Dating Sim Mechanics on a MU*
Normally, when you role-play characters having a date, you do so through diceless RP: whatever you think your character would believably do, they'll do. If you're on a game with social stats like Charisma, maybe you'll roll some dice for a persuasion check (which obviously must never outweigh player consent). But in my limited experience, there's little need for the system to get more complex than that. Dice are rolled if there is a contest between people. If there isn't a contest, no dice are rolled. Anything more would get in the way of the fun or just get weird.
I'm pondering a different sort of system designed entirely to facilitate silly romantic comedy RP between characters who might not ICly flirt: a system that does not just adjudicate contests but tells you, "Was this date a 'success'?"
The reason is that on MotM, we have a complex combat system and no social stats. But there is a series of dating simulations called Days of Memories (http://snk.wikia.com/wiki/Days_of_Memories) that uses fighting game characters, and there's a recurring joke on the game that we'll have a Days of Memories plot and temporarily use an "LSYS" to parody the CSYS. I'm thinking seriously about what this ridiculous LSYS would look like and I'd like some suggestions, because I'm not very good at game design.
Conceptually, I'd like the LSYS to be able to handle a variety of encounters. For example:
- Two people like each other and both want to have a good date where both come away impressed with the other, but it could potentially go wrong or end awkwardly.
- Two people are flirting but they have different agendas, so even if both want the date to be successful and enjoyable overall, they have different "win conditions."
- One person really wants to impress the other and the other is not interested and wants the interaction to end disappointingly.
- Two people dislike each other and both deliberately sabotage whatever "date" has (presumably accidentally) occurred until it ends in disaster.
- Two people dislike each other and both attempt to sabotage the "date," yet despite their best efforts, each comes away feeling begrudging admiration for the other. (The date was "successful.")
These examples show that even if this is a parody of a combat system, it can't be a direct parallel to a combat system: it's not necessarily adversarial. And even when it is adversarial and neither party wants to date, it's still possible for the date to "fail" (which is what the characters want) or "succeed" (which is what they don't want). Again, while characters may end up having feelings they didn't expect or want to feel, nothing can happen without players' consent: the fun (and the comedy) is in explaining how seemingly nonsensical stuff can happen.
So instead of conceiving of the date as a contest between characters, I'm thinking of it as individuals taking turns applying stats to "challenges" that arise, where successes are likely to be "impressive" to the observing party and failures are ... not. Characters don't have to feel impressed by their partner succeeding at a challenge, but if enough successes are accumulated, the date becomes a "success" and the presumption becomes 1) both characters feel a bit more positively toward each other in some way and 2) whoever accumulated the most successes was the most impressive, and the outcome should more resemble what that character was going for.
To determine what these stats are, I looked to the obvious place: Pokemon Beauty Contest. There the stats are Coolness, Cuteness, Beauty, Cleverness, and Toughness. Perfect, right? I'm thinking the flow of the "date" would go something like:
- As soon as the "date" begins (maybe after an opening pose each), a challenge arises, either randomly in some way or deliberately contrived by one of the players. In the first round, the players decide which character is going to take charge and handle this challenge by applying a plausibly relevant stat to it. This gives the player room to deliberately choose a strong or weak stat, depending on what they want out of the result. (Maybe they also have some limited resource that would allow them to further boost or undermine themselves.)
- The character who isn't "handling" the challenge can choose a stat with which to support or undermine the character handling the challenge, or do nothing and let it play out.
- The dice are rolled and the round is played out by both characters depending on the result.
- Next round, the character "handling" the challenge (Edit: a different challenge each round) rotates and the other character gets to be support or hindrance.
- There's a set number of rounds, say 6, and the characters must rack up a total number of successes, say 3, in order for the date to be "successful." If they don't, the date is a disaster. The characters react accordingly, whatever that means in context. Moreover, if the characters wanted different outcomes, whoever contributed the most successes to that total is considered the more influential.
Would this work as a game to be RPed out? It's a joke, obviously, and not meant to be used for Serious Business Seduction RP. But would it be fun as a joke? Is there enough room for player interpretation of how their character feels while still producing entertaining surprises? Could it be made less clunky or more streamlined? Is there a better and clearer way for characters to be interacting with each other and affecting the results? (Should players have to switch up which stats they use over the course of the date, for instance?)
If anyone's interested, by all means let me know what you think.
I might suggest that there be a random element that can make you discover that you have or don't have sympathy with someone you thought otherwise of. This can be anything like selected interpersonal traits to just randomized stuff (like draw three playing cards, these are "traits. The closer in number to someone elses trait the more it matters. If its the same suit its a positive thing, if its the opposing suit (say hearts-spades, clubs-diamonds) its a real problem, if its just the other color uh -- its its something one doesn't care about but the other is focused on). Face cards suggest outside relationships with friends, family, exes, duty, obligation, emotional scars)
Likewise, if you want the video game funny, assume that like martial arts moves, the character commits to an action, trying to guess what the others action will be. So benevolent or not, there is chaos and competition.
I'm just making stuff up off the top of my head here.