First attempt at solo game design. Brainstorming ideas.

edited August 2014 in Game Design Help
So basically, I've spent too many brain cycles on a thought experiment related to solo roleplaying/gaming. As a result of that, I have come to feel that the activity requires too much in-game content creation to match the experience of roleplaying from a player's POV. The closest experience I feel one can get with current technology is that of being an improvising GM with a GM-PC.

Still, I haven't completely given up on trying to keep some degree of 'pushback', surprise, mystery, 'immersion' and a sense of exploration that comes with being a player (as opposed to GM). At times I’ve mused that in order to get that feeling in a solo game, one must engage in a bit of self-deception in the form of reframing the activity. It is my belief that this can be achieved with a premise that synergizes with what’s required of you as a solo player. I now believe that it is critical, at least for me, to have some synergy between the premise and the act of content creation required of me as a solo gamer.

I think stumbled upon this some time ago by accident, and I hadn’t even realized it. In one of my solo sessions, I was using a deck of cards as an idea generator. This particular deck turns out to have some hidden tarot iconography which turned out to be great because I had chosen to play a psychic woman trying to stop a serial killer. Though she wasn't doing a tarot reading herself when psychically seeing anything related to the serial killer or his victims, the use of the cards felt like a great thematic fit. Now I wonder how much better it would have felt if the PC herself was actually using a tarot reading to see those things.

Anyway, I’m now thinking that hiding the act of GM-like content creation as an in-game activity carried out by the PC is probably a good way to have an immersive RPG-like experience as a solo player. I can think of two ways: a PC with god like in-game creation powers, or a PC that uses the Player's creativity tools as some sort of divination device that informs them of what's going on (rather than relying on their senses). Basically, the GM act of creation is justified as an act of ‘divination’. Does this make any sense?

There is actually one solo game, Oculus, which does that through its premise. You're basically a person who has found a magical talisman allowing you to remotely view another world and focus on one of its inhabitants (your Familiar). The talisman is the Oculus game itself, which is mechanically similar to a GM 'emulator' (you assign odds and roll a dice to get a yes/no answer, in addition to getting pairs of keywords to interpret when first setting a scene).

My only dissatisfaction with this particular game is that there is that constant contact with the system is not encouraged enough, and also that your role is somewhat passive as a viewer in that you do not per se control or influence your familiar (even though you do, but it's not framed that way). Other than those quibbles, however, I always thought it’s a great idea.

So, here goes my own first attempt at this idea. Since I’m more of a Italian horror/giallo genre fan, I’m going back to the psychic idea along with the tarot deck:

Premise:

“You’re a patient at a psychiatric institution who has an actual psychic gift. Through your tarot deck, you can see serial killers doing heinous things far away from the institution grounds. The catch is that if you’re seeing them, it’s already too late for the victims.

The same gift also allows you to read from the tarot things that are seen from the perspective of ONE person that is somehow involved in the situation. This person could be the next victim, a police detective, a relative, etc. However, in contrast to your connection to the killer, your bond to this person is more personal—perhaps because you both are hate, or are obsessed with catching the killer. That bond results in a very strange phenomenon: You can directly influence them through your cards, though they don’t know it. They will feel it as a strong instinct, idea or hunch they will follow (in a way you’re remote controlling them).

The connection between this person and you is the only hope you have of stopping this serial killer as you’re never ever leaving the institution after having committed some sort of atrocity in the past. So if you’re thinking of alerting anyone in the facility as a way to help, don’t. That is unless you’re really hankering for a lobotomy. Otherwise, you’re on your own. ”

So, from that, here are some ideas I have so far:
  • 1. The game always starts with the player starting a real time clock running each time they sit down to play. (It would be fun or interesting if real time has some correspondence to the passage of in-game time, I think. I haven’t decided yet what the correspondence should be).
  • 2. Immediately after that, the PC will be reading the cards which will either:
  • 2.a. Tell him or her something that the serial killer is doing at that moment, or
  • 2.b. something that the person they’re bonding with has witnessed in relation to the serial killer (seeing the crime on the news, receiving bad news, finding a body, being chased by the killer).
  • 3. The real importance of the clock is in gamifying the tarot interpretations (in other words, the content creation) by giving the player a time limit in which to write something coherent down. Going past that time limit should have some sort of consequence. Possibilities:
  • 3.a. A doom track that moves at determined time intervals as well as when a time limit is blown past.
  • 3.b. Maybe staying within a time limit, moves the doom track backwards one spot.
  • 4. You may run into #3 above because the tarot reading may be nonsensical or too cryptic. This may mean that there the psychic connection is momentarily weakened. However, the clock keeps ticking. What did the serial killer do while you were disconnected? What did the person you’re bonded to do without your influence? The only way to find out is to read the cards to see what you missed.
  • 5. When you influence the person you share that bond with, you still have to find out how it went by doing a subsequent reading. The cards are the only way you can visualize what is happening.
  • 6. I think there is space here to add more RPG elements such as stats for the person your PC is bonded to so that you can perform ability checks at the Player level when it makes sense. I need to think further about this, but I’m inclined towards systems like Trollbabe’s where no NPC ever rolls.
  • 7. I feel like something interesting could be done with the bit about the PC having done something atrocious herself or himself that landed them at the psychiatric ward. Maybe something having to do with redemption or being released, or being pushed to commit a final atrocity. Still brainstorming that as well.
That’s all I have for now. If I somehow finalize this and get to playtest it, I’ll update the thread. I’m open to ideas on how to make this more fun. :)

Comments

  • edited August 2014
    It's an exploration of your own subconsciousness, really. Which is some cool shit. I think it's equally likely that in #4 you may run into a problem where the possible interpretations are too many (i.e. more than one). I think therefore that an important principle is to keep using a randomizing mechanic until the potential meanings of a character, location, event or item collapse down to only one clear one.

    (The binary tree approach is good for this. "Does that mean the doctor?" (yes/no) = flip a coin or roll high/low with high being yes. If the answer is no then propose another thing. If the "yes" thing has two categories, then jump down one level and roll again to determine which it is, etc. Repeat until the whole question has collapsed into a single interpretation.)

    I think the timer makes sense on a scene level, but I'm less convinced it needs to be active on the story level. If so, it should definitely be fictized. That Doom Track needs elucidation. A ticking clock in Hollywood terms. SOMETHING BAD is going to happen if the clock runs out, and that will be the end of the game.

  • Looking forward to how this develops. While I have nothing to add, I do have a variety of tarot decks and when/if you need playtesting support, I'd be glad to help.
  • edited August 2014
    Thanks for your feedback @Asif, and the offer to test @Zircher!

    The mention of playtesting made me think that right now that the core Tarot mechanic won't change much, but it needs more detail on how I envision the player should proceed. I've actually done some very lazy research on Tarot readings right now, and will be lifting some rules directly from that, which I think could add to the immersion.

    These rules that follow are more related to handling the state of the game (specifically when you as the player can't make sense of the results):
    • 1. When the player lays out a spread, I think they should be able to milk it for as much as its worth before moving to another reading.
    • 2. If something is unclear, clarifications can be sought by pulling more cards into the current reading.
    • 3. When the space starts to get cluttered with no clear meaning, it's time to reshuffle and do another reading.
    • 4. When influencing the person bonded to the PC, the player can just search the deck for the combination of cards that best express the message to the person's unconscious. That person always acts with the intent the PC intended. (**)
    • 5. Your reading is limited to the killer or bonded person's five senses. In the case of the killer, I'm thinking you only see them in the act so it's not too easy for you to find them. In the case of the bonded person, you also have access to their feelings and an impression of their thoughts.
    I am not sure if it would be worth it to add more difficulty to #4 by the way of constraints or by adding fortune as a way of determining how clear you message gets across. Constraints I've thought about all revolve about having a limited hand of cards that you pull from the deck and doing the best you can to send some useful message to the bonded person's unconscious. It could be fun, but I already envision the PC and the bonded person sharing some common stats that will be used to check the bonded person's success at carrying out what the PC has intended (so making sending a command/message difficult could be overkill).

    **Here is where stats and rolling against them would come into play, which I still need to decide. I really really like the Trollbabe approach of Social/Fight/Magic, except I want to replace Magic with something else. I keep thinking of Friday the 13th VII, where the victim being chased by Jason Voorhees had telekinetic powers and my mind goes "woo!". Maybe Social/Fight/Telekinesis would be good for a bonded person who's a targeted victim trying to survive, and that would imply a different types of people you might bond to with a different special talent. An Investigator type would maybe have Social/Fight/Empathy a la Red Dragon.
    Etc.

    I kind of like this direction. Maybe the PC should find out who the person is and what their special talent is via the Tarot reading. I'd still want to provide some pre-made types, though, for either inspiration or for people who don't want to brainstorm.

    Now on to the specific @AsIf feedback:

    The concept of this as an exploration of the subconscious has given me a sort of bookend idea for the PC in the institution. This ties in with my obsession with using time as an in fiction and out of fiction element.

    Say you have the player set a timer and decide on a limit of X unit of time. The limit could represent a full day that is broken by the usual regiment of the institution: breakfast, lunch, dinner, lights out, daily cognitive therapy sessions, etc.

    This not only represents a time in which the PC is in the dark and without any sort of control, but a chance to add flavor by noting how each of those things went.

    What really interests me is the cognitive therapy break, though. Taking a page from games like Misspent Youth, I think that asking the PC questions like (thinking of Psycho) "What was your relationship with your mother like?" could add depth to the experience. In fact, I want now to add the conceit that the PC has blocked out many memories, including what she or he did that landed them permanently in a psych ward.

    So, I imagine a series of questions that always end with, "now that you remember, tell me what you did and why." That would be the end of the game perhaps, coinciding with whatever event ends the PCs quest via the person they bonded with.

    I imagine the questions will all be pre-made with maybe some randomized mad line elements to keep things fresh. Possibly the question order would be randomized except for the last one. Maybe the first question should always be something like "how long have you been with us?"

    On the use of time:

    Part of the reason I want to directly tie it to the fiction is that I have this feeling that when the game elements at the Player level are connected to the fiction, it helps with immersion in the game and that bit of self-deception I talked about earlier. :) Still, I want to know more about your thoughts on this. I wasn’t quite sure if what you meant by scene level vs story level had to do with using time to frame a scene?

    I also, like mentioned above, want the time to both gamify the creative process, but also add a sense of urgency at the fictional level. Each night when it’s lights out a day has basically passed, and at night the PC has no idea of what will happen until she can read the cards again the next day. Maybe even gamify things some more by adding an element of risk taking where if the player decides to defy the lights out order, there’s a chance they get caught and are not allowed to read the cards for X number of days. It kind of adds an undercurrent of how some things are out of the PC’s control.

    Going back to folding the creativity tools into the fictional premise:

    This is where I’m sort of resistant to adding the binary yes/no process for fleshing out the readings. My strong preference right now is to have the players flesh out the reading the same way a Tarot reader would if something wasn’t clear. However, I’m open to adding the yes/no binary if we can brainstorm a really cool way of adding it as a divinatory thing. As you suggested, maybe a coin flip, but adding some fictional significance to the coin (maybe it is an old dollar coin that belonged to a famous or infamous person, or a French coin that belonged to Nostradamus).

    Doom track:

    Again, I want to tie this in with the passage of time at the player level, which I think should be connected to in-game time. I think the doom track could represent the number of victims until it gets to the last one. The bad thing could be a couple of different things: the person the PC has bonded to gets killed (maybe the PC dies too due to the bond); the person the PC has bonded to becomes insane (maybe causing the PC to do something really bad at the institution), etc. I might need help brainstorming more bad things.

    The doom track could also represent bad things for the killer if it goes the other way. It could represent how close the bonded person is to stopping the killer. The issue is thinking of what ways the doom track can be pushed in that direction: Successful ability checks? Successfully beating the clock (if short time limits are implemented for each reading’s intepretation)? Also, should this bad-for-the-killer track be separate from the PC doom track? A situation in which something bad is about to happen to both the killer and the PC could be fun.

    Any futher ideas or critiques are very welcome as I’m just brainstorming and nothing is set in stone yet. :)
  • This approach/concept - "hiding the act of GM-like content creation as an in-game activity carried out by the PC" - is a perfect example of what I mean when I say "fictizing". It's a word I made up to describe the production tenets of "Ghosts in the Machine" and other games. For instance, we dressed our stage hands identically and had them appear to be servants of the house, we gave the videographer a backstory that also made her a videographer in the fiction, etc. You could say that Fictizing is the opposite of Bauhaus. :-)

    I'm with ya on the binary tree thing. I suggested the coinflip/dice only because I was trying to conserve cards in the deck. That felt like a need to me. But it sounds like you don't have a problem with drawing card after card, since you're gonna shuffle and do a new layout for the next question, yeah? So using the cards for secondary elucidations is fine.

  • edited August 2014
    Ah, "fictizing", I got it now. :) Thanks for the input. I need to check out your game.

    Maps & Artifacts

    I haven't really made progress regarding some of the other elements I've mentioned like the doom track(s). I wanted to focus on another idea that's been percolating inside my head. It started as an image of me using google maps and the street view, as if I was the PC, in order to try and get a feeling or hunch out of them. If I somehow got a creepy feeling or hunch, I would then incorporate the information into the in-game action.

    This was partly inspired by some headlines I'd seen about bad stuff that has been captured by google, and partly by games that generate some sort of map with meaningful information as part of gameplay. I was thinking it'd be interesting to let the player collect bits and pieces of information online (or otherwise) and end up with a meaningful artifact like a map with those bits attached to it, or maybe something akin to a vision board (but with the purpose of an evidence bulletin board thingy), a scrapbook or something of that nature.

    The more I thought about it, though, the less practical and fun it seemed to be surfing the street view for images as an in-game thing. It seems best suited to the kind of out of game stuff that happens during GM prep or chargen. Not bad, but I still want to have some mystery and uncertainty left for the in game stuff.

    My solution so far:
    • 1. At the player level, search for images, articles, sounds, paragraphs, phrases and other bits. These will represent bits and pieces that your PC has been collecting and obsessing over in the time immediately before things began to happen. How many should they collect?
    • 2. A couple of these objects were the catalyst that connected the PC to the killer and the other person. I am not sure if I should have fortune select these or encourage the player to handpick them. I'm also not sure what the best way would be to determine the number of objects to be selected from the bunch.
    • 3. Prior to the game, the player should choose a general location and obtain a map. I'm thinking city or big town would be ideal, though larger but less densely populated areas could be good too.
    • 4. This is provisional, as I'm not sure if adding more mechanics muddies things: superimpose a numbered grid over the map. The X and Y axis will have numbers corresponding to some kind of dice. At some set interval (beginning of an in game day?) , the player will roll two dice and the axis will tell them where something occurred. Maybe this could be triggered too by some condition related to the cards, I'm not sure. Fictionally, I'm inclined for it to be some sort of accurate psychic hunch rather than some piece of concrete news.
    • 5. At each chosen location, a piece of info from game prep will be attached as part of that same psychic hunch.
    • 6. During each therapy session, your pc will discover that some available piece of info is related to something they have mentally blocked. Should this be randomly chosen?
    • 7. One of the pieces that is discovered through therapy is what psychically connects the PC to the killer. Another is the one connecting the person with whom they bonded. Maybe it would be cool if one piece connected everyone in some way, but would that be too contrived?
    • 7.1 in a cool way, I think that this thing in common with the killer is the only insight the PC could get into their feelings.
    • 8. One thing I don't want to get lost in all that musing is that I think these things could also help the player visualize some card readings and provide further context and inspiration.
    The following thoughts are a bit unfocused, but I hope they make some type of sense.

    I'm again not sure if fortune should play a part in the act of selection. And if it does, should it be through the cards? Using the cards would fit in with the overall theme, but other means are quicker and more direct. With the cards you always have to interpret, and I worry about the player already having to interpret so much. Adding more interpretation on top could be too much.

    I also keep thinking that the above should somehow tie mechanically into other parts of the game-- maybe stat checks. If so, then a stat like Investigation seems to be best to have as a core part of the game (maybe replacing social). It would be used for playing around with making sense of these bits of information by 'finding' supporting evidence. A successful check maybe means that you 'find' a missing piece that would lend sense to an unclear piece of evidence. Essentially, a successful check would give you authority to invent something out of thin air (whereas if you're interpreting cards you're limited to what the cards seem to say).

    A failed roll, on the other hand, could mean that something disqualifies the information under consideration as not being related to the killer at all (a red herring or maybe something related to what the PC has mentally blocked). Maybe a failed roll also pushes the catch-the-killer doom track backwards, effectively moving the story away from the killer being caught. (in general, I still need to think more about the doom tracks).

    Another thing central to this stat rolling stuff is coming up with specific conditions in which stat checks should be made. Maybe it should be based on whether a non-sensical or unclear Tarot card reading happens during a 'scene' in which the PC's bonded person is investigating (for an Investigation roll to happen that is). For a "Fight" type of stat, maybe it would be the appearance of any 'trump' card(s) associated with the killer (this would imply choosing such trump cards early in the game as signs of the presence of the killer).

    Maybe I should stick completely with the Trollbabe way of doing things declare that the stats are always Fight/Social/Investigate. Then special talents like telekinesis or empathy would be descriptors of the other stats like:

    Fight (telekinesis)
    Social (something)
    Investigate (empathy)

    Hmm.
  • edited August 2014
    So, I think this is very near the final draft outline of the game. Sorry for the outline format, but this is how I tend to break down information at least in the initial phase. If this makes your eyes bleed, let me know and I'll change it to something more paragraph based. I intend to do that anyway, but wanted to put this out there for critique before I begin that. :)

    There are a few details I need to add, such as random tables for the psych ward routine events such as Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. These are not important other than to add flavor around the activities with the Tarot, and if they seem too hokey I'll just leave them out.

    I also have a few things that are crossed out that I thought I'd leave out of the game, but wanted them visible to see if someone thought they should have been left in. They are things that I kinda liked at the beginning, but later struck me as adding more unnecessary difficulty.

    Anything that doesn't seem clear or incomplete that you happen to catch, please let me know. If I happen to catch anything myself, I'll update with another post.

    Eventually I'm going to playtest this myself when I get a chance, which I hope is soon. @Zircher and other souls brave enough to sift through this mess, please do let me know your impressions and any suggestions. :) Thanks in advance!

    I had to break up the text into multiple posts due to space limitations, but here goes:

    Premise:
    Same as before:

    “You’re a patient at a psychiatric institution who has an actual psychic gift. Through your tarot deck, you can see serial killers doing heinous things far away from the institution grounds. The catch is that if you’re seeing them, it’s already too late for the victims.

    The same gift also allows you to read from the tarot things that are seen from the perspective of ONE person that is somehow involved in the situation. This person could be the next victim, a police detective, a relative, etc. However, in contrast to your connection to the killer, your bond to this person is more personal—perhaps because you both are hate, or are obsessed with catching the killer. That bond results in a very strange phenomenon: You can directly influence them through your cards, though they don’t know it. They will feel it as a strong instinct, idea or hunch they will follow (in a way you’re remote controlling them).

    The connection between this person and you is the only hope you have of stopping this serial killer as you’re never ever leaving the institution after having committed some sort of atrocity in the past. So if you’re thinking of alerting anyone in the facility as a way to help, don’t. That is unless you’re really hankering for a lobotomy. Otherwise, you’re on your own. ”

    Game prep
    • 1. Your PC has been collecting and obsessing over for images, articles, sounds, paragraphs, phrases and other bits of information. She thinks they're trying to tell her something. As part of game prep, you will build such a collection using anything that catches your interest (need more inspirational guidelines).
    • 2. Two of these objects are set apart. They both hold critical clues as to what connects the PC to the killer and the Investigator. One of them holds the key the connection with the killer and the other to the Investigator the PC has psychically bonded with. You do not know yet why and your PC will realize why through therapy, after enough context has been created in-game to inspire an answer.
      • 2.1. How these objects are selected is up to you: pick them randomly or in a deliberate way.
      • 2.2. If you want, you can make it one object that connects all three of you.
      • 2.3 This object you that connects you with the killer is the one direct insight the PC will get into the killer’s inner world—probably by looking into the PC’s own inner world.
    • 3. Choose a real life location and obtain a map of it. A city or big town would be ideal, though larger but less densely populated areas could be good too. Alternatively, make up a fictional location matching the size and population characteristics mentioned above, and draw a map of it with as much detail as a real map (street names, etc.)
      • 3.1 You may want to research the location a bit and take notes to get a sense of place. These would represent knowledge your PC has acquired prior to when she realizes there's a killer on the lose. She may have been drawn to this place for other reasons as well, which you can make part of the backstory.
    • 4. Superimpose a numbered grid over the map. You could also just write evenly spaced numbers as columns and rows (or X and Y axes). The numbers should correspond to some kind of dice; the higher the dice, the more finely grained your grid will be.
      • 4.1. Roll 1d6 and divide by 2. Round up. Those are the number if victims your PC knows of having found out through some means defined by you.
      • 4.2. For each victim, roll the dice associated with the location grid. This will mark the area in which the victim was found. If your grid isn't fine grained enough, you can create a sub grid using any type if dice. Alternatively, you can pick a spot within that location without the use of a sub grid.
      • 4.3. An alternative rule could involve tying the accuracy of the grid to your Investigation stat. Each point would represent a bigger dice (1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d12, 1d20, etc), which would result in smaller areas if the map being pinpointed. This would become relevant when figuring out more locations in-game as you look for clues. (The rule would involve tying the discovery of exact locations to a successful investigation roll. A failed roll would subtract five minutes from your available time. However, the location would be revealed after a set interval- say after a day.)
    • 5. For each location, attach a piece of information from game prep. This is based on a psychic hunch your PC has had. This is chosen randomly.
    • 6. Likewise, during each therapy session, your pc will realize that one piece of information (not already attached to a location) is related to something they have mentally blocked. This is randomly chosen.
    • 8. All of these elements are meant to help the Player contextualize the Tarot readings.

  • Play
    • 1. The actual game always starts with the player setting a timer or noting the time of the clock. You will have half an hour to investigate via your Tarot readings before you are due for your daily therapy session. After that, then half an hour more before lights out. Those thirty minutes roughly correspond to half a day.
    • 2. The player will also set two Tracks: A Capture Track and a Cold Case Track. The player can set the number of points in these at any number between 5 and 15. The first track represents how close the killer is to being stopped and captured. The second track represents how close the killer is to completely getting away. Each point on the second track also represents a victim. Each night the track moves forward, which means that each night there is a new victim (note: this does not mean you know where the victim is; you just know the psycho killed again).
      • a. Alternatives to the way time is represented:
        • i. It may be better fictionally to have each hour of play represent an unspecified number of days, instead of a single day. It doesn’t make a difference mechanically, but may be better in a fictional sense. Or,
        • ii. Make the Cold Case track half as long as the Capture track, while moving the Cold Case track forward every two days. So in essence, a victim dies every two days until the killer is stopped.

    • 3. During this time, the Player will be performing Tarot readings. During the first such reading, the player will pick out two cards at random from anywhere in the deck. These will be the trump cards corresponding to the killer and the person who is psychically bonded to the PC (from now on called the “investigator”). Note them and reshuffle them back on the deck.
      • a. When the killer’s card appears, it means the psychic reading is directly related to one of the killer’s victims and the PC feels it as a strong psychic hunch. If you can find the exact location, you will uncover clues.
        • i. To do this, you need to roll your Investigation skill, and if successful, use the grid on the map. At that location, you have found and a piece of evidence or a clue that sheds more definitive light onto one of the items from game prep. You, as the Player, get to narrate what that piece of evidence is, and the Capture Track moves one spot closer to catching the killer and discovering their identity.
        • ii. The catch with using the map is that each time you roll in order to find the exact location five minutes are subtracted from your remaining time. This represents the effort needed for you to pinpoint the location.
        • iii. A failed roll on your Investigation skill means you lose five minutes of clock time, which represents the time lost chasing this clue. You may try again with another Investigation roll representing more time spent investigating.
      • b. When the Investigator’s card comes up, it means that the Investigator has come upon evidence of crimes (news, a witness, an anonymous tip, etc), but needs some social finesse to get it.
        • i. If you roll a successful Social check, you obtain evidence, a clue or insight that sheds more definitive light onto one of the items from game prep. You, as the Player, get to narrate what that evidence, clue or insight is. Furthermore, the Capture Track moves one spot closer to catching the killer.
        • ii. A failed roll means you lose five minutes of clock time, representing that the time spent chasing this clue, insight or piece of evidence was unfruitful. You may try again with a different stat meaning a change of tactics.
      • c. When the Investigator’s card and Killer’s card come up together, it means there is a confrontation.
        • i. If the killer’s trump card is reversed, then the Investigator catches sight of someone suspicious, who the PC knows is the killer. The suspicious person is trying to escape.
        • ii. If the Investigator’s card is reversed, then she is the one being stalked by the killer.
        • iii. These would both be solved by some sort of stat roll (Scrap if you try to hurt the killer or protect yourself. Communicate if you try to talk to the killer). In the case of finding the killer, Investigation would apply also.
        • iv. A successful roll during a confrontation could mean the killer is finally stopped or that the Investigator was able to fight him/her off. A failed roll could spell doom for the PC or the killer's escape.
    • 4. For all other readings, the PC will sense what the Investigator senses, essentially ‘seeing’ the world from the Investigator’s POV.
      • a. When the player lays out a spread, I think they should be able to milk it for as much as its worth before moving to another reading.
      • b. If something is unclear, clarifications can be sought by pulling more cards into the current reading.
      • c. When the space starts to get cluttered with no clear meaning, it's time to reshuffle and do another reading.
      • d. If a Tarot reading is nonsensical or too cryptic three times in a row, this means that the psychic connection is momentarily weakened by some distraction. Subtract five minutes from the time available, indicating you had some difficulty getting the connection back (a table with random reasons related to interruptions by psych ward happenings could add flavor).
        • i. What did the serial killer do while you were disconnected? What did the person you’re bonded to do without your influence? The only way to find out is to read the cards to see what you missed.
  • edited August 2014
    • 5. The cards may suggest anything short of things that are controlled by the other game mechanics. For example, they will not allow you to capture the killer or reveal his identity, since that is superseded by the Capture Track. For the same reason, they also can’t suggest the killer has escaped completely.
      • a. Other things they can’t reveal are the killer’s feelings or psychic profile. You have to put that impression together from the evidence.
      • b. However, they could still suggest psychic hunches or discovery of potential new evidence. In this case, treat that as if the killer or investigator card had come up and follow the procedure outlined in that section.
      • c. The only exception to the previous rule would be when the cards suggest a confrontation between the killer and the investigator.
        • i. Winning or losing such a confrontation cannot have the same effect as when a confrontation is triggered by the simultaneous appearance of the Killer and Investigator’s trumps. Winning or losing such a confrontation can only move the respective tracks forward.
        • ii. During a confrontation that comes up as part of a normal reading:
          • 1. A successful roll means that the killer escapes but leaves further clues (narrated as player desires) and the Capture Track moves forward.
          • 2. A failed roll means that the killer somehow prevents the Investigator from finding some clue, and the Cold Case track moves forward.
          • 3. Describe what happens in either case by taking your cues from the cards.

    • 6. Influencing the Investigator: In addition to reading a situation via the Tarot, you can also influence the Investigator’s actions and thoughts. via the cards. You do this by going through the deck and picking the combination of cards that you feel best get the message across. To do so, just concentrate and send the psychic message. The Investigator always acts with the PC’s intent.
      • a. If the cards do not allow a perfect representation of what you want to send, you must look for the closest thing.
      • b. You still have to find out how it went by doing a subsequent reading. As usual, the cards are the only link between you and what is happening.
    • 7. Stats:
      • a. Taking a page from Trollbabe, the stats are as follows: Scrap/Communicate/Investigate. These are the Investigator stats that the PC indirectly controls. No other NPC has stats.
      • b. You can add a Style to them in order to have some flavor. Your stats might be something like Scrap (Telekinesis) / Communicate (Sign Language) / Investigate (Empathy*). (*Empathy as in the movies Manhunter and Red Dragon)
      • c. You have 10 points to spread among them. The minimum is 2 and the maximum is 4. The number of points assigned represents what you must roll under with a 1d6 to succeed. (I’m very open to changing the dice and numbers here. I’m just no good with probabilities and don’t know what dice would be fun).
    • 8. Time and the Tracks
      • a. To reiterate, each half hour of real time corresponds to half a day. The first half hour represents the morning, and the second half hour the afternoon and evening before lights out.
      • b. Each night the Cold Case track moves forward and the killer claims a new victim. You don’t automatically find evidence of the crime; you just know the psycho did it. It’s a race against time to find the evidence in time to stop him/her.
    • 9. The Psych Ward routine and Cognitive Therapy
      • a. The Psych Ward has a structured routine of Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. You will roll on their respective tables to find out how they went, and these will just be flavor with no mechanical impact.
      • b. The important part of the routine is the Cognitive Therapy session. Your PC did something atrocious that landed them here, but they don’t remember. They’ve blocked a lot of things out. Each day during Cognitive Therapy, the PC will both remember something about their past and also realize that something they’ve collected (the stuff during game prep) has some significance to their situation now:
        • i. I brainstormed a few alternatives, and this one seems more amenable to content creation. It entails randomly picking one of the previous game prep elements and 'discovering' what its meaning is (which means Player is free to narrate what the meaning is). If you need to use the Tarot to contextualize the meaning or draw random inspiration, then use it.

          • 1. Somewhere at the mid point of play (maybe the mid point of either one of the tracks), you will take the randomly picked element and connect it to both you and the killer. (I'm open to suggestions on how to make this moment be more clearly informed by the mechanics).
          • 2. The final therapy session will be when the case goes cold or when the killer is captured. You will need to answer the question: Why were you put in the psych ward?
        • ii. I had a partial list of random questions based on this link, but ultimately I found it too dark and depressing. I’m listing them here for completeness sake in case anyone has some feedback (maybe I’m being oversensitive after all):
          • 1. When did you first become aware of your mother’s/father’s substance abuse?
          • 2. How did your mother/father emotionally abuse or neglect you?
          • 3. How were you punished for masturbating?
          • 4. You told us you used to wet your bed when you were as old as 10. How did your parents react?
          • 5. You said you didn’t have any significant friends during your childhood. Why?
          • 6. When did you first start fantasizing about mutilating yourself?
          • 7. Your file says that you suffered some childhood trauma. What was it? When did you first start reliving that trauma in your fantasies?
          • 8. Was your family life extremely religious?
          • 9. When did you first start engaging in voyeurism? How did it escalate?
          • 10. When did you first start hurting animals?
          • 11. Did you ever suffer repeated head trauma?
          • 12. I know you now remember what caused you to be committed to this psych ward. What was it?
        • iii. As a less depressing alternative, I was thinking of adapting these for the same purpose.
    • 10. End of Game. Game ends when:
      • a. Either track reaches the end, or
      • b. When the killer is captured or killed during a confrontation triggered by the simultaneous appearance of the killer and investigator during a reading.


    Edit 8/21/2014:

    Folks,

    I realized upon re-reading that I have some clarifications I want to add, specially in regards to locating clues on the map using the grid. I think that the player should keep zooming in on the map grid with X/Y axis rolls until you get a specific enough spot that you 're satisfied with as the location. I will update the document with all that stuff.

    At this point I don't really expect much playtesting, and am looking more for initial impressions & criticism. Still, I wanted to pass this along if you don't have a Tarot deck: http://www.tarotlore.com/tarot-reading/

    It's an online app, and it's pretty cool as it does three different kinds of spreads for you, and gives you the meanings of each tarot card if you want it. Pretty neat.
Sign In or Register to comment.