This is the thought process for creating Inhuman Condition. I'm highlighting it here because I had a lot of fun with it and it lead me to working out some interesting decisions. If you're interested in design yourself that could be helpful. Or maybe it'll help you clarify what the rules 'are intended to mean' if you're a bit lost. Although I do hope they stand on their own.
I really wanted to make a short tragic experience. So in my notes I had just about two sentences. "A one page tragedy. Uses stats like Mercy" All I really knew was that I wanted your rolls to be the primary thing that pushes you toward tragedy. So, I started with the question "How can I make rolling inherently disappointing?" What I settled on was, this is a game where, were you not called to roll, you would just succeed at everything. In that sense, the characters are highly capable. However, the threat isn't whether you're good enough. It's if you can follow through with your commitments. Another player asking you to roll represents this internal strife created by conditioning in that sense.
When it came to the question of WHAT the players roll, that was a little trickier. D6 was the obvious choice because I wanted dice that were easy to find. You might have a board game with the dice needed. I wanted this aspect to be "disappointing" as well. So I did that by making it very clear what it took succeed. No thresholds or questions of skill, just two numbers you picked. You would look at the dice and know pretty quickly where you ended up. Originally, you would declare your Lucky # before each roll and only roll a single die. I found that lacking in potential for resolutions as well as thinking declaring new numbers over and over might disrupt the flow of play. So, I'd settled on the two Lucky #s chosen before play begins.
Figuring out what Inept and Adept meant was also kinda tricky. I knew I wanted "I cannot" to be part of it as I was honing in on the ritualized spoken nature of rolling (ex: "Do you show fealty?") This was very heavily inspired Polaris: Chivalry Tragedy at Utmost North. A game that uses no dice, no DM, and uses very formalized sets of phrases to initiate certain aspects of the game. I had included elements of that to build expectations and add an element of detachment to the tone. I knew one of them played into that but I got a little confused on which term should mean what "Does adept mean you're more honorable or does it mean you're conditioned against honor?" I ended up on the latter. Originally Inept was going to be 3d6 instead of 2d6 for that roll but I realized that was just like, a lighter version of "I cannot" after my playtest, so I noticed 1d6 is a lot more interesting in how it effects both probability and the results of that roll.
The rest of the rules outside of creating the rolls was mostly questions of how I can carry the tone of this game across in a way that doesn't commit to a specific setting. I tried to use language that made the world feel militarized and desolate. Even if the world itself isn't that way, as Agent's experiences with the world is highly cultivated, I thought I would make the game itself reflect that. We see this in a few areas because the language used in character creation and on the mission briefing are reflective of how you were conditioned. That's also why the complications table was made to draw attention to those things during play.
My biggest worries are the 'scene' and 'toll' systems. They're very basic mechanism that exist to say, "this is a tragedy. there is a clear ending point." I think I did the best with what I could. I had the imposed constraint that I wanted this to be a one page game. So it ends up being a game where steeling yourself against your internal influences guide you toward disaster, and letting the outside world in only further entangles you.
All in all, I'm satisfied with the final game. Tragedy is a really fun tone to tap into if your allow yourself to feel for your character knowing that things will not go well for them. It's a tone I would like to explore more through games but its harder to handle for more long form TTRPGs just because I think that it could end up tiring. So the goal here was to make a quick tragedy, something you could pick up and play messy characters in a complicated situation, a game that's hopefully more fun the harder you lean into those complications.
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