Saturday, March 14, 2015

Trek to the Stars pt 5: Keys and Secrets

Since last post I dealt with the setting, I figured that this post I would delve a bit further into the mechanics of the thing. Since I first heard about them, keys have fascinated me. It changed the way I looked at much of game design. Such a simple thing to have such a powerful effect. I found that merely adding keys to an existing game changed the state of play on a fundamental level.

I have also made a decision about the nature of skills. In a previous post I set down two separate thoughts on how to do roll and keep in the game. In this post I will go into the decision I made and how I see it playing out.

Should you wish to look through the previous posts related to this project, here they are:
The original idea for a system
Part 1 where I talk about my influences and a loose brainstorm for the setting
Part 2 where I put down the basics of dice rolling and the initial skill list
Part 3 where I discuss some ideas for potential campaign frameworks
Part 4 where I start giving some specifics of the setting

Keys
Keys are motivations, desires, problems, relationships, loyalties, and duties that cause your character to act. In a way they are a bit like aspects in Fate. They drive you to take action and grant you a reward for taking that action. In Shadow of Yesterday the bonus they get is experience points, in Fate the bonus is fate points. In Trek to the Stars they serve both functions. You gain character points by following your keys, and then you gain experience points when you spend character points on taking action.

The issue I have always had with Keys is the difficulty I have with constructing them. When you see a good Key, you know that it is indeed good. When you get a bad one though, or a mediocre one, you can feel it is bad, but not necessarily what went wrong with it. In this I will lay out the basics of Keys as it was set down in Shadow of Yesterday. In future posts I will try my best to set out some really solid examples(fingers crossed). Keep in mind that the numbers might change as we move forward in this project.
From original document
Keys are the motivations, problems, connections, duties, and loyalties that pull on your character. To the player, they're highly important because they generate experience points. Creating new Keys may be easier than new Abilities or Secrets - they follow very simple rules.
  • A Key must involve a motivation, problem, connection, duty, or loyalty.
  • Keys come in two types: * Motivations. When the motivation is fulfilled in play, gain an experience point. When the motivation is fulfilled against good odds, gain three experience points. * Everything else. When the Key comes up in play, gain an experience point. When the Key presents a minor problem, gain two experience points. When it presents a major problem, gain five experience points.
  • All Keys have a Buyoff, which is a reversal from the Key by the character. All Buyoffs give the character 10 experience points. This Buyoff occurs only when you, the player, wants it to happen: you can lose a battle with the Secret of Bloodlust and still keep the Secret. If you want your character to undergo a change in his personality, though, adding to the story, you can take this Buyoff by fulfilling it. If you do take the Buyoff, you can never take this Key again.
So that is the basics of Keys. I will be designing them along those lines, though I will definitely be manipulating the numbers. I see folks earning character points two ways for each Key. You gain one point when it comes up in play, and five points(ten points?) when you resolve it. It is generally resolution that I find most difficult to nail down. So any advice on Keys and how I should use them in this game would be greatly appreciated.

Secrets
I am rather fond of this name for a special ability within a skill. I had been vacillating between perk and technique for that name. Then I reread Shadow of Yesterday and saw secret. Such a fine name. It reminds me of the old classic Shaw Brothers films, everyone is all the time learning secrets of their given skill. Each skill has a number of secrets attached to it secrets can do a number of things. What follows are the rules for constructing secrets for the skills. I will probably build a bunch when I go back through and do a finishing run on the skill list.
  • Allow you to keep an extra die on a given roll(usually only in a given circumstance)
  • Give you a minor unique ability of some sort or permission to use your skill in a new way
  • Increase the scale of the skill in a specific circumstance 
  • Increase effect or damage of a skill after the roll
I think that will cover a lot of ground for secrets, though I would love to hear any ideas on ways to expand this list. I also need to sort out my skill list and how I would like to describe the skills. As they are important I am leaning toward giving each skill a larger description than they might normally get. I am currently trying to work through the skill list and make it work. I am trying to figure out knowledge skills and language/culture skills as I think they would be useful and interesting. That said, I am uncertain how best to use them in my game. Any thoughts on those would also be appreciated.

My next post will be on the future history, giving a nice long view of how the next couple centuries will go(in my setting at least, I am no Nostradamus). I will also talk about the uplifts, gene mods, cyborgs, and my problems with AI. Alright that is it for this post, let me know what you think. Comments, critiques, and suggestions are always welcome.