old ramblings #3

From September 2018.

One of the objectives of The King Machine is to make reffing the game as easy as possible. I love making maps and spending time on prep, but I don’t want to need to do it. I also love ad-libbing, ideally based on the other players’ actions, but I do it better when I have cues. So we built in all these things.

Risk. Every resolution roll has a risk that’s selected by the referee. And many rolls will realize these risks even if they succeed. So the risks can propel the narrative in new direction: if you’re being chased and risk spillover, for example, you might successfully get away but injure or kill a bystander in the process. That’s going to have consequences I can build into future scenes!

Cues. Sometimes the back-and-forth at the table stalls or slows. Everyone experiences this. Whenever this happens, the ref has a list of options to jump-start the narrative. Things like start some shit: introduce an immediate threat. Or recall a missed hook: that hint you planted earlier that no one grabbed? Make it important now. These are things any good ref depends on anyway, but we’ll list them explicitly because not everyone is a veteran. And not every veteran remembers to mix it up a little and try something different. It’s nice to have a list.

Deadlines. When things get urgent, we make them mechanically urgent. You are now fighting a deadline and there are specific things you might do during the game that will mitigate that deadline or, more likely, tick that clock one closer. This gets people focused on the action. Characters no choosing a specific direction and acting on it? Make it urgent. Make every action count towards or against the deadline.

Mechanized difficulty: The ref never sets a difficulty level so you don’t have to worry about setting it correctly or fairly. The system handles that. You just set the scene, listen, and then guide the conflict with a risk. The story will flow out of that with minimal direction from the ref. There’s all the usual room for creativity, but you don’t need to fabricate numbers to oppose an action. Just get on with the action.

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