Playtest notes for Fickle RPG

I’ve had a busy, whirling three months with Fickle RPG. From brainstorming for a year, writing for a day, and playtesting for weeks I’ve learned a lot.

With the holidays and the birth of my second kid approaching my pick up games of Fickle RPG are slowing down. In the last few sessions I playtested a few different approaches to mechanics, and tried to solicit a lot of player feedback.

Below are the notes from that effort. But first let me flesh out the bullet points with some thoughts.

Reactions: The biggest change is to the resolution mechanic, in that the opponent gets a Reaction. I had considered this idea early on in the design, but discarded it for a few reasons. But anyway previously the opponent would merely be passively avoiding whatever the Acting player was doing. So before if a player is shooting a survivor, the target pretty much tries to dodge or tough out the hit. With the new Reaction system that same survivor could instead rush forward and try to club the player, or maybe try to talk down the player from violence, etc. These Reactions have the in-game effect of potentially reducing Stamina. So much more back-and-forth and deadly on both ends.

This results in slightly slower narrative turns (because BOTH parties have to declare their intent), but this is made up by faster overall encounters (because you are technically having in-game resolution twice as often). But most importantly this change feels more natural.

The Reactions also make the “general player turn” work a lot better. In Fickle RPG as written there is no order to how the players act, so the same player can go over and over if that’s important to the situation. But in larger groups (5+) this breaks down, as some players are left never being the Acting player because more pressing demands require someone else to go. With Reactions the game master has a tool for bringing the spot light back to a player by acting against them, and giving that player a chance to be involved in the situation. Reactions also avoid the awkward issue where one player is threatened by low Stamina so to “stay alive” they need to keep acting.

Fate Coin: The other element is Tempt Fate, aka roll a Fate dice. The original idea of this mechanic is purely for players, and they can use a D12 in lieu of a D6 when resolving. This can make a Hard (6+) check much more likely to pass OR make an Impossible (7+) idea achievable. The downside is in a recent game a player used a Fate dice for a Hard check, succeeded at their roll, but still lost in total number of Successes against the opponent. That’s frustrating for everyone involved.

So Fate will instead become a binary 50/50 system, likely flipping a (cool and thematic) coin. Still some decisions on my end in regards to how many Fate Coins (or whatever term) the players get. Of course a simple D6 roll would achieve the same mechanically, but not NEARLY the same in feel. Picking up a different media (a coin) feels very different, and weighter a decision, to a player.

Skills: The final decision is around Skills. Right now Easy (4+) difficulty doesn’t happen a ton. One idea was to change Skills from increasing the dice pool size to instead making a check easier. Not sold on that idea as I think it would swing too far the other way and have TOO many Easy checks.


FEEDBACK
– Change to a Reaction system where the defender can do something back that can damage the attacker
— Reactions too effective though? Maybe use Hard as a base? For example shooting with 5 dice against a 7 dice target and getting owned
— Also lessens the focus on other attributes, as you rarely use a “dump” stat since you’re reacting with your best
— Could have a Hard acting thing to target a specific enemy attribute. Downside is players targetting me (don’t see sheet), and feels like the start of a list of things you can do
– Fate should be changed. No longer substitute a D12, instead do a 50/50 coin flip. Defender (who is GM, as they have no Fate) does nothing. On win succeed, on lose everyone loses 1 Stamina from all Categories
— Basically don’t want to win Fate but still lose by success total
— Should have 1 Fate per player (that can only be used by them? Like a “Spotlight moment”?). Could have 1 Fate per party, but doesn’t discard on failure? Could give 1 set Fate to someone else but failure consequences become worse then?
— Change the name as well? Fate? Spotlight? Heroic Moment? etc
– Change resolution types to “Check” (player vs environment) and “Competing” or “Challenge” (player vs player). Check is just vs set dice, either succeed or fail. Competing is roll off as usual, with Reactions
– Change creation attributes to minimum 2, maximum 6
– Need more ways to achieve Easy instead of Normal to succeed?
— Maybe make Skills turn to an Easy base? Downside is Underdog has less value then, and it’s almost TOO easy? Changes dice allocation a lot too

TO PLAYTEST
– Fate coin: 1 per player vs 1 in pool vs 1 total w/ no fail discard
– Skills give Easy: Instead of +1 dice pool give base Easy
– Reactions Hard: Base Hard for a Reaction

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