Monday, January 31, 2011


It is frustrating to be working on a project which I can't talk about online.  For my own sanity, however, I want to occasionally write out some of my thoughts and feelings, along with challenges I'm facing and puzzles I am sorting out - even if I can't talk about specifics.  I am talking about the interaction mechanic referred to and discussed on this blog up until ten days ago.  Contrary to one assessment at least, I have not burned out on the idea.  In fact, I have conceived of at least ten new elements affecting the epiphany I had, all of which seem to slide neatly and conveniently into the IMech's process.

These days, I tend to see the system as more of a conflict resolution than as an interactive mechanic.  This is not to say that the goal of the system is to be combative - only that various persons tend to move at cross-purposes to one another, and the system is intended to resolve that.  For example, John is in love with Mary, who may or may not be in love with John.  The resolution of that uncertainty can be an annoying thorn in the side of a DM.  The system I've conceived of solves it.

At this point, I have explained the idea to several very trusted people.  I have taken steps to have the idea copywritten, having printed out a description and mailed it to myself.  I've received the unopened mail and it will remain unopened.  From time to time I will be sending additional material to myself, as I have additional ideas.  Those people I have told have given me some good ideas, and have pointed out some challenging issues.  To date, no one has found a hole in the system.  I haven't found a hole myself.  It's tight and it ought to be dramatic.  My explaining it has shown people the drama.  It allows for party strategy and it creates situations where everything can hinge on one person - even the dumbest fighter in the party.  Conflicts can be resolved in three way situations, or any situation with any number of speakers.  I could conceivably have a dialogue between two armies that - eventually - resolved the conflict without anyone ever pulling a weapon.  Though that would be unlikely.  People tend to get angry when they're talked to.

The system is very flexible.  It allows parties who wish to roleplay to go on roleplaying, as I have created a series of cards which suggests the nature of the interaction without being a straight jacket.  For example, an individual could choose to Reason with his opponent; while the card indicates that the type of activity is one of using one's intellect, the exact words spoken are entirely left up to the player.  But the result allows a resolution to be determined, one way or the other.  Without getting too far into the meat of it, the idea I've had is a combination between cards and dice - which provides a much needed random element, which in turn serves to heighten the drama.

I began to realize during the formative stage that what was needed was a system that would have the same learning curve as, say, being taught how to wash dishes.  Yes, there are things to remember, about how to wipe the glasses, and what to wash first and what to wash last, and the difference between clean and dirty, and how hot the water should be and so on.  But after awhile, there really isn't anything new to learn about dishes.  After awhile, you don't get better at washing the dishes.  After awhile, the dishes just get clean.

This is not to say that the system I'm offering is as dull as cleaning dishes.  Only that, after a certain point, anyone can play.  Unlike a lot of systems, the process does not get dominated by the smartest, most innovative player at the table.  Combat in D&D is that way.  You don't get smarter at rolling the d20 to hit.  After a certain point, you're subject to the result of the die no matter how smart you are.

That said, I wanted to finish up by describing what sorts of interactions between peoples I wanted to solve.  Through most of my previous discussions, I used things like bribing a guard.  I want it said that there are many more possibilities.

One that was suggested last night to me was the possibility of resolving a court-room drama.  Between the judge, the prosecution and the defense, how is the jury influenced exactly if the game comes down to the DM and the players roleplaying the scene?  Chances are, as things stand now, the DM would have to invoke a lot of relatively meaningless die rolls that would give unsatisfying results, particularly from a dramatic perspective.  The fellow who brought this up to me last night was astounded to realize my system solved that problem.

If a player decides that they want a princess to be in love with that player, how does he or she go about making it happen?  Usually, this would be resolved as die roll, one time only.  But suppose there was a system that allowed for the player's actions and efforts to eventually win over his or her intended?  I believe I have that.

What of a situation where a group of players decides to rouse a town against a rising disaster, natural or otherwise?  How do you determine how many people of the town believe the players, and which people resist?  Usually, the DM decides.  Instead, now, the system would decide, and the DM would have tools provided by that system that would possibly counteract the party, while the party would have tools to counteract the DM.  And in a manner that was not subjective.

Suppose there's a situation where a player is faced with a lynch mob, and the player has a rope around his or her neck, and is allowed a last word.  What would be the chance of the player talking his or her way out of it at that point - without it being a deus ex machina?  Suppose that the exact way the player could succeed was set out in a rational, reasonable manner that every individual at the table could agree was fair?

I do realize I'm holding back this idea, and how much of a teaser this is.  At the present, the biggest issue facing me is the difficulty in finding quality artists in order to help fabricate the cards that are necessary for the creation of the game.  Writing out the rules and designing the cards is no picnic - but those are things I can do myself.  Art is another matter.  In any case, I hope to have something that I can deliver within six months: the end of July.  I ask the gentle reader to be patient for now.  If the development can continue apace, I can reveal the general principles of the system prior to its release, as knowing how the system works will certainly encourage card sales, and not the reverse.

Thank you for your patience.


Arduin said...

It sounds like it's only gotten more interesting since you mentioned it last. Really looking forward to what you bring to the table in the future. Good luck!

Zzarchov said...

This may or may not be false as I have just heard it from someone else.

But I thought the trick with mailing something to yourself was that you had to have it sit in the post office awaiting collection. While its in "postal custody" the chain of evidence is unbroken, but once you take it home it is no longer admissable?

I imagine as a writer you would know better than I though.

Alexis said...

I did, in fact, have to go pick it up. My error if my saying I'd 'received' it sounded as though the envelope had arrived at my residence.

SupernalClarity said...

I must say, this sounds quite amazing, Alexis! Social interaction in D&D from a mechanical perspective is something that I've never really liked, but I would much rather have a well-built system than have to rely on DM fiat all the time. I can't wait to see how this turns out!

One question, though I'm sure you can't give a definite answer right now: any ideas on how you'll price this product once it is ready?

Alexis said...


At present, I have no definite price. Suggestions have been made for a 'starter set' which would be priced lower than an 'advanced set' of cards; I don't know how much I like this idea.

A Magic: the Gathering Booster Box retails for "as low as" $89.95 according to the website. I'm not looking at anything as high as that, but the artwork for the cards will probably be the determining factor.