Monday, 5 November 2012

Nagademon 2012 - System basics

I have two corrections to make after my first post. Firstly I said I would return "tomorrow". Well, that was a bit ambitious of me considering I put the post up on a Thursday and my weekends are too sacred to spend doing such nonsense as game designing and stuff. For future reference don't expect any updates on Fridays and Saturdays at least (I may do a Sunday sometime, but don't count on it). Also I will probably keep to a schedule of one of these posts every second weekday or so, rather than one a day.

Secondly I said I would write a post about the guiding principles I set up for myself in creating this game. Well, having had time to think it over I have come to the conclusion that those principles are only of interest to myself and that really no one is interested in reading about them.

Instead I thought I should just get right into it and explain the system basics for Primetime. That should hopefully be a much more interesting subject to read about, so without further ado:

Primetime makes use of Fudge dice exclusively. As a reminder for those who might need it Fudge or Fate dice are ordinary cubical six-sided dice that labelled with two of each of a "+", a "-" and a blank side. In the games that use them the idea is to tally up all the +'s and subtract all the -'s to get a result (and any die that comes up blank has no effect). Primetime uses them in a quite different way.

Mechanically speaking the main focus of Primetime is the Conflict (capitalised to indicate its role as a mechanical term within the game system). A Conflict can by anything from a heated discussion to a car chase or a gunfight or anything between. The game suggests that only plot or story-important altercations or events should be considered a Conflict, and that otherwise the dice should be kept away from the table.

Once a Conflict starts each side rolls four dice. Instead of using these to tally up a result you keep the dice you just rolled in front of you, keeping the sides up as you rolled them. Primetime only cares about the result of each individual die rather than the whole, but the dice you rolled are the ones you will have to live with and use for the Conflict (generally speaking, but there are ways to effectively get more dice to use, which will be the subject of a later post).

A Conflict then consists of a series of Exchanges. The initiator of the Conflict gets to go first, basically setting the rest of the scene for all other involved parties. For this first action of the Conflict no dice need to be spent, and the initiator is free to do what he wants with the narrative for this Exchange.

Other parties in the Conflict then gets to respond, and it's here the dice come in. To perform an action in an Exchange you first pick one of your dice to use. The result of the die indicates what you may do with the scene for your action. If you spend a + die you may add an element or a complication to the scene. Spending a - die allows to you remove or subtract a previously established element or complication. Spending a blank allows you to keep the scene's status quo intact for your action.

This is quite hard to adequately explain without using concrete examples, but basically the idea is that for the duration of your action within an Exchange you have full control over the scene. You are acting as a storyteller, explaining to the table what's going on, free of any constraints other than the complaining of your fellow players and the consensus of the group of what is and is not appropriate within your mutual story, and of course your dice. By spending a + you can have your character pull his own gun to even the odds, or you can forgo having your actual character do anything and just use the + to have it start raining instead. Likewise a - can be you physically overpowering your enemy to bring him out of the fight, or it can be the lights going out in a timely manner. The blank die meanwhile could be something like you ducking behind cover as the enemies close in, bringing you out of their direct line of fire but not removing the threat of said fire from the scene, thus preserving the narrative status quo (in a manner of speaking, anyway). What it means to add or remove and element or keeping the status quo is need rigidly defined and deliberately left up to all sorts of interpretation. Like everything else in Primetime ultimately the consensus of the gaming group decides what is an appropriate use and what isn't.

With this system basis Primetime breaks away from traditional roleplaying and goes its own way. Really there are no limitations on what you can and can't do, and the dice's only function is to force you to put some variety within your storytelling. Your character and its skills and abilities are furthermore entirely irrelevant to the system since it only cares about narrative impact. This is obviously a far cry away from traditional roleplaying and its reliance on the GM controlled narrative with PC-centric input from the players. It also has the rather nice side effect of making Primetime completely GM-optional, as I will go into some detail about in the future.

Anyway, the parties will go back and forth trading dice until one side runs out, after which the Conflict ends and appropriate consequences are sorted out (a topic for a later post). This sounds very simplistic, and it is, but there's also more to it than this absolute mechanical basis for the system, and in future posts these will be mapped out. For now though this is what the game system of Primetime is built around. For my next post, unless I once again change my mind, I will talk about how characters work.

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