Monthly Archives: February 2013

Character Distinctions

Last week I wrote about Scene Distinctions, which help to create a mechanic for interacting with the environment.  This week, I want to talk about Character Distinctions.  The FATE system calls these Aspects, and I like the idea of defining a character with an open and flexible system.  This could be a word, or a phrase, that defines the character.

Here are some examples:

Luke Skywalker

  • The Force is strong with this one, and the rest of his family
  • Farm boy turned Jedi
  • “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.”

Han Solo

  • A smuggler and a scoundrel
  • Made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.
  • “What good is a reward if you ain’t around to use it?”

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This is another post inspired by Turn Based Living. In that post you’ll find the following observation:

When a game is well paced, I’m doing what I want when I want to as often as possible, the game keeps me coming back, and ultimately I get the most I can out of the game (side note: sometimes the designer is a better judge of what I ‘want’ to do, so I’m fine with being compelled to do something, as long as I enjoy it when I do it). Done poorly, a game forces me to spend a lot of time doing things I don’t enjoy in order to ‘enable’ the game, I incidentally waste a lot of time not getting at the heart of the game because I don’t know what I/the game wants, or I lose interest in the game or parts of the game because other elements are distractingly uninteresting or needlessly repetitive.

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Scene Distinctions

This is an idea that comes out of the new Marvel RPG I’ve been reading.  Basically, when the GM sets the scene, they either have already included one or more scene distinctions that can be used by either side of the encounter – OR the players/villains impose some distinction upon the scene as it plays out.

For example, you may be in a Dark Alley.  Because of the environment, the GM includes the Distinction “Dark” which can then be creatively used by either side.  Marvel rates these Distinctions on a sliding die scale, so if it was just kind of dim, it might be scaled as: “Dark, d4.”  If it was pitch black, maybe that scales up to a d6 or even a d8.  When either side uses the Distinction, they get to roll the extra die and add it as a bonus to resolving their action.

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Choices that Matter Later & Story Games

This post is inspired by one over at Turn Based Living.

We got to talking about decisions in story games that end up making a difference later.  When this is done well, I think it’s very satisfying.  You get to see how your choices really did impact the world and the outcome.

When it’s done poorly, it’s awful.  You made some decision early that you interpreted differently than the game, and now you’re stuck on a train headed in a direction you have no desire to go.

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Buff Spells

Is there a hint of danger in the air?  BUFF!

Did the GM start narrating a scene?  Must be danger ahead – Interrupt to BUFF BEFORE INITIATIVE!

Is it getting close to the end of the day?  BUFF NOW just in case!

Is this likely the last fight before the party has to rest?  BUFF A, BUFF B, BUFF C, AND BUFF D.

Did an encounter start before buffing? Sub-question – can I reasonably argue that my character would have already buffed?  Not buying it? Lame… BUFF!

In all seriousness, this gets old.  It’s terrible for the fighters at the table, and it probably gets old even if you ARE a spell caster.  Don’t you just wish your buff spells lasted all day and you didn’t worry about all that?  Why can’t they?  Just have a few less spells, or make the buffs a little less powerful.  Resource management was built in when you decided to add that buff spell to your repertoire for the day instead of a different spell.  I’ll let one-shot mundane  or one-shot magic items act as the “special” buff for boss-level combats.