Monday, August 31, 2009

[The King is Dead] Alpha First Alpha Draft Alpha

The King of Home is dying and all know she will be gone before many more years pass. Conquer (and hold!) places of Power, fulfill up to 20 secret Agendas, and win cold hard cash determining whose character will become the new King!

Five noble houses vie for control of Home. Shrieve, Tukwon, Ulster, Viewed, and Westerwake. For now. Referenced as STUVW.

1) Everyone read all of these rules if they have not already. Make sure you all agree to play. Find a circular table you can all sit at which has room for the Map, bowl, etc.
2) Place 20 $ apiece in a bowl in the middle of the table, alongside the Map.
3) Everyone secretly bid to get first pick of Factions. Highest bid gets it, everyone else take Presence tokens equal to 2nd-highest bid. Repeat until all Factions are assigned. Whoever has the least Presence, everyone return that many Presence to the bank and then sit in your respective places (noted on the Map). Everyone choose a name for your nation's Leader. This is your main character's name.
4) Play Year 0 (see section A).
5) Play Winter 1 (see section B), then Year 1, then repeat through Winter and Year 5.
6) Whichever Leader has the most Influence becomes the next King! Break ties by whichever Faction would win on the Star (see section C). That Leader's player takes the remaining $ from the bowl (25) and any $ which remain on the Star.

A) During each Year, Factions will attempt to expand their territory. In turn order each player may use as much Presence and place as many Forces as she wishes from her available resources.
A1) Turn order is STUVW, TSWVU, UVWST, VUTSW, WSTUV, STUVW in Years 0-5 respectively.
A2) To use Presence, take the dividers and walk a new border in pencil starting from any spot on your border to any other spot on your border. You must spend 1 Presence for each walk of the dividers. If your new border encloses any part of any opposing Forces you must pay 1 Presence per Force to create the border, then erase the Forces. If your new border encloses a Power without a penny on it that the border did not enclose at the beginning of the turn, place a penny on that Power and place that Power's production on the previous encloser's side on the Star. (If you don't have enough Presence you'll have to find a way to make your expansion smaller, and if you can't you're out of luck. If you take too long trying to make a border work the other players may politely throw things at you.)
A3) To use Forces, once you've spent all the Presence you wish, trace a penny on the map and write the number of Forces represented in the circle. All in pencil.
A4) When the Year is finished, erase all old markings including this Year's Forces. They winter during Winter. Return all Presence tokens to supply but keep all Force tokens. For each Power your border encloses, take its production from the supply.

B) During each Winter, the Factions gather for Winter Court. You will play 5 scenes in Winter, each player taking a turn to frame one scene.
B1) Turn order is STUVW, TSWVU, UVWST, VUTSW, WSTUV in Winters 1-5.
B2) During each scene one player will take on the role of Adjudicator and make judgment calls about situations that either are explicitly called out in the rules or do not seem to be covered in the rules. This player is WSTUV, WVUST, UVWST, SWVUT, STUVW.
B3) To begin a scene, whoever is current player frames a scene and declares which individual Leaders of the Factions are present and not present. The Adjudicator's character may not be present. (During Year 3 the scene framer is the Adjudicator!) For example "in Henry's bedchambers talking over wine; present are Henry and Elizabeth and omnipresent invisible servants".
B4) Each non-Adjudicator player whose Leader is not present picks one character to play who is at least a little sympathetic to her Faction, names the characters if they are new, and shares a very brief background description. "Garibaldi, Henry's personal manservant and wine taster whose daughter is a W."
B5) Each non-Adjudicator player picks an Agenda for this scene in secret from their unused Agendas.
B6) Freeplay until some character doesn't like what's happening, has the capacity to not let it happen, and actively does something to make it not happen, then go to the Star (see C). Either the character's player or the Adjudicator in the case of a Leader character about to become completely unfit to govern may take it to the Star. Also play is paused whenever someone announces that their Agenda has been fulfilled (see D), which players can do at any time when they still have an unfulfilled Agenda. You don't have to stay in the original room or wherever.
B7) Freeplay only stops once all Agendas have been announced or you've gone to the Star twice, so set up scenes appropriately! This part is a group effort and clunky and hopefully will be changed in later versions of the game maybe. When the scene is over feel free to add a few closing words but nothing more of import should happen in this scene.

C) Conflicts are resolved on the Star. In overview, the attacker and defender will choose Sides to determine who wins the conflict and how, then the attacker, defender, and Sides chosen will gain resources.
C1) The defending players are those whose characters are actively trying to prevent something from being the case. Choose exactly one player to be the Defender. Usually it will be obvious; if it is not then the Adjudicator decides. Then the Defender chooses one non-defending player to be the Attacker. Usually it will be obvious; if the Defender is trying to make a non-attacker be the Attacker you may thrown things at her. No one may participate more than once as Attacker or Defender on the Star in a given scene. So you can only get resources from choosing sides once each scene, but you can get resources from being chosen as a side several times.
C2) The Attacker chooses any Side. A Side is one of the Factions.
C3) The player opposite the Attacker and Defender if they're adjacent, or between them if they're not adjacent, chooses who will win the conflict.
C4) The Defender chooses a Side based on whether she needs to win or lose the conflict. See Star diagram for which Sides beat which. S>T>U>V>W>S and S>U>W>T>V>S.
C5) The players of the Sides chosen gain 1 Presence and then take 1 of each distinct resource present on their Side as long as there are 2 or more of that resource. Then the Attacker and Defender take the remaining resources from their respective chosen Sides. Then 1 Force is added to each chosen Side and 1 Presence to each unchosen Side.
C6) The Defender narrates briefly how her chosen side is instrumental in the conflict's outcome. Introduce poison, guards, long-secret schemes, whatever you need to make it make sense, but be brief. If it's absurd compared to an obvious alternative then other players may throw things at you.
C7) Resume freeplay unless this was the second conflict (see B7).

D) During freeplay or just after the second conflict in a scene (see B7) if you have an unfulfilled Agenda you may declare it is fulfilled. Now each other player secretly guesses which Agenda it is, and loot is distributed.
D1) If at least two players guessed correctly, any player who did not must place 1 $ on the Star. ???
D2) All players who guessed correctly gain 2 Presence.
D3) Each Agenda has different effects based on how many players guessed it correctly. Apply the effects.
D4) Resume freeplay unless this was the final Agenda for the scene or if you finishing up the second conflict (see B7).

Partial Tentative Agenda List:

Embarrass a Leader of a Side your Side beats on the Star in front of someone important.
4: Gain 5 Presence. Transfer up to all of the Presence on their Side of the Star to your Side.
3: Gain 4 Presence. Transfer up to half (round up) of the Presence on their Side of the Star to your Side.
2: Gain 3 Presence.
1: Gain 1 Presence.
0: Return 1 Presence to the supply.

Save a Leader of a Side your Side beats on the Star from embarrassment in front of someone important.
4: Gain 2 Influence and 1 Presence. Transfer up to 1 Influence on their Side of the Star to your Side.
3: Gain 2 Influence and 1 Presence.
2: Gain 1 Influence and 1 Presence.
1: Gain 1 Presence.
0: Return 1 Presence to the supply.

The Sides which beat yours or the Sides which yours beats break an agreement between them.
4: Gain 3 Forces and 1 Presence. Transfer up to all of the Forces on their Sides of the Star to your Side.
3: Gain 2 Forces and 1 Presence. Transfer up to 1 Force apiece on their Side of the Star to your Side.
2: Gain 1 Force and 1 Presence.
1: Gain 1 Presence.
0: Return 1 Presence to the supply.

The Sides which beat yours or the Sides which yours beats make an agreement.
4: Gain 2 Influence and 1 Presence. Transfer up to 1 Influence on their Side of the Star to your Side.
3: Gain 2 Influence and 1 Presence.
2: Gain 1 Influence and 1 Presence.
1: Gain 1 Presence.
0: Return 1 Presence to the supply.


[The King Is Dead] Connecting the Star to the fiction

It occurs to me that if picks aren't simultaneous interesting things happen. For example, whoever called the conflict could pick a side and narrate that they're trying to block and how. Then the other player picks a side. She can decide who wins since she picks second, but now it's quite explicit - one thing or the other will occur vis-a-vis Agendas. Better yet. The attacker picks first. That way the defender cannot decide whether to win or lose without knowing what the fiction is. But deciding to lose kinda hurts advocacy rather a lot...

There could be an adjudicator. Hm, okay... that's very intrigue-ish. In all cases not everyone may be fighting. So there is 1 player who overall beats the rest of them. Except there's not. Fine, just say the player in between them. Either opposite if they're adjacent or adjacent if they're not. So the attacker picks a side, then the adjudicator picks a result, then the defender picks a side (there are two with the chosen result) and loot is distributed. Who cares who won? A conflict can only start like this if the GM agrees an Agenda could be at stake. There must be each side of any Agenda available in the game somewhere... so if there's "start a rift between England and France" there must also be "prevent a possible rift between England and France". Defender gets narration responsibility/right. Isn't there a problem with conflicts being really juicy for players? Yes, solve this by having a GM every time, and in fact the GM for a given player's scene is predetermined. You get 5, and the... 3rd? year everyone is their own GM. (Not sure what that does.) That player won't get a conflict in the scene. Or an Agenda. So actually it turns out there are 5*4=20 scenes you get a possible Agenda in. Still fine.

So what's the difference, choosing between two losses or wins on the Star? Ah, the result is not what happens, but what it would look like happened to any hypothetical observers, which may or may not in fact be what happened. The defender's chosen side then must be the side the hypothetical observers concludes "caused" the result. This is fine for all but physical conflicts. How would another House cause you to win a fight if not present? I guess that's when you slip in guards, poison, a sabotaged weapon, etc. It may take playtesting to see if that will work.

[The King Is Dead] Cash per year, Who becomes king?, Armies

Working title: "The King is Dead". Sometime during the game the king will die, and whoever is crowned will win fully 25% of the cash. This is the bomb. No one may play the king. In fact he's descended into dementia. Maybe once a year he'll do something to change the balance of power? Dunno. Can I avoid Kingmaking? Is it desirable to avoid? A possibility is that the king decision comes solely from agendas, so that choosing how to draw the border does not decide it, since border drawing leads to fiction rather than drawing from it.

There are 5 years. Each year should inject a set % into the game, perhaps 15%? So all that matters per money is getting those cities/places of power? If it's less then the other 5k% needs to be given out somewhere. I'll say 15% for now, it gives me more flexibility about cities with multiple %s too.

Turn order during redrawing probably matters a lot. What's the right strategy? If everyone gets a single turn, then whoever's last can grab any Powers in reach without fear of reprisal that year. Whoever's first can't hope to keep much unless it's really hard to take it. I can make it balanced with an initial chit bid, which is a cop-out but for custom maps might be necessary. First player strategy: push up close to as many Powers as possible without taking them? Second player strategy: same thing, maybe take one or two of 1st's Powers... presumably hard. What if three or four borders are near a Power? Ah we assign some things that are only useful for blunting chit use. Armies. Plunk down a couple of those and it takes an extra chit per to enclose them. They come back in winter. So first-mover is somewhat nice, take a Power, fill it with Armies, let the others squabble. Give different numbers of Armies and chit generation and there we go.

Note: it's really easy to retake a Power which you surround in a largish circle if someone just extends an arm into your territory.

In general I'm going to assume everyone brings $20 cash to the table. Should work fine with quarters also ($5 per), but dimes or less might not be good enough... maybe it would, dunno.

So who becomes king then? It must happen or else the 25% is gone. It can't just be an agenda 'cause what if it doesn't happen? It could be a known decision tree of agendas. Or maybe some agendas (3-4 votes) give Votes for king. Actually "Influence" is better than Votes. Whoever has the most at the end gets to be King. Each player has... 25 chances to get an Agenda through. Plenty. Ties are broken by which side wins at rpsls. A 5-way tie splits the $25 pot.

Okay so the currencies available are:

  • $$$: The terminal value. Gained by becoming King and by controlling valuable Powers and by ending up on the Star going to whoever picks it or just getting it if no one picks it. This has no explicit in-fiction analogue.
  • Influence: Feeds into becoming King. Gained by controlling influential Powers and achieving Agenda results. This is the analogue of in-fiction Parliament (or similar) influence.
  • Presence: Feeds into $$$ and Influence. Gained by achieving Agenda results and innate generation. This is the analogue of in-fiction tribute, tax, etc. from areas you definitely control.
  • Armies: Feeds into Presence. Gained by achieving Agenda results, innate generation, and possibly controlling Powers?. This is the analogue of in-fiction armies.

What goes on the Star? Right now it's completely divorced from the fiction and only gets $$$. When the $$$ don't go to a player. So Agendas should add to the Star sometimes. Should Powers generate more? They could easily generate quite a lot. Influence, Presence, Armies, $$$. Sure. So anything that changes hands will go onto the Star instead of to a player that year. But not all at once. First $$$, then Influence, then Presence, then Armies. Is there a 5th thing? Hm now we need at least 3 of a resource to let anyone but the side owner gain from choosing a side. Instead it will need to be "take 1 of any currencies present, then split the remainder evenly among all who chose that side, winner taking the extras". Plus gain 1 Presence of course. Why not just put everything on your side? Any time a side wins, add something to it afterward. Better, after each conflict add something to every side. 1 Armies to the chosen sides, 1 Presence to each other side.

Armies become much worse as the game progresses. Agenda result: gain the ability to turn Armies into Presence.

Incentivize letting others complete their agendas

Just realized it would be way better if the scene starter had incentives to have others' agendas come up. So for each successfully completed agenda other than her own, she gets a chit. Actually... for each raised agenda, completed or not.

Also what do we do to prevent players from simply saying their agendas out of character? Two possibilities. One is all agendas are explicitly things other people do so if you say it it's obvious. The other is some kind of voting thing. Put it on the list of things to consider. (Obviously you can just say "it's cheating" but what's the procedure then when someone 'cheats'? It can't be "stop playing" or there's incentive to do so when behind...)


This is going to be a game with monetary rewards. 'cause I want to write a board game and and RPG, and one needs win conditions and the other just feedback/rewards, and win conditions interfere mightily with roleplaying. Real money is well known to force some calibration on others' utility functions... I'm guessing I can do something like "25% of the pot for the board game, turn in tokens for a % apiece, etc." and have it work well.

So! A game for 5 people. Sitting around a circular table. Rock paper scissors lizard spock. That makes a star. The secret bets make intrigue. Seabird? Fleur-de-lis? Dividers? The Fleur-de-lis I may be able to get in with 5 noble families vying for power. So a Song of Ice and Fire game? Ha, dividers even makes redrawing boundaries... okay, let's have the game be threefold. One: roleplaying 5 noble houses. Specifically (why not) a lowly family with a member in each house... no, the rulers. Who are of course through intermarrying all related. Each year the Winter Court is the scene! The Lion in Winter. During the year boundaries are redrawn, and during the court boundaries are redrawn. Each place of power you control for the entirety of a year is worth a $. Any that change hands provide a pot of $ to be won by ???. The resolution mechanic is of course the star rpsls with modifications to utilities. And what then provides the reason for roleplaying? Who decides who gets the $?

If I were Vincent Baker I'd have something where you must listen to the fiction to determine which moves are allowed and desirable, and then listen to the board game to determine which moves are allowed and desirable, and only then be able to pick your move. Or something. Instead I'll do what I see as an AP right now.

During the non-winter: turn resources into boundary redraws. Something like a chit gives you a swing of the dividers. During the winter: start a scene with N major players and a house cap. Everyone else chooses a minor player or players from allowed houses. The scene is Public, Private, or Secret, plus say where it is specifically, like King Henry's bedchambers. Stealing from Microscope? Ask a question. No implicit border redrawing. No, I don't like it. Write a secret agenda. No, choose a secret agenda from a pile. Everyone. Intrigue! Start off the scene. If you fulfill your agenda, announce it immediately. That you've fulfilled it, not the agenda itself. Now all the other players guess what your agenda was. You get two chits for each of them that were right, and each of them that were right get a chit. Continue the scene until everyone with a secret agenda has announced its completion? No, you'll just wait and turn it into something completely different. Continue until the scene starter has announced. Afterwards no one gets theirs and the scene starter epilogues briefly. Each player gets one chance to start a scene in Winter and there will be 5 years for different order. Dunno exactly what scenes look like yet. Maybe you even have a little stack of secret agendas. Yes. And you may use each once. Ah ha! And each secret agenda has on it some kind of resource buff for achieving it! On paper at least this achieves baker-nature I think. They each have a table, 0-1-2-3-4 of rewards you get for that many votes. Every differential must have value smaller than 3 chits or else other players have incentive to vote for random things. It should be standard to get 3-4 votes. Eh, maybe not. Okay so many agendas need to be subtle and not worth a lot because otherwise there's just no way they'll be accomplished in someone else's scene. Each differential needs to be worth more than 1 chit though.

If everyone announces their agenda is complete before the scene starter then the scene is over. If there's *any* ambiguity then all involved get their chance at votes. There should be a penalty for getting 0-1 votes? Maybe. Dunno. There must be to avoid spamming. Okay so agendas are gambles. But not big gambles unless you're trying to game something. Hm, scene starter specifies one player to be GM, and by that I mean someone who makes the resolution system come into play. Why would it happen? As usual, someone tries to do something which isn't immediately possible. Okay you get chits for including at least one other Head but don't have to and anything anyone does against a non-Head is successful. So Heads can talk, and if they try to do something that another Head actively opposes resolution occurs. This is where the star comes in with rpsls but I don't know how yet. If your point is chosen you get a chit, and chits accumulate on points. Ah, any time you call for resolution the GM gets to decide whether it's something we'd be fine winning or losing within about 20-80%? If not the caller gets a chit and a random point is wiped? But who watches the GM..... no, anytime is fine. The GM needs to only affect chit or $ flow between the parties involved. So a difficulty level. The harder the block the more chit flow from blocker to attacker.

Five levels. If it's trivial, ... wait. Okay you get at most one resolution per scene. Attacker or blocker. If you've had yours then you can no longer do something requiring resolution, GM decides. Okay, five levels. If it's trivial then the blocking player stands to win 2 chits from the attacker if she (the blocker) wins. So... anytime someone calls for resolution the attacker can instead say yes. If it's really hard the blocking player stands to give 2 chits to the attacker if she loses. & in between of course. No make it 4 levels so there's no "nothing happens" result.

What about multi-way? The blocker determines which player is the resolver. Multi-way blocks? If only one is possible, fine. Otherwise... if they can decide, fine. Otherwise... GM chooses which is most appropriate and choice is final. Okay then. And of course whoever's point is chosen gets a chit$resource and you get whatever resources are on the point you choose. What about ties? On a tie whoever's point it is chooses who wins? Harsh. Instead, takes 1 of each type of resource that's there, chooses who wins, splits the rest evenly, takes any leftover. So stack those resources by you. Whatever that'll mean.

All right! Make up some setting, each house, agenda list, specify which resources go where, make a map, maybe a way to add or subtract places of power? on agendas likely, how to put resources on the resolution star. Try & playtest once, revise once, & boom, done.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Game Chef 2009

I'm in.