Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Laying Bare Identity - Exposure in Turn

This is a post about my current project, Turn, which is a game about shapeshifters in small towns. See more posts about Turn on the Thoughty Turn tag.

There are a number of mechanics I've been working with to make Turn the game I want it to be, but one of the most vital components of the game is a mechanic called exposure. Exposure is what happens when a shapeshifter's identity is made evident to an NPC or the town itself. It is, in essence, more dangerous than any physical damage a shifter could take (which is why damage isn't really A Thing in Turn), but also potentially very fruitful.

You start off with a character that people know, that people have impressions of. Everyone knows everyone in small towns. When you act unusual? People notice, especially the closer they are to you.

Who are you? Who do people think you are?
Exposure isn't necessarily bad. There are risks - if the whole town finds out you're a shapeshifter and doesn't like you or you've hurt someone, admittedly torches and pitchforks may be in your future. However, if someone you love slowly discovers you're secretly an otter part-time, they might be willing to accept you.

Shifters mark their exposure track when they use their abilities outside of their current form - like when someone who is in human form uses their beast abilities, or when someone in beast form uses their human abilities. Some beasts have flexibility in this, like trash pandas raccoons who can casually escape exposure:
In Plain Sight - You never generate exposure for being seen in beast form if there are no witnesses to your transformation.
...or those who have animal groups (herds, romps, flocks) who can avoid exposure to humans while in animal form - but risk exposure to their group:

Otters have romps!
Each instance of exposure is either marked positive or negative. Each space on the track has room for a + or -, and when the exposure is assigned, the players will mark appropriate to the experience. Eventually, they'll reach the end of the track, and add up their positives and negatives - and from that, determine the path they'll take when they resolve the exposure.

If they ignore resolving NPC exposure for too long, it can overflow into the town - gossip is a bitch - and lead to further complications. Every town has themes and bloodlines that interconnect, and events that can be dark, or happy, or simply mysterious. What rumors led to those events? Did someone get hurt because a shifter just didn't "act right" and someone saw them slip-up? In small towns, deviance is always noticed.

"We don't talk about that." - 13 deaths.
The exposure mechanic is really important to the experience in Turn and I'm hoping that, as play happens, it will be as fruitful as I want it to be. Fingers crossed that when it's revealed to more players, I get a positive result!

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