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Encounters: Giving players a choice of action

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larienna
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I want a game where random encounter cards allow player to chose which skill he wants to use. The problem is that the player will always take the skill with the highest value. So I want to find a solution that would make both path valid.

One idea that came to my mind is that the risk and rewards could be different. For example, if you have a monster encounter, you can choose to fight or sneak the monster. They could both require a skill roll, but if you sneak, the rewards and consequence would be minimal, while if you fight they would be more important.

So I am wondering if there are other alternatives to incite players to choose a skill with a lower value?

Are there other games that use similar mechanics? I think "Fortune and Glory" does give a choice, but the outcome are the same, so you just pickup your best skill.

Ryan Winters
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I mean it's natural for a

I mean it's natural for a player to want to engage the activity they are good at. I think the question is why would you not want them to do that? Do you plan to have encounters where sneaking is more advantageous than combat as well? You can certainly have different rewards for different approaches. I'm thinking of something where you can use combat or diplomacy/charm. Maybe the combat would give you whatever the opponent has on them (bag of coins) but making friends with them grants you an ally to help in the next combat. I think Above and Below (and some other Red Raven games) have these sort of choices to some degree.

If you want people to be challenged by not using their best skill, then just add encounters where it's not an option. It would be good to give a thematic reason why. "You enter a completely white room bathed in such bright light that it is almost blinding. At the other end of the room stands a door and in front of that door stands a stone golem." No sneaking for you!

larienna
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Quote: I think the question

Quote:
I think the question is why would you not want them to do that

Because it's not a choice anymore. If I have a choice between A and B, but the good answer is A, then I don't have a choice, I just use A, because it's pointless to use B.

But if A and B have both interesting outcomes, then they are both valid choices.

wob
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they can both be

they can both be advantageous. option a lets me gain points. option b stops me being killed.
and both can have a cost. option a means i risk injury or weapon degradation. option b costs hero valor points.

X3M
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No choice-choices (I hate them too)

I bet that if A is better, B is better in another situation.
So this simply means that A and B are going to be used eventually. But there is no choice.

Are there close calls where A and B are almost equal?
In that case, perhaps A might occur more than B. And if both choices cost something. Make the cost different. This way, the player might choose B instead from time to time if there is a close call. It is a tactic/strategy now, that the player can choose.

It can be done by whatever cost you have in mind. Simply have A cost different than B. Even if it is pokemon style.

***

Edit:
Different loot.
Burning the opponent to death will not leave fur in the loot. But it might have been faster.
Using poison will leave poisoned meat. Might be a weapon again.
Low health opponents will not really be damaged by poison. Let it be something that is added by choice.

Ryan Winters
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I would say if you want more

I would say if you want more focus to be put on the choice, then they have to be about equal success rates. The easiest way to do this is not make characters mathematically better at certain checks. The other way to do it is the make the difficulty of one option such that it counters any advantage. So if someone has a +4 in fighting and a +6 in stealth, if I need a 7 to win the fight, but a 9 to sneak, then they are about even. However, doing something like this makes it very easy for someone who is good at fighting.

For option 1, you can still have themed characters. Say succeeding at stealth gives you a "stealth point" which you can use to do something later. Could have a personal goal at beating three encounters with stealth.

For option 2, you could combine skills. Say if you pass a stealth check of 5, you get a sneak attack bonus to fight or you can pass a stealth check of 8 to skip the fight. It's a little harder to reverse the situation. Maybe if you kill the guard, it's easier to sneak in? Bit weird.

let-off studios
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CYOA

larienna wrote:
So I am wondering if there are other alternatives to incite players to choose a skill with a lower value?
Have a look through some old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, and see how they did it. More sophisticated ones had ability scores of a kind, sometimes equipment lists, and the menu of choices was broadened by these factors.

But my point in mentioning this is that if the game is more narrative-driven then a player may want to have a go at sub-optimal choices on occasion to see how the story works out.

If the game isn't so story-driven as I'm intimating, then the comments above excellently illustrate the different rewards that are possible provided the player use different equipment and/or tactics.

larienna
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Having different risk rewards

Having different risk rewards is like what I suggested.

But having a different cost is something new. Not sure how I could implement this in my game, or maybe I can use it for quest, by preparing the cost in advance.

QT Games
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The latest board game I've

The latest board game I've been developing has exactly that type of mechanic (in the OP). Each encounter presents a series of options with different outcomes each. I'm still working on this part, however, and while my goal is just what you said, Larienna, to make non optimal skill checks provide interesting outcomes, I haven't finished developing it, so I can't say a lot. It depends on the game, what rewards are possible, but I don't have combat have a higher reward.

Intrinsically, it has a more interesting reward - as combat is more fun to play out generally than sneaking away. Now if you can enhance the excitement regarding sneaking away (if witnessed, your social might drop as you are seen as a coward) or not fighting and not sneaking away, but trying to feed the animal, bribe the guard, etc. not pidgeon-holing the players is important.

I also have social combat, so you can get different benefits depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Not sure if you have that. Different answers, clues, secrets, etc. And you can also change the story by doing something other than combat that leads to other possibilities. All of these could make players rethink using only their best stat. Best of luck with yours.

Taavet
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Decisions

You could make option A be an immediate measurable use, while B might become additive with other B's down the road. Like a set bonus or choosing an arrow and then finding a bow? Blocking/stance this turn might give you stored energy for a stronger or more accurate attack next turn?

Another option might be to make them into quests? Get/Do 3 Option A's and/or Get 5 Option B's?

Third and final option I could come up with would be to have the player choose before they see what the results of the choice is? This also severely limits their 'decision' though. Basically the same as drawing a face down card unless you have some other mechanic to develop the choice pools. Using monster AI to determine and limit their choices based on which ones are reactionary or need preparation?

larienna
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You gave me an idea that

You gave me an idea that there could be reward items which are not unique items and could be used to fulfill requirements to complete quests.

Like for example to you get a med kit and use it to cure wounds, or use it in a quest. So it would be the entrance cost of the quest. But I am not sure, as the probabilities to get the right items could be very low.

I was thinking of using a combination of clues as entrance cost for quests.

wob
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all the suggestions so far

all the suggestions so far will work well, especially if you combine them in different ways.
however unless one of the options are obviously and constantly better (A take 2 gold, B take 1 gold) there will always be a "choice".
humans are not computers. we are bad at a lot of stuff, including seeing the optimum action. thats why grand masters take years to learn chess and why they are beaten by computers so easily. even if we learn all the possible permutations (and we could remember them) we would still struggle to process the choices. we can solve noughts and crosses in our heads at a young age but draughts (a very simple solved game) is still a game of strategy.
" analysis paralysis " happens a lot in even simple games if the choice isn't an obvious one. after a while (especially if there are people adding social pressure) if a person cant see the "right" choice they just think "i have to do somthing, i cant see an obvious solution, i give up" and then they flip a coin in there head.

so often it isn't a case of " what is the best option for the future" its more " how do i deal with the mistake i made earlier"

Taavet
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Good points wob

In our designs, I think we all agree that interesting decisions make the game enjoyable for us. But as wob points out do those decisions have to be between an obviously better and worse option? This would seem to make the choice simple. Which I think is what larienna wants to steer away from. Why would you ever want to make the obviously bad choice, and therefore there wouldn't really be a choice (a no-brainer!).

What if instead the choice was just a matter of preference? Do I want my character to have red or blue armor? There are lots of games that do this to create a more thematic experience for their players instead of the brain-burner which suffers from analysis paralysis. I think this style lends itself well to dungeon crawl and fantasy rpg types. Players aren't too concerned about winning, often because it is us vs. game, but more interested in creating a hero they can relate to and experiencing an adventure with their fellow players.

Just thinking out loud. Thx

wob
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you do need to be careful

you do need to be careful though. for most games you dont want your choices to be meaningless (or seem to be). if, in the end, my choices didn't really matter (say all choices lead to victory, or there is too much post choice randdomness) i could have just flipped a coin to get the same result. you stop playing a game and just start moving things about.

larienna
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I have not worked the details

I have not worked the details of the encounter yet, there are still certain possible permutation. It depends on the amount of complity I want and the amount of space on the card. So far, it looks like:

Action A: Skill required + Target number
Action B: Skill required + Target number
Action A: Success consequence
Action A: Failure consequence
Action B: Success consequence
Action B: Failure consequence
Boon: Special Reward
Bane: Special Condition
EXP reward when defeating with action A

Now there might not need to be any success consequence, that could be optional as thr reward could be passing the encounter. Another solution is to have the success/failure consequence be the same for each action, less flexible but less card space. The Boon and Bane are only active when performing the action A (33% flat chance each), but certain failure condition could trigger a bane. So an encounter could be something like:

Giant spider nest (2 EXp)
A: Fight: Strength 8
B: Sneak: Dexterity 6
Action A Failure: -2 health
Action B Failure: -1 Health, poisoned
Boon: Healing potion
Bane: Poisoned

Now we get 2 situation where the player STR > DEX or the DEX > STR.

If DEX is greater, he might opt for action B, but will not be allowed to get the healing potion and the exp.

IF STR is greater, the player could risk it, but he might choose a lower consequence choice, but more difficult to perform. Here the bane is also in the DEX choice, so he cannot avoid possibly getting poisoned.

Quote:
for most games you dont want your choices to be meaningless

This is common in video games with micro modifiers, where stuff you do and build give you only a tiny advantage. It makes the game more balanced, but gives you decisions little impact.

let-off studios
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Excellent Example

larienna wrote:
Now we get 2 situation where the player STR > DEX or the DEX > STR.
I think you're well on your way along the right path if you consider decisions in this framework. It clearly identifies the risk-reward balance, to both you as the designer as well as the player.

The Boon/Bane chances seem dramatic but the Banes in particular could be seen a quite harsh, likely lethal. They're likely appropriate for a "hardcore mode," which a lot of solitaire/co-op gamers will totally dig. :)

Ryan Winters
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I think you might be on the

I think you might be on the right track with some of these possible solutions. I would just say the fundamental issue is with specialization and choices. If you want to focus on choices, make the character less specialized. Why doesn't the rogue tank? He's not good at it. Why doesn't the warrior sneak? He's not good at it. Specialization works best in groups. You are presented with a problem that has multiple solutions. If you are in a group, you can decide which way to approach the problem then send the person best at doing that thing. So if it's smash a monster, send the fighter. If it's steal the eggs, send the rogue. When you're on your own, it's best to be vaguely decent at everything just in case the thing you are good at isn't an option. So maybe the rogue is only slightly better at sneaking, etc.

I mean step away from the theme a bit and think about it. You ask a runner if he wants to enter a dead lift competition or a foot race. It doesn't really matter if the prize pool is bigger for the dead lift competition, the runner has a better shot at winning a race and it's what he does. Ask an average Joe the same question, he will take longer to weigh his options. Sure there is some scenario where a runner will pick to enter the dead lift competition, but it takes extra effort to make that happen.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try to make your system work, I'm just trying to explain why it's kind of a pain to figure out.

larienna
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Quote: The Boon/Bane chances

Quote:
The Boon/Bane chances seem dramatic but the Banes in particular could be seen a quite harsh, likely lethal. They're likely appropriate for a "hardcore mode," which a lot of solitaire/co-op gamers will totally dig. :)

The original idea was to give more story telling option by instead of succeeding or failing, you could have a complication or compensation what ever if you succeeded or not. So that you get in 6 possible position:

success + complication (bane)
success + compensation (boon)
plain success
Failure + complication (bane)
failure + compensation (boon)
plain failure

One way to deal with those boon / bane is to have something remain semi permanently on your character like conditions and expansable items. But it could be something else, I am open to suggestions.

The ways the atribute rolls are done right now is Attribute + Roll where the attribute is a value between 1-4 or 1-5. The target number is between 4or5 to 8or9. The die rolled is a fibonnaci die with following values + boon/bane

0 + boon
1
1 + bane
2 + boon
3
5 + bane

I just thought that I could increase the sequence by 1 step to 1,1,2,3,5,8 so that a player with an attribute of 1 has 1/6 chance to succeed. It could solve the issue below.

Quote:
When you're on your own, it's best to be vaguely decent at everything just in case the thing you are good at isn't an option. So maybe the rogue is only slightly better at sneaking, etc.

Hmm! I see your point. There is one thing is that could patch this is when you fail a roll, you can spend the difference in exp, or accept the failure and gain exp. So it could be compensated this way. Else the reason why I put 2 skill requirement is to avoid the issue where a player is bad the the required attribute. You also have an idea of possible required attribute before drawing the card. Else playing with the probabilities could be a way to mitigate a low atribute

X3M
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This post might be a bit sidetracked

This is regarding a RPG right? I know someone who added the following to his game. But it is still experimental. And it seems to be demanding certain theme's. It might spark new idea's for you though.

***

"Mistakes are to be learned from"

You could give the player points for failing an objective. And these points could be spend later on, in a way, to have other attempts being easier.

larienna
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This is regarding a

This is regarding a cooperative adventure game. I am readapting my Eldrich Express game into a steampunk fantasy game to make it publishable. But I want to create a system reusable for many other cooperative themes. Some other ideas are CyberPunk, Indiana Jones (like in Fortune and glory), or any other coop theme that takes place in the whole world. Each new game would have a twist of his own. For example, the cyperpunk game will have the physical and digital world.

Gain exp when failing is something I used in a dungeonquest variant, and it works pretty well.

bottercot
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Hulk has a calculator so why not let him handle the finances?

I'm just jumping into the discussion right here, so please forgive me if I am blissfully ignorant of the details...
This is kind of building off of what Ryan Winters sayd.
Regarding role specialties as was briefly discussed, could you have each role have a modifier to certain equipment bonuses?
For instance, the Rogue gains double the amount of Stealth from equipment items that grant Stealth points as other roles. Or the Warrior gains double Strength from items as compared to other roles.
An English Longsword would grant 2 Strength to the Rogue and Mage, but 4 Strength to the Warrior.
A pair of Silent Boots would grant 3 Stealth to the Mage or Warrior, but 6 Stealth to the Rogue.
Likewise, and this is the one that I think makes the most sense, a Wizard Staff would grant 2 Magic to the Rogue or Warrior, but 4 Magic to the Mage. Et cetera, et cetera.
Another option would be to make the consequences for losing different depending on the role. Rogue who slips up while sneaking may be able to recover from his mistake. Warrior who takes a hit in the shoulder has learned from years of experience to ignore the pain and push forward. Maybe you could even just have it in the form of a reroll of sorts, or something similar if you aren't using dice. No matter how much Sneaky cloth the warrior is wearing, he still may not have the experience to know how to Sneak like the Rogue. The Rogue will always have that edge from experience.
Again, I don't know much about how your game works, but it was just a way I could think of to make players more likely to give the Sneaky guy the Sneaky gear, or make the Sneaky guy do the Sneaking.

larienna
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I wanted to keep the number

I wanted to keep the number of components low, so I assumed that the character had the matching equipment to their skills. So far the character info would be:

Attributes: STR, DEX, INT, CUN (1 to 5)

Skills: This is special abilities the characters can perform. There are some active abilities that requires a specific action roll to use. Others are just passive rule modifications.

Now your resistance to failure is actually interesting, I have not design the skills yet, but it could be a possibility for skill design to resist or reduce bad consequence or avoid banes. For example:

Thoughness: Reduce all loses of health greater than 1 to 1.

Chemistry: Gain immunity to poison condition (bane). Or spend an action to cure a poison condition.

larienna
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Sorry for reviving an old

Sorry for reviving an old thread. I decided that it would be wiser to test those new mechanics on my current game "Eldritch Express". So that I could update this game first, and then expand it to other themes.I have considered most of your suggestions and came up with the following solution for now. I will be playtesting this in the weeks to come. Also this game is print and play, so I made component decisions based on it while keeping it simple.


The encounters are resolved in 2 parts. Encounter markers like a mystery or a gate will be marked on the map with a token or a card. Players will attempt to resolve one of those encounter at the end of each turn. This mean that the encounter is known before being encountered.

Part A: Threat: Players draw a random threat card which in EE consist only of monsters (threat is unknown before the encounter). Players has 2 choices:

1. Fight the monster: In that case, the player chose a weapon(or spell), lose sanity and receive damage. Weapon must exceed toughness of the monster, resources or exp could be spent to boost the value. Weapon/spells are exhausted and can be refreshed with city/rest actions. Victory possibly grant a reward in EXP, resource, or other.

(alternate rules: A) Damage is cumulative and multiple rounds are possible. B) Like eldritch horror: apply sanity first, then character attacks, then monster wound player)

2. Evade the monster: In that case, players must roll a die against evade value of the monster. Certain items could boost the evade value but at start, all characters are equal. If character fails, he loses sanity + health on monster.

Part B: Encounter: If the character defeat or avoid the threat, then it needs to resolve then encounter. Do do so, roll 1D6 + character attribute (Endurance, Observation, Influence, Lore) + clue token or exp to succeed. In case of failure, you get a condition. If you roll an even value, you get a bane which means losing 1 sanity, 1 health, or advance clock by 1 (stated on the encounter).


  • So the choice during a threat is between deterministic and random outcome. In one situation you know the cost, in the other situation you take a risk.

  • Else since the encounter attribute required are know in advance, you can chose your encounter and are aware of the risks, except for the randomly drawn threat.

  • Characters are also all equal to each other, so there is no character specialty that influence the choice during threat resolution.

  • The character specialty will only affect then encounter roll since they require a specific attribute roll.


I'll try using this technique, it might not require a lot of revamping. Once the game is solid, I'll release it as version 2.

After that, I could use this as a base for other theme. Threat could include other things than monsters like traps and puzzles.

Do you think it's better?

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