View Full Version : Schrodinger's Gun [System]

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2010-01-08, 07:18 PM
Schrodinger's Gun

Schrodinger's Gun is a game designed to tell tight, defined stories in a swift, active, and dynamic way. It relies on three primary systems to achieve this goal:
Hero & Nemesis: Every player controls both a Hero and a Villain.
Wager: Challenges and disputes are settled by means of quick, easily-adjudicated wagers.
Trope: Each session, as well as groups of sessions, is influenced by an overall theme.

The following sections explain, in their likely order of usage, the game's three core systems, beginning with character creation in Hero and Nemesis, proceeding to Task Resolution in Wager, and finishing with campaign planning in Trope.

Step 01: Hero & Nemesis
Before beginning play, each player determines the traits of their two characters; one protagonist, and one antagonist or other side character.
It is helpful, though not strictly essential, to have already determined the game's Season Trope at this point, so that characters fit the genre and style of play.

Each character, either Hero or Nemesis, has a total of five traits; any traits that are not defined are considered to be average for the game's setting and genre. There are four categories of traits:

Stuff. This means tools, weapons, vehicles, buildings, and corporate empires. Anything a character uses, holds, owns, or operates can be classed as stuff. Keep in mind that possessing stuff does not convey exceptional skill in using it; it does, however, cover basic competency, or why would you own it at all?
Skills. This includes all exceptional abilities; persuasion, combat, analysis, anything a character does is a skill. Skills can be broad, but not universal- fencing is reasonable, combat is not. Similar to the note regarding stuff, having a skill that involves an item does not grant an exceptional form of that item, but does allow you its most basic expression- otherwise, how would you have the skill?
Secrets. This is anything unusual a character knows. Science, gossip, and experience could all be secrets. Nothing covered by the secrets category is common knowledge- it's always something of value that few people possess.
Supporters. This could represent henchmen, sidekicks, employees, lovers, friends, or the hounds. Any separate being that aids a character in some way is a supporter. All supporters are sideliners, as described later in this section.

From these categories, players choose five traits; these traits are of the following types:

Prime: This represents a character's greatest strength or strongest focus. It is difficult to best you in your area of expertise, and your expertise may grant a number of closely related abilities. A character can have only one Prime.
Base: This denotes a broad competence, or an ability of particularly impressive scope. Base abilities are shallow, as well as broad; they can be overpowered in one-on-one scenarios.
Heart: This is something a character cannot lose- an inviolate trait that can be weakened or temporarily stolen, but never destroyed or significantly changed without your consent.
Double: This brings complications on a character; hidden weaknesses or liabilities that are connected to a seeming strength. Every Double a character has grants them one additional wager per session for use in any challenge.
Change: This grants a character the capacity to slowly evolve and change over time. A Change ability can be redefined once per arc, becoming more powerful or versatile, or operating in a different way.

All Heroes and all Nemeses are defined using these categories and trait types; fundamentally, it is the combination of the two that provides variety, as well as the player-defined nature of specific skills, abilities, items, etc., as opposed to a set list of character traits. Players may choose as many traits of each type (excluding Prime) as they wish.

Sideliners, minor characters granted by Supporter traits or otherwise brought into the game as minions or myrmidons, are defined more simply; they have only three traits.

Pattern: This is how the sideliner generally behaves. Jackbooted thugs with the pattern 'sadistic', for instance, will generally go out of their way to kick any puppies they see.
Complicator: This is what might make the sideliner differ from their pattern. If the aforementioned jackbooted thugs have the complicator 'men of the people', then they might well put aside their cruel nature for members of the working classes.
Ability: This is what the sideliner does well. Abilities should, generally, be slightly less specific than skills; a sideliner with the ability 'fighting' would likely be both an able hand-to-hand combatant and a good shot, for instance.

Both supporters gained by characters through a trait of that category and briefly-introduced antagonist or side characters are defined using these three traits.

Characters can be further customized over the course of the game through the use of benefits. Benefits fall into a few distinct types, as follows.

Stunt Benefits, which grant the character one extra wager for a challenge.
Growth Benefits, which allow the character's traits to change and evolve over time.
Life Benefits, which give a character one chance to cheat the reaper and escape death.

Stunt Benefits expire at the end of a session, but can be granted by any other player for the execution of a truly awesome feat of heroic of villainous nature.
Growth Benefits do not expire; every player gets one at the end of each arc, and a character who earned at least five Stunt Benefits during that arc gains one more.
Life Benefits do not expire, and each player begins play with one. However, this is the one and only Life Benefit they will ever receive, so it's best to use it wisely.

Gratuitous and unnecessary grandstanding in the name of gaining Stunt Benefits should be heartily discouraged by all right-thinking peoples; only actions that are in-character, flow naturally from the action, and are awesome qualify.

As an example of character creation, we'll make Batman, step by step.
We'll begin by defining his traits.

As a shallow beginning, we'll reference his array of gadgets: Batman has a Stuff Base trait that encompasses his utility belt, bat-vehicles, and bat-cave; it's a Base because no one gadget is of paramount importance, and Stuff because they're all just items to be used.
Even without his gadgets, Batman is a great crime-fighter- among the greatest. Therefore, we'll give him a Skill Prime of Vigilantism, encompassing hand-to-hand combat, stealth, and detection.
Without his butler, Alfred, to balance his moods, Batman might well go crazy; therefore, we'll give him a Supporters Heart to represent him; we'll further define Alfred as having the following:
1. A Pattern of Genteel
2. A Complicator of Protective,
3. An Ability of Secret Agent, given his mysterious past.
Batman has a complex code of honor and personal scruples; this aids him in making the right decision, but can also be exploited by his enemies. Since it's fundamentally a matter of judgment, we'll make it a Secrets Double trait.
Last, but not least, we'll address Batman's ability to inspire dread in his enemies, which has slowly grown from the laughable camp of his first inception to his modern, looming persona. We'll make this a Skill Change trait.
Batman begins play with one Life Benefit and the right to claim one Arc Trope, as described in the Trope section below.
With these mechanical considerations taken care of, we can describe the history and personality of the character in greater detail, establishing their goals, typical activities, and personality as a guide to choosing and interacting with the storyline as established through tropes.

Step 02: Wagers

Any and all conflicts within the game are resolved by means of wagers.
A wager consists of each involved player throwing one six-sided die (d6). The highest result wins the wager; if the result is a tie, each player gains an additional wager for that session, and the wager is rolled again until a result is reached.

There are several situations in which a wager is always required, as follows.

When attempting to determine a session trope. Unless all parties agree, any players who wish to tag the session must make a wager.
When attempting to assign a player's arc trope. If two or more players wish to claim the same arc, they may choose to wager; as this is a last resort, subsequent to negotiation, the result is final.
Direct opposition between two or more players. Most commonly, this represents combat, but it could represent any kind of competition- a footrace, picking someone up at a bar, etc.
Scene editing; if a player wishes to contest another player's scene description, a wager is called for. This may only be done in the same round of description.
Action order; all players make a single wager at the beginning of the session to determine the order in which their characters act, and the order in which players describe action. On each subsequent round of action and description, the players may roll again, or continue using the established order. These rolls are an exception to the rule regarding ties; ties on action order rolls do not grant additional wagers.

Typical, everyday tasks do not require a wager. Difficult or dangerous tasks, even unopposed, do require one. If the task is difficult but well within the character's competence, then just one other player can serve as the odds against or hostile environment; if it is desperately difficult, two or more; if it is just short of impossible, four or five.

Players can make more than one wager for a given challenge; if they do, whoever wins the greater number of wagers is the overall victor.
If one player has more wagers than another for a given challenge, the dice over and above the opposition's total are considered automatic successes.
If a player has more than one trait of the relevant category or type for the challenge, they gain one wager for each trait of that category and for each trait of that type; thus, a player attempting a Skill challenge with a Skill Double who has three skill traits and two double traits could make a total of five wagers. The two aspects of the trait are treated separately.
Wagers gained through stunt benefits can be used for any challenge.

Step 03: Trope
Tropes are themes or motifs used by the players to tell a story.
Tropes are, in essence, rough plans intended to take the place of the more detailed preparation used in many systems; the scope of the plan determines the type of trope. Tropes are also designed to define the game's storyline by giving it a beginning, a middle, and an end, to prevent organic collapse of the game- for instance, from scheduling conflicts.
There are three kinds of tropes:

Episode Tropes, which are chosen at the beginning of an episode and subject to wagering by the players.
Arc Tropes, which are chosen by a given player, and apply to all episodes of a given arc in some way.
Season Tropes, which establish the genre, tone, and basic assumptions of the entire game.

An Episode is a single session of play. An Arc is several episodes- usually around three to five. A Season is several Arcs, again, usually three or so.

Episode Tropes are used to influence the overall tone of an episode, and even, possibly, to introduce specific plot points. The exact interpretation of an episode trope is left up to the individual players. The nature of play, and of episode tropes especially, is improvisational; the guiding principle is, therefore, "Yes, And", with each player building on the events established by the last. Episode tropes tend to reference specific events or narrative devices. Some examples of Episode Tropes:

Accidental Bidding: one or more of the characters has somehow gained a prize they never intended to pursue, and must now pay the 'agreed' price.
In The Air Vents: the characters attempt or foil a daring, if impractical, heist plot.
Arranged Marriage: the characters are somehow involved in a marriage of convenience or arrangement- preventing it, arranging it, even undergoing it.
A Boy and His Dog: the episode focuses on the bonds between character and companion, canine or otherwise.
The Confessional: secrets are spoken in confidence- whether they stay there is up for debate.
Musical Number: self-explanatory.
Dark Horse Victory: one of the characters comes from behind to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Et Tu Brute: a betrayal sets former friends at each other's throats.
Field Promotion: one of the characters suddenly gains newfound responsibilities after the removal of a superior.

Generally, an episode trope is something that happens to the characters, with, perhaps, some reference to how it happens. The job of the players is to expand on the how, and experiment with how their character interacts with the situation.

Arc Tropes are used to give an Arc, composed of several Episodes, both a goal and a motif or tone. Each player in a game is entitled to determine at least one arc trope, for an arc of their choice. Arc Tropes should generally be sufficiently broad to describe a wide range of effects by a number of different acting forces. Some examples of Arc Tropes:

Just Crazy Enough to Work: the characters are involved in a borderline insane plan to achieve their goals. And do.
He Had it Coming: somebody or something has gone on long enough. It's time to toe the line.
Here We Go Again: the characters thought they were all done with a particular unpleasant scenario, but here it is again to bite them, likely with a twist.
A Good Idea at The Time: some seemingly correct decision has unforeseen consequences.
Living on Borrowed Time: deadly danger places one or more characters in imminent peril. Can they be saved before their luck runs out?
Noodle Incident: something happens, and nobody wants to talk about it- just reference it obliquely. As more details emerge, matters get worse.

Arc Tropes should generally be just that- tropes that describe a full narrative arc. Too specific and the arc is repetitive, too broad and it lacks direction.

Season Tropes influence all the other tropes within the game, and set forth some basic assumptions regarding it.
Season Tropes can be determined in two ways; either round-robin style, with each player contributing a single season trope, or by debate, with any reasonable number of season tropes agreed upon by consensus. Once determined, season tropes do not change. Some examples:

Alternate Universe: the game involves dimensional travel of some kind, or perhaps alternate versions of existing people or things.
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel: the game is about planet-hopping sci-fi adventures.
Here's Looking At You, Kid: the game is concerned with romance and film noir themes.
Dystopian Future: the game takes place after a terrible cataclysm.
Sword and Sorcery: loincloths, ladies, and lots of magical mayhem.

Season Tropes should be clear, but subject to interpretation. Generally speaking, they should establish at least a general genre for characters, i.e. superheroes, secret agents, fantasy adventurers- and an overall direction for plotlines, i.e. saving the world, getting the girl, or grabbing the gold.

Step 04: Putting It Together

The best and easiest way to learn Schrodinger's Gun is to play it. A few notes on how to do so follow, since certain aspects of the game are atypical.

First, the only items needed to play the game are one six-sided die per player, some scratch paper for notes, and a character sheet for each player. Visual aids, such as maps, pictures, etc., are not needed, but may be used at the player's option.

There is no single 'game master' in charge of all description; instead, players take their turns to describe aspects of the scene and react to them, generally in a 'yes, and' fashion, though they may contest a previous player's description with a wager if they so choose.

The players control two characters- their Hero, and primary alter ego, who serves as their own protagonist; and their Nemesis, a secondary character who serves as antagonist to another player. Nemeses can be determined ahead of time by discussion or random selection, or round-robin style (each person being nemesis to the person to their left, for instance). Nemeses need not be of equal strength and importance, and they need not work together, though they can; also, a nemesis need not be paired with a specific Hero- some could be subordinates of another villain, or even simply general malcontents. A single nemesis could, potentially, menace an entire group of heroes, depending on the style and themes of the campaign.

Wagers are designed to be fast and visually immediate. They introduce a large random element into play; players should therefore be prepared for considerable fluctuation in their fortunes.

Tropes are designed to help guide the story in the absence of one controlling vision; they are, in the interest of cohesion, subject to debate, and if the players wish, all Episode and Arc tropes can be determined ahead of time to produce a complete, if general, storyline of the game in advance.
The Episode/Arc/Season model is designed to produce games of finite length, with defined endpoints. The players should agree beforehand how many seasons the game will run, to produce properly climactic actions as the end of the game draws near.

This system represents one of my attempts to finish a 'Tropeswiki RPG' project, and a short design challenge for myself. All critiques are welcome.

2010-01-09, 01:51 AM
This is very impressive and well thought out. How long have you been working on this and where did you get the idea?

I do think it needs some visual organization, such as tables and charts, to make it easier to understand.

This also sounds like a good learning tool for beginner text role-players.

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2010-01-09, 02:49 PM
That was the intent, yes.

What would you suggest I use charts for? Generally, I've used lists here, instead of charts, for simplicity's sake.

As to how long I've been working on it...well, the resolution mechanic is from an abandoned project from two months ago, the tropes system is about a year old, and the types/categories for character creation are from an ultralight I thought up last week.
This itself took about a day.

2010-01-10, 03:31 AM
Just a day?! You work fast!

As far as charts go, disregard that. I forgot how difficult they are to code (I think I blocked the traumatic memories of coding base class tables).

The bullets do make it much easier to read, but you can do more. Make a table of contents at the top for easy navigation. Make the titles larger than the body text. Use more bold.

You could also make sample characters with their own entries, like the sample PrC characters have in most D&D books. These would list traits, patterns, complicators and the like.

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2010-01-10, 01:24 PM
True; there is one example character (Batman), but the entry is a bit dense/rushed. I suppose the formatting could be tweaked.

2010-01-10, 10:33 PM
True; there is one example character (Batman), but the entry is a bit dense/rushed. I suppose the formatting could be tweaked.

That would be helpful, yes.

I don't believe I've commented on the excellence of your avatar yet. Top hats and handlebar moustaches make everything better.

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2010-01-12, 09:28 PM
Well, one tries.

Some edits have been made to formatting, and I've added a small amount of new material for clarity's sake. Comments, again, welcome.

2010-01-12, 11:16 PM
So, I'll admit I read it swiftly, but I feel like I got a pretty decent hold on it.

As I see it this system requires metagame cooperation but often contains in game competition, right? I as a player would likely inform you of the trap that my antogonistic player is setting so that you can be sure to fall for it, correct?

Do you necessarily have one of each trait? I assume not since you say explicitly that you can have only one prime trait.

Also, can you grant an example of how much of a setback a double trait has?

and, finally, these statements, "...who has three skill cards and two double cards could make a total of five wagers. The two aspects of the trait are treated separately.
Wagers gained through stunt benefits can be used for any challenge."

what do you mean "skill cards"? who determines if you gain a wager through a stunt? and if one player makes three wagers, and the other makes four, does the player making four automatically win one of them?

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2010-01-13, 12:45 AM
So, I'll admit I read it swiftly, but I feel like I got a pretty decent hold on it.

As I see it this system requires metagame cooperation but often contains in game competition, right? I as a player would likely inform you of the trap that my antogonistic player is setting so that you can be sure to fall for it, correct?

Do you necessarily have one of each trait? I assume not since you say explicitly that you can have only one prime trait.

Also, can you grant an example of how much of a setback a double trait has?

and, finally, these statements, "...who has three skill cards and two double cards could make a total of five wagers. The two aspects of the trait are treated separately.
Wagers gained through stunt benefits can be used for any challenge."

what do you mean "skill cards"? who determines if you gain a wager through a stunt? and if one player makes three wagers, and the other makes four, does the player making four automatically win one of them?
That's more or less it, yes, though the degree to which antagonism is 'open' is a matter of style for a given group.

You can have as many as you like of all trait types unless otherwise specified.

The degree to which a Double trait is a liability to the character should be commensurate with the power of the trait itself; to use another comic-book example, the Hulk's 'Transformation' trait would be a double with a significant liability- he loses his mentality when transformed- due to the power of the trait itself.
As another, contrasting example, a minor double trait for a pulp game titled 'Ladykiller' would normally act in a positive fashion in limited circumstances- but would be a liability for the character when they attempt to impress someone with their moral rectitude, or possibly provoke inappropriate advances;in other words, a negative consequence of similar potency to the positive reward.

Ah, terribly sorry; the original edition used cards, with the four face cards plus ten being the five trait types and the four suits being the categories. I'll correct the error.

Whenever you perform an especially impressive action, stunt benefits- in other words, the bonus wager for a stunt- can be granted by any other player, more or less at will. This does create the potential for collusion, but I think that's likely to be self-balancing through the nemesis system, and through the creation of opposing blocs in extreme cases. Besides which, it's clearly out of the spirit of the game to grant stunt benefits for unimpressive actions.

In cases where one player makes more wagers, the extra wagers are indeed automatic successes. There should be enough extra wagers floating around (from ties and stunts, primarily) for this situation to be comparatively rare; mostly it's a case of either matching the opponent's extra wager (and thus using up one of your own) or allowing him the auto-success.

2010-01-13, 01:31 AM
this seems to be tastefullly done, and the kind of thing that would be fantastic in a play by post setting.

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2010-01-13, 02:01 AM
Well, as I say frequently, one tries.

And yes, compatibility with play-by-post is one of the signposts I was working toward; honestly I'm uncertain of my success in this regard.

2010-01-13, 02:03 AM
Are you proposing a group be made as well, I know sucha thing wouldn't belong here, but if you wanted to get some peopel together to play this on the boards, I'd love to give it a try.

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2010-01-13, 04:14 PM
Eventually, yes; it's in an error correction and clarification phase right now, but if there's sufficient interest I will almost certainly move to playtesting on the boards to complement my live playtest group.