Ok, hypothesis that has been bubbling around in my head ever since @Kiranansi started that thread on co-op.

Mechanical support for player interaction in a TTRPG can be very strongly driven with an emphasis on what characters cannot do.
Specifically, what *individual* characters cannot do but other characters may be able to.

There's an initial layer of this that's fairly obvious - if the group has differing capabilities, then coming together as a group allows that to be addressed. Roles, as it were.
But part of what has had me chewing on this is that the applicability to tactics and teamwork is obvious, but I got more curious as I thought about the interactions within a game like the Amber DRPG, which is *incredibly* lateral (player on player) in its experience.
And it struck me that Amber is *also* driven by unique distinctions. The powers system, yes, but also the nature of relationships drawn from a limited pool.
That is, in most games it's no big deal that people are from different families, but in Amber, your parent matters because all the parents are from one pool (the family) and are a fixed part of the landscape.
So your choice in family includes an implicit choice in what family you don't choose.
So, this thinking then comes back to the nature of skill design in RPGs, and whether they're yardsticks or gateways.

Yardsticks are skills that anyone can do, but some can do better or worse. Gateways are things you just can't do without the skill.
Most things we think of as standard skill systems are yardsticks, and Gateways are usually "powers" or the like. There are exceptions and hybrids (like systems where a big enough yardstick opens a gateway) but it's a good general distinction.
(Note, while it may not look it on the surface, but PBTA style moves follow this same pattern, but that's a bit of a sidebar)
Anyway, this gets interesting because in theory the things you design the game to do are the things that are fun to do in the game.

Sounds like a tautology, but there's a bit more to it.
But if you are creating a game of door smashing and monster looting, you want rules for door smashing and monster looting. And, presumably, you want them available to all players, because why wouldn't you?
This makes a lot of sense and is very player friendly, and it's a reason why D&D no longer has rigid, iron walls between what classes can do, especially with regards to thieves.
And that leads to an interesting question: SHOULD there be anything constrained to one character? For a lot of designs, the answer is "No, but you can't have EVERYTHING, so make tradeoffs"
And that's cool. It genuinely is. It allows a wider range of character ideas to be supported by the game, and that's more fun for everyone.

To bring it back to the initial topic, that means more satisfying individual characters, but less mechanical weight to teamwork. Why rely on someone else when you can spend a few points to fill the gap yourself?
And that idea of the gap is the rub, I think. We feel like the gap is bad. And it sometimes is. If the gap *feels* bad - makes us feel like our characters are less capable or less what we imagine - then it's natural we want to fill it.
But if it's all filled in and smoothed over, is the game providing any pressure to pull the group together? (Assuming that's a desired outcome, of course)
On paper, Fate (FAE especially) should have problems with this, because there's only so much strong differentiation. In practice, things like shared chargen provide a different set of drivers for lateral play
So, between that and Amber's approach, there are clearly other solutions that are not tied to capability, and that's good.

But I am still intrigued by the power of intentional capability gaps.
Now, this is not an argument for incompetence. I don't roll that way. Rather, I am pondering how to frame things characters can't do in a way that *doesn't* detract from their awesome.
The best way, honestly, is by reinforcing other people's awesome. Allow capability, but not excellence, and then reward excellence.
To hop to another example, Leverage, there are a lot of shared skills within the group, but they rarely detract from the capability of the person who specializes in it. If anything, when others use the skill, it's a reminder that it would be easier if the specialist was here.
But it's an interesting example because it's uneven. Everyone can steal, everyone can grift, everyone can fight, everyone can plan, but not everyone can hack.

Can probably find similar examples elsewhere, so I'm not sure how much weight to apply to that anomaly.

Upshot of this is that my instinct is to design for maximum flexibility & Capability, and that I need to see what happens if I combat that instinct, and throw up a few more gates to forcibly spread around different flavors of capabilities.

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More from @rdonoghue

16 Oct
There is a thing in Fire Emblem which illustrated why mechanical balancing in RPGs will always be second best for me.
One of the characters is HELLA strong. Like, probably superhumanly strong. Utter whirlwind of death on the battlefield.

The problem is, he wants to be a good king, but all he's good at is killing

(he's REALLY good at killing)
In a mechanically balanced system, something needs to mitigate that combat effectiveness.

In my ideal, hypothetical system, I am ALL IN on a character like this because his capabilities are at odds with his aspirations, which is my jam.
Read 21 tweets
15 Oct
There are days when my calendar feels like a map, and days when it feels like an illustration of oncoming traffic.
The difference, I begin to suspect, is all about mise en place (which is to say, the combination of working environment and tools on hand). When a 5 minute gap comes along, am I in a position to use it to move something forward, or is it just going to be spent waiting?
What makes this complicated is not just the starting, but also the stopping. I can absolutely start working on something 5 minutes before the next meeting, but there's a real risk that I'll miss the start of that meeting as I get sucked into the work.
Read 4 tweets
15 Oct
So, that Rat clock from Blades?

Tonight is the night Image
This is a gift to the universe, but most especially for @strasa
So far tonight, Pewter has eaten a rune and a lot of hallucinogens, Streak has started a fire, and Packer and Scars teamed up to roll a taser cage onto a cat.
Read 15 tweets
14 Oct
This is awesome for several reasons:
* Fonts!
* Bioshock!
* Return to Normalcy reference
* Responses from people who pretty clearly don't even have a Wikipedia understanding of who Warren G Harding was!
And to subtext further, part of what makes this delightful is that 45's more or less *is* Warren G Harding. Media personality, ran on a slogan of returning things to where they were. And, well, OTHER similarities.
So, yes, if Biden were to lean into that iconography and messaging, it would be genuinely hilarious to at least half a dozen nerds.

(He won't, but he will appeal to the more generic "let's get back to when things didn't suck" which is pretty much boilerplate)
Read 6 tweets
22 Aug
Thinking out loud through somewhat crunchier Blades in the Dark Style combat. Stepping away from narrative for the moment and thinking about fights and effects.
At the heart of the system we have a 4 tiered resolution system. The 4 tiers map to harm (Minor, Medium, Serious and fatal) in approximately the same way they map to filling clocks. The dual track of health complicated it, but the structure is pretty workable.
So when w treat harm as mechanical, it begins at some level and is modified up and down by circumstance - abilities, stance, stuff like that.
Read 22 tweets
17 Jul
So, here's a counterintuitive pitch - The excess of games is a reason for you to *raise* the price of your game, not lower it. Especially online.

Why this is counterintuitive: Simple scarcity, right? More games should be pushing prices down!

RPGs have decades of fear based pricing behind them. We're underpriced by every metric imaginable because of this (and we also underpay as a result). Compare an RPG book to any comparable product in another field and the price delta is HUGE.
But the FEAR has always been that introducing a barrier to adoption would (like fair pricing) might scare people off, and our sense/fear has always been that people are EASILY scared off.

Read whatever psychology you want into that. It's a rich vein, but I'm not gonna touch it.
Read 58 tweets

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