The thread about Achievements
got me thinking about this.
Here's the thing: what are some of your favorite play dynamics and reward cycles from video games? Could they be applied to tabletop gaming? How would you do it?
I'll start with one: the combat system of the early Castlevania games.
In case you don't know, you play a member of the Belmont clan, who are sworn to battle Dracula throughout the generations; every few hundred years, some asshole resurrects the old bloodsucker, so off you go to kill him again.
So, it's a 2-D platformer, like Mario, except it's got a gothic horror premise, it moves much slower (not like it's lagging, it's just not a high-speed, reflex-based game), and the controls are more limited (for instance, you can't alter your direction -- or even momentum -- while you're in the air). It's also pretty well known for its difficulty.
You've got a finite set of maneuvers that you can use. You have to master these maneuvers, knowing exactly how far you can jump, how fast you can move, how far your weapons reach, how fast that knife flies when you throw it, how long the holy water continues to burn after being thrown. You have to learn how to position yourself relative to enemies and hazards -- if you get hit, you get knocked back, and after being knocked into deathtraps a few dozen times, you start to catch on.
The enemies also have finite sets of maneuvers. You have to learn these, and you have to learn when they use them. See, once you start paying attention, you notice that certain postures and positions relative to your position signify that they are (probably) about to use Maneuver X, so you counter with Maneuver Y.
The neat thing is, once you put Maneuver Y into motion, you can't stop until it's done. Because of the slower nature of the game, when you commit to a move, you fuckin' commit
to it, but if you don't commit to a countermove when you know that an enemy attack is coming, you won't have time to dodge
. You have to make your decisions at the same time the enemy is making his decisions, much like rock-paper-scissors, but with more choices, and more complex choices, with asymmetrical rewards, so that it's somewhere between RPS and chess.
Not too long ago, I discovered that Burning Wheel has a similar dynamic with its scripting. But before I read BW, I was already working on my Castlevania game, which seeks to emulate the above dynamic by revealing secretly chosen maneuvers simultaneously (written on cards), using dice rolls to determine what hits first when relevant. I also impose 5-second time limits on selecting maneuvers -- if you don't choose fast enough, you do nothing.
(Now, I didn't start this thread just so I could advertise that feature -- I have other video game things I want to talk about, but that's the only one I've figured out how to apply to tabletop gaming, so I figured I'd start with it as an example.)