I’m now facing a design conundrum with Motobushido and I’m hoping I can get some outside input. It regards the core conflict mechanic, the Duel. Currently and pretty much since the shift to playing cards way back when, the mechanic has been a one-to-three-stage procession of escalating violence and intensity, winner take all. The first stage, called “the Confrontation,” is just positioning, intimidation, showmanship, insults, and so on. The conflict can easily end at this stage, and if so, the consequences are small and simple, and not realy long-lasting.
At any point, one side can escalate to actual violence and enter stage two, “The Struggle.” Weapons are drawn, wounds are made, and both sides are actively trying to beat the other down. Should the duel end in this stage, the consequences must be more severe, and can include permanent wounds, marred legacies, and other such long-lasting changes.
Again, either contestant can then choose to escalate to the third and final stage, “The Finishing Blow.” This involves actives attempts to murder each other. Consequences of loss here can and should include death or serious crippling injury, destruction of legacy, and so on.
As previously stated, until this point the mechanic is a winner-take-all (well, most) setup. The victor gets to decide consequences appropriate to the stage in which they won, no higher, no lower. The loser gets to state one concession, provided they still had a card in their hand at the time of their concession.
All of this has now come into question after this last week’s playtest session. Until then, I had not put much serious work into defining the greater full-group “battle” mechanics, for use when a one-on-one or two-on-two duel just wouldn’t be enough. In the new Battle mechanics (Which I also call Pack Warfare), the flow involves creating and controlling “battle fronts” in a similar flow. During each “Stage” of the Battle, the two sides create and then war over up to three different Battle Fronts, which are basically locations where battle is happening. In our test battle, the fronts were The Yard, The Porch, and The Back Scrapyard (all outside features of a house they were besieging). Had the battle moved inside in a second stage, the new Fronts might have been Front Hall, Parlor, and Stairwell.
By winning a front, you win a point. The stage ends when no one can play anymore, and the Fronts are scored. Battle can continue to the next stage if the side with fewer points wants to keep going, but the victor names the first new front. The basic flow worked pretty well, with a few bits needing clarification or smoothing out.
Anyway, this now has me reconidering the original dueling mechanic. Instead of a winner-take-all approach, what if I applied points to each stage of the duel? Winnning the Confrontation gets you one point, winning the Struggle gets you two, and winning the Final Blow gets you three. Your final point value at the end determines the consequences you can apply, much in the same way they previously did, only this time there’s a good chance that both sides can apply consequences to each other.
Say, to kill a guy outright, you need 4 or more points. To kill him without any setback, of course, you need 6. At 3, both sides would e tied, and thus both sides would get some victory and yet some concession.
Still thinking this one over. Could use some input, folks.