Shining Dodecahedron

One geek's views on role-playing and games in general.

This place is all about discussing paper-and-pencil roleplaying games. I'm Jay, and I run this joint, but that doesn't make me smarter than you. This will all work best if I say things, and you say what you think about them, lather, rinse, repeat. With luck we can all understand the hobby a little better. If you have a topic that you would like me to start a thread about, post a comment here. If you've got something to say about characters (my ongoing topic du jour), post a comment here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


So my first real adventure using the modified True20 rules (I call it True18 because I use the 3d6 instead of 1d20 variant found in Unearthed Arcana) was a bust. The players have assured me that they enjoyed themselves despite the failure of the session but it was bad. What was bad, you ask? Well I almost inadvertently killed them. But what's worse is that they were almost killed by an encounter that didn't mean anything.

This got me to thinking, as I often do, about the need for a system that explicitly states (and supports mechanically) how important a given encounter is to the players of the characters involved.

My stumbling block is two-fold:

  1. I want a game where the GM has the ability to create a general plot into which the character plots fit, and where players are rewarded for playing along and linking their stories with those of the other players and those created by the GM.
  2. I want to support campaigns of unspecified length. That is, I don't want to copy the Primetime Adventures way of things where a season is a set length and you plot out screen presence ahead of time--I want to keep things more flexible than that

Long story short, I'm inspired to create a realatively simple, plotline driven fantasy RPG. It's in the early planning stages at the moment but here's where I'm going with it:

Players (including the GM) can create and track plotlines. A plotline is a track on a play sheet that has space for marking progress and some place for writing description. Each plotline roughly follows the Freytag model (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement). I have added a "seed" stage at the beginning.

So you can start a plotline for your character whenever you want by putting a check in the seed area of a new line. The seed can be very vague ("something about betrayal"), something quite specific ("Travel to the great city to find my father"), or anything in between. By specifying a seed, you are letting the GM and other players know that you have this idea you want to play with and you are potentially opening that idea up to them. You can then add checks to the plotline (starting in the exposition area) whenever you have a conflict that relates to the plot. You need at least one check in one area before you can put one in the next (i.e. you need one conflict in exposition before you can start rising action and so forth) but other than that you are essentially free to have as many or few checks as you like.

Each check on a plotline represents the potential difficulty and risk that the plotline represents. So the more you build up a story arc, the more dangerous it is for your character.

The GM also has plotlines that apply to the overarching story. The GM and players are rewarded for linking plotlines together, though I'm not totally sure how yet.

There is some currency that gets passed around. Players can get it from the GM by buying into his plotlines, that much I know. It can be used to strengthen the odds in a conflict, among other things.

That's all I have the energy to write about tonight. Next time I'll talk about investing in scenes.


Blogger Nathan P. said...

This sounds really cool. My first thought was that checks on a plotline should translate into currency in some fashion, perhaps at a ratio that encourages a literary story arc? Anyway, looking forwards to more.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 5:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! This is one of the most exciting things that I've heard about in a long time.

I was thinking of a system like "Capes!" (which I've never read) with more awareness of the meta-game effects of conflicts this morning on the way to work, but I think that plots could be a good way to look at it too.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 12:50:00 PM  

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