Tuesday, March 21, 2017

On my mind: Some words on designing Psychic Powers for the Rose of Relange RPG

It is my intent to blog on this adventure of mine at least once each week.  This post is a bit ahead of that schedule, but I had some things I was working on, contemplating, and they happen to be about the game mechanics of ..... psychic abilities (as if the post title didn't give that away-ha).

So a bit of back story:
I have been playing table-top role-playing games since around 1990 or 1991... somewhere around there.
In all that time, I've played a number of games that implemented psychic powers or abilities to one degree or another.  Some of these games were much more successful than others at making psychic abilities fun to play, and uniquely useful.  So now, as I work on building out game mechanics and checking for holes, I'm spending a good amount of time working out psychic abilities and rules.

"What do they do and how is it different from magic?"  That question is a big stepping stone on the work path.  A dear friend asked this of me and I have to admit, it forced me to take a deeper look.

The short answer, and one that I'll work on refining the wording of later, is that magic is a way of manipulating the world/matter/energy that is all about you using your own magical talent and those magical elements within your environment.  Psychic powers come solely from the mind and those energies from the psychic exert influence on the environment.  So magic comes from all of nature, whereas psychic abilities come solely from the minds of psychic capable people.

This theme makes it way into the game mechanics where magical might and psychic might are separate special attributes.  They are advanced separately.  The powers and abilities, what you can do with either are rarely overlapping.  So powers need to be varied, have a distinct "feel" to the play experience, and contribute to character capability in unique ways.  As a new game designer, I confess it is a daunting task.

You can always say "we have psychic powers in our game!", then put in some powers that do some things in the game and go away honest.  But the point of the game should be to have fun playing with your friends, and so the things you do should be fun too.  So for the sanctity of the game, the design has to incorporate something more than just a token assortment of abilities.  The game needs to have a sort of logical consistency, have it's fantasy elements thrive, and afford the players the opportunity to engage in different types of role-play.

So what have I come up with for psychic powers and abilities?  What will it do for my character when I play this little indie game of yours?

Without giving away too much....

Psychic abilities come in a variety of  types and characters can advance and enhance them.  You can have characters that have telekinetic abilities, pyrokinesis abilities, and other flashy powers in that vein, but you can also have characters who have precognitive powers, extra-sensory or enhanced sensory abilities, and others.  Each of which brings a different type of capability to the table.

So I've been drawing up a selection of powers, defining game mechanic effects, looking at how it meshes with other game mechanics and working to make it flow smoothly.  I've been drawing inspiration from myths/legends, modern folklore, movies, novels, and speculation /research of modern parapsychologists... its a lot of reading/skimming and math, really.

As I draw these abilities up I am contemplating the various character concepts people might use these powers with.  A classical martial artist who has awakened her/his mental abilities.  A tribal shaman whose spirit quests have awakened primitive portions of her/his mind and enhanced the character's perceptions.  Exorcists who "see" demons, and many other concepts have crossed my mind (no pun intended).  Also contemplating that some players may just pick up a bit of psychic powers to supplement their main them, and that is completely cool by me.

By way of example, one power I've been working with is of the precognitive sort.  It affords the character an intuitive sense, foretelling the immediate threats to the character on an instinct level.  Touching upon the fight/flight reflex and enhancing the character's response capabilities in dangerous situations.  Game mechanics enable the character to more aptly avoid being injured in direct combat by enhancing the character's defensive abilities.

So there you are... not a flashy, publication ready description, but a meaningful scribble to me describing what I'm working to achieve with the power's affect on game play.

It has made for a lot on my mind.

I want to thank you for reading about my real life adventure. I hope you will join me for my next post as development of the Rose of Relange RPG continues.

PS:  I wonder if people will say "Hey, lets play R&R".... just a thought.

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