Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wait, I should be working...

Ay yo. I've been busy. Got a job and shiz. Anyway, I've been talking to a new friend here from work a lot about game design stuff, and there've been two interesting takeaways:

I really want to play a game using the Window system. There are a few specifics, but not many; the basic precepts are:

  1. Everything about a character should be described with adjectives, rather than numbers.
  2. It is the player's responsibility to play their role realistically.
  3. A good story is the central goal.
These might seem like pretty obvious rules for a roleplaying or collaborative storytelling system, but having them central to everything, and designing the system from the ground up around them... It makes for a very different system. Making the player responsible for realism, rather than offloading that onto a complex rules system, gets a player much closer to the realism of their character. Making everything more analogue, in terms of not having hard-and-fast rules, means that you don't have to think about the rules - you just think about what's happening. I haven't played using this system, but I really want to.

A lot of games keep track of the level of sanity of a character. It's a fun thought, to be able to simulate going mad. In Window's suggested sanity rules, when your sanity stat drops below the lowest possible, your character is removed from your control and presumably needs to be hospitalized. I thought of a potentially more interesting system:

When a character fails particularly badly at being sane (their sanity stat drops to critical levels, or they roll a critical failure, or whatnot), they do not simply go comatose. Instead, the DM describes what their character sees - hallucinations, vivid or blurred, otherworldly or only slightly shifted from the real world. The player responds to these hallucinations, and needs to deal with them or take severe damages through some other avenue - but here's the kicker: the player's actions in the hallucination also translate to the real world, but not in a way the player knows. So the player might see a floating snake and fight with it, but at any given moment, striking the snake might translate to striking the ally standing next to them... And so on. The key is that the player can control their character in the in-game real world, but they do not know how. Furthermore, to prevent the player from quickly figuring out what to do, the DM can freely switch around what hallucinations represent what in-game real objects. Or play around even further with indirect correspondences! Maybe the heated battle in the real world is turned into a philosophical discussion, or the other way around. The DM would then roll attack and damage rolls, modified by the player's hallucinatory knowledge check. The possibilities are endless!

I think my favorite little bit about this system, though, is the experience as a group. The DM rolls some dice as you're walking down a corridor, and you are thrust into battle - everyone rolls initiative, as you have been ambushed by some eldritch horror. Then, everyone's heads filled with dread, the DM turns to Alex: "You find yourself again in a shifting room of greens and blues,  booming noises emanating from the walls. There is a snake to your left, and a glowing ogre to you right." The rest of the party readies to defend themselves from the frenzied attacks of their mad comrade.

If the DM keeps a consistent hallucination world, then you get two benefits - one, it would rapidly form into a recognizable meme in your group, for much hilarity. Two, it opens the possibility of the hallucination world being... not so unreal after all, when two people are sucked into it at the same time, only to discover that their interactions are perfectly consistent inside the bubble of insanity.