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Willpower Tests

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Centaur255
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Hey guys!

I'm new to BGDF, and I could use some help. I'm designing a medieval fantasy RPG, and one of the things that's on my mind is the age-old problem of a gamer sitting at the table trying to decide if he should go with what he thinks is wise, or what his character thinks is best (because sometimes players and characters disagree).

So I was thinking of way to build a mechanic for this - call it a willpower test, and the player rolls a certain number of dice (in this case D6, as it's a D6 Core System for now) and tries to reach a standard difficulty (call it, 10, for example), with the number of dice they roll representing how conflicted the player is. If the difficulty is met or exceeded, the character has "restrained," and does what the player thinks they should do. If the difficulty is not met, the character "did not restrain," and does what they want to do.

Thoughts? I've had some players sit almost paralyzed trying to figure out what they should do, and I'd really like to have a way to not only free the player from the struggle but to also make it something the gaming group can enjoy (the, "Hey guys! It's another big red button! Can I restrain myself from pushing it?" sort of thing that can make adventures interesting). So any thoughts you have would be phenomenal, :)

Thanks guys!

Soulfinger
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I have literally run games

I have literally run games for hundreds of players and never have seen this as an inherent issue. The majority of RPGs veer away from this sort of element because player choice is a cornerstone of these games. It's one thing to be constrained by a role, but not having control over a character's decisions is more of a meted out penalty akin to taking damage. Being told by a GM, "No, you can't do that. I get to decide," is very frustrating and moves the game one step closer toward being a one man show.

Besides that, acting out of character is more of an issue endemic to novices and problem players. Mechanical inducements to stay in character retard the ability of the former group to mature as players, kind of like having your mother hovering over your shoulder while you do housekeeping in a college dorm room. What you are suggesting would be more of an annoyance for experienced players, because sometimes you want that seemingly out of character moment that turns out to be a ruse or moment of catharsis, or when Mongo uncharacteristically realizes "Mongo only pawn... in game of life." You don't want to have to explain your rationale in advance every time so that the GM doesn't challenge your play style. Besides that, there is already a mechanic in place that more than adequately covers issues of role playing: experience points. You get more for good role playing. The reward incentivizes performance, and it is meted out at the end, so you have a chance to evaluate individual instances within a broader context.

More often than not, out of character play signals that the player doesn't relate to his character, doesn't understand his character's role within the campaign world, or is facing challenges that don't relate to the character's strengths. For example, it can be great fun to play a stupid brute, but not so much when you discover that the scenario revolves around social intrigue and battles of wits. Finding himself unable to integrate into the campaign setting and being unable to make a meaningful contribution, the player often resorts to metagaming to redefine his character's role. A good GM can identify the issue and offer solutions, but having this issue may signal problems with the way that the GM has structured the game.

The one other thing I need to ask is, a medieval fantasy RPG? Are you sure you want to do that? That is the single most saturated RPG genre, so much so that it's a hard sell even if you have some brilliant twist. On top of that, you'd be competing to win over players who are very entrenched in their systems. I don't have figures handy, but I'm pretty sure that Pathfinder/D&D players are some of the least likely to migrate to a new system. Even if you are just designing it for your own group, there are so, so many solid systems already kicking around.

wombat929
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I agree with sf 99%. The one

I agree with sf 99%. The one time I found a willpower roll helpful was when I was playing an alcoholic failed Jedi in a campaign of SW rpg. The GM and I built in a test in stressful moments to see whether my character's willpower failed and he went on a drunken binge. This was useful because it's more akin to a skill check -- the character shouldn't/didn't get to DECIDE when to lapse.

But otherwise, what sf said.

Robinxen
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Could have uses

Shadowrun has a similar mechanic but that is for specific behavioural traits that are ingrained into the characters physche so much it impacts the characters stats. Such as addictions and roleplay quirks, like the character forgetting that in the real world you're supposed to talk to peoples faces and not their electronic devices.

I could see the rule being useful as a kind of emergency fallback if the character really wouldn't do it, or if the players reasons involve metagame. I'd see it more as an optional rule though, and I mostly agree with the previously made observations.

I also strongly agree with the saturated genre comment, that's literally the stereotypical genre for RPG's.

questccg
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Not even close

I know that this is totally off-topic but I would like to see an RPG that has a setting a prison. Each player plays some type of criminal and they are all awaiting for the "Mob Boss" to be released from prison to begin anew.

Although I don't think this is a NEW theme... What I think IS NEW is the fact that each player plays some lower criminal trying to gain favor from the "Mob Boss".

I'd love it if the title of the RPG was called "Mob Boss". But I'm pretty certain that title is taken already. And checking BGG there are 2 games with this title. So another like "Mob Boss: Return of the Don" or something similar might be cool and POSSIBLE.

So my input is do an RPG with criminal characters each having positive traits and negative ones. Inspired partly by Fallout's Vault Boy character creation... Could be real cool...

This is my 2 cents! :)

Update: Oh yeah and in this type of RPG, your concept of WILLPOWER TESTS is relevant! Make decisions conflictual and that players need to dig deep and often break with their characters natural tendencies...

Just an example "The Bird" Johnson: has the tendency of giving "The Bird" when he gets upset... "Oh yeah, so it's gonna be like that eh? Take this (Shows the bird) and this (Shows another bird)!" :D Would love it if you had to control this so that the game doesn't become one giant brawl...

kos
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It could definitely work

While I totally understand where soulfinger and others are coming from with regards to this mainly being an issue with inexperienced or problem players, systems that force the PCs to take certain actions do exist and have been quite successful.

Pendragon springs to mind:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendragon_%28role-playing_game%29

The wikipedia page describes the mechanic.
It can create very interesting situations if the players are willing to go along with it... an otherwise noble character has a rare moment of rage and strikes down a defenseless enemy. This then has consequences which he must atone for, and drives further story elements...

So, as long as both the players and GM use these dice rolls as a source of creative and unexpected plot twists, then it can be a lot of fun and make a very memorable story.

Regards,
kos

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Out of player's control

In your original question, it sounds as if you're just talking about a role-playing choice, where the player decides that he character might make some sub-optimal decision, and then rolls to see if he does it. It sounds as if, if the player hadn't considered the possibility of his character making the sub-optimal decision, it never would have come up. This sounds like a non-starter, to me, for all the reasons soulfinger points out.

On the other hand, if there's some dangerous character trait that is built into the character, perhaps that the player took in order to get some corresponding advantage during character creation, or that is built into the character class, or whatever, then such a rule becomes fun and interesting.

The FATE role-playing system has "Aspects" that you assign to your character during creation. These have positive and negative interpretations, called "invoke" and "compel." That system uses FATE points, but it could easily be a roll, instead. For example, my character Aduz Agave has an aspect of "Protector of the small and weak." I can *invoke* that aspect (by spending a FATE point) to get an bonus to a significant dice roll that I make when Aduz is taking some protective action. On the other hand, the GM can "compel" Aduz with the same aspect, to draw him into trouble that he might otherwise ignore. As the player, I can "accept the compel" which earns me a FATE point to spend later, if I can "reject the compel" which costs me a FATE point.

My point is that it is a legitimate characteristic of my character, which adds to the overall role-playing, even when it costs my character, tactically.

Centaur255
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Joined: 06/23/2015
Extremely Helpful Feedback

Thanks for the feedback, guys! I'm part of a roleplay group that is mostly brand new RPGers, so what SF and others mentioned about it mostly being for new gamers is very true (and I've discovered that the need for the willpower test really only comes up with veteran gamers when they want to build it into their character - the "Irish drinker" who is trying to answer the question, "to barfight or not to barfight," for example.

As to the question of _another_ medieval RPG, I think you're right: the market is very heavily saturated, and I'm definitely not the kind of guy who would think that I could create a game system that could knock D&D/Pathfinder off their well-established fan-bases. I primarily chose to start with the medieval era because it's the part of history I know best (and feel most comfortable in my understanding of literature), though I've also been kicking around ideas for a western RPG (as the closest I've come to a game system I liked in that genre was the Firefly game, and I'm not entirely sold on that one) or a Colonial era RPG (1500-1700s exploration) set in a medieval era, so we'll see.

Thanks for the feedback, though - this was really helpful!

Soulfinger
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Centaur255 wrote:Thanks for

Centaur255 wrote:
Thanks for the feedback, guys! I'm part of a roleplay group that is mostly brand new RPGers, so what SF and others mentioned about it mostly being for new gamers is very true (and I've discovered that the need for the willpower test really only comes up with veteran gamers when they want to build it into their character - the "Irish drinker" who is trying to answer the question, "to barfight or not to barfight," for example.

One problem with D&D is that new players are thrown into the deep end when it comes to learning how to role play. They have to learn abstract game mechanics, an unfamiliar setting, maybe even handle polyhedral dice for the first time -- and then, on top of all that, master method acting. It's just not the best game for this.

For new players, if staying in character is an issue, start out by running a few games where the players get to play themselves. It's always fun to run a game where disaster strikes with everyone starting out with what they have on their person at that exact moment. Watch "Night of the Comet" if you need a good, slightly obscure, setting to steal -- or "The Stuff" if you want something lighthearted. I really like World of Darkness or Chaosium's Basic system, the same one used for Call of Cthulhu, for this, but plenty of people go with Savage Worlds nowadays, and then FFG recently put out an apocalyptic RPG line that would probably fit perfectly.

This activity helps players to differentiate playing the game from playing a role. Next, you move on to a game with roles that only diverge slightly from the players' identities and give them plenty of leeway. You encourage plot-driven character development along the way with reoccurring antagonists, fostering in-game relationships with NPCs, fetish objects (objects that the character strongly identifies with, not gimp masks), etc. At the end of every session, you encourage players by citing specific examples of good role playing and handing out commensurate rewards, along with a dialogue that precedes any penalties for alignment violations and such. I also recommend encouraging players to evaluate each other. At the end of every session, I have my players tell me why they deserve extra experience, how they contributed, and what they think the other members of the group did particularly well. This accounts for about half of the XP haul.

kos wrote:
While I totally understand where soulfinger and others are coming from with regards to this mainly being an issue with inexperienced or problem players, systems that force the PCs to take certain actions do exist and have been quite successful.

Pendragon springs to mind:

Thanks for getting me to take a closer look at this game, which I'd always assumed was just another implementation of Chaosium's Basic system (my favorite). Having a better idea of it, I'm now looking to buy a copy. You need to keep in mind though that you are citing a well integrated give-and-take between GM and player in what is considered one of the most elegantly constructed and innovative RPGs around. With all of the characters playing Cymric Knights, mechanics like these are used to help the players distinguish their characters and reinforce the virtue/vice system. It's successful because it is part of a greater whole, which is quite different from a standalone mechanic for slapping hands.

Centaur255
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Very Helpful

Thanks SF for the note about Chaosium's Basic system; I've actually never heard of it before so I'll take a look at it. :)

Thanks again, guys! This has been very helpful!

Soulfinger
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Centaur255 wrote:Thanks SF

Centaur255 wrote:
Thanks SF for the note about Chaosium's Basic system; I've actually never heard of it before so I'll take a look at it. :)

It's not perfect, but I'm a huge fan of it. Looks like a print copy may be hard to find these days though, as Chaosium is apparently pretty slow about reprints once they sell out. Also, be careful not to mistake the "Quick Start Guide" for the full book if you are shopping eBay.

Probably the best starter is just to pick up a copy of Call of Cthulhu, which uses that system. Any edition will work. The game is in its 7th edition, but I've heard great things about every edition since 4th. New editions typically just introduce tweaks and minor revisions (and occasionally a new error or two). It's a game where running away is usually the best option, books are more effective than bullets, and most campaigns end with the player characters either dead or insane. Loads of fun!

Also, someone brought up Paranoia in another thread, and I really want to recommend that. You'd want either the 2nd edition from West End Games, the one put out by Mongoose, or there was a new edition on Kickstarter recently. In any case, not the 3rd edition. It is extraordinarily fun and something that I wish more new players were aware of.

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