Oh dear, it’s been a couple of months since I updated this blog. I have continued working on the game, but I’ve also had to start editing the final book for Ars Magica, so I haven’t had quite as much time to work on Kannagara.
The problem I’ve been working on recently is the problem of offering choices to players. I am a firm believer in the principle that a choice is only a real choice in a game if it makes a mechanical difference. If something is just colour in the way that a player describes her persona, it is not really a choice that the player makes. This means that the rule system has to support a wide range of options.
Pathfinder is a good example of a game that offers lots of choices. There are all the classes, to start with, and then the choices of feat at each level. All of these choices make a game-mechanical difference. One could even argue that Pathfinder has too many choices. Similarly, in Ars Magica, magi can choose which Arts to emphasise, and those choices make the magi very different.
These are examples of choices that make the character different. Kannagara incorporated part of that by having different abilities for doing the central activities of the game (discovery, creation, and growth), but I wanted to add some more options, so that personae could take different approaches to the same ability. Overall, these approaches should be balanced, but each should have advantages in a particular situation. I think I have the framework for that, pending writing up and playtesting.
The framework goes like this. Each activity has two abilities. One determines how many times you can do something, and the other determines how effective each action is. The overall effectiveness of the activity is determined, effectively, by multiplying the two numbers together, so neither activity is better than the other, and, at this stage, the choice makes no mechanical difference. However, each environment limits both the number of times you can do something, and the effectiveness of each action. Normally, one of these limits is significantly higher than the other, but either can be higher. Obviously, if you have a high maximum effectiveness per action and a low number of actions, a persona who can take a small number of highly effective actions will do better. A persona who could, in theory, take a large number of less effective actions can only take a few of them, and so will get a lower total. The reverse is true if the situation allows a large number of actions, each of low effectiveness.
Personae can choose to favour one approach or the other independently for each activity, which means that there are a lot of options for a persona.
Another kind of choice is choice of action, and the environment provides that; the personae can use different abilities to resolve challenges.
Finally, there is choice of outcomes. As I mentioned way back near the beginning of working on this project, I want to set things up so that the actions of the personae change the context for the final decisions. I think I have a way to apply that to every major activity in the game, with the added advantage that it will be impossible for things to come to a halt because of failed dice rolls. However, I haven’t quite got that worked out enough to talk about on this blog yet.