About This SRD
This SRD is not intended as a "lite" or pared down version of any given Motif Engine or Runs on Motif game. It is written for authors, homebrewers, designers, and publishers to utilize as a toolkit to create their own games and subsystems. It is a modular framework. It walks you through the core system and various options for design and play levers & buttons.
This SRD breaks down the primary pieces of the "Motif Way" and provides limited advice. It offers a modular framework for creating your own games and tools. Motif is a toolkit with numerous builds, many of which are not directly compatible with each other.
It is impossible to lay out all of the iterations and variations. Instead, this document focuses on a "high level" view that provides implementation option and examples. It uses a conversational or podcast or explainer style walkthrough of various build options and possibilities.
The Motif Framework Toolkit is a system reference document (SRD) for games and tabletop roleplaying tools based upon the Motif Framework engines and Runs on Motif games, published by Thought Police. It is ideal for creating an "oracle" based system designed or ideal for solo, GM-less, and low prep play. It may be used to create full games. It may also be used as a supplement to other games, providing a solo or GM-less mode for an otherwise traditional TTRPG.
Reflecting its focus, this SRD differs in that it is neither a brief overview of the basic philosophy and core mechanics nor a detailed standalone system. It works from the basis of some other modern SRDs with a clear statement of the core mechanics and approach. However, it details different aspects of tabletop roleplaying game design and possibilities for how they may be integrated within the Motif approach.
The result is a blog-like voice and flow. This book is a friend walking you through the thought process and common options when developing a Motif-based title. Some of the text make seem "too obvious" to some of you. Please understand we are trying to be inclusive of new designers. In addition, we did our best to make many of those simpler observations and suggestions useful for more advanced designers and homebrewers to understand our game design point of view. Large segments of this document are even drawn from our in-house design and style guides.
We recommend starting out with writing out the general concept. Then then genre and major themes. Follow that up with a few sentences describing your setting and a few describing the core character concept. With all that in mind, starting building out from there.
Once you go through the process a couple of times, options will start jumping out at you immediately with the general game concept. We suggest you still follow the steps to keep everything in context and on track.
Motif works best with flexible plotlines and emerging stories. Its very nature introduces uncertainty and surprise into the narrative. This can be done within a fairly strict story outline detailing different stages or with an open-world style sandbox. You may also use different patches, like a corruption system or mission clock to pace the narrative.
The key is understanding the role the oracles play in the game experience. Their answers are not only randomized or uncertain, but also multidimensional. The core rolls in Motif utilize 3d6 oracles. Each die represents a different dimension or factor in the answer. This provides rich responses and a vigorously growing narrative. Most Motif games and subsystems will only require a notebook, common six-sided dice, and perhaps some counters or tokens to keep track of certain features.
Motif presumes player-facing rolls when used to build a game system. That is, it assumes that players roll in conflicts and defense. There are no NPC rolls in such circumstances. The result of the roll determines who wins out and how severe the consequences are.
Motif also assumes a protagonist focus and scale. The results and answers are generally interpreted in context of the main characters. Similarly, there is usually not an "objective" universal scale. Simple harm or a single hit in a kaiju scale game is off the charts devastating on a typical human scale. Keep it simple and focused on the player characters.