Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Agents, psychics and commandos - setting thinking

I am making my own game system. Idea is that it will be universal for me to use. So, I make these universal rules what I can use to write any setting I like to. It's like (new) World of Darkness core rulebook for White Wolf's WoD series. A set of core rules what are the basics for my ideas for settings and campaign worlds. Ofcourse, core rules introduce the basics of the rules and setting supplements add some additional rules if needed.

So, I have this idea of playing a group of characters. Game is great for solo-gaming with one player, as it is agent action. Agents work alone, you don't need other players to accompany you in the quest. Player has three different kind of characters:

1. Agent. Agent does the background work. He gathers enough information about the situation in hand for the psychic to use.
2. Psychic has various powers, but most powerful of them is mind control where he can possess the subject to further investigations or even commit the quest himself. If this doesn't work, then there is a:
3. Commando/assasin, who does the hard shooting things work.

Basically, here is one possible scenario. Agency knows about this drug lord. Drug lord is well protected, makes great harm for the goverment and needs to get out of business. Full scale operation with police forces would be an unecessary massacre and the problem is, that the main subject could very well escape during the "cleaning" process. So, Angency sends his agent to spy. Agent himself doesn't directly involve in operation physically, but gathers information. Agent learns, that drug lord has this trusted vale who visits one particular nightclub. Also, this trusted vale has a great access directly to meet this drug lord. Agent takes few pictures and steals something personal for this trusted vale. Agent takes gathered information and items back to agency.

At agency, information and items are delivered to psychic who is in mind tank. They are usually weak by body but strong in mind. Mind tank is sort of cyberware enchanting the powers of these physics. Physic gets the information about trusted vale, then he sees the pictures of him, maybe a video tape. Personal belonging is necessary to body possession. When psychic is sure he can possess the trusted vale and act as him, he does it.

Trusted vale is now in possession of psychic from agency, and now agency has access to that drug world and no one has a clue in drug circles what's going on. Psychic has two options. He can learn directly from drug lord himself, even try to assasinate him by possession. But main thing is, that by possession psychic gains inside information about estate, guards etc.

Now they know, what drug lord is going to do in certain day at certain time. It is time for commando to do his job!

In general agents are these agile and cunning persons, psychist have great mind and commando are power and destruction. So, player has three different characters what complete eachother in the quest.

Game is ment to be one-shot fun, fast action. Different mission type quests. There is this problem, deal with it agent. Long term campaigns could involve quests what are linked together in a bigger picture, or you can just throw a simple search and destroy this bad guy scenario. It is quite much problem solving. You can play agent's personal life in home, or psychics feelings about agency (does he feel he is used because of his powers) or even remorse of commando for killing stuff. But what the heck, that is not necessary. Do agent missions, have fun, that's the idea!

For characters there will be different skills to use for agents, psychics and commandos. If psychic isn't good at driving car, his possessed subject is neither. That is a obstacle to win (otherwise psychic would be overpowered). So basically psychic cannot know things that the subject doesn't, but cannot make tasks greater that subject is capable of. In addition of that, there is ofcourse gadgets for agents and commandos, and guns for commandos.

So, psychic action spying is the name of the game!

(As basic rules for my systems is still under development, I haven't this far written this more than few sketches.)

This is the question/answer I have seen several times and now found it again, so I'll answer it for my own joy.

1.) What is your game about?
Doing agency missions using different abilities of three different characters. Solving crimes and dealing with criminals in a whole new way.

2.) What do the characters do?
Agent character is to gather basic information for the quest, psychic character is to advance in that information or even engage the quest and commando is to deal with it with power.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
Player uses his wits and imagination to solve agency quests. Player is responsible to handle the outcome and process to that outcome. Gamemaster is to develope a scenery. He makes the plot for a quest and also details information for player to use.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
Setting is near future. This special agency is well hidden in byrocracy, so it isn't known to excist at all. As world is near future, you can easily adopt this world to it. Just add a bit more fun gatgets to use.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
One player has three different characters to use in different situations differently. In different situations different characters have merits to do them. So, basically player can teamwork with himself.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
Rewarding witty player. Player has quite free hands to commit the quest. There is no right way to do it. Add PC games Hitman and Splinter Cell together, and you are getting pretty close. Players get reward for using their brains to solve this quest. Punishment, well, if you screw up in agency, you are exterminated (joking).

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
If player isn't active, nothing happens. Player must be active and willing to use his brains for this game to happen. If you are looking for long tea party conversations between characters, this is not your game. If you are looking for xp shooting up things and taking their stuff, this is not your game either. If player is not willing to problem solving, this is not rewarding. If he is, this is.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Gamemaster gives the situation (report) and gives information for player as player investigates. Lots of gaming is happening as player goes along.

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
If you don't put your mind in this, you aren't getting anywhere. But all what happens in this game (except maybe the commando part) is up to you, player. You and your investigations are responsible for the conclusion.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Basically charasteristic + skill roll under. There is a small twist though about critical successes and failures, and player can twist propablities. You can get opportunity to have greater percentage to success with even weaker character, but risk to botch is greater. Fast rules with a bit tactics added to make it fun.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
Rules are generic (for my games atleast), so I try to make rules to fit in fantasy setting or science fiction aswell.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
They gain xp from quests done. When enough xp it's lvl up time and dividing stuff for your character. Level can be like rank in agency. 1-3 quests done should lvl your characters up and advance in skill.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
More you quest, more easier it gets. But maybe the quests from the agency will be harder (and more xp rewarding) then.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
Excitement of making quests. Character isn't doing it, you are. You have to use your brains, so when you obtain information, you will feel good, because it was your idea. And after collecting that information the hard and innovative way, what's more fun than start to blow brains out?

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
Easy and fast. One night games.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
Idea of one player using three different characters with different advantages and solving the quest with his own wits. That you don't have to think about a campaign, just think about a scenery and run it.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
You have several different options for one quest to accomplish. Other games do that also, if not railroading, but hey, this is a sandbox of one situation. You don't run all over the game world looking for things to do, you got this one thing to do. Question is how you do it.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
To get it done. To get fun out of it and hopefully someone else having fun out of it.

19.) Who is your target audience?
Ofcourse myself, but also those who like agent action and would like to run one-shots without horrible amount of preparation.

So, that is the idea in nutshell. As I said before, haven't written one single "official" word about it yet. First things first, make the rules to work, then write agent-psychic-commando action packet.


Sami Koponen said...

First and above all, why three different characters? You could certainly use only one psychic commando-agent, who would have all the related skills. The player is using just one of the characters at a time anyway.

Second, check again questions 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. You actually didn't quite answer them.

Also, if the GM is supposed to think ahead all the possible ways the player might affect the situation, there's going to be a horrible amount of preparation. Most of it will also be wasted, because the player will select only one or a few approaches to the situation at hand. In other words, what if the player states that her agent is going to go in through a ventilation shaft? Do you make up the answer on the spot or do you actually try to preplan the situation so that you know even the ventilation system?

Is your player as excited about this as you are?

Unknown said...

Good points again, Sami.

I did answer the same answer to several questions, but this is only at a state of idea. So, hard to answer fulfillingly <- is that even a word?

Using three or one character basically is the same. As they complete eachother. Technically I mean. But here's the twist to develope characters in different direction. You can have one brainy guy, one agile guy, one power guy. If one character had all those qualities, wouldn't it be unbalanced or overpowered? So, technically having three characters isn't that different than one character.

Horible amount of preparation can be avoided. If player asks is there a ventilation shaft, GM can decide if there is or isn't. I think, that when you roleplay, you don't have to write every single rock and stone in the city down, but you can make things up in the fly also. Might be good to point this out in context. Also, might be good for some random table.

About random table idea (notice, these all are just ideas at this point). You don't need random tables for everything, but one or two universal ones determining like different solutions.

1. Very bad
2. Bad
3. Bad
4. Good
5. Good
6. Very good

Player character is thinking about break in via ventilation shaft. GM hasn't prepared or even thought about that, so he rolls D6 and gets result 6. Very good. GM decides, that ventile shafts are clear to navigate directly to the point where player needs to go.
Bad would be maybe a dead end and very bad possibly old shaft what breaks under characters weight.

Just a idea and needs more thought in it.

You know those generate random dungeons tables? That kind of could work?

Sami Koponen said...

I see no problem with the overpowered character. The mission would still have to be completed in phases of investigation and shooting. The only difference would be that you don't have to change the character for different phases. This would also put some interest into the character advancement: do you want to be a better investigator (agent skills) or better with violence (commando skills)?

Second the randomizers and improvisation. Don't you think that they would take away the whole point of the game? What kind of achievent is there if my brilliant idea about using the ventilation shaft is solved with a roll of a die? I could offer my worst idea and it could work just as well. If you want to challege the player to solve a riddle, you have to have the riddle made up beforehand. Otherwise it's just about finding a solution that pleases the improvising GM (or coming up with whatever, if the usefulness of the solution is determined randomly).

This is not to say that playing improvised agent missions wouldn't be fun. It's just not challenging in terms of the player's intelligence.

Unknown said...

Good points, and I am concidering as I am planning the setting further. At this point, it is just a idea I am figuring out.

Nuurori said...

The main benefit you get from separate characters is that you can't do all at once. When you are mindcontrolling, you need to rely on the info you gathered before. What if you rounded some corners, and it happens that the drug lord has already been deposed by his competitor, Jesus Luiz Maria Felipé? Improvise now, or return to square one.

Or when you'd be doing the same with the Commando Sniper, yes, overpowered in sniping, you'd find out your mark is on his scheduled afternoon cruise... with his 5 year old granddaughter.

Apart from moral or quest related dilemmas, there might also appear complications according to the actual carrying of the plan. For example, the drug lord already knows about some of his valet's personal business, and it's gonna get dirty. Being shot back in the head, while not in your own head, is gonna be a major load of shit over the psychic's sensitive mind.

Dream Interpreter said...

This is so cool!It's like a role playing game.

Unknown said...

@Dream Interpreter: Yeah, it is. Role is that you really got several roles, and there is that game part highlited more than for example storytelling games.

For now, I haven't actually written it any more. As the system the game will be running on needs playtesting etc. Doing actually a mini-game to playtest the rules... maybe I blog about that one ;)