counting-with-eyes-closed rule while others try to see what they can get away with as they find alternative second-spots and closer-to-home base spots when no one is looking (after all, they are hidden). Bottom line? When you're "it", nobody else wants to be "it" and will go to great lengths to reach the safety of home base. Perched precariously between the ultimate power in the universe (the ability to tag someone else) and utter failure (failing to protect home base and be stuck as "it") is a "game" reflex that defines the excitement of the game and the reason of this familiar game prolonged success. Game play starts with the basics of us, them, who's it, how to win the game and how to lose the game. The counting delay and then the hunt; seekers chase hinders, cops chase robbers and "Marco" tries to catch "Polo". The game is played until there is either a victor or a problem interferes with the game. Providing no one is injured and the problem is merely a player stretching the limits of fair play, the group resolves the rule and the game continues. While the playing the game is the challenge, its definition is also part of the challenge. It is how the players play with rules and enforce those rules. If the rules work out, the contestant gets found or shot, lies down, and counts to one hundred before rejoining play. If they refuse or if they cheat too much, they are banished. It is a basic social interaction that defines ones ability to coexist in a competitive environment. It is the player exhibiting character by showing fairness and not gloating or whining. It is to understand the rules and fairly negotiate problems and compromises.
In role playing games, the GM is "it" and knows the rules. The GM defines home base, how long players have to count, referee the action and keep an eye those who want to stretch the rules of fair play. A role playing game is played on a mental playing field with much defined rules an infinite number of possible plays. Designing adventures, especially the system mechanics aspect, requires basic math and verbal aptitudes and how to play games fairly, especially an RPG. A role playing game happens on a mental playing field and is completely fabricated by descriptions and rules. The success of the game is based on every player's ability to perceive the environment and their specific functional ability within that environment. The GM conducts that success by mastering the responsibility of knowing the rules, the troupe and how to bring them to a story that resembles a "fair game".
The challenge of any role playing game is how that challenge is communicated and perceived by the players, its association to the story and how that challenge is negotiated. Dependent on a GM's ability to make a session run smoothly while simultaneously crunching numbers, each scene must fictionally correspond to story perception as in interactive story experience. Mechanics are character realizations of competition, success and failure. The comparative analysis of semantics and numbers keeps everybody's mental game constructs sensibly aligned and rationalized. The relationship of sense and sensibility should not encumber storytelling, it should enhance it. Not only can players interact with a fictional story environment, they also have a way to measure and specifically interpret the nature of their interaction giving it an operative validation. Because the fictional interactions can be metered with the application of mechanics, a GM has a set of tools to deliver a story with a competitive challenge. Perceived in story context and measured with the relevance of the character sheet.
Looking back at the golden plan, a story moves through the exposition, complication, crisis, climax and resolution. With a story laid out in manageable phases, a GM can apply a use of game mechanics to deliver story encounters with more fictional bang for mechanical buck. Keeping in line with the need for story excitement, applying challenge mechanics to an RPG adventure is sure to stir the troupes. Use a sense of dynamics to pick up on the desires of a troupe and consider the story composition. Think about how that story environment should be defined and negotiated as a story unfolds, players will use their characters to engage encounters, testing their ability to solve puzzles and overcome challenges within the confines of their characters roles and abilities in the form of fictional discourse. The mechanics justify the story challenge and maintain the sense of an interactive environment.
How it all "works" is up to the GM and expressed in design. When something happens in the story environment, it does because the GM "says so", but if "saying so" is the only justification, the players will be struggling with themselves not to get up and walk out right then and there. If executed game encounters lack competitive precision, there is no game. Without game mechanics, a cooperative story needs a completely different approach to be successful, and probably a troupe that expects a purely dramatic challenge.
Game mechanics applied to strategically biased games rely heavily on tactical maneuvers and mathematical resolutions to reconcile encounter successes. System rules focus on character construction, an array of possible character types and their equipment, measurement of movement in the game environment and the rules of engagement. The players pick their characters, the characters equipment, their strategies and the competition is been defined: survival of the fittest. Strategic combat is resolved and success is based on superior characters and tactics accented with the randomness of dice rolls.
Dramatically biased RPG's require a wider range of conflict and resolution mechanics because the nature of conflict is less defined. The playing field is more than a battlefield; it is a stage where characters interact on many levels. Conflict becomes a result of character interaction. As the interaction is less than defined, the mechanics become "looser" to account for social "grays". Telling the story becomes more important than strategic precision.
Many troupes favor something in between: something with a little drama to enjoy their character and a little combat to enjoy the thrill of the hunt. Based on the idea of including both strategic and dramatic elements with a desire to preserve the condition of game and story competition while also affording the luxury of plot navigation, designing mechanical challenges for the troupe will require you to have a good understanding of the basic rules and the "story so far". Take a moment to go over the golden plan and think through the detail that will draw PC's through complication, crisis and climax. These are the details that will outline the challenge in fictional terms. For example, the villain Baron Von Goldenfinger has taxed his constituents without representation (conflict condition). Our heroes have family members that are now starving and call for help (character motivation and story complication). The heroes ride into town and meet with the Baron who laughs as his elite guard bullies the heroes out of the palace with a warning to leave town, never to return (crisis). Faced with irreconcilable differences, the heroes need to overthrow the Baron and restore the people's freedom (story goal and climax). A simple connection of basic story ideas that now needs to possess game elements. As the PC heroes move against the Baron, PC's need a sense that the conflict is real, otherwise it becomes a function of pure storytelling and there is no interactivity. The game is the challenge: overthrow the evil Baron (with less resources and a lot of attitude). As a story begins to heat up into raucous character conflict, player's attention spans will increase dramatically when the minion of evil come knockin' at the door. The GM has counted down from one hundred and begins looking for the hinders and the players are trying to get to home base, so its up to them to train a peasant army and overthrow the evil Baron.
When Worlds Collide
All this high falutin imagining and role playing stuff is somewhat interesting but many gamers are asking, "sure, nice story plotting, but where is the game?" Early RPG's focused on players being clever enough to sneak into a hostile dungeon, dispatch random creatures, pick the locks, escape the traps and make off with the loot. There was a measurable challenge and a sense of competition. The roles that players assumed simply defined the rules of engagement; what they could and could not do in the game. Those same roles were very identifiable to the players and over time, RPG's took on a new dimension: drama. A blend of two very different gaming aspects that are worlds apart.
Today, there are all sorts of RPG's with all sorts of challenges based on strategy, drama and the grays in between. Some are diceless with success judged on the role that is played against the rules of conduct and protocol while others use simple mechanics to add a sense of urgency to the story's telling and others still are purely strategic. In any RPG, the specifics of mechanics design specify the game challenge.
Designing a polished adventure demands that regardless of a GM's particular style, whether games run with a strategic or dramatic bias, that the adventure host measurable challenges. These challenges represent story excitement and the focus of character involvement. Strategic encounters deserve quality game conditions and interesting content and dramatic encounters deserve the depth of character interaction and a real plot. The manner in which each type of challenge is resolved will heavily bias the game and how it is played. The term "mechanics" as it is used here is to say that it is the
Five, Four, Three, Two, ONE! Ready or not, here I come!
Children at Play
Rise to the Challenge
The countdown to action starts a game of hide-and-seek. The infamous "it" raises its head, a warning goes out, and the seeking for hidden prey begins. From high quality hiding spots, the hinders scrutinizing to make sure that "it" didn't break the
Challenge Mechanics 1
"technical" part of the game; how it works. The goal of considering game system mechanics is to include a sense of "challenge" to RPG's across the spectrum whether it is clashing robot armies or two characters debating the merit of game mechanics. Plots will have a legitimate sense of urgency and the planning of strategy will be enhanced by a sense of motivated involvement. Game challenges need to be more convincing than the GM "being it" and conflict resolution justified "because I said so." Game actions and conflicts need justifiable resolutions. The effort put into developing game conflict and resolution with a relationship between story and game mechanics which can be perceived by the players, will significantly increase the quality and enjoyment of the game.
The Technical Parts
Technical parts are parts relating to applied branches of knowledge: science and math. Understanding game mechanics is to understand science, math and its application. It is to understand enough basics to analyze a situation, analyze the physics (real or imagined) and apply math and use the results to express the outcome of game interaction. The GM judges what elements of the situation are both measurable and interactive and resolves player interaction and determine the effects. The basic theory is that a character's functional ability score is applied to a game system variable to establish a success realization number. A probability is applied to scale the choice of measures according to difficulty and the dice are rolled to determine outcome. In this, a player uses their character (which will provide the FAS either by character sheet of rule context) to overcome the challenge (Defined by the GSV) to establish the encounters success/fail probability (SRN). The dice are rolled, the encounter is resolved and the beat goes on. Game challenges can be expressed in many ways and is a function of the game system. Any time a player tries to functionally effect the game environment with their character, the action requires a functional solution. That is to say, any time a player tries to do something, it needs to make sense. RPG's, after all, are played on a mental playing field to varying degrees. Mechanics are the means to justification; to quantify any mechanical challenge is to identify the functional basics of the game system and express it as a mathematical formula.
The technical parts are understanding the relationships of words and numbers, using numerical tables difficulty scales, probabilities statistics, trends and the like to formulate and execute the mathematical operations - - the function of game mechanics...which to discuss requires a review of that "math stuff" missed while daydreaming through class.
Formula: A formula is a rule or method that is defined by a set of algebraic symbols that express a mathematical fact or principal. Good game systems will provide the structure of game oriented formulas, the most common formulas used by the system, how to apply those formulas to a range of typical and possible scenarios and a few examples of how they resolve (if not, try to scavenge the good fictional resource material).
Scales: Scales are a means of measuring things at graduated intervals, like a thermometer (or a scale). In a system of numerical notations, most scales provide a good comparison of a game environment to our environment to facilitate an internalized understanding of the relationships of real numbers and our idea of reality.
Probabilities: A probability is to define how often something will probably happen calculated with a ratio. The first quotient of the ratio is the number of times something will probably occur and is divided by the total number of possible occurrences. The result is usually expressed as a fraction and recognized as a "50/50 chance" or "4 out of 5 Doctors say... (implying that if 80% of doctor's say something that it's probably true). In game mechanics, probabilities define difficulty as judged by the specifics of the game system and GM and judgment. Players face probabilities in an encounter. For instance, super hero X has a day off and is shooting hoops on his day off. Super hero X shoots 10 times and sinks 5 baskets. Until super hero X gets better at basketball, he knows that out of 10 occurrences, he will probably score 5 baskets. He has a 5 in 10 chance of sinking the basket or 1/2 of the total occurrences; 50%.
Tables: Tables are the arrangement of related facts and calculated results presented in rows (horizontal) and columns (vertical), like multiplication tables. In an RPG, the facts and calculations present expected game situations and provide a range of pre-calculated results to apply to different gaming situations.