Transneptune Games

warm games, cold nights

Systems Per Principle

It’s been a while since we’ve made as much good progress as we did tonight on Piece of Work. We’ve had trouble developing the game. At its core, there have always been problems with its cohesion. On one side, we want a game with cyberware and grit. On another side, we want it to play to noir tropes and carry emotional weight. And we wanted a game that spoke about corporate greed and responsibilities that go beyond one’s personal issues.

So here we are trying to make a game that does all these things but not understanding how to put it all together. Somehow in all the muck, neat ideas, and rough attempts we’d forgotten one of the lessons from Metatopia, or perhaps I’m just characteristically slow. What is clear now, though, is that this idea that a game should have a system for each thing it does turns out to be a lot more than talk. We’d already created one system for the cyberware, and one for the noir. But despite really wanting to drill down on the activist angle, we didn’t have something to address it. Until tonight.

What stuns me, even hours after we’ve stumbled upon a solution is that it just clean works out. We’d already been using three dice in the core mechanic, one gear and one motivation, but the third’s been difficult. We’d already created a system for bringing existential crisis to the front, and, of course cyberware, but only recently came up with something for bringing the day-to-day life home. Realizing that there are these three things the game is supposed to do, we’ve been able to tie the third one in. I can’t speak yet to how well it works yet, but it feels like the third post of a tripod.

Once the details have been fleshed out, there’ll be more to say, but for now all I can think about is breaking down games into the stories they tell and the systems they use to tell it. I’m keen to hear other people’s experiences with systems per principle.