Before diving back into creating the Ghost Punchers roleplaying game, I’d like to take a moment to talk about two different types of RPG game mechanics: core mechanics and key mechanics.
Core mechanics are the engine of the game: the rule or rules that drive everything else. In Savage Worlds, for example, the core mechanic is “Roll a die. If you roll a 4 or more, you succeed.” There are other rules covering what type of die to roll, and what bonuses or penalties to apply to the number you roll, but they’re all there to support the core mechanic.
Key mechanics are the rules that fulfill the value proposition of the game’s premise. Or, to put it into English, key mechanics let you do the stuff that the game is about. For instance, if you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons, you’d expect rules for exploring dungeons and fighting dragons (and you’d find them).
Other examples of key mechanics would include rules for…
- sailing ships (in a pirate RPG),
- finding clues (in a detective RPG),
- drinking blood (in a vampire RPG), or
- lurking outside children’s windows (in a clown RPG).
Without key mechanics, it’s hard to have a satisfying experience. After all, playing an RPG is, at some level, creating your own story within the game’s storyworld. The mechanics should make it fun and easy to create that story; if they don’t, it’s a flaw in the game design.
Which leads to some questions regarding the Ghost Punchers RPG…
What’s our Core Mechanic?
Because we’re running with the Savage Worlds RPG system, that answer is easy: a die roll against a target of 4.
What are our Key Mechanics?
Obviously, we need rules for punching ghosts. The punching part is easy (Savage Worlds has a combat system), but it’s the ghost part that’s tricky, since ghosts are traditionally intangible, which makes punching difficult.
Savage Worlds touches on these things (it has rules for “ethereal” monsters that can only be hurt with magical weapons) but not with the depth that we need. It doesn’t, for instance, have rules for seeing invisible spirits, or cover the other metaphysics of ghost-punching.
So it appears that the list of key mechanics we need to introduce looks something like this:
- Seeing ghosts
- Attacking ghosts (without magical weapons)
- Being attacked by ghosts
- Ghost punchers’ other “Kewl Powerz” alluded to here
I’m sure I’ll come up with more stuff, or realize I’ve forgotten a key component somewhere, but for now, it seems like something I can get done in time for the convention at the end of August… And I might have a shortcut, which I’ll go over in the next post.