- July 20th, 21:14
I've made a couple of small posts about Psi*Run, but I think there are enough interesting ideas in this game that I want to make a LJ post to save my thoughts. I really want to try this game; need to get someone else to run it!
Like other games I am interested in, Psi*Run mixes simple game mechanics with ideas with roleplaying. In the case of Psi*Run, there are a few ideas that stand out in the design:
* Your character is described mostly using text, not mechanical numbers. (For some groups this won't work; for the most part, characters are equal mechanically, in all situations. Mostly, mechanics decide who gets narrative control.)
* Your character has amnesia, but the game recognizes this and builds on the concept. Specifically, you create questions for your character. When someone's questions are all resolved, the game effectively ends. You go into end-game scenes for each character. (This makes it much more amenable to a one-shot or a very short campaign).
* When a player decides to act (in a way that requires mechanics to judge), the player is forced to make real decisions about what's important to them. You might decide you score a great success, but get wounded, or score a lesser success without any consequences. (And if you roll well, you might get both).
The third concept here is the one that interests me most, so I'll explore it now.
You roll a number of dice, the exact number depending on whether you use psi powers, and whether or not you are at risk. (Base: 4d6 + 1d6 if you use psi and +1d6 if you are at risk of being harmed). You then assign dice to different boxes, each of which have different effects. The number and type of boxes vary by situation. Here's the default:
-- Goal : Did you succeed at what you were trying to do?
-- Reveal : Did you recover a memory through this action?
-- Chase : Did the people coming after you find clues?
-- Psi (If you used psi powers) : Did you control your power effectively?
-- Harm (If you were at risk) : Did you get hurt?
Higher numbers are better. So in broad strokes, you roll the dice, keep the best ones, and then prioritize them to the boxes you have to fill. Here's a few of the options:
* Goal action, a 4-6 means you succeeded at what you were trying to do and a 1-3 means you fail.
* For psi powers, to use them without incident, you need to assign at least a 5 or a 6 to the box.
* Reveal: If you assign a 6, you get to narrate your own answer to one of your questions. A 4-5 means you get an answer but it comes from the other players....
Obviously, extreme results (6,6,6) would give you an incredible success: you met your goal without being pursued, and you learn something in the process. And a (1,1,1) would be the opposite -- you fail and the Chasers get closer to catching you. The interesting results are in the middle when you have a mix of high and low dice: some things succeed, but your life gets complicated. And that's kinda cool.
The game has a couple of other places where boxes change based on circumstances. If the chasers are in the same scene, the Chase box becomes Capture; if you assign a bad die there, now you are captured. Then the box becomes "Escape/Rescue". Fail that, and you are out of the game -- killed or otherwise disappeared.
So, generalizing the mechanics slightly: Pick boxes based on the kind of scenario you are running, then make players roll an appropriate number of dice and assign them to them. For example, maybe chase is "poisoned". You are gettign sicker and sicker...
How might I apply the idea of these boxes to other game systems, like Fate. Here's a first cut.
When a player wants to do something?
1. Define the stakes. What's the player trying to do, and what's at risk?
2. Have the player roll against a low target number.
3. The player spends shifts on the different stakes to decide which stakes they succeeded at.
4. Narrate what happened.
This is sort of an inversion of the Houses of the Blooded system
1. Define how difficult a roll you want to make (usually this is based on the # of challenges you accepted)
2. Roll a skill check to determine if you succeed.
3. If you do, narrate one interesting piece of information for each challenge you accepted.
For me, the first structure works better. I like narrowing some of the focus of the situation up front, and then let the player decide how it plays out. I can see some problems with it, but I'd be willing to give it a try.
Two related design thoughts for a FATE version of this concept:
1. Don't just make it 0 or 1 shift for each stake. In Psi*Run, some of the boxes are Yes/No, and others can have up to 4 or 5 distinct results. In fate, that might mean some things are 0/1 shift and some might take up to 4 shifts. And an extreme situation might be 2-4 stakes with 4 possible shifts each -- so 16 shifts means you get everything you want... :)
2. What does allowing players to spend FATE points to bump up a roll do to this mechanic? Meaning, if a player has a stockpile of fate points or other players feed them free tags, does that let someone do too well? Essentially, 16 shifts sounds absurd until you get a group of FATE players focusing their efforts to bring one player over the top... :
ANYWAY, the idea of defining 'stakes' before the roll and assigning results afterwards -- that has appeal. It provides a bit more mechanical heft to the idea of "succeeding at a cost". I think the biggest strength in Psi*Run is that most of these stakes are hard-coded so they are easily learnable. Varying the stakes on every roll might be a challenge.