Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Nagademon 2012 - Plot points and a name change

I'd like to start this post by saying that I am aware that this is a day late. Real life has this unpleasant habit of getting in the way of what's really important in life: roleplaying games.

Anyway, on to the post. First of all after talking to some people (you know who you are) I have made the decision the name of the game has now been changed from Primetime to In Medias Res. The reason for this is mostly because there is already an RPG called Primetime Adventures, and though I have not played it myself (though I can only assume it's quite different from the game I'm making) I can't have my game be called the same thing as one that already exists. But beyond that I actually think In Medias Res is a better name. It's a Latin rhetoric term that means to start a speech or a story in the middle of the action so to speak (literally it translates as "Into the middle of things"). So not only is it gratuitious Latin (which is always cool) but it's also thematically appropriate.

Now on to the actual game design talk. In Medias Res makes use of an action point system, similar to Fate or Fudge or indeed many a current RPG. You have a pool of points that only exists in a metagame context that allows you to break the rules in subtle ways. In games like Burning Wheel in which they figure quite heavily they are a sort of representation of a given character's fate or destiny and how the world shapes itself around that. The same game also uses them as a reward and an incentive to force good roleplaying and characterisation in quite an ingenious way.

The action points of In Medias Res are called Plot Points. The name is of course not necessarily representative of their actual narrative impact, but a lot of the time they do actually live up to their name.

Like in other games Plot Points allow you to "cheat" the system and do things that would otherwise not be possible. In this case that specifically means you can use a Plot Point to ignore a Trait's Refresh rate. Say you made a big deal out of your family sword earlier and now you'd really like to do it again but you have to wait another scene to do it. Well, spend a Plot Point and you can use the Trait anyway, despite it being on "cooldown" (to burrow from computer gaming terminology). Using a Plot Point in this fashion does not reset the Refresh either, which is a good thing since it means you won't have to wait out the full Refresh again.

Secondly by spending a Plot Point you may treat any die in your pool as though it had rolled the result of your choice for one Conflict turn. Don't have any pluses in your pool? Use a Plot Point and spend a blank die like one!

And that's about it as far as using the things go, but there's more to it, because the more Plot Points you spend on any one Trait the more you'll be advancing its Refresh. If you spend enough the Trait immediately goes up a Refresh and thus becomes more accesible to you more often. This represents in a way the manner in which previously unimportant character traits in fiction can gradually become more and more important and focused upon by the narrative as their use in the story becomes more regular. By spending Plot Points to use a Trait in its Refresh period you are indicating that you want to (or the story demands of you to) put more focus on the Trait and make it a more important part of the character.

So the Plot Points also double as a kind of experience system for In Medias Res, and manages to tie in the idea of advancement of a character that we are used to from RPGs into a game that otherwise would have no business having one. This is heavily inspired by the way Burning Wheel, mentioned above, uses its (quite a lot more complex and advanced) three tiered action point system to fill a similar function.

As for gaining Plot Points that's quite simple. You gain them by being entertaining, a good roleplayer, or just coming up with awesome stuff. Basically the consensus decides whether you deserve one for your actions, and it is encouraged that groups be pretty liberal in handing them out in game. In this regard the system is similar to Fudge, only the GM does not have final authority in handing them out.

The next post will probably be about the difference between what In Medias Res terms Characters (with a capital C) and Extras.

No comments:

Post a Comment