Friday, 7 February 2014

Feckless Wastrels: some mechanics

Having a certain amount of free time on my hands today, I thought I would once again squander some time devising mechanics for a game that is vanishingly unlikely to ever see the light of day.

The game seems to naturally lend itself to a dicepool system, so I'll go with that as a starting point. This is very much a first draft.

An important part of the game, I think, is the constraints of society. Anyone with any pretence to be any kind of decent cove must keep up certain standards of behaviour, which means outright refusals and impoliteness are to be avoided. Besides, that sort of thing is likely to bring familial wrath down upon one's head. The weapons of the wastrel, therefore, are chiefly evasion, inadequacy and an impression of irresponsibility that cause would-be demanders to throw up their arms and sigh. There are occasional situations where frank rudeness is acceptable, but these are an exception to the rule.

This time I think I am actually going for an abrasive damage system. The game is largely a bit old social dance; you're trying to shirk responsibility and manage your image, while maintaining self-respect and a comfortable life. People try to influence you by prodding at bits of your psyche, socially trapping you into doing what they want or occasionally through simple blackmail. Events and interactions, including your own achievements, influence both how you feel and what people think of you.

Outline mechanics

This will possibly sound a bit complex for what it is, but bear with me.

Characters will be built around four sets of properties: Attributes, Influences, Traits and Inclinations. The first two are the core of the game.

Attributes determine your ability to get things done, and are very broad, probably four or five in total. You roll these whenever there's uncertainty over the outcome of an action. Your attribute score, from 1 to 5, determines your dicepool. High is good, provided you want to succeed. This is not necessarily the case. Attributes may vary from their initial score, but only temporarily.

Influences are factors that, well, influence you. They are emotional and social pressures that affect your ability and desire to succeed. Each has a range from Dreadful to Excellent, with a Moderate midpoint. In any situation where that influence is relevant, it will force you to reroll a number of successes or failures based on its current status, depending whether it would increase or decrease your likelihood of success. Note the word "force". Influences fluctuate throughout the character's life depending on their actions - these are the erosive damage bit I mentioned earlier.

Traits are your personality. They affect your ability to succeed in certain situations. Whenever a trait would be relevant, it adds or removes a die from your pool as deemed appropriate.

Inclinations are things you're interested in, like or that have an irresistible fascination for you. The chance to indulge an inclination makes a course of action more tempting. I'm not sure whether these will have any mechanical effect or just be chargen prompts.

Other stuff

Characters (or the group as a whole) will also want to outline a handful of NPCs and locations to work around. These will provide the basis for various shenanigans.

Actual events could quite conceivable be randomly generated, at least in skeleton form. There's a fairly small subset of activities that steer Wodehousian plots.

Very basic example

Needing to steal a pig, Jerry has to use his measly Physique attribute (2 dice) to shove it into a lorry. A mild Influence spurs him on, obliging him to reroll one failure. Luckily, he wants to succeed, so this is beneficial. His Stubborn trait grants an additional die because he is determined to steal that pig despite aching muscles and muddy trousers.

Later, Jerry is compelled to show Sir Oswald Foutherby around the grounds. This is deeply unfortunate because it's part of an auntly plot to drag him into paid employment. He doesn't at all want to make a good impression; failure is good here. He uses a social attribute to determine his success, and his Pride forces him to be relatively polite and not appear too dense, rerolling some failures. Things don't look promising.

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