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Sorte Mechanics

Sorte Mechanics

We tried out using a sorte (tarot) deck instead of dice last night. I gave the players a choice of either using dice or cards. 3 chose cards and 2 stuck with dice. 

We discussed the major arcana rules, and liked the look of them, but as they were incomplete we didn't use them.

The big effect we saw was how many court cards turned up  it probably averaged to about 2 per 'roll', which broadly reduced the number of raises accumulated by one. Given the large number of raises players tend to generate, it didn't affect them too much, but it was at an obvious disadvantage compared to dice. I expected this and made it clear to players the likely cost should be offset by the benefit of the extra abilities the court cards offered.

The court cards abilities were interesting, but players often had several (up to 4 was the highest) abilities to look up and consider whilst also making raises. This did slow down the process compared to dice.

Afterwards we discussed the mechanic. It was well received but we thought it could be improved with a small tweak. Using the deck to replace the 'narration' dice (the dice you should get for saying something more interesting than, "I sword them to the face") seemed like an elegant solution. Each player draws a card rather than rolling a dice. If you draw a number it adds to your pool as normal. If you draw a court card, it doesn't skew your average raises too badly and you only have one ability to look up and consider. Linking it to the idea of narration also creates a narrative link - how does what you are doing cause the effect that the court card describes?

One example: during the duel, Alexsy was trying to whip up the crowd to support Ennio. He drew the King of swords - everyone takes enough damage to cause a dramatic wound. He narrated it that he was so effective at egging them on that a brawl erupted, explaining why everyone took dramatic wounds. 

In summary, the players using the cards enjoyed the alternate mechanic and the extra options but the slow down this created wasn't worth the payoff. 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Jordi Estefa's picture

Glad that someone is testing the Sorte deck rules. Thanks for sharing your views!

I really like the idea of drawing a card instead of rolling an extra dice for the "narration" bonuses. Even for the one you get for using a Skill for the first time in  the scene. 

One thing to take in account is that while using the deck reduces the average raises, the special effects of the cards can be "stored" using Hero points so they are used later. This should counteract the loss of raises... somehow. An the time the players are deciding what to do with them. An idea to further conteract the reduction in raises could be to include the posibility that the players change any of the special cards for rolling a dice.

I have not tested it yet, but I had the idea to roll as many dice as Skill points and draw as many cards as Trait points. Hopefully the mix would reduce a bit the predictability of the results. Not really sure...

 

Jacob's picture

I like the idea of splitting the dice/cards between triats and skills, but it might suffer from the slow down aspect as well. I house-ruled that dice could be saved using hero points to make it fair with card users but that was never used. One other issue that people had was that there was no mechanic for sharing or using you card on another player's role. I said that you could spend a hero point to help but instead of adding 3 dice it added the card effect. This did mean it cost two hero points to store then share the card, but that seems a reasonable cost. 

The 'reroll' mechanic allows a redraw if they have 3+ ranks so that allows some smoothing.  

 

Jordi Estefa's picture

Do you think it would help to asign numeric values to the court cards? This way they could be used for getting raises.

Dames = 1
Knights = 5
Queens = 6
Kings = 10

Or the value could change depending on the kind of action the character is doing:

Passionate or impulsive actions. -> Cups 10, Swords 6, Coins 5, Wands 1.
Meditated or cold actions -> Wands 10, Coins 6, Swords 5, Cups 1.
Fighting or atletic actions -> Swords 10, Cups 6, Wands 5, Coins 1.
Social actions -> Coins 10, Wands 6, Cups 5, Swords 1.

But this one maybe is too complex to be fun.

Jacob's picture

The balance element of the cool abilities is that you don't get any help towards raises. I can see where you are trying to go with that suggestion, but I think it upsets the balance of dice vs cards - no one should be significantly better than the other. 

Jordi Estefa's picture

Actually, because you cannot get more than 4 tens with the cards and you can do it with dice, the court cards should include some numerical value to compensate. Using cards you have a double loss: 1) you can't get more than 4 tens resolving one Risk and 2) you may score 0 with some of your Skill or Trait points by drawing court cards. Furthermore, the use of the court cards special effects are often limited by the scene (like you can only use it when you are questioning someone, for example). If even with that limitation their special effects seem too overpowered if combined with numerical values, then maybe the effects should cost a Hero point to be activated, or something like that.

Jacob's picture

Following your own logic, cards must be better than dice as you can never get more than 4 1s! Getting these extreme results is sufficiently far out on the bell curve not to worry too much about. 

Often those cards do cost a hero point to activate: with clauses like "at the beginning of s scene" or other limiting factor, they appear to be designed to be saved rather than used straight away. 

Jordi Estefa's picture

It is not about having the bad and the good results balanced, it's about how good and bad they can be (I'll not take in account the two raises with 15 or rerolls, etc to simplify).
If you roll 6 dice you can get six 10s.
If you draw 6 cards you can get four 10s.
That limits the posibilities of the Heroes when using the deck compared to when using dice.
There is a higher difference between a 9 and a 10 than between a 1 and a 2.
If you roll six dice and get six 10s. You get 6 raises. Maximum.
If you draw six cards and get four 10s and two 9s. You get 5 raises. Maximum.
If you roll six dice and get six 1s. You get 0 raises. Minimum.
If you draw six cards and get four 1s and two 2s. You get 0 raises. Minimum.
The heroes get less raises using the cards than using dice even without taking in account the court cards, and it is due to the limitation of 10s. The limitation of 1s does not compensate for the limitation of 10s. To correct for that it would be necessary to have as many suits as maximum cards drawn (Trait+Skill). But that is not cool.
The special effects of the court cards need to be really good to compensate for the lower number of possible raises obtained. Right now I think they are too limited for that to happen. To reduce the limitations, I propose to have the possibility of using them as a numeric value (that probably should be higher than I proposed earlier. Maybe 11, 12, 13 and 14? All 10s?).

 

Jacob's picture

I understand what you are saying, but the situation you described with 6 10s is literally (yes, literally) a one-in-a-million situation. To modify the mechanics for the all the rest of the rolls based on these extremely rare possibilities seems unnecessary. If you were to value court cards as tens, 20 out of 56 cards would have a value of ten. More than 1-in-3. That is going to have a dramatically bigger effect of the number of raises made than the limited supply of 10s.

To illustrare, the chance of you drawing all 4 tens using 4 cards (out the 56) is 0.000231% or 1-in-4329 if you prefer. 

Add in the court cards as 10s as well, and your chance of getting 4 '10's on four cards becomes 1.32% or 1-in-75. 

That is a huge skew on the fundamental mechanics of the game. Maybe you want the heroes to get more raises, but they get plenty as it is.

 

 

Jordi Estefa's picture

Good point.

But if the court cards count as 0s, then you have a 0,5% of getting four 0s when drawing four cards. About 1,5% of getting three 0s with 4 cards. That you don't have with dice. Also the special effects may not be possible to use for that Risk (about 10 of 16 have situational requirements), leaving the player with not much to do (or nothing at all). That is my concern. Furthermore, if the players are using the same deck and saving the good cards for later the probability of getting the 10s (or "good" cards in general) is even smaller and the probability of getting useless cards higher.

It may be easier to revise the special effects of the court cards to make them more general than to mess with the numerical values. However, then the "slow down" problem that you pointed out in your gameplay would probably remain. Because... the slow down problem you were refering to is due to the fact of drawing cards compared to rolling dice? or due to the players spending more time thinking about what to do with the results? I've been thinking about the later. Maybe I've been trying to solve an unexisting problem here! :P I have not played enough to remove the "inexperience" factor from the testing. Maybe with more practise the players can find faster how to use the court card effects (?).

Doctor's picture

Anyone interested in a breakdown of the card system and it's probable outcomes can find it here.

Doctor's picture

Anyone interested in a breakdown of the card system and it's probable outcomes can find it here.

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