Friday, July 07, 2006

Tabletop 2

This is a continuation of the previous post.

After some thought, I've decided to change the dynamic slightly. Most of the rules are the same, but see how you like these dynamics:

The cards that are dealt to a player are not from a central deck: each player has his own deck of cards. When he uses a card in an action, it is set aside and not shuffled back into the deck. Much later - say, every time a character gets a significant rest - these cards are shuffled into the deck.

Also, emotion cards, while still having the same draw dynamic, don't follow the same "face cards/low cards win" dynamic. Instead, they win based on whether they are light side or dark side (red or black).

What this means is that there is an interesting dynamic for continued play, rather than simply being about an encounter.

See, at the beginning, your best bet is to use a lot of concentration to trade bad cards for good cards - slow, careful progress. But the thing is, the good cards are put aside after you use them, and the bad cards are shuffled back into the deck after you concentrate away from them.

As you start to wear on towards the end of the deck, you start getting fewer and fewer successes in your basic five card hand, because you've stacked the deck against yourself. This means that you have to start relying on emotion, since the emotion scoring dynamics are different, so those bad cards aren't bad.

Of course, some people will want to use emotions right from the start, and that's where a simple new rule comes in: you can either use an emotion or concentrate. If you concentrate, you can exchange one card per round, as explained in the previous post. If you use an emotion, you instantly get a bevvy of emotion cards, each of which has a 55% chance of being useful.

So, sure, you can use emotion right from the start. The benefit of this is twofold. First, you don't stack the deck. Second, you get instant results rather than waiting. Of course, you also burn through more cards.

Of course, a clever jedi could use his concentration skill to try to barely succeed in early confrontations, going for a maximum of failed cards while stacking the remaining deck in his favor. This careful, reserved approach will result in a powerful endgame, but will take time and be unimpressive at the beginning.

If you run out of cards? You're too exhausted to try anything. The result of starting to run low on cards should be very similar to RPed exhaustion: either you go out quick and then faint, or you carefully conserve your energy, performing poorly and not getting too excited.

I think it's a cool idea!

It does change the emotions-increased-by-jokers thing... but in RPs favor. People who are emotional right from the start are very likely to pull jokers in their emotion cards, increasing their emotions. However, people who are only emotional after half a deck of careful winnowing are less than half as likely to pull a joker in their emotion cards.

I honestly don't know whether such a mechanistic approach will work, but assigning it to the GM is a difficult proposition...

Anyhow, what do you think of the new mechanics?


Craig Perko said...

Oh, and people with low skills will probably find that being emotional is faster and more efficient than carefully concentrating - which is definitely a Star Wars "fall to the dark side" concept. :D

Craig Perko said...

And - ahgahd - I could really be a bastard and introduce metamorphic decks. In a jedi-jedi conflict, all the cards for the other side of the Force are given to your enemy. That could be... permanent...

That would make jedi-jedi battles REALLY FREAKING NERVE WRACKING... Talk about high suspense. "I just gave my sith enemy four black face cards! Permanently! I'm down a third of my total face cards!"

I'll have to work out the dynamics on that...

kestrel404 said...

I like it. It's a much more balanced and nuanced system than the first version. It allows for multiple strategies. And my favorite part is that you can have very interesting darkside/lightside interplay this way.

An optimal strategy from the bait&switch perspective is to winnow out all the cards of one color - then switch colors and go for emotion. You end up winning more often in the beginning AND the end - and you only suffer because you're switching sides.

I'd suggest you offer added benefits to someone who stays lightside or darkside continually, to make up for this. Otherwise it will become an unbalanced tactic (keeping them balanced ads depth and strategy, which makes for more interesting gameplay). Besides, it's characteristic of the universe to want to stick with either light or dark.

Also, you might just want to stop referring to lighside and darkside and star wars now. 'Cause this stuff is sounding good enough to stand on it's own, and pulling it away from the SW universe means you can use this system commercially without IP issues. It's that good, in my opinion.

kestrel404 said...

Metamorphic decks - No, I don't like the idea of jedi-jedi battles ending up with swapped cards. You could battle a darksider, take all their reds, give up all your blacks, and then have somebody else kill them when they're exhausted. You'd basically 'win the game'. No, no permanent trades, except perhaps in small doses, and after a lot of effort.

Now, having the ability to 'edit your deck' over the long haul could add some REALLY interesting dynamics. But there'd need to be some very good balancing rules there...

Craig Perko said...

Hah! First you say you want a reward for being consistantly light or dark, then you say you don't like the idea of having all your dark cards siphoned off to the enemy if you play light? It would be a hell of a reward!

How's this variant: Instead of giving your wrong-color cards to the enemy to use this round, the enemy shuffles them into his deck, increasing his remaining card count!

I don't mind the "play him until he's exhausted" gambit, because the players would have plenty of warning. They know how tired they are.

I like the idea of metamorphic decks. If you grow to hate your deck, you can "center" it (get a fresh deck), but in order to do so you have to bring your emotions into balance. :D :D :D :D

The way I see it, metamorphic decks will result in a very rapid "fall", either to the light or the dark. You'll quickly end up being purely light or dark, so long as you always battle enemies of the opposing kind.

This will mean that using emotion is "free points"... which means you'll rely on emotion, which means you'll get more emotional, which means you'll fall faster.

It's a hell of a dynamic. "Take care lest you become a monster yourself..."

Moreover, the part where it gets interesting is when other jedi start sacrificing themselves. You've fallen to the light so far that you're an icon rather than a person? Other light-siders start taking you on, dumping their darkside cards onto you, polluting your deck.

Furthermore, they could decide to concentrate instead of use emotion, and use that concentration to dump BAD darkside cards on you, actually decreasing your capabilities as a whole. "Fill you with doubt". :D

In order to fix his deck, the player would have to bring his emotions under control - and that means a huge RP challenge.


kestrel404 said...

I don't like the idea only because it's an unstable game mechanic. It quickly gets out of control and allows one person a huge advantage over another. Think of it this way - if you can dump just three black face cards into someone else' deck, and absorb three red face cards, that's six sucesses. Six automatic successes. If you dump ALL of your black cards onto someone else, you might get tired fast, but you NEVER LOSE.

It's unbalanced, and it would cause a game to spiral out of control quickly, rather than in a controlled fashion. And, more than that, it could happen in a SINGLE fight.

I think modding a deck should be something that's done slowly, and takes both time and effort. Perhaps you get a single card out of a battle with an enemy jedi, rather than half their deck. Perhaps you can shed a single card during a session, instead of getting XP. That's pretty reasonable to me. But what you're talking about is swapping out all your six sided dice for a bunch of d6s that have a six on every side EVERY TIME YOU FIGHT. Not a fun mechanic in my mind.

Craig Perko said...

I did some testing last night, and it is a bit too unstable. I'm thinking about how to stabalize it.

But the concept itself is good.