Roll+tags mechanics -- awesome narrative power or prone to fall apart?

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Hi everyone,

I just published a post about the roll+tags mechanics I am using in my street-level super-powers and investigation hack, City of Myst:

http://cityofmyst.com/2016/02/introducing-rolltags-mechanics-that-boost-your-narrative-gameplay/

Do you agree on the benefits mentioned? What do you think might be the possible breaking points of this system? Does anyone know about other AE games or creators using a roll+tags system that I can consult with?


Re: Roll+tags mechanics -- awesome narrative power or prone to fall apart?
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2016, 09:13:22 AM »
Sure, that can work.

The main issue with this kind of system is that it's open to interpretation and:

1) Can turn a game into a "Hey, don't I get this one, too?" kind of exercise.
2) Will generally lead to higher numbers being rolled.

AW works well in a very narrow range, and should stay there (for the way most moves are constructed, anyway).

For instance: in your example, why isn't the player also using Huge, and maybe "Extra Limbs" and "Rapid Healing"? Arguably they're both pretty helpful in a fight. (Healing sounds like a stretch, but consider that a creature that can heal really fast can safely hit a lot HARDER than a creature that doesn't want to, say, break its own arm by smashing it against a target.)

So my opinion is that you have design carefully to avoid those pitfalls.

Re: Roll+tags mechanics -- awesome narrative power or prone to fall apart?
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2016, 04:17:40 PM »
There is a Dungeon World supplement, I think, that works the same way. "Roll 2d6: +1 if you X, +1 if you Y, +1 if you Z" or something.

It also seems really similar to aspect-only Fate variations.

So it works. You'll need to playtest to see if it's the effect you want. I find these sorts of things tend to get gonzo as people try to make the case for even tangential abilities.

Re: Roll+tags mechanics -- awesome narrative power or prone to fall apart?
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2016, 05:28:34 AM »
Thanks Aaron and Paul for the feedback.

We've been playtesting this mechanics quite intensively in the last few months. Definitely the points you made are present, here's how I tried to handle them:

Players trying to use tangential tags
I've been able to easily control the use of tangential tags in all the games I ran with a kind of a straight forward approach that I tried to descibe in the "You as a referee" part of the MC sheets http://cityofmyst.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/City-of-Myst-MC-principles-moves-demo-version.pdf. The one time it got out of hand was when Mitosis got into a fight with a group and all his tags became relevant at once, granting him +5. I still need to work out how to handle that, if at all, because it IS where he is supposed to be the most useful.

Too big a bonus, breaking AE
The second problem, too great a bonus, is managed with:
  • Statuses, which are conditions that grant a penalty to all rolls related to them.
  • Weakness tags that the player or MC invoke to reduce the bonus (players get XP for that).
So all in all, it ends up being a much more loose range of numbers with more factors affecting it, but the end result almost always stays within the AE range. There is another factor that mitigates the effect:
3. The moves have nastier 7-9 effects so that even high bonuses do not save a character from taking some kind of Status.

Another suggestion
A suggestion made by the players was to set a limit of 3 tags per action (they can still get a greater bonus using positive Statuses). This way, there is not so much a rush for relevant tags, just a quick scan to see if you have 0, 1, 2, or 3 tags. On the other hand, knowing that the max is 3 can drive players to try to max it every time, only increasing the tangential tags issue.

What do you think?

Re: Roll+tags mechanics -- awesome narrative power or prone to fall apart?
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2016, 12:32:53 PM »
Did you find any other aids for keeping tags from breaking the odds? Do you have a ceiling on tags, for example, in your current version of the game?