[H66] Fields and Choice, and Musings on Mass Effect 2

I’ve been having a hard time putting my thoughts down on paper at this point, in a fashion understandable to an outside reader. Last night it hit me: Mass Effect 2. In this video game, everything in the game leads up to a multi-staged final mission through a gateway into the unknown. Leading up to this point in the game, you spend a large amount of time and effort first recruiting a full team of commandos, and then subsequently following up with those teammates in order to secure their ultimate loyalty. This last bit is always secured by the results of a special focus side mission, and these missions vary frequently in their approach and implementation.

For example, one guy’s mission is a pretty standard jaunt through an area killing a lot of bad guys, getting to an important life-changing conversation at the very end. Another is just a simple stalk-and-observe, with little combat at all. Each of them varies pretty widely, although most use the standard combat mechanic at least once. At the end, if you did well, your squad mate will be absolutely loyal to you, and gain more abilities and bonuses.

But more importantly: they will most likely not die at the end of the game. See, during the End Run, depending on the choices you’ve made and the way you’ve played the game, one or more (or all!) of your squad can die off in extremely heart-wrenching cut scenes. Fail to secure the loyalty of Guy #7, and he might waver in the face of the enemy and be mowed down, just outside of your reach. Gil #4 might be sucked out of an airlock into the cold of space.

The End Run of the game is a mostly-linear dungeon run, with a few Big Decisions interspersed between its areas. Regardless of who you take and who survives, the layout of the maps is the same, as are the battle locations and such. However, the presence of different people at different times affects your survivability pretty heavily, as do other non-companion-related decisions you made earlier in the game. So while the Main Objective remains the same (aka Kill the Big Bad), your earlier choices have direct mechanical impact on the attempt to achieve that goal.

So, bringing this back around to Hagakure 66, I see the major conflict mechanics being resolved primarily in pre-set Fields of Play: The Tarmac, the Parlor, the Duel, etc. A standard affair of theme-specific generalized Fields will be offered in the game text. When a new scenario is set forth, the GM states a simple opening scenario goal: “In this scenario, your pack will go to Hornsfirth Hill and secure the loyalty of the Mayor for your Patron’s cause.” He will already have written down one or more Fields which this scenario will feature.Then, each player writes down and submits an additional Field, effectively telling the GM “this is where I want to see action happen.” These can be from the game text, or made up by the player. Once the scenario begins, all major conflicts will be resolved on these fields.Once a conflict reaches a Field, the mechanics will play out as normal (still undefined at this moment). However, depending on the conflict and its relevance to the GM’s scenario plans, there might be unknown background conditionals at play. “If the players don’t tie Story Thread X up before this conflict, then apply Modifiers Y.”

Thus the players will be encouraged to explore the setting and the situation a bit to find these triggers and resolve certain conditionals. Getting the influential madame on your side can affect your conflict to drive the slaver out of town, for example. But pissing her off might actually get you in the Slaver’s good graces.

More on this as it comes to me.

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