Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pirates vs Ninjas - Post Workshop Thoughts


Creating a game, even a rules light one, can take a lot of time and patience. By following a few of the guidelines that we learned at this latest workshop, I think the process can be smoother, faster, more fun and still provide great results. I'm going to briefly list the positive outcome of our game creation activity that as a group we completed at the end of the workshop.

Step 1: Figure out the setting.

Chris brought a bunch of comics from an artist that had given permission for us to use his world as our setting. This saved us a bunch of brainstorming effort. We went through the short comics to glean information about the setting. Taking notes was very important for this step! Here is what we came up with:

have martial arts
can run on water
are stealthy
like shadows and darkness
have vampire allies
have a spy network
have underworld/black market ties
live austere, spartan lives
clans handle money
clans have fast resources
have cybernetics for abilities/healing

have scurvy
can sail
are not very observant
have koala allies
are clever
have zombie allies
have shipwright skills
acquire booty through treasure hunting
spend money on repairs
spend money on booze
have a high alcohol tolerance
bury treasure for safe keeping
make treasure maps
are hardy/resilient
replace missing limbs with wooden pegs or hooks

have martial arts
are weak against sunlight
are weak against sea water

from the Caribbean (our own extrapolation)
created by voodoo magic (our own extrapolation)

Japan, Australia, Caribbean

Step 2: Sit down and think about the style.

We decided that the game we would be designing a Pirates vs Ninjas type of game. The style would be Cinematic Humor. By deciding this first, we were then able to stick to a light rules, combat simple system. Since we were on limited time, we chose to only create Ninjas and Pirates for the first playtesting session. Breaking down the Ninjas vs Pirates into simplier terms:

Ninjas - agile, stealthy, heal quickly
Pirates - strong, combat heavy, hardy

Step 3: Deal with mechanics

We chose a simple system of 3 attributes and an open-ended skills list.

Physical - strength, health, anything related to the powers of the body
Mental - intellectual, ranged attacks, puzzles
Social - motives, bluffing, contacts

Characters begin with scores of 0's in all 3 attributes. They have 4 points to be spent on attributes. The maximum for a single stat is 3. So an example character might have final attributes of: Physical 2, Mental 1, Social 1 or Physical 0, Mental 2, Social 2.

Skills that are not listed on the character sheet are untrained and cannot be used.
All characters begin with 3 “opened” skills at level 1. Pirates begin with a 1 in Swashbuckling, Armor and Sailing. Ninjas begin with a 1 in Martial Arts, Speed and Stealth. Characters get 10 points at character creation to increase skills with a max for any one skill at 3. Additional skills that make sense for the setting can be created by the player and added to their sheet as long as they spend the skill points to buy them.
Uncontested Rolls would be made by rolling a D6 with a modifier of the attribute and adding that to another D6 with a modifier of the appropriate skill. If a skill is untrained, then only the attribute and it's modifier are used, no second dice is rolled. Attribute D6's are always rolled, even if the attribute is at 0.

Contested Rolls are directly rolled versus.

Advantages were given to both types of characters. Ninjas get a +1 to any roll done in darkness. Pirates get a +1 to any roll done on a ship.

Initiative is determined by a physical + mental + d6 roll. Ties are broken by a priority list: highest speed skill, highest physical, highest actual dice roll.

Mapping was decided to be handled by zones. Characters in the same zone could interact with each other.


As we played the first session, a few small tweaks to the rules were made as situations came up. Our GM was great about making decisions on the fly and kept the game going smoothly. We had a small scenario set on a ship docked in the Caribbean at night. This allowed both the Ninjas and the Pirates to have their advantages. Many of the rounds of combat resulted in close calls. It seemed to be a very well balanced system for a first trial. In the end, everyone had fun and that's the real goal.

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