The games that I tend to enjoy stem from a fairly diverse number of systems and fundamental game theories. But, the systems that I tend to favor most recently all have one major thing in common: the ability to manipulate and even to defeat luck.
|The Copper Pot collects some fate...|
In Savage Worlds and its numerous settings, every hero comes equipped with Bennies (or, Fate Chips, if you're playing Deadlands), which can turn a seemingly lethal blow into a near miss, or allow for complete and total re-rolls on skills. In ICONS, heroes get Determination, which allows them to create power stunts, achieve massive levels of success (regardless of dice roll), and even "retcon" details in a scene, changing the narrative.
Not all games include such a system. Aside from a brief flirtation with them in Eberron, D&D has never used such a mechanics. Action points in 4e rarely grant anything but an extra action. Call of Cthulhu and other "atmospheric" games don't use such a mechanic.
So, as I continue working on Cold Steel Wardens, a major question arises. Do I put such a mechanic into the game, or do I "let the dice fall where they may"?
|Representation of GNS Theory|
My main impetus in creating Cold Steel Wardens echoes a fundamentally Simulationist. As a representation of the Iron Age of Comics, CSW is built to emulate a certain era of comics, including all of the conceits and hallmarks of that era. As I told ChaoticFrederick--whose commentary and revisions have been invaluable as I've moved forward!--I expect there to be ninjas, I expect there to be lots of guns, and I expect there to be mafia bosses. Those are all stereotypes that are hallmarks of the Iron Age of Comics, for better or worse, and they tend to appear quite often.
However, I have a strong desire towards specific Narrativist goals. The system for Aspects, Motivations, and Stances--which I'm about 2/3 of the way through!--encourages players to test their Hero's assumptions about ethics and morality. While this stems from such storylines like Miller's Daredevil: Born Again and O'Neil's run on The Question, it's a fundamentally Narrativist idea. Further, the investigative nature of the material itself lends itself towards storytelling, on the player level, the GM level, and the table-wide level.
However, the mechanics of CSW also provide for a degree of system mastery and "optimal build", which are hallmarks of the Gamist idea. There's a strong desire for me, as a designer and as a gamer, to try to build "The World's Greatest Detective" or "The Martial Arts Master" in this system. And, as with nearly every system out there, I've spent more than my share of time dealing with combat at this point--the "throne room" of the Gamist player. Plus, the ideas that I've been kicking about, regarding a system for in-depth investigation, are solidly gamist--it's a matter of how well the Heroes can access the clues, and how well the Players can put them together.
So, where does this leave us? Well, with the Hero Pool. This is to say, the fate-defying mechanic I'm debating building into Cold Steel Wardens. It's a simple mechanic--a pool of d8s equal to twice the number of players, which can be used to add to any test. They're one use only--once they're gone, they're gone, unless the GM refreshes them (usually by challenging the PCs in underhanded ways).
One might say that it's a fundamentally Gamist mechanic--it's something built in to defeat luck, and can be exploited. It doesn't add much to the story, says the Gamist, but it lets us hit once in a while. The Narrativist would probably disagree, adding that it adds more creative control to the minds of the players, and allows the Heroes to add in that "last-ditch effort" on a test that really requires a success. A Simultationist might decry such a mechanic, due to lack of "realism", but simultaneously uphold it as a fitting representation of the genre.
So, again, where does this leave us? I'm not really sure. I wouldn't be so arrogant thusfar as to say that CSW is going to be the mystical Zen-center of the GNS spectrum, but it's raised quite a few questions in my mind, as to where CSW is going. Let's see how playtest rolls out, and we'll go from there...
A few links for you, in case you're curious: