I've been thinking about a Persona-style tabletop RPG for a while and I think I have the basis of gameplay down. Feel free to comment, just posting because I love Story Games and a lot of good comes from those who comment here. Crossposted on my livejournal
This game usings player cards, and involves using the non-face cards for most of the game and the face cards as a resource.
Stage 1: Players make teenagers in high school. They don't have to all be in the same grade or the same homeroom (in a Japanese school), but the same building is key. They have to be able to see each other on a daily basis for most of the week. Players will all also be linked by the fact that they play a popular MMORPG. They may spend a lot of time or very little time, but they are involved in it, as are other kids in the school. The MMO is designed by the group.
During Stage 1, the characters take classes, try to make friends and join clubs. The key point is to explore a school and town. Prior to resolving scenes in which players are meeting someone for the first time or are in a stressful situation, they draw a card from the deck. This is the initial state or intensity of the situation. A particular stat or stat+skill will be noted as meeting or exceeding the state and indicating success or failure. If the player wants to change the status (there will be reasons to fail as well as succeed), they can draw cards and add them to their stat+skill or to the initial state after describing what intensifies those items. There will be stats for who you are compatible with as well.
Eventually, the deck will be completely used up. This ends Stage 1.
Stage 2: Something happens in the town or school that is a mystery. This can be a murder with weird methods or no evidence, a missing person, or a large theft. It needs to be personal and affect dearly someone that the characters will have reason to interact with. These can be coworkers at part time jobs, classmates, etc. They don't have to be the victims but they do have to be tied to the event. It can be a player character, but the PC cannot die at this stage. The mystery will be something that the entire group agrees that the PCs will be involved in, but the mystery shouldn't have a predetermined solution.
During Stage 2, play will be centered around how the characters interact with those people affected by the mystery. This can be as simple as meeting them and consoling the grieving or as complicated as a midnight raid to uncover evidence. Cards will be drawn again for initial reactions and also for any sort of action the group considers to be outside the normal limit of a teenager's authority or responsibility.
Some things should be decided by the group to be unsolvable or unaffectable at this point in the game. One or two items would be best. These will take face cards to "break open".
Eventually, the deck will be completely used up. This ends Stage 2. The deck may be smaller at this point.
Stage 3: The characters will find themselves online in the MMO. This could be a normal meeting or a method of discussing things without adult ears. However, they will soon find out that something is horribly wrong: they feel pain, their lives are in danger, and they can't logout.
During Stage 3, the characters will be reacting to the danger and trying to find a way out. They cannot simply shut the program down or the machine off. There will be a second set of skills that relate to their in-game characters. This is the first time a PC can die.
The group should determine a path to logging out. The steps to obtain will not have initial draws but set levels of difficulty that encourage the players to add cards together to beat. Succesfully logging out will garner the group a face card.
Stage 3 ends with a successful log out or if one of the characters dies. If someone dies, this will not be resolved until the next time the PCs return to the MMORPG. Also, the PC that died should now be intimately tied to the mystery. Finally, a PC death will always grant a face card.
Stage 4: Play will now resemble Stages 1 and 2. The mystery will deepen, friendships and relationships will grow, and new unlockable clues will be determined.
Stage 4 will end when the deck is used up. The PCs will learn that someone has gone missing and is somehow communicating with the outside world: they've been trapped in the MMO. If someone died in Stage 3, this will be their new character.
Stage 5: Play will resemble Stage 3. A face card will be granted when the character is successfully rescued. A PC death at this point will not end the session but will make them more entangled in the mystery.
Further Stages will continue a loop resembling Stages 4 and 5 for a period determined by the group, between the amounts of 0-2. After the determined number of loops (the group can stop after a Stage 5 redux at any time), play will resemble Stage 1 except for the fact that the setting should change. A class field trip or vacation would be appropriate. Mysteries should not get more complex at this point. The focus should be on resolving as many clues as possible. Face cards can be obtained by maxing out friendships.
At this point, the group can decide if the mystery has been solved or not. If it has, a final pair of Stages should be enacted. However, the person at the center of the mystery should be met in the MMORPG world and tracked down to the real world, reversing the order of the previous pairs. It is up to the group to decide if it should be a heroic or tragic ending. This is the only time a PC can be forced to die in the real world.