Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Struggling With Slow Motion [Optional Core]

You can't talk about slow motion
without paying tribute to the master.
I am the Warden!!

Ever since my early days plugging away on the Optional System, I've been unable to come up with any effective and reasonable mechanic for simulating slow motion in an action game. At first, it was intended solely as a cinematic effect capable of allowing heroes to increase their odds of success at a limited rate (once per series) or as a means to provide perfect accuracy and completion at a limited rate (once per scene). Nothing stuck and it took a back burner to proceed with the more realistic and less cinematic Killshot.

With High Plains Samurai starting up on Friday and Optional Core playtesting well under way, it's time to take another look.

So... uh, yeah. How about that slow motion mechanic, eh?

That's just the problem - I'm still drawing blanks. Not to come up with any solution, but an appropriate one that doesn't reek of a stick-on mechanic. For example, having it work as an extension to a stunt where you gain +2d10 on a single stunt roll or perform a stunt with decreased difficulty seems to cheapen the impact I want from slow motion mechanics. Plus it comes across as a stunt. Even providing stunts as an opportunity to perform cinematic slow motion in games just seems like a tacked idea.

When you see something in slow motion, it's awesome. The definition of cool and you never see someone screw up in slow motion, not for action films, at least. I want to mimic that effect in a roleplaying game and the Optional System, to be specific. What I'm looking to accomplish with a slow motion mechanic is a resource-based reward system allowing players to perform an option perfectly in slow motion without allowing the player to always be perfect in their option. For example, allowing players to make a perfect attack is a mistake in the making and is simply complicated if a hero attempts a slow motion attack against a villain defending himself in slow motion - who succeeds if everyone's option is perfect?

Here are some of the ideas I've tossed about recently.

  • Characters can attempt any action in slow motion and have the difficulty of the roll increased by +2d10 (or some other amount of circumstance dice). This can be attempted as part of a stunt. [This one doesn't match with my intention at all. I want a slow motion attempt to be cooler, not harder.]
  • Once per series, a hero/villain can perform an option in slow motion. This option automatically succeeds with 1 hit and the player does not have to roll. [That's all fine and dandy, but leaves out Enhanced and Expert reactions automatically, as well as kill shots and critical hits.]
  • Slow motion active rolls grant you a limited number of base (d20) or circumstance (d10) dice based on existing training. They can only be applied once per series. [Creating a rule whereby the very intention of these dice was thrown right out the window. Neither type is provided through any form of training.]
  • Slow motion is a skill granting a certain number of d6s to any chosen roll. [This is perhaps the closest I've come to a viable option, yet it feels diluted compared to my hopes and dreams of slow motion.]
What that leaves me with is a lot of unsatisfied results. The other issue relates to performance - am I trying to complicate something that is already complicated? Meaning is there really a mechanical need to add another means of increasing your roll in the Optional System? Can't I just be happy with saying things are happening in slow motion.

No. No I cannot say that with any honesty and integrity. This system needs a slow motion mechanic to take it from cool to holy-fucking-awesome. It's worked in video games to provide a player advantage in limited runs; there has to be a way to make it work here. 

Think, think, think.