avoid using Synthesis in the rules for reducing the resistances of the execution, but we are not terribly unbalanced at the moment.

Before looking at reducing the resistances, however, we should think about the abilities for improving the qualities. We really need at least one ability that reflects the ability to compose prose, and that ability should affect Technique. However, since there need to be two abilities that can affect Technique, maybe there should be two abilities, each concerning a different aspect of prose composition. Actually, two sets may be best, because of the candidates that occur to me.

One of the two abilities must also be able to affect Accessibility. One aspect of accessibility is the way that the work is written, the word choice and sentence structure. This would naturally be affected by the ability to compose prose in a particular language. We could call this [Language] Prose Composition, substituting the name of the language.

The other ability must also affect Embedding, so a Prose Composition ability specific to the genre you are writing in makes sense. Part of knowing how to write a particular genre is knowing the conventions and references to make, and this is not necessarily the same as knowledge of the genre as such. If you know about the genre, you might be able to say who wrote something, but not necessarily reproduce it.

However, knowledge of the genre, or, more broadly, of the culture, is a good candidate for the third ability. It affects Embedding, obviously, but also Accessibility. If you are aiming at people within a given culture, it helps to know what sort of things they know, and thus what assumptions you can make. The precise ability used here is rather open: it could be knowledge of the genre you are writing in, or knowledge of another genre, or more general knowledge of a culture. However, you shouldn’t be allowed to mix and match, because that would just create a confusing book. Once you have chosen a context for a novel, you have to stick with it.

This choice of abilities means that someone with good [Genre] Prose Composition and [Genre] Knowledge can write good works in that genre in any language she can speak. On the other hand, someone with good [Language] Prose Composition can write good works in that language in any genre she knows. This is, I think, basically reasonable. I’ve obviously concentrated on English Prose Composition, because I can’t write stuff in Japanese…

So, what about reducing the resistances? [Language] Prose Composition has to affect Embedding, and [Genre] Prose Composition, Accessibility, while [Genre] Knowledge affects Technique.

The last one is very easy to justify: Analysis and [Genre] Knowledge lets you see where the structure of the work is letting you down, by comparing to other works that you know, and the problems that they have. This also gives Analysis two uses. Before assigning the second ability, however, I’d like to look at the other two statistics. That might affect which ability looks sensible here.

I think that Concentration and [Language] Prose Composition can be justified for Embedding. Concentrating on how the words are put together might reveal places where you can put in more references without it becoming awkward, or places where you are wasting words, and could rewrite them to draw in more references.

So, the last problem is how to link [Genre] Prose Composition to Accessibility. Looking at the balance, we should use Empathy or Creativity as the talent. Empathy is already used for improving Accessibility, so Creativity is a better choice. So, what’s going on? Maybe you’re finding a new way to write something that makes it easier to include explanation or introduction, or that takes the emphasis off technical points and moves it back towards the characters. This would open up space for improving Accessibility again.

So, looking at the choices for second ability, I think [Language] Prose Composition is best for Technique. In many ways, it’s the purest technical ability here, so it should help you to find the problems in what you’ve written. That means that Embedding goes with [Genre] Prose Composition, which can be defended in the same way as [Language] Prose Composition, while Accessibility goes with [Genre] Knowledge. Your knowledge of the genre allows you to see a way you could make it easier for people to get into the book.

I think this makes enough sense for an initial outline. The talents all have a similar level of usefulness, as do the abilities, although [Genre] Knowledge is noticeably more useful than the others. What’s more, we still don’t need a GM. Might that actually be sustainable? I’m going to have to think about that carefully as I continue the design.

So far, I’ve outlined the “combat system” of the game; the system central to resolving the main individual challenges. However, I still need to think about the game as a whole. Just creating one thing after another would be as boring as just fighting one monster after another. How do I tie the challenges into a story?

Posted in Game Design.

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