Time for some more mechanical dump about Children Who Play With Monsters! And some further general musings! However, this post got immensely out of my control and can best be described by the Thinking Out-Loud tag I keep using. Thoughts were spawned while typing out things that I considered pretty solid thoughts, and now a lot more work needs to be done. But, it is presented here as they came to me, with the brain blasts italicized for your convenience.

Character Creation version 1

  • Write out your Child’s Name
  • Write out your Child’s Profile
  • Write out your Child’s Problem at Home
  • Write out your Child’s Problem at School
  • Write out your Monster’s Name
  • Write out your Monster’s Blurb
  • Describe your Monster’s Wish-Fulfillment
  • Select your Monster’s No-nos
  • Select your Monster’s Allowances

The Resolution System (maybe!)
So currently I’m looking at a pretty straight-forward system of conflict resolution. Since I’ve gotten out of Dungeons & Dragons (does Wizards of the Coast really need me to link to them?), and honestly drifted more than a little from d20 System in general, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to more straight-forward resolution systems. Besides a game of Blue Rose that I have going on, Dust Devils and My Life With Master come to mind as possibly the most “crunchy” games I’m interested in at the moment. This may change later, but for now I’m going to stick to some simplistic mechanics and see how far it can take me; it will take the form of a simple d12 or d8 roll against a static number to determine success, failure, or a worsening of the situation. Read on for more.

I’ve selected a d12 for a couple reasons. The first is that, honestly, the d12 is an awkward, strange, misplaced, unique little die. Often overlooked, often unused. Its weird, and I imagine it might have provoked a raised eyebrow or a bit of intrigue when I mentioned it in the above paragraph. That is why I picked it — not for the weird value itself, but for what it can represent. Because the d12 represents the Monsters efforts to accomplish something for himself or on the behalf of the Child, and I feel like the mechanical metaphor was too good to overlook. Especially given the second point supporting the d12: the difference between the d12 and the d8 is about appropriate to represent the discrepancy between the Child and the Monster in terms of capabilities — if I set the difficulty of accomplishment at, for example, 6: the Monster is likely, half of the time, to accomplish what it sets out to do. Similarly, this places the Child in fairly dire straits on his own, and introduces the opportunity for trouble and complications. d12 and d10 feel too close; d10 and d8 feel too close. So, for now, d12 and d8. We’ll see what happens with that!

So what sorts of things will this resolution system deal with in the game? I already know two things it should generally not have to interact with: whatever the player has selected as the Monster’s Allowance will happen without any sort of roll to see if it can happen, although a roll may occur to determine the success of the attempt under certain conditions; additionally, any action that would contravene the Monster’s No-Nos will similar not even be given a roll should the Monster be attempting it, although a roll is still possible by the Child alone. I figure that a Conflict roll will occur whenever:

  • the Child attempts something that is not covered  by the Monster’s allowances.
  • the players or characters need to resolve a difference of opinion in how the story should progress
  • the Child is specifically opposed by an antagonistic force
  • Possibly if a situation would involve the Child’s Problem at Home (I need to think more on this! Possibly a way to tie this all together more tightly!)
  • the player interacts with an unused entry in the Fable (see below)

TANGENT: And at this exact moment as I type this, the idea occurs to me of having some way of keeping track specifically of the relationship with the Monster, and when attempting an Allowance: You pool the dice of the Child and the Monster; when attempting something Not covered by the Allowance, you roll those dice against one another; when attempting something that is in fact a No-No, you roll only the Child’s dice with no opposition. I’d have to look at this, but this is intriguing to me automatically, especially if the die used by the Monster corresponds to the strength of the bond between it and the Child — meaning a higher die size as the bond grows, improving the Child’s efforts so long as the Monster agrees, and a smaller die size if the bond wanes and an easier time defying the Monster… I’d have to really emphasize the benefit/detriment balance of a strong/weak bond with the Monster, and determine a method of changing the die size in relation to events in the story.

TANGENT: Continuing along this now stream-of-consciousness post (I apologize formally if this has stopped making sense, and will work to clarify things in the end), I could see the relationship die size juggling becoming a focus of play if it improves or impairs a given effort of the Child — or rather, an ends of play whose means include pursuing challenges and getting into trouble. Consider a situation wherein a player was counting on a high die type to accomplish something, only to suddenly be reduced to a less appealing size. They then voluntarily place themselves in the way of danger or story-telling complications to restore the die size. This could in fact work well with an idea I’ve been struggling with and calling “The Fable,” a listing in the form of ‘storybook sentences’ of story elements introduced into the game by players — in so far as, drawing from this list of potentially relevant conflicts-in-waiting to introduce complications voluntarily. A few things worth thinking more in-depth about, certainly!

Getting into Trouble
Inheriting the noble tradition of ‘critical failures’ of bygone games, Children Who Play With Monsters calls rolling a 1 “Getting into trouble” and considers it an opportunity to introduce additional difficulties into the lives of the Children and their Best Friends, push the game and story forward, and potentially flesh out their fantasy land. In the above section, I described a conceit called The Fable used to keep track of what beings, places, and happenings enliven the fantasy world and make it more than normal — and a conceit that is used when a Child Gets into Trouble, as they will add a new entry describing a new section of the world, or revise an older entry to reflect their current involvement with it.

Trouble doesn’t end there, however, as rolling the highest possible value on the die signifies an outstanding, smashing success — and that kind of thing can’t go on for too long without drawing the ire of fairy tale irony; rolling the highest value on a die in a conflict is still a success, but raises the Trouble Threshold by 1 (from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, etc) — meaning rolling anywhere within this window will trigger “Getting into Trouble” now. This Trouble threshold needs some way of being reduced, I imagine. I conceive currently that such a reduction can be called for, but it requires the player’s next scene to take place as a flashback to their life at home or at school, somewhere in the real world! The Child goes to sleep, and we are treated to a scene of the life before and we get to understand them a little bit better.

TANGENT: And another brain blast as I sit here writing this right now — I consider the possibility of treating Trouble instead as a static value determined at the start of play when making the Child. From then on, rolling within this Threshold triggers “Getting into Trouble” as described above; related, an interlude as described above can only ever reset Trouble back to this initial value. This divorces Trouble from the dice and places it on the protagonist him- or herself, which I think is another attractive metaphor worth establishing. From here, it’s worth considering that reducing the Trouble rating to Zero could be the/an objective of play — possibly that the Flashback scenes to positive, fulfilling moments of the Child’s life are listed on the character sheet in a section that, once completed, signifies the end of the Child’s adventures. That’d make the objective: Get Trouble to Zero, with “Awaken Fulfilling Memories” the incremental steps towards this objective. If that were the case, then the flashbacks really shouldn’t be simply summoned by players when their Trouble Threshold rises during play — and maybe Trouble Threshold rising shouldn’t then be a matter of maxed out die rolls. Possibly some sort of seesaw relationship between Trouble and the Relationship idea as mentioned in the earlier italicized stream-of-conscious paragraphs — that maybe they should interact, in determining how the campaign ends for the Child.

Tilting the Odds
Remember the Wish-Fulfillment and Blurb settled on when creating the Monster? They come into play in the form of giving the player some help in accomplishing the things they want to do. I imagine players can, in a Conflict, add an additional d8 to their efforts if the object of the Wish-Fulfillment would help them. A Child living a life without the money to buy new shoes will find their Monster the possessor of a vast wealth, and anytime those doubloons would help out: the player receives a bonus for it. Similarly, additional d12s are granted for every word of the Monster’s Blurb that would be beneficial in a situation! If it does not benefit or if it impedes, it is simply discounted or may serve as a story complication at the player’s and the GM’s discretion. And should any part of the Blurb impede the Monster in a conflict between it and the Child? Those  bonus d12s go to the Child! How the tables have turned!

In Summary (of the not stream-of-consciousness sections)

  • Conflicts occur whenever
    • Children attempt something outside the bounds of Allowances
    • Children attempt something that involves their Problem at Home
    • Children are opposed by an antagonistic force
    • Children interact with an unused entry in the “Fable”
    • Players cannot settle a disagreement regarding the direction of the story
  •  The dice used in this game are d12s and d8s
    • Players earn a single additional d8 whenever their Child’s efforts would be improved by Wish-Fulfillment in a Conflict
    • Players earn additional d12s in a 1:1 ratio whenever the Monster’s Blurb words improves their efforts to succeed in a Conflict within the Monster’s Allowances
    • Players earn additional d12s in a 1:1 ratio whenever the Monster’s Blurb words improve the Child’s efforts to resist the Monster when attempting something outside the Monster’s Allowances
  • Conflicts are versus a static difficulty of 6
    • Multiple dice do not stack; instead, players select which rolled value to use
  • Rolls within the bounds of the Trouble Threshold trigger “Getting into Trouble…” and players must add to the “Fable” and describe the nature of this trouble
    • The Trouble Threshold starts at 1
    • Rolling the highest possible value on even one die in a Conflict increases the Trouble Threshold by 1
    • The Trouble Threshold can be reset to 1 by a Child going to sleep
    • When the Child sleeps, the Player narrates a meaningful scene from their previous life

Seriously, you’ll just have to read the stream of consciousness sections. I think they may be FAR more interesting than what I had going into this post. I envision an immense overhaul of this in the days to come, almost without a doubt in my mind. I am really intrigued by the idea of a fluctuating die size/die pool based on strength of the relationship with the Monster and its relation to a static measure of the Trouble your Child is in, emotionally and physically; I’m intrigued by the idea of collecting a score of meaningful snapshots of the Child’s home — a sort of homesickness picture album — serving as the road to completing the game and seeing how your Child’s life turns out; I’m intrigued at tying the Fable in more tightly to the rest of these alternative ideas — Maybe! The Fable representing a sort of fantasy land alternative to the homesickness picture album idea? That it is the opposing system tethering the Child to the fantasy land?

I don’t know! A LOT of ideas, a LOT of stream of conscious! Leave your thoughts below on this jumbled mess, if you so dare! I’d love to hear what anyone reading this thinks, honestly. If your response has to do with number crunching, or story aesthetic, or really anything relevant, let me know. I have a lot to think on at this point, and the only thing that will help me is feedback.

As always, I can be reached at alfred_rudzki[at]yahoo[dot]com.

I’ll come up with something, I suppose!