View Full Version : Minigames, Multigames, & Archetypes

2013-05-22, 07:36 PM
I played in a campaign where I rolled an Inquisitor and instead became a caravaneer. While the DM was busy telling other people the plot, I was looking at a spreadsheet he half-heartedly generated, and over 2 sessions, I developed trade routes, calculating how much I needed to pay guards so they'd be loyal to my caravan, how many guards I needed in the first place, if I should buy horses for quicker travel, and so forth. I really have no idea what the heck is going on in the world yet, but the rest of the party likes money, so they hang out with me, and fight things that stand in the way of me and my profit. I found this to be a blast, and I have yet to lift a finger in combat.

This got me thinking about minigames in role-playing. I'm playing a completely different game than the rest of the party, who are concerned on how to properly defeat monsters. This minigame is only very slightly slowing down the session at all--I'm just operating on a different level than everyone else. I got to wondering how many minigames there are. I've compiled a list of mine that I won't share yet, for fear of biasing the responses.

Another thing it got me to thinking about is archetypes. My character, a Merchant, is a LOT like Mal Reynolds or Han Solo. I'm concerned about the Next Job, and keeping us flying. Except with horses, instead of space-ships. If I wanted to play a Han/Mal character, rules for trading (with Mission Boards for odd jobs) would help me a lot for really getting into the role. A blaster and a smirk are nice, but those characters, at their heart, are NOT fighters. Or Rangers, or Rogues even. I need to play a different game than Combat to properly get into the role, I think.

Speaking of the Combat mini-game, I've thought about character archetypes in stories, and few of them are actually Fighters. I don't necessarily mean that in the sense that they're Roy; Vaarsuvius and Harry Dresden (especially in later books) are largely about combat smashiness. Mess with them, and you become a smouldering pile of ash. Give them a situation that needs to be handled with tact or stealth, and they are... less formidable. I've compiled a starting list of character archetypes, and each one seems like it needs a minigame to focus on, Combat being just one of them.

The Merchant (Han Solo/Mal) - Caravaneers or craftsmen (Dresden, the Early Years might count)

The Researcher (Captain Nemo, lots of sci-fi characters) - Inventors and explorers

The Warrior (Boromir, Thor, Col. Jack O'Neill) - Brawlers and Leaders

The Politician (William Tell, King Arthur) Priests/Demagogues and Advisors/Influencers of Key People

The Thief (Hudson Hawk, Pink Panther, Ocean's 11) Stealth and Con Artists

I kinda forget where I'm going with this, other than ways of developing these minigames so that they're not a chore for the DM to offer the party. Combat is easy, just random encounter an Ogre at them, and watch it go... Hopefully these other minigames can be similarly easy to provide, while not interfering with the other games that other players are playing.

(And finally, apologies if wrong forum, or old topic I should have necro'd.)

2013-05-22, 07:45 PM
I've thought this about D&D a lot, as a solid chunk of each core rulebook is dedicated towards combat in all of its horrendous tediousness. But then there's Shadowrun and early D&D psionics which, in their earlier incarnations, separated one player from the rest. Many disliked this, as the game had to slow down and switch focus to that player alone.

What we can take from this is that any subgame, emergent or otherwise, needs to feed into the others, so that every player can play the game they want without disrupting the others.

2013-05-22, 07:52 PM
The idea is solid, but the problem with these kinds of minigames in general is that people don't like to sit around doing nothing and most GMs (self included) are not good at multitasking. It's like what Spoony says about deckers in Shadowrun (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVnCxG1IsXw); if the minigame takes too long and leaves the other players with nothing to do, it's disruptive.

So my benchmarks for a successful minigame would be that it requires minimal GM adjudication so that it can run in the background, has room for other non-specialized PCs to participate/help if they want to, and isn't too "important" that it takes the spotlight off the main action.

2013-05-22, 09:57 PM
I'd agree that, for the most part with what you said. Minigames should be able to be run at the same time as others, and everyone should be able to help (albeit at different degrees). I'd niggle about what 'the main action' is... the boring bits of a campaign, like the shooting and the stabbing and the blammity blam blam jazz, that's a perfect time for me to look at my spreadsheets and focus on what's REALLY important. IE, Combat should not be assumed to be the main action, it's just another mini-game. In a lot of good stories, that's how it is, so I'm trying to model that.

My Merchant requires a list of trade goods, the price that I can buy them, and typical values that they are usually purchased at. This sort of DM prep actually sounds a lot easier than making monster stats for a combat. The face time I require with the DM will involve haggling, listening for rumours of shortages/gluts, etc, which can be relatively quick to do, as opposed to the irrelevant hour-long fights that interrupt my game (and while I can throw rocks and contribute to the fight, I know that it's really Jayne with his gun that's kicking ass, not me). It supplements the Combat players because I need someone to watch my back from bandits, and in turn I give them money to better outfit themselves. It should have similar interaction with Researchers, Politicians, and Thieves.

I have an idea for the Political minigame, that every month in-game a new political movement occurs, separate from any plot-related politics going on. Like the trade values tables, this could be randomly generated, and would serve the function of a Political Random Encounter. Peasants are demanding less taxation, or a local ruler seeks independence from his liege, or examine corruption in the magistrature. Players could support, oppose, or ignore, but the effects should be felt for the rest of the game. Here, I should note that no minigame should be FORCED upon a campaign - if the party wants to ignore politics or trading, that's fine, they'll just have random wrenches thrown in their plans, and be a bit poorer.

I am less certain on how to make Thief minigames that can be run without requiring a lot of face time, and also without heavy DM influence. The best that I've got is that the Thief mentions he's casing a joint, draws up a map, and the DM will then sketch in patrols and secretly place traps. So... I guess spitball ways you'd make these minigames work, such that the player just needs some simple raw data, and imagineers the rest. I'll post ideas as they come, but other than what I have, I'm running out of steam :)

2013-05-23, 12:41 AM
As a DM, I can promise you that non-combat stuff takes just as long, and sometimes longer, to plan compared to combat stuff. Honestly, if one of my players was doing what you're doing, it would probably be a lot more work for me. I'd probably end up spending hours researching the price of goods, how trade and such was handled in medieval periods and figuring out how prices and access to goods varied depending on season, location and random events. While your haggling can be done quickly in character, it represents a fair amount of prep time for me, while a single fight that takes two hours may have been stated up and put together in half an hour. Putting together a system that determines actual, in game effects from different political changes would probably take me quite a while to hammer out and settle on.

I'm not saying this can't or shouldn't be done. I've successfully implemented these sorts of minigames before. But each time I did, they represented a very large amount of out of game work for me, and usually had to be monitored carefully and fixed as we played because they didn't quite work. Even then, I've had ones that failed miserably, ending up uninteresting to the players involved, and breaking the action too heavily, leaving some players feeling disconnected.

Unless, and often even if, they come already worked out with the game system itself, it requires the GM to put together an entirely new system, adjudicate it, and try to balance how well it fits with the rest of the world and the rest of the party. You need to make sure that it has an impact so that the players involved don't feel like they're wasting their time, but it can't draw away from the other players or they'll be bored. It's a very fine balancing act, and I really don't think it would work for some of the types you're suggesting.

That thief one, for example. I don't think that you could pass off something like that as a minigame like merchant work or political changes, unless you adjudicate it entirely by random rolls without actual play time or boil it down to a single decision. Same with combat. They're too heavily involved, require too much player and GM interaction, and dependent on many changing events that have to be responded to in real time. Trade can be handled by making a few decisions, the effects of which will be seen a short while down the line and can be responded to then. Breaking into a manor to steal a valuable jewel typically requires a lot more immediate decisions and responses.

Again, please don't take this as a condemnation of the idea or what you are doing. If you and everyone playing with you are having fun, you're doing it right. Finding a way to make this work would be interesting, and I hope that you manage to figure out a way to implement this sort of system if that's what you enjoy playing. My whole point here was to provide the point of view and experiences of someone who primarily GMs.

2013-05-23, 12:03 PM
Eh, I'm usually a DM -- my awesome Merchanting experience came from a newbie DM who just half-assed some data my way. I'll grant that perhaps a lot of my enjoyment of it came from making new rules based off the info I got, and doing everything that you mentioned that you would do as DM prepwork - figuring out how the economy worked. I'd also make the argument that a DM should be wary of over-planning. A 3 minute haggling session is not something that a DM should bother anticipating... nor possibly the foundations of the economy as well. In this model, the DM is JJ Abrams, making an exciting story, the players are nerds finding plot holes and justifying how they work.

I realize that's not for everyone, but it may need to be a necessary assumption to develop this idea. I'm not giving up on it, so please direct advice more on how to improve, rather than to abandon.

So, yeah, the Thief idea will need a lot of crapton of work. I'll probably buy the game Monaco and see what ideas I can steal. Til then I'll put it on hold.

Political minigame: Every month, a Mandatory Bonus Political Event (MBPE) occurs, which can be determined via a random roll. Players can also attempt to start their own political factions. Influencing either a random MBPE or starting a faction works the same.

Leader - Convincing a Leader directly will settle the matter. Being granted an audience will require a certain amount of reputation, depending on the Leader's Rank (An adventurer may be notable enough for a Baron to grant audience, but not notable enough for a King). Once given an audience, the player(s) can make their case; if greatly successful, MBPE is resolved. If partially successful, the players may have to complete a Quest (to further the Leader's agenda in some matter or another, compensate for the cost of implementing MBPE, etc.) Refusal or failure is dangerous, resulting in a generous and merciful fine of 100 gold per Ruler's Rank, or being declared traitors or criminals.

Advisors - The players will have to locate and bribe/persuade/intimidate 5 key aides to the leader, to convince him to implement MBPE. Money, fast-talking, and blackmail are highly encouraged. Thief-type characters will be excellent assistants.

Populace - The players need to generate a Public Support of 100% to pass MSBE without a revolt (90% for a revolt that receives a grade of A, 80% for a B revolt, etc). MSBEs probably start out with 25% support for them to exist as a faction, and fail at 0% (or from a thwarted revolt). Each commoner convinced to join/leave the faction counts as 1 point, and Village Elders (physicians, wise men, low-level priests, professionals) count as 5 points. At 70%, effort will be needed to PREVENT revolts, and the 3 most likely revolutionaries will be identified. Priestly characters will be particularly helpful when dealing with the populace.


2013-05-23, 01:45 PM
Are you familiar with Pathfinder's Kingmaker series?

The premise is that a group of adventurers go south to the unclaimed land, explore, and ultimately set up a city state/kingdom for themselves.

There are a lot of subsystems within the adventure path that involves a lot of the minigame ideas brought forth: rolling once a month for political intrigue, seeing how the populace likes your rule, random events that shake up the region, etc.

On a similar vein the 1E Oriental Adventures had a calendar where you would roll for different events that would go on during each month and the overarching theme for the year.

At the very least there should be some ideas for you to work with.

2013-05-23, 04:30 PM
ACKS (Adventurer, Conqueror, King System) has these "minigames" built into its core, with rules for recruiting followers and mercenaries, keeping them loyal, ruling kingdoms, temples, running/creating your own dungeons (and dealing with adventurers), conducting magical research, running criminal organizations, merchant ventures, and so on.

I haven't had so much time to look into it, but each "minigame" is relatively light, and the system expects everyone to "do their own thing in their downtime" (in addition to running small groups of mercenaries to help out in dungeons) so it could be worth checking out.

EDIT: Okay that's a lie, the economic system isn't light at all. I told you I didn't read it very much. I should probably be getting paid for talking about this game so much.

2013-05-23, 05:20 PM
Interesting! This is encouraging - this is what I'm looking for. Not familiar with any Pathfinder specifics, nor ACKS - I took a peek hoping for some open-source mechanics. I might have to purchase me some ACKS as well, as it sounds akin to what I'm suggesting - light DM involvement, and general frameworks for non-smashy stuff.

Any exotic mechanics from them you're willing and able to share?

2013-05-24, 11:02 AM
Sadly I do not have the Kingmaker adventure path, so I don't have any of the specifics of that system. I was a player in a campaign.

I do remember that our city had random festivals to increase morale. There were trade routes established with some of the surrounding areas.