Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Lately I've found myself very interested in resources available to players and GMs to spend in the game. I really like this as a way to increase the ability of players to influence the outcome of events in the game world, and to make statements about their interest in what is happening in the game. I included the bonus tokens in Mortal Coil that serve this purpose, and one of the eureka suggestions I got there was to use bonus tokens as a GM resource as well, rather than fiat-based assessments of difficulty.

Interestingly, I think my main influence in this area was Deadlands, which uses poker chips in a similar fashion, held by both the GM and the players and spent to bump actions taken in the game if they fail and the player really doesn't want the failure in their task-based resolution system. This actually works really well, and gives me, as a player, a feeling that I have some recourse besides simple luck of the dice.

Another idea I have had for many years is a game utilizing the murder mystery genre. This is the main fiction genre that is still almost completely untapped by RPGs. The issue is how to create the mystery in such a way that it is engaging to play and also does not require tons of up-front prep on the part of the GM. To tie this back to my discussion of currency as a game mechanic, one of the ways to do this might be a sort of bidding system where players spend a resource in order to get their idea about the mystery written into session plot. This is barely a kernel of an idea right now, but it is definitely the most fruitful thought I've had about a mystery game to date.


At 2:20 PM, Blogger gains said...

After watching my "conspiracy mystery" games devolve into player immobility, I think the only successful way to have a mystery story will involve plenty of player participation.

At 7:26 AM, Blogger Troy_Costisick said...


I think InSpectres is a mystery game that is player-driven. I really don't know too much about it, but I've heard it does mysteries right.



At 10:00 AM, Blogger Brennan Taylor said...

Hey, Troy, that's right. It is very similar to what I'm talking about, the players actually come up with the solution on their own. Someone else mentioned Call of Cthulhu as a mystery game, so yes, they are out there. However, no one has really taken a crack at a non-supernatural mystery game. Both of the above examples are explorations of magical mysteries, rather than the plain old murder mystery genre.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Troy_Costisick said...


Good point. Strange that no one has latched on to a Sherlock Holmes or Dick Tracy sort of thing. That does almost want to make you scratch your head, doesn't it?



At 8:21 PM, Blogger Nathan P. said...

Yeh, I'm big into Currency in my designs. I can't think of a simpler way to give direct impact over (X) to a player, where (X) is something central to the game.

Something I've been thinking about a lot is how currency interacts with adversity - in traditional designs, giving the GM currency with which to provide or highten adversity for the characters. I mean, it seems only fair...

The problem with Sherlock Holmes is that, oftentimes, the audience doesn't have all the clues that Holmes has. Now, I'm not a huge Holmes reader, but think about the times when he identifies a million things from, like, how some dude walks. The reader has no idea that an old alligator-wound generates that kind of gait, and only pgymy alligators bite that low...etc.

So a mystery game of this kind needs either A) player ability to make those kinds of connexions out of thin air, and then have them be right, or B) a system that generates all of the information needed, whether thats done by the actions of the GM or the players. Personally, I would prefer the first.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Brennan Taylor said...

I'm thinking along the lines of A as well, Nathan.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger gains said...

It's like a reverse game of clue, with each player spending to suggest the details of the game rather than comparing what they find against the others!

I like that, but I still want a bit of B) from Nathan's post. Like a randomized element that everyone needs to account for in their suggestions. Perhaps some random extras for the rogues gallery too?

Ex. Random roll determines the victim died due to defenestration from the 3rd floor of an office building. Inspector Morse cannot suggest Sickly Sally did it unless he can also suggest that she rigged up her motorized wheel chair to propel her with enough force to knock a full grown man through plate glass.

This may lead people to look for the easy answer, because it's cheaper. But also duller. So make sure there's a reward for "outside the box" suggestions.


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