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My Little Pony: The RPG

chris field

New member
Banned
#1
This thread has really lit a fire up under my ass.

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=254985

Inspired by comments on the thread, particuarly Grey Orm's, I wanted to create a game design thread where the RPG.net community actually builds this RPG. Hopefully this won't be seen a threat to Hasbro's intellectual property, since we're producing this RPG as an intellectual exercise, and because that while many of the parents here want this game, seeing an actual liscensed copy in production is probally never gonna happen.

I'd like us all to contribute some rules, flavor text or ideas, and some of our artistically gifted members to contribute sketches. Someone who knows Pagemaker or Adobe can lay it out, and we can eventually distribute the free copy to all the RPG.net parents out there who want one. Perhaps someone more internet savvy could compile this as a netbook or wiki?

If you post a rule or idea, please include a side bar explaining your design choices, since this thread is also designed as a learning experience, to teach would be designers how to build a game from the ground up. Now, the initial thread consists of my sole exposure to MLP, so I'm hoping somebody who knows the material better, and has some game design experience will step forward to take over all charge of the project, but until an editor can be chosen (based on simple majority vote of all participating thread members) I'll act as editor, ultimately deciding what rules, ect actually get in, and which fall by the wayside.

The project's design specs:

It has to be fairly rules light, easy to learn, but deep and enjoyable enough for long term play. The game's target audience are preteen girls, with some intial players aged 5-7, who take the role of Little Ponies that have cute adventures and solve puzzles. There's no explicit violence in the game: from what I remeber of the cartoon, the ponies solved most of their problems thorugh cooperation, negotiation and a little bit of deception and mischief.
 
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LeftWingPenguin

Dual-classed GM/Rabbi
Validated User
#2
Nothing specific yet, but I've been noodling around with a couple of the design specs, particularly the one that requires that the game be "deep and enjoyable for long term play."

Now I know that the original WotC page was an April Fools joke, but one thing d20 (D&D specifically) does have going for it is the "collectibility" of its character design. By this I mean that D&D is chock full of interesting stuff to collect for your character--powers, skills, magic items, etc.

Now, this strikes me as an important feature for any long-term game designed for young kids. Part of the coolness of My Little Ponies, or He Man, or whatever, is that you can collect all these cool toys. There isn't just one Barbie doll, there's a billion and one, and they're all different, and they have different accessories you can get for them, etc. It seems to me this might be a good model to adopt for character development--over time you can collect new and interesting widgets for your Pony, each of which is defined in loving detail and, if possible, illustrated.

In my experience, kids tend to be very imaginative, but their imaginations tend to be rather concrete--they like defined stuff they can hang an idea off of.

So part of the challenge of designing this game is going to be coming up with interesting powers, items and other widgets that aren't designed to make you better at combat. So what kind of kewl powerz are there that don't involve combat?

Initial ideas:
You can fly
You can talk to (non-pony) animals
You can turn invisible
You have a special pet/talking object/best friend, etc.
You can sing a song that puts everybody to sleep for a short while

Things like that.
 
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chris field

New member
Banned
#3
My first thoughts:

One. Ponies can't die, since I've never seen a MLP ever get killed, so traditional hit points are right out. Did a little bit of internet research earlier today, and while the ponies might get sick with a cold (and have to be nursed back to health by her friends), or get tired, or something, they don't really get injured.

I'd like a basic energy system, so as Ponies romp around and have adventures, they get tired, and eventually have to take a nap, eat some carrots or whatever to recover their strength. I like the idea of each Pony having a favorite thing (a favorite food, a comforting teddy bear, a hobby she really loves) which helps her recover energy a little quicker. And hey, the idea of eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising, reading, ect is a good lesson for kids, and one of Grey Orm's design goals was to make sure this game very subtly encourages positive behaviors.

The 'energy bar' could be represented on the character sheet with a row of 5 stars or hearts. Instead of measuring 'scenes' very carefully, just assume the Pony loses a star anytime she does something strenous- running a race with her friends, pushing a boulder out of the way of a cave she wants to explore, climbs a steep hill, ect. Energy recovers pretty quickly. Special powers (like superspeed or projecting Care-Bear stares or whatever the Ponies do) use up a star.

Two:

Phsyical attributes are relatively unimportant. Since Ponies rarely solve problems through violence, D&D uber-stats like Strength and Dexterity don't exist. Sure, the ponies probally have physical attributes, but those don't matter as much as their mental skills. Friendly competions between Ponies and other critters is much more common than acutal violence, so knowing (loosely), which Pony is fastest and strongest is positive, but I'd like to send the message that what's inside counts more than physical attributes.

Initially, I'm leaning towards borrowing BESM's simplified attributes: Body, Mind and Soul. A kid-fiendly RPG sholdn't have more than a few stats anyway. Initially I'd like the following stats-

Muscles: How strong, fast and graceful your Pony is.
Brains: How much knowledge your Pony has.
Creativity: How clever and imaginative your Pony is.
Courage: How your Pony reacts to scary things/dangers.

I'm breaking up the Intellect stat into Brains & Creativity to differentiate between two types of intelligence- the really booksmart Pony is a different character than the fast talking one or the artistic one that's always coming up with neat gadgets or new pony games. Courage is in there too, because though there's no lethal danger, the ponies might be scared of the same things little kids are (darkness, storms, scary 'haunted houses', ect) and have to overcome those fears during adventures.

You could make a case for splitting up muscles into Strength & sped/Dexterity, but I'm assuming that most of the rolls related to Muscles involve what would be considered Dex-tests in other systems anyway- winning a race, dancing, trying to catch something. The only thing strength based I can think of is pushing things out of the way, since I don't really see any draft Ponies in the source material. After all, pure strength becomes less important when you realize that the Ponies aren't ever going to get involved in a grapple and have to snap an Orc's neck.

I'm purpously avoiding any kind of Beauty statistic. If a pony wants to persuade, she'll use either Brains or Creativity { perhaps Courage, if she's a Patton style public speaker who's leading a Pony army to conquest :) }. After all, all the Ponies are beautiful, and putting a stat that measures beauty in a game like this just sends a kind of squicky message. I'd rather tell little girls their physical fitness and mental qualities, their courage are more important than how they look.

Three:

Numbers should be kept to a minimum. I'd like Task Resolution to be Attribute + Skill + 1d6 versus a target number. The attributes should be rated 1-6. Skills are simple phrases that describe a situation that your Pony is especially good at, which gives a one or two point bonus. Skills can be tied to different attributes, based on how your Pony approaches the task, teaching kids that different people perfom their jobs in different ways, drawing on their own strengths.

You could, for example, tie the skill "Making Cakes" to Brains (if you memorize recipes out of a cookbook), or Creativty, if you like to experiment and try new things. If you're the kind of Pony that thinks cakes are supposed to be flavored with habenero peppers, you could even tie the skill to courage.

Target numbers should be low, so that a moderately skilled pony can succed in simple actions virtually all the time, succeed at slightly more complex actions about 60% of the time. Each time a task is attempted after a failure, the TN decreases by one, teahing kids perseverence in the face of adversity. Hopefully, one of you math whizes can come along and plug in some Target Numbers that make success pretty assured- we want kids to overcome challenges, to have situtations they need to think about, but don't want them overwhelmed with difficulty.

Large sized dice, with easy to read pips should be included, to minimize the risk of a kid getting hurt swallowing a six sider. For younger gamers, finding a six sided spinner in an old board game isn't much of a challenge. Natrually, while a 6 is always a "Critical Success", the only way to criticallly fail is to roll a 1 on a skill you don't have any ranks in. You can't start teaching kids to yell "CRIT!" Too early.

Even with a failure, the results are more humorous (the potion you're working on blows up and blackens your face, or turns you bright green when you drink it), rather than serious (you whack your own left testicle off with your Vorpal nunchku +3).
 
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LeftWingPenguin

Dual-classed GM/Rabbi
Validated User
#4
chris field said:
Even with a failure, the results are more humorous (the potion you're working on blows up and blackens your face, or turns you bright green when you drink it), rather than serious (you whack your own left testicle off with your Vorpal nunchku +3).
I'm all for major failure leading to some lasting complication that needs to be dealt with in some way. For instance, the potion blows up and turns your face green, so now you've got to figure out how to get your face back to its proper color. This makes tests meaningful, while establishing a world in which failure leads mainly to complications that a sufficiently clever or dedicated pony can get around.

Maybe work that in to the TN system: After trying something and failing, you've got to figure out some different way of approaching the problem. If you do so and try again, the original TN is reduced by 1. So I'm trying to mix a potion and fail. Obviously I'm missing an important ingredient. So maybe I go to the pony library to look it up, or go visit the Mystical Witch who lives in the middle of the Big Scary Woods to get her advice. Then, when I come back, I can try again at -1 to the TN.

EDIT: Maybe introduce a slight grade into the effectiveness of the actions based on how difficult they are--going to the library gets you -1, going into the Scary Woods gets you -2.
 

chris field

New member
Banned
#5
Left Wing Pony's got a good idea with the 'collectability' nature- special items are common. You can have things like special jewelry, stick on tattoos, hair clips, horseshoes, ect that give you special powers, in addition to your initate Pony abilties. Some 'favorite toys' help you or your friends (when you teach them how to play with you) help you recover Star Energy faster, while other favoite toys give you cool powers, in addition to wearable magic items.

Lets make some cards/paper dolls that show magic items. The players can mix & match these paper doll clothes on their Pony Shaped character sheet (which their mom's help them cut out) so they can instantly see what their pony is wearing and can do! Have coloring in your Pony Character sheet be a requirement- you can't use special powers if you don't have a colored in Character Sheet!

One thing that might be a problem for young gamers is coming up with solutions for problems, just because you don't know what to do. You haven't developed problem solving skills in RL yet, much less know how to solve riddles in game. It's the same problem many adult gamers have playing Super-genius characters in supers games- how do I play a character many times smarter than the real me? The problem is made worse when dealing with kids, and I don't want to turn off any children by having them get stuck at a particuarly thorny puzzle.

I'd like there to be a special "Horse Sense" power. Each time you use it, you (the player) recieves a hint from the Stable Owner (mommy or daddy) that you can use to solve the puzzle. Also, railroading is usually bad in games, but in this game, espeically with younger players, limiting the options a bit is probally not a bad thing. For example, in D&D the GM might say: "Okay, you see an orc charging across the tavern at you, swinging a meat cleaver. What do you do?" A kid might freeze up, unsure how to respond. So it might be perfectly appropirate for the GM to say: "Okay, you see an orc charging across the tavern at you, swinging a meat cleaver. Do you want to fight him, run away, or try to talk things over with him?" Limiting the choices might give inexperienced players some direction, and would probally encouraged in the rulebook, at least for the first few sessions.

LIkewise, a "Genius" Power might just let the Pony say, I'm so smart I figure out a plan to solve this problem! To which the DM replies, "of course you do. You're stumped for a few minutes, but talking it over with the other ponies, you realize the glowing runes over the door say "Speak, friend, and enter, so you say friend, and the door opens. Wow, you're a smart little pony!" Stable Owners would probally be encouraged to 'reuse' puzzles, so the kids can fill smart remembering how to beat a puzzle that gave them fits the first time.
 

chris field

New member
Banned
#6
LWP, once again, you improve a bit on my idea. I like the idea that if you try again, you have to accept a complication to get back on track, and that each failure leads to future plot hooks. How would the rules handle multiple Ponies working together? I propose that the team uses the skill & attribute of the most skilled Pony, with each additional pony contributing a -1 to the target number. I also think that ponies should have "Bard" type cheerleading abilities, and that encouragement from your friends helps you succeed.
 

LeftWingPenguin

Dual-classed GM/Rabbi
Validated User
#7
chris field said:
LWP, once again, you improve a bit on my idea. I like the idea that if you try again, you have to accept a complication to get back on track, and that each failure leads to future plot hooks. How would the rules handle multiple Ponies working together? I propose that the team uses the skill & attribute of the most skilled Pony, with each additional pony contributing a -1 to the target number. I also think that ponies should have "Bard" type cheerleading abilities, and that encouragement from your friends helps you succeed.
Agreed. Now that you mention it, teamwork has to be an extremely important part of this game, with solid mechanical support. If there's one lesson kids' TV shows seem to emphasize again and again, it's "I may not be able to do this by myself, but with my friends to help me, I can do anything!"

RE: "Horse sense" and such, I have to say I'm not super crazy about the idea on first glance. I guess my fear is that such a thing would tend to devalue the kids' accomplishments.

On the one hand, you don't want to intimidate kids by having annoying puzzles with only one solution they might not be mentally equipped to find. On the other hand, you want the game to encourage the development of said problem-solving skills.

My feeling (and at this point I'm extremely open to being persuaded otherwise) is that this kind of stuff would be best in the "Storyteller's Guide" section of the game. In other words, the characters don't need a mechanical stat allowing them to ask for advice. Rather, the GM (i.e. the parents) need advice on creating the kind of scenario that allows for many possible solution, and how to subtly "nudge" their kids if they seem to be stuck in a rut.

EDIT: Oh, and paper dolls? Brilliant. I definitely like this idea. Maybe we could even tie them in to the character definition system in some way.
 

chris field

New member
Banned
#8
The paper dolls were an idea I wanted to try for a transformers kid-rpg. You have a bunch of stencils in the box of robot parts, and you have to put together a new robot from the parts you can assemble. Cutting the dolls out, makng paper clothes, coloring everything, sounds like a uniquely girl-friendly gaming idea. Maybe you can get more powers if you mount your pony on cardboard and clue on sprinkles, feathers, ect, or if you make a string tail & mane. A little bit of arts & crafts time would be a fun pre-game diversion, and would be a great way to handle handing out "XP"- you get new abilities, you get to draw 'em on your Pony.

Anyway, I can see both the pros & the cons of Horse Sense, so we'll table that till we get some more opinions. Still, I can see what you're saying about not devaluing good problem solving from the kids, that's something I hadn't really considered.
 
#9
Why are the attributes there?
Freeform "My Pony is good at This" seems a lot more appropriate.

E.g. My Pony is very fast.
My Pony can solve puzzles.
My Pony is veery cute.

The player sees all of that stuff written or remembers it. The GM inserts a challenge (Your friend is sick). The kid sees that list and tells how to solve the problem (I am very fast, so I run to doctor and get him to help my friend!).
And so on.
If there is argument, some randomiser should be used. A die, a coin flip, something. Maybe also check if there are complications when a resolution is given.
But never, ever, block the kid. "That doesn't work." is something that should not be uttered or told by the system.
 

chris field

New member
Banned
#10
The main reason to have attributes, even simplified one, is there are already of plenty of freeform RPGs out there for kids- they're already playing them. I played GI Joes with my friends, had massive wars, ran crazy gunfights in the construction site out behind my and resolved conflicts without ever once rolling a dice. But if we're trying to teach roleplaying as a lifelong hobby, I'd like something (Slightly) more structured.

I'm not talking about handing the poor 6 year a GURPs rulebook and telling her to stat out TwinkleAss the Pony, or worring if she leaves herself open to attacks of oppritinuty when she prances across the meadow, but something a bit more..... structured? Legalistic? I dunno.....

To me, if you're teaching RPGing you have to include at least a few stats and a randomizer. It's like if you teach a kid how to dribble and pass, you're teaching the kid the fundamentals, but once you add a timer and some rules on fouling, you're playing basketball. Kids already have the fundamentals of RPGing (the crazycool imagination) down pat, and now let's get them in a game of HORSE.
 
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