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Messages - Declan Feeney

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brainstorming & development / Re: The Dice Mechanic
« on: January 02, 2014, 06:49:24 AM »
When you try to do something, you spin dreidels (spinning actually takes too long, so really you roll them like dice, but "spin" sounds cool). You can always spin as many dreidels as you like, from one to, let's say, ten. You'll need ten dreidels to play.

You know what dreidels are? They're tops, with four letters on them: gimel, hay, nun, and shin. Gimels are successes, hays are neutral, nuns are failure, shins are complications.

After spinning, you ignore hays; each nun you have showing, will cancel out a gimel. If you have any gimels left after the nuns cancel them out, that's how many successes you got. In addition, you have as many complications as you have shins.

Your stat allows you to REMOVE that number of dreidels, after spinning and before summing up the results.

So assuming a zero stat - adding additional dreidels actually reduces your chance of success (1 in 4 being the highest probability of success you will ever see), but increases the probability of complications fast.  Probability of complications (Pc) = 1-(0.75^n) where n is the number of number of diedels. Hence with a zero stat you would always spin one dreidel.

With a stat of 1 you'd be silly not to roll at least two dreidels  (43% chance of success with and only 6% chance of complication), but 3 dreidels might be more tempting even though it increases the chance of complication. And often you'll have the choice of failing, or succeeding with consequences.

I love the system, although would question how quickly a large number of dreidels can be read? One of the issues with Star Wars Edge of Empire is the length of time interpreting a roll - and lots of dreidels will have the same issue.


First, the trigger: 'When someone presents new  evidence which suggests that you're not who you appear to be or suggest the nature of your hidden agenda...' So, what evidence and how do they present it? if I think that the Agent has a hidden agenda and I investigate it, at what point is the move triggered? When I have suspicions? When I follow them up? When I present my findings to a third party? There seems to be a long chain here before I get to presenting evidence to the suspect.

The trigger should really be on the "and you choose to protect your secrets with lies." The stuff before that is the pre-requisits, but the decision to protect their secret with lies is the point where the player acts. Hence thats the trigger.

The original version of the of the skill had the first line ""When someone suspects that you're not who you appear to be or that you have a hidden agenda, and questions you, mark experience. If they then accept whatever plausible lie you spin them, they gain leverage on you."

There were a number of issues with this:
1) The player had no agency here. They were gaining XP as the result of things happening around them, as opposed to something they did.
2) The move assumed action by the player - which turned out not to be the case. What if instead of lying they decided to just shoot their accuser, or to destroy the evidence whatever it was.
3) It was potentially open to abuse. A couple of complicit players could gain an XP point per scene by repeatedly challeneging each other. (Monsterhearts Singleton rule applies and limits it to 1 XP per scene)

We added the reference to 'new  evidence' to make it clear that the move only triggers if the situation has changed. You blow up a shuttle.. cool. Someone finds footage of you leaving the shuttlebay and question you; you can trigger the move, however further questioning about the video footage wont allow you to trigger the move. Then someone finds your fingerprionts on the remains - thats new evidenece.

How they present it - anythign really. They could just mention it in passing. Maybe I should change that first line to  When someone has fresh  evidence. If removes the suggestion that it has to have some form of formal presentation.

Second, your reaction: '...and you choose to protect your secrets with lies..' Why wouldn't I, if I have something to hide? And if I don't, what happens?
I don't really know, but players do all sorts of things. They might assume the game was up and run. They might shoot their accuser. They might try to destroy the evidence.

Having said that I assume anyone who takes this move is flagging that they want to tell lies, build a complicated web of deceit, complicate their own lives, and eventually have their lies come back to bite them - so I assume most of the time anyone with this move will lie. Its important they have the option to do other weird shit though.

Third, their reaction: 'If they then accept whatever plausible story you spin them, they gain leverage on you.' Doesn't this reward them for doing nothing? It encourages them to avoid confrontation and to drop the matter from the story; indeed, the more often they ignore the evidence in front of them and accept the cover story, the more they get rewarded, which seems more like a comedy/farce mechanic than gritty drama.

Theres something of an issue here.

If they dont drop it then the story ends fast. We have a spy / sabateur / assassin who is in deep cover. The game has open secrets so its well known. Some evidence comes to light which throws their existence into question. They are accused. The player questioning is unlikely to drop it no matter how good the cover-up/lies because we have open secrets and he knows his suspicions are right. The spy is uncovered and killed. The end.

If we want to draw that out it actually pays to reward players for not following through to the conclusion on the open secrets. At the same time it does seem farce like if carried too far. I can think of several TV shows where the continued abilty of a protagonist to ignore repeated clues started wearing on the viewer.

My hope is that the Leverage they are building up on the Spy at some point encourages them to break the cycle. When they have enough ammunition there needs to be a scene where they put it all together. They choose not to drop it - and all that leverage represents the clues they can now start attributing to facts.

What about something more like this:

When another PC acts on their suspicions about you, you may present them with the evidence they find and mark experience; if they then immediately lose that evidence, they gain leverage on you.

This pushes the responsibility for giving away their true agenda onto the player, giving them some control over the speed at which their story gets revealed but rewarding them for doing so; the investigator can then either hold onto the evidence or narrate how it gets destroyed/lost but their aroused suspicions give them leverage. I don't know if that's what you're going for though, so it might be the wrong direction.

I like that a lot. I like the fact it places the pacing in the hands of the Agent, and not the investigator. I do however want to try and keep the building network of lies. Thank you. You've given me lots to think about :) I'll also see what Neil thinks.

A trick you can sometimes manage is if two (or more) player characters get into an in-game conversation of relatively low stakes (in other words you probably won't need any hard moves for it or add any description), you can switch to another group while they handle themselves.

I would recommend strongly against this. The message you are giving to the players is: "This new scene I am switching to isn't important enough to warrant everybodies interest."

The logical next stage from this is they start playing on mobile phones, reading or gazing out the window when they're not involved in a scene.

One of the playbooks we are looking at for Star Ace is the Agent. The Agent is a character working for another power/employer/master with their own agenda.

We've got an early draft of the character and Neil and I are trying to decide if a particular move works, or is too open to abuse.

"Spin Doctor?: When someone presents new  evidence which suggests that you're not who you appear to be or suggest the nature of your hidden agenda, and you choose to protect your secrets with lies mark experience.
If they then accept whatever plausible story you spin them, they gain leverage on you."

The hope is that it will support the genre fiction - the series of close calls a Deep Cover agent always seems to encounter in the fiction. The other players may encounter evidence that the agent was behind something going wrong, but hopefully they have sufficient incentive to believe the cover story (as the action is rewarded). Also it fits the fiction that they now have leverage on the character - they have evidence they can use when they start putting things together.

(Leverage works very much like Strings in Monsterhearts)

I need to know, what are peoples feelings? Is this too open to abuse? Will it work? Have you tried anything similar?

The Farmboy

The first mostly finished playbook.

Any thoughts?

This is the Luke Skywalker / Alex Rogan / Belgarion / Rand al'Thor of the game - which presumably means the next Archetype to do it the Veteran (a.k.a. Wise Old Wizard)

Playtest Document 1.3 has:

  • A new craft (the single man stealth fighter)
  • Other craft stats revised for balance
  • Several Moves renamed, and minor tweaks to mechanics.
  • Evasive Manoeuvre has been removed and its functionality split between three other moves.
  • A New Dogfight Move: Manoeuvre for Advantage
  • Revised way of handling 2 man crafts (and bigger)
  • Chase rules
  • Range rules
  • Updated Injury Rules, revised in light of the Death Moves
  • Updated MC Principles
  • Updated MC Moves
  • All remaining references to dedication replaced with Duty
  • Many Typos removed
What didn't make it in (stuff we are working on)
  • New Playbooks - Playbooks will be maintained separately and not part of the core rules doc. At the moment I have 3 playbooks I'm mostly happy with. I need to get that to 5 as my home playtest group has 5 players. Preferably 6 as that covers most groups.
  • Death moves - Although referenced under Injury the core of the Deathmoves mechanics will be in the Playbooks
  • Trust - Most of the trust rules are built into the playbooks. These will be most evident in the Farmboy, Veteran, Agent and Turncoat.
  • Revised 'Contemplate your Inevitable Fate' Move - Its coming, but we want to get this one right so Neil and I are still working out how to handle it
  • Capital Ship rules - Neil's working hard on this part of the rules. They look really cool, but they're not quite ready to playtest yet
  • Ship Classifications - Doesn't really make a lot of sense to release these without the Capital Ship Rules
The Bucket List (stuff we haven't looked at yet, but are well aware we will have to at some point)
  • Training Tag moves - Each Training Tag needs to have at least one Training move associated with it - hence we want a Mechanic move, a Medic move, a Navigator Move etc.
  • Experience System - We need to review how we want to handle this. At the moment the playtest doc has the AW / MH marked stat rules. This will probably change.
  • Fronts / Threats / Something else - This is a space we haven't really looked into yet, but we'll be doing it soon.
Comments are enabled on the document, so please leave feedback (either here or in Google Drive)

Now updated to Playtest version 1.3.
Comments are enabled on the document, so please leave feedback (either here or in Google Drive)

Unfortunately its 2am and I have to get up for work in 4 1/2 hours, so I'm going to get some sleep and I'll post some notes about what's updated tomorrow.

Hi all. I'm working with Neil Gow on 'Star Ace'. A hack about Starfighter Pilots and the doomed lives they live. Its at an easly stage, but I figured it was worth sharing. Hopefully we might get some useful feedback. :)

The main themes are Mortality and Trust.

Mortality - The characters knowledge of thier own mortality is integral to several mechanics, including their ability to forsee the events of their death, and their ability to escape deaths grip. The game acknowledges no matter how good you are, at some point your number comes up. One of the key character stats is Doom (which escalates as the character becomes aware of their mortality). In addition each character has a Death move - triggered by close encounters with the Grim Reaper.

Trust - Many of the ploaybooks look to questions of trust, deceit and betrayal - ranging from the
  • The Farmboy - Young, Trusting, Full of potential and hope which could be nurtured or dashed), to the
  • The Veteran - Jaded, Distrustful, Quietly competent. Very aware of their own mortality.)
  • The Turncoat - They've come over from the other side. Their very presence breeds distrust
  • The Agent - Working for an outside power, possibly the enemy. They have their own hidden agendas.
Playtest Version 1.2 is available online here

However we've had a number of playtests since that was written, and a bucket load of things which needed to be changed. I've been updating and I'm hoping to get 1.3 up withing the next 2-3 days. Version 1.3 will have:
  • Re-written damage rules
  • Death Moves
  • Significant changes to the Dogfight Basic Moves
  • Lots of typos removed, including both the reference to the Starburst Carrot (Should have been cannon)
  • Updated Principles
  • Updated GM Moves

brainstorming & development / Re: dedicated hack forums
« on: November 26, 2013, 08:00:27 AM »
Hi Vincent,

Could you create a forum for

'Star Ace',
Declan Feeney and Neil Gow's hack about Starfighter Pilots and the doomed lives they lead.

(Early playtest doc:

Many thanks,


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