My Style of Play

Before I move forward with the insanity that is Calder Harrison, I thought I’d take a small break to explain a little about my style of play.  I mentioned this in the early days of the blog and have been meaning to go through the subject since then.  Now seems as good a time as any.  I’ve not seen anyone else use this kind of system before so I’m excited to see what many of you think about it.

I’ve noticed that with Sims 2 you can’t REALLY  let the Sims run by themselves.  You can but, well, not a lot happens.  I love randomness.  I don’t want to coach my sim through every little thing and prefer to watch how they grow and change on their own.  I did  just install ACR so I  imagine things might change a bit.  Up until now it didn’t make much of a story for the sims to simply take care of their daily needs day in and day out.  I also noticed they didn’t take a lot of chances.   I knew I wanted to work with the randomness of the wants and fears system so I took some of my previous knowledge and carved something out.

I’m an old school RPG gamer.  I grew up with the stuff and even wrote up my own game rules a while ago.  My play style borrows very heavily from a homebrew game system called the Engle Matrix game.  No, it has nothing to do with the movie or Neo.  This was out WAY before those movies ever existed and it was actually used by the British Military once upon a time for training exercises.  The whole idea of the Matrix game is about telling a shared story not so much running from dungeon to dungeon and monster to monster.  It works around what is called “arguments” or statements that you, as a player, would like to see happen.  Here is how it works on a very basic level.  Everyone around the table makes a statement, a judge rules how likely that statement is to happen based on the game world and what we’ve seen occur so far, and the dice are rolled to see the result.

You can use a basic d6, which can be found in any Monopoly game, or you can get fancy with percentile dice (otherwise known as 2 d10s.)  If you’re hard up for odd and weird dice there are tons of online die rollers out there you can find to use very easily.

A statement is ranked accordingly;  Very Strong, Strong, Average, Weak, Very Weak.  You could also call it Very Likely, Likely, Average, Unlikely, Rare or Very Unlikely.  The chart below gives you the number you have to roll with  a d6.

Very Strong = 2+
Strong = 3+
Average = 4+
Weak = 5+
Very Weak = 6

(Percentile dice work similiarly.  Rankings give you a percentage of how much it MIGHT happen.  Average is 50%, Strong is 75%, Weak is 30%, etc…)

If you hit your target number then your statement occurs for sure in the game.

Let’s say you’re playing a detective game.  There is a murder victim, a setting to work in (let’s say downtown Chicago), and a large cast of characters that the players can move and make statements for once per turn.   From previous rounds we know the body was found in the alley behind a pizza place.  One player makes the statement, “The first detective on the scene finds a bloody knife under a dumpster.”  The judge ranks it as a strong argument.  The player rolls, gets a success, and now there is a bloody knife.  The second player says, “Witnesses say a tall redheaded woman was seen running from the alley.”  The judge also ranks this and the player rolls, etc.

Since using this with Sims is a solo variation, I won’t get into what happens if two players come up with two statements that conflict.  Like in cowboys and indians when one player says, “I shot you” and the other one says, of course, “No, I shot you first.”   (I recommend you head over to the Engle Matrix Game website and look at the basic rules he has up there.  He’s added some new levels of complexity but the core rules are still there.)

Then, how does this apply to how I play with the Sims?  Easy.  I use a combination of the rolled wants and game situations to make up statements of what might happen.  I rank them and then I let the dice tell me what the character wants to do.  For instance, Dale is working on a painting and notices that a townie has walked by his house and stopped.  If I’m unsure how to proceed I do the following.  I pause the game, grab my d6, and go through the following question and roll session.  Big note of advice, always make your questions yes or no style questions!

“Does Dale see the townie outside?”  Ranking: Strong.  I rolled a 5 so it’s a success.   Yes, he does.

“Does Dale decide to go out and meet that person and invite them in?”  Ranking: Average.  I need to roll a 4+ for Dale to do this.  I roll a 6 which means he does.  I unpause the game and start moving forward.

A special note here, if Dale had the want “Meet someone new” that previous statement would have been ranked Very Strong.

The idea is to NOT do this not every single moment of play time but to use it to help you make quick decisions.  A lot of time I use it for story ideas when I see a verbal image balloon go up.   Other times I do it when I’m simply sitting around thinking of possible storylines in the future.

Example: I see Brendon, who is talking to a school buddy, throw out an image balloon of a criminal.  I ask, “Is Brendon talking about his father?”  I rank it as Average.  I roll a 3.  Nope.   He’s talking about something else.  “Is he talking about a cool crime show he watched on TV?”  I rank it as Average and roll a 5.  Yhup, he’s talking about TV.   That’s good because if it had been his father it might make for a wrinkle or more plot.

You can take this combination of yes/no question, combine with what you know of the character, situations, image balloons, and rolled wants to help you come up with questions as well as come up with rankings.  Sometimes, you might just want to add a crazy question in the mix to spice things up.

Example: Calder and Zen are out on the town and Calder really hits it off with a townie.  Matter of fact, he gets a lightning bolt on her.  Zen is right there but I want to ask if Calder would do something that might get him in trouble.  “Does Calder flirt with the new woman?”  I rank it Average instead of Weak because of the lightning bolt, need a 4 or better and roll a 3.  Nope, he stays safe.

Maybe Calder and the woman continue to talk and things are getting interesting though nothing has happened.  I might ask, “Does this woman simply become a good close friend of Calder’s?”  Then, I rank it and roll it.

Again, it’s not intended to take the place of gameplay but it does add a nice minor dimension to things.  It also gives a small dose of randomness for when I want a bit of background or story detail.  Especially when the dice roll weird and give you a success on something you had ranked as Very Weak.  The key with that?  You have to follow through cause, you know, you asked the question in the first place.

Let me know what you think or if you have questions.  Enjoy!

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4 responses to “My Style of Play

  1. Well that is definitely unique. I have never heard of anyone using a system like this. Very interesting! I can see exactly how that would work.

    A lot of people are fond of the Random Occurrence Scenarios (or ROS – a basic program for it can be found here), but that can sort of be haphazard because it’s completely random.

  2. I definitely have never heard of anyone using a system like this before but it’s certainly an interesting idea!

    I use the ROS, which is, as Lunar mentioned very random. Because it’s so random, I’ll sometimes reroll events that don’t make sense. It wouldn’t really help with making heat of the moment decisions though, as they’re rolled at the beginning of the round. That’s about all I have set up in terms of systems to help decide the story.

  3. I love reading about this method, as I sure need a way to spice things up in my game. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: What is Crossroads Valley? | Roundabout Corners

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