One-off Adventures

English: Stationary bicycle Česky: Rotoped Deu...

I had one of those inspiration moments again last night, though this one took place out in the garage on my exercise bike. Those thoughtful moments alone seem to be a fertile time for interesting thoughts.

Key amongst those thoughts, I have decided to focus on 214 as a system designed primarily to support standalone adventures. While I have no issue with the idea of a campaign, a lot of my personal gaming tends towards one-off adventures. I might run them over one or more sessions, but when the adventure ends we often won’t come back to those characters for a while – or at all.

Equally, when I run an adventure at a convention, I tend to run it again and again with the same set of pre-generated characters.

Why would I want to spend time worrying about campaign play and balance, when I can keep my focus on one-off sessions like this?

At a convention, 214 shines; you have a system for generating new characters quickly with either cards or the roll of a few dice. You can have a session up and running in no time, without the need for a fixed bunch of character sheets.

That doesn’t mean that the game won’t accommodate progression of the setting. For me, that seems to make a lot of sense. You can get the story moving forward and develop that instead, without worrying about the characters. It seems to me that the characters are just a cog in a greater machine, perhaps a bit like grogs in an Ars Magica game.

The characters in 214 facilitate telling a single story in an overall tale. The fight against uncontrolled witchcraft, heresy and magick in The Dee Sanction is an ongoing battle, fought over a period of almost twenty years while Dee retained the ear of the Queen and Walsingham lived. Around 1590, following Dee’s return from Europe and Walsingham’s death, the tale comes to a close. The game picks up specific events and threats to the Crown during that time, but only key characters in Elizabeth’s Court remain constant – the lowly characters in player control come and go, serve their purpose and then fade away.

The stories of 214 are bigger than the characters, but what the characters achieve is not without significance. They attain incremental goals that support the greater cause. They shine like fireflies for a moment, then die. As it happens, I have an explanation for this in game terms, but I’m still working on the details. Each setting will have some consideration of ongoing story and why characters come and go.

Trust me, it all makes sense.

As it stands, when I get to writing up 214 as a system, it will support several story frameworks. Each will include background, portraits of non-player minions and patrons, campaign notes and tables for randomly creating characters. I have several settings in mind, including The Dee Sanction and Complex 214 (the background for which is evolving even as we speak).

More on that in another future post.


Hot n Cold Running Muse

tools-of-the-tradeI have a vague recollection that Douglas Adams liked taking baths (although, I’m willing to believe that I might be making this up and that it simply got a mention in one of his many books). For me, showers have been proving fertile musing territory.

I don’t recall whether the purpose of baths for Douglas was to excite his muse, or perhaps to offer him solace from impending deadlines (that constantly seemed to trouble and dog his every creative move).

It seems that every time I have a shower, my mental cogs set in motion. This morning, I was cogitating on the business of Incriminating Evidence in 214. I’m trying to decide whether the idea has legs or not in the current form. Right now, it’s the currency of downfall for those who choose to use abilities for suspect ends.

My current tack has been to see it accumulate like reputational damage. If it ever equals or exceeds your Access plus Power, then you suffer a fall – whether demoted, physically punished, or perhaps executed for treason. Yesterday in the shower, I wondered whether it might have potential as a currency to force the adjustment of rolls.

I felt it might be a little like exploiting a weakness for a favour. However, I think this won’t work as knowing something bad about someone doesn’t dissipate once they’ve done something for you. Guilt won’t burn away because the person who knows you’re dirty little secret got a benefit back.

Advancement in the game I currently have down as somewhat experience based and involve spending points to either increase your pool size – and therefore enhance your potential to succeed in challenge and survive conflict – or acquire more cards. More cards will represent additional contacts, questionable abilities, and dubious secrets that you can bring into play to expand your chances of success. They will probably cost three times as much as a pool point, as they expand the success threshold rather than just tweaking your roll result.

The advancement was what occupied my brain this morning. Always in the shower, though. Makes me wonder whether I should be taking more showers! On the other hand, showers might become an excuse not to be spending time playtesting or sat in front of a writing implement getting these ideas and concepts into some solid form.