Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Game Design Journal #4 - M.A/C.C

For this installment of the M.A/C.C game design journal, I want to focus on one of the groups of mechanics that were designed to give the player a feeling of being powerful. It is the section that deals with a big part of giving the players the feeling that they are strong, creatures of the night, and something not to be trifled with. As such, and with a lack of any creativity in my naming schemes, the system is simply called

The Predator System
Now it is important to note right from the beginning that this isn't just one mechanic, but it is a collection of various mechanics that are focused on giving players the feel of being a predator. As such it covers such things as engaging groups that, in most systems, are just too large to engage safely for most PCs, and with stream lining the process while giving the players and GMs options to work with in giving the players that sense of power you get when the bad guys start to look like prey, and not like obstacles.

As such, and with my earlier pointed view that one of the key ways to make players feel powerful is to let them mop the floor with mooks, I'm going to talk a bit about Take Downs.

How a Take Down works is that if you are undetected by a group of opponents (or just a single one), or in some other ways to get the drop on them, you can take out a good number of them without ever having to drop into combat. This goes back to the assumption the system has of highly competent PCs, but is also reflective of the various genres and comic books whose feel we're trying to simulate here. Back on topic, so you've managed to sneak up on these goons, and they don't know you're there or you have the drop on them in some other way. At this point, you tell the GM that you'd like to try and perform a take down.

If it's possible (and it should generally always be if they're not aware of you) the GM says so, and then the fun begins. You first tell the GM how many of the guys you are looking to take down, along with any other objectives you may or may not have in this. You then tell the GM just how you intend to do it. Just saying "I want to take down 4 of them" isn't enough, you have to tell the GM how this is going to play out if it all goes according to plan. So, for example, we're going to jump off of our perch and land on one, rising from a crouch we'll uppercut another while throwing two boomerangs to knock the last two out. It's not the greatest plan, but it is at least a plan and whats more, in a comic or movie world it is even feasible. From there, a roll is made. Yep, just one roll. If you succeed by enough, everything goes according to plan, if you fail, well something goes horribly wrong at a point up to the GM, and if you get somewhere in the middle, things don't go horribly wrong they just don't go according to plan.

It's simple, and whats more, it helps give the player that feeling of being a predator. It has, in the limited testing done, encouraged people to not just go rushing in, or to think a bit more before engaging while simultaneously allowing the GM to throw slightly larger numbers of enemies at the hero. Why? Because 10 guys is probably going to ruin any low level PCs days, but 10 guys when the PC can take out 5 or 6 of them before the fight even starts...now that's not so bad. The fact that this is done casually as well and the PC knows where to go to get a fix of "I need to feel strong".

It is also with other benefits, and its own dangers as well though. It works wonderfully as a mechanic for dealing with assassinations. You don't need to go through all the normal mechanical red tape, you just use the Take Down rules and the assassination can be done once you've done the set up. At the same time, that very strength needs to be protected against. Something put in place to help protect some NPCs (and more importantly the PCs) from having this done on them and simply countering dramatic moments in the game. With protecting PCs, while it could be useful, it's not fun for the GM to make one roll and then just 1 shot drop everyone in the group. So some limitations need to be put on it. M.A/C.C has a way of doing this, but it's nothing that needs going into.

As said above, Take Downs are a key part of the predator system, and with a few variations on the theme can cover a wide variety of situations. It represents the final part of the hunt, the actual pounce onto the prey, though for PCs playing characters inspired by Batman-types these take downs are often just the beginning of the grand encounter. With the proper use of them, the Take Downs can turn a night into a mooks worst nightmare as they are stalked from the shadows. It should be interesting to see what happens with it in further testing.

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