Storygamey Mechanics that aren't Storygamey.

I've written some rules for my OSRish yet unnamed game, and I've noticed half-way through that this it has mechanics that are similar to Burning Wheel's traits, Fate's aspects and other similar mechanics but is different from all of them in interesting ways. So I thought that this makes this post relevant to this forum.

Before I show you the post itself, I'd like to establish the assumptions and design intent this was made under, to prevent confusion. A lot of these fall under the OSR design philosophy, but that's a term that means different things to different people, so I'll lay out specifics.
First of all, this is written under the assumption that everyone at the table is treating everyone else with respect, any issues that crop up in play are solved by ordinary social mechanisms and dealing with them is beyond the scope of the game rules.
Second, power gaming is acceptable behavior within reason, and the game's mechanics are framed in such a way that power gaming will directly correlate with in-character power mongering and scheming.
Third, the point of the game isn't to create a story collaboratively. The point is to explore a fantasy world, and overcome obstacles in that world using you're own intelligence. After the session, when the players retell what happened or someone writes up a play report, than it becomes a story, but in the moment of play, it's a series of events. Play to see what happens, is also a principle being employed here.
Fourth, characters are practically entirely randomly generated and start out fairly similar. They grow more unique and interesting over the course of play.
Fifth, is a design goal that can't be applied to OSR in general, is that I want to make a game that is in part about exploring a magic system like Brandon Sanderson novels do.

These rules are also built on the sleek and elegant Into the Odd system, which are like D&D streamlined as far as possible. I'll quickly mention the parts of it that are relevant to this post, you can skim the link above if it's not enough to grokk. The three attributes are Strength, Dexterity and Will. When you are damaged you lose HP, when you run out of HP, you start losing Strength, if you run out of that, you're dead. You regain HP back to full by taking a minute to have a drink of water, you regain any lost attribute points by taking a week to recover. On this blog you can find a lot more information on this system.

I also mention my previous blog post about shadow casting. Which is a magic system where you get to control things with you're shadow, don't worry about it.

Now that I have done my lengthy preamble, here is a post on the Power of Names.

Comments

  • edited January 3
    Is "the Power of Names" the rules you refer to at the beginning ? And you say they are like Traits and Aspects only with in game justification ? I say they are very different, because, who gets to give (real) names ? all the rules point at the GM. The common point is they are "verbal".

    Power of names holds water as a magic social system. I think this is what Soft Fantasy is good for : bringing a shock statement and not digging too deep to investigate its consequences (hence "Soft"). There are some fun names in the Story Games Names Project. And there is a naming mechanic in Goblin City,, recently posted on the forum.

    What's the need for schools when you can simply give the name ? That's what happens in many human societies when a child reaches adulthood.

    Also, this leads to strange things regarding politics : one person is the Monarch, the other the Leader of the People, and a bunch of others are the Council of the Wise. And they all are "named" by the denizens of the kingdom. This is really a can of worms, because : how many namings count for a good one ?

  • Three comments, two on things you weren't looking for comments on but hopefully made up for by the last:

    your/you're, gets/get's, to/too, it's/its, then/than, please learn to use these correctly, your writing is quite good except for the every-other-sentence homophone mishap gutpunches.
    characters are practically entirely randomly generated and start out fairly similar
    This seems inefficient. What's the point of random generation if the end results aren't different?
    in part about exploring a magic system like Brandon Sanderson novels do
    Have you read his three (four) laws? https://coppermind.net/wiki/Sanderson's_Laws_of_Magic

    0: yes, names are awesome
    1: there are three parts to your magic system: how to get new names and how to use names and what names do. I feel like how to use names will be pretty well defined by your eventual ruleset, and what names do is pretty well defined already (1d6 HP and a feat and an "identity"), but not how to get new names. That's the part that a power gamer will rightly want to exploit, getting new powerful names quickly and easily, or giving names in exchange for cash money, but it's also the part that seems most under GM fiat. If players have access to the entirety of the rules, I think that may be a problem. If on the other hand you do not tell players the entirety of the rules, and instead they explore through play how to get/give names, then I think it can work great - the patterns of your fiat become just part of the world's environment.
    2: what are the limitations of names? You say a handful of effects; can there be more? What is off limits?
    3: I wonder what would happen if you cut away most of the current uses of names, like moving them and such, and just focused on the core uses: you get a feat but can be compelled.
  • Is "the Power of Names" the rules you refer to at the beginning ? And you say they are like Traits and Aspects only with in game justification ? I say they are very different, because, who gets to give (real) names ? all the rules point at the GM. The common point is they are "verbal".
    Yes, I now notice that I've written the first post of this thread in a bit of a garbled way, sorry about that.

    Power of names holds water as a magic social system. I think this is what Soft Fantasy is good for : bringing a shock statement and not digging too deep to investigate its consequences (hence "Soft"). There are some fun names in the Story Games Names Project. And there is a naming mechanic in Goblin City,, recently posted on the forum.
    I'm not sure what you mean here, could you please elaborate?

    What's the need for schools when you can simply give the name ? That's what happens in many human societies when a child reaches adulthood.
    Names like Doctor and Blacksmith require training as part of the process needed for that Name to be given to someone. Once the school teaches someone the secrets of Doctoring, it has a graduation ceremony where that person receives the Name of Doctor. If you preform a graduation ceremony on someone who hasn't had any medical training, the Name wouldn't be received or maybe it would stick, only to disappear as soon as the person's medical skill comes under scrutiny.

    Also, this leads to strange things regarding politics : one person is the Monarch, the other the Leader of the People, and a bunch of others are the Council of the Wise. And they all are "named" by the denizens of the kingdom. This is really a can of worms, because : how many namings count for a good one ?
    I am not sure what you mean here either. Many people have Names that designate their leadership positions in society, these make them have more stats and some permission pertaining to their leadership position, it can be a complicated mess but so are all politics. Can you explain what you mean by you're final questian?

    your/you're, gets/get's, to/too, it's/its, then/than, please learn to use these correctly, your writing is quite good except for the every-other-sentence homophone mishap gutpunches.
    Sorry, but thank you for bringing it up, now I can be actively cognizant of the issue, as opposed to often being corrected on incorrect your/you're usages when asking for proof readings.
    This seems inefficient. What's the point of random generation if the end results aren't different?
    Fairly similar in that all starting characters are people with stats in range of 3-18, HP from 1-6, around 3-5 random starting items and that's it. There is sufficient variation between characters for people to be distinguishable, but it's not like the difference between a fighter and a wizard.
    Have you read his three (four) laws? https://coppermind.net/wiki/Sanderson's_Laws_of_Magic
    Yes I have, but I wasn't directly referring to them as I was writing this post.

    0: yes, names are awesome
    1: there are three parts to your magic system: how to get new names and how to use names and what names do. I feel like how to use names will be pretty well defined by your eventual ruleset, and what names do is pretty well defined already (1d6 HP and a feat and an "identity"), but not how to get new names. That's the part that a power gamer will rightly want to exploit, getting new powerful names quickly and easily, or giving names in exchange for cash money, but it's also the part that seems most under GM fiat. If players have access to the entirety of the rules, I think that may be a problem. If on the other hand you do not tell players the entirety of the rules, and instead they explore through play how to get/give names, then I think it can work great - the patterns of your fiat become just part of the world's environment.
    2: what are the limitations of names? You say a handful of effects; can there be more? What is off limits?
    3: I wonder what would happen if you cut away most of the current uses of names, like moving them and such, and just focused on the core uses: you get a feat but can be compelled.
    0: I know right?
    1: Name acquisition is based on fictional positioning, and can be approahed in certain ways. Especially in regards to you're reputation, where if a lot of people know you, you'll get a Name. A lot of people can be replaced with a smaller amount of devoted people if you get a cult to give you a Name, or effort and time from you and a master/school organisation in the case of professions. This is all vague and fiety, I might attempt to formalize it more after playtesting it some amount, and like you said having that patterns of fiat settle into the world's environment.
    2: The three limitations I have explicitly written out that apply for this magic is that you need to know a Name to target someone, you need to communicate with them and you can't directly mutate them. So you can become immune to incantation if you plug you're ears and close you're eyes or don't tell people where you are.
    3. That is an interesting idea. I think I have the issue that I'm being pulled by multiple design goals, on one hand there is the Sanderson style of in depth an complicated magic systems, on the other I also want it to include some fairytale tropes, with witches stealing names and goblins offering to buy them. I also really like the idea of nobody as a character and you can't have that without some way of losing Names. I might cut out Dub and Erase and have Names only disappear and appear via the natural process of names being given and forgotten. Dub is meant to be a way for magic users to lay curses upon people, hm. Call can be gotten ride of, as something covered by a Compel via letter or something, the rituals of demon summoning could just be a method of sending a message to them.
  • Just some random thoughts, every mage has some words and can combine them to create a variety of spell effects. Schools are literally based on nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. All mages have some of each, but depending on their school, they will have more of one group over the others. Something like the School of Things, The School of Actions, The School of Attributes, and The School of Effects.
  • edited January 4
    What I am saying is that
    The Names are not -yet- something that shapes the world.

    At that point the Names are for :
    rewarding with bonus/malus
    compelling certain situations

    Is all.
  • Just some random thoughts, every mage has some words and can combine them to create a variety of spell effects. Schools are literally based on nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. All mages have some of each, but depending on their school, they will have more of one group over the others. Something like the School of Things, The School of Actions, The School of Attributes, and The School of Effects.
    That is an interesting idea. I'm personally not interested in pursuing it for aesthetic reasons that would require an essay to explain fully.
    What I am saying is that
    The Names are not -yet- something that shapes the world.

    At that point the Names are for :
    rewarding with bonus/malus
    compelling certain situations

    Is all.
    They shape the world, it's just that they are the cause off happen in our world for different reasons. In the fantasy world the memories surrounding any subject are tied to the Name they have, if that Name isn't there than the memory goes away with them. This doesn't come up in every day life, but if Names are messed with by magic than it this suddenly becomes relevant. The people in the world know that Names hold power, even thought most don't no how exactly it works, how they interact will reflect that.

    The fact that more popular people get literally more powerful changes how the world works. Suddenly more "important" people will be able to survive more than "background characters". This isn't going to change the end experience for players that much as stories where plot armor exists are fairly common. Names literally making you stronger is a rule that allows for characters we care about (and those know the names of) to die less without requiring any additional suspension of disbelief because it makes sense according to the rules. This isn't a necessarily detail for most people's suspension of disbelief but it makes me happier.
  • I understand : only a chosen few know the rules, they are the wizard kings and queens.

    I guess you like associated mechanics and I don't really get what they are or give, so all I can say is : enjoy your play !
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