19 June 2011

Magic Eight-balls as a Game Mechanic

Did you know that the piece inside a magic eight-ball that produces an answer when you shake it is a dodecahedron? I didn't and when I found out that it was a twenty-sided die I was inspired to come up with an RPG that uses a magic eight-ball, or that at least approximates one with a d20 table.

Using an eight-ball as an oracle

There is an interesting game called Mythic that, instead of using a GM or placing narrative duties on the players, uses an oracle mechanic. The way it works is that players ask questions about what is happening (Is there anything in the woods? Yes, something dangerous. Is it a monster? Yes.) and the oracle responds with an answer. They have to be questions that can be answered with a Yes or a No and the players use these answers in combination with random tables to determine what happens in the game.

It seems to me that I could do something similar with a magic eight-ball. Players consult the magic eight-ball with yes/no questions and it responds.

What kind of game would use a mechanic like this?

In my mind there is only one setting that could use such a strange mechanic: corporate offices. I imagine a comedy game in which the players are workers in an office. I'm imagining an office environment like Better Off Ted, You Don't Have to Be Evil to Work Here and similar takes. A game filled with nonsensical business decisions, weird characters and general hilarity.

The Magic Eight Ball is used whenever communicating with Upper Management. If you need to ask for something, get a ruling, or find out if some alternative is an option then you work it into a yes/no question and shake the eight-ball. The resulting phrase is what management has to say on the matter.


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