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The Matrix Awakened

Idea for running a game in the world of The Matrix.

Regular humans have 1 dice.
Expert humans have 2 dice, as do humans capable of being awakened.
Awakened humans have 3 dice and can leap from building to building.
Masterful awakened humans (like Morpheus) have 4 dice and can dance swan lake on the back of moving semi.
Agents have 5 dice and can dodge bullets.
Neo has 6 dice and doesn't need to.

You don't know what type of character you "truly" are. When you attempt an action, you specify how many dice you are rolling (which also determines what you can do). If you are rolling more dice that your character type allows and you fail the roll, you die (possibly with a penalty for rolling more than 1 dice over your level).

The only way to find out what level your character occupies is to interpret the subtle hints of the GM, or to die.

The GM's job is to carefuly subtly lead the characters from the role of ordinary human to ultimately acheiving their destiny, whatever it may be, through the use of carefuly crafted situations and subtle hints as to their true abilities.

Some Sugested Rules
  • The stakes aren't necessarily death, but something chosen by the GM, for example, Morpheus is captured.

  • If you've got a gun, you get a re-roll.

  • If you've got the advantage (e.g. surprise, position, a helicopter, or someone's helping you) you get another re-roll.

  • In a training simulation, you don't die, but you also never get re-rolls.

Morpheus is fighting an agent. Morpheus attempts to roll 3 dice to kick the agent across the rool (because he can). The agent attempts to catch his foot and throw him through the brick wall, rolling 4 dice (because that's reasonable for an agent). They dice off, the agent has one extra dice AND can do nastier stuff.

Having been thrown through the wall, Morepheus elects to dust himself off, stand up, and roll 4 dice punch the agent 42 times in the chest in one round (reasonbale for a 4 dice character). The agent elects to take whatever Morpheus throws at him, laugh, and then throw him through the other wall. Now they're rolling at an even level, but if Morpheus loses, he loses it all.

I'm the spoilsport.

Who decides what is "reasonable"? The GM? Who is also giving out hints that the players must guess correctly, or their characters die.

Actually, this sounds like a lot of very bad Shadowrun that I played in the early 90's. I'll pass.

As a metaphor for a severely dysfunctional GM/player relationship, however, this rules.

Actually, I think "Interpret my subtle hints or die" was the motto of my GM in high school. We should have gotten him a t-shirt.

This reminds me a bit of Shadowrun too, and the GMs job sounds adventurous at best. Maybe nice for a one shot, but I think it would need some re-tooling. That and I never really liked the Matrix.

Is what the players do strictly flavour(does it matter if he punches the agent 42 times as opposed to 3 times?)? Is the die rolls all that matter? OR is this tied into the number of dice used in a more delibierate rule set?

meh. Fair enough - plenty of opportunity for GM abuse.

Nevertheless, this is essentially the action we see in the Matrix. Characters are called upon to do things that seem impossible. They don't want to becuase if they attempt it, they'll die (or, in a training simulation, plow into the concrete). But the only way to find out what they can truly do, is to attempt it and not die.

That's the core mechanic I was aiming for.

I don't think the action of the Matrix films works that way. Or rather, the film doesn't make it a central issue, except in Neo's case. But that's a different discussion.

I think what you're after, Tony, is some sort of Faith or Belief system. A character has to believe he can do something in order to produce any superhuman effects in the matrix.

But in order for that system to have any meaning to the players, the true nature of your character should not be a secret. If the GM just decides that my guy is a normal human, then I can "believe" all I want but still fall to my death.

Instead, establish a clear situation -- with fit characters in that situation -- first. "We are all playing sleepers that are about to be awakened to the truth. How do they become awakened, and what do they do as a result?"

Then give the players tools with which to interact with and change this situation.

Seems like a resource-based system that's limited but allows for periodic reloading of the resource would work. Like a Belief pool that you can draw from to add to rolls (roll an extra die and take the highest), with the outcome of the roll either hurting or helping your belief.

When you hit certain Belief thresholds, Stuff Happens. You awaken, or you achieve superhuman abilities, or whatever. And when your belief is in the gutter, you don't have those nifty bonus dice and you're vulnerable.

You could also tie Belief refreshment to some kind of in-game activity like bonding with your relationships or talking to the Oracle or getting help from your teammates and such. So if your belief is shattered, you can gradually build it back up, or be thrown into the fire and try to build it the risky way.

Whatever the system, it should be a tool for players to have an impact on the specific, dynamic situation of this game, right now. That's all RPG rules need to do.

It's a very basic mechanic, but I like the idea of not knowing your character's full capabilities until you test them. In most games, a character's abilities are very well-defined and sitting there on a sheet in front of them. If all they had to indicate their character's prowess was the game master's cues, it would make for some very interesting roleplaying situations indeed.

P.S. You've got a great blog. I've added a link to it in my new blog, the Den of Dice and Drama.

Uh-oh, not only fan mail, but also a link from someone else. Now we (read: I, myself) really have to start coming up with new posts! :-)

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