Thursday, July 16, 2015

Time Travel Game Mechanics

I know what you're thinking. "Mary, you just wrote an incredibly long, introspective post about a 90s anime! Why are you posting again so soon?" Well, my answer is two words -- Night Shift.

Well, after thinking and reading a ton of history articles/books while passing the time during a slow shift, I sat down yesterday afternoon with the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide and wrote down some notes I thought I would share when/if I run this game. I got some good feedback after my last post, however, I find it is best for me to play in a system first before running it.
First off, to run this game, there would be a lot of pre-game work/planning. For one, I like to do my research. I understand this is just a silly table top and I obviously would take liberties for the sake of plot like any movie would do, but I like to be accurate/respectful as possible regarding my depiction of historical events. I do absorb historical trivia like a gelatinous cube absorbs adventurers but still.
Come here, working knowledge of medieval swordsmanship
Additionally, it would be up to the GM to create character sheets of the people of the past the PCs inhabit. I really like these types of mechanics as a GM because I just enjoy watching how resourceful my players can be. I like the randomness of it. Also, I want to put little surprises too, like you're in the body of a famous historical figure. It shouldn't be that much of a burden because I do get great joy in creating characters. I'm odd like that.
The more I think about this game idea, the more I am leaning towards the PCs being university students. And I'm sort of thinking about Geneva, Switzerland as the university's location but that is subject to change.Why this location? Well, I like the idea of university students because there is some maturity in the characters but also young enough in which they would make abundant mistakes. I chose Switzerland because it is an international city and wanted to open up the door more easily for not just Americans if my players wanted to.
Besides, I only spent one day here but I fell in love with Geneva
Anyways, I have begun to work on a hack for this game idea. I never ripped apart a system before -- a couple really -- and sewed it together to this Frankenstein monstrosity. Okay, I'm exaggerating slightly. The rules I'm using are still mostly Cortex. I am just tossing in some other ideas and taking out others. It has elements of both Dramatic and Action Cortex.
For one, I decided the base stats will be Values; Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power, and Truth. And like with Dramatic, each value has a statement assigned to it like Duty would be, "I will make sure my family is safe no matter what" or for Justice, "The rules are made to be broken."
Next, each character chooses three distinctions. This is not different from the other Cortex Plus systems. Additionally, characters will choose 1 or 2 Talents or Assets. This game is not magic heavy at all and as a result, I expect talents for the PCs would lean on the mundane side. One PC could have a talent called Gossip Queen which increases the trouble pool to find out one fact about a person. Things like that.
There will be a skill list which will either be just like the Classes skills I had for my last game or the PCs will have their own skill list made from college classes. Or I may just end up using a generic skill list.
I'm also taking Milestones from Marvel Heroic, although for the Past People Skins (PPS), they will take on a different form. Each PPS has an immediate goal. It can be something like "Take this message to George Washington" or something like, "Get that hug from Daddy." If the PCs accomplish the PPS's goal, they can take a skill, distinction, or talent from the PPS that can be carried over when the scenario is over.
 I plan on fiddling with stress levels a bit and may make my own system. 

Here is where I'm really playing with rules.
Using distinctions in the past:
When the PC would like to use their own distinctions in the past, they must always use a d4. If the PC succeeds, they may choose to step back a PPS distinction for the scene to step up the PC's own distinction to a d8. If the PC fails, that distinction is locked out to the PC for the rest of the scene.
 If the PC steps back all PPS distinctions, all abilities from the PPS is locked out until the PC goes to sleep. Essentially what happens is instead of sharing bodies, the PC and the past person completely switch bodies. The PC loses access to the past person's memories, abilities, and mannerisms. For instance, if the PC go to Ancient Rome and steps back all PPS's distinctions, the PC doesn't understand what anyone is saying and forgets proper etiquette when entering a temple of Jupiter. In the present, the PC's body is suddenly panicking and speaking only archaic Latin, confusing everyone.
And might go crazy and inflict mindless vandalism (see what I did thar?)
Using Talents in the past:
PCs can use their own talents, but must spend an additional plot point or step back a PPS's distinction for the scene. The idea here is, is you are basically two people but you are closer to the body you an inhabit. It is easier to access abilities that way.
Challenging Values:
Whenever the PC and PPS's values or goals are in conflict, the PC must roll against the PPS's value. If the PC loses, the PC is compelled to go through with the goal and takes a level in stress. If the PC succeeds, the PC's value dice for that value becomes dominant for the scene and must face the roleplaying consequences if there are any.
When it comes to rolling values, PCs roll whichever is higher or which ever value statement best fits the situation of what the PC is trying to do. For instance, Tiberius, the PPS for the PC Nikki has a Duty of d10 with the statement, "I will do what is best for Rome" while Nikki has a d8 Duty to "I will look out for the little guy." Nikki/Tiberius wants to intervene in a robbery that is taking place. Duty fits here best but Nikki's statement fits even better than Tiberius. After all, looking away for five minutes won't destroy Rome, however Nikki's insistence of helping the little guy is what is dominating her reasoning for intervening.
Conversely, let's say Tiberius is not an upstanding citizen and is just a careless merchant only caring for a quick buck and the poor unfortunate soul is being beaten/robbed because he owes a debt to Tiberius. His Duty statement is "I look out for number one". In that case, Nikki and Tiberius's values are at odds with each other and require an opposing roll.
Roll Fail: "Carry On"
This is all I have right now I am willing to share. I have begun brainstorming on some scenarios in my mind for whenever I run this game (who knows when this will be? I still want to run Avatar but the pull of this one is becoming stronger). If you know me, you may be able to guess at least one of the ideas. Two, if you're really good in your Mary trivia. 

I have the urge to watch Life of Brian for some reason now.

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