Monday, June 16, 2014

O death, where is thy sting? - Alternate Death System for DCC

I mentioned yesterday in the Scrappler post about Return to Oz (I think that's the name) - a reasonably priced and very charming little number, built to run kids through the land of the Dorothy/Toto stories.  A couple of interesting mechanical ideas in it, that hinge on the premises that one can't be killed and that having friends is better than having enemies.  Also, tangentially, chock full of useful Oz information and cannon narrative material about characters, races, etc. and brimming with neat ideas to kludge into other games.

I think maybe the best thing I do is schlep together syntheses of lots of fun little bits into something different - maybe not necessarily new or novel, but taking the best bits from systems and hack em together.  I do it in my work - we call it "technical eclecticism" but it's kind of a slur when it's said that way, like you haven't found a strong formulation.  That may be true.

But I was thinking about Death.  DEATH.  DEATH!  Characters have something of us in them, when we play.  It's been my opinion in the past that losing a character or many characters owing to pseudo-death can be a liberating and healthy thing, and I sort of shat on Flailsnailsers in the past for clinging and grinding XP and selling the boots off of dead goblins to hoard coppers and whatnot.  It was pointed out to me, quite nicely, that I didn't really know what the fuck I was talking about and maybe I should Flailsnails a bit before I spoke of things I didn't have any experience in.  For the record, I've played about 2 games total out of hundreds in which this variety of play was a feature, and I think maybe it was just specific players that turned me off of it.  I'm not afraid of adopting a new character as necessary, and I'd like to think I can change positions on things when convinced or given rational arguments based on clear facts.  The Flailsnails thing doesn't appeal to me on paper, but I can see why people invest a lot of emotional weight into a preferred character.  Believe it or not, we all do it everyday!  Our characters look like us, and the stats aren't usually on paper, but having an alternate and powerful persona for a while can be a release and comforting and fulfills in Flailsnailsers the same function it must fulfill in other RPG players - namely, fun.  I tried to adopt a "don't shit on peoples' fun" approach a while back, and now I'd like to make it somewhat easier for DCC players (since DCC has clearly become my system of choice) to careen about the multiverse by providing interesting alternatives to death.

DCC has two approaches this way that I've come into contact with, the Core Rulebook has the Turn the Body Over check - pretty simple and elegant, and highlights the ultimate risks in spending your finite reserve of Luck. +Scott Mathis ' Transylvanian Adventures supplement has the Ruin score which adds a good bit of complexity and some more chance into the way that Death can be avoided - I guess the idea is that Fear and the associated paralysis can really put a dent in the evening's fun when everybody dies abruptly, and the Ruin score is a way to push things back in the players' favor with a modicum of risk and reward.  I like it, although I haven't yet seen it play out in the way it was likely intended.

So, my take on this new thing for Death doesn't yet have a name or anything.  The Hapless Henchman System of Fun Death Evasion.  No, your character doesn't have to die, if you find you cannot accept this outcome, but now his/ger/its life (or whatever it is) just got intensely more complicated in a way that is good for the narrative and the game overall and will (hopefully) stretch your RP muscles.  Note, this is to promote and reward fun play and not sting for bad dicing.  It will allow for (to me) interesting twists on character development - e.g. in the 1st edition AD&D rules you had hard-coded mechanics for getting turned into a unicorn via reincarnation.  I mean, maybe it doesn't fit my concept but toss off concepts I want to play a Unicorn with a Half-Orc Assassin's soul - wouldn't anybody?

More tomorrow.

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