Monday, March 19, 2007

Miscellany: Everway musings, or "Drowning in armor"

One of my favorite non-RPGish RPGs is Everway, a game from Jonathan Tweet (who helped design 3rd Edition D&D). Everway tosses out many of the most cherished RPG conventions - like rolling dice and experience points - in favor of drawing cards out of a "Fortune Deck." This mechanic allows conflicts to be resolved in a more ambiguous (and thus less complicated) way, giving the game master plenty of control into how he or she wants the plot to move forward.

What results is probably the most open-to-interpretation experiences ever. If you draw a card like "War" (meaning "Great Effort") in battle, for example, it probably means you'll do pretty well in combat. But what about drawing a card like "The Satyr" (meaning "Indulgence") during a battle? Does that hurt or help you? Number-crunchers and DM-beaters will probably hate it, but everyone into RPGs for an interactive story will probably find it refreshing.

The Achilles' Heel of the game is the lack of development of players' characters (a by-product of no experience points or levels). In theory, you're supposed to be granted "boons" as quest rewards, but there's little sense of permanent enrichment. I suspect that many Everway GMs simply award an extra character point after every few sessions to encourage the players.

I'm reminded of Everway since there was a card in the Fortune Deck called "Drowning in Armor" - which meant your protective measures turned dangerous. Right now, I have congestion and a runny nose caused by allergies, and the card's image is pretty evocative of what I'm feeling.


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