Comfort

It’s snowing and that has me thinking about the weather. I find that it’s usually hardest to model subtle effects in an RPG. Systems are most often geared for big effects like a sharp piece of steel being swung around. One raindrop doesn’t even register in an RPG. Even when you scale them up to thousands of drops there usually isn’t any way to handle that other than to say “you’re wet”.

I guess that’s not that big a deal. Only isn’t it a big deal? When it’s pouring rain, don’t you pause before going out into it? You know it won’t really hurt you, it’s just going to make you uncomfortable. A character in an RPG doesn’t care. I have never seen a “comfort” mechanic (actually that could do wonders for a social conflict system) in a game, or not as such. There are effects for freeze rays and feeling severe pain but no comfort mechanics. Now we’ve made it this long without one, why am I talking about this now? Because characters are immune from small scale effects, things that cause trepidation in real people. Because the role played by the player of the character is significantly diminished by not having one. By treating comfort as insignificant, we are limited to only large grain effects.

As a result RPGs are limited to lava pits and sulfuric acid rain. That’s about the best we can do with what we have. Even those things tend to not have any effect on characters for some reason. I wonder if a hurricane would significantly slow down a lot of PCs. (That sounds really cool, I’ve never had a game where players had to deal with a hurricane as a complication.)

So what is comfort or more accurately, what is uncomfortable? How is it to be modeled?

Isn’t comfort being free of stress? Yeah, I’m going to call on Stress Points again. Unfortunately Stress Points in the Fraction Column system are still geared to large grain effects like the stress of severe conflict. When working on the system I was imagining modeling the stress of one day. I’m loath to say track fractions of a point. That’s not very elegant and it likely isn’t going to have an effect on a player’s approach to the game. So what can be done?

A way to simulate a fractional point is to give the characters a chance of getting a whole point. In a light weather event like simple rain, for every hour the players roll 1d10. For severe weather like strong wind and rain, heavy snow and the like, for every hour the players roll 1d6. If they get a one on the die, they receive a stress point.

At first look this may seem unfair. One or two players end up with a full point and everyone else walks way unaffected. My answer is that this is simulating when those fractional points have finally added up to one full point. Sure it could be the first game but statistically it should (eventually?) even out. I know, my players defy statistics too but I haven’t been able to design a fix for improbable players yet. ;P

You’re game doesn’t have stress points? Why in the world not?

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Filed under Experimental Mechanics, Survival RPG

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