Actana Muses on Various Topics - Page 3 - Myth-Weavers

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Actana Muses on Various Topics

One thing I always wanted to try is run an amnesia game where the player has the full stats on his character, just not the background. So like you wake up on a starship, completely alone, and with no memories other than subconsciously knowing that you can do certain things but not others. And than just guide the character down the path of exploring the ship and discovering who he is and how he got there.

So like you'd know from the start what its all about. But you'd still have the mystery of it.

Friend of mine asked me to design his character for a 7th Sea game he was in when he was playing an amnesiac. He knew his Traits and knew he knew a swordsman school, but everything else was up to me and to e-mail his sheet to his GM when I was finished.

I had fun being Evil...

Amnesia games are often so very difficult since they rely on players being invested in their characters even though they know nothing of them, and rely on the characters getting invested in their invented pasts. There are quite a few ways to deal with it though, from player-participation in discovering the details, and being very upfront about what kind of amnesia the game involves. Knowing mechanics is also something that should happen, because eugh that opens up another can of worms entirely.

Honestly I think that the key to that is just allowing the player to get invested to who the character is now as opposed to who he was. The connection should not really be to his past as much as to his present and how it struggles to discover the things it is missing. And for that, having the player not care about the character at all in the beginning is fine. After all, even the character does not care about him self because he does not know him self yet. But for that to work you do need to come up with a compelling secret background or better yet a plot twist big reveal for your player to discover.

A good example of this sort of writing is .

Currently on a train without much better to do in between watching the Overwatch World Cup, so might as well try to gather some thoughts again.

So, some things I recently read about had to do with the idea of feats, tags and keywords and the ways the interact with the game. This isn't necessarily at all about D&D, but it's easy terminology to use.

So, the idea of feats and how they affect the game. Feats are very often purely mechanical in nature, they give out a mechanical benefit and that's it. There's very little narrative impact with feats, and that's pretty fine overall: there's very little narrative interest in most feats. But every feat still has its own sort of flavor. Disregarding the idea of what should be a feat and what shouldn't, it's a bit strange that feats exist only in mechanics.

As an example to get what I mean, there's the simple feat Toughness. Mechanically, it gives +3 to HP in 3.5, that's fairly simple and easy to understand. Narratively, it's supposed to represent some form of extra, well, toughness. It's right there in the name. But the game doesn't ever give any tools to represent your character's special abilities in anything other than mechanical ways, granting them extra ways to do very specific things. Emphasis on the very specific part: you only ever get to use your feats in the way they're specifically described, and in no other way despite the fact that it might make sense. Toughness doesn't actually make your character tougher, it just gives 3 more HP. And I think that's a bit wrong, or at the very least could be improved upon.

The issue is further compounded with things other than feats. Keywords, special abilities, classes. All these things have potential flavor baked into them to use narratively, and while some are used more in that way, there are many ways to use them to the benefit of the characters and the game. While obviously not everything needs to be made into an in-game thing, I still feel that there's a lot of potential to be had to combine mechanics and narrative into one cohesive whole.

Compare to, say, Fate, where you have Aspects that represent lots of things and are also used for lots of different things, both mechanical and narrative. They give a bit more versatility to characters to interact with the world with their stats.

To take things further, many PbtA games involve tags that don't really do anything mechanically, but their presence allows you to do things narratively. A weapon with the "penetrating" and "destructive" tags works entirely differently than a weapon with a "silenced" and "scoped" weapon, despite both having the exact same mechanical stats. This puts the power of the weapon into the flavor around them, not just what mechanics it has. It's a different kind of game, and has its own pros and cons.

So what am I really trying to accomplish with this? Mostly, not to always automatically ignore the context in which everything exists, and to involve the qualities of the characters in the narrative that otherwise would only ever exist mechanically. And if a game doesn't have specific rules for a thing that a character should logically be able to do based on their available mechanics that focus on other things, perhaps it's okay to just allow them to do it. For example, if a game doesn't have particular powers or abilities about mind-reading and a character is playing someone who is called a Telepath, maybe you should just allow them to read minds because that's what their character is about. Not necessarily making it an automatic success, but allowing them to use their mind reading abilities to solve problems with skill checks even if they don't explicitly have an ability to do so as mandated by the game.

By the point you are making such massive changes to the game I'd just call it quits and switch systems. In fact, one of the major parts of why I quit D&D is because of feeling like you do. To be honest, D&D is not really a roleplaying system at heart. It's a turn based combat simulator. So yea.

Well, maybe it's something that D&D 6e should be looking at. Mechanical feats that also have narrative effects folded into them.

Originally Posted by Actana View Post
Well, maybe it's something that D&D 6e should be looking at. Mechanical feats that also have narrative effects folded into them.
Ideally yes, but unlikely. Basically allowing people to improvise too much out of the box is exactly what D&D is not about by design. That's why it is so easy to make insane overpowered builds, break world economics by turning ladders into sticks or generally just point out inconsistencies. The design is simply inherently built with the expectation that you will not do that.

And that's really not unique either. It's a feature of any rule heavy system. When you want to have a lot of things and a lot of control and want to try and balance it all you have to become rigid.


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