flashback cues

So the style guide rule for Soft Horizon is that a game in the Soft Horizon doesn’t change the rules, but it might extend the rules to better fulfill the context of the new game. That is, changes must be additive and contextual.

In The King Machine you play a character that lived most of their life in a utopia that is now, very suddenly, a dystopia. Your background is of limited value to this story, so you sort of emerge anew and discover who you have to be now. Consequently character generation is very simple and fast and doesn’t come with a lot of background information: we’re going to find out who you are.

A wary Retrievalist hears scarabs nearby.

In Sand Dogs things are different. You grew up hard in a world that has not much of anything and what there is can get weird and dangerous. Your background will be very informative: it’s going to continue like this, only worse. So the game demands a richer character generation. We want to know how your hard past will inform you now.

Previously I talked about the life path system I’m working on for this. It remains simple (a design goal for all these games) but provides a past. It doesn’t seem to be quite enough. I want the past to be more mechanically relevant to the now. So what I’m experimenting with now are flashback cues.

Each time you change careers, you write a flashback cue for the one you’re leaving. There’s a hint in each career — a cue for the cue if you will. So, for example, for Retrievalist (which used to be Stalker or Tombrunner) we have:

If you choose not to continue as a Retrievalist, add a FLASHBACK CUE: the time you risked everything to retrieve…what the hell is this?

And so you will write a cue that you can use once later for some advantage. So you might add:

FLASHBACK CUE: the day I recovered the Blasting Eye from the Thomas Gang who had hit a jolting ditch just outside the tomb and all caught fire. I caught fire too.

So to get your advantage in play, you’ll narrate a small scene going into detail here and the ref will nudge you with questions until we get to the part that gives you your current conflict some advantage. So what advantage?

I’m still thinking about that. Over on mastodon (I’m @Halfjack@dice.camp there) I posted:

What kind of advantage? Escalate a success? Add a die to the pool? Avoid a realized risk? Or maybe more darkly, apply a realized risk to someone else?

So escalate a success would to increase a fail to a success+risk or success+risk to success or success to legendary. That’s okay. Add a die is the same as everything else. It works but maybe not interesting, though since this is an expendable resource (you only use the cue once and then it’s gone) it could be a pretty hefty die. Maybe even a d12. I kind of like being able to stick someone else with your risk too: apply your harm to a compatriot, change who’s affected by a spillover result, &c.

Still thinking. Always thinking. Feel free to help me think

UPDATE: Nick Wendig offers:

@Halfjack Reroll a failure, since you learned your lesson in some mistake shown int he flashback?

…which in most systems sounds like a pretty good idea. In this system it’s very¬†interesting given the system (roll your dice of varying types and select one for your result). Re-rolling has an amplified emotional impact when a large die rolls low (sad, against expectations) and you get to give it another try (relief, retry for expected positive result).

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