A Conflict Mechanic - Too gimmicky?

edited January 2008 in Story Games
I've got this mechanic floating around in my head. It's got a fair bit to it, so bear with me.


-Characters accumulate stress by getting hurt. Socially, mentally, doesn't matter, it's all stress to this mechanic.

-Stress is represented by pennies.

-You can heal stress with time off, and with other stuff - like voluntary fallout, sort of.

-When you get too much stress, you're forced to shed it in ways depending on the shot that put you over. If it was a physical hit, you take a scar; if it was a magical one, you get weird, if anything else, you get a bit nuts. Enough scars, crazyness, whatever, and the character becomes unplayable.

-Stress can, in certain circumstances (based on your drives), be turned into Reflection. Which is Xp. This is the only way to get Xp.


-There's a list of "maneuvers" that apply to all conflicts. If you can "lunge", you can "lunge" in a fight, a chase, a social confrontation, all that. These maneuvers are personality bits; when you pick maneuvers, you're telling the group that your character is aggressive / defensive / flailing / team-oriented / whatever.

-In a conflict round, you distribute your stress in little piles; you pick up to three maneuvers for the round, and distribute your pennies on them. The more stress you put on a maneuver, the more impressive your performance. There's no dice; everyone does this simultaneously, and then the round resolves with descriptions as the actions "go off".

...Now, there's all kinds of weird emergent shit going on here. And I like most of it - the potential desire to "run hot" because stress makes you more effective, the weird possible brinkmanship games that could be played, the idea that characters will never "just die" but will degrade, all that.

But, really, I'm wondering if this is just too "gimmicky"?



  • Posted By: Levi KornelsenBut, really, I'm wondering if this is just too "gimmicky"?
    Not by a longshot. Sounds all sorts of sexy, actually.
  • Well, this sort of dynamic tension between safety and effectiveness works well in a board game (I've used that trade-off in a couple of Chess variants myself). I will note that some players who value immersion find the sort of metagame thinking involved in the decision process of where to place your pennies annoying because they'd have to break immersion in order to make that decision, particularly if the situation would reward clever strategy and tactics in this allocation. For people who don't have that particular problem, I would think it'd be fine as long as it could be done in under 30 seconds each time. If players spend several minutes agonizing over their allocations (or worse, some players do and some do not), it could get annoying.

    All of which doesn't exactly address the issue of "gimmicky", does it? Personally, I would not find it too gimmicky -- you're just giving a mechanical representation of your character's internal state, which strikes me a perfectly reasonable thing for a game to do.
  • edited January 2008
    Some of your stuff's plenty gimmicky, but not this, IMHO. =)

    It's not all that far from balancing Exhaustion with everything else in DRYH. But I especially like stress turning into reflection. And your maneuvers could be, say, genre-dependant. In order to emphasise squads/rank/experience for a military game, say. I definitely see a military game here. You?
  • I kind of like it too. It is similar to exhaustion in DRYH but different enough not to be a copy. I'm working on a similar thing for one of my games and have been worried that it is too derivative of DRYH. But you seem to have gotten around that. I don't think it is too gimmicky. I like the mechanic. I can see it working well. Congrats. Keep working on it and keep us informed. I'm interested in learning more.
  • Posted By: Joe MurphyI definitely see a military game here. You?
    Well, the idea is that this would be the new engine for The Cog Wars - which is about, uh, semi-cartoonish revolutionaires in a steampulp dystopia?
  • Posted By: Peter AronsonIf players spend several minutes agonizing over their allocations (or worse,someplayers do and some do not), it could get annoying.

    Memo to me: Finely-graded choices of maneuver might help cause this, and that would suck. Keep maneuvers simple.
  • I'd have thought no more than ten maneuvers. More than half a dozen is tricky to keep in my head at any one time. Something like Contenders, where I can pick Ofensive, Defensive, Balanced, or Dirty is good. That would speed things up.

  • Sounds good for the kind of game where the characters are hard at work pursuing their desires and the danger seldom lets up. Like cartoonish revolutionaries in a steampulp dystopia, yes. (If it's a steampulp dystopia, does that make it steampunk in the non-watered-down sense of "punk," too?)

    -- Alex
  • edited January 2008
    Posted By: Alexdoes that make it steampunkin the non-watered-down sense of "punk," too?)
    Uhm. Maybe? I mean, the setting here is what happens when the big city politico and the mustachio-twirling landlord are in cahoots with the mad scientist of doom, and their ultimate goal is world domination.

    But the rebels aren't about that, really. The "world domination" is not their big worry.

    The geezer in the corner, with the outdated etherobolt pistol and the ridiculous flight cap, he's in this because the mad scientist's factory, approved by the politico, is where his son was knocked into a churning vat and boiled to death, and nobody in charge cares about that.

    The jittering clockwork man - the Cog - talking with him? He wants to be recognized by the politicos as a person of sorts, with rights. Not even equal rights, necessarily. Just, well, some rights.

    And the scrappy-but-cute newspaper kid eating everything on the table is here because when they tried to put her in a workhouse for living on the street, she jammed a broken broomstick into the eye of the come-along-wagon's driver, and they're after her.

    Those are pretty basic characters. Punk? Not?
  • Punk. I vote Punk in this manner.
  • Oh, yeah: I'm getting 'punk' from these characters, big time.

    I'm not getting 'semi-cartoonish', though. The bad guys seem appropriately stereotypical and melodramatic, but all three sample characters have a tragic, violent, or tragic and violent event as their drive. It makes them all come off as dark, serious, and angsty. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, and the pitch for this definitely makes me want to play.)

    When I read 'semi-cartoonish' above, I was immediately thinking 'light, over-the-top, melodrama'. Sort of like the vibe I get from Sons of Liberty.

  • Posted By: DainXBWhen I read 'semi-cartoonish' above, I was immediately thinking 'light, over-the-top, melodrama'. Sort of like the vibe I get fromSons of Liberty.
    My best possible mental image for you...

    There's a scene pretty early on in the animated Watership Down where the cute little cartoon bunny is hopping along, and then something bad happens, and the bunny screams. And you, in the audience, go dead cold. Within ten minutes, again, the little bunnies are back to bouncing around and being cute. And it's still fun and kind of silly. Even cartoony. But you know it could happen again, that it probably will, and the entire world has this sinister edge even while the happy bouncy bunnies are skipping along.

    That. Right there.
  • Punk.

    Also, awesome.

    -- Alex
  • Levi -- got it, now. Thanks.

    Also, awesome!

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