Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Diceless Role-Playing

Yay!  Grading is done for Spring term.  (Well, pretty much.  I have one student who needed to take the final exam late, and a second who I allowed to turn in the project late.)

Blogging has been light as the term ended.  But more than school work kept me from writing little essays for your enjoyment.

During April and May I read The Great Book of Amber, a few pages each day.  It is a fun story.  I could read it a bit at a time since it is not overflowing with too many characters to easily keep track of.

Reading the stories prompted me to investigate Erick Wujcik's famous role-playing game, Amber Diceless.  I had heard of this game system years ago.  But I only thought about it when in game stores, where I have never seen a used copy for sale, and was unaware it is still popular and new versions are still being created (in fact, you can buy a patronage for the current effort, if that floats your boat).

The online reviews of Amber Diceless were very positive, not only about the game but about the many pages Wujcik devoted to general "how to play a RPG well" discussion.  The book is both a rulebook for a new RPG game and Wujcik's legacy as a leader in the gaming community.

So I got a copy, and found it extremely thought-provoking and beneficial.

My wife graciously agreed to experiment with changing our game's system to be diceless.  This was not easy, but I eventually came up with something pleasing and original.

There are numerous diceless RPGs, but among them are only a few ways to resolve "ties" when competing characters are close in skill or ability.
Three Variations on Tie-Breaking

Amber Diceless, which focuses on combat, uses a "rock, scissors, paper" vicious circle.  Most combat actions were opportunistic stands that were cautiously defensive unless the opponent messed up and left an opening.  This was slow but sure, yet vulnerable to a furious attack that displayed more energy and skill than the character could actually maintain.  Finally, being so aggressive against a foe who was purely defensive was a mistake since the aggressor would become worn out quickly; being purely defensive also maximized the information taught by hits: if wounded you were clearly outclassed, and if you hurt the foe when overly cautious you were clearly more skilled.

Many diceless RPGs seem to give each player a small pool of "luck" or "karma" points that must last the adventure or campaign, and can be spent as tie-breakers in important situations.

Some diceless RPGs require most contests continue until one character makes use of a situational advantage.  Arugment Diceless Storytelling by Rainer Koreasalo and Martin Lamontagne's Diceless version of Risus by S. John Ross are two free examples.
Anyway, my new diceless RPG system uses something new, rather than any of these three game mechanics.  I think it is more conducive to suspenseful and fun storytelling.

Hopefully I'll be ready to share more soon.