Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Solitaire Framework

I am finalizing this set of rules for the next issue of MTDAA Twilight, but I thought I would share some of my game design notes and thinking around a key concept: the Solitaire Framework.

There are several excellent solo adventure frameworks available. I've scanned through a few of them, but I wanted to go in a little bit of a different direction. In designing the framework, I wanted it to do the following:

1. Be very flexible. It is something that always works, and which you can always use.
2. Be simple. I want it to be easy to remember and to adjudicate. While the entire set of rules for the framework should fit on one page (that's what I'm working towards right now), everything should be there for ongoing solo play, or for play without a GM.
3. Be intuitive. I want it to 'feel' natural. I want it to make sense, and to comport with the other mechanics of the game.

I have been set on the idea of five possible likelihoods of an event on the framework. These likelihoods get descriptors, since that is both intuitive and simple. An event can be rated as:

Very likely.
Possible (possibly).
Very Unlikely.

Draft 1:

My first draft used 2d6, with the following possibilities:

Roll 2d6:
3+  Very likely (35 in 36) 97%
5 + Likely (30 in 36) 83%
7+  Possible (21 in 36) 58%
9+  Unlikely (10 in 36) 28%
11+Very Unlikely (3 in 36) 8%

However, the math is ALL over the place. It feels great, but it is UGLY. No way was this going to work. There is no way to get a 50/50 split in a 2d6 roll, so that is an immediate deal breaker.

Draft 2:

My next draft used a d20, with the following possibilities:

Very likely. Roll of 2+
Likely. Roll of 5+
Possible (possibly). Roll of 10+
Unlikely. Roll of 15+
Very Unlikely. Roll of 18+

This made sense, was intuitive, and was easy to remember. But the math doesn't work - a very likely event only has a 5% chance of not happening, while a very unlikely event has a 15% chance of happening. Possible doesn't really have a 50/50 chance; it is actually 55%, making it slightly likely. Once I move the numbers, it becomes less intuitive (at least to me)

Draft 2.5: 

Very likely. Roll of 3+
Likely. Roll of 6+
Possible (possibly). Roll of 11+
Unlikely. Roll of 16+
Very Unlikely. Roll of 19+

Now the numbers make sense, but I find them less intuitive. These don't feel like natural breaks, even though they are. I know it works, but I just don't like it. I scrapped this approach. Next I went to straight up percentages.  These are much more intuitive, and easy to remember:

Very likely. 90%
Likely. 70%
Possible (possibly). 50%
Unlikely. 30%
Very Unlikely. 10%

I waffled on the likely and unlikely percentages; I thought of going to 75/25 or even 80/20, but the 70/30 put these equal distance between the two options on either side. The other benefit was that this could then be reduced to a straight up d10 roll. Very unlikely has a 1 in 10 chance. Very likely only fails on a 10. This is intuitive, easy to remember, and makes sense. However, I then realized I could simplify even one step further. Here is the variation on the framework that I am currently working on:

Draft 3:

We go with an old school, classic, straight up 1d6 roll:

Very Likely     5 in 6 (83%)
Likely              4 in 6 (67%)
Maybe             3 in 6 (50%)
Unlikely           2 in 6 (33%)
Very Unlikely   1 in 6 (17%)

On a 1, it always happens.
On a 6, it definitely does not happen

The other thing is that this allows me to easily plug in a set of rules that creates follow-up effects from exceptional rolls, with no additional tables, charts, or graphs. It's simple, easy to remember, intuitive, and creates a lot of variety. Checks all my boxes:

- If an event was unlikely or very unlikely, and you roll a 6, The result is 'no, but'. Ask a follow-up question to see if the opposite happens. That follow-up question is always maybe.

- If an event was likely or very likely, and you roll a 1, the results is 'yes, and'. Ask a follow-up question to see if something additional happens that is positive, helpful, or useful. That follow-up question is always ‘maybe’.

The other thing is that this 1d6 roll becomes the unifying mechanic of the system. All you need is an assortment of random tables with 5 options for anything you want to use. Five of the results are the 'most common' results to quickly generate options, but the 6th option is something unusual, resolved through the framework.

For instance, if you are exploring a termite complex, the random encounter table for the complex is the five types of termites one might encounter in the complex. For example:

(1) 1d6 termite drones
(2) 1d6 termite workers
(3) 1d4 termite soldiers
(4) 1 termite drinker
(5) 1 termite architect
(6) Apply the framework

Option 6 is always apply the framework. Now, it could be anything. Is it another insect? (maybe) If the answer is no, is it a predator? (maybe) If no, is it another team of army ants? (unlikely) If not, is it some form of robotic guardian that the termites have invented that has broken loose from the lab and has killed dozens of termites in its rampage of destruction (very unlikely, but the other things haven't been here, so I guess it's possible at this point). 

The basic rules of the framework, then, are as follows:

The Protocol:

1. Apply logic to the situation. 
2. Ask the most likely questions first.
3. Allow the dice to guide your questions.  

One more thing: I can retrofit this to the levels of the other insects in the game for chances of random drops and gear. Does the creature carry anything of value? The likelihood is equal to its level: A minion has no chance of carrying anything useful, while a level 4 foe has a 4 in 6 chance of carrying something that the ants could want.

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