### [In the Lab] 5x5

This is a post from the old blog, but I want to preserve it in the current lab. I still talk about it with Fred occasionally, so you never know when I'll pick it up again.

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UPDATE: Fred just posted his continued thoughts of from his original inspiration post here.

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A while back, Fred Hicks wrote up this cool idea where superpowers came from a mysterious radio signal. Certain people are "Receivers" for this signal and are regulated by the FCC.

We talked about incorporating a bit of HAM radio jargon. Specifically the phrase "5 by 5," meaning that a radio signal has perfect signal strength ("5") and perfect signal clarity("5").

The natural systemic representation for this would be a 2d6 system, wherein one die represents signal strength and the other signal clarity. "6" results would be special cases, representing some kind of critical-something-or-other.

I woke up with further thoughts on how to express this as a superpower. Of course, these re-tread some other ideas I've used in Do and Happy Birthday Robot, but I beg indulgence one more time. :P

I'm imagining Receivers as radio-powered analogues to the Marauders. Swirling balls of reality-bending chaos that must be contained or destroyed for the sake of universal coherence. With that in mind, here's my idea for how to handle radio-powers:

Step 1: Roll
On your turn, if you choose to use a radio power, first roll two six-sided dice. One die represents signal strength. One die represents signal clarity. Those designations are decided at the beginning of the game.

Step 2: Strength
You may describe some amazing feat of radio-powered reality-bending, but your description is limited. You may only describe this event in a number of words equal to your Strength die result, to a maximum of 5. (Results of "6" are discussed after these steps.)

You always have the word "I" as a free word, though. Saying "I," in your description does not count against this word limit.

For example: You rolled a "3" on your strength die. That means you could say something like the following sentences:

"I turn into fire."
"I blow freezing wind."
"I jam the signal."

Step 3: Clarity

Here's where things get tricky. Now your description will be modified based on the result on your Clarity die.
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Oh wait, I just realized a problem here. My original idea was to make each player take turns changing one word in the description. The number of turns would be determined by the Clarity die. So if you rolled a 4, then four players would each take a turn changing one word of your description.

The idea was that radio powers are unpredictable and dangerous, sometimes causing unintended events.

But that doesn't fit the "5 by 5" theme if a higher number is supposed to be a clearer signal. Oh well, you see where I was going with it. :P

Oh yeah, and the idea for 6s is that they give you "Amps," You can put an amp on a word in your description so that it may not be changed.

1. I love that idea of powers as a radio signal. And 5x5 is such a cool name.

Want to steal! ^_^

2. You have enough to work on! But I'm happy to discuss ideas. :D

3. I really like this. It's got my imagination firing.

What if the clarity die defined the weakness of the superpowers? That way if you get a 1, your weakness is remarkably general: "wood," "yellow," etc. A roll of five gives you a very specific weakness "wooden baseball bat from 1964" or "drenched in ice-cold lemonade"

4. Here's how to fix clarity: Each player has 5 word change opportunities by default, but this is reduced by 1 for each point of clarity.

5. You guys both have interesting takes on the clarity issue. One addresses the fiction and the other addresses the numbers. Not sure where to take this next, but I'd love to find a middle ground between the two.

6. Something else to consider is that the opposite of clarity is noise. So instead of changing, the other players could ADD words to your statement, thus garbling the message, and mutating your intent.

If you want the second die to remain as "CLARITY" then the number of new words to add to your statement of intent is five minus the number on your "clarity" die. (as Brennan mentioned)

The other way you could go, would be to name the second die "NOISE" and then you could just read the number off (but then you could never have a noise-less invocation, there would always be a minimum amount of static, and you don't really have the pure 5x5 coolness)

7. Yeah, I considered that, too. On the one hand, I dislike subtraction in a game mechanic. On the other hand, I don't want to lose the mechaphor. It could simply be a thing where Strength is the size of a dice pool and Clarity is the target number.

8. Here's how to fix clarity: Each player has 5 word change opportunities by default, but this is reduced by 1 for each point of clarity.

9. I really like this. It's got my imagination firing.

What if the clarity die defined the weakness of the superpowers? That way if you get a 1, your weakness is remarkably general: "wood," "yellow," etc. A roll of five gives you a very specific weakness "wooden baseball bat from 1964" or "drenched in ice-cold lemonade"

10. Hey, have you done any more tinkering with this? After playing more DO and HBR, the 5x5 concept has been itching at my brain. Would it be okay if I toyed around with a few ideas?

11. Go right ahead! I haven't really taken it anywhere since this post.

12. Awesome. I'll try to get my notes organized a bit, and I'll probably post the ideas on StoryGames later today.
...such is the danger of me working overtime, and having nothing better to do while waiting for the printers to finish their runs.

Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.