Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Power And The Glory RPG - Part 2

(Don't despair - this is an RPG-related post)

In the 1957 & 1958 seasons, Scuderia Ferrari suffered the loss of five drivers and a co-driver.

Up and coming Formula One star Eugenoi Castellotti was killed testing a sportscar at Modena in 1957. In the same year at the Mille Miglia road race, the team elected to save time on a pit-stop by not changing the tyres on the sportscar of F1 driver Alfonso de Portago. At 150mph a tyre blew causing a crash of such violence that the car flew not only across a canal but still had enough force to bounce back and re-cross the canal. Ten spectators including five children were killed, two of the children by a concrete milepost that the car had uprooted and flung through the air. de Portago and navigator Edmund Nelson were killed instantly, de Portago's body being severed in two. Team owner Enzo Ferrari was prosecuted and privately sued.

In 1958, the Scuderia started the Formula One season with four drivers at the season-opening Argentine Grand Prix. By the time the 1959 season was to start, only one of that quartet would still be alive.

Luigi Musso was killed in the French GP at Reims in July. In August Peter Collins was to join him having been flung from his car at the Nurburgring and suffering fatal head injuries after striking a tree. Collins' best friend Mike Hawthorn went on to win the 1958 World Championship at Ferrari and immediately announced his retirement from motorsport at the final GP of the season in Morocco. Six days later fellow Briton Stewart Lewis-Evans died of burns sustained in a crash in his Vanwall during this race.

On 22nd January 1959 Hawthorn crashed his road car (a modified Jaguar Mk1) and was killed. After an infection in the mid-50s he only had one kidney and the other was starting to fail - there is some belief that he had no intention of waiting around for it to catch up with him.

Of the four that started the Formula One season in Ferrari colours, only the German Wolfgang "Taffy" von Trips survived to February 1959, but von Trips was destined never to win the World Championship. Needing only a third place to guarantee the title at Monza in 1961 he tangled wheels with Jim Clark, launching his Ferrari 165 "sharknose" into the air and into a spectator enclosure. von Trips was flung from the car and killed - 15 spectators lost their lives.

How grim is this? I haven't even mentioned the 1955 Le Mans race yet... (here and here - viewer discretion advised as they say on the television)

So this is backdrop across which The Power and The Glory is to take place. Lots of men going out to race cars because they feel they have the skill and luck to get away with it, and lots of them not doing so.

Anyway, to rules and my current thinking.

The two most-read posts on FightingFantasist are almost certainly the John Blanche one and the major shitstorm that was the All Weapons Do D6 Damage in OD&D one. The latter one is surprisingly important to this particular project in that the discussion of what D&D Hit Points actually represent, at least to my way of thinking.

To summarise, I hold D&D Hit Points to represent a form of "survival expectancy under fire", the fire being the environmental hazards of the dungeon or wilderness trek, everything from pit traps to monsters to falling rocks to the effects of running out of water. None of this is particularly relevant to TPATG but the basic idea strikes me as the way to go - a finite resource that represents how long the driver will get away with, basically, acting in a shockingly reckless and foolhardy fashion i.e. racing cars before the 1980s. And then, when they run out, the driver crashes and has to go to the coloured bead hidden by the player to his left which back at the start of the game secretly foretold whether he was destined for life or death.

So a driver has a whole load of Hit-Points-But-Not-Hit-Points and the game will revolve around each driver losing all his Hit-Points-But-Not-Hit-Points and seeing if he survives that moment.

I had another thought while out do the shopping the other day. Imagine the Fighting Fantasy system and a "monster" entry that looks like this:


or like this


FF fans will recognise the usual FF monster stats and will know how combat goes - a series of rounds whereby the player tries to outscore the opponent and the loser suffers 2 STAMINA points. In our world that monster could actually be a hazard the driver has to confront when at the wheel, and the SKILL is it's nastiness, the STAMINA it's "survivial under fire" where the fire is the driver's attempts to avoid the crash, correct the skid, escape the burning car etc.

So if the driver "beats the monster" he gets away it - the crash is avoided, the skidding car brought back under control, the burning wreckage escaped before it goes up. But each time the risk is there to lose "STAMINA" (i.e. our Hit-Points-But-Not-Hit-Points thing) and so evantually fate will catch up with the driver and we see if he gets away with it or the Gods have demanded another sacrifice.

(I don't think I'd actually use an FF system - I think it involves far too much dice throwing for a game of this nature but the idea came to me fully formed in FF terms so that's how I've expressed it above).

Last post I mentioned that it might not need a GM. I think I can get by with a system whereby the players propose difficulties for each other, either taking it in turns or a randomisation system to determine "proposer" and "victim". Player A could then tell Player B that he suffers a blow-out at speed and write down the stats for the BLOWOUT. Once resolved Player B has either succesfully "defeated" the problem with the result that he is alive but out of the race or lost so many Hit-Points-But-Not-Hit-Points that he has to "go to the bead" and determine if he lives or dies. Each time this interchange occurs, the driver may be losing Hit-Points-But-Not-Hit-Points - we play until everyone has run out and "gone to the bead".

So who wins these races?

We don't care. Players score points for facing problems and the highest scorer wins the game as a whole which probably represents several races. The points for overcoming a problem are directly related to the difficulty of it - so that Player A can give Player B a really nasty problem to contend with but will have to face up to Player B scoring lots of points should he overcome it.

We are abstracing the race finishing orders out of the game and instead you win through an accumulation of race finishes, positions, kudos, admiration, fan base and future promise. Oh and probably money and trophy wives as well.

So to sum up what we have so far in bullet points

1 - You know, in secret, if the player to your right is destined to live or die.

2 - The player to your left knows if you are destined to live or die.

3 - Players take it in turns to throw "monsters" at another player, but the monsters are hazards - perhaps from a list of such in a player's handout. The player narrates what happens - as if he were a GM for just this particular "encounter".

4 - The players lose Hit-Points-But-Not-Hit-Points confronting and overcoming these hazards and all this is basically hack-and-slash in disguise. They score dependent upon the nastiness of the situation.

5 - When (not if) a player is reduced to 0 Hit-Points-But-Not-Hit-Points the player to his left, reveals whether he was fated to die or not.

6 - When all are reduced to 0 Hit-Points-But-Not-Hit-Points the game is over and score decided.

I think that a game will represent a season or more and that every say 3 or 5 hazards the clock ticks and we are in a new race. It will up to a player to tell the rest of the group what the next GP is, where it is, which country, what the weather is like etc. - setting the scene as if he were a GM for five minutes. This will mean that drivers that confronted race-ending hazards such as punctures can now re-join the action.

I foresee two types of hazard - a loss of control hazard is race-ending if failed, but if overcome the player continues in the race. Conversely a puncture ends a race if overcome but has potential to "go to the bead" if the hazard is not overcome - so that a burst tyre might see the driver limp to a halt and exit the car or might turn very nasty indeed. I need to produce a list of all hazards, their "stats", points scored for overcoming and whether they are race ending or not.

More soon.


  1. What is it, a boardgame?

  2. Hello, this is a fascinating blog, and it sounds like a great idea for a game. Reading it something occurred to me, why not call hit-points-that-aren't-hit-points LUCK points, and steal the luck mechanic direct from FF? A failed luck test and you check your bead. . (though I guess this could happen pretty quickly, and you'd need to pull another bead afterwards?)

    If you think this is a dumb idea apologies for sticking my oar in, just seemed to work easily.

  3. Very cool. A couple of suggestions:

    1. Might want to forbid players from throwing a hazard at the player to their right, until/unless you are the last two left in a given race. If you know that this player's bead is death or not, then that inclines you to behave differerently. If you forbid giving that player a hazard until there's no alternative, this isn't an issue.

    2. Personally, I suspect that a lot of players interested in the theme WOULD care who's won each individual race. Even if you make it really quick and simple, I'd strongly suggest including some way to know. Even if it's as simple as "Whoever has the most points after every 5 hazards".

  4. shimrod. 1 is a very good point. I hadn't considered it but you are 100% correct.