Wednesday, 23 January 2013

19 Questions about Hands of Fate

This post is about answering some design questions that were posed in an older blog that I find still useful and informative. It’s helped me realize more about the system that I’m developing than a simple read through of the rules would, and the motivations behind some of the decisions I’ve made are revealed. I’m referencing an article found here and without further ado, the questions:
1] What is HoF about?   HoF is about struggling to survive and bring light to a brutal world of dark fantasy. It is also about creating a collaborative role-playing experience by getting the players involved in creating the story as well.
2] What do the Characters do? They work together to form teams strong enough to make a name for themselves and amass power and reputation.
3] What do the Players do? Manage the use of cards to represent the capabilities of their characters, and take part in steering the story by placing their characters in the limelight.
4] How does the HoF setting reinforce what the game is about? The setting describes a world where people live by the sword and there is little in the way of civilization outside of the cities. The protectors of the realm were not too long ago invaders, and they may be too spread out to make a difference. It is up to characters like the PC’s to try and stem the growing tide of evil.
5] How does the Character Creation of HoF reinforce what the game is about? Character creation allows the players to create any sort of role they wish to play, unfettered by archetypes that limit their capabilities. They can play a magic wielding, sword chopping, and armour clad hero if they wish. Their vision of what their character should be is what drives the development of the character during creation.
6] What types of behaviours/play styles does HoF reward (or punish)? HoF encourages participation, by involving the player in the story creation. When characters step up, their results are not just dictated by the roll of a die, or play of a card; they gain control of the storytelling itself. The GM moderates the telling and prompts for responses. Extra XP is awarded for good storytelling and interesting twists that develop because of player input.
7] How are behaviours / play styles rewarded or punish in HoF? As mentioned, XP is awarded immediately for great player created input, as opposed to generic awards at the end of a session or chapter. Players who choose not to participate, who stay back and just watch, trail behind the others in growth. Players who abuse the narrative privileges find complications and difficulties arising to compensate.
8] How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in HoF? The GM’s responsibility is to moderate the story, and to ensure that balance is maintained. The players must make a conscious effort to put their characters into the story, take action, and take a turn at telling how their actions pan out. The GM must create scenarios that ensure the players have a chance to enact their role.
9] What does HoF do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?) Since the players have a measure of control over how events pan out, they become more connected to the story than in other styles. The lethal combat system means every encounter can be extremely dangerous and multiple opponents are bad news. Players must think carefully before committing their characters to a fight.
10] What are the resolution mechanics of HoF like? The use of playing cards as opposed to dice allows a broader range of modification to the results, to better simulate different effects and conditions. Comparing individual card values in a combat exchange is one example, defending against an attack is a conscious action that means counter attacks have pros and cons, such as weapon speed. Holding cards in the Hand allows players to plan for large or well executed attacks and actions, and the loss of these cards from the Hand represents more chaos in a scene.
11] How do the mechanics of HoF reinforce what the game is about? The ability to plan for actions by using cards held in the Hand allows the players to put themselves in the limelight and take control of the narrative. During combat it allows for more tactical responses to enemy actions, and outside of combat it allows for cinematic ‘coolness’ actions.
12] Do characters in HoF advance? If so, how? The awarding of Experience Points allows the players to spend these points directly on how they envision their character growing. The lack of character ‘Levels’ means the advance of each character is not linear, but growth is deliberate and exactly how the player envisions their character growing. XP is spent on Skills, Talents and Attributes to advance the characters, and increases derived statistics appropriately.
13] How does the character advancement reinforce what Hof is about? By giving more power to the players to steer their characters’ growth how they wish, it enables them to tailor the actions they wish to be good at, and thus have a greater chance of controlling the story.
14] What sort of product or effect do I want HoF to produce in or for the players? HoF aims at establishing a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from contributing to a great story. Each player can add to the story elements that they themselves find ‘cool’ or fun. I also wish to ensure that players maintain a constant healthy fear of character death, as combat should always be a risky endeavour, not just a means to an end or sources of experience points.
15] What areas of HoF receive extra attention and colour? Why? The 4 magic systems, especially Sorcery, needed a lot of detail as the concepts behind them can be difficult to convey. The free-form style of Sorcery and Benedictions needed a solid framework to build on, and in trying to develop this there needed to be a lot of information put down. Hopefully in the future there will be supplements to build on the concepts, providing more flavour and examples of use to better illustrate how they can be used. Conditions play an important aspect to combat and gameplay, and it was important to provide a solid list of possible ways to hamper and disadvantage characters in play besides plain vanilla damage.
16] Which part of Hof am I excited about or interested in and why? I’m very excited to see how stories pan out when everyone takes part in it. There is bound to be plots that end up so whacky and twisted that they would make for excellent experiences for everyone. Players plotting against each other, or teaming up against the GM, there is potential for tension in almost every action taken. The brutality of the combat makes for fun, visceral encounters and already in play testing we’ve got favourite events that we mention again and again. Damn you archers!
17] Where does HoF take the players that other games cant, don’t or won’t? There is no road to create impossibly tough warriors, no fight that might not end up with the death of a character, there is no hand holding or nursing through early levels of play. With players investing so much in the story by being a part of it’s very creation the threat of it all ending at the point of a sword is very real. This makes victory that much sweeter, and glorious sacrifice meaning so much more.
18] What are my publishing goals for HoF? Publishing in Digital Media, in the form of downloadable PDFs and utilising a Print On Demand feature of the publishing website. I plan to take advantage of and their exclusive publishing offer and hopefully it will gather some interest. I am not building this game with the sole purpose of profit, but making a little cash out of it means the wife will let me play more games and spend time on my hobbies (instead of mowing lawns and washing dishes – unless she reads this, in which case yes, honey, I’ll do the lawn when I’ve finished this upload).
19] Who is my target audience? While it takes a certain person to be interested in RPG’s in general , we as a subculture have our own divisions and sub-subcultures. People interested in HoF I hope to be people who put the story telling aspect of a game above all else, and who enjoy tactical combat that does not involve hours of hammering on to  bosses and slowly witling away a pool of health. Obviously the more experienced players will understand a lot of the reasons why HoF is different, but I hope that newer gamers will also find it interesting.
Thanks for reading, I hope these questions have answered a lot of questions and piqued interest in more mind. If anyone wants to learn more I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.