[Flash Game Design] The Gold of the Sultan


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Ryan Macklin posted a challenge: Design an RPG with 500 words or less, using some specific tools.
Thus (at 492 words):

The Gold of the Sultan

You are one of the best thieves to ever grace the Twelfth Great Caliphate. But after a life of thieving, it’s time to get out- you just need one last job. The gold would be more than sufficient to buy a new life and retire.

But something's gone wrong. You stand at the threshold of the Treasury when an alarm sounds. One of your companions has betrayed you- and now the Sultan's guards are coming. You must escape, through trapped hallways, past beguiling courtesans and wicked fakirs, without losing the precious treasure.

To create your character you need:
Your Knack, how you overcome Trouble.
Your Goal, the reason you are involved in this heist.

Each character tracks their Escape.

The group collectively has an Hourglass. The Hourglass starts with 6 sand per player. When the Hourglass is empty, the game is over.

To play, you will need a d4, a d6 and a d10.

Order of Play
Each Player is the Narrator for the Player to their left.

The current Narrator frames the scene for their player. They must include:
A way towards Escape
A way towards the character's Goal
Some Trouble that bars the way.

The Narrator assigns the dice between Escape and Goal but does not roll them. The d10 and d6 are always assigned together and the value of the d6 is subtracted from the d10 when rolled (this can be negative), while the d4 is just rolled by itself.

The player then describes how they overcome Trouble, and whether they choose to pursue their Goal or their Escape and rolls the assigned dice. Add what you roll to your Escape or your Goal.

Once per game, if you overcome Trouble using your Knack, re-roll the d10, keeping the highest.
Once per game, each player may offer help. That player must use their Knack to overcome the current player’s Trouble; re-roll the d6, keeping the lowest.

After each scene, decrement the Hourglass. The current Player becomes the current Narrator.

When the Hourglass reaches zero, each player describes one final scene for their character. Players with at least 10 in their Goal describe how the Goal was achieved.
Players with at least 10 in their Escape describe how they escaped.

The Traitor

One of you is a Traitor! Before play begins determine the Traitor, randomly and secretly.

You may reveal your Treachery at any point during play.
When you reveal, subtract any points in your Goal from the Hourglass; henceforth, any points that would be added to your Goal are subtracted from the Hourglass instead.

The Traitor still wants to Escape; they just don’t anyone else to make it out.

Finally, if you are the traitor and you are offering help, you may reveal your Treachery while giving help! If you do, instead of re-rolling the d6, you roll an additional d6 and both are subtracted from the d10 roll.


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Really interesting premice, reminds me of "Mountain Witch". Not sure "goal" and "escape" are different enough though, think you need some rules to differentiate between them. For instance you could state that the "Goal" has to be something that can be achieved even if the character is caught/killed - freeing his sister the harem-slave or avenging his father's death at the hands of the Vizier, for example.

You could also look into how "narration rights" are split between narrator and player, personally I like how "Mountain Witch" handles it, with narration rights going to the "winner" of the roll, though that might not be appropriate here, because getting a negative total from (d10-d6) might give the "narrator" very little narration, outside framing the challenge.

Finally I think you should have a mechanic ensures that whether or not escapes are made stays uncertain until the very end, even though players may reach 10 pts before that time. You could do the same with goals, though I like the idea of reaching goals resolving during play, as the points reach 10.

Maybe players who have split their totals could sacrifice one for the other? I like the idea of the narration ending in a "dying victory" or "live to fight another day".

Anyhoo, great idea!


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The Goal originally had around 50 or 60 extra words of additional support, to explicitly make the Goal something more like what you described. They were one of the last chunks I sacrificed on the altar of getting to under 500 words :)

I do like the idea of keeping the total you need to Escape uncertain, but I'm not sure how to do so. Maybe a d10 + d6 roll for each player, at the end, to find out if they've escaped? (That would also address another concern of mine, where it was too unlikely you could both Escape and achieve your Goal).


Sage Genesis

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I quite like the ideas here. I'm going to try and round up some players to give this a whirl. If I'm successful I'll post back here and report.
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