thread: 2008-02-19 : Willing, provoked, inspired

On 2008-02-21, Ben Lehman wrote:


Okay, so I'm working on this game right now whose title I can't type because anyway doesn't support non-latin characters. I'm going to talk about that, too, since it turns out that writing these things is a great way to crystalize design goals.

The game is about an elite special-ops team trying, through a series of terrorist actions, to bring down on a savagely oppressive military dictatorship that they helped establish. In the game, I expect death is, you know, going to be a thing. It's going to happen fairly often. I haven't tuned the death and injury mechanic yet, so I'm not sure how often, but it's pretty fucking bad. If things go very pearshaped it can easily turn into a complete wipe.

Dying takes you out, as a player, for the rest of the mission. Missions are maybe one two hours long. It's potentially a lot of downtime, although you're only likely to die once things really go to shit.

I've been playing a lot of Moldvay's D&D recently, too. And character death is totally also a thing in that game, even more frequently than in game-whose-name-I-can't-type. But I've watched and people get very upset when characters die. Even I get a lump in my throat, and I'm superhardened about character death in D&D.

So the thing about game-whose-name-I-can't-type is that there's no fixed GM. At any given session one player is picked to be the "Target," and the target has the role of controlling the other people in the world, setting the scene, etc. The target has considerable discretion in how and when to hand out pain to the team.

You can see, probably, that if people feel bad *at all* about characters dying, then the target is going to be all super soft and not go for the throat. Because, you know, you don't want to make your friends feel bad.

So my goal, clearly, is to create the expectation and appreciation of character death, even as you are punished for it (because, after all, you really did screw up.)

My stab right now is to frame everything in terms of the team, rather than the characters. So characters don't have any backstory other than a name, but the team has a long history and hard-core motivations. Characters, basically, don't exist except inasmuch as they are resources (or liabilities) to the team. My thought is that this going to make people go "damn, we took a hit there rather than "damn, I took a hit there." We'll see how it goes.



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