Tag Archives: game design


This is just a placeholder list of some themes I’m thinking about playing around with. Various games and styles.

  • Memory/ Identity
  • Loss/ Love
  • The future vs. the past
  • Alternate realities
  • Avoidance and negotiation (mechanics)

Challenge & Narrative

The essence of the game has to be challenge, or in fiction terms it is the conflict in your story that creates the plot. Something gets in the way of the character leading an otherwise uneventful (and peaceful?) life. They get abducted by aliens, they are tormented by feelings of uselessness, they get embroiled in a secret spy game, whatever.

In a Gaming Context:

If we stretch this analogy, then what is it that makes a story great, and a protagonist great? Its the mixture of things that change them, and what they’ve got going for them. Its the same old story:  when times are tough and the night is long, the hero digs deep and discovers an interior strength. That kid in IT realizes that he is brave, even Harry Potter discovers that he is stronger in friendship than he is as himself, alone.

How can we translate this into gaming? What if we could measure a character in terms of ‘Challenges’ (the previous post talked about ‘Scars’ or Lessons/Memories).


Embedding XP: Keys, Traits, Anchors & Scars

I’ve been thinking about embedding experience awards inside the story, something similar to what [TSOY] or [AW] does. For anyone who doesn’t know – [TSOY] uses ‘Keys’ or important goals that your character has which you activate or unlock as you play the game. Got the Key of Conscience? Great, unlock it and receive XP when you act to save to put yourself in harms way for a friend. [AW] is kinda similar in the way that you receive immediate XP after rolling highlighted stats. There’s no hanging around until the end of the story, (although there is nothing stopping the GM from handing out XP after the story is over either) and I think this approach gives the player some more sense of agency and control over their character.

Next up, we have Traits (read: Aspects in FATE) and Anchors. Aspects, traits and tags let you describe who your character is, and in so doing, what they do. In some systems they can completely replace Skills, Abilities etc.

For example: If I described one character as Tolor the Toad-Singer, then we can pretty much expect that they might get some bonuses interacting with, or will be able to Summon Toads. If another characters Aspect read ‘Dancing Sword-Nun of Vilkesh’ then we can assume that she is pretty nifty at a) dancing, and b) sword-ing.

Anchors work to make that aspect real in your character – it could be a lucky memento, an enemy, a place. Something that brings that Trait/Aspect alive and ties them to the setting rather than just stating ‘I am unbelievably good at this thing, huzzah!’

Anchored Traits and Keys work to unite a character, and embeds that experience system. There is a sort of a feedback loop gong on there: the more a character describes their character and what is important to them (the more that they invest), the more traits and skills they will have, and the more they will be rewarded by suing their keys.

I’m interested in that feedback loop: player interaction = player reward.

I want to add a new element to that loop, and see how it sits. At the moment I’m calling it ‘Scars’ although we could just as equally call it Lessons or Memories. What I envisage is that a character could advance through their failures as they do by their successes. I imagine it going something like this:

  • You fail a pretty important roll for whatever reason. You are about to be hit with the unlucky.
  • The GM offers you either consequence 1 or consequence 2.
  • You can accept consequence 1, not so bad, maybe a hurt condition.
  • Or you can accept consequence 2, a lot worse, wounded or incapacitated condition, but you also gain a ‘Scar’ which you can use in another way, like a Fate Point or as an XP point, or to buy another Key/Trait etc.

This way the play is not about whether I have succeeded or failed – which sometimes only comes down to the random roll of a die, but also what have I learned from my play/how have I changed since my character began?

I imagine that the ratio to failure = Scar might have to only come into play at certain times, otherwise every time you lose a roll you also gain an advantage. Perhaps the GM only offers the trade off when your character is about to suffer a serious consequence.

eg. Yo-larr, with her Cyber-Thievery Trait + Enhanced Nano-Reflexes has climbed through the space station and has tried to leap over the top of the warp reactor to flee her pursuers. She has failed her roll(s), even with all of her Traits/Aspects/bonuses.

1. The Gm tells her that she has probably fallen into the warp reactor. 2. Does Yo-larr’s player want to make up a new character, did she envisage this as a fitting end of her story? 3. Would Yo-larr’s player be willing to either forcibly accept the ‘presumed dead’ condition/trait/tag? Depending upon how the players and GM talk about this scenario, in this high pressured situation the GM could offer: “okay, it looks like you can either take ‘horribly warp scarred’ or you can accept this ‘presumed dead’ and a Scar point…When your friends find you they’ll have to nurse you back to health, stick you in cryo, but you’ll have this extra thing to use in the future.”

Obviously still a lot to think about with this mechanic – could Scars come in the form of Traits/Tags/Aspects (like Grim Determination or something?). Or would it better just as a number of Points like Fate Points that your player can use the more crazy situations you had been through?