Summary: Nintendo 64's "Banjo-Kazooie" meets the movie "The
Matrix", and is put in Tabletop form.
Intended Fruitful Void: Players become increasingly immersed in the
fictional world while they learn and master the tools they need to succeed
in that world. Basically, they travel the Bartle Path. In fact, this
resolves itself into four different Fruitful Voids representing the
different stages of the Bartle Path.
- Seeker - The PCs find their feet (with the game, with their character, with the exploration zone, with the world). They explore a multitude of character-building options and try out several.
- Learner - The PCs try different combinations of character-building options to do cool things, called Special Moves.
- Doer - The PCs use their well-honed Special Moves to accomplish Big Tasks.
- Master - The Big Tasks are resolved. The PCs move comfortably around the world (or stage) and can exit it at will.
The players cycle through these stages several times (maybe 4-7?) as they
build skills for their characters, eventually mastering the world. At this
point, the campaign is over and the players can move their PCs to a new
world (or try to finish catching those last few achievements).
Furthermore, there are exploratory aspects which the players can indulge in
to greater or lesser degrees: Character, Setting, System, Color. I have
QUESTION: What challenges players? Anyone can roll dice. Anyone can roll
MORE dice, against bigger monsters. This is not a challenge. What challenges
players in a tabletop game, the way Banjo Kazooie challenges players?
Answer: puzzles, like in Monkey Island, Legend of Zelda
Ideas to make the game work:
The different areas should feed each other: combat charges the players
for exploration, and exploration charges the players for combat.
Players should have a subtle but direct control over the exchange rate,
so they can get the game they want. Lots of combat? Push the lever this
way. Prefer exploration? Push the lever that way.
Players abilities should be weak alone but..
Players abilities should gain strength when combined, somehow! They work
better as a group. Increase their probability for success!
Combat wins should just be wins, but combat failures should power their
exploration ... to a point.
Exploration can't win or lose, but should power combat regardless.
Core Mechanics - ROUGH
I'd like to drill down to the mechanics, keeping in mind my ultimate desired
The "unnamed score" of the game is each player's progress along
the Bartle Path.
Two domains of skills and reward sets, Combat and Exploration:
Combat Metrics -
Success or failure of combat
Whether bruised, bloodied, or beaten (1/4, 1/2, 3/4 hp)
Number of enemies defeated
- Exploration Metrics -
Number of GM-assigned zones explored where zones include physical
locations, knowledge spaces, social contexts (e.g. the
"gang", the ladies' tea party)
Depth of zone infiltration (one, two, three, by GM's judgement).
There is a balance: exploration metrics (and the quantity of fighty dice
they produce) to the number of carriers and agents (and the number of
fighty dice required to kill them).
Failure in combat against non-carriers produces no rewards. Success
produces normal rewards (i.e. treasure?)
Failure in combat against carriers absorbs some anomalies from the
carrier, which can be stored in an QACU. Some of it will be Power-2
dice. Success removes the anomalies entirely. Unobtained Power-2 dice
migrate to a new carrier.
The Agents are immune to regular fighty dice, although the fighty dice
helps PCs get agents into a vulnerable position that is always a brief
window of opportunity. Agents can only be damaged with Power-2 dice,
obtained by the PCs when they fail combat against Carriers.
There is an Uber Campaign agent, the final boss, who the PCs are sent to
defeat. He can only be defeated with a critical minimum number of fighty
dice and Power-2 dice.
Temptress - Tries to convince the PCs to ignore the path of quantum
righteousness and use the quantum ripples to their own benefit. If the
PCs choose this path, the universe should show increasing numbers of
"glitches in the matrix" which only the PCs can see.
Big Bad, the Uber Campaign agent - An agent who follows the same rules
as other agents, except that defeating him requires the most number of
fighty dice (maybe not the max available in the campaign). The PCs need
to work together to defeat him. A single PC won't bring him down.
Anomalies - Small quantumly warps, rips, and tears, separating this
universe from nearby ones. More anomalies implies a less stable universe
with more glitches in the matrix. Generally bad for PCs.
Glitch in the Matrix - An apparent causality or existence problem (bad
causality, existence duplication, existence removal) caused by one or
Core Mechanics - Pre-Seeker Phase (Character Creation and Introductions)
This is the old "they meet in a tavern" phase. They are introduced
to "the Helpful Wise Man", the GM or GM-character. He introduces
them to the tools, they're going to need in the game.
Anomaly Detection Devices (ADD) - devices (or other, such as a
character's sixth sense, or the character's alien nose) that is
designed to detect quantum anomalies.
Anomaly Containment Units (ACU) - devices (or other) designed to capture
quantum anomalies for productive usage (such as healing wounds, bringing
dead characters back to life, reversing critically bad events). Note
that anomalies do eventually disperse, even when held within a
He describes generally what they're there to do; i.e. fix anomalous warps,
rips, tears, and scrub carriers and defeat agents. The GM can introduce
Achievements to unlock as well, though the GM-character may or may not do
The GM-character has different effects on the game. He's like a D&D
wizard familiar, and is always "available" but does not often
interfere. Different GM characters affect the following aspects of the game:
Player character death
Conversion rates from anomalous warps, rips, tears, into health and
Who some candidate carriers are
Core Mechanics - Master Phase
The Master Phase for the world is post cataclysm when the PCs defeat the
final boss. They can go back to individual stages and acquire stage bonuses
or leave the campaign entirely.
For the Master Phase for each stage, there are/can be:
A special boon, as described in the Hero's Journey, to signify the PC's
completion. The boon could be:
Regular for all stages, like the Jiggies in Banjo-Kazooie
Bonuses to PCs; extra weapons, armor, health, other powers
Unlocking other stages, like in Monkey Island
Amazing and interesting knowledge, like in Monkey Island
Special bonuses for defeating the big bad. Extra health or power ups.
Special bonuses if the PCs unlock achievements. The achievements should
grant bonuses outside the structure of the campaign, such as vehicles,
awesome weapons, funky cosmetic changes to characters, etc. The
achievements can be:
Wipe out all anomalies in a given exploration zone (i.e. as
Deal with all carriers and agents, including the big bad
Wipe out all anomalies in all exploration zones in the whole
Special achievements granted by the GM, special to the world they
operate in (e.g. kill the Mob boss, start a pottery business, figure
out who murdered Jimmy the newsboy, etc.) - - GM should be
encouraged to set these up
Brainstorming a game - "The Posse"
0. Who is your target audience?
Gamers seeking a longer-termed campaign and who appreciate the "Epic
Simulationism" as I describe in my theories.
1a. What is your game advised to be about?
The game is about a poorly matched gang of misfits gathered from across time
and space (and multiple dimensions!) to stitch up the quantum chaos in the
universe, thereby preventing the collapse of the greatest number of
1b. What is your game really about?
It's about getting the players to progress along the Bartle Path at
approximately the same rate through the phases, to meet at the end in one
final, glorious climactic stage before finishing up in the Denoument. I.E.
A simulation of the Hero's Journey.
2a. What do player-characters (PCs) do?
Player-Characters (PCs) primarily run through exploration missions (to have
their characters wander to seek anomalies and agents), seek and mend
missions (to have their characters fix particularly bad anomalies or deal
with carriers), and seek and destroy missions (to have their characters kill
2b. What do player-Gamemasters (GMs) do?
The activities of a Game-Master (GMs) are a cross between storytelling and
refereeing. However, through an entire campaign, the GM is most like a
maestro, bringing the different instruments of the PCs, the players, into
concert. He uses the tools available to him, such as the NPCs, the Setting,
and the allotment of rewards, to accomplish this goal.
3a. What do player-characters do?
The PCs seek out and "heal" various types anomalies in the
universe (i.e. warps and tears a.k.a. bugs in the matrix), deal with various
carriers of these problems (e.g. people who have time-travelled or messed
with Quantum Mechanics in the wrong way) and kill agents who have found or
been granted the ability to cause these anomalies.
3b. What do non-player characters do?
The NPCs (and subset, monsters) attempt to go about their daily business to
a lesser or greater degree (as dictated by the mechanics) and avoid the
jeopardy to their normal routines as caused by the PCs.
4. How does your setting reinforce what the player characters do?
The setting itself is like its own NPC. It is another tool in the GM's
repertoire to fight the players' attempts to cure the anomalies (etc.).
Furthermore, it is a backdrop to contain the anomalies, carriers, and
agents. As these problems are fixed or dealt with, greater anomalies and
agents show up until the player meets the big kahuna, a primary agent that
has embedded itself in the quantum stream. The setting reinforces what the
player characters do by actively fighting against the player characters, as
a pawn of the GM, in the same way gravity fights the player characters'
attempts to fly.
5. How does the Character Creation process of your game reinforce what the
game is about?
Player character creation doesn't hint at what the game is really about,
namely having the players travel the Bartle path, because it's the DM's job
to manage that. However, character creation includes tools for seeking and
managing anomalies and agents, as well as providing lots of tools for
supposed colour, though in fact, the tools for providing colour dual as a
breeding ground for opportunity for the DM to take the players along the
Bartle path, what the game is really about.
6. What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish
The game rewards exploration with finding anomalies, along with the
usual benefits of exploring (i.e. finding clues and secrets).
The game rewards fixing anomalies with power to explore further and deal
The game rewards failed attempts to deal with carriers with type
power-2 to fight agents. Special failure is required to make the game
interesting. Don't just show up and get your ass kicked. Furthermore,
the PCs must combine efforts and cooperate to gain type power-2 points.
The game rewards successful attempts to deal with carriers with nothing
in the system, but instead with 'regular' or 'traditional' rewards such
as gold or money or better equipment so that the team members can
survive in the setting better (which the characters will require not
only for day-to-day survival, but to defeat the final agent).
The game does not systemically penalize attempts to defeat or
significantly alter the lives of non-carriers, except that they might
get mad and call the police, etc.
The game rewards the defeat of agents with special story bonuses. There
is a giant "glitch in the matrix" but in the players' favours,
and access to new domains with more anomalies.
The game rewards cooperation via the power-2 points, which can only be
gained by players working together, and only expended by players working
together to defeat agents.
The game doesn't implicitly reward the GM. The GM, like a maestro, gets
thrill by successfully harmonizing his band.
7. How are behaviors/styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
There are "power points" used to charge the characters up and
allow them to deal with carriers or defeat agents. Exploration is rewarded
with these points, as well as the implicit benefit of exploration. There is
a cycle: explore, to charge up, to fight and lose, to drop in power but to
gain power 2, to explore again with power, etc. etc. until you have enough
power 2 to fight agents. This cycle is also repeated and when enough agents
are defeated, the final agent will be revealed and vulnerable. The powers
can be stacked on top of each other for even greater bonuses. Again, the GM
is not systemically rewarded.
8. How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your
GM narrates locations and environment, and choose actions of NPCs and
monsters. Players roll exploration checks, attack rolls (to hit), defense
rolls (to defend a hit), action rolls (to do something interesting). The GM
is the ultimate authority in all cases.
9. What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and
They'll come for the Matrixy / Dr. Who feel of the game. They'll get hooked
by the cyclic seek-and-mend/destroy mechanics. They'll stay and bring in
their friends because of the GM's efforts in having them traverse the
10. What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
The mechanics give simple rewards for basic 1-player actions that are
included in the system: punch, block, sneak, etc. No diplomacy/intimidate/
knowledge type functions are included in the game. Instead, these are part
of the exploration sphere. For these simple actions, resolution is confirmed
by a simple versus die-roll. Players can cooperate by combining actions.
"Cooperation" in the form of one character leading and others
follow (e.g. group sneaking, flanking combat bonuses) gain a small extra
group bonus that is in a shared pool available to the PCs. For truly
creative cooperative acts by the players, appropriate to the context and as
judged by the GM, the dice interact by a chain of resolutions which the
players roll in order. If more players are involved, the easier it is to
perform the chain of actions (with bonuses or possibly different resolution
dice). The players only need to invent creative actions once. They can keep
mining these actions for more power-2 level points. HOWEVER, this is only
true for the stage in which they're invented. In later stages, the
cooperative bonuses turn to simple power bonuses. They only need maybe 3
cooperative actions per stage (at least one per player), for maybe 5 stages.
11. How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
The resolution mechanics give rewards for solving anomalies (warps and
tears) as well as dealing with carriers automatically. The game is advanced
and players gain their resources to continue (e.g. money, gold pieces) by
using their actions. Regarding what the game is really about, the GM awards
power and power-2 points when the players cooperate appropriately. The
players use power points and power-2 points to advanced the players along
the Bartle Path and move the later phases.
12. Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
Yes, but not in the traditional sense. They gain and use cooperative
abilities and in doing so, adding these abilities to their repertoire.
13. How does character advancement or lack thereof) reinforce what your game
By using and practicing the cooperative abilities, and adding them to their
repertoire, PCs advance down the Bartle Path. The gaining of skills and
using them cooperatively is advancement down the Bartle Path.
14. What sort of product or effect do you want to produce in or for the
Advancement along the path should bring the players along the Bartle Path
and simulate the natural build-up and finish of the Hero's Journey.
15. What areas of your game receive extra attention and colour? Why?
The mechanics (character build, ability creation and cooperative ability
creation, and resolution mechanics) receive extra attention to make them
solid, allowing the players the freedom to invent their combos (cooperative
actions) and give them lots of player-generated colour. The GM's directoral
section receives extra attention as well, being the other side of the coin,
to give the GM help in guiding the players along the Bartle Path.
16. What part of your game are you most excited about or interested in?
I'm most excited about the idea that the GM takes a less active role
(allowing players to roll both their own attacks, and defences on behalf of
enemies) and yet more active role (by guiding the game so that the Bartle
Path is followed). It should be a new GM experience and, as such, a new
17. Where does your game take players that other games can't, don't, or
Following the Hero's Journey.
18. What are your publishing goals for this game?
PDF, then a larger game using the Combat Wheel, then a game with online
component, then an online game (MMORPG).