What's your favorite system for characters doing projects?

Let's say your character, or the whole group of characters, wants to build an adobe hut. They have some mud and some summer weather.

There are various stages to this project. Some stages just take patient waiting. Others take effort that can't fail but can exhaust time and energy and resources. Other stages might actually be prone to screw-ups which would make the project slower, or more costly, or maybe even impossible.

Suppose that the hut, if created, is a meaningful and exciting achievement, and thus the players are happy to give it more play time and attention than, for example, a yes/no roll. But suppose also that this game is not actually a game about building huts, and that the players are eager to do other things too.

What's your favorite RPG system for arbitrating the process of hut building?

Or, y'know, if the adobe hut idea is too boring, imagine building a ship or enchanting a cave or raising an army or some other complex undertaking.


  • Hmmm. I haven't seen anything super brilliant yet.

    I've enjoyed AW's "workspace" rules, as well as fiction-based negotiation (i.e. freeform roleplay with a GM overseeing the steps).
  • edited April 2017
    (Note to self for later: Freemarket, Blades in the Dark.)
  • Any game that has some degree of "to do it do it"-ness, i.e. time and money instead of turns and 'resource'-rolls, can just advance any time spent and subtract any money spent. The problem then becomes: 'how much time and money does an adobe hut cost?'

    ACKS page 127 says a 10×10 foot 'mudbrick' hut costs 50gp, and that <500gp buildings are done in a day. Buuuut… with a little research one can do better. There are guides online on how to build your own mudbrick home. Apparently the bricks dry in a couple of hours. So the bottleneck becomes how many forms you've constructed.

  • edited April 2017
    Blast from the past: "Space Master" and "CyberSpace".
    Like everything else by ICE, we included a big chart that specifies everything from crit success to crit fail effects, broken down by difficulty level and modified by skills and resources allotted. It's an open-ended percentile dice roll, of course.
  • I've found myself surprisingly happy with success-amassing mechanics for this. It's a technique that is in no way new or progressive, many traditional games describe variations of it. One of the advantages is that you can use it with task resolution rules. It's obviously come up in the old school D&D context for me in the recent years. As with so many other mechanical boondoggles that traditional games have accrued over time, I've only recently come to appreciate what it does and why it's even there.

    The basic principle is that the project is described in terms of the number of task resolution successes its completion takes, so we have "3 point projects" and "5 point projects" and so on. We determine how long a single point worth of work takes, how much it costs and what skills or such the character uses in the task resolution for it; all these factors may, of course, change according to fictional description, and they may even mutate freely as the project progresses - you might use your brick-laying skills to build the foundation for the hut, for example, and then a "hard work" skill or stamina ability or something to move sufficient amounts of mud for the walls.

    The particular details depend on the overall task resolution system at hand, but usually the difficulty levels for the task checks are on the low side (or if they're not, you're probably not skilled enough to engage this task at this time), and usually failing in those checks delays the project, but does not scuttle it. Big failures or fumbles generally do scuttle the project, although here as well there is room for the characters to work in fail-safes - invest in the safety and plod along carefully, and you'll mitigate the disasters. It depends on the particular nature of the project as to what might happen when the dice signify a setback.

    If a system uses degrees of success or multiple success counting, then obviously that feature is appropriated for project rules as well, so each task check provides the degree of success in project points to the work. This might cause the resource expenditure swing wildly, which may be contrary to realistic desires, of course, but that's easy to fix to the degree approriate to the situation.

    The greatest virtue of this task-resolution based project system is that it builds up very organically from the atomic concept of resolving a task; this makes it easy to engage the system as a tool we use to quantify and detail a project, rather than as a subgame procedure we execute to find out what happens. Different factors are very easy to single out, so by engaging the system we shall find out how long something takes, how much it costs, how much of a work-force we need for it, and so on; we will not only find out whether it can be done, but also how we fail in doing it, if we do. The organic approach is favourable for precisely the kind of situation that David describes: we're interested in doing something in detail, but the game's not really "about" doing this particular thing.
  • Harn!!! It has the value enhancement mechanic which allows for tackling all kinds of problems sideways. It's similar to the success amassing thingy Eero is talking about.

  • edited April 2017
    I don't have a favorite -- it really depends on what part of (to stick with the example) building a hut is the exciting/fun part as far as the players are concerned. What's the thing that's got them jazzed about doing it?

    The groups I played with back when I was a kid would go off on massive construction tangents in AD&D all the time, and the appeal there was largely logistical (given X amount of gold, Y amount of time, and Z amount of labor, what can we do?) combined with the fun of designing and decorating a base of operations, and the opportunity to demonstrate some kind of tactical mastery by making the defenses really outstanding or the amenities particularly well-suited to our party. Actual rolls to do the work were never really needed (and to be fair, AD&D was not designed for that anyway), because all the parts we cared about were happening between the players, not so much in-game.

    The people I played with in college tended to consider longer projects in terms of what the final benefit was versus the opportunity cost to the characters for doing them; building up successes on an extended roll usually worked pretty well for that, since there was always that little bit of gambling involved. Maybe you get it done super-fast, maybe you blow it and it takes longer and you wish you'd just done something else instead, but the nuts and bolts of what you were doing were usually not focused on too closely. Mostly long projects were about results, not process: you have a thing you want, the GM says "it'll take a while to get that," and you decide whether you want to invest that time or find something else to want instead.

    My current group gets the most mileage out of breaking larger projects down into just a few significant decisions or problems (sometimes just one), and then assuming that everything else goes okay. Hut building might be as simple as playing out a bit where you decide which of several locations with different pros and cons will be the one where you build the hut, or trying to hold the half-built hut together in the middle of a sudden thunderstorm, or figuring out how to get your lazy cousin to do their proper share of the work so that the hut gets finished on time. The hut itself might just be "make a roll, okay, you did it," but whatever the fun part of building a hut is would be some other interaction that uses hut-building as a framing device.
  • The Quiet Year jumps to my mind immediately. I enjoy thinking up controversial projects, collaboratively and quickly deciding how long they'll take, and sometimes having them finish early or fail depending on the cards.
  • edited April 2017
    I am liking the way that long term projects are working out in Blades in the Dark actual play so far because there is a very real cost to working on them. You really feel the impact of all the other things you could be doing because of the structured downtime rules. Plus the gambling bit definitely helps.
  • +1 for Blades in the Dark, using project clocks.

    Fate works very well for this. As GM, you could demand challenges. As players, you can create advantages and stack bonuses.
  • Hands down, Apocalypse World's Medic move: "Sure you can sew a new arm on your friend! No problem! You'll just need to convince Manboy to lend you the microscopes from her shop, and yeah, she's trying to kill you with grenades right now. Oh, also, you'll have to get Palmer's supply of plasmajack because otherwise nobody's going to survive it, plus you'll need a bunch of uppers and downers to control your heart rate so your hands don't shake under the scope. You might shorten your life with those. Plus the new arm has to come from someone under the age of 20, and your sister's the only one you know with the right blood type that fits the bill."
  • Ry,

    Isn't that AW's "workspace" move? I also dig that one.
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