Alex Krasodomski-Jones
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14 December

Hey there,

Thanks for all the fantastic responses. They've all been helpful, and I thought I'd come back with something for more feedback.

Much of the game is still pretty sketchy, but as I think the most important/unique feature is going to be the instable relationship between player and player character, I'd like to get that settled.

I have two options, and would like your guys' feedback on which would work better.

Option one:

Positive cards and negative cards.



Players begin with five 'positive' cards. These allow them to deal with certain situations, e.g. I'm in Combat with x, so I'll play a combat card. As those cards run out, players will draw into 'insanity' cards as their characters gradually lose their minds. Players must choose when to play 'insanity' cards, or once they have a hand full of them, they have no choice.

I do like this, as there's no 'tracking' of insanity etc, and, maybe most importantly, everything is secret in the hand. Although at the moment the cards are quite simple, I think subtleties could be added.

Option 2:

Multiple-option Cards and 'Insanity Tracker'

This is similar to an idea proposed in the answers. In this example, cards would have (say) three options that would reflect the mental state of the player. If you are on low sanity, take the third option. My problem with this is that I want the mental state of a player to be only judged through the actions they take, because players aren't mindreaders.

I have other questions, but I'll leave them for the moment. Thanks again, in advance.

Post 1: Two Weeks Ago or so.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
A few months ago I raised the idea of a boardgame where players interacted with pieces they didn't have complete control over and could merely influence.

With lots of helpful responses I got a little closer but still haven't found an effiecient way to make it work. The idea of '80%' control stuck with me though, and I was hoping you guys might have some advice on where to take it, and so I was hoping for some feedback to this game idea.

I'm working on a co-operative survival, and this is the skeleton. A group of four 'survivors' start on square one and try to get to square 10 together. They encounter problems on the way, e.g. hazards or enemies. All pretty standard.

The key, however, is that each player holds a hand of cards representing their mental state. A player with a majority of 'calm' or 'grit' cards (say) is good to have on your team. However, a majority of 'insane' or 'panic' cards drives your character, say, insane, causing him to turn on the others (like a traitor in Shadows, for example). Panic causes the player to bolt for the exit alone, leaving his teammates in trouble. Hopelessness might lead your character to turn his gun on hismelf. Do you reveal your current mental state to the other players in a hope they might give you the medi-kit they're holding? Do you bank on going crazy and invest in weaponry? Do you try and heal the one guy in your team who is foaming at the mouth in a bid to keep the group together? etc

My questions are these:

1. Are there examples of something like this that I could look at? The 'losing control' mechanic, above all.

2. How does one flesh games like this out? I quite like the idea of Player Characters having different statistics and being suited to different hazards and problems, but it suddenly gets very complex - like Fallout on a board. Here is an example of the problem I'm running into:

Combat

Combat could be as simple as Cosmic Encounter (add the numbers) or as complicated as DnD or Cthulhu, but I don't want it to detract from the game and add unnecessary complication. Which games have successfully implemented a simple but engaging combat system that allows for cooperation?

This might be too rambling. Thank you so much in advance!

Alex
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Clay Blankenship
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I can't think of any examples of this mechanism (perhaps a Cthulhu game has done this?), but I like it. Perhaps a player could declare their action and then randomly reveal a card from their hand to see if it was succesful, or if he gives in to panic/insanity/whatever. I presume your mental state can evolve based on stuff that happens to you?

I would think with that type of skeleton you could make the basic actions pretty simple, since there is uncertainty in the resolution already. But something like a "d20 system" with a die roll + skill modifier for combat or other actions shouldn't bog down things too much.

Cooperation ideas: A simple way would be to let characters combine their skill modifiers. If you want to go with a "Roll X dice and count successes" you could let the cooperating players enable rerolls (or extra card draws or whatever). Or you could just let each cooperating player add a certain bonus to the original player's outcome.

(Just in case you aren't familiar with it, the "aid another" action in the Pathfinder RPG works like this: a player rolls d20 + their relevant skill score. If they get a 10 or higher, then the original (aided) player gets to add +2 to their result. It's not very streamlined but it does take into account the skill of the aiding character.)
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Eric Etkin
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This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but it might help.

IMO, you have your "mental state" mechanic backwards. Introducing additional cards into the mix should further degrade your mental state - more "chaos" if you will. By increasing the uncertainty of your hand, you have less control. The object then would be to discard "insanity" cards as you go.

Leveraging off of that, you would accumulate "insanity" to accomplish certain actions.

So... I'm thinking out loud here... if you were trying to illustrate combat, your character's player would elect to take some sort of combat action (and a chance at successful resolution), but in exchange he would also be drawing an insanity card, which would further randomize his chance for success.

Alternately, you could accomplish something similar by upgrading dice actions... Sane characters might start with a consistent result of 1. As they accumulate insanity, they upgrade the die. 1 becomes D2. D2 becomes D4. D4 becomes D6. Etc. Now to accomplish an action, you need to get a successful result off your ever-increasing die size. Suddenly hitting a target number of "1" has a 50% chance of success... then 25%, etc.

You should check out a deck-builder as a partial design model.
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Blorb Plorbst
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I love the idea.

You could stage it as a cooperative game but treat "insane" characters as a "Traitor" who can earn victory on their own by meeting new goals. Similar to Betrayal at House on the Hill.

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Dan Hentschel
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Honestly, the game that your description most makes me think of is RoboRally. Obviously, very different games, but the idea of losing control of your character as he (it) takes damage is similar. RoboRally accomplishes this in two ways:

1) You get fewer cards as you take damage, so your choices are more limited.

2) As you become severely damaged, some cards that you played in previous rounds get "locked" into place, and must continue to be used in future rounds, regardless of whether or not they are still appropriate.

- dan
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Laura Creighton
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I've been playing Hab & Gut. It isn't anything like what you are looking for, but it has an interesting mechanic. Instead of each player getting their own hand of cards, they get to share 2 hands of cards -- one with the RH opponent, and one with the LH opponent. If more than 3 players, there are some half-hands that you just don't know.
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Alison Mandible
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I don't know of any examples of this, but the idea of having cards representing state makes me think of the *deck* as your mind, rather than your current hand as your mind. When you start to lose your grip, that's a lasting effect... not generally something you can "get out of your system" by playing all your craziness cards at once and going back to being normal.

So maybe each player has a bag of tokens? And maybe you draw one every time you attempt any action... usually it has a modifier, but as the game goes on you can acquire tokens that say "MADNESS" on them.

Maybe each token has multiple traits on it? Like, a token says

Aim: -1
Heal: +1
Search: MADNESS
Run: 0

If you draw it while looking for a secret door, you've started hallucinating. Otherwise, you get the small/zero modifier.

This allows for a bunch of mechanics! For one thing, you probably want to normally have chips put back in right after drawing, both so that the bag is more of a cumulative mental state and so that people aren't extra bummed to draw "Aim +3, Run -2" when they're making a movement attempt. But you could also have, e.g. a "Relax" action that does nothing except remove one token from the bag for a while. If someone starts to freak out (i.e. has to put some MADNESS tokens in their bag), they have a motivation to sit and chill out for a while (i.e. take Relax actions until they hit a few MADNESS results and then can act knowing those won't be back for a while).

This also allows for trade-offs, e.g. a Blood Lust token that gives a large bonus if you draw it when attacking but causes you to Panic and run deeper into the cave if you draw it when moving.

Or you could just have Mental and Physical skills, with each token having two sides, if you wanted to work in that "concealing your mental state" mechanic. (Since then you can choose whether or not to show the side that's not currently relevant. Though then why would that matter?)

Hm. This idea seems versatile enough that I'm wondering if it's already been done.
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Laura Creighton
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Android uses tokens and madness cards for this. Have you ever played Android? It's sort of hard to explain -- it's very much an experience like no other, and 'you had to be there' sort of a thing.
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Donnie Clark
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MOTHDevil wrote:

This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but it might help.

IMO, you have your "mental state" mechanic backwards. Introducing additional cards into the mix should further degrade your mental state - more "chaos" if you will. By increasing the uncertainty of your hand, you have less control. The object then would be to discard "insanity" cards as you go.

Leveraging off of that, you would accumulate "insanity" to accomplish certain actions.

So... I'm thinking out loud here... if you were trying to illustrate combat, your character's player would elect to take some sort of combat action (and a chance at successful resolution), but in exchange he would also be drawing an insanity card, which would further randomize his chance for success.

Alternately, you could accomplish something similar by upgrading dice actions... Sane characters might start with a consistent result of 1. As they accumulate insanity, they upgrade the die. 1 becomes D2. D2 becomes D4. D4 becomes D6. Etc. Now to accomplish an action, you need to get a successful result off your ever-increasing die size. Suddenly hitting a target number of "1" has a 50% chance of success... then 25%, etc.

You should check out a deck-builder as a partial design model.


I like this idea. I would say that each player character starts off with a pile of standard available actions. First, you can character build here a bit. The character that is good at fighting has more attack cards than a character that is good at exploring (or whatever your moving parts happen to be.)

So lets say for instance that on a turn, they draw two and choose one to play, discarding the other. When a characters draw deck is repeated, shuffle the discards and continue. As a character starts to lose control, they gain more interference (call it insanity if you want) which dilutes their draw, and eventually forces them to play one of two undesirable actions. It's still a choice, but you're picking the lesser of two evils - say flee vs attacking another character.

A mechanic or player assist that helps cull these insanities from your deck would be good to help a crazy character recover.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Call of Cthulhu RPG of course has the degrading mental state, and traitors and the possibility to gain not one, but multiple phobias and/or madnesses as things roll along. Mythos CCG does too, but handles things a bit differently.
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Kevin Brown
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The player has a group of tokens of various types, say 10. Four type A, three type B, two type C, and one type D. These represent the character's sanity. When they are all gone, you have no control over the character's actions. Then you have an action deck. Each card has multiple options; one for each type of token and one that happens if no token is used. It could even be further divided into move actions and fight actions. The higher level of token you play, the greater control you have over what happens that turn.

For example, a move card might say something like

No token: one space of player's choice then random direction for remainder
A: two spaces of player's choice then random direction for remainder
B: two spaces of player's choice then freeze
C: three spaces of player's choice then random direction for remainder
D: all movement at player's choice

The player then has to decide how much control he needs over his character that turn vs how much he might need later. Perhaps there could be actions to regain tokens on some cards.
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James Hutchings
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It's fairly common for wargames to have morale rules ie in certain situations the player has to make a roll, with the chance of losing control of a given unit.
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Alex Krasodomski-Jones
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riastradh wrote:

I like this idea. I would say that each player character starts off with a pile of standard available actions. First, you can character build here a bit. The character that is good at fighting has more attack cards than a character that is good at exploring (or whatever your moving parts happen to be.)

So lets say for instance that on a turn, they draw two and choose one to play, discarding the other. When a characters draw deck is repeated, shuffle the discards and continue. As a character starts to lose control, they gain more interference (call it insanity if you want) which dilutes their draw, and eventually forces them to play one of two undesirable actions. It's still a choice, but you're picking the lesser of two evils - say flee vs attacking another character.

A mechanic or player assist that helps cull these insanities from your deck would be good to help a crazy character recover.


I really like the 'character building' element of that - so much potential - and the gradual degradation is good too, especially as the other players can watch your PC go crazy, with all the consequences that brings.

You could buy cards that boost your combat skill by, say, five, but at the cost of sanity.

Exciting! I'll post again when I have some more flesh, so to speak.

lacreighton wrote:
Android uses tokens and madness cards for this. Have you ever played Android? It's sort of hard to explain -- it's very much an experience like no other, and 'you had to be there' sort of a thing.


I haven't. Should I youtube it? It sounds relevant.

CrankyPants wrote:
I love the idea.

You could stage it as a cooperative game but treat "insane" characters as a "Traitor" who can earn victory on their own by meeting new goals. Similar to Betrayal at House on the Hill.



Yes, this was my thought too! That going 'insane' or panicking and running away would be valid victory conditions in their own right.

MOTHDevil wrote:

This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but it might help.

IMO, you have your "mental state" mechanic backwards. Introducing additional cards into the mix should further degrade your mental state - more "chaos" if you will. By increasing the uncertainty of your hand, you have less control. The object then would be to discard "insanity" cards as you go.


I hadn't thought of doing it as a Deckbuilder. I have Dominion, and you're right, a growing deck of chaos would be much better.

snoweel wrote:

Cooperation ideas: A simple way would be to let characters combine their skill modifiers. If you want to go with a "Roll X dice and count successes" you could let the cooperating players enable rerolls (or extra card draws or whatever). Or you could just let each cooperating player add a certain bonus to the original player's outcome.

(Just in case you aren't familiar with it, the "aid another" action in the Pathfinder RPG works like this: a player rolls d20 + their relevant skill score. If they get a 10 or higher, then the original (aided) player gets to add +2 to their result. It's not very streamlined but it does take into account the skill of the aiding character.)


This is excellent. I haven't played Pathfinder but I like both the ideas. Thanks.

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david landes
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Not sure I am completely relevant to your exact questions. One aspect of losing control might be the 'choice' to lose control. For example, in some games (maybe where cthulu was involved if I remember correctly), players can choose to gain exposure to things that make them less sane.. in return for which, they are receiving more power. Thus they can choose to keep their sanity at the xpense of not being stronger in some way. Giving players 'control' over their potential insanity will make it feel less chaotic.

Cheers.
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Wynand Louw
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Ok here is my idea after only reading the OP.

1) Each action available on cards has opposite insanity counteraction. Like: Go north - go south. Attack closest enemy - attack closest ally. Defend - run.
2) Each person has a sanity score x to 20
3) If you roll equal or less than your score on D20, action 1 happens.
4) If you roll more than your sanity score on D20, action 2 happens.

x should probably not be less than 10 but could be more.

Get the cards via a standard hand for each hero, deck building or random drawing.

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Alex Krasodomski-Jones
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Updated the first post. Thanks again for the help to date, and keep it coming!
 
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