Unfolding a rules system

I’ve run a few convention games for kids over the years. Instructing them in the game mechanics is tricky and it often feels like what should be a creative restraint is more of a brick wall than it should be. It’s also difficult to know what mechanic will be opaque to one kid, and pacing the explanations is hard.

So I was thinking this morning about a game about evolving robots, where the rules themselves unfolded as required.  Let’s start with the Fate system.

  • Characters begin with three skills, maybe Talk, Body, Know, and three player-chosen Aspects. The aspects are initially based on simple characterisations and physical components of the bot – Small, Lucky, Chatterbox.  There’s nothing like the stress/composure track, no health, no conditions.
  • During play, as the bot evolves and the player gets to grips with the system, they can gain aspects that define the character a little more, like motivations and quotes.
  • The skills unfold too. Talk includes Persuade and Lie, Move  includes Fight and Escape, Know includes Humans and Bots. Your +2 in Talk becomes a +2 in Persuade and a +0 in Lie, perhaps. Later, perhaps Escape splits into Running and Hiding.
  • And then you start throwing in Conditions like Damaged and Lost. And then if you really need it, Damaged becomes a health track. Maybe Lost becomes a map (!).

The setting and situation would probably be a bunch of Transformersesque protobots who’ve accidentally wound up on modern Earth. Throw in a little Invader Zim and My Life as a Teenage Robot.

What would be really neat is if the character sheet unfolded too.


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