Monday, 20 June 2011

Well met

A look at bonds with flash fiction, with a simple propluristemic tool for relationships in gaming.
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First the weekly flash fiction challenges, a joint entry for both Jennie's Expansion Joints and Succinctly Yours over at Grandma's Goulash.

The first should have 15 words, one of them tie, and the second needs 140 characters, has to be based on this image of a detective-like figure and may use the word fabricate. Tough task.

Will they match up?

Undeniable connection.
A tie indiscernible, apparently fragile. Nevertheless, immensely strong.
Impossible to fabricate - proof.

It's inspired by Jennie's intro for this week. So how about that gaming tool then?

Well met

This is a simple system for setting up random relationships between characters. It's aimed at sandbox roleplaying, but could work in wargaming too; more on that later. It builds on the idea of minus level characters and finds another use for the basic scarcity system I've been developing for the ever-growing Hogintu supplement.

The basic mechanism is a die roll. I'll assume a D6, but you can use any. When a character or party meets another person, roll the die. The result is the distance from the current location that this person is from, geographically and/or socially; the higher the number, the further away the character has his or her associations.

The GM or players can interpret this. A 1 may be a character from this exact neck of the woods, a 5 from the edge of the region. An instant foundation for the encounter, and perhaps even immediately obvious to the characters from equipment or accent.

If you roll a maximum, the person is from a degree further afield. Roll again and add the second result to the first. Keep rolling and adding for each extra maximum.

All well and good, but here's the important bit. When creating a new character, each player should go through the same process, and record the total. This number represents their origins. You can fudge to suit character concept of course, and a well-travelled character could have multiple rolls, use a larger die or be given a range.

Every time the player character or party as a whole changes location, you could add or subtract a degree, here 6, from the player character numbers to represent distance travelled. If you want more you could even set up a matrix for extra dimensions.

And the point? If when two characters meet, the numbers match, they know each other, or at least know of each other. You could roll a one-off die for how well, with a 1 being close family and a 6 a friend of a friend or distant acquaintance. This has clear potential. Strong bonds, shared secrets, memories unlocked, even new loyalties.

And for wargaming? To take just one well-known historical example, when Poland was partitioned, Poles could find themselves facing each other in the armed forces of one of the three occupying empires, either the Prussian, Austrian or Russian. For a Romantic patriot and keeper of the flame, that must have been painful.

Why not roll for units when related factions meet on the battlefield? They may do their nominal duty, but could instead choose to hold back, refuse to fight, even find common cause. A plan or force might collapse as supposed opponents join together and rise up.


Pat said...

Your link on Grandma's Goulash brought me here, but I can't find your Succinctly Yours microfiction story. I'll look for it on your June 19th entry.

Porky said...

Looking back over the intro, I see now I should have made it more clear what's going on. I am a little vague.

I set myself the task of combining two weekly flash fiction challenges, Succinctly Yours and Expansion Joints. The story is the italicised section, though of course it's less story than narrative progression, more in the Expansion Joints style than the Succinctly Yours; to make matters worse, the demands of combining the two forms mean it's even more experimental than usual.

Sorry about that. I know I need to explain my thought processes better, produce a less dense, more comprehensible text. I have this in mind when writing many posts, but certainly not all. I'm way off sometimes, and I know from past comments it can get a bit cryptic.

If I'm in again next week, you're very welcome, and we'll see if the clarity has taken a step forward.

Grandma's Goulash said...

I can see what you are doing and you met the task of combining the two quite well.

I did think I'd come to the wrong link at first. Like most, my eyes scan the page for the week's image. Since you included a link, not the image, it is not immediately apparent that this is the Succinct post.

Why not include the image in next week's post, even if it is a thumbnail size version? That might work just as well, if not better, than a long explanation.

Porky said...

Thanks - I was determined to make it work.

The image idea is a reasonable approach. Posts here can mix things up and a quick visual reference if there are separate sections could be useful.

Jennie said...

I love the narrative, and I love the idea of rolling to establish relationships between characters and even units.

We re-watched Ken Burns "The Civil War" last week as part of my son's US history course, and I was reminded of how often relatives ended up not only on opposite sides in that conflict, but actually facing each other in battle, as well, so the idea has firm grounding in historical reality across continents and centuries.

Porky said...

Agreed. It's central to certain kinds of conflict, even just to moving around a world. I can't believe something similar hasn't been done before, beyond a card in a deck or entry in a table I mean.

Someone clicked the 'Say again?' box so I'll just clarify what's going on here.

The post has two parts. The first is a combination of two writing challenges and I've chosen the subject of bonds overall. The second part is a suggested rule for various games, also on the subject of bonds, and is aimed mostly at roleplaying and tabletop wargames.