Matt Robintree
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Help design a storytelling adventure game system.

This is an experiment to see if game design ideas can be traded with mutual benefit. In particular, this thread concerns the design of "adventure games", in which the players control one or more characters that face challenges, gain abilities or resources, and progress through storylines.

Here are my preferences for such a design:

* no need for a GM or moderator
* scenarios get constructed as part of the game and are different each time
* players can play competitively but have reason (and ability) to cooperate at times
* the basic "system" of the game should be able to accommodate many genres of adventure stories
* ideally, the game system would provide an outline into which modular game "components" could be plugged in. (For example, there would be a module for travel, maybe with a map. There would be an independent module for task resolution, one for constructing scenarios, etc.) A modular design allows for easier collaboration, and potentially easy "fixing" of design problems.

The game "system" would be used for creating actual games. For example, a set of cards specific to a certain theme/genre could be made and "plugged in" to the system, along with a map and tokens. Ideally the different games that use the system could be combined.

I am largely inspired by the thread about the game in progress "Thrilling Tales of Adventure!" found here:
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/152647

At first I will be posting ideas that I've brainstormed. I welcome your input and ideas.

Eventually I hope to discern the general shape of the new style of game and work out a system with the help of others.

Also, if you use any of the ideas listed in this thread in your own designs, please reciprocate and share your ideas with us.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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I have a design pretty much as you describe, but its being reviewed by a publisher right now, so I won't be able to share much...
 
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Matt Robintree
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Re: Collaborative design: story-telling adventure game
First I'll touch on the subject of Task Resolution.

A simple approach to task resolution is to compare a Difficulty Rating associated with a challenge with the related Ability Level of the character facing the challenge. The player may have the option to spend certain resources (either abstract, such as numbered cards representing how "hard" the character tries, or more thematic resources such as exhaustible items). Then dice are rolled and added to the character's ability; compare the total to the Difficulty Rating to determine success or failure.

This is a start. I plan to come back to this, hopefully with better ideas.

One idea is that a Challenge can be faced using a choice of a number of Abilities. For example, to pass the challenge of "get past the guard", the following options (could) exist:
- sneaking & trickery
- fight
- run past
- con/bluff
- intimidate
- persuade (bribe, etc)

A partial success with one tactic could make it easier to succeed with another tactic, whereas a bad failure with a tactic could make it more difficult overall.
 
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Matt Robintree
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Re: Collaborative design: story-telling adventure game
Next: Scenario Construction

In TToA the "plotlines" are constructed by matching icons that indicate which types of card can follow next in the sequence. The cards are placed face-down by the player who sets up the scenario, and as another player goes through the line, the first player turns over each card and extends the story with that card.

I'm excited about the possibilities inherent in using cards to set up scenarios that can be played through to tell a story with an unpredictable outcome.

What I've come up with so far is this:

1) You start with a "goal", which is indicated with two cards: a "General Goal" (something abstract, such as "save a friend" or "get revenge" or "gain power"), and a "Specific Goal" which represents the overall task required to fulfill the General Goal. (Example specific goals: "Retrieve a specific item", "Defeat an enemy that obstructs your General Goal", "Persuade a character to help you".)

2) A Task card gets played to the left of your Goal. If you complete this Task, you fulfill your Goal. However, there is a severe increase in the difficulty of facing this Challenge directly (say, +20 to the Difficulty Rating).

3) At some point (maybe immediately, or maybe after a little "research"), a pair of cards gets played to the left of the leftmost Task. One card is a Task and one is a Resource. This represents "If you complete this Task, you will get this Resource, which will help you complete the next Task". This Challenge will be easier to complete than the one to its Right, and will make that one easier.

4) Repeat step (3) until either there is no added difficulty to the Task at the left, or the difficulty of a Task is such that you can complete it without need for any more "detours".

I'll give an example I laid out using random cards (some combinations are rough, indicating need for later refinement). (Also, I made this scenario ridiculously long just as an experiment.) I'm underlining the Challenges and bolding the Resources.

1) Your friend is in peril. To save him {your general goal}, you must use the power of a certain island {your specific goal}.
2) To use that power, you'd best get the help of a certain Character (persuade).
3) To get his help, you'd best swim in a river under a certain mountain and retrieve the "Mask of Illusion".
4) To do this, you'd best climb a cliff and retrieve a map {of where the mask is}.
5) To do this, you'd best search a certain temple for the "Spell of Intuition". {so you know where to find the map}
6) Searching the temple will be easier if you cross a river and get the "Kangaroo Shoes". {because jumping will help you search, of course. well, this one is a bit weak.}
7) Crossing that river will be easier if you persuade a group of raiders to join you (persuade to join, gain ally). {they'll help you across the river.}
8) Persuading them will be easier if you get past an ogre (get past guard) that's guarding the secret of how to defeat a certain wizard. (info helpful in fighting a character). {apparently, the raiders will be more likely to join you if you help them defeat so-and-so.}

Now, you could just try to jump into step 5 without first fulfilling steps 8, 7 and 6, but you'll have a major difficulty penalty. Also, most of the resources that you collect during the scenario can be useful in other scenarios, assuming the game design allows players to undergo multiple missions.

If anyone requests it, I'll post up other examples of randomly arranged plot lines, along with (sometimes far-fetched) explanations of how each resource is helpful to the next task.

This is the area of design I'm having the most fun with, and I'm eager for ideas from others.
 
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Matt Robintree
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Some random brainstormed ideas:

--- 1)

Any Challenge that involves Wit can be aided by collecting relevant Information. In many stories, a character goes through a mini-scenario in order to get certain Information that will help later. (Examples: Route for Navigation, Location for Searching, Info to help defeat a foe, Info to help sneak through a place, Info to help decipher an item or mystery.)

--- 2)

For (at least) the purposes of a richer story, a character can have a "General Goal" which is abstracted (independent) of the specific means of achieving that goal.
For example, the each of the following General Goals can be combined with any of the following Specific Goals:

General Goals:
Protect a community or place (*); Revenge against a specific character (*); Creative expression, innovation; Spiritual evolution, transformation, healing; Love from a specific character (*); Transform a community (*); Restore/improve the quality of life at a specific place (*); Power; Wealth; Recognition, fame; Overcome oppression from a specific villain (*); Save a community or place (*); Redemption; Save a friend (*)

Specific Goals:
Rescue a character (or group) (*) that is held captive by another character (or group) (*); Defeat an enemy (*) that obstructs your General Goal; Retrieve a specific item (*); Gain revelation or information that can help you achieve your General Goal; Persuade a character (*) to help you; Persuade a character (*) to join you (switch sides, marry, etc); Bring a specific item (*) to a specific place (*); Protect a character (*) who can help you achieve your General Goal; Use the power that is present at a specific place (*)

(*) indicates that a Character, Place, or Item card would be played (or drawn randomly from separate piles)

--- 3)

The player-as-villain side of the game can be such that s/he is attempting to advance certain Schemes, which the Heroes can attempt to thwart. The game NetRunner has this mechanic (the Corporate player advances Agendas, the Hacker player attempts to sabotage those plans).

There could conceivably be 3 distinct roles for a player: Hero, Villain, and Storyteller. Each role would score points for different things. Storyteller gets points for setting up complex scenarios (like "Adventure Scrabble") or otherwise making the story interesting. I'm thinking that each player might choose just 2 of those 3 roles. Some people don't want to be a Villain, some mainly want to be a Villain, and some want to be both a Hero and Villain.

Some abstract power-ratings for a villain:
* social influence
* technology/knowledge
* might: armies/factories
* mobility: secrecy, means of transportation

Example general tasks for each role:

Villain:
raise army, conquer land/communities, gain powers/tools, move communities, gather resources

Storyteller:
place lands (for unique maps), place communities, describe scenes, give Challenges to Heroes, give Rewards to Heroes, place items/powers

Hero:
gather allies, gather info, gain powers/tools, rescue characters/groups, defend characters/places, deliver items/info/characters, capture characters/items/info, sabotage army/production, spread information/awareness

Lately though, I've been going with the theory that villains don't see themselves as villains. "The ends justify the means" is an argument that "heroes" and "villains" can both use. Even heroes can be motivated by power, revenge, if they think it's for a "greater good".

--- 4)

Themes with a supernatural, spiritual, or even a social emphasis can have more subtle consequences for failure at tasks.
In the "Hack & Slash" genre, the main consequence for failure at any task is that your character gets hurt, or loses physical energy.

Other possible consequences include:
- loss of confidence (or lowered "spirits", bad attitude), affecting social and spiritual abilities
- distraction and confusion, affecting mental abilities
- corruption of integrity, affecting spiritual abilities, and potentially resulting in loss of character from the party

--- 5)

I want to make game system components that can be used in a number of games and genres, but in case anyone is curious, I'll describe the theme I'm most fond of:

"New Atlantis": far future

Millions of years in the future. Humankind went through dramatic shifts, splits. Some went to space and adapted to other worlds, returning periodically. Some were affected by genetic tampering. Some learned to alter their own genetics through 7th-sense molecular PK/ESP. Some of those to return from other worlds were advanced enough (in comparison) to pretend to be gods. They are in the midst of a program to shut down the multi-dimensional DNA of the peoples of earth. The magic of the land and creatures is being parasited by these "gods", and they are using illusion and enchantment to rule.

Hero goal: To raise the frequency of energy in places, communities, individuals, enough to dis-enchant, to remove the psychic shackles.
Period: Most beings are still aware of their magic abilities, but are forming habitual ideas concerning them. Many beings are forgetting their magic, including how to shape-shift, so they end up "stuck in form". Many communities are forgetting abundance, and are starting to fight with their neighbors.

--- 6)

Some cards can represent Occupations. A character can start with such a card, with included skills. Also, a character can gain an Occupation card during the story. Examples in popular fiction:

* "Princess Bride". The guy becomes a Pirate (bonus to Cunning and Fighting). The girl becomes a Princess (bonus to Social Status).
* "Star Wars". Anakin and Luke become "Jedi Knights".
* "Lord of the Rings". Aragorn becomes a King (bonus to Leadership and Social Status).
* "Dune". Paul becomes a Desert Warrior and a Leader (bonus to survival and fighting in the desert, and leadership).
* "Excalibur". Arthur becomes a King.

Admittedly, this game mechanic only works when a story can span over years, and character development is a major factor. Not quite the "cliffhanger" genre.
 
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J. Green
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I hear what you're saying and I'd like to play a game like that too, but it seems that without a GM, your options are limited to variations of two types of game: Player-Vs.-System, where each game is basically a randomly programmed adventure using cards or tiles to vary what happens or appears on the board; or a collaborative Player-Vs.-Player, like Fury of Dracula in which one player is the villain and the rest are protagonists or like in Marvel Heroes, where you take turns playing the hero and the villain as a player.

The best game of this type I've seen so far is the now out of print Tales of the Arabian Nights, which is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book boardgame, but the original is too hard to get and expensive to actually get for most people. It was originally designed as a computer game, and it has a lot of replay value with several different types of games included (Story, Adventure, Merchant, etc.) But the paragraph book really adds a lot of immersion and imagination to the colorful board locations.

Another alternative is simply a rules-light RPG system that focuses on the action rather than a lot of book keeping, like Wu-Shu, Theatrix, Active Exploits or BESM (Tri-Stat). Most of those are free to download off the web.

I'd like to have an adventure game like you're talking about in a board format; most of the kinds of things like this are actually computer games. Problem is, so many games like this don't capture that feeling of immersion or really involvement in a story, due to the large amount of random elements you need for replayability.

There's a real tension between telling a story, which is a fixed narrative with no room for free action or diversion, and playing a game which should have lots of interactivity and choices. That's really where it gets so hard to create those compelling experiences of story within the boundaries of a game.

One of the games that I think succeeds very well at this, due to my group's energy and imagination, is Fury of Dracula, which begs for roleplay and yet still has a lot of game going for it since the antagonist is a real person.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill is another game that really captures the feel of what it portrays, namely exploration of a haunted house and then surviving the night. Both of those games are in the horror genre, which I don't normally like, but for some reason it seems ideally suited to a boardgame, since there's always an immediate tension of escaping/defeating the threat and a richness of setting and lots of action.

So while I don't like horror movies (where I feel strapped in and scared with no freedom to escape) I like horror games, since I get the feeling of being able to get out of a scary situation through luck, clever play or skill. That experience is empowering and it is always fun for that reason, even if my character doesn't make it, because there's a real risk (losing) and a real chance of success that makes it thrilling, not just terrifying.

 
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Matt Robintree
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Re: Collaborative design project: story-telling adventure ga
bookgnome wrote:
I hear what you're saying and I'd like to play a game like that too, but it seems that without a GM, your options are limited to variations of two types of game: Player-Vs.-System, where each game is basically a randomly programmed adventure using cards or tiles to vary what happens or appears on the board; or a collaborative Player-Vs.-Player, like Fury of Dracula in which one player is the villain and the rest are protagonists or like in Marvel Heroes, where you take turns playing the hero and the villain as a player.

For now I'm focusing on the option of players having dual roles; part-time Hero, part-time Villain or Storyteller. Essentially the role of GM gets passed around, and the GM is also the Villain, and is actively and strategically trying to stop you (but not hir own characters). S/he has only limited options of what s/he can actually do to you (depending on the cards and resources s/he has). I want to preserve some narrative flexibility, while still having the game give suggestions to the storyteller, and still limiting the ways that the GM/Villain can oppose the Heroes. (Essentially, this means that the adventure cards should provide options that have a concrete effect on the game, and are thematic enough to suggest a story, but are just abstract enough to be interpreted in a variety of ways for story purposes.)
A Challenge Card may indicate which abilities a player can use to overcome it. If a player chooses a certain tactic, and it works, this would (hopefully) suggest, but not limit too much, the possible descriptions of just what happened.
A specific example: Let's say your task is to *persuade* a character to help you. Your options may include "honest charm", "con", "bribe/trade", "intimidate/coerce". If you first try "honest charm" and get only a partial success (a bonus to another attempt), and then pass the success threshold using "coerce", then in terms of the game mechanics you just made a couple rolls which indicated success. But the nature of how you reached that success would hopefully suggest a brief story (that could be told) about the occasion.
Another example: Your task is to capture a character (let's say a villain). Your initial options include "sneak" and "con"; if you fail at those you must "chase"; if you succeed, then you "fight/overpower". Your degree of success at "sneak" or "con" will give you a bonus or penalty to your attempt to "chase" or "fight". Let's say you perform poorly at sneaking. You then must "chase", with a penalty. You succeed anyway, and your degree of success will affect your chances of overpowering the character. Admittedly, you just had to roll some dice like 3 times, but the task of "capture character" is somewhat abstract, and each roll of the dice helps one describe (or imagine) more clearly how the events proceed.
 
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Bruce Baskir
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John Carter: Warlord of Mars is an adventure game in which each player plays both a hero, and the villain for another player. Players travel the map and have random encounters in their search for their villain's lair. Encounters take place on a hexed mini-map (this is an SPI game, after all) and players have random cards they can play to help or hinder the hero (i.e. "Slip on a pool of blood".)

For resolving conflicts I suggest the following mechanism:
Each player has certain fixed prime requisites (not too many!) which can be augmented by items or companions that can be accumulated during the game. Each character also has a number of fatigue points (or cubes) that can be expended to increase a prime requisite for one encounter only. Fatigue points can be regained by "resting" in certain areas (back in town, in an inn, in a sanctuary, etc). For example, Richard the Stout has a strength of 7 with a sword that increases his strength by +1. He encounters a Giant requiring a strength of 10 to defeat. Richard may either retreat, or, if he has two fatigue cubes, can expend them to increase his strength to 10 for the encounter. Of course, if he doesn't have the cubes, he must retreat. This method does away with the pesky die rolling, and forces a player to constantly make decisions on whether to expend or hoard his or her precious fatigue cubes.
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Matt Robintree
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Thanks, that's a great idea.
"Fatigue" points would work with physical challenges. I also want to model task resolution for mental, social and (maybe) spiritual challenges. I suppose "mental fatigue", "social fatigue", "spiritual fatigue" could work...
 
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Matt Robintree
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Re: Multi-level, genre-independent, cross-system adventure g
Skelliher, that is an excellent list of ideas. I hadn't been thinking as much lately about "strategy" games, but now that you mention it, it would be great to have the option to connect strategy game components with the other components (scenario and tactical, as you said).
I'd noticed in the past that two games I was thinking of developing could conceivably connect together. One was a fantasy strategy game in which the players are "Junior Titans", beings with abstract powers; they move around the lands creating communities of creatures ("seeding communities") and then recruiting from those communities to raise armies. I wanted to develop ways that you could use your creatures besides for attack and defense, but didn't come up with many ideas. The other game I had was one in which you are a puny mortal on a mission to save your land against the plots of the "Space Titans". I realized that the actions the players make in the strategic game could form outline scenarios for the adventure game.

From what I understand about modular design, the crucial task is to define a stable "interface" between the components. It should be well-thought-out enough that it won't need to change (much), and the game components can "rely" on it. If that is done, then a component can always be redesigned and improved without having to change the other components; you just make sure that that component still provides the same types of input to the other components that it interfaces with.

On the other hand, it's often easier to identify what you'd want in an interface after first working through example components. So I'm going to start with working on components, and then we can look for ways to connect them together, hopefully in a general enough way so we can replace components with simpler or more complex alternatives.
 
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Matt Robintree
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I'll list some example "tasks" I've come up with that could be cards played in scenarios, and which could represent tactical mini-games.

* Persuade a character to help or join you
* Navigate a complex route (maze-like paths, etc)
* Search a place (for an item, a clue, a character, or an entrance to a hidden place)
* Decipher a mystery item (to get a clue, or to activate the item's power)
* Get past a guard (to get to an item, a character, or an entrance to an enclosed space)
* Get through a locked door (to get to an item, a character, or to an enclosed space)
* Capture a character (to get information, to coerce assistance, to get a reward, etc)

I've also come up with a number of lower-level challenges, each of which would probably represent just one of a number of options in completing a tactical task.

* Cross a river that obstructs your path
* Swim underwater (to get an item, to get to a cave behind a waterfall, to get to an underwater fortress, to get into a secured fortress through the sewer, to meet an aquatic character, etc)
* Climb a cliff or wall (to get to the other side, to get to the top of a mountain or castle, to descend a well, etc)
* Jump over a pit that obstructs your path
* Climb a tree (to traverse the canopy of a forest, to get to a treehouse, to meet a certain character/creature, etc)
* Avoid traps
* Balance on a narrow "bridge" or ledge
* Force way through a physical obstacle (trudge through swamp, push through thick jungle/undergrowth, remove debris covering an entrance, etc)

Any suggestions for more?

I'm thinking that the relative difficulty of the tasks should at least in part be defined at the time that they are set up in a scenario. When they are faced at the tactical level, then maybe more specific parameters would be defined based on the game module that handles that type of task. The interface between the scenario and the task then could be just a rating for overall difficulty, or perhaps a few numbers indicating the difficulty of different aspects (for example, a given locked door might have a difficulty of forcing independent of its difficulty of opening the lock).
 
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Matt Robintree
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For the strategic scenario of having competing conspiracies, or secret groups, here are some resources I can think of, which the players may attempt to gather:

* social influence
* political influence
* technological prowess
* firepower
* production capacity (maybe)
* secrecy & mobility (hidden bases, routes)

These also apply to competing powers in any genre.
 
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Bruce Baskir
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It sounds like what you want is a universal set of rules (a la GURPS) which can be applied to different genres. Each genre would have different characters, boards, items, etc, and could have specialized rules in addition. I cannot over-emphasize that in order for a game to be playable, it can’t be too cumbersome. If you have a situation that occurs rarely, you should engineer it out rather than coming up with an additional rule to cover it. That being said, I propose the following for a general outline:

1) Each player plays the head of a faction. Each player is given one or more objectives needed to win (could be dealt secretly, picked from a draft, or set for each faction.)
2) Characters could either be predetermined or drawn from a character deck. Characters have prime requisites that combine to enable them to do things. Do NOT use too many prime requisites – no more than three or four. During each turn each character can take one action – recruit new character, earn money, rest, etc. or can team up to go adventuring. (A limit could also be set on the number of adventuring parties each faction can have at one time.)
3) Teams move around on strategic map. Map can either be area, hex, or point-to-point. Landing on certain points may trigger certain events, or a party may spend time and/or resources to explore an area.
4) Encounters take place on smaller “tactical boards” (think Titan.) A big question is whether “enemy” forces are programmed by game mechanics (as in Magic Realm) or played by one of the opposing players.
5) Winning an encounter may provide nothing more than experience points, passage through an area, or could provide additional companions, artifacts, relics, clues, etc. Losing an encounter might lead to loss of characters, items, movement for a certain number of turns, etc.
6) Conflicts can be resolved by comparing prime requisite of player character versus some challenge number. Prime requisites can be temporarily increased by expending stamina cubes (see prior post.) Different character classes expend stamina cubes at different rates, e.g. a fighter in a fantasy game may expend one stamina cube to increase strength by one, but might require two cubes to increase dexterity by one, or three cubes to increase intelligence.
7) Conflicts must be short and sweet – otherwise the players not involved will get bored.

If you are really interested in a “shared world” game system, maybe you should hash out basic rules with a team of volunteers, and then allow each volunteer to come up with his or her own game to go with the system.
 
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Obstacles might best be handled by cards that can be purchased (for money or other resources.) Each hazard can be keyed toward a certain terrain or range of terrains. Whenever a party moves, every other player has the option of playing an appropriate hazard, if they have one. The player playing the hazard card could then be the one to run the "opposing" forces.
 
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Re: Collaborative design project: story-telling adventure ga
Mr Bassman wrote:
Each hazard can be keyed toward a certain terrain or range of terrains. Whenever a party moves, every other player has the option of playing an appropriate hazard, if they have one. The player playing the hazard card could then be the one to run the "opposing" forces.

It may also be useful to give players incentives to interfere with each other. Either they are competing for the same resources, or competing towards incompatible goals, OR they simply get a reward (victory points perhaps, or "action points") for successfully interfering with each other.
 
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Re: Collaborative design project: story-telling adventure ga
Mr Bassman wrote:
Obstacles might best be handled by cards that can be purchased (for money or other resources.)

I'm into the idea of providing "resources" which can be used (some reused) to help overcome challenges. However, there is an issue which must be addressed, namely: if the number of different tasks is large, and the number of different resources is also large, it becomes increasingly unlikely that the relevant resource will be available to help with a task.
Here are some possible solutions:
1) Limit the number of types of challenges. Make them generic so they can apply in a variety of situations. (For instance: "sneak", "search", "fight".)
2) Limit the number of types of resources. Make them generic so they can apply to a variety of challenges. I don't favor this option much, as I prefer to have a variety of tools, skills, etc. in a story.
3) For any unusual challenges that require somewhat specialized resources, bring both the challenge and the resource into play at the same time. I call this the "lock and key" game mechanic. A single card will bring two tokens into play, represented with icons "lock" and "key". The key gets placed somewhere, representing a specialized resource helpful to pass the "lock" (the challenge).
Example pairs:
* resource: digging tools… challenge: something buried (item, entrance to underground structure).
* resource: climbing gear… challenge: climb.
* resource: scuba gear… challenge: swim underwater (get item, infiltrate structure/vessel, set up demolition, etc.)
* resource: map… challenge: search/navigate area

I'm mostly exploring that 3rd option, of having cards that call into play both a challenge and a related resource. I've thought of a way to make it useful for someone to play a "lock and key" card whether s/he is trying to complete the task, or trying to prevent/delay someone else from completing it. When you play a "lock and key" on a task, it says "If you first get the key, you'll have a bonus to complete this task; if you don't you'll have a penalty." So if you think you can go get the key, it could be to your advantage to put a "lock and key" on a task you're pursuing. If you want to slow someone down, you can put a "lock and key" on a task they're pursuing, and protect the key with a (somewhat) difficult task.

One thought I've had is that during your turn you have 2 phases. In one, you move your adventurers through challenges. At the end you place resources and protect them with challenges. You'll want to protect the resources that you're most interested in with challenges that you'll likely overcome but that others won't, either because of lack of ability or interest. You then wait till everyone else plays a turn before you can pursue the resources you've put into play. Sometimes you may put a resource directly into play under your control, but at a cost (of "action points"? or you have to play a special card…).
 
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Bruce Baskir
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I agree that having too many different resource types leads to situations where one ends up with resources that can’t be used. I would suggest possibly limiting to two or three different types (for a simpler game, wealth and influence can be combined):
1) Wealth – for the entire faction, allows purchase of companions or equipment, as well as purchase of hazards to hinder other players
2) Influence – for the entire faction, also may allow hiring of companions or purchase of hazards, as well as triggering certain events
3) Stamina – for individual characters, allows temporary increase of prime requisite to overcome obstacles – also used during conflicts to hit opponent or increase amount of damage done.
Obstacles can require different combinations of resources to overcome (for example bribing an official may require both wealth and influence), or could require combinations of prime requisites (i.e. “climb” might test against strength + dexterity, “pick lock” might require dexterity*2 + intelligence). In the tactical combat mini-map, dexterity could be used to determine the chance of hitting an opponent, while damage done would be influenced by strength.
The “lock and key” mechanism sounds like it would lead to a treasure hunt format – find part A to get the clue to part B that will enable you to open part C and so on. My concern is that it may lead to an accumulation of items that have only a single use, and how do you prevent player A from taking an item that player B needs to complete a quest? One possible solution is to make sure that each item is useful in a wide variety of situations, and that each obstacle is “solvable” by a wide variety of items. Of course, one could always add a “Steal Item” action.
 
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Jason Lutes
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Re: Collaborative design project: story-telling adventure ga
Some great ideas in here so far. Regarding resources, in the development of TToA I started out with several different types, but in the interest of consolidation and streamlining, they've now all been boiled down into one multi-purpose currency: "Plot Points." PP are used to do everything in the game, from moving around the map to boosting die rolls to activating special powers. The thematic variety comes from the hundreds of different cards, and the specific ways in which they allow you to *spend* your PP.
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Bruce Baskir
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Simplification is always good. Characters can have a certain number of slots which can be filled with equipment, with unfilled slots used to store "Plot Points." A character loaded with equipment therefore has fewer plot points available. The idea is that the more loaded down a character is, the more quickly he or she fatigues.
 
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Chris Engle
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I have a game that fits the bill: Engle Matrix Games

They play with a laminated map board with picture counters for characters which are moved around to set up scenes. This gives it the boardgame feel.

Each turn players take turns making up actions that happen next in the game. Action are not automatic. They are really an argument for what the player wants to see happen. They pick another player in the game to be their referee. The referee decides how likely an action is to happen. At first they rate arguments "okay" giving it a 50/50 chance of happening. As referees grow more confident in their judgement they can vary rolls up and down. Any number of other players can jump in on an argument with counter-arguments. This is resolved by a dice rolling competition. Each player rolls for their own argument. If they roll their target number they get to roll again. If they miss they drop out of the running. When only one argument is left (or all are out) the competition ends. There are a few more rules but that is 90% of the game.

I know this seems too simple to do anything but it works remarkably well. EMGs have been around for 19 years and have been used to run murder mysteries, spy thrillers, Cthulhu horror, millitary and political campaigns, fantasy adventures and more. Games play complete in a single evening of play.

We are playing two game on the MatrixGame2 yahoo group right now. Waterloo and Jack the Ripper.

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/MatrixGame2/

Vincent Tsao (author of Junta is running the Waterloo game).

Chris Engle
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Matt Robintree
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EMG sounds good, though I would want the option to put in an arbitrary amount of tactical choice. RPGs have tactical choices mainly when the players are playing against a system (maybe that's guided by a GM), rather than playing right "against" the GM (e.g., making choices based on what the GM would consider smart vs. making choices based on probable long and short-term consequences).
Your game sounds like a good way to share the roles of storyteller and protagonist. For the game system I'm focusing on, I would rather have card plays (and other resource-managing decisions) determine probability of a character's success.
Thanks for the reference. It is good to know there are well-refined games in the storytelling genre. I'll probably try it out some time.
 
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Chris Engle
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Good luck with the card approach. I think there are definte strengths going that direction.

Chris Engle
 
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Matt Robintree
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Re: Collaborative design project: story-telling adventure ga
Thanks for the pointer. That does look interesting, along the lines that I've been thinking.
 
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Jens Alfke
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Re: Collaborative design project: story-telling adventure ga
This sounds a little bit like the RPG Universalis:

http://boardgamegeek.com/game/24846
http://www.ramshead.indie-rpgs.com/

It's more abstract than what you seem to have in mind, but you might get some ideas from it.
 
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