Cinemechanix Design Journal 5

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 29 January 2016 Written by Steve

My original plan was to hold off on posting the Cinemechanix rules until after I'd finished the GM section and could post the complete draft, but I changed my mind and posted them to the playtest group earlier this week. Most people can get by without a GM section and there's a good chance that questions and comments from early readers and playtesters will reveal stuff that I need to cover in more depth than I originally planned in the GM section, and maybe even some things that I thought were obvious but need to be added.

As I mentioned previously, one of my design goals for the system was to get rid of rules concepts that only hang around because all games include them. Most of these are things that made perfect sense for the early RPGs that were essentially still primarily strategy games, but are really just dead weight for games that focus on storytelling. One of the earliest things to get chopped on that bases was the idea of intricate equipment rules, which are second only to super powers rules when it comes to adding unnecessary crunch to game systems. 

While there are are certainly gamers who think that a character is defined by his stuff, those guys aren't the target audience for this game. Most equipment rules are written with simulation or "realism" in mind: a guy with a sword has a better chance of winning a fight than a guy with a pocket knife. In fiction, though, the outcome is based more on who's using the equipment than what equipment they're using. A hero with a pocket knife can take out ten sword-wielding extras without breaking a sweat. Even when it's not a "hero vs. mook" situation, most equipment in stories influences how the scene is described a lot more than they influence the outcome of the scene. Gimli's armor doesn't make him any harder to injure than his much more lightly-armored companions, it just makes him look more cool and dwarf-like. If armor was actually useful on Middle Earth, a lot of those orcs would be much harder to kill. 

Long story short, rather than having stats for equipment, Cinemechanix just has a handful of rules:

  • If the thing you want to do is impossible without the necessary equipment, you can't do it. 
  • If the thing you want to do is possible but very difficult without the proper equipment, or if the equipment you have is sub-standard, incomplete, or otherwise crappy, you get a Penalty Die. 
  • If a piece of equipment make a job much easier, or if the equipment you're using is really awesome, you get a Bonus Die. 
  • If two characters are directly competing against one another and one has equipment that provides a significant advantage (a race between a Corvette and a Pacer Wagon), the character with the better equipment gets a Bonus Die. 

There are two exceptions to the general rules, Signature Props and Hero Props. Signature Props are props (either a unique item or fairly specific class of items) that the character is known for using, and characters get them by putting Bonus Dice into the Signature Prop. So if Indiana Jones has 2 Bonus Dice in "Signature Prop: Bullwhip," he gets 2 Bonus Dice whenever he uses a bullwhip to do something. In the hands of anyone else, the same Bullwhip isn't worth any extra dice. Hero Props work about the same, but the Bonus Dice belong to the prop itself rather than the character using them, so anyone who uses the prop gets the bonus. Hero Props tend to be items that have their own story (a legendary sword) or require the PCs to complete a sub-plot in order to acquire them (the supercomputer that the characters need to access to break the code). Hero Props usually don't last long (then tend to get destroyed, lots, returned to their rightful owner, or used up at the end of the story they show up in), but those that do can become Signature Props for the characters who use them. 

There are some situations and genres where equipment is more integral to the story and probably needs more detailed rules (cyberpunk and some super-hero equipment come to mind), but Bonus and Penalty Dice should work for most stories. 


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Cinemechanix Design Journal 5.
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