2010-03-01 : Reliable vs Unreliable Currency
Here's a resource->effectiveness rule:
Spend a point of Tactical Mastery and say what feature of your character's immediate circumstances helps your character out. You get +2 to your attack roll.
Here's a circumstance->effectiveness rule:
If your character has the higher position, you get +2 to your attack roll.
Here's your character:
Which rule is better for your character? Which rule do you hope is in play?
Over the course of the battle, how many +2s to your attack rolls will the first rule be worth? How many will the second rule be worth?
(Ans: 1. as many as you buy; 2. who knows?)
Here's your character instead:
Now which rule is better for your character? How many +2s will each be worth?
With the first rule, you always know how much tactical advantage you've got: it appears on your character sheet, for you to spend away at a rate of 1 per +2. It's reliable currency, you get what you pay for.
With the second rule, your tactical advantage depends upon details of your character's immediate circumstances. You may know what it is right now, but you can't be sure what it'll be over the course of the fight. It's unreliable currency, an uncertain investment.
The second rule also depends upon that crucial moment of judgment, which is one of the key contributors to a visceral experience of play.
Reliable currency (you get what you pay for or you get what you win), being fair and equalizing, and allowing oversight, has dominated rpg designs after the Forge fashion. Indie rpg designers, especially Story Now designers, tend to eschew unreliable currency. I propose that:
1. A rule that relies upon that moment of judgment to go forward, instead of commodotization, creates unreliable currency. Maybe inherently and inescapably, but maybe just overwhelmingly, I don't know. Anyway, you pays your money and you takes your chances.
2. Designing rules that treat fictional causes seriously means, at a pretty significant level, abandoning fairness and equalization, and thus embracing both mechanical risk and social-aesthetic risk. Your character can get unfairly hosed, through no misstep of yours, and your friends can make systemically-binding judgment calls that you don't like.
Designing a game that cares about characters' immediate circumstances means bringing the gamble back into your design. Not just at the level of characters' effectiveness, but all the way down into your game's underlying structure.
1. On 2010-03-01, Ry said:
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