It's been close to a month since any updated Optional: Playtest has been posted here and that's weighed on me. Perhaps it may be unrealistic on all of us to have an updated version of the rules posted every week (I might not have a life right now, but you guys surely must), but I wanted to have something ready for this Labour Day Monday to demonstrate some of the massive changes to the core mechanics of the Optional System.
And there's still more to come, rest assured. Work continues today on revisions to Chapter 2: Base Die and Chapter 3: Master Dice as stats are reversed to work with master dice with a more applicable method instead of its original, abstract version. I've left out the creeds from Appendix IV at this point as their options still need some work (particularly the Spell option and numerous other specialty options).
Optional: Playtest Version 0.4 is now available under the Optional Library to your left (or click here if you're lazy and/or on a mobile device). Today, I'm going to discuss one of the most dramatic changes to the game thus far. A change so dramatic, it needs visuals to explain it properly... and who doesn't like visuals?
To anyone new to this blog, I should first draw attention to my incredibly supportive fiancee addressed only as Lady Warden (so she has some deniability should anyone ever come up to her in person). Handling the OS logo (seen above, don't cha know) and every version of the character sheet (save for that wonky first draft - that was my bitch), the Lady is about take on a new tool for the Optional System, currently known only as "That Thing."
The Warden: OK, this is what I have in mind for that turn tracker I was telling you about. (starts drawing)
Lady Warden: Sorry, the what?
Warden: Remember? The chart I drew on the whiteboard?
Lady Warden: Oh, the THING. Right. Go on.
Hence the name of this particular project.
During the Matrix: Restoration playtest, a huge flaw in the Team/turn system became apparent. Not to the players, but to me. One of my foundations in the Optional System before I even knew it would be the Optional System was to have a rapid-fire, turn-based system that did not work like every other game out there. Turns would not be nice and neat, orderly battles played out like English gentlemen; they would bounce back and forth to properly simulate the chaotic nature of combat and yet still remain in control of the players. The original Team and bonus option mechanics accomplished that feat initially, but I think it can be better.
During the playtest, one of the monitors took off running down an alleyway while the Twins (those pale-faced motherfuckers who pass through walls) chased him down with a heavy machine gun atop their SUV. As he had the edge and was flying solo, he had 2 full options to go through before the Twins could even do anything to chase him down and the monitor took full advantage of dice options to just keep going and going. While I have no problem with that concept in theory, it demonstrated the sole factor in why I hate orderly turns. I could picture the Twins parked at the opposite end of the alley, looking at their watches as they waited for the monitor to finish his turn.
What's come before in the OS has worked before. Now I want it to work better.
To do that, all players and the Director need a concise tool to keep track of every Team's options, the edge, and any other initiative-based concerns using a simple tracking method accountable for any number of revisions. This new tool has to account for critical defenses and faster edges, as well as provide a complete overview of a series as it progress.
Behold the Thing! It's a turn tracker using poker chips to monitor the progress of each Team in a series; white chips represent the number of options available to each Team, the red chip represents the edge (the Team in control of the series), and blue chips are currently used to track any special conditions or reminders for either Team. When all Teams involved run out of white chips, the series is over and resets.
For this example, there are 3 Teams in action. Team A are the heroes (so noted by the asterix); Team B is the nasty villain; and Team C will be a bunch of thugs. At the start of the series, the proper number of options are handed out to each Team and we'll just go with Team A starting with the edge for this first series. One hero uses the first option for a defensive option and passes to the next hero; this is represented by the blue chip at the bottom to mark the defensive option. The next heroes use their options to make a couple of a successful attacks when the unfortunate happens: one of them loses the roll.
The edge passes to the next Team in line, Team B, who uses the first option to make an attack roll. Right away, the defensive character from Team A uses his defensive option to help repel the attack and Team B instantly loses the edge, returning it back to Team A. And so forth.
While this exact method has not been implemented to date (hence why the bottom column does not have an official designation), we were using poker chips to keep track of options for the heroes (and whether or not they entered a series, but that was under the old version). At the moment, all of this falls under "work on paper" but it shouldn't be long now until I can report back on the possibilities of the Thing.