Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Redefining the Pass Option

I am the Warden!!

Received an email last night from a playtester last night regarding the Pass option.
"This is listed as an automatic option. It was mentioned earlier that it cost nothing. Is this correct?"
By this, he wonders if the Pass option automatically costs an option because it is... well, an automatic option. According to my own rules, automatic options always cost a Team one option, yet the purpose of the Pass option is to freely allow Teammates to pass the Edge back and forth to each other at no cost.

This is one of the dangers in designing a truly original game and presenting it for the first time to outside players. In my head, the whole concept makes perfect sense and has nothing but clarity when I read it, but that's never the case when others absorb the same material. Defining this particular option has always been a tricky issue and I think it's now time to address it once and for all. The Pass option is a fundamental component of the Team mechanic. Without it, a Team cannot function as intended.

Grab your screwdrivers, people. It's time to make some adjustments.

#1. Passing Is Not An Option At All
This is probably the simplest possibility for fixing the Pass option. It's not an option at all, simply a component of the Team mechanic. In hindsight, I should have designed passing this way. All Teammates share the Edge and can freely step in to act as needed. When I came up with the Pass option, the intention was to create an active mechanic for players to cooperate and actively work together as part of a Team, but looking back at how my own playtests have carried out, no one's ever said "I'll pass to Jeffrey the Barbarian." It's always just "Yeah, sure, go ahead, dude."

#2. The Pass Option is Neither An Automatic Nor A Dice Option
This creates a third type of option. Let's call it free options. Using these kind of options does not use up one of the options available to your Team, but requires you to have options available in order to pass. As unnecessary as it may seem, consider how series work in the game. When your Team gains the Edge in a series, you can only do things if you have an option. Therefore, you can only pass if you have options remaining. It may be a war of semantics, but these tiny details are crucial in detailing a RPG.

#3. Passing Is A Free Option
A hybrid solution at best. Passing to a Teammate requires a Free option, meaning you can do so up to 3 times until your Team needs to spend an option. I'll tell you right now, I've already eliminated that idea because it's counterintuitive to the entire concept of passing in the Optional System and makes the Team mechanic limited to its original purpose. But I like to be thorough for your sake and mine. After all, it is a... Team... effort... baby. (Use your Austin Powers voice for that last sentence.)

#4. Passing Is A Reaction
Think about it. By making passing a reaction to a successful active roll, the player incorporates the pass into their option. Imagine it as one character punching an opponent across the face, sending him stumbling backwards just enough so an ally tucked safely atop the hill with a high-powered rifle can take a shot to finish the fucker off. The question becomes whether or not this reaction would require an exchange of hits or not, but I'm assuming it's best as a requirement (meaning you only need to roll at least 1 hit and not surrender that hit just to pass to a Teammate).

#5. Devise An Entirely Different Passing Mechanic
To be honest, this idea is the sole purpose behind today's post. What if there was something completely different for passing rather than simply allowing Teammates to step in as they need? What if you could only pass when you complete an objective, such as gain a bonus option? And can it be done in a way that doesn't create a more complex system than what was originally intended? (Remember, the Optional System in all its forms is intended as a non-miniature game. An idea was presented months ago of passing working only with adjacent Teammates, but would only work if all characters were specifically detailed on a battlemap of some kind.)

At the moment I type this paragraph, my mind is torn between #1 and #4. #1 is the simplest and requires only a minor rewrite of the rules to complete, but there's something about the absence of an active passing mechanic that's lacking. Establishing a pass as a reaction requires players to consciously work together instead of players simply stepping up when they want to act. Trivial, perhaps, but this is the original intention of passing and the Team mechanic and the more I think about it, the better it looks.

Oh, playtesters!