Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Rucht Hour: Game Design Time!

So, we've had two posts about the world of Alpha Wolf Pack, now lets sneak a peek at some of the game mechanics.

In the game, there three types of scenes - dramatic scenes, action scenes, and tactical scenes. Dramatic and action scenes use one system, while tactical combat uses another. Tactical combat uses a minis-friendly, yet cinematic approach while dramatic and action scenes use a more narrative, cooperative storytelling approach.

Today, we'll look the basics of how dramatic scenes are tackled.

Roll camera!

No matter what kind of scene you're involved in, the most important attribute of your character are his or her Virtues. These are four initial qualities that you come up with. They can be anything you want, but should be a single word. For example, your character might have the Virtues of Honor, Loyalty, Discipline, and Grit; while your friend's character has the Virtues of Recklessness, Wit, Glory, and Camaraderie. You can have Virtues that are the same or similar to your pal's.

Each Virtue has a value from 0 to 4. They all start a 1 at the beginning of a tour of duty. We'll get into how these are used in a minute.

As we've said before, a dramatic scene is a sort of cooperative storytelling exercise. It uses a dice pool system. That means, you'll be rolling multiple dice every time you try to do something and counting up the number of "successes" you have. A success is declared on a 5 or 6 of the dice roll. You always roll a number of dice equal to the skill you want to use.

So, if you're using your Leadership skill to give your unit a pep talk, you would roll as many dice as you have in your Leadership skill. Let's say, in this case, it's 4. You would roll 4 six-sided dice and see how many 5's or 6's you get.

Using Your Virtues

Now, let's see you use your Leadership to give that pep talk, but roll 4, 3, 3, and 1. No 5's or 6's in sight. Huh. A complete failure. At this point, you can use one of your character's Virtues to enhance your roll. This is called invoking. Let's say in this case, you invoke your character's Honor. This means that you're using your own character's sense of honor to appeal to your men. It also means that, as you roleplay, you need to include in the scene your character bringing up his sense of honor and justice amongst his soldiers. If you invoked a different Virtue, like Recklessness, then you'd need to play the scene entirely differently. If you used Recklessness, perhaps your character appeals to his unit through his wild and maverick nature.

Invoking at Virtue gives you an extra die to roll. If that die still doesn't get you a success, you can keep on invoking your Virtue until you get a success or it taps out. You can only invoke one Virtue at a time. So, if you choose to invoke your Discipline Virtue, that's what you are using. You cannot switch to another Virtue.

So, here's the interesting part. Each time you invoke a Virtue, it goes up by one. That's right, it goes up. You don't spend your Virtues, because it doesn't make narrative sense. When you use your own honor to boost someone's morale, your honor isn't depleted. It's encouraged and emboldened.

But there is a danger of your Virtue getting too high. If your Virtue gets to 4, it cannot get any higher. At that point, it is considered obsessed. Meaning, you've invoked your Virtue too much. You've invoked it to the point that it's no longer a character strength, but a character flaw. In fact, your Virtue even gets renamed. So, in the case of Honor, if it becomes obsessed, it might become Martyrdom. Perhaps it means that you're so obsessed with your own honor that you're willing to sacrifice your own life or even the lives of the soldiers beneath you. You get to define what your Virtue becomes when it is obsessed.

There is also a danger if your character fails. If you fail in a roll during a dramatic scene, your Virtue gets knocked back all the way to 1 less than it was when you started the scene. So, if your started with a Virtue of 2, invoke it to 4 but still fail, it gets knocked back all the way to 1. If you started the scene with a Virtue of 1, use it to try to get a success, but fail, it becomes 0. You can only lose points from a Virtue you use in a scene.

In this case, failing at your dramatic action causes your character to become demoralized. This does reduce your character's Virtue. If your character's Virtue ever becomes 0, then it is considered devastated. Just like when your Virtue gets maxed out, if it bottoms out to 0, it gets renamed. For someone with Honor it might become Cynical - it means that your character has temporarily lost his sense of honor and becomes bitter for a time. This is just an example, of course. You get to rename your own Virtue when it becomes Devastated.

Just like when a Virtue gets maxed out, when your Virtue hits 0, you cannot use it anymore.

Whenever a Virtue becomes obsessed or devastated, you can only use it again when your character passed through a Crucible. A Crucible is basically a scene in which your character has to confront his flaw in a real and meaningful way. Maybe because your character's Honor has become Martyrdom, he has to be talked down from sending his unit into a highly dangerous situation. Maybe he becomes Cynical until a situation arises when his men really need him.

And here's the best part - you, as the player, determine and frame your own Crucible. You get to decide how your character overcomes their own character flaw. If you pass your Crucible, your Virtue is raised to 1 or reduced by one to 3 - depending upon if it was Obsessed or Devastated.

More on this later, when we talk about how dramatic scenes work with a group of players.


  1. A lot of interesting concepts there. Encourages roleplaying for actual in game effect and reward. I could see that.

    My only concern is the virtue mechanic becoming too... gamey. Players start using it as a game mechanic than a roleplay hook. Or creative players could find a way to min/max it. I guess that could be true though for any system.

    Looking interesting guys, keep us updated with the details.

  2. I can the concern about Virtues being too gamey. I think the only way we will be able to discover if this is the case is through more playtesting. As far min/maxing, you actually can't mix-max Virtues. Because you don't want them to be too high or too low. That's what I think it kind of neat. The only way you can avoid Virtues getting too high or too low is not to use them.

  3. We min/maxing isn't all about getting something as high as possible, its about a player picking up other things, like feats or whatnot that work specifically to getting him big bonuses when using virtues or something like that. this will be especially true since virtues will be open ended or player defined. That can be a whole can of worms in of itself.