A blog about writing gamebooks. My musings on how to write a gamebook and what makes a good gamebook. Create your story here!
Sunday, May 30, 2021
May roundup and future upcoming events
Sunday, May 23, 2021
Abolishing the perception skill
Oh hello, gamebookers! Didn't see this title coming, did you. Maybe you need to work on your...noticing things ability.
|Looks like Luke needs a lift.|
Abolish perception? It's the most useful noncombat skill isn't it? That's what I observed when I played an RPG for the first time in my current home town.
The RPG was the real world, but angels and demons were real. They were disguised in the real world. Angels were kind of despotic and we were demons trying to get a powerful artefact. We used the In Nomine system and the main skill that we used was perception.
So that's great. Let's all be super perceptive. Well, that's how a game winning Spike would discern things. However, what if the player wanted to really be a wizard who launches fireballs? Not much room for perception there. Or even for a warrior or a cleric or whatever.
Perception is really sucking all of the oxygen out of the room and punishing people for playing characters who don't have that skill.
I thought of one way of abolishing the perception skill and making it work and I thought of something that might work in the game and in real life. Most people can't just perceive everything equally well.
|This guy comes close|
People register things based on what they are skilled at and what they pay attention to. A builder can spot structural weaknesses in structures but not necessarily rainclouds on the horizon. A gardener could perceive diseases in their plants but they might not be able to tell what type of plane if flying overhead.
I came up with a system ages ago that I want to use some day. It had 7 stats.
Aggression: A character high in Aggression will be better in both physical and verbal sparring matches.
Glamour: A character high in Glamour is able to wow people with their charm and good presentation.
Cunning: A character high in Cunning is able to think quickly and use reasoning skills and strategy. This is not book learning.
Pragmatism: A character high in Pragmatism is good at crafting, building and mending things.
Harmony: A character high in Harmony is able to find common ground with others and also bring people together.
Wisdom: A character high in Wisdom knows a lot of book learning such as literacy, maths, astronomy, history and philosophy.
Strangeness: A character high in strangeness has knowledge and experiences of those things forbidden by most of society. They may be considered mad, but, in the right circumstances, they will be sought out to deal with problems that conventional methods have failed to solve.
Testing against an ability involved rolling 6 sided dice and trying to get equal to or higher than a difficulty. Some of these characteristics would make the test easier. Some would make it harder. If the sum of the characteristics that made the task easier was higher than the sum of the characteristics that made it harder, then the player could roll 2d6 and take the best result. If the sum of the negative characteristics where higher than the sum of the positive characteristics, then the player would roll 2d6 and take the worst result. If the sums were the same or the character had no characteristics either way, they just rolled 1d6 and took that result.
This meant that each characteristic was sometimes a book and sometimes a bane. Aggression would be good for fighting a wolf, but bad for trying to get two villagers to work out a compromise. Strangeness was probably the most profound one - in my system, it would be a negative ability in any social interaction with anyone who didn't have a strangeness score, but it would also lead to great discoveries and power (if magic was in the world, which I'm not sure if it is yet).
There is also no perception skill. Why not? Each characteristic is good at perceiving things that are relevant to that characteristic. A character high in pragmatism can spot a cracked pot. A character high in glamour can spot the best jewellery in a store. Perception has been split up by ability.
That's one way of doing things. Any others?
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The range of starting stats
|Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuun!|
|Says this table I made a while back.|
|And that's the end of that chapter.|
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Is it fun to have random deaths?
The consequences of randomly determined rolls
So you have random elements in the gamebook, so consequences may be completely down to a die roll. So death might be completely down to a die roll.
|All that hard work...|
The trouble with death by random die roll is that a replay will not improve your chances next time. At least if your character dies due to an arbitrary choice, then you can not make that choice next time. If there's an unavoidable die roll that leads to death, then the next playthrough has the same chance of failure.
Another consideration is that whether the rolls completely random and I have no control over them? If something bad happens, then I will probably feel annoyed because I had no control over it. Especially if it is more likely that something bad happens. Especially if my character dies.
Why do this? I know that some RPGs are parodies of RPGs and the game system is inherently cruel, leading to the characters suffering slow, painful and unusual deaths (if they're lucky!). I'm thinking of Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy RPG, Paranoia and Dungeon Crawl Classics with the 0 level characters. In some way, if everyone is aware of that, then that is part if the fun. In the case of Dungeon Crawl Classics, I consider the part where you control several 0 level characters and most of them die to be an elaborate character creation process.
With Paranoia, you can just get another clone, so the game does not end if your characters die (reading about Paranoia is treason)
Cthulhu and Warhammer don't really have a game mechanic about death, but they make it pretty clear that it's going to happen (either your characters die or they go insane or they turn into Chaos goo. YMMV on which is the best outcome).
So, maybe there's a flavour reason for having lots of death. That may make it more acceptable. However, a hardcore gamer who wants to win will probably find that the mechanics are frustrating. Also, jokes and references may go over peoples' heads or just be not funny. And having your character die is probably not considered a great punchline by some.
Are the rolls dependent on some score that my choices could change? In this case, then you have more control over success. Just make sure you don't spring that trap that drains skill so you can make the skill roll to avoid death later. Maybe there's an item that gives a bonus for a roll so you can save it for the critical roll. Failure is still frustrating, but maybe less so if you know that you did everything you can to avoid it. Or maybe more so if you know that you did everything you can to avoid it.
|Like picking someone to load a gun based on what picture they drew.|
Sunday, May 2, 2021
Is it fun to die lots of times and have to replay a gamebook or is it better to be able to complete a gamebook in one go?
EDIT: I had the comments settings so that only members of the blog can comment. I have now changed them so that anyone can comment. Please, knock yourselves out (but comment on the blog first).
So, there are a lot of gamebooks where the choices you make could lead to your character's death. And some of those choices will be completely arbitrary where you have no idea that the choice will lead to your character's death.
Can that be fun?
The consequences of arbitrary choices
You know the kind of choice. The which door kind of choice. Do you go left or right? Do you go through the wooden door on the left or the wooden door on the right? Should you drink out of the left conical flask or the right conical flask?
|In real life, neither of them, you maniac!|
It's probably impossible to have a gamebook with no arbitrary choices.
However, arbitrary choices can be find. The frustration arises because of the consequences of those choices. If the arbitrary choices mean the difference of a few stamina points or an extra combat or a few more gold pieces, then I'm not going to complain. If there's an arbitrary choice which results in you missing the vital item/clue and you have no idea that you needed it and there is no way of getting it again and there is no other item/clue that you can get that will take its place, then I will find that annoying.
But should it be? If I approached gamebooks with the philosophy that maybe they should be played through several times and the choices should be explored to see how to avoid the death and try a different option, then the gamebook is doing what it intended to.
What method provides more replayability? On the one hand, gamebooks that kill you arbitrarily are replayed to find the right path. Gamebooks that don't kill you arbitrarily could be replayed to see what the different paths do. I suppose it might not make much difference. If you succeed at the gamebook that arbitrarily kills you early on and know that it arbitrarily kills you, then I guess you won't want to bother exploring the other paths. If exploration is more of a fun option, then maybe you will. I guess it also depends on how you feel towards the game. If the gamebook is a challenge to be beaten, then I guess you will replay the book over and over until you win. If you look at it as something to kick back and explore with/create a narrative with then having arbitrary deaths would be a put off.
So which method is more fun? I guess that depends on your gamebook player type. If you like a challenge, then having arbitrary deaths due to choices would be fun.
If you are an explorer/storyteller, then you probably won't want your experience cut short by an arbitrary death.
What do you think?