Six Hours to Midnight

image from ArtBreeder

filed under game design on 14 Dec 2016
tagged lady blackbird, narrative, d6, theory, 6 hours to midnight, and rpglet

I got it into my head that I should simultaneously write an oracle game, run a playthrough of it, and learn how to make LaTex make it pretty.

So I tried. Not sure I succeeded very well, but hey, it was fun. Plus now I can make LaTex do some tricks.

6 Hours to Midnight is my take on what S\lay w/Me intends; a game framework where sex and love is as much a narrative tool as violence is, if not more so. It’s more heavily inspired by Lady Blackbird and Ghost/Echo mechanically, though, with a hefty dose of Otherkind.

A litle uncomfortable, though perhaps that’s my personal hangup. An examination of public masks and private faces.

Note that all references to he or she are because I had to pick something. You can play it however makes sense to you – my hero took the more traditional “damsel” role in a lot of ways.

It’s designed for solo play but it should also accommodate a GM, if you’d like, by dividing up the roles of Hero, Lover, and Rival between two or three players. You could have multiple Heroes or Rivals, as well. If you try it this way I’d love to hear about it!

The core conflict in 6 Hours is between the Hero and the Rival. Will you achieve your goal or will the Rival achieve his? And then there’s the Lover, the wildcard, a prize and a resource and part of the stakes. Note that “Lover” is capitalized here, because it does refer to a specific person in the game.

The default “setting” is a masquerade ball, six hours before midnight. At midnight, everything changes.

But it doesn’t have to be a masquerade ball; maybe it’s a country estate and the “masks” are public faces over private ones, or maybe it’s a space station full of scientists all working secretly for different corporations, or maybe something entirely different.

In my playthrough, there was a sky-castle, a plot to kill the Crown Prince at his own birthday party, and a Prisoner of Zenda situation. Magic and swordplay and sex and – well, I won’t spoil it.

One thing I’m noticing is that the “negotiate dangers” (one goal, two dangers, every roll) up front part definitely slows me down a little (both here and in Lady Blackbird and in Ghost/Echo), especially compared to something like S\lay w/Me when it’s really “working”.

But this is actually a good thing – when I’m “on a roll” with a more freeform game I tend to run with it and don’t have as much unexpected, agonizing goodness as I could have if I were consulting the dice more often. And I love how easy setting the stakes before rolling makes adjudicating the results.

For example, as the player, you know your hero wants to accomplish goal X, say. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be rolling, so that’s easy. Now you pick a complication/danger from the preset list that seems appropriate, “I hurt them, if not, they hurt me”, maybe. That just leaves one final complication/danger for you to pull out of your GM-hat based on the situation, and you already have two points of reference for what that might be.

And once you roll, and assign your dice, there’s no moment of dissonance between gm-hat and pc-hat – you know exactly what will happen to move things to the next conflict, because you already defined it before you rolled.

I definitely feel like it was a fun process, especially the playthrough, but I’m also not satisfied with it. It just needs more eyes on it, so I’m posting it now in the hopes people will help out!