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Craft (Cheese)
2012-12-10, 07:22 AM
So, I've had an idea for a new game mechanic I'd like to try, but I'd like to do a bit of research/get feedback on it before I subject anyone to a full-on playtest.

Basic idea: The GM has a number of "cues" available to the players at any given time, let's say 3. A Cue is an abstract, open-ended description of something that could, potentially, happen in the game, like:

- A child is kidnapped.

- Someone says "I don't want to go on the cart!" at a comedically appropriate time.

- Someone breaks the terms of their contract.

If a player causes the cue to come to pass, by, say, having their character kidnap a child, that player receives an abstract reward of some sort like XP or Fate Points and the cue is said to be "fulfilled." At which point, the GM discards the cue and invents a new one to take its place.

The cue is only fulfilled, however, if the act makes sense in the context of the story and your character. If you just pick up the next child you happen to see for no reason other than to fulfill the cue, no sale. A character deciding the best way to coerce the local mob boss is by taking his infant daughter, however, would be acceptable. It's the GM's call whether the player deserves to be rewarded for fulfilling the cue or not.


So, my questions for the playground are as follows:

- Have any of you played a game that used a mechanic like this? If so, what game? (If this idea isn't original then I'd like to get ahold of a copy of a game that uses it.) How did it turn out? What do you think could be done to improve its particular failings, if any?

- Are cues too obvious and easily abused as a railroading mechanic?

- What kinds of reward structure would this best be used with, and what kind of game would cues fit into?

- How might it work out if players had the ability to design cues as well, rather than just the GM? How could you encourage the GM to have NPCs fulfill the cues that the players design?

navar100
2012-12-10, 08:50 AM
It will metagame the game. Players will purposely try to enact the cue so as to make sense. When the cue happens, you'll have an "energetic discussion" of whether it was a legitimate use of the cue or not.

If you're going to do it, don't let the players know what the cues are. To avoid appearance of favoritism, before the campaign starts write them down and place them somewhere. Put each cue on its own small paper. Date it and mark it with some symbol the players see. Put the cue somewhere out of the way. When a cue happens by true logical sense and coincidence, reveal that cue from the stash.

Make it a "fate" point as you call it instead of XP. Let there be other ways in game to get fate points.

See also Groucho Marx, "You Bet Your Life"

nedz
2012-12-10, 12:22 PM
I dislike the meta-gamey nature of this, though you might be able to wrap it in plot.

You could have a conspiracy who won't act until some trigger is fulfilled. Should the PCs discover this then they might be able to set off some mayhem all non-attributional which they could use as a distraction for something else.

You could have some religious cult who were waiting for some omen.

But these are all examples of event driven plots and I'm sure you could come up with better examples.

But doing it as a game piece would make it entirely contrived.

navar100
2012-12-10, 12:48 PM
Another idea is to make them prophecies. Campaign begins with the party, knowing each other or not, happening to be in the presence of a Seer making predictions. Play the campaign as normal. See how many prophecies come true or not.

headwarpage
2012-12-10, 01:14 PM
I agree with the previous posters; this will just lead to metagaming and thin justifications for fulfilling the cues. I could see the prophecy idea working once, but as soon as your players get the idea that there are rewards to be had for doing specific things, they'll do them.

Keeping the cues secret from the players could work, though. As long as it doesn't lead to your players doing anything and everything they can think of on the off chance that it's a cue. I don't think it adds anything to the core idea of a roleplaying game, though - it feels like a completely tacked-on mechanic, with you trying to write down things they might do, and them trying to guess what you might have written down. But if your group likes that sort of thing, it could be fun.

NichG
2012-12-10, 02:24 PM
It need not actually be a metagame thing in the right setting. The idea of using a prophecy, for instance, makes this an in-character thing.

Perhaps a more concrete example where the PCs would know that it is 'good' to resolve the cues would be a game with some degree of timetravel - the characters receive fragmented impressions of their own futures. If they deviate too far from what they know then bad stuff happens, but the effect doesn't care about importance, just quantity. So they can change the important things, but only by paying for it by fulfilling the silly little things.

Another way to do it would be a game in which the PCs are actually spirits/gods/etc playing a game with human hosts or puppets, where the 'points' of the game involve the fulfillment of the cues.

erikun
2012-12-10, 11:55 PM
I am not sure I understand your idea properly. Right now, the cues sound like XBox video game achievements, granting bonuses for doing irrelevant things during gameplay. Your current list of cues sounds like it could include "Kill an enemy with a critical hit" or "Make five successful stealth checks in a row" and be appropriate.

Mechanics should exist to encourage player behavior. There seems little reason for including these example, or what behavior you are trying to encourage.


If I were to implement your ideas of cues, I would make them story- or plot-relevant. "Reunite the daughter with her family" or "Learn the name of the corrupt baron" or "Follow the tracks of orcs back to their hidden base." I would not tell the players what the cues are beforehand, but I would hand out the XP after they succeeded and tell them why they received it. (500 bonus XP for finding the ritual scroll that was summoning the zombies.)

All of the above would be party-gained XP bonuses. I could also implement character-specific cues, mainly based on DM-approved goals the character would find important. Finding clues to a father's lost sword would be an XP-worthy cue; shagging the orc maidens in every tribe would (probably) not. (This is basically the idea of Goals from Mouse Guard.)

Craft (Cheese)
2012-12-11, 01:46 AM
I am not sure I understand your idea properly. Right now, the cues sound like XBox video game achievements, granting bonuses for doing irrelevant things during gameplay. Your current list of cues sounds like it could include "Kill an enemy with a critical hit" or "Make five successful stealth checks in a row" and be appropriate.

Mechanics should exist to encourage player behavior. There seems little reason for including these example, or what behavior you are trying to encourage.

As worded they could be used that way, but my intention is to use them to influence player behavior in certain ways. A cue should always be something that any of the PC's could, potentially, accomplish at-will if they so choose. You could use them in other ways like "Kill an enemy with a critical hit" or "Find the hideout of the evil cult" but that's not really how I intend for them to be used.

I suppose I should explain my intentions and motivations: The basic idea is Aspects. Aspects are used for a lot of things, but the relevant thing here is they can be used as a vehicle for narrative control: A GM can do a thing called "negative invocation" where the player receives a reward and in exchange GM briefly controls their character.

An easy example: Your character walks into an empty office to find a large suitcase of money on the desk. Your character is quite greedy, so the GM offers you a fate point if you steal the money off the desk.

However, I've been using Aspects in my games for a while now and found they have a few limitations.

1. The GM's power to do this is basically limited to what a character has on their sheet. The GM has to use that character's aspects to justify why they would choose to act in that way. The ways the GM will be able to use the power are more or less decided at the moment of character creation. The intention behind this restriction is that characters are brought low by their own flaws and desires, which is all well and good but I wish it was more flexible.

2. Negative invocation is pretty one-sided. The victims' only choice is to obey and accept the reward or not. I wish the players had more ways to react to it, and had more say over how their characters obey the invocation, if at all.

Cues are my attempt to fix these problems (though I intend for them to supplement Aspects rather than replace them altogether, as Aspects have other, useful functions that cues don't replicate). Best way to illustrate how I intend to use them is to give an example. Here's how an extension of the suitcase-grabbing scene might play out with negative invocation:

"You arrive in the office to find it empty, save for a suitcase full of money on the desk. You hear the owner walking down the hallway and will burst into the office any second. Oh, hey, you have the Greedy aspect. Have a Fate Point. Your character grabs the suitcase and bursts out the window, but the owner sees you going out the window at the last second! You're now being chased..."

And here's how the same scene might play out with cues as an alternative:

"You arrive in the office to find it empty, save for a suitcase full of money on the desk. You hear the owner walking down the hallway and will burst into the office any second. The cue for this scene is 'Someone tries to steal something very valuable'. Go."


I believe that cues will work out better because they leave the details in the hands of the player: Rather than just do it the way the GM says, the player can come up with any solution for getting the briefcase that they can think of. They might try to fast-talk the owner into giving it away, they might cast a spell to turn invisible with it... etc. Or they could just not take the briefcase at all, but then they won't get the reward for doing so. Or they could be really creative and steal something else that's valuable.


Essentially, rather than the players coming up with aspects and the GM figures out ways to screw the characters over with them, the GM dumps some pieces of a story on the table and the players put them together however they feel like.

Totally Guy
2012-12-11, 03:45 AM
I think the idea could be improved by having the cues be in conflict with each other.

In Microscope a necessary requirement for a scene is for it to answer a stated question. I think that you intend for scenes with cues to answer a question as well. You aren't directly stating what the question is but providing an answer that makes the question implicit.

If the cues form a dichotomy of equally dramatic but incompatible conditions you present choice and consequences in one instead of presenting a something that looks like an expectation or even a necessity.

Craft (Cheese)
2012-12-11, 04:57 AM
I think the idea could be improved by having the cues be in conflict with each other.

In Microscope a necessary requirement for a scene is for it to answer a stated question. I think that you intend for scenes with cues to answer a question as well. You aren't directly stating what the question is but providing an answer that makes the question implicit.

If the cues form a dichotomy of equally dramatic but incompatible conditions you present choice and consequences in one instead of presenting a something that looks like an expectation or even a necessity.

That... sounds like a fantastic idea. Thanks! I'll give Microscope a look.

Vitruviansquid
2012-12-11, 05:06 AM
As others above me have said, adding Cues would likely encourage your players to do a lot more metagaming. However, I'm of the opinion that this isn't an inherently bad thing. In fact, this metagaming could greatly enhance the roleplaying part of the game by nudging players to act in-genre without outright railroading them.

For instance (and tell me if I'm misinterpreting your idea), if you're playing something that you want to make feel like a Spaghetti Western, and the players just walked into a lawless frontier town, your players will likely go "well, our objective is to collect the bounty on Deadeye Dan, so let's just stop by for supplies, act like perfect gentlemen, not get into any trouble, and be out hunting him by sunrise." This makes sense from the players' perspective as the most efficient and least dangerous way to complete their goal. Yet, this is exactly what you wouldn't expect when you watch a Western movie - characters are supposed to flirt with prostitutes, get into saloon brawls, and stare down menacing gunmen. Well with cues, you could encourage players to do all these staples of the genre without straight up railroading them into it. This allows players to actively devise their participation in the genre (for example, getting them to think of a likely scenario for their character to be caught in a saloon brawl) rather than merely having the genre inflicted upon them.

However, this idea is probably only compatible with some sets of players. I'd keep cues away from players who are outright dismissive of metagame elements, players who are argumentative (I imagine the effect of cues on some players would be like having a paladin morality discussion three times a session), and players who already have a deep understanding of the tone and genre of your campaign (for example, if you and your friends just all watched The Warriors, and you go "I'm going to DM that movie," you probably don't need cues to get your players to act in-genre).

Craft (Cheese)
2012-12-11, 05:34 AM
For instance (and tell me if I'm misinterpreting your idea), if you're playing something that you want to make feel like a Spaghetti Western, and the players just walked into a lawless frontier town, your players will likely go "well, our objective is to collect the bounty on Deadeye Dan, so let's just stop by for supplies, act like perfect gentlemen, not get into any trouble, and be out hunting him by sunrise." This makes sense from the players' perspective as the most efficient and least dangerous way to complete their goal. Yet, this is exactly what you wouldn't expect when you watch a Western movie - characters are supposed to flirt with prostitutes, get into saloon brawls, and stare down menacing gunmen. Well with cues, you could encourage players to do all these staples of the genre without straight up railroading them into it. This allows players to actively devise their participation in the genre (for example, getting them to think of a likely scenario for their character to be caught in a saloon brawl) rather than merely having the genre inflicted upon them.

This was my intention more or less precisely: You've given a wonderful example of what I think cues could help accomplish. Thank you. Though I would add that I intend them to be used for a bit more than that: You could use them not only to encourage genre-appropriateness but also general shifts in tone.

Totally Guy
2012-12-11, 05:47 AM
Another idea this is similar to, going by Vitruviansquid's example, is Keys from Shadow of Yesterday and Lady Blackbird. Except your cues are scene specific in place of character specific keys.

An idea might be to write out some of the keys/cues onto cards and lay three of them onto the table for each scene. You'd say that these Cues are in play for all characters in this scene. Then each time you change scene you could switch out a key card. If you were resricted to only changing one it'd seem less arbitrary than the situation the initial posters feared.

Xefas
2012-12-11, 06:20 AM
Doesn't FATE already have this? I'm not quoting from a book, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but-


1. The GM's power to do this is basically limited to what a character has on their sheet.

Can't you also Compel the Aspects on a Scene, or the Aspects of a Campaign? For instance, if the characters are in a tavern with the Aspect "Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy", could you not Compel that Aspect to be like "Hey, if your business deal gets interrupted by you being dragged into a vicious bar-fight, I'll give you a Fate Point." Doesn't matter if the character has a "Always Looking For A Fight" Aspect or whatever.

This sounds the same as putting a 'Scene Cue' for "Gets into a Bar Fight".

Similarly, if your Campaign has the Aspects "No Man Is An Island", "Everyone Has A Price", and "The Hedgehog's Dilemma", you could Compel "No Man Is An Island" at pretty much any point to offer a Fate Point in exchange for having a character open up to someone else. Doesn't matter if "Desperately Lonely" is an Aspect on their sheet or not.


2. Negative invocation is pretty one-sided. The victims' only choice is to obey and accept the reward or not. I wish the players had more ways to react to it, and had more say over how their characters obey the invocation, if at all.

I'm pretty sure you can haggle. Or offer a variety. "Here's a Fate Point if you break your oath to never kill again, by totally killing this scumbag.", "I think it'd be more dramatic if we built up to it more. How about if I just break his kneecaps and get really close to killing him?", "Okay, sure." I don't think FATE prohibits you talking to each other. Players can also suggest Compels. "Can I get a Fate Point if I break my oath never to kill again, by totally killing this scumbag? My character will be an emotional wreck for months.", "Sounds good."

Craft (Cheese)
2012-12-11, 06:47 AM
Can't you also Compel the Aspects on a Scene, or the Aspects of a Campaign? For instance, if the characters are in a tavern with the Aspect "Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy", could you not Compel that Aspect to be like "Hey, if your business deal gets interrupted by you being dragged into a vicious bar-fight, I'll give you a Fate Point." Doesn't matter if the character has a "Always Looking For A Fight" Aspect or whatever.

This sounds the same as putting a 'Scene Cue' for "Gets into a Bar Fight".

Similarly, if your Campaign has the Aspects "No Man Is An Island", "Everyone Has A Price", and "The Hedgehog's Dilemma", you could Compel "No Man Is An Island" at pretty much any point to offer a Fate Point in exchange for having a character open up to someone else. Doesn't matter if "Desperately Lonely" is an Aspect on their sheet or not.

You can compel non-PC aspects, but not in that way. That kind of compel is mostly a player tool to spend fate points to influence the environment and/or NPCs. You can't use a scene or campaign aspect to compel PC behavior: This sort of thing is what maneuvers and temporary aspects are for. You very well could do the kind of thing you describe, it would just be an ad-hoc house rule. Nothing wrong with that, but since we're discussing potential new house rules anyway...


I'm pretty sure you can haggle. Or offer a variety. "Here's a Fate Point if you break your oath to never kill again, by totally killing this scumbag.", "I think it'd be more dramatic if we built up to it more. How about if I just break his kneecaps and get really close to killing him?", "Okay, sure." I don't think FATE prohibits you talking to each other. Players can also suggest Compels. "Can I get a Fate Point if I break my oath never to kill again, by totally killing this scumbag? My character will be an emotional wreck for months.", "Sounds good."

True, but in my experience self-inflicted compels (I count "offer an alternative compel to the GM" as a self-inflicted one) are never as good as GM-decided ones, as players naturally tend to compel themselves to do things they sorta wanted to do already anyway. Plus, the GM has little input in these cases aside from giving a yes/no; I'd prefer a solution where both sides collaborate. They're not bad by any means but they're not quite good enough.

NichG
2012-12-11, 08:55 AM
So one idea I really liked was I believe a homebrew addition to 4e D&D - they were these cards players could earn that would let them determine one sort of dramatic element of a scene (purely OOC). For instance 'Villain monologues and reveals plans', 'Reinforcements arrive', etc.

What you could do is take a card like this and write one thing on one side, and something else on the other (your 'cue', basically what you have to do to earn this card). Depending on the kind of thing you want to do I'd say let both sides be seen by the players, but you could let only one side (either of them really) be seen and it might still work.

Maybe instead of cues you could call them 'promises'. For instance:

Cue: Captured!
Promise: A mysterious benefactor aids in an escape attempt

Cue: A one on one fight.
Promise: Once when you would otherwise die, you're merely gravely wounded and must take time to recover.

Cue: An indiscretion is committed.
Promise: Someone reveals a piece of blackmail information about a character of your choice.

Things like that.

CarpeGuitarrem
2012-12-11, 03:28 PM
Actually, cues as stated remind me of the XP system in Marvel Heroic (where "XP" is really just a way of unlocking things like characters/allies/resources in the story). You have "Milestones", which have three triggers (for 1, 3, and 10 XP), and which mark a character's progression through a specific arc.

Here's a sample Milestone I lifted from the 'net (http://githyankidiaspora.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/marvel-heroic-role-playing-marvel-milestones/).

Days of Future Past
1 XP Whenever your methods upset or discomfort your allies of the present
3 XP When you tell another hero who they were in the future and what they meant to you
10 XP When you decisively prevent the future from coming to be (at least, in the foreseeable future!) or accept that it is destined to happen.

The 1XP trigger can be triggered multiple times in a scene, I believe. The 3XP trigger can be triggered once per scene, multiple times per Act. The 10XP trigger is hit once, and that marks the end of the Milestone (at which time you pick up another).

Each character has Milestones, and the GM also includes Milestones for the Event currently being run. Characters pick two Milestones total, out of all of that.