Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I get by with a little help from my friends

The Oz Point system was one of the first and last things that I came up with. First in that I knew that I would need something like it, but last in taking final form.

I knew that I would have to come up with a certain level of bribery to encourage players to "keep it Ozzy." Not enough people are familiar with the Oz stories in any particular depth to simply trust that they will figure it out. Also, part of my target market is the typical Oz fan, not just the typical gamer. While this portion of my target audience may have the encyclopedic knowledge of Oz, they might not have the gaming acumen to pull it off.

Then I had to face the question of exactly what is Ozzy roleplay? That would only be answered once I answered the question: What is the theme of your game? It took some thought, but the theme of the Adventures in Oz roleplaying game is the same as the theme of the classic Oz stories: "Exploring Oz with your friends."

Think about it for a moment. Every Oz story has new places to visit and people to meet. And friends abound. It's not just the friends that you adventure with, but also the friends you make along the way. So Ozzy roleplay is about adventuring with friends and making friends.

The idea of having a specific Friends List did not come from MySpace, but from another thought experiment RPG I designed (and may eventually publish. Maybe). It was based around the idea that action movie characters become more badass when they are fighting for something they care about. So a character in that system featured a list of "Story Hooks," or things that the character cared about and was willing to fight for.

You earn Oz Points by helping your existing friends or by making new friends and adding them to your Friends List. You spend them to gain a bonus to die rolls or to call on a friend on your list for aid.

It wasn't until after I had this designed that I realized how Ozzy it really was. One of the most irritating moments in the Oz series, for me anyway, came from "Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz". Dorothy, the Wizard and company had been running from several dangers, from the vegetable Mangaboos, the Wooden Gargoyles, and man-eating bears in the Valley of Vo, to the dragonettes. Finally, they reach a dead end in a cave. The only way out is to go back through all the stuff that they've spent the story thus far running away from. Finally, Dorothy remembers that her friend Ozma checks in on her regularly and will take her to the Emerald City if she gives the signal at the right time.

As a reader, I found this quite jarring. They could have bypassed any number of the dangers they faced whenever they wanted to. They spent several days in the Glass City of the Mangaboos awaiting execution. Any one of those days could have been used to wish them all to safety in the Emerald City!

If this were a session of the Adventures in Oz RPG, it makes much more sense. The Narrator has thrown the party a situation that they have decided that they cannot handle on their own, so Dorothy's player spends an Oz Point to call on her friend Ozma (a friend she made in the last adventure "Ozma of Oz") to get her out of this one.

I did not design the system with that scenario in mind, but I was pleasantly surprised that what I designed fit the situation so perfectly.


Oz RPG said...

One thing that I forgot to mention is that I struggled with the decision to allow the party to appear on everyone's Friends List.

At first, I thought that the big idea was to connect the characters to the world, and I was afraid that the system could be abused by players creating situations in which helping another character was as easy as falling off a log.

Then I realized 2 things. 1) Earning Oz Points for helping out party members would encourage party cohesion, and 2) it was actually fairly common for a character who featured in one story to appear as supporting cast in the next.

librarian said...

Nice idea, and very true to the original Oz material I think.

I am reading your blog sequentially from oldest to newest. I will then read the material you have created. So bear with me as I comment on blog posts that may be answered in the RPG material.

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