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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

All Outta Bubblegum: A Brief Review and Design Thoughts


Link -- All Outta Bubblegum

Today, you're getting a look at something that, until about a week ago (shout-out to my friend Christopher for pointing its existence out to me), I was totally unaware existed. It's also possibly one of the most brilliantly simple game designs I've ever seen. It's ultimate balance, in a nutshell. Go, read it, and come back. There's really not a whole lot to read. This is literally the shortest RPG I've ever seen, and character creation is even shorter.

Why It's Awesome
The writers say that playing this game while drunk is "probably the only time you'd even consider playing this game", but I disagree. There's a certain minimalist brilliance to its core dynamic; the game is based around a tension, which is something that few games really incorporate well. You don't improve your character; you start at one extreme and have the option to move to the other, which both removes limits and disables you in other ways.

The game sets up a nifty dichotomy between "ass-kicking" activities (such as jumping from the top of a flight of stairs, pulling the pin out of a grenade, dropping it on your enemies below, and landing in the wake of the explosion) and "non-ass-kicking" activities, such as opening a door. The better you are at one, the worse you are at the other, through use of a very elegant mechanic. It's simple brilliance.

How You Can Use It
Not only can this game be played straight outta the box, it can also probably be very easily spliced into a great number of games. Anywhere that you need a tension between two aspects of the characters, this can serve as an excellent mechanic to bolster that theme. Just as Wushu Open was initially written as an action RPG but repurposed in Wushu Open Reloaded as a game that could handle many types of actions, All Outta Bubblegum has a lot of potential for general storytelling.

For instance, if you're making a game about werewolves, you could give players a "Wolf Blood" pool with three points in it (use tokens, or something like that). When they want to attempt something un-Werewolfy, they roll a d10 and try to get more than the amount of points in their Wolf Blood pool. When they want to tap into their werewolf nature to do something like ripping through an opponent, or when they do something in line with the werewolf nature, they roll and try to get a lower number than their Wolf Blood...or they just add a point of Wolf Blood to their pool. At 9 Wolf Blood, they become "feral", capable of great power but incapable of acting as a normal human.

You'd have to dovetail this into the core mechanics of your system, but I think it bears a good bit of promise. Heck, it rather reminds me of a more dynamic version of Mouse Guard's Nature stat, and you could hack it as just that: start with a pool of Nature, and roll over it to do heroic things, under it to do mousey things. Spend it to auto-succeed at a heroic thing. It's a far more radical, dynamic way of doing the same thing.

Hmm. I actually think I have an idea for this system. Now it just remains to see if I have the time to follow up on it.

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