[H66] A Collection of Ongoing Notes Part 1: On Stages of Play, and Grabs

I have mostly been using a private journal for the small-scale fielding of initial ideas, before bringing them more into focus and posting here. Lately, a flood of these have been discussed, and here are the most recent revisions of my newest ideas on this game.

On Stages of Play

I’m seeing actual play happening in two major stages, which for now (and lack of better theme-appropriate terms) I’m calling the Broad stage and the Action stage. Play will flow freely between the two stages, often with definite scene breaks to signify their transitions. Musings on these follow.

The Broad Stage:

In the Broad stage, the players guide their characters along, trying to complete a mission given to them by their Patron, whoever that may be in the scenario. This is akin to “exploration” and “open” scenes and play from other more mainstream rpgs. It is through Broad stage play that the players explore the setting and scenario.

The only real mechanic is based in the uncovering and completion of minor scenario objectives. These involve the character putting something important on the line now in order to reap the benefits of it later. The samurai puts his life on the line by swearing to provide protection to the troubled magistrate, in order to secure the magistrate’s backing against the town council. He puts his honor on the line by talking to the prostitute, in order to learn the secrets she knows about the evil Lone Ronin.

These risks provide the samurai with bonus dice in later conflicts, but can turn against the samurai as well. Once a Risk is taken, it remains in play regardless of the samurai’s use of the bonus dice.

Aside from creating these risk opportunities, there are no intended mechanics for these scenes. THis is still under consideration, though.

The Action Stage:

Conflicts are set up in the Broad scenes, and resolved in focused Action scenes. These scenes focus entirely on the resolution of previously-established conflicts and duels. These are the ambushes in the dark, the duels at morning, the debates in the tea room, the pack vs pack highway battles.

Action scenes will always take place on the previously-established Fields of Conflicts, set up both by the GM and the other players before the scenario began. Dice will be rolled, fates will be determined.

It is during an Action scene that the Risks previously taken by the Samurai will be judged. Gaining bonus dice from these risks can give the samurai an edge in a conflict, but they can also turn against the samurai. He may defeat the Lone Ronin, but his honor is so smudged by his methods that he suffers ridicule regardless.

I am reminded of an Episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, in Season 2. Zuko has masked the mature of his nationality, and been taken in by an Earth Kingdom family. When the family is bullied by brigands, he steps up to defend them. However, the fight proves too much for his sword skills alone, so he calls upon his firebending and successfully defeats them. But the revelation of these abilities mark him as a Firebender, an enemy more reviled than the brigands, and the family casts him out.

I’m also seeing Risks as able to be introduced on the fly. Maybe some will even be mandatory and enforced. For example, the samurai has decided to make a public example of dragging a shopkeeper out into the street and decapitating him. This could be turned into an Action scene, and the player would be forced to take on extra risk dice, representing the undeniable fact that while the shopkeeper will be pretty much helpless, killing him in such a way would quite likely make the rest of the village hate you, if not downright hostile.

Grabs:

I want to implement a system of trait-like Tags in this game. Here’s what I’m thinking, by way of a situational example:

A character is trying to get into a special party of the town’s Elite Rich Citizens, so he can meet an elusive princess who is in town. Due to his somewhat dissheveled appearance and lack of invitation, however, the GM says that he is stopped at the gate by the doorman and refused entrance. The GM says, he will have to find another way in, but the player stops him. “Actually, no. See, I am currently walking with my sword at my belt, and my sword is both Glorious, Famous, and Ancestral.” (referring to his sword’s tags) “The doorman recognizes this weapon and apologizes profusely for such a slight against it’s famed carrier, letting me in after much kow-towing.”

Another example, from another player:

“As we roll into town, the windows on many of the nearer-to-the-road buildings rattle and in some cases even shatter, when my Loud bike roars past.”

In these examples, the players have taken active authority to directly modify the scene, without necessity of GM prompting, by calling upon desctiptive Tags on their characters. I’ve played in others games where players will be faced with a situation, and then come up with a sudden idea, such as “Yeah, but can’t I maybe possibly use my magic rope to climb that impossible cliff?”

See, I don’t like those kinds of questions, because it’s the player asking the GM for permission to do something cool, for fear that their visions of awesome might clash or something. As if! In H66, I want the players to be encouraged to just come out and say “Actually, this is how it happened” without fear of conflict, because those Narrative Tags tell them to.

I’m seeing these tags on everything: bikes, weapons, backgrounds, missions, places, NPCs, and more. A character might begin the game with a good half-dozen of them or more. NPCs and towns might in fact be little more than lists of tags and their relationships to one another.

Mechanically, tags could be used in Broad scenes as narrative “trumps” which allow their users to take uncontested authority to modify the moment of the game, or add elements to the situation beyond what the GM has established. Two tags used in opposition of each other could cancel each other out.

I’m planning on calling these “Grabs“. On the character sheet they are there to grab the attention of the player, and compel him to then grab the reins of the moment and add some flair. While these “Grabs” are provided by your character’s external affectations (Role, Weapon Style, and Bike), they aren’t limited to those devices in implementation. The subjects of that trinity are treated like integral extensions of the character himself, and as such all benefits and hindrances from them apply directly to the character.

In other words, when you choose The Bow as your weapon, you are not just picking a weapon for your guy to wield and accessorize. You are saying “I am the warrior who follows the way of the bow, and these are the trappings of that lifestyle.” Your weapon, your bike, and your role in the group aren’t just gear to be traded and inventories, but actual character traits and qualities of style and personality.

One thought on “[H66] A Collection of Ongoing Notes Part 1: On Stages of Play, and Grabs

  1. The framework looks solid to me, I like the risk idea, and your example for it, and the grabs sound pretty neat as well. Conceptually it all looks good, you’ve got two solid areas of play, one for setting things up and exploring/investigating, and one for when conflict is unavoidable, and a way for both to interact with each other.

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