Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Doing Carry Right: The Big Three

This is post one of my series of posts about Carry wherein I conduct all that question-answering that you really should do when first writing a game. Also, this post is intended to be an example of the kind of analysis that Jared, Luke and Vincent were getting at at VeriCon.

What? is your game about?

Carry is about the psychological issues of soldiers in Vietnam. It's about seeing how the pressures of war change this group of men, and how their own issues and burden feed into that process. It's about considering how we fictionalize conflict, and it trys to get at the fact that war fiction interfaces with the actual events of war in a very strange and unique way.

[The Jared & Luke in my head are now nodding, but with bemused looks that indicate that I may say that now, but lets see how smart I am once they're done with me.]

How? is your game about that?

All of the characters are defined by their Profile, which fluctuates over the course of the game. Some profile are more psycho, and others are just abnormal. Over the course of the game, the non-played characters in the squad get killed off, focusing pressure more and more on the played characters. Finally, there's an endgame where the surviving characters snap and turn on each other. Mechanically, the endgame determines who actually survives, and what legacies and memories the played characters leave behind. The mechanics have a high level of variability, in order to encourage and allow the nonsensical nature of what happens to troops on the ground in war.

[Luke breaks in, to tell me that I haven't said anything about the soldiers Issues, and he thought the game was about that. I go, oh yeh, almost forgot that really important part]

Also, the players create Burdens for their characters, which are the issues and problems that they bring with them into the war. These Burdens are the lens through which the characters interface with their Profiles and the events of play.

[Jared says that thats a lot of stuff, and it's time to move on.]

What? behavior does your game support/reward?

Well, there's two parallel sets of resolution mechanics. The first, for Squad scenes (non-combat, essentially), makes you give the dice you roll for conflicts to other players. This rewards the recipient for impressing the other players in a Fan Mail-like fashion - but, in rewarding others, you are also increasing their future effectiveness.

[OK, so how does this support seeing how pressure changes the soldiers over the course of play?]

Well, everything is a tradeoff - you want to win conflicts, but in so doing you weaken your future effectiveness and increase someone elses. The only way to get more dice other than that is to change Profile - so, if you get low on dice and noone is giving you any, you have to go a little crazier.

[What about Burdens?]

Your Burden is represented by a permanent die, which you can use in conflicts if you can bring your Burden to bear - essentially, if you can sell the table on it.

[Cool. Whats the "parallel mechanic"? And why have two, isn't that just making it more complicated?]

Well, the other one is for Action scenes, basically for combat scenes. The highest ranked played character has to give the other characters orders, which they can agree with or not, independently of whether they follow the order or not. If they agree, they give him a dice, if they disagree, they give the GM (representing the adversity) a dice. When the GM calls it, they roll their dice pools, and the difference is points that go towards killing, wounding and maiming members of the squad. This is entirely dependent on the difference in the rolls, not on who has the higher total.

[Oh, there would be more questions. But this is long enough already, skipping to the good part:]

So, does section 3 match up with sections 1 and 2?

Looking back over it, no. It doesn't. The behavior that my mechanics support: trying to maximize your effectiveness via impressing others. Choosing between orders and the survival of the squad.
Bringing your Burden to bear as much as you can. That kind of stuff.

So, class, what is my game about? Impressing the other players. Making choices about the value of obedience versus the value of survival. Seeing your Burden everywhere. That stuff under the first question, thats emergent post-play evaluation and back-cover blurb material.

The bullet-point to take away from this demonstration is that your game is about the behaviors that it rewards.



I call those questions the "Alternate Three", but I can see the affect they had on you. Isn't is amazing how much difference the Big Three and the Alt Three can make in desiging and discussing a game? I'm really glad that those guys used them in a setting like that. They were seriously trying to help designers improve their games. That's cool.

I hope to see more things like this, not just at cons btw, in the future.


I assume you've looked at Unsung, right?
Troy - yeh, the process of comparing your last answers to your first ones makes a lot of intuitive sense to me. I feel like its something that could be a tool for getting the "ah-ha" moment from some new designers.

Kirt - Yup. Ordered it last week, actually. Looking forward to checking it out!
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