Sidebar
Somehow I managed to go this entire weekend without realizing I had completely failed to post something on Friday. Whoops.

Success & Failure (cont’d)
When there are two sides to a Conflict, one side wins and the other loses; one side gets their intention, and the other does not; one side protects their Ties and the other doesn’t get their way; one side Fights or Commits Ultraviolence and the other suffers. If there are ever three or more sides in a Conflict that includes Violence dice, hell breaks loose. Rather than compare the highest die from each side to determine the winner overall, arrange your dice from greatest value to lowest value as before and compare them across the board for each side’s pool of dice: highest die vs highest die vs highest die, and so on. If the dice all match? It’s a stand-off. Look dramatically at everyone else at the table, nobody dies yet, keep role-playing. It has to be a tie for everyone involved for it to be a stand-off. Otherwise, everyone who rolled higher than the unlucky side(s) has the Advantage, and selects one character from that side and sends him to the Morgue or the Hospital as per the usual rules. Compare the next set of dice, and so on and so on until the side with the fewest dice runs out, or only one side remains.

Yes. Three-way shoot-outs are deadly, prone to barely justified alliances, and everyone gets shot. People who never deserved to get shot are almost always the first ones to take the bullet, and no one tends to walk away unscathed. And before I forget: when you have the Advantage, you are also allowed to target anyone part of your side. Like I said… barely justified alliances. Everyone gets shot.

Survival
Hey! You made it through a game session! Your character lives! He probably made some hard choices along the way… interfered with a Moment of Silence, got into a Fight, earned a Trauma, made a Compromise… It was a busy game session. But the point is, you made it. Good for you. Go ahead and select one of these options for your character: decrease your Depravity by 1 rank; increase a Tie by 1 Point; if you increased your Depravity this game, scratch off a Trauma perpetrated (remember: you can never remove a Trauma you’ve been victim to). You cannot decrease your Depravity to 0 this way. You cannot increase your Tie to 10 this way — Those changes must be done during game-play using a Moment of Silence.

The Final Scene
The end-game. The climax. Time to see what it’s all come down to. The Final Scene is triggered whenever any character’s Depravity reaches 10 Ranks, or one of a character’s Ties reaches 10 points. If a character manages to reach Depravity 10, then they are all consumed by violence — disconnected from the world around them, no empathy, an angel of death in lead and gunsmoke. If a character manages to get a Tie up to 10 Points, then they have discovered their life’s passion — their one, absolute object of affection or personal destiny that they will leave behind their sordid past to achieve. Below are rules for each possible outcome. There is a lot of overlap, and a lot of possible upsets as each situation affects everyone else at the table and brings them into the same high stakes situations as your character. As in the fiction: When one character get’s close to making a life for himself, everything gets that much harder… people get jealous, get stupid, get ideas. And when your character really gets bad, everyone else gets jumpy and expects the knife in their back before the day is out…

Angels of Death, Robed in Lead, on Wings of Gunsmoke
When one character reaches Depravity 10, consider all brothers to be at Depravity 10 when dealing with him. When one character reaches Depravity 10, no brother may sacrifice a Tie to avoid being sent to the Morgue. That’s how these stories end. Lots of tears, lots of bullets, lots of body bags. At Depravity 10, few problems are not solved by Ultraviolence — remember that when negotiating for your Vendetta, or the girl you love, or the brother you hate… Also, when one character has reached Depravity 10, no characters may share sides except for Ties. And would you really put them in the line of fire just for a few more dice? Really? Your goal at this point is to secure your Vendetta (which no one should be making easy for you), and do whatever your crew thinks would be appropriate for securing the safety of your highest valued Tie.

When one character reaches 10 Points in a Tie, they’ve found their calling and want out of the life of violence and struggle to start again with whatever their Tie may be — school, family, ma, the open road… But their dream requires setting right everything in the past. When one character reaches 10 Points in a single Tie, all brothers are considered to have 10 Points in a single Tie — and they should immediately declare what Tie it will be. In addition, any character who has a Vendetta with this character is now considered to have Depravity 10 so long as the Vendetta exists. No character may Compromise using their 10 Point Tie… you can’t be determined to leave your life of crime behind if you’re hawking your ma’s jewelry to feed your escape. Now’s the time to draw a line in the sand. Your goal at this point is to get out the game by committing to a new life — narrate the scene involving your 10 Point Tie and include a legitimate cross-road between their new life and old… then, as if you were rolling for Trauma, roll Violence dice equal to your Depravity against dice equal to your number of Ties. If the Humanity dice win, the character gets out. Give him a bittersweet denouement. It’s only so good. If the Violence dice win, the character can’t rise above himself. Immediately increase his Depravity to 10 and follow the above rules.

In the above, the phrase “consider all brothers to [X],” where X is a score for a certain trait, should be treated to mean: for all intents and purposes where it would matter, treat the trait at the specified value; however, any other derivative effects pertaining to the End-Game are not triggered by this effected score. ie, when my Tie reaches 10 Points, your Vendetta with me means you are now considered to be Depravity 10; however, that does not make anyone else at the table Depravity 10.

Final Thoughts
This game was put together hastily, in a very stream of conscious manner. It’s not perfect by any stretch. It may not be balanced. The End-Game especially needs an overhaul just because it reads in a clunky manner — but the amount of blood and last second reversals it can generate is actually nearly exactly how it should be. I’ve already started working on a second version of this, only because I openly acknowledge the size of the pools of dice needed to play this game in it’s current form. The second version is currently tinkering with dice sizes in the style of Dogs in the Vineyard which is definitely interesting enough. It’s influences are here, in this text, if you look at it: the idea of escalating from protecting your Ties, to Compromising, to Fighting. Then Ultraviolence existing as a complete separate thread for the stuff your character doesn’t love but wants to control. It’s there. In the future, I’d probably gut some of DitV‘s mechanics and use them in Vendetta2.0, with shifting relationships and changing dice values. I’m also looking at inflicting status conditions on the people around you, in the manner of Jonathon Walton’s Geiger Counter (built off of Vincent Baker’s Afraid rules) and Remember Tomorrow. The ability to make a character [alone], [unarmed], [injured], [armed] and the like as the end result of scenes of role-playing is immensely intriguing, and fits with part of the idea I’m having… that you could achieve those with either Fighting or Talking… but you’ll have an easier time of one or the other. Just some thoughts.

I will be playing this game with a friend and I’ll be sure to post some notes about it at a later time. Thanks for suffering through a week of these reposts! Back to real work.


Tools & Weapons
On the subject of violence, certain tools and weapons would understandably make it easier to force your will on others — it turns out, a lot of arguments lose their steam when your rebuttal is baseball bat. If a character possesses a Tool (which we’ll define as anything typically treated as a “melee weapon” in other games), he may treat two additional dice as Violence dice — suddenly makingFighting more likely to go in his favor, and more likely to increase his Depravity as a result. A Gun (those are the two options: Tools & Guns) functions similarly for the sake of this game, with one more terrifying perk. A Gun will either add one additional die as a Violence die, or it will treat all dice involved as Violence Dice. A Gun is the edge in Ultraviolence, and a Gun makes a normal Fight a death-wish.

Thicker than Water
Ties are your character’s tether to this world; their link to the mundane and beautiful. Ties are what your character is about, what he lives for, who he lives for… and a couple considerations and exceptions exist regarding them. For one, Ties can keep you from going too far — they can calm you down, call you back to reality when you’re in the throes of a destructive frenzy. Those scenes where someone important is telling the character that the goon “ain’t worth the trouble?” Those are what I’m talking about. If you pick a Fight in the presence of a Tie of yours, it takes an additional success on the Violence Dice to succumb. This means it takes at least 2 successes on Violence Dice to send the victim to the Hospital, to inflict Trauma, and to increase your Depravity by 1. In the presence of a Tie, in fact, it is impossible to send a victim to the Morgue. Successes from Violence Dice still count as successes; the first is essentially a “freebie” Humanity die in the presence of a Tie. Committing Ultraviolence in the presence of a Tie, however, reduces its value by 1 Point.Ultraviolence can’t be reeled in — that’s counter to the very point of it; your Ties cannot stop it, cannot save you from it.Ultraviolence functions normally around Ties, including sending characters to the Hospital, Morgue, Trauma, and Depravity. It can’t really be stopped. Be careful who you cut loose around.

Success & Failure
Basically, assume that you’re going along with whatever is happening in the game. The Narrator narrates, and you’re interacting withe NPCs, the Ties, the Antagonists, your brothers… but when something doesn’t click? When you want control? When you don’t want to play into the frame the Narrator has provided? Then it’s time for Conflict. Conflict isn’t about you the player getting control technically although that is how it works out; it’s about your Character getting control of the situation going on around him.

A carjacker tears the character out of a car.
“No, he doesn’t. Conflict.”

The Irish crime boss comes and starts collecting protection money from your shop’s till.
“No, he doesn’t. Conflict.”

Your Brother takes your shotgun from under the bar to deal with the guys messing with his car out front.
“No. He Does Not. Conflict.”

You roll Conflict for control of the action. You roll Conflict when the scene is going somewhere your character doesn’t want it to. You could roll to change someone’s opinion after hearing them speak — or you can nod along and agree, and only roll against him when he expects you to act accordingly. That’s your call. Playing along until the last minute? Nipping the problem in the bud when it first comes up? Your calls. You roll when your character wants to steer the course of the action in the scene.

Select the number of dice as appropriate to the Conflict, as outlined above. Remember that you can only use the same die pool once in a scene — so if you fail to use your Ties, you can’t roll again until you FightCompromise, or Commit Ultraviolence — all of which change your die pool. You can try again in a different scene, but understand that it’s possible the conditions have changed and you may not get your way! Or it may be harder for one reason or another! These are the risks of maybe not being willing to draw the gun — you already know the risks of being more than willing to draw the gun. With the number of dice ready, you throw them and arrange them in descending order: highest to lowest. Compare the highest die with the highest single die of your challenger; in the event of a tie, compare the next two highest dice; in the event of a tie, compare the next two highest dice… until you determine a winner.

In the case of a full-tie (each die is the same), the larger die pool is the winner always by Violence, unless the winner chooses to give up. If the die pools are the same size, then the scene is interrupted in such a way that the conflict is moot for the time being. It can be revisited in a later scene, but for now neither side has gotten its way. Take note: A Violence Die beats a Humanity Die of the same value (Violent 3 beats a normal 3).

Since you roll for control of a Conflict, you are always rolling against someone. That’s another player’s character (and one of your brothers) or a character being run by the Narrator, and maybe even more than one. There is not a limit to the number of characters able to take part in a Conflict for control of the outcome, but there are a couple caveats here. Any time a Brother is in a scene with you and on your side (meaning, the exact same Intention declared) choose which of you will roll his dice, and give him a bonus Humanity die or Violence die — of the assisting Brother’s choice. Follow the usual rules for Violence Dice and Depravity for both Brothers, unless their Depravity is unequal. In which case, the Brother with the lower Depravity score and only that brother suffers the effects of Violence dice.

Jeez. You act like you’ve never seen a guy bleed before, Joey. Grow up.

Stay tuned for Part 7


The Guts, The Balls, The Heart
This said, the ability to send someone to the Morgue is not entirely in the player or the character’s hands. Remember: choosing to send someone to the Morgue or the Hospital is a choice available only when a character succeeds in a Conflict through the use of Violence dice. Succeed but not on Violence dice? It’s a scuffle, punches are probably thrown — but everyone walks away. A little bloody, a little bruised, but everyone walks away. Succeed on the Violence dice? Everything goes pear shaped. Too far. Depravity. To send someone to the Morgue: when you succeed on the Violence dice, you must also in the same dice pool roll lower than your current Depravity. Take note: with Depravity ranked 0 or 1, you cannot send someone to the Morgue. Even if you really wanted to, even if it made perfect sense to save your family. You can’t bring yourself to do it. You care too damn much. Sorry if you agreed to do a hit to get your Brother the cash he needs; you won’t be able to go through with it. Should probably find a way to resolve that.

So, the only way to send someone to the Morgue is to get your Depravity up. Remember, that means Moments of Violence, or picking Fights and winning them on your Violence dice — but if your Depravity is 0 or 1, you’ll only have 1 or 2 Violence dice in a fight… what’re the odds you’ll increase your Depravity? Ya know… if you wanted to, that is (because of course you don’t). More generally: how can you increase your chances of sending someone off to the Hospital, just to get them out of the way for a while? There’s a reason for weapons. Makes violence easier, turns out.

A History of Violence
So, an NPC or a brother is doing something that your character takes issue with. Something he doesn’t want to happen. Something that you, the player, would rather not occur in the story that is being played out. You could raise your voice slightly and request ever so sweetly that the story not go that way, or you could deal with it and resolve it like so (actually, that’s a lie. You don’t have a choice. This is how to do it). You may start a Conflict to get your way. Each participant states their Intention in the Conflict; you likely state something different than what the NPC just proposed, while the NPC probably just restates their original point… it’d make sense, wouldn’t it?

  • If the Conflict is an immediate threat to one of your Ties in the scene, or if it is not an immediate threat and the Tie is not in the scene: you receive a number of dice equal to the full Point value of the Tie.
  • If the Conflict is not an immediate threat to one of your Ties in the scene, or is an immediate threat and the Tie is not in the scene: you receive a number of dice equal to half the full Point value of the Tie, rounded up.
  • If the Conflict is important enough to you, you may bring additional dice into play: you receive a number of dice dependent on Compromising, Fighting, and Committing Ultraviolence.
  • If the Conflict does not involve your Ties in anyway: you receive 0 dice and must go along with the conflict, unless you bring dice into play.
  • If you participate in a Conflict: you may not initiate an identical conflict in the same scene; something in your die pool must change.

Dice brought into play by your Ties are, essentially, Humanity Dice. They’re dice there for the betterment of those around you, because you care about them — they represent a willingness to stand up for them, what you think is right; a force of presence, confidence, and intention that may help you get your way. Humanity Dice aren’t 100% friendly. These dice still represent lying, cheating, stealing, intimidation, kidnapping, and extorting as much as they represent persuasion, requests, confidence, and other positive influences. The point is that these dice are fueled by you doing it for what matters to you. You roll these dice in defense of your Ties. If these dice — for all the discussion, debate, screaming, and plate throwing they represent — do not get you your way, you have options.

Your character may try to Compromise if they wish. Decrease a Tie the character possesses by 1 Point in order to roll a number of dice equal to it’s Point total before you Compromised. You try to get what you want, but you sacrifice the integrity of one of your Ties in the process… you offer the money from hawking parts of Pa’s car, you offer money from the bar’s cash till, you beg and plead in the name of your lover; you try to better your chances of getting your way by putting up something else’s worth in your own place. If you get your way, it has nothing to do with you. It will only be because of the Compromise. The Point spent is lost regardless of success or failure. The dice earned persist for the whole scene. The character may Compromise in defense of his Ties, his brothers, or for an unrelated Conflict.

The character may also try to Fight if they wish. Add to your pool of dice a number of Violence Dice equal to 1 + your Depravity rank in order to Fight. You try to get what you want, and you’re willing to throw a punch to get it. Willing to scuffle, willing to swing, willing to kick and scream and bite and bleed — but it’s all for her (or him… we don’t judge!) and you don’t forget that; you try to better your chances of getting your way by throttling the skulls of the people who disagree. If you get your way, the philosophers in the audience might question if it was worth it (hint: you should too). If you succeed on the Violence Dice, then you increase your Depravity by 1 rank, and you also take a Trauma — as does your victim. The character may Fight only in defense of his Ties and his brothers.

The character may also, if he chooses, Commit Ultraviolence. Add to your pool of dice a number of Violence Dice equal to 1 + twice your Depravity rank in order to Commit Ultraviolence. You get what you want. This is not about protecting any of your Ties. This is you, and only you. Your character can never make the claim that he did this for anyone but himself — and he knows it, whether he admits it or not; your character gets his way by putting himself first and damn everyone else. He get’s the mob boss to trust him, but only by shooting you in the gut; he get’s that goon to put his gun down, but only after stomping his hand to mush; he sets you up to take the fall, and the police take you down — he saves you from the fire, but immediately turns around and throws the arsonist into it. Someone gets hurt. Someone will always get hurt. The character may never Commit Ultraviolence in defense of his Ties — he may Commit Ultraviolence when he could otherwise use a Tie, but it’s an admission that he is doing it for himself. The character may Commit Ultraviolence in defense of his brothers.

Stay tuned for Part 6


Trauma
Trauma happens. Bad things happen. It can be concerning; it can be scarring, physically or mentally or emotionally. Violence is hard to deal with regardless of who you are — be it the perpetrator or the victim. The difference you see is that the perpetrator will numb himself to the monster he may become, while the victim will likely always bear the burden of what they experienced. In any Fight where someone wins through the use of Violence dice, participants take Trauma and add it to their character sheet. Write down a sentence about the situation that warrants the Trauma! And the Trauma relates back to it. Maybe you now have issues travelling alone at night, hyperventilate on the train, have a bum leg, or can only think about how you look with the stitches in your cheek — Trauma causes problems in your ability to interact with and relate to the world around you.

During play, someone who knows your Trauma can call on it to stop your character from participating in a scene while your character suffers the effects. You freeze up in a crowd of people if that’s your thing, or you can’t keep role-playing a scene because you start having a fit; maybe you can’t draw your gun because you have the shakes. Your Trauma can never be used to stop you from participating in a Conflict that involves your Ties, but it does grant an extra two dice to anyone you’re rolling against in that situation. If someone calls on your character’s Trauma to keep you from interacting with a scene, you have the option to bury that Trauma deep down inside and ignore it… not the healthiest solution, but the option exists. Take one die for each Tie you possess and one Violence die for each point of Depravity you possess and roll them; regardless of success, you can now participate in the scene — however, if success shows on the Violence dice then you only manage to overcome your momentary fit by detaching yourself from the experience, and those around you. Give yourself another rank of Depravity, and the cycle of violence continues.

Be sure to keep track of how much of your Trauma features you as the perpetrator and how much features you as the victim (You should be writing all these down anyway!) because it will be important in the game. At the end of any session where your Depravity increased, you can cross off any single Trauma you possess that your character inflicted. You may never cross off any Trauma you were victim to. Retreating deeper into senseless destructiveness can save you from a lot of heartache, but it won’t save you for too long.

Medical Records
As mentioned above, if your character’s success in a Fight comes from the Violence Dice rolled, then it means he has gone too far. One punch too many, one bottle too conveniently within reach, one moment of violence — and something has gone horribly awry. If you succeed due to Violence Dice, you must decide to send the victim to the Hospital or the Morgue.

The Hospital
When sent to the Hospital, a character cannot participate in anyone’s scenes other than those that take place at the Hospital; he cannot himself even call for any scenes until he has called for a Moment of Silence (see below) at the Hospital. Should there by any Conflicts while at the Hospital, the character cannot Fight or Commit Ultraviolence — they can only use their Ties (which, remember, unless directly threatened are only worth half Points) or Compromise. Sending a character to the Hospital is the “safer” option when you succeed on a Violence die: 1) it removes a character from play for a small amount of time while your character achieves his intention, 2) there is no Depravity requirement as there is for The Morgue (see below). As mentioned above, it gives the victim the opportunity to call for a Moment of Silence.

The Morgue
When sent to the Morgue, a character is removed completely from the game; he cannot call for any more scenes, period. There are no last words in crime tragedy that are not curses and bile. You do not impart some sort of vital knowledge onto those you leave behind; they do not learn from your words, only from your actions — and eventually, your death. If you had something important to say, you probably should have said it before the thug pulled his gun on you. However, you do have one chance to survive. You have to muster all of your will to do it, hanging on for something you love; something important to you.

If sent to the Morgue, you can redirect yourself to the Hospital by sacrificing your highest-ranked Tie (Come Back from the Brink). The life of violence costs you something very dear as your loved ones leave you, your Ma suffers a nervous breakdown, your car is stolen while you were bleeding in the gutter… You come back from the brink, only to find what you came back for no longer wants you. Understandably, you could ruin someone’s life this way. It’s good that you have your brothers backing you up, huh? Right? When you sacrifice a Tie to Come Back from the Brink, you follow the rules above for being sent to the Hospital, with one change. You receive twoMoments of Silence. Role-play them wisely. If you were on your way to the Morgue, chances are you need them.

A Moment of Silence
These are the times of peace in your otherwise hectic, violent, stressful, panicked life. They are likely few and far between. A player can call for A Moment of Silence at any time if they so choose, and the Narrator is expected to frame a scene relevant to the character, his Ties, and the player’s request — typically with a specific Tie in a certain situation. Ideally, A Moment of Silence is a beautiful moment intended to define the character and present a new side of their personality, or a deeper understanding of something already known. The catch is this: a Moment of Silence cannot have any Conflict. If you are taking a Moment of Silence, the Narrator has the right to bring into play a number of facts equal to the Points invested in the Tie present in the scene — he may use other NPCs as mouthpieces for these facts, if he so chooses, but they are incontrovertible without a Conflict as per the normal rules. This is the time for another character to make a play for their Vendetta if they hope to chance no resistance. If the Moment of Silence completes itself without interruption, then the character may shift a rank of his Depravity into one Point with the appropriate Tie; or he may even shift one Point from the appropriate Tie into one rank of Depravity — a Moment of Violence. This is the one of only two way to increase this score without a Fight; at the cost of your Tie. Use this knowledge wisely.

Stay tuned for Part 5


Inglorious Violence
So I’ve talked a lot about Ties and Vendettas (which are vital peoples/places/things to you, and have Points), and Depravity (which is ultraviolence and has a rank). What about this idea of violence being the last resort? About it being the choice that can be damning? That violence is the first step in the crime tragedy that leads to every bloody footstep to follow, winding to an ignominious fate? Conflict. We’re talking about Conflict. We’re talking about why Conflict matters to people, and why people react the way they do; why someone tries to break someone’s face, and not make a deal. We’ll define a Conflict as any action within the game that the player or the character disagrees with…

The Narrator says that Mikey Ferraro comes into your bar and is talking about how much of a nuisance it is when store-owners in the neighborhood get high-and-mighty with him, and he’s behind the bar grabbing himself something to drink on your dime and you just found out Ma’s rent is come due and she has no money? You’ve got something to say.

Conflict.

If one of your Ties is directly threatened (and I mean directly — gun pointed at your girlfriend, you’re evicted from your apartment, someone is smashing up your car) you declare the intent of your conflict and roll a number of d6’s equal to the Points invested in that Tie. If your Tie is not directly threatened (the Tie is absent from the scene where the threatening is happening, for example), you declare your intent and roll a number of d6’s equal to half of the Points invested in that Tie, rounded up. If none of your Ties apply and you still want to say “NO!” to the direction the NPC’s are heading with the story, you have a few options at your disposal. You can Compromise or you can Fight. Otherwise, it’s assumed they gain your compliance through cajoling, threatening, incentivizing — whatever works for your group.

Compromise & Fight
If you Compromise, you give up ground in some way to appease the NPC with whom you’re having Conflict, to help ensure you get your way. You may decrease the value of one of your Ties by 1 Point to take its value (before decrease) in dice for a particular Conflict; your character chooses to bring that Tie into the Conflict himself, damaging that relationship in the process, to give him an edge. In the above scenario, if your character doesn’t have Tie: My Bar for full points or Tie: My Ma for half points to deal with whatever challenge Mikey Ferraro may be presenting, the player could decrease — for example — Tie: My Car for dice… and maybe he begins selling pieces of that car to Mikey, to try and cover his Ma’s rent. Who knows! It’d be different for every character every time! When you do this, the point is lost regardless of success or failure. Add another Fact to your Tie.

If you Fight, you’re going for the throat. There is no persuasion, there is no coercion, there is no getting your way — if there were, you would have tried to Compromise. Or maybe you did, and it didn’t work — but you still won’t give up. Now you’re here. When you Fight, you add one Violence die (a die differentiated from the others by its color) plus an additional number of Violence dice equal to your Depravity to whatever pool of dice you may have.

So, if you’re Fighting for one of your Ties, you at least have that connection to bring you back down to humanity and maybe save you from any scars… but if not, then the only dice you’ll be throwing will be Violence dice.

Now, for disclosure: You can Fight, succeed, and not succumb to darker instincts, though! It is possible — it means you got into a fight, but you did not go too far. Someone probably got hurt, sure — but no one was sent to the Hospital or the Morgue. This means, in the Fight you succeeded on any die that is not a Violence die. However, if your success in a Conflict comes from a Violence die, then you succeed only by going too far — you are going to send someone to the Hospital or the Morgue (your choice, with conditions). You may narrate this resolution however you deem appropriate, but the point is it goes too far and is damaging. To the person, to relationships, to feelings — beyond typical violence; the kind of action that causes Trauma. In addition to Trauma, when succeeding on a Violence die, you increase your Depravity by 1 rank.

ie, Let’s say that Antony Ribasso (remember him from further up?) is the character who owns the bar (remember that from further up also?) that Mikey Ferarro is rummaging around in for a drink. He’s complaining about his protection racket, nursing a shiner, pouring out some gin and you tell him to stop — you can’t let any tabs slide, you gotta cover Ma’s rent. He laughs, oh that old broad, she still not paying? That’s a shame, but he keeps pouring.

You roll dice for the Conflict. Antony in this example has Tie 4: My Bar and Tie 3: My Ma — the biggest bonus would come from the bar, so he takes 4 dice for that +1 for each additional Threatened Tie. Antony collects 5 dice and tries to Compromise with Mikey. Y’see, Antony has Tie 2: Phil (one of the members of the Crew at the table) and he declares while spending a Point of that Tie that “Phil owes Mikey some money.” With that Tie now damaged, Antony has 6 dice, and he throws them, promising to go with Mikey to collect on Phil next time… but he does miserably. No success. The Tie with Phil is now 1, regardless.

Finally, Antony decides a Fight is the only way to go. He still has 6 dice since a Compromise will last a whole scene, and he adds 1 Violence die for going into a Fight. Looking at Antony’s character sheet, the player notes that he started the character off with Depravity 2 and he now adds an additional 2 Violence Dice. Throwing 9 dice total, he is likely to succeed! But if he succeeds off of his Violence dice, then he has begun a walk down a road painted with blood. If he does succeed off the Violence Dice, Mikey will wind up in either the Hospital or the Morgue, Antony will have Depravity 3, and both characters will take Trauma.

Stay tuned for Part 4


Ties & Depravity
You have 10 points to split between Ties and Depravity. Every Point put into Ties can either represent a new Tie, or increasing the intimacy of a Tie you already possess. Every Point put into Depravity increases the level of disassociation between your character and the havoc he wreaks on those around him — it is not a list, like Ties are. It is a value, where the low-end (0) represents an empathy with humanity that will impair your ability to commit random acts of violence, and the high-end (10, let’s say) represents the complete divorce between the actor and the action.

For fun, let’s say “Tie 1” will typically be the middle-ground for typical objects, and the low-end for feelings and relationships (so your Car won’t be a lot more than Tie 1, and your fledgling crush will start here and soar). “Tie 5” will be the upper-limit for objects of monetary value, the middle-ground for objects of sentimental value, the middle-ground for feelings, and the low-end for obsessions, life goals, and the most important relationships (so the collector car will stop here, but the car you built with pa right before he died can have more Points; your girlfriend may sit here snugly, while your dreams of being an architect only begin here). Ties can exist beyond 5 Points, but not at character creation, let’s say. Ties are not important, usually, because of what they are — they’re important because of what they represent; because of the feelings they trudge up deep inside your heart. A car may be important to you, but really it’s the promise of the open road that it represents… a watch could be important, but it’s actually the perfection of timing and its reflection of a God-crafted universe. Go beyond the obvious. Figure out why your character would protect these things.

At Character Creation, you may place all of your Points into Ties and none of them into Depravity if you wish! However, no single Tie may have more than 5 Points. In fact, while we’re on the subject: you cannot begin play with a Depravity greater than 2… so you’d better spend some time on thinking about your Ties. Make them really good! Write them down! Give them names! DEFINE THEM. They do not start and end with whatever pithy phrase you concoct to encapsulate them. If they’re people, make sure the Narrator knows so he’s bringing them in as NPCs. If they’re things — let the Narrator know so he’s bringing them into play! The Ties are the real point of play here.

For every Point invested in them, you’re going to define one hard-and-fast fact about the Tie that everyone at the table will respect. You can feel free to count whatever facts are implied by the name of your Tie as “free” (ie, you don’t have to waste a fact clarifying that “Tie 5: Ma” is, in fact, your Ma). They’re the NPCs and plot points you care about — you want to look at them in the game world and you want to ask questions like ‘is this thing worth violence?’ and you want to see what happens when the dice tell you, this time, yes.

Also… be sure to pick a Vendetta.

Vendettas
A Vendetta in this case is going to be one Tie from another player’s character, that your character intensely disagrees with or disapproves of or has some sort of bone to pick about. That brother drinks too much… that brother needs to lay off the dope… that brother could do way better than that girl… and don’t get me started on Pop “leaving you” his motorcycle. Every player should have at least one Vendetta chosen; if you want to, hell choose more (but they have to come off of a different brother each time, until there is no one left who hasn’t been picked on by you — then you can continue to choose, following this rule). I’d love to hear about a group that goes ahead and plays this half-constructed game and has everyone picking a fight with everyone else about everything.

Vendettas are begging you to amp up the drama of the game — because Vendettas invert what I told you earlier about Ties… remember how your Tie is something you’re willing to pick a fight over? Well, Vendettas are that too — but in order to take them, stop them, destroy them, own them or something similar enough that any positive motivation doesn’t really shine through; jealousy and over-protectiveness are fine motivations. And a Vendetta automatically has a number of Points invested in it equal to the Tie it is linked with. When brothers come into conflict over this Tie, they’ll be on even footing — until other factors come into play (like who is willing to throw the first punch). And brothers most certainly will come into conflict over Vendettas. Especially since when you have a Vendetta, you define a number of facts relevant to the Vendetta’s subject — just like the owner did when they took it as a Tie. However, one of these does have to be “I don’t like X.”

ie, Joey Ribasso has 3 Points in his “Tie: Ladyfriend Elise.” She’s obviously Joey’s “Ladyfriend” and her name is “Elise,” but what else? Joey’s player defines three more facts: Elise is Joey’s Dealer, She’s a Niece to some Irish jerk, Joey’s Ma loves her!

Antony Ribasso — Joey’s Brother — takes his Vendetta with Joey and has “Vendetta: Joey’s Ladyfriend Elise.” This automatically has 3 Points in it, and Antony must create three facts. Antony’s player decides on: I don’t like Elise, She doesn’t know I don’t, She’s been stealing small amounts of money from Joey.

Since it’s a Tie, Joey is willing to get in a fight over Elise. Since it’s a Vendetta, Antony is willing to pick a fight over Elise. Not necessarily Depravity mind you — he can argue with Joey just fine without it turning into violence; any actions taken against Elise herself will count as Depravity however. Someone will get hurt somehow, and your character does it for himself and no. one. else.

Be sure to pick at your brothers for the Vendetta you have whenever it seems appropriate. You’re deciding right here, right now in character making that — yeah, it would be fun to have an issue with that. So, if that’s the case, then play it up. You want to control that Tie for your own good, and so does he. Go for it. If a character ever manages to succeed in a Conflict meant to resolve their Vendetta and decide it’s fate, the winning character gets whatever intention they declared at the start of the Conflict — and their Vendetta is now replaced by a new Tie worth the same number of Points as the lost Vendetta. This Tie must make sense as an extension of the Vendetta, and holds all the same facts the Vendetta did, plus more to reflect the context of the new Tie! The number is equal to the Points in the Tie, as before. The character who failed the Conflict does the same listed here, but reversed; their Tie now becomes a Vendetta.

The brothers finally explode over Joey’s relationship with Elise. The rest of the crew is willing to let Joey go on sleeping with her — even if they don’t approve — but not Antony. No no, not Antony. It’s his way or the highway. That’s just how he is. They get into a Conflict (and why not? It’s a Vendetta, and Antony is in position to get himself a new Tie out of it!): Joey’s Intention is ‘Get Antony off my back so I can enjoy my damn night,’ while Antony’s is ‘Get my brother to give up that no-good blood-sucker!”

Elise is Joey’s 3 Point Tie, so that makes her Antony’s 3 Point Vendetta. Since Elise is not actually the object of the intentions, each brother gets half their Points (rounded-up) in dice. They each have 2 dice to try and succeed with, unless they take greater measures. Let’s assume they do not come to blows — they do not Fight, they do not Commit Ultraviolence. If Antony wins, he will replace “Vendetta 3: Joey’s Ladyfriend Elise” with something else… maybe “Tie 3: My Squatter, Elise” with three new facts: “Turns out Elise has no place of her own — that’s why she was staying with Joey,” “No job means no money — means taking singles out of Joey’s wallet when he wasn’t looking,” and “She’s starting to get obsessed with me.”

Joey similarly transforms his Tie into a Vendetta and likewise adds three new facts. It is likely that the facts paint Antony in a very unflattering picture as a ladyfriend-stealing scumsucker. Whoops.

Stay tuned for Part 3


We’re playing it loose this time around, with just a bundle of very general thoughts. Nothing too exciting (maybe), but some random thoughts on concepts, mechanics, and the like. Some of this is just free-floating ideas I have, and some of this is actual stuff I’ve been trying to work on to no avail. So, let’s hop to it… [EDIT: I’m leaving this up just to show what I meant to do… about one paragraph in below, I ditched the Bullet Point it was and just ran with it. So. Yeah. Let’s call this idea Vendetta for now, shall we?]

Random Thought Round-Up [EDIT: as of 11:30, this header is now “Crime Drama”]
I like tragedy more than I like comedy. Comedy is cool and all, but tragedy is cooler. The end, full stop. The fall of tragic characters is very exciting — Aristotle was right about that. And this lead-up has me thinking about crime dramas or crime tragedies… the notion really interests me. I remarked recently to a friend that “hey, Houses of the Blooded could totally run a mafia game. Make the House names Italian, change the Domains-Provinces-Regions to Territory-Turf-Rackets, and you’re more or less there.” Close, anyway. The ideas that really interests me about crime drama are: Firstly, the sheer barbarism necessary to perform legitimate violence on someone else; and the aspects of familial ties, legacy, fraternity, and the inevitable sacrifice and betrayal of competing aims.

As I sit here typing this as it comes to me, I check NetFlix and find that Godfather and GoodFellas are not on View Instantly which kind of sucks for the purpose of my approaching this… But The Black Donnellys comes to mind. A short-lived NBC crime family drama that followed the story of four black (as in, dark featured)-irish brothers in New York City whose father was killed by Italian gangsters while they were young. Watched out for while growing up by a business associate of their father (and Irish mob boss) the brothers grow up and get by for the most part… Tommy goes to art school, Kevin gambles, Sean is a hit with the girls, and Jimmy is a dope addict with designs to grandeur. Their delicate position in life comes crumbling down after a stupid job gone wrong: in the end an Italian is dead, one of them takes a merciless beating, and Tommy commits two murders to protect his brothers.

The moment of the pilot where Tommy walks away from everything he could have been for his brothers informs the tone of such scenes of violence throughout the series. If it’s the protagonists doing it, they’re not always good at it… and they can’t always go through with it; the violence is painful or damaging to the one perpetrating it. That interests me. It doesn’t glorify the violence, and is downright tragic about it to a degree. So that interests me. So, let’s try something.

I Don’t Know How I Found A Topic In My Ramblings
Everyone at the table, except the Narrator, is a member of The Crew. The Crew is family. They’re more than family — they’re brothers. You hide things from your parents, and you lie to your kids; but brothers? You just pick on them and scuff their knees. You care. That bond is sacred. It’s different. And it means you’re never, ever going to take it lightly if one of them doesn’t have your back. Oh, also, the women at the table? They’re brothers too. It just has a ring to it, that’s why I go with it.

Your Crew is drawn along some sort of lines… figure out what that is. Racial lines? Haitian, Honduran, Irish, Italian… I dunno, you figure that out. Or maybe they’re just lines of association: you actually are siblings, you’re from the same orphanage (Four Brothers was another interesting one), you grew up together in the same neighborhood.

Also, you all have Ties: people, things, situations that you live for — the girl next door that you pine after, your gambling addiction, your bar, your Ma (why yes, you could make a Tie one of the other people at the table; I think that’d make for an extremely tightly focused game? Possibly. This is stream of consciousness! We’ll see — however, you don’t have to, because protecting your brothers touches on something else… Ultraviolence). These’re the things you would put your life on the line for; if your character is willing to fight for it, it’s a Tie, I figure. Playing an alcoholic who can “quit anytime” he wants? Sounds like a Tie. A casanova who loves them and leaves them as a way of life? Could be a Tie, if he wouldn’t back down when called a pig. If you would fight the carjacker, punch out the drunken brawler, or take a bullet for Ma — then the Car, the Bar, and the Mom are Ties. The things introduced as Ties are all going to be NPCs, Sets, and Props when you play.

In addition to having Ties, you also have Depravity — this may be ultraviolence depending on your group (and you should confirm this at the start of the game) but it will always be some level of violence gone too far regardless. Find your player group’s comfort level, and go just one hair too far on the dial. Find your group’s 10, and spin that dial towards 11 ’til the switch is fit to snap. This is shooting the man you hate, this is assaulting with a baseball bat the man threatening your brother with a lawsuit; this is getting into bed (figuratively maybe, and literally definitely) with the mistress of the meanest, deadliest thug in town — this is business violence is what it is; violence because it destroys. This is action done to damn, not to protect. If there is no immediate threat and your intention is at the expense of someone else, we’re looking at Depravity here. But what if you aim your ultraviolence at the man feeding your brother’s addiction — surely you’re doing it to protect your brother? If it transgresses against your brother’s Ties — it is Depravity, and you’re a traitor. There is always the chance (and the likelihood) for your Samaritan routine to go stupidly wrong when trying to control someone’s world for their own good.

Stay tuned for Part 2


The Original Opening…
We’re playing it loose this time around, with just a bundle of very general thoughts. Nothing too exciting (maybe), but some random thoughts on concepts, mechanics, and the like. Some of this is just free-floating ideas I have, and some of this is actual stuff I’ve been trying to work on to no avail. So, let’s hop to it… [EDIT: I’m leaving this up just to show what I meant to do… about one paragraph in below, I ditched the Bullet Point it was and just ran with it. So. Yeah. Let’s call this idea Vendetta for now, shall we?

— May 25 Blog Post: “Wow, This Post Got Out Of Hand!” 

What Happened
On May 25, I tried to make a post that was just a round-up of a bunch of ideas I had… from there, it developed wildly and got completely out of hand to a degree. I was possessed by the spirit to write, and the ideas simply flowed from my head to my fingers and I did not stop writing except to sleep. Around 16 hours later, I had produced a 7000 word document about crime-tragedy tentatively calledVendetta or The Family… It had character creation, it had conflict rules, it had a focus, and it had an end-game. It was an honest to goodness complete game except for some no doubt imbalances in its design borne from no testing whatsoever and only stream-of-consciousness rules-writing.

It was 7000 words of, what one friend called, “the coolest shit.” And hey, that made me feel great.

So I’ve gone back and I’ve scrubbed this new-post empty. None of that game exists here anymore. I’m going to repost it, don’t worry — I’m going to repost it in smaller increments so it can be absorbed more easily and tinkered with and cleaned up along the way. I never really had the intention of a 7000 word blog post, but I wound up there anyway… Yeesh! So look back here over the next few days. I’ll be reposting Vendetta or The Family or whatever it’ll be called. Take a look and enjoy! Sorry to those of you who were reading it when I dragged it down. It’s coming back: promise.

Comments and questions welcome below, and I am as always reachable at alfred_rudzki[at]yahoo[dot]com. Thank you!


Yesterday I talked about the “Big Three Questions,” as they are known, espoused by game designer Jared Sorensen (see my last post for a link to his site). Specifically, I was talking about these questions in regards to my current project Children Who Play With Monsters; I tried to create or show an understanding of what my answer would be to each of the design considerations put forward by Sorensen and John Wick, partly as a mental exercise, partly as good practice for the future, and partly to help steer me through a designing rough patch I feel like I’m passing through. Today I’m looking at a few more questions, this time from a different source.

Vincent Baker’s “Insights”
Vincent Baker is a game designer responsible for a number of independent properties with a lot of really interesting ideas churning right underneath the surface. His contributions to the hobby include Dogs in the Vineyard, Apocalypse World, In a Wicked Age, Poison, and others (not linked here because, honestly, you should just look them up. Really! Go do it!)

Vincent Baker maintains a webpage by the name of anyway where you can find a lot of talk about game design in general. The man thinks and writes big. That is the only way I can describe it. I enjoy what he writes, and a part of me aspires to be able to identify and discuss the elements of play with the insight and verve that this guy does. Well, deep in the recesses of his blog he has a blog post that can be found here — the long and short of the post goes like this: when you design an RPG, you are making three statements specific to your game. If you didn’t have something to say, you wouldn’t be making the game! You are saying something about your subject matter; you are saying something about role-playing in general; you are saying something about human behavior, too. He calls them “Insights.” Go read the initial post of Baker’s blog if you’d like — it’s interesting to read how he applied these ideas to his own game. I’m not going to repost his entry here because it’s just one internet hop away. I’m just going to go at it.

My Insights — What Am I Saying
1. Subject matter: My subject matter… It’s about monsters, fantasy lands, and children who need someone who understands them — it all goes together as far as I’m concerned; it’s about escapism, and that’s where you see them intertwined in spades. You know, I once heard a study that suggested that when children are growing up there are typically two “classes” of fantasies that they engage in. One, more popular in girls apparently, is pretending that their surroundings are different, or that they come from a different family altogether; in boys, it is apparently instead a fantasy of being someone else altogether. I’m saying that the ‘monstrous best friend’ genre appeals to that sense of childish belonging deep down in the belly of someone’s being.

2. Roleplaying as a practice: What am I saying about role-playing as a practice? Part of me thinks that part of the reason for role-playing is to play the game, play out the story, to find out how it ends. It’s about discovery. You don’t really want to know how it ends… until you get there. You don’t want to orchestrate the ending, you want to set it in motion and let the dominoes fall and watch for the patterns. That’s something I want to aim for… the pieces of the game to move together, towards the eventful final moments when you discover what the world(s) have in store for the Child.

3. Real live human nature: Everyone likes telling stories. Everyone likes escapism. The people sitting at the table are going to be getting into trouble and trying to get out of trouble, and they’ll get out of it by running from it further (More Trouble, the Fable) or by falling back on when things were simpler… using something they already know (Flashbacks). When people run from their problems, that doesn’t guarantee that things will get better… Everyone needs that someone to rely on. Everyone needs that one person. And you’re probably going to hurt that person. You’re probably going to hurt them a lot early on, until you get your head screwed on you and figure shit out. You’re probably going to be hurt, be cramped, be drowned out by them — going to feel smothered, maybe. But they’re that someone you need, and they need you.

So Hey, That’s Interesting
I found this post so much easier to write than the previous one. So that’s actually kind of exciting! Even if I may or may not have a perfect grasp on the framework (the about, the how, the behavior) I’m building my game in, I do know what I’m thinking about when I try to make these decisions. Or at least, I do now. Some of the stuff I wrote above were thoughts I’d had all along — and some of it, especially the third question, occurred to me as I was writing and I tried to just go with it and see what I was trying to say.

And I liked what I was trying to say. I really do. It even works with some of what I’ve been saying before! (Like the idea of how success and failure interacts with the well-being of your Monster.) I have a bit more of a vector on what I want to do with this idea, and I think that will help me.

What’s Up Next
Can’t give a  forecast as to what is coming next this week. Nothing else has really caught my attention at this point; I’ll be playing some more Houses of the Blooded this week, so I may talk more about ideas I get from that. Honestly, that game has inspired some thoughts about another game of mine that I haven’t spoken about yet on this blog — although, that idea may have to be finally trashed (sadly), as I can’t see anything new I can bring to the project in light of games such as Houses and Apocalypse World. Maybe I’ll write about it anyway! We’ll see how it goes! I do, however, have a vague plan to put together a testable module for Children Who Play With Monsters by the very end of next week/end of the month (whichever comes first)! Maybe I’ll accomplish that. I’d like to.

What do you think? Have any thoughts on the idea of role-playing games sharing three “insights” on gaming, content, and people? Do you see any of this in the games you play? Do you see how it doesn’t work this way? Want to give it a try like last time and construct another set of answers? Have fun!

As always, any thoughts and comments on the ideas espoused here can be left below, and I look forward to reading and responding to anything the readers may have to say. I can be contacted, of course, at alfred_rudzki[at]yahoo[dot]com. Thank you for reading, as always!


Disclaimer
To begin: I am the worst at my own design blog. Ok, now that we’ve addressed that.

Never More Deserving Of The Category “I Probably Should Have Been Working”
It’s been a while since I have posted here, and the time spent away has been split between a few pursuits: I’ve been reading through and playing a little bit of Houses of the Blooded (mentioned in a previous posting) and just generally being impressed with the — in my opinion — incredibly tight focus the system has on exactly what it is trying to do. It’s a game of blood opera, tragedy, courtly prestige and courtly betrayal, as I may have mentioned before, and to this end players will find the extremely simple conflict resolution mechanic* embraces everything necessary to fulfill the associated expectations. Systems, all of them just minor variations on the baseline mechanic, exist to handle Romance, Insults, Debate, Duels, Mass Murder… “The system is impressive” is the only way I can put it, and it’s not because of any particular depth or complexity; rather, it’s the breadth of the system and the way it adjudicates the necessities of the storytelling.

That is what I want out of this. I want my system to be able to handle exactly what I, players, and narrators need it to handle. I think that is a pretty reasonable goal, honestly.

And so I was reading this book and playing it with my friend Adam, thinking to myself about how to accomplish that with Children Who Play With Monsters. I have my ideas, as previously posted, about how to create the Child, how to create the Monster, and the rudiments of conflict resolution* — and even the first building blocks of an end game! But “how does it all come together” remains an unanswered question and it will be one that I have to contend with for a while more before I know the answer.

*Which on reflection, author John Wick is correct, sounds about as sexy as washing machine instructions

Something Wicked– Wick-ian? Wick-ish. Sorensenian.
Now, following my discovery of John Wick’s Houses of the Blooded, and the realization that he also is responsible for Legend of the Five Rings — possibly the most popular samurai role-playing game, period — I went ahead and I did a little digging around. And, hey! Seems the guy has a youtube account by the name of LordStrange and, while waiting for art for HotB to get in, he posted a series of videos that went by the title “Game Design Seminar with John Wick.” Seems like it would be exactly up my alley, maybe. I’ve watched it through Episode 2 as of this writing, and in that episode John Wick brings up Jared Sorensen‘s “Three Questions.” Listening to what Wick and Sorensen were saying, and absorbing their meaning (hopefully), the Three Questions seem to come down to how to implement the game in your head, and communicate it to other people — in the presentation, mechanics, even just the blurb really; to be able to explain it, period, and make it sound exciting and feasible.

Given that I’m having some difficulties overcoming some obstacles in working on this game, I figure why not go ahead and see if maybe my problem lie with the very concept I am bringing to the table. If you’re curious, the John Wick video talking about the questions I am about to answer can be found here. With that, I’ll try my best to answer these as straight-forwardly as possible — if I can’t explain simply, maybe I’m missing something. And I can’t answer simply, then I’ll learn how to answer simply.

The three questions are: “What is your game about,” “how is your game about this,” and “how does the game encourage this behavior?”

1. What is your game about?
As Wick explains in the video linked above, ‘what is your game about’ is not the setting it is attached to. Rarely is your game about the post-apocalypse or Orwellian dystopias that you think it is — instead, it is about the struggle for Hope in the face of Despair, or illustrating Control and how far you’ll go for it. Things of that sort — what you may be trying to talk about while playing around with your game. Some games are very straight-forward with this, admittedly. Two very different games are up front with this: Dungeons & Dragons and Dogs In The Vineyard spring to my mind immediately. D&D actually is about slaying monsters and getting treasure, and everything about it focuses on this objective… and Dogs In The Vineyard is about judgment — morality in the face of adversity — and its parts all point towards this, with players even simply being told that their judgments on the situations in the game are above reproach… the Narrator cannot tell them their decision was wrong.

John Wick is simplistic with his answer to this. Houses of the Blooded is about Tragedy, he announces at 3:17, by which he means a response to typical games wherein characters continuously get better as time goes on, getting better indefinitely. It’s about not being invincible.

Children Who Play With Monsters is about… what? Friendship? It’s not about the fantasy lands, though I want players to be able to create that themselves. It’s not even about the monster, although that was partly what caught my attention originally and the players are able to create it and play it in the game. “Growing up?” I had a Russian Literature course where the class argued for weeks about the nature of “childishness” versus “maturity” and the dichotomy was damn near impossible to qualify for our arguments. I see the question (and I’ve written on this before) as a matter of benevolent selfishness and learning to understand other people. Children Who Play With Monsters is about… what? Monstrous Best Friends, exactly what I billed it as? Is my aim really that perfect (unlikely)? “That individual person in your life that can invigorate you, stonewall you, piss you off, elate you in a single day; that will forever mark you in life even/especially when they leave your life (and they will, and you will scream and cry and bleed to stop that); that will teach you and rely on you; and you will rely on, and that you will teach. Also, they’re a monster.”

It’s a game about your Best Friend being everything you need, and also a Monster.

It doesn’t sound astounding or incredible or even particularly interesting when boiled down like this. But then, it’s about as straight-forward and ethereal as “Hope,” “Control,” or “Tragedy.” So there’s that.

It’s a game about that Best Friend that defines your life.

2. How is your game about that?
In talking about this question, John Wick cites purely from HotB so comparisons to anyone else are sorely lacking — but it’s not so bad. He explains that every Aspect a character has can be used for both bonus dice, and be used as a weakness by other characters to their advantage. How does he make his game about Tragedy, as defined in opposition to the constant upward climb to perfection in most RPGs? He makes every helpful perk of your character a weapon that can and will be used against him; you accumulate weaknesses as you play.

How is Children Who Play With Monsters about “that Best Friend that defines your life?”

In CWPWM, your Monster is treated as an extension of the Child — they both are created in the same process, share the same character sheet, and are assumed to be working together and making trouble for one another throughout the story and during all die rolls. Very literally, you create both and they influence one another (Allowances dictate what you can get away with; Problems at Home dictate your Wish-Fulfillment as granted by the Monster) — and in gameplay, the Monster will always protect the Child when he gets them into trouble and take harm on his behalf when he is in danger, and could even be driven off by you so you can get your way; conversely, the Monster can get into trouble of his own making or be reticent to perform things the Child needs, and there may even be incentive for the Child to protect the Monster (instead of vice versa) and he may drive his best friend off as a means to save him.

That seems like a very big answer, but I think it’s exactly what is needed here. How is this game about the Best Friend that defines your life? It’s not because of any reason that could fit for another game — it’s not because you fight other monsters (D&D) or because you are playing at being monsters yourselves (World of Darkness). It’s because throughout play, the core game-play opportunity should be for the characters to influence, improve, enjoy, interact with, and suffer for one another.

That means I need to cover those bases in design.

3. What behavior does this reward/how does your game encourage this behavior?
John Wick implemented Style Points to influence players to show off their character’s weaknesses, lining themselves up for Tragedy as he defined it — and giving them access to cool things in the meantime. As he says, Style Points really, really do run the entire game system. So I should be able to construct something similar to his answer for this question.

Children Who Play With Monsters encourages an interaction between the Child and the Monster, ideally making them near inseparable. I encourage this by letting the Monster exist entirely within the confines of the player’s design and control except for situations where the actual game takes over; that is, the player will not be stuck with a Guilty Spark or a Wheatley/PotaDOS (for whatever value of annoying these may have been to the reader). I encourage the Monster to matter to the player because the Monster is one-hundred percent their creation.

Is there any rewarding happening? I don’t think so — not at this stage. This seems to speak to the idea I had recently, regarding a transforming Relationship die (or dice). The shifting of this die type or die pool could certainly act as a reward incentive for players, with it growing in response to in-genre behavior, or behaviors that move the game forward. John Wick mentions his Style Points being a reward for exposing your weaknesses — really, he is rewarding your for moving the game forward towards its “theme,” as it were… TRAGEDY.

Similarly, I could see the transforming Relationship dice acting as response/incentive for reaching the endgame/theme of Children Who Play With Monsters. Extra dice flowing into the game whenever the action contributes to Best Friends defining one another — I see this as what is represented by Flashbacks and Trouble/The Fable in the current build. At least, that’s how I view it at this moment, but it is certainly worth review at this point.

Bring It Together
1. What Is This Game About?

It’s a game about your relationship with that Best Friend that defines your life. Also he’s a Monster, so that’s cool.

2. How Is It About This?

The Child and the Monster are inextricably linked in the game, from character design, to how conflicts are handled. The give-and-take of their relationship is a central component to game-play, and their mutual influences for better and worse inform the entire way dice rolls play out. The world of the game for the Monster and for the Child are each individually expanded and defined by how these characters cause (or solve) problems for the other.

3. Incentivize This Behavior – Go.

Bonus dice I guess. Bonus dice bonus dice.

Like Greek Happiness or any well-laid plan to conquer Australasia in Risk, you cannot consider it a success until you reach the very end — so, you cannot consider the theme of “your relationship with the Best Friend who defined your life” until the last dice drop. So, these Bonus dice will have to feed back into the above and keep propelling the game towards this final focus.

Wow That’s a Lot of Text
Yeah, I admit that it is. That seems to be par for the course of this blog, and so I thank anyone and everyone who reads my work and is nice enough get through all of it. I promise there are kernels of interesting though all throughout.

With some effort, I was able to answer all of these questions put forward by Wick and Sorensen’s camp — and it helped me focus my sights a little more on what I need. It may mean a brief overhaul of what I have, but that’s not even a problem honestly… I have so little to start, anyway. So, I need to invest some though in honestly achieving the things I outlined in response to the Three Big Questions. While I do that, I’m also going to be keeping my mind on a different set of three questions…

Y’see, while writing the above, I thought I had read these questions elsewhere on the internet before. However, it turns out I was wrong. From a game designer by the name of Vincent Baker, I found a completely different set of Game Design questions that he feels need to be answerable by the designer. I’ll be trying my hand at answering those tomorrow.

As always, please leave any questions, thoughts, or comments in the space below! I love receiving comments, let me tell you, and I enjoy responding to them if I can. Feel free, in the comments below, to try and break down any card game, computer game, or role-playing game by the three questions I’ve been discussing above! Sounds like a fun thought experiment to me. Tell me What They’re About, How They’re About That, And What Behavior Is Incentivized!

I can be reached, as always, at alfred_rudzki[at]yahoo[dot]com for any further discussion. Thanks as always!