Mechanics – In Suffering and In Health

Hello miscreants.

This week has been entirely filled with sickness and suffering. Ok not ENTIRELY, but pretty much.

Friday saw Thirsty being disemboweled and I, in sympathy, went down with some sort of sympathetic head pain and sinus infection. But that didn’t stop us from Killer Kitten’s first foray into PM’ing on the stream.

A second one shot where we stepped into the world of a diceless game, with mixed results. The diceless, statless, resourceless game is in it’s essence an improvised story telling medium following Killer Kitten’s plot but where the characters did ridiculous things. Not so much of a game of risks, chances nor much story telling depth, but a hoot riot nonetheless. One of the more interesting games played on the stream.

The diceless system is a fantastic exercise I would recommend each PM and their group at least try once, but I wouldn’t recommend it for complete novices, more as an exercise for the experienced. As an exercise, this is more geared for Puppet Masters I believe.

For players it does the following:

  • Learn Role over Roll – being reasonable with what can and cannot be achieved within a ’round’. Having an idea about a character’s strengths and weakness and accepting that.
  • No resource management – sometimes managing health bars, exposure and ammo can feel more like accountancy than playing.
  • I want to do a thing – You’ve done a thing. feck mechanics. Mechanics break immersion every time, this removes that.

For PMs you could learn the following:

  • Improvisation – It’s a skill, and like any skill you need to practice. This has it in buckets.
  • Say Yes – this is probably the most important thing you’ll get from this. Saying yes to everything, at least everything reasonable. Pick your group wisely however.
  • Immersion – In a fully immersive world where you don’t need to break immersion, this is what every PM dreams of – a truly role playing experience where you don’t break for dice checks, health counting or any other mechanic. It’s actually kind of freeing, but daunting!

So this sounds great, why aren’t we doing it?
It’s balls for a long term campaign.

I’ll explain rather than just shooting it down. There’s no challenge. Your players DO everything (to a degree of success). Without checking health bars, or having certain skills, it’s prone to the uber munchkin God-Mode. At some point, you just want to scream ‘DICE CHECK PERCEPTION!!!’. Having everything handed to them the moment they go into a room because they search really hard has no degree of skill – obviously. Same with Boss encounters – they just die with little consequences. Granted, you could PM positives and negatives beautifully, but then it’s difficult for players to understand why some DID succeed when in an identical situation (to them at least) it then fails – this could feel unfair to players that you are arbitrarily deciding their fates and rail-roading them into a path. You could argue that there could be cards or dice or resources they spend to make really difficult checks… and there we have it, a mechanic. Not the point of a diceless resourceless mechanic less system.

As a one shot exercise, I think this is great – back to just role playing and re-teaches experienced roleplayers and Puppet Masters the art of having a character in mind, playing true to that character and reminds the PM to just go with the flow. Occasionally we as PM’s forget that saying ‘sure go ahead’ without the knee jerk reaction of ‘you want to do what now? – my plot, my plot, oh gods’ is something we can stand to be reminded of occasionally.

can’t let our player’s get away without fulfilling our nerdy need to roll dice.

Mechanics are immersion breaking and a pain in the ass, but they provide the rules to make the challenge required in every game to get that ‘hey we did it!’ feeling. It allows the players to feel that you are treating them fairly and that it is a group game, not just the PM’s story they’re being forced to play along with. Mechanics promote fairness, a certain expectation of how things can be expected to run and provide structure for much need challenge.

Other than that, this week we added Kerone to The Puppets Watch this space for how he’s about to be involved! Whilst I return back to the plague pit to nurse my head, and Thirsty survives being gutted, I invite you to try this exercise and leave your comments below.

Drink up folks, time at the bar.
Blood Depending on mood, I might kill you where you stand…
Thirsty – … and I’ll stand you where she’s killing – just in case.

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