Player Emulator Framework

image from ArtBreeder

filed under game design and mechanics on 07 Sep 2017
tagged solo, d6, framework, and player emulator

I wanted to discuss how the tables in the PET framework work, since I think they might be a bit intimidating.

First, a little about PET, the Player Emulator with Tags (you have no idea how long it took me to come up with that name, as lame as it is). PET is designed to offload most major choices to the dice, and to let you take control of a mix of traditional GM responsibilities and traditional player responsibilities in the measures you find interesting.

Basically, you can throw the standard character/GM roles out the window. Move the pawns – players, characters, npcs, world – as you find interesting to do so, and use the provided charts to handle the parts where you’re not sure what would be most interesting, don’t have a strong preference, or need something to play against.

The tables are designed to support this, and to help a soloer get over the first hurdle of a new game, the blank page, by providing the kind of information a GM would.

I put a few of my favorite recipes at the bottom of the second page to get things going, but here’s an overview of how I might frame and begin an adventure.

Recipe: three keywords plus conflict or event sets a scene.

Rage, revenge, despair, and social.

Sounds like a wedding to me, haha, though I suppose it could also be a dungeon interrogation! But my heroes are at a wedding and it’s a powder keg ready to explode. Why are they here? Probably on a job, ie, personality tag actor plus action plus personality tag actor.

A mercurial wizard obsesses over a vengeful trader.

The bride’s from a trading family, bringing wealth to an impoverished noble family of good name. What no one knows is that she’s out for vengeance. My heroes are here because a friend, a wizard, has been asked to attend the wedding of an old flame, the bride.

I don’t know who she wants vengeance against, or if we’re here to do her bidding or to thwart it or just to pull our old friend out of the fire. That will all come out in play.

But right now, I’m ready to run a wedding feast! I grab a tone – “brooding” – which suggests I’m probably going to start off focused on my brooding rogue character, Cael. I describe how he’s watching for anything out of the ordinary as the customary post-wedding toasts are made.

It’s a low stakes situation so I just fiat what he’s doing (scowling impatiently) and make a GM move to get the ball rolling. Since it’s not a mandatory move, I’m free to reroll or just pick one if I prefer, but the roll is…

introduce NPC

Is that’s an assassin in the rafters or our wizardly friend getting drunk and loud? I could decide, or I could roll up an actor + action + target.

wizard, ambush, Player

It’s our wizard friend, getting drunk and loud, and he’s going to ambush someone and sob on their shoulder, probably distracting them from the assassin.

Still a fairly low stakes choice, so I can just use what I know about Cael and his imaginary player Robin to dictate what happens. Or I could roll up a Player Move, or I could ask an Oracle something like, “does the assassin strike while Cael’s avoiding human contact?”.

Part of the “game” of PET is choosing which method you’re going to use for a given situation. Fiat is fine, but can be unexciting, especially early on before the character and his Player are established. A Player Move gives me insight into the Player and the character, but is also more suitable for choices that involve action. An Oracle has potential for a quick resolution, or for a dynamic introduction of new elements, or a sudden intraparty conflict.

Note, the included oracle works on a “you get what you want or you don’t” scale; what you want isn’t necessarily what the players want or the characters want.

A 7, so I get what I want – there’s an assassin here somewhere and he strikes! – and a mandatory Move. I decide on a GM Move, and roll “inflict harm”. I could have run a Player Move for the wizard (or the bride) or rolled a PC Move for Cael, but a GM Move seemed most appropriate.

So who is inflicting harm? Obviously, the assassin, but is it a dark ninja type or something else? I roll up a person (Personality Tag + Actor) and an event.

A smart bandit, justice.

So some of the party guests – no, their guards – are bandits in disguise. Bandits looking for justice against the noble family. I roll up a conflict (Conflict + Cause + Stakes).

combat, wealth, domination

So abruptly we’re in the middle of an armed combat, as the bandit leader ruthlessly dispatches the old lord (inflicts harm). Then they begin rounding up guests. What does Cael do?

[Focused] PC acts in accordance with their current desire or to preserve their well-being.

One more quick roll, on the reaction chart, just to give me an idea of how he’s going to put that action into effect – “respect”. He respects the threat, and decides his likeliest chance of survival will be to get out of here, as he’s unarmed. So he fades back into the shadows, working his way around towards the door. Stealth check!

Of course, I don’t have to go to this extent for a scene set up. I could just as easily roll up an encounter (encounter + theme + danger, maybe tone) and start things off in the action.

a noble, humbled, asks for aid, circumstances are brutal, the risk is surrender

We’ve stumbled across a battlefield after a bloody skirmish, and a wounded knight is begging my heroes to escort him and the message he carries to the king. A group of spearmen approach wearing the enemy’s colors, weapons raised.

That’s really all there is to it. In play it goes very quickly as long as you go with your first or second instinct.