Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The Three “I”s

Doing some work on DEADLINE! Check the tag if you’re not up to speed on this one.

A big goal of this design is easy onboarding regardless of experience. Zero-or-thereabouts “RPG jargon”, a cool framing that makes people want to GM and makes the GM’s role clear and easy, making “play culture” explicit through text, etc.

Coming round to player actions - I want to codify these in some way, for said onboarding, but codification is the death of the playstyle. Once you name something or list options, readers get tunnel vision and the breadth of play available in a game run on imagination can be easily forgotten. Even the humble attack roll is often a step too far for me these days tbh.

So, how to structure play in a way that makes it digestible but not limited? Procedures are an answer - I’ve sung Errant’s praises in this regard before. How to do it but never what to do.

Here’s a play procedure I’m tinkering with for DEADLINE, early stages. (You may see some familiar language from GRAVEROBBERS. I know what I like!)

The main thing this misses I feel is delineating LIFELINE as the primary structure of play, but I’m sure I’ll find a balance once it’s all put in context


If there is no meaningful obstacle or danger preventing the Agent from following an order, they do so and the action is successful. The Agent describes the outcome, and the game continues.

If there is an obstacle preventing success or significant danger involved, the action succeeds only if the Operators direct the Agent to use an Item, some Information or their own Instinct.

The Operators must select from the options available to the Agent, or else plan another course of action.

πŸ‘️‍πŸ—¨️ Item. Any object in the Agent’s control that renders the task at hand achievable. This could be a gadget or anything the Agent obtains while on a mission. Find items and use them creatively.

You could take out a guard with a sleeping dart or distract them with an explosion.

πŸ‘️‍πŸ—¨️ Information. Knowledge that negates danger or obstacles. This could be intelligence about an individual or some other secret that precludes harm. Gather information and act on it.

One might bypass a guard with a password or avoid them by learning their schedule.

πŸ‘️‍πŸ—¨️ Instinct. Allowing the Agent to act without direct command. Agents can take care of themselves in a pinch, but acting without an Operator’s careful supervision can have unforeseen consequences. Select a relevant Skill from the Agent’s profile. Roll a die and advance the DOOMSDAY clock by the result.

Simply knock out a guard with Defence, charm them with Bluff or sneak past with Stealth.

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