Monday, October 19, 2015

System Mechanics Basics: the most basic situational modifiers for the CORE mechanics

When ever I look at system mechanics I kinda get into the mindset of the designers. I tend to look for how carefully they have considered all the modifiers that affect failure or success, and how well they communicate the idea.

More importantly to me is if the Game System uses the CORE mechanics consistently. One of my problems with OSR was the lack of using the core mechanics. How initiative was determined was different, spotting was different, ability checks was different from skill checks, checking for traps was different, damage is different, determining PC condition, and every time something came up they managed to make up something instead of their initial resolution system. I am not a fan of having to learn or TEACH people 7 different types of RESOLUTION systems.

To me, a good design is 1 core system that is used in many creative ways. The True 20 system was one of the most elegantly designed systems I first encountered that met this requirement. While there was slight variations in how the basic Target Number vs D20 was made, it was easy to remember because it was design decisions that made sense to me.

But here is something that I have not found yet in a game system: Listing the Key factors that influence a situation of a Roll. Let us assume that a roll is a dramatically appropriate Call of the GM, so we will be in the same page as importance (which is an ambiguous matter that should be tackled in some other post).

Here are my key Factors in a Roll: 

the baseline of the difficulties are the same as Player and GM expectations. What the designer is communicating makes sense statistically in a game where the GM would call rolls in a given frequency.
I had a game system where the typical odds of success for a player, for an basic roll was 20-30%. That was weird, and the baseline was not well described or communicated. I find this an important thing to always describe and set expectations. And only in narrative games which tell GMs to reduce rolling to one every 10-30 minutes of play have a better baseline of success.

In real life: we can always adjust the "scope" of the task. It takes a bunch of inquiry or framing skills to get at a scope that is sufficient for needs and easy enough that success is certain.

I always check the Multi-tasking and Distraction ruleset and how well connected it is to the Core mechanics chapter. The GM and Player scans the situations for distractions, this includes pending tasks that can put emotional or psychological pressure on the current task.

In real life: As someone who teaches, and "spots" for other people when they are performing a task, Distractions is the thing I help fix before they make their "roll" or engage in the task. Such distractions eliminating prep includes cleaning or organizing, as well as planning (and writing down that plan) so that people can do a "working memory dump" so they can focus better on the task.

Multi-Tasking Rules
Does the system allow for it, and how do they resolve it. I've seen overly complex, and simple ways to do it. When I compare it to when I do multi-tasking and when I've read up on it in work-flow and cognition related articles - simple is better. This ruleset is often poorly connected or discussed in an obscure chapter like it was done as an afterthought.

In real life: Variable Priority Cycling is a kind of Multi-Tasking that can be achieved without distracting. It requires a lot of prep since it requires some scoping (limiting the complexity) and simplifying the group of tasks, as well as the order of tasks being done. When failure is an option multitasking is what I personally do when possible, since I'm of the philosophy - get it out there, and edit edit edit.

After taking a lecture of complexity theory and adaptive leadership, discussing work stream or work load, complexity is something I've not seen anyone take up although I can understand because its logistics - and no one likes logistics (but this guy).

In real Life: This is where Scoping to simplify and Organizing the tasks matters a lot. If one doesnt really have a system for this, the ad hoc method of doing this in the game can be inconsistent. Interestingly - Unless I try to do something ambitious, I dont really  know what it takes to be done. No one likes sharing the details of what makes an ambitious tasks, the cost of failure is recouped sharing the lessons, so no one shares it freely.

This is something that was done as an after thought in some systems that manage to tackle it. And this comes from their Warfare or Mass Combat system. If I had more manpower than the other guy, what would be my advantage. This applies to not just combat but in many tasks where there is manpower or units of resource (time, agents, consumable resources) advantage.
You can also use this for combat. I use the force multiplier rule of thumb as my game rules and in airsoft.

Ex. Besieging this fortification, which grants a force multiplier of (e.g x3) to its defending force would need 3x more attackers than the defenders for a 50:50 odd or x9 if I want a success with 3 : 1 odds (with minimum causalities).  (If you want more of this, you may have to wait for my Open Warfare Game system) 

1 vs 1
1 vs 1.5
1 vs 2
1 vs 3-4
+2 and +1 per unit of odds greater
+2 and +1.5 per unit of odds greater
+2 and +1.5 per unit of odds greater
+1 and +1 per unit of odds greater
ex. 1 vs 7
+8 dice
* this bonus is to the superior force, or you can make this a penalty to the inferior force. Notice the OR, do not apply a positive and a negative to the superior and inferior force.

Real Life: When I started thinking in workstreams it helped put a lot of perspective if in what is needed for X to happen. There are many historical analysis in man-hours to build X or Y. There is also such for having an economy or administration run properly. All that needs manpower, and its inescapable unless you have the imagination to reduce the scope yet minimize the loss of potency of its impact. This is what makes Logistics like Magic to me.
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