Television Appearance Details

The page for my television appearance is online at last. It has some details about the programme, so feel free to take a look if you are interested.

The programme is half an hour long, and will be broadcast six times over the course of 24 hours on July 16th GMT. The times are on the programme’s page, and people in the UK should not forget to adjust for summer time; the 08:30 showing will actually start at 09:30.

So, how can you see it? This page gives instructions for seeing it on television. It does rely on you having an appropriate cable or satellite service, but the quality will be best if you can see it on an actual television. (Alas, a larger screen will be able to do nothing to mitigate the fact that I am in it.)

If that isn’t an option, you can also watch it online, on the NHK World homepage. There are also iOS and Android apps that allow you to watch it on appropriate devices.

Let me know if you have any questions about how to watch it.

Elements of Creation

The elements of a creation are the concrete features that the players know about, and that allow them to describe the creation in the game world. The elements will, obviously, vary depending on what is being created, but their game-mechanical role will be more constant, and so can be described here.

Concepts and embodiments include elements in the creation, one for each role. That is, the concept is automatically an element, as is the embodiment. A concept might be “the birth of a kami” while the embodiment is “a painting”. Assessment does not add any elements itself, but it creates the option to include more, by either adding a concept or revising the existing creation.

Each element has a description, saying what it is in the game world, and possibly a mechanical effect. The mechanical effect does not always apply to the process of creating the work; instead, it might apply to the effects of the work in the game world. One element, for example, might change the context of success, so that the completed work has a greater effect on a particular audience than it might otherwise. Another might give the completed work an extra bonus under certain circumstances. Some elements will be purely descriptive, with no mechanical effects.

Elements with no mechanical effects are available to anyone. They are the basic building blocks used for that kind of work, and if the work is something that the players understand, they can freely add this sort of element, making them up as they wish. If the players do not know anything about the kind of work in question — Shinto matsuri, for example — they can use the list of free elements provided by the game.

Access to some elements with mechanical effects is gained through actions in the game. For example, a single action earlier in the game might give the players access to a particular element, with a very useful bonus, for a later creation. I suspect that this will be a good source of advantages to give out for successful rolls. Other beneficial elements might be available to anyone with a sufficiently high ability. This will increase the benefits of high abilities, which is probably a good thing; personae with better abilities should feel significantly better to the players.

These elements will have two types. The first type is specific to a particular situation. They might give the players a bonus with a particular character, for example. If a character really likes strawberries, then including strawberries in the dinner a personae is preparing will improve her reaction to the meal. These elements will typically be discovered in-game, as part of the process of learning about a situation. The second type is general, giving a bonus in any situation. Access to general elements comes with increasing ability and discoveries made in-game. As a rule, specific elements will be available to any persona who knows about them, while general elements, even those discovered in-game, will only be available to personae with sufficiently high abilities.

Elements need not be entirely beneficial. Some might impose a penalty to the roll necessary to incorporate them into a work, or be incompatible with certain other elements. To keep things simple, elements with no mechanical bonuses attached will not have penalties or incompatibilities either. Those elements are simply colour.

As personae develop, they get access to more elements, and thus become able to create better works. They need to keep a list of these elements, and this will make the character sheet complex, but the elements will build up slowly over time, and so should not overwhelm the player. If an element is specific to a situation, there is no need to record it, because it will not be useful outside that scenario. (This is something to be careful about in design: an element should either be generally useful, or restricted to a single scenario. Players should not have to keep track of elements of restricted utility.)

That leads into the question of persona development. Development was one of the major themes I gave for the game; how will it work? As a central part of the game, it should be more than simply adding elements to a list. In the next post, I will start to look at this aspect of the rules.

Perspiration

Once you have the inspiration, it is time for the perspiration.

Embodying the idea seems to work well as a single action, with the result being compared to the difficulty of the creation. Now, I want revision to be a normal part of creation, so the first result should generally not be high enough to succeed. The easiest thing to do here is to just take the total of the first roll, and use that as the progress towards creation.

The next step is assessment, looking at what has been achieved so far. This is best done by someone other than the person who embodied the idea; it is a truism of creation that you cannot effectively assess your own work. Of course, it is not impossible to do this for your own work, just difficult, and progressively harder the more revisions you have looked at. This is probably best reflected in a penalty to the number of dice to roll, and this penalty should go up every time you try to assess your own work. Other personae get no penalty the first time, but after that they start to take the penalty, because they are also getting too close to the work.

The difficulty of the assessment should be based on the current progress towards the difficulty of the creation, so that it gets harder to see places for improvement as the work gets nearer to completion. However, it seems likely that the assessment and embodying totals will be about the same, so the difficulty should not be the same as the current progress. It should be possible to make progress even though none of the personae stand a chance of completing the work in one roll. A simple rule would be to double the result of the assessment roll, and compare that to the progress. If this total exceeds the progress, the assessment has succeeded, providing useful insight into the creation.

A successful assessment creates the option to revise the work. The revision roll may use the same total as initial creation, or, in some cases, might be different. To get the difficulty for the revision roll, subtract the current progress of the creation from the total on the assessment roll, after doubling. This is always a positive number for a successful assessment, because the assessment total exceeded the progress of the creation. Then subtract this result, the amount by which the assessment total exceeded the progress, from the progress, to get the difficulty of the revision. If the work has not made much progress, improvement is quite easy, and if the assessment is very successful it is also easy. The difficulty of the revision cannot drop below zero; if the assessment total was more than twice the current progress, the revision difficulty is zero.

After the revision roll, increase the progress of the creation by the amount by which the revision roll exceeded the revision difficulty.

So, for example, suppose that Yoshihiko rolls 6 and keeps 3 (R6K3) for his embodying roll. He gets 13. Aya rolls 5 and keeps 2 for her assessment. She rolls an 11, doubled to 22. That’s 9 greater than the progress on the work, so the difficulty for Yoshihiko’s next embodying roll is 13–9, which is 4. He rolls 11, which means that he can add 11–4, or 7, to the progress, for a total of 20. At this point, Aya and Yoshihiko are probably stuck, because Aya only gets to roll four dice to assess the work a second time, so her chances of getting over 20 are slim; she would need to get 11 or 12 on the two dice she keeps. They need to find someone else, ideally someone who keeps at least three dice for assessment, to make further progress.

A revision need not increase the progress. Instead, a revision may add another concept to the creation. In this case, the assessment roll is followed by a conception roll, rather than an embodying roll. The difficulty of the revision is subtracted from the points available to set the benefits and difficulty of the new concept, which will typically make this harder than just having a new idea. In addition, the difficulty of the new concept is added to the existing difficulty of the creation. Not only does the revision not increase progress, it actually pushes completion further away. It is hard to incorporate too many ideas into the same creation, but extra ideas do make the final product better.

This pattern allows several personae to contribute to a creation, but it doesn’t give the players many choices, and it doesn’t describe the creation. That is where elements come in.

Inspiration

What would make good mechanics for creation?

The first point is that it is important to make it possible for several personae to cooperate. In the real world, a lot of creation is done by individuals working alone, but even then, not all, or even most, of it. In a game, you must give as many players as possible the chance to participate. Obviously, the personae have to be able to communicate in order to collaborate on the creation, but that’s unlikely to cause problems. The personae don’t even need to be in the same place; I have worked on books with collaborators on four different continents.

The process of creation, in my experience, goes something like this.

Have an idea.

Write some words that capture the idea.

Revise the words, because they didn’t work at all.

Have another idea.

Revise the words to incorporate the new idea.

Have someone else read the words, and revise again based on what they say.

Decide the idea was terrible to start with, and go back to the beginning to start again.

The fact that it is possible to just throw an idea away and start again must be reflected in the rules. Going back at any point is possible. For some kinds of creation, there may be limits on whether you can rewind part of the creation process and restart from a partially completed work (you can’t stick marble back on a block of stone, but you can go back to an earlier draft of a novel), but going right back to the beginning is always possible in principle. In some cases, you might not have the resources you need to do so, but that’s something that stands outside the rules for creation itself.

There are four other basic actions in the list above. Let’s call them conceive, embody, assess, and revise. Each of these should be a single action in the game, following the normal rules for single actions.

Conceive is coming up with the idea for the creation. I think it works best if this creates an option. Specifically, it creates the option to create that creation. Let’s say that the conception defines the best that the artwork can be, and also how difficult it is to create. The player can trade these two off to some extent, based on her roll. If she really needs a brilliant artwork, she should make it difficult to realise, but possibly great. On the other hand, if she just needs a basically plausible story, but really, really needs that story, then an easy creation of mediocre quality is the thing to go for.

It is possible to add ideas to a creation later in the process. I do that in real life. However, for game purposes these further ideas should not be able to improve the established potential of the creation. Instead, they add new potential. If the first idea lets the creation have a bonus of up to +3K, then a new idea might allow –2D, or add an additional option. Adding a new idea should always increase the difficulty of the creation, and should increase it more the nearer the work is to completion. Throwing away some or all of the work done so far to get back to a point where you can add the new idea is, of course, an option, if you have the time and resources to do so.

My feeling is that there should be a limit on conceiving for a single persona. Ideas don’t just appear to order, and sometimes you need to take a break and get inspiration from somewhere. However, other personae do not run out of inspiration because you do, and their ideas might inspire you again. One way to implement this would be to impose a penalty to the number of dice rolled, while another would be to require personae to spend a resource statistic (that is, something like Confidence points, Willpower points, Fate points, or Hero points) in order to make a conception roll. I don’t have a resource statistic yet, but I think I’ll be adding one. In any case, this is also something to decide on later.

Having the idea is not, of course, the end of the process. The next post will look at the 90%, the perspiration.

Products of Creation

The products of creation are an important part of the game, so their description does not need to be particularly simple. They are, for example, as important as characters, if a little less important than personae, and so their description could certainly be as complex as a character’s description. In particular, a creation need not be described by a single number, and indeed most often will not be.

A creation that grants a bonus should specify the situation and the bonus. The bonus might be extra dice to roll, extra dice to keep, or a reduction to the difficulty. Those can be abbreviated as +1R, for an additional die to roll, +1K, for an additional die to keep, and –1D, for a one-point reduction in the difficulty. The situation might also be open to abbreviation, for certain standard contexts, but it should also be possible to describe it more generally. The rules should avoid restricting the personae’s possibilities for creation.

A single creation may have more than one bonus, and more than one type of bonus. In general, the type of bonus desired constrains how the creation must be created, but the details depend on what is being created. The players are often able to choose the bonus they want, and that affects the difficulty of the creation process.

A creation that changes the context should specify how it does so. This result will, I think, almost always be specific to a scenario, as contexts are not generally portable. That is, the same context does not normally arise in different scenarios. However, there are always exceptions. To take a simple example, a crash helmet changes the context of a cycling roll to avoid an accident, by reducing the severity of the injury the persona suffers on a failure. The change in context will determine the difficulty of the creation, and will generally need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Guidelines will be needed, but the game system needs to be a bit more solid before I can start doing that.

Creations that create options also need to specify the option. That might be like a move from Apocalypse World, describing a single action that a persona with the creation may take. It might also be a bit more general, allowing a range of related actions. The difficulty of creating the creation will depend on the usefulness, and difficulty, of the option created. For example, composing a piece of music creates the option of performing that piece. A piece that is easy to perform, but has a great impact on the audience, will be harder to create than a piece that has the same impact, but is more difficult to perform. (This is perhaps not entirely realistic, but it is close enough.) Again, guidelines will be necessary, and will depend on the details of the game system.

A single creation could have all three of these properties, creating several options, offering bonuses to actions, and changing the context of a situation. On the whole, I suspect that it will be better if most creations are not that complicated. An option and a bonus, or a few bonuses, might be best. People do have to be able to play the game, after all. On the other hand, a whole campaign could be concerned with realising a single creation, and in that case it might be a very good idea to make the central creation extremely complex. The creation would structure the whole campaign, so making it simple would also make the campaign simple. The rules, then, should not place any restrictions on the complexity of creations, although they should naturally lead to relatively simple creations in most cases.

The next question, for the next post, is about the rules for the process of creation.