Saturday, 4 October 2014

An Excess of Enemies

Continuing my largely-pointless work on A Band of Bunglers because I'm awake dammit, why am I awake at 3am?

So, I invented various dice mechanics and I'm probably sticking with the Contrary Dicepool for now.

But what is a brave band of idiotic-but-usually-stalwart arguably-heroes without some inept adversaries?

One of the themes of Craig Shaw Gardner's books, like most farce, is repetition. The same characters pop up again and again. Enemies are thwarted, only to return at inopportune moments. Named items are always Checkhov's Guns. Events repeat themselves, growing in the repetition and gaining that sense of comic inevitability as they do. Foreshadowing and callbacks are constant.

One of the ideas I have for A Band of Bunglers is that the number of active Adversaries (not the same as Enemies) is dictated by a fixed hand. For the sake of simplicity, let's assume these are dice. Let's say the GM (or whoever ends up doing that kind of thing, I haven't decided yet) has 10 of these.

When an Adversary is introduced, they are allocated some subset of these dice. This represents the potency of the Adversary. While onstage, the Adversary can use these dice to do stuff, either directly or by influencing their minions (if they have any). The dice can be added to the Adversary's own actions, or used to give orders to Minions. Each die can only be used once per turn. I think it's probably best to cap the number of Adversary Dice you can add to a roll, because otherwise the final Adversary in particular will be both very competent and very successful. I'll probably suggest that you can't add more Adversary dice than your rank in that attribute, capping the total hand at 10 - the rest must be used for secondary actions (possibly defence or movement - I'm not sure how combat will work yet) or to command Minions. I'll need to run some kind of maths at some point.

When an Adversary loses a scene, the group should decide whether they are defeated or merely repelled. An Adversary might be a specific individual (King Blarkneck), a specific group (the Prancing Waiters of Povia) or a category (Martians), and so there's a fair bit of flexibility on what you can do while still leaving this decision open.

A defeated Adversary returns all their dice to the, oh, Adversary Pool. They can no longer be used as an Adversary, although that doesn't mean they can't appear in the game as a general NPC. Maybe their grudge has been ended, maybe they've given up on the PCs or reformed their evil ways, maybe they're just a prisoner or a surly ghost now.

If the Adversary is repelled, they keep the dice they claimed and remain in the GM's hand. When next introduced, the Adversary may gain additional dice to represent new tricks or allies they gained in the interim, but cannot have fewer dice. This means Adversaries will tend to grow in power until they are defeated for good. At the same time, it means the overall number of Adversaries should tend to start out fairly large and grow smaller, with one or two emerging as primary antagonists. Perhaps for the finale, two Adversaries will join forces and merge into a single mechanical entity with a shared dicepool.

It strikes me that a useful mechanic here would be something to make it to the players' benefit to often let an Adversary escape. One thing is that this limits the power of individual Adversaries by dividing the Adversary dicepool. If the game is essentially GMless or very player-driven, you might simply have a vote on whether any player wants to take over the beaten Adversary, and if not you "dissolve" them back into the dicepool and declare them permanently defeated. At least until the sequel.

If players do control the Adversaries, then introducing your own to a scene might be a valid move instead of acting with your PC. Adversaries can, and often should, be each others' enemies or at least at odds, and this would serve to confuse matters and potentially assist the PCs.

Because of the silly nature of the game, and the many mishaps, one approach that makes sense is for bit-part NPCs to occasionally be enraged by some action of the PCs and become minor Adversaries. On the other hand, sometimes PCs might enlist NPCs to their cause - perhaps even ex-Adversaries.

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