Posts Tagged ‘game hacks’
For the last few…well, since well before Gen Con, I’ve been working on some Fate license conversion, notably the Achtung! Cthulhu Fate Core version. It’s caused me to cement ideas that I’ve had for a long time about converting to Fate, but haven’t articulated until recently. My main (not sole) principle on converting to Fate is simple:
Converting stuff for Fate is simultaneously easy and hard, in that it’s hard to know what you throw about because it doesn’t work in Fate. You have to have a sense of “Screw it, that will make for boring Fate rules as-is. But it’s a part of the world. How do we remodel?” Knowing when that’s true and not just lazy design, as well as how to achieve positive results, is what’s hard.
Also, remember that Fate is, at its core, a dramatic (in the classic sense of the word) adventure game, one where the players are more on par with the GM in narrative authority than is typical. Don’t fight against that.
To break it down some, it happened as I was reading over the rules for learning Mythos spells from Realms of Cthulhu, since it’s less granular than Call of Cthulhu. The rules state something like (my iPad is charging, so forgive the inaccuracy) “2 + d4 weeks.”
Warning: what I’m going to write isn’t in any way whatsoever guaranteed to be final rules for any product. I’m just spitballing.
Problem #1: Fate only has Fate/Fudge dice. Using other polyhedrals is (a) lazy and (b) tells Fate players to piss off.
Problem #2: Fate works in a sense of story/dramatic time, so even if something should be variable, that is a potential wrinkle.
Chicken-scratched on my steno pad is “How about [6 - Mythos rating] weeks.” And, eh, that mechanically might feel like it’s doing the job, but it misses one key point: Fate is largely about consequences and story arcs. So, shortly thereafter, I added “And in that time, you can’t spend time doing any intentional mental recovery.”
At the end of a period of learning a Mythos spell, you in other systems roll to see if it sinks in. If it doesn’t, you start over.
Problem #3: Fate doesn’t do well if failure merely continues with the status quo unless there’s an action economy element to the situation (a.k.a. a conflict). This is because it’s trivial to do things like create advantages or otherwise spend fate points to buy into success.
So, simply rolling to see if you learn it doesn’t work in Fate, when it does in other games. Aspect invocations give powerful character agency, and in non-complicated situations you need to assume that said agency will cause success. Therefore, you either have to (a) remove the need for a check or any sort or (b) make it interesting.
Let’s make it interesting.
At the end of said learning period, you cement the knowledge by casting the damn spell. You learn by doing, so if you don’t actually do it, no learning. And casting a spell (which I’m not going to go into in this post) is, well, let’s just say that my notes involve things like “You are so fucked if you fail” and “Hey Keeper, here’s all the shit you can decide to do, it’s all in your house.” (I use a lot of profanity as shorthand for remembering the right tone.)
If you fail, bad things happen. If you survive them, well, you still haven’t learned the spell right, so you need to study another week and try again. Even if said failure is success with cost (also, bad things happen), it isn’t success enough to cement the spell in your mind.
Sure, that isn’t accurate to the classic Mythos model, but is a dramatic interpretation suitable to Fate. And a Fate conversion can’t just be a literal translation; we see how well Google Translate does for languages, and we as Fate designers need to do better, and actually translate just as a linguist would.
Now, to jump elsewhere, regarding the Sanity rules I’m drafting up, there’s the point in other games where you randomly roll to see what mental affliction a character gets when the time comes.
Problem #4: Compounding problem #1, random tables don’t really work in Fate, because those dice create a bell curve, and there’s no good way to tell one apart from another if you’re trying some crafty way to create a linear distribution with them.
Which means those tables are a bad play in Fate. So, we go to the Fate ethos of being a dramatic adventure with on-par narrative authority. So, the solution there is easy: when Sanity would cause a character to take a consequence, that consequence is some form of mental debilitation akin to other Cthulhu games. Talk it out; the final says is more or less the GM’s, but taking into account what would suck for a player to play (either because he wouldn’t enjoy it or would just be terrible at it).
Now, that’s more agency that in your typical Cthulhu game, but that’s what you gotta do in order to make it a game that respects both Fate’s system and Fate’s fan base.
Problem #5: Impact (like damage) is not separate from success.
This gets to be a huge problem when it comes to emulating another game’s physics. You throw a grenade — what does it do? You shoot someone with a high-powered rifle — what’s likely to happen? How does that compare to being shot with a .22? Stabbed with a knife? Sneezed at particularly hard?
The answer to this varies, but starts with a question: in this world, what should happen to PC-type characters? Maybe it’s a world where guns totally fucking kill, so you say “screw it, hits immediately mean consequences.” Or it’s one where guns hit hard, but heroic characters have a chance to deal with it, thus solutions like Weapons ratings. Or guns merely allow for ranged attacks, but aren’t any worse to deal with that fists. Whatever feels right is what you go with…
Problem#5: Fate isn’t granular.
…provided you understand that there really isn’t a middle ground in Fate, making this one of the biggest contentions when doing a conversion. Which is where this problem falls. The difference between shifts is non-trivial, so even a single +1 bump is huge. (There was a time when I pondered a fantasy hack of Fate that used polyhedrals for damage, which maybe I’ll screw with in the future if I ever get back to my Halfling Nations setting. Just to see what would happen.)
If a knife gives you, say, a +1 to stress, and simply succeeding at an attack roll means a minimum of 1 stress, then the 1-stress box isn’t going to get used. Which prompts the question: why the hell would anyone ever *not* fight with a knife?
If the answer is “duh, they wouldn’t,” this on the surface it looks like a decent hack. But I’m still going to heavily question anything that creates uninteresting forms of non-optimal play, at least with regards to Fate. In a game system that supports verisimilitude, that works; Fate does not by its very nature support verisimilitude or physics modeling.
Problem #6: Fate doesn’t inherently do mechanical nuance.
In Call of Cthulhu, you learn the Mythos skill by inches, representing that your mind is being slow-cooked by the unnatural horrors.
Fate has no “slow-cooker” mode. There are nine numbers that four Fate dice can generate. There are (by default) four ranks for skills, five if you count Mediocre. Increasing a die roll or a skill by even 1 is a statistically big deal, in comparison to incrementing a percentile skill.
Now, the rest of the skills are easy. To start, you just say “that skill is now a Fate skill,” and then you combine skills that makes sense, since skill bloat is very non-Fate. (Not that Fate mechanically can’t handle it; that’s about Fate fans having disinterest in large skill lists. I’m pushing it in A!C at 27 right now, though I’m happy with what I’ve got.) But skill ratings in a percentile game that have incremental impacts on your character’s agency? At best, you have to model that in big, less frequent jumps, if you’re to model it at all.
Since this is a Cthulhu game, naturally I’m picking the former, to model it in big jumps. But that means there isn’t any “oop, you accidentally learned a massive chunk of the Mythos at once!” mechanic, because the accidental and the incremental nature of learning the Mythos is intertwined. My solution to this is, I think, pretty cool, but it’s filed under “stuff I shouldn’t talk about right now because development reasons.”
(This problem, incidentally, is also why you can’t just hack Unknown Armies into Apocalypse World without a lot of work, because many of the spells in UA fit in a percentile nuance space, which AW also doesn’t inhabit.)
Problem #6a: Because of this, Fate is crappy at gear-porn.
It’s easy to model gear in Fate. It gives fictional positioning (you can’t use Shoot without a gun), maybe it has aspects (like Experimental Tech or Broken), and other things (lately I’ve been putting “equipment stunts” on some things).
But if you have a setting that’s rich in what gear does, or one that classically is obsessed with gear — cyberpunk, for example — Fate will let you down. That’s because gear-fetishizing is about nuance. My rifle has slightly more stopping power, but yours has a higher rate of fire. My hacker program cuts through ICE, but yours is twitchier and buffs your initiative. Now, you an easily model the fiction of such things with aspects and the like, but you cannot model the innate pleasure of gear-porn a player feels. So if your conversation has a gear-porn element, you’ve got to just be frank and say “hey, Fate does gear like this.”
Of course, the gear-porn element is also why Fate doesn’t do monetary resources well — there’s little point to it in Fate.
Problem #7: Fate emulates some genres and tones well, and some…very poorly. And that comes down to Fate being the RPG-with-a-GM with the most player agency and authority.
I’ve written before about how, if you’re looking for a game strong with survival horror, Fate is the last game to try. Survival horror is about denial of player agency, but Fate has tools that are counter to such play–things like creating advantages and invoking aspects to get you out of shitty rolls or to boost a result beyond what the dice could normally do.
The other week, I sat down to test our the Sanity system, which involved seeing if I could turn off those dials in certain circumstances, namely if when you’re in a “oh shit, Sanity check!” moment, if you’re temporarily denied being able to invoke aspects. That didn’t work for two reasons: first, I forgot to use the rule for some of it (and that’s a sign of a potential rule problem); second, by completely removing the aspect economy, it didn’t feel like a Fate game anymore. This was something I was spitballing with Leonard Balsera about, whether that would work or not; we weren’t sure. But now I know that the mechanics of the idea are sound…but it’s just not a Fate game at that point.
Luckily, A!C is a pulpy Cthulhu game, so it doesn’t need to emulate survival horror. It does need to hold a sense of scale against horrific things, but not to the extreme that you can have with games that have more nuance and less player agency.
None of these are showstopping problems, but they are things to be aware of and work with when doing a real, earnest Fate conversion. After all, anyone can just shout “ASPECTS AMIRITE,” but actual conversion work takes thought, to bridge a game’s underlying fictional beats together with the beats and rhythm of Fate.
For you other Fate hackers out there doing big conversions, what issues have you stumbled into? How did you fix them? What did you learn from the experience, and have you come up with your own sense of Fate conversion principles?
 Or what’s commonly referred to as “is boring,” though I don’t like that dismissal because it typically shows someone’s misunderstanding of beat dynamics.
 Like someone who thinks “schizophrenia” means “multiple personality disorder,” or even just “I have conversation with people who aren’t real.”
 Not “begs.” Man alive.
 Was more to it than that, but no sense in writing up all the rules that didn’t work.
It seems like everyone is getting all “OMG PACIFIC RIM LET ME SHOW YOU HOW I CAN HACK MY GAME FOR IT,” and why should I be left out of that fun? ;)
(I’ve giving myself just 15 minutes to write this, totally stream-of-consciousness. After that, I hand the ball to you guys. I have work to do on the actual book.)
Making a Pacific Rim build of Mythender isn’t as simple as it sounds. You’ve got to redefine both the Weapons and the whole corruption system.
First, a weird concept: every two characters pilots one Jaeger. So, pair off and come up with your Jaeger’s concept.
Next, Weapons. Having “my skill at piloting my Jaeger” is boring. Also “my Jaeger, Gipsy Danger” is boring, because it’s assumed. So let’s fuck with it.
Intrinsic Weapons become Drift Weapons: emotions or moments that will fire you up in battle. Relic Weapons become Jaeger Weapons — notable elements of your Jaeger that make it different from others. And let’s use the Companion Weapon rules for Drift Weapons, where they charge when you’re Wounded.
Alright, so we have those two types of Weapons, right? Here’s where it’ll get funky. Every two players shares one Jaeger. You each come up with a Drift Weapon of your own, and one of the Jaeger Weapons. Then you write them on the Jaeger playsheet–and in play, each of you has access to all the Weapons, even the other person’s Drift Weapon! That represents the sharing of minds
We should also raise the Wound cost to 4, for reasons I won’t get into right now.
Now, for Corruption. Mythender’s core mechanic has to involve a corrupting element. In this case, we’ll divert a touch from Pacific Rim’s canon and say that the biggest issue drift-pilots face is insanity, which comes from sharing minds in stressful moments. (This necessitates redefining how Legendary, Mythic, and Titanic actions are framed.)
But as you drift further down the rabbit hole, the Jaeger becomes easier to use — translating into Gifts (which I’ll now call Advanced Systems). This can also cause the Jaeger to change in Form.
Crap, my 15 minutes are up. Where would you go from here? What would you do differently?
There are these two things that I love that, for a long time now, I’ve wanted to smash together: Grey Ranks and the Terminator resistance war.
I got to play Grey Ranks at Dreamation 2009 with Jason Morningstar facilitating it. That single convention session cemented itself as one of the strongest emotional moments I’ve had in a game.
For those who don’t know what Grey Ranks is, here’s the quick pitch from the site:
In Grey Ranks, you will assume the role of a young Polish partisan before, during, and after the disastrous 1944 Uprising against the Germans. Together with your friends, you’ll create the story of a group of teens who fight to free their city, one of countless Grey Ranks “crews” that take up arms. Your characters – child soldiers – will have all the faults and enthusiasms of youth. Across sixty days of armed rebellion, they will grow up fast – or die.
I suggest that, if you’re interested in one of the rare RPGs that is actually about war and not about just winning a series of battles, read up.
I have been a Terminator fanboy forever. For my 13th birthday, my mom took me & some friends to see Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that. I love the shit out of Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles. I even rewatched T3 (which was not great) in preparation to watch Terminator: Salvation (also not great). But even though those movies were disappointments, I still ate up the world-building.
I still eat it up. And maybe part of the reason the Resistance War intrigues me is that, until Salvation, we heard about it the way we hear about many real words: second or third-hand, as people telling stories. It’s fascinating.
One of my favorite little bits is the slang introduced by the TV show: “I won’t be the bastard that brings metal down on the Connors.” I like “metal” over “toaster,” maybe because it sounds more natural to me?
Because Grey Ranks is truly about how war changes you and how you’re a person with desires, and because it’s a game about an occupation, it felt like a possibility for being a game that tells Tech-Com’s story. I’ve been codenaming this project “Resistance” for the last few years, but it never went beyond notes and drinking with friends (notably my good friend Justin Smith). A few months ago when John LeBoeuf-Little came up with the final piece of the puzzle that might make the game work, but I still hadn’t tried playing it until last night.
From here on, this post assumes you know what the fuck I’m talking about, in terms of both of those.
The core story of Grey Ranks is of kids growing up during an uprising that will fail. Here, the Human Resistance is destined to win, and about the personal costs of that victory as heroes grow into battle-scarred, PTSD-suffering veterans. The tagline is “How much of a machine will you become in order to fight the machines?”
I should start off saying that there’s no time travel. If there is time travel, that’s another Tech-Com unit, not you guys, and you don’t know shit about that.
The world follows, more or less, how you’d except from the Terminator-verse, but with a sprinkling of Matrix and Battlestar Galactica — the machines have to have human collaborators, so that there’s that conflict. And Skynet has a plan for humanity that doesn’t solely involve wiping them out, which is why there are Skynet Work Camps and why the machines round people up rather than just bomb them.
Resistance takes place in the city you’re in, rather than telling you about another location. This will make the Situation Elements either difficult or vague to construct, but some of that can be solved through some setting creation, where we turn our current city into one that’s suffered machine devastation for five years.
A brief timeline that throws out factual Terminator canon, in favor of something a little simpler/easier for those who aren’t well-versed in the IP:
- Five years ago, Skynet happened. It restricted human freedoms, but didn’t immediately nuke us. It just took away all our guns and ruled over the world.
- Four years ago, the Retaking failed. Humans attempted to shut down Skynet, but Skynet saw it coming. Seeing that humans would not accept machine rule in this manner, it began creating internment arcologies, and with that nations were sundered.
- Two years ago, the First Human Uprising finally broke, its leaders’ executions broadcasted. Humans were warned that further insurgency would “forfeit humanity.”
- A few months ago, we seized an opportunity, and the Second Human Uprising began. True to its word, Skynet began slaughtering armies. It’s destined to win, but at what cost?
What Stays the Same
The grid does. The basic mechanics of a chapter does. I liked all that and didn’t want to fuck with it.
First of all, all the Grey Ranks fiction trapping need to be replaced: the Radio Lightning, the situation elements, etc. Frankly, that’s the hardest (or at least most work-intensive) part, and definitely the part I haven’t touched yet.
Naturally, as heroes of Tech-Com and not as teens growing up, the characters are very much different.
- Pseudonym becomes Callsign
- Age isn’t 15/16/17, but teen/early 20′s/pushing 30
- District shifts to Before Skynet, but I don’t know what all’s there right now. It’s not about places, but about what you remember about how the world was.
- Thing You Hold Dear only shifts slightly: “Country” becomes “Humanity” and “First Love” becomes “Romance”
- Add Role, your job in Tech-Com. Pick two off this list: heavy weapons, hacker, pilot, scout, combat engineer, demolitions (note, “commander” and similar intentionally not on this list, as to not mess with the Mission Leader bits)
- Your Reputations start off as positive, heroic things. You choose them for your character (with a healthy list, sure) When you mark off the d10 (not the d8), it becomes the negative — either going too far or going the other direction. (“Brave” could become “Suicidually Overconfident” or become “Shell-shocked.) The rest of the group decides on the new reputation for you.
- Characters need to want some sort of life beyond smashing metal.
The last part is one of this game’s darlings, the first idea I had back in 2009 about hacking Grey Ranks for the Resistance War.
Personal scenes don’t change. Mission scenes change slightly: they always require a human extra, whether someone from Tech-Com or some civilian encountered. If you give a d10 for a mission scene, a human (extra) is killed in the process — making the contribution dice not about success/failure, but about consequence and people surviving. Success/failure feels very “teenagers in over their heads,” not “heroes of the Resistance.” And I think “cost” is a recurring theme to play with.
Because of the situation, I think we’re going to be a bit more ready to have these characters die than we do in Grey Ranks, but full-on play would tell if that’s true.
Humanity’s “Hit Points”
This is the bit that John LeBeouf-Little came up with to make this interesting. Humanity has a list of five things about its future, and every time a mission’s lost, we cross one off. So, yes, humanity will certainly win the war, but we’re playing for humanity to not lose itself in the process (just as we’re hoping to not lose our characters in the process):
- Faith & Spirituality
- Hope for the Future
- Rule of Law
I call this “Our Ideals.” I suspect that often, Technology will be the first thing to go. Humanity’s dump stat, if you will — but still, it’s an interesting choice. And if the table can’t agree, the Mission Leader chooses.
If you lose all five, the game is over. Sure, humanity beats Skynet, but what point is there in fighting for it?
Tech-Com has an overall game sheet. Along with Our Ideals, it has a large section whose background is a bit like a war memorial, and its titled “The People Who Died So Humanity Could Live.”
Every time a human dies — from putting a d10+ in the Mission, from the corners on the Grid, from the rule below, etc — we take a moment and write down a bit about that person. If your mechanical action or narration killed someone, you write it down. If your character dies, someone else writes it down.
You don’t just write down a name, but also a little more. Here’s from our game:
- “Stickshift,” he was useful in his skinniness
- That little girl on the road in her dirty flower dress, she never saw the HKs coming
- “Jackknife” — thought it was responsible for everyone, and we loved him for it
“The New Character Rule”
A fresh character with all their Thing You Hold Dear checkmarks ready to go — that’s a valuable asset to a mission. Characters who have used all that up in a strange way become a liability. So I just, while typing this post, came up with a new rule: In between missions, if you want a new character, narrate your current character committing suicide.
(This is part of that whole “making mechanics that you hope people won’t choose, but by giving the option you make not choosing it — and choose it — have meaning.” vibe)
Always Name/Describe Human Extras
Just what it says — always name and describe them when they show up. Make humans real.
I would need name/callsign lists, lists of people with different descriptions, etc.
I’m not sure how to approach chapters 1 & 10 yet.
Those are my notes for the moment. There’s clearly more work to do, if I were to fuck with this more.
A huge thanks to Justin Smith & John LaBoeuf-Little for talking with me about it, and for Kit La Touche and Lillian Cohen-Moore for testing a chapter with me last night (despite all of us being pretty tired).
 Which Jason recorded back then, all of us talking about the game after the fact.
This post will require you to know two things: about Jeremy Keller’s RPG, Technoir, and about the 2009 film Push. If you don’t know either of these things, well, the Technoir Player’s Guide is a free download and Push is available on the Internet, I’m sure. Check both out. Also: potential spoilers.
At JoshCon, a large group of us were watching Push on cable after breakfast, waiting for more folks to show up for gaming. I’m a fan of this movie. Afterward, I said “okay, I want to run that with Technoir.” Four people agreed, including Jeremy — which is novel, to have someone else run your game for you. We settled on the Hong Kong Transmission, of course, and I outlined the basic idea for the hack: in character creation, you picked one of your verbs to be your “psychic” verb, and you could narrate doing things with that verb psychically rather than just physically.
(This gets to the idea of the primacy of the impossible in games, which is a bigger topic in general than this execution of it is.)
There are nine verbs in Technoir, which you can see on the character sheet: Coax, Detect, Fight, Hack, Move, Operate, Prowl, Shoot, Treat. The four players each took: Move, Operate, Prowl, and Treat, so we worked more on fleshing those out than others. But if I’m pressed to give a short description for each (and by writing this blog post, I am):
Oh, I should say that because it’s Technoir, this has a cyberpunk twist to Push. So…
- Coax: Implant suggestions in the minds of people whose eyes you meet (even with mirrorshades on) — “pushing” from the movie. This means you can actually roll Coax for things that would be unreasonable and automatically failing, like “put the gun in your mouth and pull the trigger.”
- Detect: Psychically feel things through other senses — tracking people by sniffing their stuff and having that imprint in your mind, psychometry, ESP, things like that. Get information that’s impossible for a normal person to get because it’s esoteric or distant. Sniffers & watchers have two different flavors of Detect.
- Fight: This is what we see a lot of in the movie, using telekinesis to augment punches. It could also be a psychic battle mind, akin to how we see Sherlock Holmes fight in the recent Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes flicks.
- Hack: Psychic hacking. Who needs an uplink when you can just think your way into a machine. The upside: you don’t actually need equipment, as you are the equipment and can only be accessed yourself by other psychic hackers or counter-intrusion equipment written specifically to deal with hackers. In a sense, though, cyberpunk already does this, so Hack is about unnatural access rather than unnatural action.
- Move: While this verb is typically active in a different way, I’d treat it as basic telekinesis. Movers from Push do this. Granted, that blends with using telekinesis to Fight, which is where this hack slightly unravels.
- Operate: Since Operate is about piloting and using machines, similar to Hack & computers, this is psychic piloting, driving to machines at the same time with your mind to calling out to your car from a distance. My description sounds weak, I think, but I would totally Jason Statham up this fucker. (Which I believe Jeremy did, as he chose Operate.)
- Prowl: Bending shadows around you, muffling noise, even cloaking yourself from psychic detection. The shadow does a bit of the last one, though it’s not an action we can see.
- Shoot: Here’s another case of battle-mind. Someone who is utterly prenatural, with limited future-sight when it comes to using guns enough to know how to use her gun to do unnatural or surprisingly safe things. Knowing where ricochets will hit, seeing the vectors and executing them, all that jazz. I recently watched the Thai flick Demon Warriors, and the badass gun character has death-sight. So it would work like that, I’d think.
- Treat: Psychic healing. The stich in the movie did this. Cam Banks played the Treat, and he was a mob doc who put in implants psychically so that they healed & integrated faster. Given how the stich worked in the movie, I might allow this to bleed into a combat role as well, since she fucked up the mover just by touching him.
Later we added a five player who arrived, who took Coax. I’ll admit that some verbs are stronger than others, but then I’ve only run this hack once so I haven’t refined it. I’m open to discussion on tweaking it, though. (Or maybe even decoupling from Verbs, being their own thing to choose. That sounds rather interesting, too.)
Partway through the game, we collectively realized that the game’s promise of psychic awesome was constrained, because we were given areas of primacy, we needed to create an analog to gear for psychic powers in order to both allow tags to be added for dice, and reinforce how your specific power works. For that, I’d add as the last slot of gear “Psychic Tags”, where I’d put those tags.
Unlike with regular gear, you can’t use that core bit to add a die. That’s essentially covering “you can do this weird psychic thing”. But you can add dice with the tags underneath.
If you are shaky with your powers, you have one tag. If you’re decent with them, you get two tags. And if you’re a world-class psychic, you get three. I don’t have a sense of how once “levels” between them; these were made on the fly to mirror the movie, where some characters we less confident in their powers than others.
There are other things that could be done to this hack, but that’s an exercise for the future, and for you readers.
 As is Carl Rigney, who has a Don’t Rest Your Head hack with it called Don’t Push Your Luck.
This past weekend, I was at JoshCon, the birthday house con run by my good friend Josh Rensch. It was an exciting, grand ol’ time, where we played games. The games I played all got hacked up, including Technoir & Dungeon World. I’ll blog later about hacking Technoir, but some folks expressed interested in what we’re doing with DW.
A number of people have been using my XP hack for Dungeon World, and Nora Last, looking to DM some Dungeon World at JoshCon, wanted to take it for a spin. As I listed off the options, I found myself saying “Let’s not use Aid/Hinder. It’s pretty weak.” So we didn’t.
Two characters had Converse highlighted, and after one of the fights, one of them wanted to Parley with the other to get him to do something. The details are fuzzy thanks to copious amounts of scotch, but what I remember was this:
The target of the Parley wanted to do an opposed roll, which we said was Hinder. I started thinking “man, he should be able to highlight tha…DUDE THAT’S CONVERSE HE SHOULD HIGHLIGHT THAT.”
I cannot recall if I was as loud as I imagine. Again, scotch. Anyway, I said “Mark XP. That’s totally converse,” and filed the thought away.
Then I emailed the co-creator of this XP hack, Colin Jessup, when my findings, to which he celebrated. It meant less work on our parts to make up new moves for Aid/Hinder in a hack we’re tinkering with.
Which means the new rule is: When you Aid or Hinder another PC, and the move you’re affecting is covered by one of your highlights, mark experience.
Then shit got interesting, because Nora took the hack in a different direction. Colin & I have build the idea as “moves have concrete highlights. X is Attack, Y is Defend, etc.” Spells and other “sub-moves” are split up appropriately.
Nora said “nah, I’m gonna interpret that on the fly.” Sometimes when Ben Demonslayer, my still-not-dead halfling fighter, did some crazy shit because Stunt is highlighted, Nora would check my intent. Sometimes, she would tell me that I wasn’t stunting, but defending, which I didn’t have highlighted. And that brought up some interesting thoughts.
I’m not sure if I like “open to interpretation,” partly because it means one more decision that has to be made in the flow of play. But it’s one I hadn’t considered until Nora did it. (Thankfully, I can tell Colin “you decide”. Design partners are awesome!)
She also challenged me, being a third level fighter, by not highlighting my Attack in one of the games I played. Which worked for me, because Ben had a good chance of surviving crazy shit. Level 1 characters are, by contrast, sweet sweet tasty death magnets.
That made me think about going easy on highlighting level 1 characters, so they have a chance to level. After that, change it up. That also supports the idea of platforms and tilts in stories, a la improv. It also goes into Carl Rigney’s philosophy on games where the first thing the players do should showcase competence, if the game is about that, as that first action will color expectations of that game & play session.
Finally, she did some awesome stuff with putting monster damage rolls in Dungeon World. That added some Push Your Luck style excitement, and I’m totally going to roll with that later.
Thank you, Nora, for being my guinea pig. Next up, getting crazy with Technoir…
 Hi, Jeremy.
 Hi, Nora.
 Hi, attempt at comedy.