Now what if we were to change this, say with the battleaxe and the dagger. With the battleaxe we still only roll 1 die to see if we hit, but we roll many dice to see how much damage we do. However with the dagger we roll many die to see if we hit, but each hit only does a small amount of damage. This is of course a simple example, but immediately we see that it reinforces what’s going on at the table.
The MDA framework (Huneke et al), suggests approaching design from the Aesthetic perspective. That is to say the gameplay experience (or Aesthetic) should be the starting point and that the mechanics should be written to support the intended experience for the player.
“When working with games, it is helpful to consider both the designer and player perspectives ... In addition, thinking about the player encourages experience-driven (as opposed to feature-driven) design.”
When we do this it becomes easier to identify what the experience game should be and reverse engineer these to produce the mechanics required to support that experience. These are what I term emulative mechanics.
Further to the above example with the axe and the dagger, emulative mechanics don’t need to stop at modifying existing structures and mechanics, or indeed adding complexity.
I recently test played a mech game I’m writing called Salvage Union (watch this space) and I was giving the elevator pitch and someone asked about the mechanics. For me the most important mechanics are that each player doesn’t have a name but a Callsign, not only that but you don’t get to pick your own. You either roll it up off a table, or if playing a campaign the other players assign you one based on the things you do. It is also a rule that you must speak in radio parlance at all times when inside your mech. There is even a guide included to give you a run down on terms and phonetic alphabet etc.
The item system is dice based and provides a spendable bonus die when interacting with items. Because the players are cats they can’t actually carry items as such, so the items (such as scratching posts, boxes, catnip etc) are instead used at the point you encounter them. This way we encourage the player to do cat-like things, reinforcing the feeling of being a cat. Also in the collecting of the bonus dice we provide an inventory of sorts that players can use in tricky situations.
I suppose in summary it’s back to the MDA framework and putting the gameplay experience first, but I find that actively questioning each and every mechanic and saying ‘does this emulate what I’m trying to do here, and if not, should it?’ has been very helpful to me as a designer.
d100 Cat Names
Here's d100 cat names for your game of Mew-Tants! if you''re feeling indecisive, or just need quick NPC's.