Sunday, March 30, 2014

My system as far as I can take it or: How to determine success and failure.

Hello gamebookers!  The April A to Z starts on Tuesday, and so far I've had 30 replies for interview.  I may have some more by the end of the month, so there is plenty to look forward to then.  Today's post is about my system (which I first introduced here and then highlighted the changes here), which I have made a few changes to, but I have taken as far as I can without testing it.  Here is the updated version.

The major change that I have made is to get rid of endurance.  I was never happy with it as the major problem was that i did not want an endurance of 0 to necessarily mean death.  However, combat and other activities reduced endurance meaning that for every reduction, the author had to think of an outcome for having endurance reduced to 0.  Did the hero die, or were they injured in some way?  That would be fine, but if endurance is reduced to 0 and the result is non-fatal, endurance would then go back to 1.  The problem I had with this was that it would then trap the player in having their endurance reduced to 0 with every endurance loss, making play no fun, as they would be punished for every endurance loss they had.  I tried to think of ways around it such as combat only lasting until someone had lost x endurance, but I couldn't think of an elegant solution.  So I did away with endurance.  The physical state of the player is now entirely down to the author, including whether they live or die.  Will has been replaced with resolve.

Of course, characters can still get wounded and this could be covered by loss of resolve or penalties to skill tests, or maybe mentioned in story.  And characters cannot die unless the author wills it now.

It did raise the questions about what in a gamebook should be covered by the writing and what should be covered by a system.  In CYOA, all of your abilities and skills are entirely author dependent, and you may not know whether you have the ability to carry out an option until you actually take that option, where it might be too late.  In Fabled Lands, almost every option that requires some level of competence is covered by one of the skills.  In this case, you are given how difficult the test will be, and therefore you can work out your chances at succeeding, which may lead to you being able to make a strategic decision about whether you can succeed or not.  This would reduce frustration, as it takes away from the 'Do you want to jump across the pit?  Oh, actually, you weren't good enough for that and die.' scenario and shows you how likely you are to succeed, but reducing too many things to tests and die rolls takes away from the story and the description.

There is probably no happy medium, as different systems will need to be different for different books, and gamebooks with compelling, immersive stories and choices that don't lead to sudden deaths may not be enhanced by any kind of a system, whereas games with simple yet versatile systems that offer a lot of choices might not need an excellent story, as the intellectual challenge of the game system would be enough to make the gamebook great (which ties into GAMEbooks vs gameBOOKs).

I don't think I can do any more changes now until I try this system out on a gamebook, which is what I will do.  Any more feedback would be appreaciated, as well as thoughts on whether you prefer death to be solely the realm of the author, or whether you can reach it if a certain stat hits 0 (or any other value for that matter).

You can find the very latest version of my system here.

You can find some writings on the magic 'system' here


1 comment:

  1. It's a very interesting post. A really good opening to this April A to Z! "GAMEbooks vs gameBOOKs" is another good issue to talk about widely.

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