RopeCon 2014 Scenario Competition Idea (Abandoned)

I’ve been thinking about the competition. I had this idea, which I can’t seem to shake, but also, I can’t really get over some humps, so I have to get it out of my head, because I don’t think this is a viable idea for the competition (and couldn’t use it anymore, as I’ve basically published it now). The best way to get it out of my mind is to write about it. Then I’ve processed it and can move on to a (hopefully) better idea.

The idea: Courtroom drama.

Actually, I think it could have been fun. One judge (the GM), one player acting as the prosecution, one player acting as the defence, and maybe one or two players acting as various expert, eye, or character witnesses.

The theme of the competition is power. In this scenario, its about power over the accused individual. His actual guilt, or innocense is of no consequence, nor is his opinion on the matter. There’s just a bunch of people around him deciding his fate. And no-one seems to think there’s anything extraordinary about the circumstances.

The scenario would have gone as follows:

First, the prosecution would present the case, including the evidence. I would have included a list of ideas on what this evidence could be, with things like murder weapons, eye witnesses, lack of alibi, samples from the scene, motives and so forth. Then, the player would have five dice, from d4 through to d12, and he would assign each of them to a piece of evidence, and roll them, where a die with more sides is stronger evidence.

After that, the defence would have its turn, arguing each piece of evidence in turn. Defence would also have its own set of five dice (the same dice as prosecution). Before choosing a piece of evidence to argue, the defence roll one of the dice. If the result equals one or more of the prosecutions results, the defence may assign that die to one of those prosecution dice and then he can make the arguments. The defence should have the floor here whether or not the result matched anything.

Then, according to some principle, which I haven’t decided upon, prosecution and defence take turns presenting, defending, and arguing parts of the case. Each time they roll a die, prosecution trying to dodge defence and defence trying to match the dice. The tactical aspect is pretty shallow. If the defence can match even one die at the end, there’s reasonable doubt and the accused is released. Otherwise, prosecution has established a good enough case and the accused is sentenced.

Now, since this is supposed to be an RPG, the role of the GM would be mostly to encourage presenting evidence and arguments to match the die rolls, instead of just rolling the dice.

The third (and possibly fourth) player would be called by the defence or the prosecution as needed.

The problems I had with this idea are plentiful. First, its not exciting for beginners in the same way adventuring is. This is more about good impro than the GM presenting compelling situations. Generally, I have plenty of faith in beginners, who are often actually better at this kind of gaming than more experienced gamers, who (in some cases) have become accustomed to a more passive, or reactive style of gaming.

Also, I didn’t test the system in any way. It would require testing to find the proper balance. Right now, if the prosecution rolls low results in the beginning, matching them would be pretty easy, and the feel of the scenario would probably be quite different if the result had more variance.

The GM wouldn’t have much to do here besides keeping pace. Sure, you could encourage objections, or something like that, but that’s hard to do without disrupting the flow (the encouraging, not the objections themselves, which should be part of the flow).

Bookkeeping would also be prohibitive. Especially for beginners, who haven’t done this before. Otherwise, details about the evidence would be easily forgotten, leaving the game itself in a mess.

Now, I can hopefully move on to an idea I find more feasible. Maybe my angle should be to find a genre, which is underrepresented, but has fervent fans, and try to get good points from them. Sadly, that’s just less than a quarter of the maximum points, so that’s not a viable strategy.

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