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.
This is similar to why superman breaks games. The problem is that *superman* works, because he has a similar tension. But a character who can do all the things superman can do...doesn't.
And the thing is: Radical mechanical imbalance can *absolutely* work at the table.

With a lot of caveats. Right people. Shared intention. Right level of trust. Unified focus. Stuff like that.

But, man, it is hard to put in a rulebook.
We try. I am not alone in delighting in these tensions, and games are full of attempts to make this work to one extent or another.
(Secret reveal: One of the reasons that Fate aspects can seem wiggly is that they are ultimately designed to be able to do this, if it's what the table wants. But not every table is comfortable with boiling all of Batman down to the "I'm Batman" aspect)
So, that lead to a diagram in my head of Capability and aspiration, that looked something like this.
The dotted lines are so you can draw the shape that suits the characters: -->, <--, <--> or --

But then I got thinking more.
Because the thing that REALLY makes characters like that sing is that the real problem is usually not their capability, but their self-perception.

The guy in question CAN be a good king, and that is visible to anyone but him.
So that lead to this:
But then that got me thinking.

It's also important that the character change over time, and the thing is that that change MIGHT be in the direction of the aspiration, but more likely it's something else which just complicates it all.
And so
At this point, I now have the bones of a mechanic.diagram which would be useless ANYWHERE outside my head and i have no idea what to do with it except exorcise it to twitter.

So...You're welcome.
Ok, tangential thought that spun off this is the idea of player authored failure.

This doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen - a player directs their character to do something with a clear expectation of failure.
It might be something light and painless (Sure, my fighter will roll Arcana, ha ha) or it might be real painful and toothy consequence.

In these situations, the dice creating a success can be funny, but it can also be something of a betrayal.
As I say, it's an uncommon pattern, but it's one I look for. Players who embrace failure are a green flag for me. Players who pre-emptively embrace failure are gold, because (to my experience) they have excised the shadow of "Success==good"
Lot of games do really good things to help with that excision. Things like failing forward and mixed results can really shift mindset.

It's a thing I'm looking for when I say "trust". A player who wants to win is not untrustworthy, but I also don't give them an 'I Win' button.
I sometimes call this the Benedict test (for the character from the Amber series). If your character was *guaranteed* to win every fight, could you still have an awesome time with them? How?
The underlying point is that the "I Win" character will be SUPER BORING (after, perhaps, a period of novelty) unless there is some reason why they are not.

If the GM brings the reason, that's ok. But when the player brings the reason? That's the table I seek.
(P.S. - The character was Dmitri and it turns out the Blue Lions path is WAY BETTER than I anticipated. It is the path to play in classic mode.)

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More from @rdonoghue

17 Oct
:cracks knuckles:

Challenge accepted.
The first question, of course, is "Is this a job, or is this a downtime action?"

Either one's a reasonable answer, so let's try both.
This is substantially easier as a downtime action, and the easiest answer is "Start a clock". But, honestly, that's unsatisfying because a straight clock does not tell you about QUALITY.
Read 23 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
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
14 Oct
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.
Read 24 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

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