Friday, March 6, 2009

Fine tuning via the Law of Three

Yesterday, re: Robot Chicken RPG, I wrote:
The point system didn't work as smoothly as I'd hoped. There were scenes where players did hilarious things, but scored hardly any points at all. In the future, I'll lighten up the scoring a little bit. If you make the whole group laugh, that should be worth 25 points, and probably every time you roll a d12 (in other words, every time you use your Depth Card) it should be another 5 or 10 points.
Thinking about that in the context of the Law of Three*, it now seems obvious how to handle this. The first three times in any given scene that you use your Depth Card, it's worth +10 points. After that, it's not worth points any more. This motivates players to use their powers/skills, but only as often as it's adding to the fun. If the power is one that's still fun or beneficial after the third use, it'll get leaned on naturally, but if it's just something that grows old quickly, you won't get points for over-emphasizing it. Since you can stop counting at three, it's pretty easy to know if someone deserves the full benefit - even the worst cheater can't squeak more than 20 or 30 extra points out over the course of a game, so you can safely run the honor system even if you do care who won the session that night.

*: The Law of Three: Our brains intuitively make the leap from "it happened three times" to "it can happen an infinite number of times, and is to be expected." That gap is much smaller than the processing gap between "happened twice" and "happened three times". This is why professional running gags mostly use the pattern of once, twice, pause, three times. Once something's happened a third time, it's crossed from exceptional to accepted. More on this subject.


Hunty said...

I'd recommend having a bonus for using the card in a "clever twist" way the third time, since that's the way many jokes are structured; the first two times something happens are the setup, and then the third time there's a twist and it's the payoff.

Today's captcha is "peprop", a knock-off Japanese brand of Pet Rock.

r_b_bergstrom said...

Great idea! Should I end up running this again (or revising it to more finished file to distribute), I'll most definitely incorporate that.

Thanks again for your advice (on both this and the Channel Flips), Hunter.