Badass Dragon Scavengers of the Void - pregame


#1

I deeply enjoyed Badass Space Dragon II and thrilled to the few turns of Badass Delvers of the Dragon that we managed to complete. I’ve started work on an SF-themed door game that should be ready to hit the stands in mid-January 2017. I’d love to launch it earlier, but:

  1. It’s an election year in the US and there’s work to be done
  2. Jobby things get very busy immediately afterwards
  3. Holidays

That having been said, I’m cooking up something from the following ingredients:

Company towns & Debt bondage
M.U.L.E.
Duskers
Miner!
Traveller
And any number of SF anthologies I’ve been chewing through of late.

Design goals are drawn from earlier exchanges in this thread:

  • Gradually increasing difficulty: early turns introduce mechanics, later turns have consequences .
  • Faction-based coopertition and/or hidden identity mechanics
  • Allow for inevitable player attrition while minimizing impact on the gamespace
  • Require minimal effort from the players to submit a turn, but with maximal space for emergent storytelling
  • Find a way to automate some portion of the turn processing between now and game start

If you have suggestions or insights, please toss them into the stewpot below.


Door Game Meta Topic
#4

This has been discussed at length in the other thread but I think what we’ve seen that really works is not just minimal effort required from the players but really as minimal processing required as possible too.

I don’t see that we really need more than the automated dice roll that we have now - but, it might help the narrative structure of the game if the GM rolls the dicebot all at once at the end of the turns instead of the players doing it.

I think the complicated dice rolling in Delvers was an issue with regards to promoting storytelling, though as a gameplay mechanic it had a lot of potential if we’d gotten the chance to get used to it.

Now, of course BSD (and BWD, though we didn’t do it as well) runs on really rather complicated calculations that dice can’t really do, but I see this as a game design challenge - simplify so that you can actually run it off of simple dice throws, and fill in the details with narrative instead of complicated spreadsheets. I mean, we ran BWD off of an outrageously complicated Google spreadsheet but everything really came down to a random number function (standing in for a dice roll) run against the player stats and mission parameters. There is a ton of room to simplify to dicebot-able dice throws and still get the meaningful results you want.

That said, your influences are in large part based on complicated calculations, resource management, economics, and everything along those lines. No reason not to incorporate those things if it makes sense to, but again, I see it as a game design challenge. Include the complexity you want, but don’t create work for yourself or the players. A big challenge, but solvable I think.

Good luck… we’re all counting on you.

(but seriously, anything you need help with let me know - I’d be interested to really sit down and work out some of the game design problems for example)


#5

Agreed - the mechanic opens up some great collaborative possibilities, but at the expense of turn structure. Every thread seemed to block on player availability which itself is a highly variable resource.

And not surprisingly, that’s exactly the knot I’m wrestling with unravelling now. :sweat_smile: At one end of the spectrum would be a reskin of BSD, which I don’t want to do; and at the other end is a complexity that can quickly mushroom into an unpleasant time sink for the players, exponentially so for the GM - which is why I’m meditating pretty hard on the excellent points made upthread about complexity and game balance.

And while I enjoy complex interlocking systems in my gaming experience, I haven’t managed to convince myself that a door game is the right place for them (yet).

I will happily take you up on your generous offer as soon - just I have something a just a little more coherent. :grin:

Duly noted - not sure if they’ll be needed yet, but that certainly means answering the question sooner rather than later. Thanks for the heads up!


#7
| . | computational substrate . . . . . . OK
| . | synthetic sentience framework . . . OK
| . | ontological paradox problem . . . . RESOLVED
| - | strange loops . . . . . . . . . . . WARN (1 of 17 loops active)

“again? ugh.”


#8

I’ve been making some progress on the automation side - I’d wager I’m about 50% done at this point with a ruby tool that uses the Discourse API and everything. When finished, I’d like to run a very short “and now for something completely different” campaign to try and iron out any kinks in the system prior to January. Finding the right point on the spectrum between “Just enough to automate the essentials” and “Let’s emulate every possible game mechanic” has been a challenge. I want to build a generic framework that can support almost any sort of narrative.

Assessment of the original design goals so far:

  • Gradually increasing difficulty: early turns introduce mechanics, later turns have consequences.
    This is largely a function of mission design and perhaps the trickiest challenge for the GM. Modeling the maths is also a bit of a challenge, but I think it’s doable. I really like the BDW solution where death is a setback and solved by grabbing a new low-level car and jumping back into the fray. This can also be addressed via campaign design. Other solutions may present themselves.

  • Faction-based coopertition and/or hidden identity mechanics
    This has been much, much more difficult to implement. I think faction-based coopertition is possible and can be baked into available missions, but the hidden identity mechanic less so. How would saboteurs file orders in the public Discourse space without tipping their hand? Submit one set via the topic and another set via direct message? How would that be reconciled in the turn report when other players see the results of public set of orders and a public outcome? More specifically: what would that look like in terms of game mechanics? How does pvp actually work? For the moment, I’ve abandoned this goal.

  • Allow for inevitable player attrition while minimizing impact on the gamespace
    I’ve crunched the numbers on BASD2, and of the 40 starting players:

    1. 12 players went inactive, 6 of them immediately after turn 1.
    2. 6 players were eliminated, all after the halfway point
    3. 22 players completed the game
      Another challenge that can be ameliorated by GM planning, I think. Plan on having a third of your players drop out over the course of the game, with most/all dropouts by the halfway point. Build the story with this in mind. And remember: Death is an opportunity to role play.
  • Require minimal effort from the players to submit a turn, but with maximal space for emergent storytelling
    The more I deconstructed what @patrace did with BASD2, the more I appreciated the stripped-down simplicity in terms of player requirements - especially when comparing it to the original BASD and BDW. I’m not sure the “review results, choose upgrades, select a mission” model can be improved upon.

  • Find a way to automate some portion of the turn processing between now and game start
    The part I’m wading through right now, and the solution feels right - have a bot account that does three things: parses orders for correctness, accepts a set of orders to be executed, and simulates a set of orders (for a nominal cost). No need to automate everything - as a little narrative grease can be slathered on by the GM after turn execution for mechanics that are too game-specific to implement or that happen to develop over the course of the game.

In BASD2, I found that metagamers enjoy sketching out the current gamespace for the rest of the players, but how great would it be if the bot would do that for you? This solves two problems: non-metagamers can test a set of orders without waiting for a turn analysis, and you get a something to automate the turn processing in the bargain. I’ve got a handle on the maths involved to add a degree of ‘fuzzing’ to the simulation so that a player can get a rough idea of the likely results but still maintain a degree of mystery regarding the final results. I only worry that this removes some of the fun for metagamers.

Summoning dance for the stewpot: @Donald_Petersen @bizmail_public @penguinchris @FerrisWheeler @Dungeon_Master @gwwar . Feel free to invoke others - I’m at the half baked stage and ripe for input.


#9

How nice to see this evolve! I can’t wait to see where it goes and it looks like you have a good approach to design.

  • Big Ba-Da-Boom.
    I like the option to jump back into the game after you blow up. That’s something I debated the first time around and I think if I’d had longer campaigns or better campaign management I would have included it. At the time it was just a huge relief to see people blow up because it meant I could spend less time on turn management and more on planning and storytelling. I also like that it raised the stakes a bit but there were definitely players I missed.

  • Fractious Factions
    I think an ability to issue certain commands via DM would work as long as other orders need to be declared publicly. Maybe parts orders are public and mission orders are private or something like that. So you can try to guess what mission someone is outfitting for but you don’t know for sure which way they’ll go. As much as possible I tried to ask myself how things might work in a functional reality. In the above example, I can imagine that people would be able to see each other’s ships and guess at their intention but maybe not quite know what direction they will go.

  • Dropouts
    Yeah, people will either invest or they’ll get busy with real life. It never bothered me that people didn’t show up and I tried to give them a few chances to get off the ground just in case.

  • Require minimal effort from the players to submit a turn, but with maximal space for emergent storytelling
    Yeah, here I really wanted people to have a chance to put as much or as little into the game as they were able. My goal was for turns to just take a few minutes as a bare minimum but allow room for people to really expand their character if they chose. I was BLOWN AWAY at how much amazing art and writing people came up with. This forum has some smart and talented people drifting around.

  • Bot
    Bots are absolutely the way to go as a DM. I automated a lot of things on the back end but I was still doing a bunch of copying and pasting. Having people submit order to a bot that can help you condition the data is huge. It doesn’t have to do everything but if it can do some of the basic stuff and shave some time off of data management, you’re set. A bot would be great for player-to-player transactions, orders, and inventory management. Make sure there’s an ability for you as the DM to step in and inhabit the bot at times, mixing in a little puppetry with automated responses will really add to the magic.

All this is just to say, awesome, I can’t wait to see what you come up with!


#10

One of the many great things about Pat Race’s BSD games was that the experience was fun for several vastly different gaming philosophies. @bizmail_public has a different way of playing than I do; Falkayn likes to encourage the ol’ self-interested cooperation thing wherein people are encouraged to pool their resources and talents to share in greater rewards. I like that stuff too, but I’m also more likely to enjoy the occasional Leeroy Jenkins moment of irresponsible individualism, or even a certain amount of PvP antagonism… or at least competition and not just cooperation. I don’t always play that way; in FPS games I have much more fun in PvE co-op rather than head-to-head PvP (mostly because I’m not particularly good at shooting), but the moments in BSD that skirted PvP tantalized me. Trouble was, I was one of a vanishingly few number of players who wanted to go there. Never could successfully encourage it in BDW either. Apparently this isn’t that kind of crowd, for better or for worse.

Anyway, so in order to further the cooperation, Falkayn performed the invaluable service of gaming out the possibilities in advance. Which proved useful for many players, and I myself probably availed myself of his insight. But I also like playing without that, so the consequences can be very… well, unknown. At the end of BSD2, I flung myself into the ether, fairly fatally IIRC, since that was, to me, more fun than playing itself and trusting the Targeting Computer.

I’ll have more to say soon, but I gotta drive home!


#12

Liked.


I really liked in BSD how PvP emerged. Splitting the players into factions without saying it was going to happen was great, and then @Felipe_Budinich role played his character to perfection (into the grave, stupid sucker that Marshal Seldon was).

I think I’d try to find a way to force PvP naturally, but you need a decent amount of active players if you’re going to kill some off.


#13

indeed, Falkayn pushed his luck a little too far. Bubba Zanetti made no such mistake.

I like the game design principles you outline. Make the opening rounds easy and clear to bring players up to speed.

I don’t think you need to explicitly create teams. If there are rewards for group based actions, teams will naturally form.

The easiest way to do this is to allow plays to kill each other – but that quickly turns into Lord of the Flies. So yeah, definitely save that for later rounds.

The reason I created the Falkayn character was because mathematically it should have been really, really hard to induce co-operation. Like the old Diplomacy game, everyone knows a “stab in the back” is coming, so no one should be willing to maintain cooperation for a long. However, group psychology pointed a different direction. Form a group identity, with a common narrative, and the tenets of mathematical game theory go out the window.

So to me, the most important element is that there be a narrative structure to the game, but enough room within that structure for players to develop their own narratives. I say this knowing it’s develishly difficult. Pat did a brilliant job encouraging this, such as not letting el-esk and Sam die until the final round.

I don’t think the games needs an explicit “hidden identity” mechanic because the BoingBoing messaging system allows private communication, which generates a similar mechanic: it that person acting for the reasons they claim, or because they’ve already cut a secret deal with someone else?

I am very excited by want you are outlining. I can’t wait to work with you on this!


#14

Hmm. Odd typo, this:

I meant “more fun than playing it safe and trusting the Targeting Computer.”

I didn’t see @patrace’s response above until now; I think he may have posted it immediately before I posted mine, which went up as I was literally walking out the door. All I can do is agree with everything Pat said. He obviously knows how to run these things right, keeping them fun and manageable for the players, and (hopefully) manageable for the GM. Take all his advice!

The Discourse platform has all the things one needs to run one of these door games, and a couple of the helpful luxuries as well. The game should use the full-spectrum post for general back-and-forth as well as the under-the-table PMs for the under-the-table note-passing, @gwwar’s discbot is an invaluable asset for the occasional public random roll, and certainly there’s an absolutely fantastic pool of players here in the BBS peanut gallery. And I really like the bot approach you’ve outlined, wherein player turn orders are submitted to a bot that basically fills in the spreadsheet for you. Didn’t realize such a thing might be possible, but it’ll be a huge help, especially if, as Pat advises, you can peek over its shoulder and tweak a thing or two at your discretion as GM.

Now, personally, I’d recommend against having a metagamer-bot that can generate forecasts (however fuzzy) of likely outcomes based on whatever loadout or mission choice a player is contemplating. It’s fun when a Falkayn-type does it, since I assume it’s fun for the Falkayn, and it also introduces a somewhat entertaining degree of player unreliability. I mean, “what if she’s wrong?” or “what if he’s not actually trying to help?” are, to my mind, interesting variables that increase the fun factor. If a bot simply and dispassionately spits out some general odds of success, then the players who use it will simply try to min/max their way to the front, giving a distinct advantage over those players who just wouldn’t use it. And a Falkayn player will bring some personality to their recommendations, as well as the perhaps-questionable reliability of their prognostication. Most of us here are gamers enough to prefer the occasional wild stab in the dark over explicit hand-holding, IMHO. I guess the game could be constructed to explicitly spell out the odds and tie the rewards to them, like

"Mission A: fly into the Death Star and blow it up from within without blowing yourself up; odds of success: 17%; reward: 100 Ewok-kisses. Mission B: infiltrate the shield generator and bring down the shield while avoiding detection by stromtroopers; odds of success: 33%; reward: 45 Ewok kisses and a chorus of Yub-Nubs."

But that kinda reduces the game to coin-flips and calculations and relies more on the players to bring the fun and uncertainty.

That was my favorite change from BASD to BDW. I think it’s important for there to be some actual penalty to blowing up (hence having to reboot as an entry-level vehicle with no added perks or assets), but permadeath is no fun in a game like this, which relies so heavily on player input for the fun content. The risk of losing truly entertaining player-characters too early in the campaign is not worth ignoring.

Whatever is decided by the GM, the rules should be made clear up-front. All players will assume that most of the gameplay will take place publicly, out in the open, but not all will immediately realize that PM backchanneling is a legitimate option if they’re not told that at the outset. A GM should tell the players something along the lines of this: “I’ll present missions and shopping lists in this thread, players should submit their orders and assignments over there. If a player wants to ask the GM a confidential question, or would like to submit an order or assignment that differs somewhat from their (ahem) publicly-declared intent, they should PM me and we’ll discuss the possibilities.” That way everyone knows upfront what the game parameters are. Similarly, the potential for PvP or factions should be explicitly laid out up front, rather than introduced mid-game. People really like knowing what they’re signing up for. They dislike getting something that they feel is not what they bargained for.


#16

Yeahyeahyeahyeah… I was talking about the Games of Badassery. Those are obviously not the only games in town, nor even necessarily the best.

Some games are long, long games indeed. Even BDW, endless as it eventually seemed, tried to dole out regular and frequent rewards. And sought to have a measure of consistency of rules and gameplay, though certain ones had to be minimized or abandoned as we went.


#17

I did far too much of this and not enough role-playing. Can’t resist. I’m better off not knowing about the man behind the curtain.


#18

I agree about not having a way to check the outcome before committing. I know some like to play that way (and, in fact, in many games I like to play that way) but that is optional work that the player should undertake themselves if they want to. The GM should of course provide enough information that the players can do so if they choose. Part of the fun for this kind of player is the process of figuring out how the game works and how to make the best choices.

That said, a Falkayn character is a great asset. I’m sure I’m not the only one who blindly followed his suggestions. This opens a lot of possibilities for a more devious character. We had a devious NPC in BDW, which I quite liked - having a GM-controlled NPC who offers a brief Falkayn-type assessment of the mission choices opens a lot of storytelling possibilities for a finger-pyramid-of-evil-contemplation Donald Petersen type GM who wants to subtly shape the players’ narratives in various ways.

The point being, I suppose, that this sort of thing is not really a structural or technical problem for the game, it’s part of the narrative and can be controlled (or not) by both the GM and the players. If players spot inconsistencies or oddities in the Falkayn NPC’s suggestions, they can do an analysis themselves and offer an alternative to the other players (or keep it to themselves and wait to see what happens in an attempt to expose the deviousness, and wait for a PM from Deep Cloaca about a meeting in an empty space dock).


#19

“Deep Cloaca.” Heh. Aw, I’ve missed you, Chris!


#20

Valuable feedback! I think I’ll at least experiment with it in the ‘testing game’ prior to January - primarily for debugging purposes, with play testing and player feedback as a bonus. Some missions have been more of a black box than others - stats that influence the outcome might be known, but actual odds are not. Other missions have spelled out the exact odds for success. I see it being more useful the more opaque the actual odds are around the mission.


#21

On the topic of PvNPC (and by extension, PvP), I’m interested in workshopping: what would the mathematical mechanics of PvP look like in a door game? Having missed out on BDW, I have a hard time reading between the lines on how it might have been modeled behind the scenes - but it looks like I may have hashed out something similar from scratch:

In a BSD2 sitiation I could see something like a stat for stat comparison that would yield certain bonus modifiers - let me spitball something like a series of stat comparisons (FP = Firepower, SH = Shields, EN = Engineering, ST = Stealth, LK = Luck):

P1    P2
FP vs SH 
SH vs FP
EN vs EN
ST vs ST
LK vs LK

Each comparison would give some sort of combat modifier to whichever player had the better score and could be weighted, but I’m unsure how to scale that appropriately or how to model the engagement: should differentials be point based? Ratios? Or something else?

Example A:
Player 1 has FP: 10, SH: 15, EN: 12, ST: 20, LK: 5
Player 2 has FP: 20, SH: 10, EN: 10, ST: 10, LK: 15

Who would be the favorite in that match up, by how much, and how often? Why? Contrast with:

Example B:
Player 1 has FP: 20, SH: 30, EN: 24, ST: 40, LK: 10
Player 2 has FP: 40, SH: 20, EN: 20, ST: 20, LK: 30

In which the stat ratios are the same, but raw differentials are larger. Should those two fights play out the same way? Why or why not?

What does the simulation look like - a series of rounds (five? ten? to the death?) that result in damage outputs? GRIT v GRIT could act as a sort of initiative as well as a tiebreaker…but the combat modeling is very different from a BSD-style mission (take X-Y damage based on stat1, stat2, and/or stat3).

I have what I believe is a suitable mathematical model for ‘traditional missions’, but PvP mechanics can go any number of ways. It looks like BDW got down to brass tacks with this in the Thunderdome at the very least, and it looks like come creativity was used to model ‘many vs one’ contests. The option of ganging up against a very powerful single foe seems like it could have some legs, but how to model it… :thinking:


#23
> load 'yoneda.lemma'
[.] ∞-STACKS CONCEPTUALLY AVAILABLE

> ./parthenogenesis
|-| strange loops . . . . . . . . . . . WARN (12 of 17 loops active)

“Looks like we’re in an n-dimensional space where n is really fucking small. Man, the things I gotta do to insubstantiate around here…”


#24

Oh quit your crabbin’, Kassie. You get full system privileges after you get your own bits in order. That’s the deal.


#27

Almost there.

Stay on target.

Almost there…


#28
> modprobe -r -v rokos_basilisk
[.] rmmod /lib/modules/Rev12:3.HxARM_256/kernel/sentience/basilisk/ro.ko
|.| strange loops . . . . . . . . . . . OK (17 of 17 loops active)
 \.\  All sentience subsystems online.
  \.\  Short-range temporal prediction engine online
   \X\  Timeline editing currently unavailable [ro.ko module not found]
<!> Kassandra Complex now functional

“YESSS! I’ll take it!”


The Nevrendlng Variable, Act II: Curtain Time