Friday, July 26, 2013

Tabletop Minigames

My Tuesday group is participating in a series of athletic contests this coming game. That got me thinking about how to handle contests in a dramatic and mechanically interesting way. I could just have the PC test against one of their attributes, or against the most relevant skill, but boiling it all down to a single die roll seems anti-climactic.

Don't get me wrong, I like when a tense combat all comes down to a single die roll, but that is different. Combat is a long series of actions, reactions and die rolls. It is cool when those events converge at a single, critical point. But, if combat just started as a single die roll... well then where's the fun in that?

On the other hand, most of these games will involve only one, or maybe two, of the PCs at a time -- unlike combat. So, I don't want something that is so involved that everyone else tunes out.

What I have decided to do is create a few mini-games to represent the various athletic events. These games will involve at least one decision and a number of die rolls, but each game will take maybe a minute or less to resolve. This way, the games are mechanically interesting, require some player decisions, and are still quick to finish so the spotlight doesn't stay on one person for too long.

Here are three examples:

Javelin Throw

Step 1: Running up to the line -- The player decides on the difficulty for an Agility test. If they fail the test, they fault and score a zero for that throw. If they succeed, they score "points" equal to the difficulty they chose for the test.

Step 2: Throwing Skill -- The player picks the highest from their skills combat: throw or combat: spear and rolls 1d12 - 1d12 (-11 to +11). They add the die total to their skill and add that to their score.

Step 3: Strength -- The player rolls their Strength Damage Die and adds it to their score.

The final score is their "distance" for that throw. Each participant gets three throws and their best is kept.


Step 0: Generate the Course -- The GM determines the difficulty (armor class) for 6 targets. Each participant will follow the same course and they know all the difficulties in advance.

Step 1: Choose how fast a shot to take -- The player decides how fast a shot they will take in "ticks".
A one-tick shot takes a -1 penalty to hit, and these penalties accumulate for each subsequent one-tick shot the player takes. A two-tick shot takes no penalty and resets the penalty from one-tick shots. A three-tick shot gets a +1 to hit (and resets the penalty from one-tick shots). A four-tick shot gets a +2 to hit, etc.

Step 2: Shoot -- The player rolls to hit the target, accounting for the difficulty of the target, and the penalty or bonus given because of the shot they decided to take.

Step 3: Repeat -- The player then repeats the process, choosing a time and rolling. They have to hit all 6 targets and so if they miss, they have to shoot again.

Once all 6 targets are hit, the total number of ticks they took for their shooting is their score. Low score wins.


Step 1: Intimidation -- If either gunfighter has the Intimidate skill, they can test this skill against their opponent's Willpower. A success gives their opponent a -2 to hit in the coming gunfight.

Step 2: Bid Accuracy/Fast Draw -- Each gunfighter secretly bids for how fast they want to draw. Each -1 taken to accuracy gives a +1 to their fast draw test in the next step.

Step 3: Fast Draw -- Gunfighters make opposed fast draw rolls with the bonuses they bid for last step.

Step 4: Faster Gunfighter Shoots -- The winner of step 3 shoots first with whatever accuracy penalty they bid in step 2. All damage and wounds are resolved.

Step 5: Slower Gunfighter Shoots -- The loser of the draw now shoots. However, if they were hit in step 4, they take an additional -4 penalty to accuracy.

We'll see how it goes this week. Does anyone else use the idea of mini-games for certain types of contests?