(06.21.11)

rem
So what the fuck IS rem? Well, lemme elaborate from my previous blog post.  There are a couple of elements I need to establish so you get a better overview of the type of game it is.

I have been fascinated, nay, obsessed with the idea of making character’s decisions tangible and seeing the result immediately.  Meaning you can see what happens to your character right after you make a decision.  This idea was really pushed conceptually by EoD .  You run into a fight, get blasted, and BAM!, gored.  You see it all with the counters.  These were all great baby steps, but I wanted something more.  I needed to see the character change.  Not just from battles, but also from other decisions made in the game.

So my initial idea was Paralysis, the first iteration of rem.  In this form, there was a character sheet that when you failed rolls, you would cut it up and put in the center of the table.  Other PC’s could pick up the pieces and become really bizarre individuals.  Because of bogged mechanical issues, this eventually evolved to the current character wheel.  So now, when you fail ANY roll you have to flip one of the facets (the numbered panels on the outside of the wheel) making your character that much less effective.  You get to visibly see the deterioration of your character.  SASSY.

rem Character Wheel

I also knew I had to have horror elements.  Ironically, I’ve never been much of a horror film junkie.  However, I really enjoy video games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil.  Silent Hill is one of the foremost inspirations of rem.  The whole mythos of psychology and fears affecting reality as well as the redemption of iconic characters such as James Sunderland just tickle my fancy.  Not to mention, my favorite roleplaying games are Call of Cthulhu and The Mountain Witch.  I learned early on in design, you really need to be passionate about your theme and work with a medium you feel comfortable with.  Otherwise you just wouldn’t be invested when it became crunch time.  I knew the theme I wanted was psychological horror.

Third, my game need to show the connection between individuals.  The Mountain Witch is such an excellent game.  Seriously, go pick it up right the fuck now.  It had already established a lot of the mechanics that I wanted in my game.  I always loved the feeling of dread and thinking “Who can you really trust?“.  Having to look over your shoulder because you’re never really sure if you’re going to be stabbed in the back or not.  It pit individuals against each other and in the end became the organic downfall of each character.  Brilliant fucking stuff.

From these elements: tangibility, immediate repercussions from decisions, psychological horror, and Trust, I created the basic foundation of rem.

rem playtest overview (01)
This involved Jayson and our friend Austin.  My first playtest was used to establish if the character dial could be used effectively in a roleplaying game.  I didn’t feel comfortable running a horror game just yet (I haven’t GM’ed a game in who knows how long) so instead I used the Mountain Witch overlay.  Mechanically, the dial worked perfectly.  Failed rolls affected how and what skills they decided to use.  As well as the game focused mainly on storytelling and aiding each other.

problem (01)
The skill set hadn’t been developed completely and wasn’t broad enough to cover everything that the characters could or wanted to do.

resoultion (01)
This was fixed by the second playtest.  I made the terms broader to cover more actions.  Because the theme of the game is a lot more narration-centric, I didn’t want it to be bogged down with having to search for skills and leveling up.  In my mind, this is one of the shortcomings of Call of Cthulhu.  Having to do that in a horror game breaks the immersion factor.

problem (02)
The NPC’s were incredibly difficult.  NPC’s have Threat that has to be diminished by a preset amount of successes.  (e.g. Owl has (five) Threat therefore you must make (five) successes against it to resolve the conflict) The first fight lasted about thirty solid minutes.  There was one major problems.  Attack was the only option allowed.  That was fine for Austin, who had a high Attack, however Jayson, who was more Arcane/Occult centric, could not do much.  He’d attack, fail, and then get frustrated because there were no other options but attack.  Then he’d get his face handed to him from the NPC.  So, not so much fun for him.

resolution (02)
I created (two) different battle skills that were useful for support characters.  This worked in the second playtest VERY well.  So much so, that in the second playtest there were (two) battles and neither character used Attack.  At all.  Seriously.

problem (03)
I created a “Specialization” mechanic that allowed the players to choose a skill (e.g. Attack) and every time they used that skill, they would receive Energy.  Energy allows the player to automatically succeed (i.e. Fate Point from Spirit of the Century; Metal from EoD)  This created a HUGE influx of Energy that would be used to auto-succeed.  The conflicts would be insignificant or meaningless because the player could just immediately succeed using (one) of the (ten) energy they had accumulated.

resolution (03)
I took the mechanic out.  Instead, I used, what I’m tentatively referring to as, Talents.  This allowed the player to have more goal oriented characteristics that the skills helped to support.  When they did said Talent (i.e. help people; invent contraptions) they would receive an Energy.

playtest quotes
“I don’t trust anyone who floats.” -Austin

“That was my favorite beard!” –Jayson

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~ by amymgarcia on June 21, 2011.

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