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Author Topic: About what Scattershot's about (GNS yipyap included)  (Read 6489 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: January 21, 2002, 09:58:55 AM »

Hey there,

I'm starting a few separate threads about Fang's game Scattershot. All of them are based on the content of these threads (at the date of this post) and some private messaging:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1073">I: Core concept
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1087">II: Whence go the mechanics
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1080">III: Difference between players and GM
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1096">IV: Sorting out the nuts and bolts
And http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1122">V: Actual mechanics

This thread is about the initial Premise of the game, and you know what? It has one. A really interesting one. You see, Scattershot is about Exploring Situation and System in depth, and that means it "begins" or "looks" like a Simulationist type o'thing. But the actual plan - which I like to think of Uncle Fang's Lurking Desire - is to provide tools for "transition" to Narrativist play insofar as anyone wants to. The Narrativist-type Premise arises, therefore, from various passions or concerns incited by various instances during play. Once that happens, the mechanics enhance these elements' ability to become major engines of events during play, as determined by the players.

I use Fang's term Transition here because it makes a lot of sense - a form of Drift which is facilitated, consistent, and accessible merely through application of the rules in particular ways, as opposed merely to tweaking, revising, ignoring, or overriding existing rules (which Drift generally does).

Now that means that at first glance, Scattershot has plenty of traditional-gaming trappings that - for some of us - have an alarm-bell quality. You buy a bunch of skills with points, said skills being rated according to how easy they are to learn and hence costing more. There are six attributes starting with "Strength." There is a big chart called UE that cross-references abilities' values with extent, magnitude, duration, and all that sort of thing (very like DC Heroes at first glance).

My point is that these alarm bells are false. Fang has written the material to be accessible specifically to the old-school gamer, in a deliberate 70s-gaming kind of structure. But that structure is much like a swaybacked horse with a sleepy expression, which grunts a little when you pat it on the nose. Little do you suspect what it will do when you mount up …

The context for play is intended to be customizable to various degrees (1) of depth of rules-use and (2) of rules-use per unit time. Cool. Let's settle at whatever one we want and take a look at "medium" Scattershot, what most of us want to know about based on my readings and interactions at the Forge.

Basically, you're looking at a character with six attributes: Strength, Agility, Hit Points, Reaction, Observation, and Power. (Yes, I know it looks like 1980! Chill out! Uncle Fang is merely disguising his Lurking Desire very well.) You buy a bunch of abilities at various ratings with a starting bank of points. "Abilities" cover all sorts of things, like skills strictly speaking, magic stuff, etc.

Ya do things with your abilities. You roll 2d10; get under the rating, you did it; equal it, you barely did it; over it, you fail. The difference is called the MIB and is taken to the UE. The UE allows you to modify the difference (called MIB) between your roll and the rating with the "magnitude" column of the UE for a related characteristic - ie, you hit a guy with your Punch ability, but the effect (on the table) is modified because your Strength rating gives a nice multiple. Again, all very early 80s-Sim, Mayfair-feeling.

[Fang, I know I'm skimming various details, especially the fact that opposed rolls actually use the difference between attacker's and defender's MIBs on the UE, and the Residual Modifiers thing. Bear with me, I'm not trying to present Scattershot with every nuance but to show the Transition in action, and only presenting stuff that lets this point be made.]

Ha ha! You're in for it now! Check out the following:

1) The group has set a "Hard limit" for certain MIB's, either successful or unsuccessful. It might be 1 or 7 or 10 or whatever. If a rolled MIB (remember, diff between your roll and your rating) exceeds the hard limit, the player of the recipient of the effect now states why this single event is a life-changing, significant, later-to-be-acted-upon element of the character's life. This is a big deal, eh? Think "Kicker." (Oh, and it's optional if the MIB is under the hard limit; the hard limit means you have to do it. Uncle Fang cannot help himself and releases a sinister belly-laugh.)

2) If you're only a couple MIB shy of succeeding, feel free to adust any UE feature to make your roll successful, ie, "it takes longer" or anything similar. You can also do the reverse, using excessive successful MIB to adjust the degree or magnitude of the effect for the better. This is player-driven and highly customizable. (Did I mention metagame?)

3) Experience dice are being handed out left and right all the time during play. You spend these dice by adding them to any roll you feel like, either before or after the basic 2d10 roll. (Metagame and player power are not only present in Scattershot; after an initial "closeted" phase, they are buck naked and dancing ecstatically down the street.) [These dice may also be spent to improve one's character, with a mildly randomized mechanic.]

To sum up, I dub Scattershot the first Transitional Game Design that I have seen. It presents a solid/realistic (in the specific-to-setting sense) Simulationist framework for establishing what's up, what you're looking at, and who's who - but also provides a tremendous number of techniques to permit metagame, Author stance, and player-power-sharing techniques during play, many of which may facilitate a Narrativist application. The primary technique is Fortune-in-the-Middle, which all three of the numbered items above not only make possible, but loom up like … well, I'm out of metaphors. They loom up big.

My question is how Gamism is or would be a direction of Transition, or whether that's even a design goal. If not, no big deal. If so, though, I'm not sure how it (ie mechanics to facilitate it) gets into there. Insight about that would be appreciated. The thread that looked like it might discuss that, based on its title, ended up being about something else, unless I misunderstood it.

I still have plenty of questions, especially about certain mechanics and especially about how IIEC is handled during/post rolling in a conflict situation. But those are for other threads, soon to come. This one's the goals/GNS thing, and I am willing to be corrected by Fang regarding my impressions, or to see what others have made of them and the game itself.

Best,
Ron
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2002, 10:35:39 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
This thread is about the initial Premise of the game, and you know what? It has one. A really interesting one. You see, Scattershot is about Exploring Situation and System in depth, and that means it "begins" or "looks" like a Simulationist type o'thing. But the actual plan - which I like to think of Uncle Fang's Lurking Desire - is to provide tools for "transition" to Narrativist play insofar as anyone wants to. The Narrativist-type Premise arises, therefore, from various passions or concerns incited by various instances during play. Once that happens, the mechanics enhance these elements' ability to become major engines of events during play, as determined by the players.

I use Fang's term Transition here because it makes a lot of sense - a form of Drift which is facilitated, consistent, and accessible merely through application of the rules in particular ways, as opposed merely to tweaking, revising, ignoring, or overriding existing rules (which Drift generally does).

Now that means that at first glance, Scattershot has plenty of traditional-gaming trappings that - for some of us - have an alarm-bell quality.

You know, that was one of the things that scared me the most about posting it here (if you needed to understand my reticence).

And it's no surprise that you see the premise is of exploring System and Situation, this is after all just the mechanics.  If I understand your use of the terms, I have a whole 'nother book of additional rules (the larger one at that), I call 'em techniques, that deal with attention to Color, Character, and Setting.  Color and Setting are dependant upon the genre-reliant materials this Generalist mechanic gets published with (we are preparing 12 sets so far).  Attention to Character is one of the major pieces of the techniques section (and I must apologize for the fact that I am still pulling this information together and don't even have a rough draft outline yet).

I separate them into techniques and mechanics because of some of the priorities of Transitionism.  (Many of those 'old school gamers' recoil in horror from mechanics for Narrativism, but strangely when they are called 'techniques,' think that they're just quirky advice.)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
My point is that these alarm bells are false. Fang has written the material to be accessible specifically to the old-school gamer, in a deliberate 70s-gaming kind of structure. But that structure is much like a swaybacked horse with a sleepy expression, which grunts a little when you pat it on the nose. Little do you suspect what it will do when you mount up....

[Editted for brevity.]

To sum up, I dub Scattershot the first Transitional Game Design that I have seen. It presents a solid/realistic (in the specific-to-setting sense) Simulationist framework for establishing what's up, what you're looking at, and who's who - but also provides a tremendous number of techniques to permit metagame, Author stance, and player-power-sharing techniques during play, many of which may facilitate a Narrativist application. The primary technique is Fortune-in-the-Middle, which all three of the numbered items above not only make possible, but loom up like … well, I'm out of metaphors. They loom up big.

My question is how Gamism is or would be a direction of Transition, or whether that's even a design goal. If not, no big deal. If so, though, I'm not sure how it (ie mechanics to facilitate it) gets into there. Insight about that would be appreciated. The thread that looked like it might discuss that, based on its title, ended up being about something else, unless I misunderstood it.

Gamism is one of the Transitional design goals (whether I serve it well or not, is a good question).  Some ways we do this, I have described elsewhere.  Raising the 'hard limit' on the MIB turns it into not much more than a clever way to skip having elaborate 'critical hit/fumble' tables (in keeping with the 80's disguise of the work).  Making Experience Dice rare turns them into another resource for the savvy Gamist to sheperd facing the larger challenge presented.

I do have a favor to ask.  I am not sure how you define Gamism in the time since you came to understand and like the mode.  Can you give me some idea what you would look for in a Gamist game; that I can better respond to with how the mechanics of Scattershot (might) meet those needs.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I still have plenty of questions, especially about certain mechanics and especially about how IIEC is handled during/post rolling in a conflict situation.

I would like a chance to toss in a response prior to getting these other threads started.

In the sequence of resolution, Scattershot somewhat collapses the Intent and Initiation into a single point.  When a player indicates their action for resolution, the action is considered begun.  The reason I say they are combined is because of how some actions indicated by a player are result of a somewhat predetermined script of actions (the following actions material).  The easiest example would be the riposte, it follows a parry thus the parry contains the Intent for the riposte.  As I (in possibly the best attempt ever) described a few minutes ago in another thread, the 'Effects phase' (I know it doesn't precisely work like that, but you get my drift) occurs when the dice roll and the chosen actions of the interacting parties are combined.  The reason I bring this up here is because it talks some about one way that Scattershot approaches Gamism.  Our more Gamist playtesters occasionally turn this 'calculation' phase into a bidding war using the FitM mechanics Scattershot has.

As for directly connecting to IIEC, I think a lot of that varies depending on whether you are using Scattershot in General, Specific, or Mechanical play.  In General play almost everything functions as Conclusion (That is the term, isn't it?).  In Specific play, it can range all the way from Intent when the Speaker is depending heavily on the resolution mechanic to generate most of the detail, to Effect when the mechanics are invoked by someone other than the Speaker, calling the narrative direction into question (such as introducing complications).  As above, Mechanical play functions on some curious fusion of Intent and Initiation.  Does that clear anything up?

Fang Langford
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2002, 07:40:14 AM »

Hi Fang!

Lots of topics to deal with here

I definitely hear you about the Color, Situation, Character, and Setting material coming later. The key to me is that at first glance, the setup seems highly focused on Exploration of something, and given the other material you mentioned, Exploration of everything. No criticism! As I said, I appreciate the "reassurance" quality this has on the old-school.

GAMISM AND SCATTERSHOT
My take on Gamism seems to raise some hackles, and I'd request that we deal with it here as it stands: Fang is asking me what I think; this is not a good venue to tell me I'm wrong (that would be the GNS forum).

<Gamism babble ensues>
At this time, I look at Gamism as simply the enjoyment of competition in an extremely broad sense. People can have different roles in that competition, up to and including a referee-role (he does not compete with the players, but his presence means the competition can happen in a certain way).

A lot of suffering seems to occur when people consider a published scenario - how can you "compete" with it? That always puzzles me. Of course you can, it seems, insofar as the game designers do exist as humans, and it's fun to pit oneself (or one's team) against someone who's posed a problem for you. Or even if one imagined some weird scenario that was not written by humans, it's fun to see whether you can do better than anyone else who's trying it.

If anyone wants to call all this competitive stuff "struggle" or "testing yourself" or whatnot, they may go right ahead. I think it's a matter of sugar-coating, rather than useful rhetoric, but I'm willing to give a little. Gareth's points about that in the GNS forum are extremely well-taken; we don't exactly agree, but I think his points must be taken into account.

I also have perceived a certain weird assumption that a Gamist would automatically "hate to lose," or would necessarily be obsessed with "balance," which doesn't match my observations of the foundations of that mode of play, much as it might apply for some individuals.
<Gamism babble is over>

OK. So how does this apply to Scattershot? You have mentioned the strategic use of experience-point spending or the role of the hard limit, but to me, these seem more to me like techniques of play (resource management e.g.) that apply nicely to the goal of Narrativism as much as to Gamism, perhaps more so. Let's take a look at a Scattershot player who has glommed onto these techniques and likes them a lot. Basically, if he gets a "do better than Bob hair up his butt (even if Bob is abstract)," rather than a "story hair up his butt," then he's transitioned to Gamism.

At my current understanding of the rules, though, which hair gets up his butt is pretty much a matter of individual taste, and perhaps elements of the Color, Situation, Setting, and so forth of the instance of play. It seems to me that the hair is most likely the "story" one because of the hard limit, especially - being required to make that event important to the character's future decisions seems more of a moral-Premise judgment-call than it does a strategic decision regarding advantage or individual performance (in the sense of acing a test or winning a race).

IIEC AND SCATTERSHOT
(Intent, Initiation, Execution, Completion)
I think you've laid out the issue pretty clearly for me now, across the range of General, Specific, and Mechanical play. I do think it might be interesting to see how the differences of IIEC application might change over time, if the group were minded to do so. Thus, if they begin with a strong commitment to Mechanical play, is there any provision for shifting later, without (much of) a hitch-and-clutch? If so, then Scattershot is really achieving something.

Best,
Ron
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2002, 10:06:31 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
GAMISM AND SCATTERSHOT
Quote from: Selected text on Gamism that Ron
My take on Gamism seems to raise some hackles, and I'd request that we deal with it here as it stands: Fang is asking me what I think;

I look at Gamism as simply the enjoyment of competition in an extremely broad sense.

If anyone wants to call all this competitive stuff "struggle" or "testing yourself" or whatnot, they may go right ahead.

OK. So how does this apply to Scattershot? You have mentioned the strategic use of experience-point spending or the role of the hard limit, but to me, these seem more to me like techniques of play (resource management e.g.)

In my studies of the medium, I have identified one major component necessary for Gamism from a designer's perspective: structure.  I hear the ghost of its relevance whenever the 'yardstick' discussion comes up.  I also hear it when the discussion turns 'win/lose.'  No matter what I think of those topics, the both speak of structure and consistency.

The converse would be playing Gamist in a situation where nothing can be counted on, everything is in some state of flux.  I haven't experienced a happy Gamist who does not have some consistency or structure in what they are playing with.  As a designer, one kind of structure I can provide is mechanical.  I really appreciate what I learned by adapting Scattershot to contain a collectible card game; all those long discussions of game theory helped me make Scattershot's core mechanic as strong a structure as I could have hoped to make it.

The other kind of structure I see commonly used has to do with a Gamist's exploration of Setting.  As surely as there is mechanical "competition" in the gladitorial arena, so too is there in the courtly life of king's favor.  One of the techniques I have already discussed here on the Forge has to do with simplifying the moderation of a background that has enough structure and consistency (as well as verisimilitude, but that's for another type of players altogether); I call it Dynamic Status Quo.

I see things like "resource management" being of value to Gamists especially when in concert with some kind of structure.  Under that premise, the meticulous nature of Scattershot's mechanics should fall clearly in that camp at least mechanically.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
but to me, these seem more to me like techniques of play (resource management e.g.) that apply nicely to the goal of Narrativism as much as to Gamism, perhaps more so. Let's take a look at a Scattershot player who has glommed onto these techniques and likes them a lot. Basically, if he gets a "do better than Bob hair up his butt (even if Bob is abstract)," rather than a "story hair up his butt," then he's transitioned to Gamism.

At my current understanding of the rules, though, which hair gets up his butt is pretty much a matter of individual taste, and perhaps elements of the Color, Situation, Setting, and so forth of the instance of play. It seems to me that the hair is most likely the "story" one because of the hard limit, especially - being required to make that event important to the character's future decisions seems more of a moral-Premise judgment-call than it does a strategic decision regarding advantage or individual performance (in the sense of acing a test or winning a race).

I might argue that you do still have some bias towards Narrativism.  In playtest, how the Critical Juncture mechanic gets specifically used is almost a direct indicator of whether a player is Gamist, Narrativist, or Simulationist.  As you see it (and as I tend to express it, did I mention my continuing problems communicating?), a Narrativist will use the opportunity presented by exceeding the Critical Juncture to advance their thematic statement of a games premise (am I using those terms correctly?).

A Gamist on the hand will take those opportunities to adopt additional liabilities (when it goes against them) or strategic advantages (when it goes for them).  One thing I neglected to include was that the MIB created when the Critical Juncture is exceeded, can be used (in a rare post-randomizing indexing on the UE Chart) as the foundation of adding a new disadvantage or problem.  (In my favorite example, when Robin in The Prince of Thieves first attacks the Sheriff, I call it a Telling Blow.  The Sheriff's player, gamemaster or no, chooses to take an appearance-based disadvantage and play that off the character's vanity.  I'm not entirely sure it had any bearing on the Theme explored by the film, but you can see how it created more 'challenge' for the Sheriff's player.)

A Simulationist becomes evident for their interest in how such a change to their character bears on, and fits into, their explorations.  They seem to have an uncanny intuition for the Critical Juncture result that's right.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
IIEC AND SCATTERSHOT
(Intent, Initiation, Execution, Completion)
I think you've laid out the issue pretty clearly for me now, across the range of General, Specific, and Mechanical play. I do think it might be interesting to see how the differences of IIEC application might change over time, if the group were minded to do so. Thus, if they begin with a strong commitment to Mechanical play, is there any provision for shifting later, without (much of) a hitch-and-clutch? If so, then Scattershot is really achieving something.

Actually going 'up' from Mechanical play is about as hard as falling in love.  Once you stop going, "Okay, your two actions are done, now it's his turn," and skip using dice in every resolution bound to a Rating, you're at the 'bottom' of Specific play.  As you let the Ratings be more guidelines (as in "I've got a 14 that means I'm so good, I won't fail") and eventually leave the dice behind (except when you use them to create detail, often good to 'get the creative juices flowing'), you transcend Specific and grow into General play.

What's missing so far is that these are just the mechanics.  There is a whole morass of information I call 'techniques.'  (You'd just call them 'lots more rules.')  Part of the difference, is the presentation.  I intend to present the techniques in a fashion that seems geared towards using them to determine what is good or bad about any game.  It was quite odd to me to have this in mind only to later discover that the GNS was described as existing exactly for the same purpose.

The sticky part is that my 'techniques' are secretly based on a couple of the alternative Transitional goals.  They will hopefully be presented as 'if you liked how this works, why not try that,' and 'if you liked that then this also might be fun.'  I want to create a series of step-wise growth tools expressly for facilitating Transition.  This has been my goal since before I met the Forge.

Ultimately one thing became clear in playtest.  It seems hard for players to have "a strong commitment to Mechanical play."  So far every test group seems intuitively at ease moving up and down this scale without hardly noticing it.  (Well, excluding the collectible card game 'testers, they seem pretty rooted in Mechanical play.)

Now, can you tell me if that answers your question on Gamism is Scattershot?  Am I still missing something?  (Or is it just my usual inability to express these ideas clearly on the first go?)

Fang Langford

(Who is actually quite curious what others think of a Transitional game design.)
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« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2002, 06:05:36 AM »

Hi Fang,

You've expressed yourself very clearly, and I think we're saying pretty much the same things. Basically, Transition in Scattershot is driven by preference, and that's a fine thing.

It seemed to me that the "story-ish" payoff for bringing in the hard limit was especially nice for a Narrativist player, but I also agree with you that a Gamist player can find meat in it too. That meat seems a little less focused in terms of in-game events, but then again, Gamist play in general is probably the most unapologetically metagame-ish in its needs, and hence the payoff for those players/GMs will be in unabashed people-terms, with less need for in-game terms (That dovetails with my previous comments about how good this mode of play is at finding "the stakes").

I agree with you about Gamism requiring structure, although in many ways I think that requirement may be found all 'round the variety among and within GNS modes (not in every possibility, but scattered all 'round).

(Side note: I, for one, see no flaw/inconsistency or anything "wrong" with your use of GNS jargon - your reference to any of it is clear, fair, and makes sense.)

Here's my concern now: different participants having different goals. To pick the most obvious example, we might have Bob who seizes upon the available techniques to "go Gamist" in a big way, up to and including open verbal enjoyment of success in those terms (over whom doesn't matter: GM, fellow player, published scenario, etc). Then we also have Sam, at the same table, who is equally invested in (at last) playing a fantasy game which through human efforts of actual play attains the personal weight and epic consequences of, say, The Lord of the Rings.

The problem arises because people don't role-play in isolation but with one another. The goals/modes of GNS operate successfully when shared and abetted by more than one person. Hence, Bob might be irritated with Sam for not putting in tactical effort at one point or another; Sam might be irritated with Bob for not considering the moral/thematic outcomes of Bob's character's actions.

To a very large extent, this is probably not solvable. I'm not suggesting that Scattershot is under any obligation to amend it in any special way. However, it's clear that you've laid out the philosophical goals and design of Scattershot along with its mechanics (or rather, that the final MS is going to be a combination of all these). Your post illustrates a good example, regarding the Transitional techniques. Will that sort of material, the (for lack of a better word) philosophical part, address the issue of Nar/Gam interpretation of the same mechanics at the same table?

Best,
Ron

P.S. "Techniques" is a term I use a lot too, for the same reason you do - it seems to carry less emotional baggage for people than "rules" or even "guidelines."
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« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2002, 09:21:05 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I agree with you about Gamism requiring structure, although in many ways I think that requirement may be found all 'round the variety among and within GNS modes (not in every possibility, but scattered all 'round).

That's why we named it Scattershot!

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Here's my concern now: different participants having different goals. To pick the most obvious example, we might have Bob who seizes upon the available techniques to "go Gamist" in a big way, up to and including open verbal enjoyment of success in those terms (over whom doesn't matter: GM, fellow player, published scenario, etc). Then we also have Sam, at the same table, who is equally invested in (at last) playing a fantasy game which through human efforts of actual play attains the personal weight and epic consequences of, say, The Lord of the Rings.

The problem arises because people don't role-play in isolation but with one another. The goals/modes of GNS operate successfully when shared and abetted by more than one person. Hence, Bob might be irritated with Sam for not putting in tactical effort at one point or another; Sam might be irritated with Bob for not considering the moral/thematic outcomes of Bob's character's actions.

To a very large extent, this is probably not solvable.

Aye, therein lies the rub.  We don't know if we can reach that plateau either.  So far, what we have is more based on explaining it so that Sam knows what Bob is up to and that Bob likes it, and vice versa, and then suggesting that everyone just 'try to get along' or find a new group.

I'm pretty sure that if either player are the sort to make an issue out of this kind of thing, there is nothing a designer can do about it.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'm not suggesting that Scattershot is under any obligation to amend it in any special way. However, it's clear that you've laid out the philosophical goals and design of Scattershot along with its mechanics (or rather, that the final MS is going to be a combination of all these). Your post illustrates a good example, regarding the Transitional techniques. Will that sort of material, the (for lack of a better word) philosophical part, address the issue of Nar/Gam interpretation of the same mechanics at the same table?

Definitely.  That's where I'm going with the whole Get Emotional! nomenclature.  I am trying to make differing goals in gaming more explicit in lay terms.  I am also trying to make high emotions in player to player conflict in pursuing those goals into the 'dark side.'  By this I mean to suggest that a 'live and let live' approach to Sam and Bob facing off.  If they both understand that their approaches are different and are willing to forgive the friction caused, instead of reacting emotionally, then they might be able to still play together.

At least that's the theory.  This is one thing I have yet to put into playtest.  Any advice?  Anyone?

Fang Langford
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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2002, 03:32:18 PM »

Hey Fang, Ron,

To sum up, I dub Scattershot the first Transitional Game Design that I have seen.

The discussion of Scattershot as a transitional game design has yet to draw the interest of Forgers besides the two of you. And I can't help but wonder if it's because people don't really know why they need one.

If I'm an activist liberal, I don't really want a centrist candidate. I'll vote for one because my ideal candidate doesn't stand a chance of getting elected, and because the centrist is better by far than the conservative. But I'm not forced into the same situation with RPG's. I can buy a game that suits my GNS bias and play it with like-minded players.

What am I missing? Who's the target customer of a transitional game design?

Paul
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2002, 03:41:22 PM »

Paul--

Maybe more centrist gamers? I mean, you & I are pervy narrativists, but there are those out there who groove on simulationism AND narrativism, & I could see Scattershot appealing to them. (Hell, I could see it appealing to "reg'lar ol' gamers" who see the outer "traditional" trappings & dig that kind of thing.)

I'd be interested to hear from Mike "lemme do the math for you" Holmes about what he thinks of Scattershot.
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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2002, 06:04:46 AM »

What Josh said. Aren't those people looking for El Dorado (defined as a simultaneously Sim and Narr game) going to be interested in such? As I've stated before, I'm not one of those "pervy" Narrativists. Actually, I like all three of the GNS decision making processes, and can enjoy any game that is not incoherent. I'm a gaming Centrist (political one, too, FWIW). The only impediment to my enjoying the potential Transitionability (to coin a term) of Scattershot would be any incoherence that it introduced.

While we're at it, I suppose that I should breach that topic. Why should we believe that Scatttershot is any less incoherent (sorry for the double negative) than any other game that previously failed to focus on a single GNS mode? Actually, I have much less problem with the whole N/S shift (which does include mechanics to accomplish) than the inclusion of G.

The argument seems to be, well, the player can use the results either way, and we'll tell all the players to accept other players conflicting styles. Isn't this just suggesting drift? Also, this seems like a law that suggests that you not kill people but includes no punishment for doing so. My understanding of System Matters is that mere admonishions to play a particular way that are not supported by the mechanics are nice, but having actual mechanics that reinforce those admonishions are better. This is the main complaint about V:tM, right? That it says to play in one way but provides no support mechanically for that mode of play. Right?

So, why does Scattershot get a pass here? Note that I'm really just playing Devil's advocate here.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2002, 11:01:10 AM »

Fang,

I've been thinking about this Transition stuff. A few related points all contributed to my conclusion, so I'll do points-first and Point last.

1) Both Gamism and Narrativism are distinguished by the overt priorities of the real person in play, in that the priority is overt (if not verbalized). Hence most mechanics involving "player intrusion," to use a somewhat outmoded or Sim-oriented term, may serve either Gamist or Narrativist purposes, of particular sorts for each depending on the mechanic in question.

2) Much experience has taught me that players committed to either mode do not hesitate for an instant to insert or interpret their "agenda" into role-playing through whatever window of opportunity presents itself, either in mechanics or via social pressure or whatever.

3) Narrativist agenda is simple: address Premise, via character-confronts-ethical-conflict. Gamist agenda is similarly simple: strategize, perform, prevail, via character-conflicts-logistic-conflict. They are, however, very different from one another and tend not to get along too easily in the same game, except in fairly specialized combinations.

4) If merely provided with player-empowering mechanics that are either-or-whatever (as referred to in #1 above), the choice of agenda, per player or group, is essentially catch-as-catch-can. Clearly Transition may occur in playing Scattershot as currently written, e.g. Narrativism from the hard limit perhaps, or Gamism from the currency-management perhaps (these are just examples out of many possible). The rather scattered potential for the Transition, though, may be troublesome. Note: may be.

Now for my big point. These two agendas (perhaps at the level of their multifarious and not-necessarily-compatible subsets) may be further specified by various mechanics (rules, guidelines, techniques, whatever). These "specification" variables fall into very, very distinct forms, because of the clarity of the agendas in question.

STAKES AND ACHIEVEMENT are the keys to Gamism in general. The thing to avoid, I think, is "effectiveness is the means to achievement and achievement is the route to more effectiveness," which creates a recursive, spin-the-wheels effect that only appeals to a minority of people who might enjoy Gamism in role-playing. (I, for example, enjoy Gamist play when the stakes/achievement are rewarded by bloody-well-winning, not merely by being able to play again, only better.)

ETHICAL/BEHAVIOR CRUNCH is the key to Narrativism in general. The thing to avoid here, I think, is de-protagonizing events and habits of play, as discussed in various places 'round the Forge.

I suggest that some "evolutionary context" for each of these might be made available for Scattershot, as a "as we go along" game-group-developing mechanic. In other words, as you continue to play, the rules change or focus as folks see fit, in a reasonably comfy, not patch-it way. So all the rules they've been using get honed or tweaked or shaped, in such a way that either ethical/behavior crunch or stakes & achievement are emphasized as the point of play.

How to do that? Damn good question. Scattershot offers us an arena to address it.

Best,
Ron
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2002, 11:28:59 AM »

Paul asks an excellent question.

Quote from: Paul Czege
To sum up, I dub Scattershot the first Transitional Game Design that I have seen. -- Ron Edwards

The discussion of Scattershot as a transitional game design has yet to draw the interest of Forgers besides the two of you. And I can't help but wonder if it's because people don't really know why they need one.

What am I missing? Who's the target customer of a Transitional game design?


I can't really say about Transitional designs in general, there are so few to know what they are yet, but I can talk about Scattershot; so does Joshua:

Quote from: joshua neff
Paul--

Maybe more centrist gamers? I mean, you & I are pervy narrativists, but there are those out there who groove on simulationism AND narrativism, & I could see Scattershot appealing to them. (Hell, I could see it appealing to "reg'lar ol' gamers" who see the outer "traditional" trappings & dig that kind of thing.)

Actually the theory goes something like this.  There are a lot of Simulationists-by-habit out there.  Heck, there's a lot of Anything-ists-by habit out there.  Why?  I think because of a lack of exposure.

So this segment of the intended audience can pick up Scattershot (not realizing it is a Transitional game, if I am doing it right), play it for a while and notice all this other kooky stuff 'hidden' throughout.  If they give any of these unfamiliar techniques a try, and like them, they have Transitioned from habit to potentially what they would most like (again, if I am doing it the way I intend).

Heck, I can't think of anything more 'habit' bound than "reg'lar ol' gamers."  That was the primary reason for creating all the "outer 'traditional' trappings;" to attract them.  From my experiences 'over the counter' they make up a significant section of 'the market.'  And technically, as a retail thought-experiment, Scattershot is supposed to reach as much of 'the market' as I can make it.

Secondly, Transition is meant to be optional; that means that Scattershot could theoretically (provided it succeeds at its design specifications) be picked up by any of 'near' "pervy -ists."  If they can play it and opt to not Transition (without the rest of the material becoming encumbering, excess baggage), then Scattershot reaches a second intended audience.  The reason I give this a priority is because if a group of habitual gamers discovers they have different tastes, it will help them continue gaming if they have a system in common with any of the more 'focused' groups they might move to.

Finally, Scattershot is also meant for 'people who have never played role-playing games, but would like them if they did.'  This is another reason I created it in the traditional guise.  It is more likely that 'traditional gamers' are the people one would 'hook up with' after initial exposure (the remainder of the market doesn't seem as 'flagrant' about their gaming status).  Having something like Scattershot in common might help 'ease' them into the hobby community.  (There's also the fact that the traditional model, for as much as people complain about it, works, especially for new players.)

Ultimately, Scattershot was not created to meet any clear and present need.  Paul says, "people don't really know why they need one," about Scattershot.  Who can say?  Nobody 'needed' the internet; nobody 'needed' fax machines.  Nobody knew they 'needed' pointer devices for their computers.  You don't always create something because there's a need for it.  Like I always say when someone points out that I am going to a hell of a lot of effort for something I am intentionally not going to market myself, "even if it never sells, I'm gonna have a heck of a toy to play with."

(And appealing to centrists is just gravy as far as I'm concerned.)

I think that the fact that people don't 'need' it, will help them help me.  That kind of 'need' breeds certain passions for it to come out a certain way (to serve the needs of the person who 'needs' it).  Since no one 'needs' it, any advice they offer will be geared towards making Scattershot transparent to their gaming style (one of the design goals).

Scattershot also wasn't written to appeal to 'far' "pervy" whatever types either; my experience is that they generally have something they really like a lot and are not likely to go for something new that easily.  Likewise targeting any of these groups is questionable at best; a fickle market I think.

Anyway, all this is a bunch of theoretical hooey.  I made it Transitional, because that's how I play.  Originally it was a game I could play with any of the "pervy" groups out there so I can Zelig in with each of them.

Fang Langford
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2002, 12:43:01 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
While we're at it, I suppose that I should breach that topic. Why should we believe that Scatttershot is any less incoherent (sorry for the double negative) than any other game that previously failed to focus on a single GNS mode? Actually, I have much less problem with the whole N/S shift (which does include mechanics to accomplish) than the inclusion of G.

The argument seems to be, well, the player can use the results either way, and we'll tell all the players to accept other players conflicting styles. Isn't this just suggesting drift? Also, this seems like a law that suggests that you not kill people but includes no punishment for doing so. My understanding of System Matters is that mere admonishions to play a particular way that are not supported by the mechanics are nice, but having actual mechanics that reinforce those admonishions are better. This is the main complaint about V:tM, right? That it says to play in one way but provides no support mechanically for that mode of play. Right?

So, why does Scattershot get a pass here? Note that I'm really just playing Devil's advocate here.

(And doing a good job, you may be up for promotion next quarter.)

Scattershot shouldn't.  Right now a lot of what we've heard about Scattershot is still theoretical.  We have a glimpse of the mechanics, and with that glimpse, Ron believes we can see 'the gears and wheels' of what can be turned into Transition.

What we don't see is the techniques (the rest of the rules, if you will) that make use of those 'gears and wheels' in a fashion that makes it truly Transitional.  Rightly said, we can't say anything like 'this is truly a Transitional game' until we have enough (of the rules) to actually play it.  You can't judge the coherency of something until you see all of it, right?

I, for one, think that these claims of coherent Transitionalism are fraught with hubris.  I think we should wait until we see more before any determination is actually made.  I am looking forward to whether or not this game can support Transition.  I think this should be held separate from El Dorado, because El Dorado combines Simulationism with Narrativism; Scattershot is purported to only let you Transition freely back and forth, not necessarily both at the same time.

Like Mike, I would like to know if these mysterious 'techniques' will actually 'put teeth' in the mechanics that must necessarily hold the game consistent with its on-going point of Transition.  I mean, if the game is Transitioning somewhere between Simulationism and Narrativism, it will need to 'keep itself together' or coherency is nothing more than a pipe dream.  Furthermore, without 'teeth' how can the system say that it actually supports any kind of focus, GNS or otherwise, during Transition?

I can see a lot of potential in this concept, but so far the delivery of which has been bearly a trickle.  It's okay to not expect it to fail, but this 'pass,' as Mike describes it, better expire when we see more and can only then actually judge the coherency.

I would like to go on record saying, "Well, where is it?  Why haven't we seen it?  When is it coming?"  I think more Scattershot should be posted and soon, if it's going to make good on any of these amazing claims.

Fang Langford

[Oh.  Wait.  That's me....  I take it all back.  No really, ignore this post.  Damn, where's that delete button!]
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« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2002, 01:08:43 PM »

Agreed on all counts. I'm not yet claiming we've "seen the light" of Transition-based design, but as a design goal it is a fine and as-yet-unknown plan. Oh, and of course, I agree entirely that El Dorado is something entirely different.

Any hope of a comment on my last post before this one ...?

Best,
Ron
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« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2002, 04:20:17 PM »

Quote from: Elsewhere Ron Edwards
Any hope of a comment on my last post before this one...?

Hope?  Yes.  Time?  That depends.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I've been thinking about this Transition stuff. A few related points all contributed to my conclusion, so I'll do points-first and Point last.

And I'll address them one at a time.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1) Both Gamism and Narrativism are distinguished by the overt priorities of the real person in play, in that the priority is overt (if not verbalized). Hence most mechanics involving "player intrusion," to use a somewhat outmoded or Sim-oriented term, may serve either Gamist or Narrativist purposes, of particular sorts for each depending on the mechanic in question.

These 'overt priorities' are, in simple terms, conflicting.  While a highly sophisticated approach to play might be able to contain both of them, I think I clearly lack the skills to write a description for that.  This is the main reason my interest lie in Transition.  Transition occurs when the overt priorities of one form lose their emphasis and those of another become more important.  The challenge with the techniques is making them clear 'alternatives' to each other.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
2) Much experience has taught me that players committed to either mode do not hesitate for an instant to insert or interpret their "agenda" into role-playing through whatever window of opportunity presents itself, either in mechanics or via social pressure or whatever.

Another intended feature has to do with how I plan to make a lot of the advice look like 'reviewers' guidelines.  These will allow the different players to become more aware of 'what they like' in other games.  It should highlight the differences in terms of 'other people are different.'

If I make the game as robust as I hope, having the players insert their 'agendas' into the game will fix the Transition point where they will like it, and the game will support that in its form (remember Transition is optional).  One thing I hope is that my texts will give people of conflicting styles the ability to make informed decisions about no longer playing together.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
3) Narrativist agenda is simple: address Premise, via character-confronts-ethical-conflict. Gamist agenda is similarly simple: strategize, perform, prevail, via character-conflicts-logistic-conflict. They are, however, very different from one another and tend not to get along too easily in the same game, except in fairly specialized combinations.

As I said above, this is the reason Scattershot Transitions between them, not into some fusion of them.  This must be at the taste of the whole group.  Consensus is key in Transition, I think.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
4) If merely provided with player-empowering mechanics that are either-or-whatever (as referred to in #1 above), the choice of agenda, per player or group, is essentially catch-as-catch-can. Clearly Transition may occur in playing Scattershot as currently written, e.g. Narrativism from the hard limit perhaps, or Gamism from the currency-management perhaps (these are just examples out of many possible). The rather … scattered potential for the Transition, though, may be troublesome. Note: may be.

More important than how the mechanics support Tranisition, is the techniques that 'drive' the actual act of Transition.  As mentioned elsewhere, 'keeping it together' during slow Transition is the key to focus of style and coherency.

However, simply on the level of mechanics alone (as opposed to the upcoming techniques), I think the potential for each form should be 'scattered' throughout.  Even better when I can bind two or more forms onto the 'ends' of a single 'sliding' mechanic, like I think the Critical Juncture has worked.  That way, when the techniques drive Transition into the different forms, there won't be whole sections of mechanics left fallow (simplicity suggests that such should be abandoned for the final version).

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Now for my big point. These two agendas (perhaps at the level of their multifarious and not-necessarily-compatible subsets) may be further specified by various mechanics (rules, guidelines, techniques, whatever). These "specification" variables fall into very, very distinct forms, because of the clarity of the agendas in question.

That is actually the ulterior motive I had for starting the 'more than three boxes' discussion.  To attempt to collect some idea of popular agendas 'out there.'

Quote from: Ron Edwards
STAKES AND ACHIEVEMENT are the keys to Gamism in general. The thing to avoid, I think, is "effectiveness is the means to achievement and achievement is the route to more effectiveness," which creates a recursive, spin-the-wheels effect that only appeals to a minority of people who might enjoy Gamism in role-playing. (I, for example, enjoy Gamist play when the stakes/achievement are rewarded by bloody-well-winning, not merely by being able to play again, only better.)

I'm not sure, but I think achievement might actually apply to the other forms as well.  I think Narrativism without achievement makes it hard to create statements of theme; I believe how achievement addresses the premise is what gives Narrativist play its 'kick.'

(Scattershot talks not only about the difference between player rewards [that tend to be outside of the game, like Experience Dice] and character rewards [that tend to be in-game] but the importance of making both relative to the game [as opposed to say giving a vampire character a missle as a reward].)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
ETHICAL/BEHAVIOR CRUNCH is the key to Narrativism in general. The thing to avoid here, I think, is de-protagonizing events and habits of play, as discussed in various places 'round the Forge.

I think we'll need another thread to bring up the potential pitfalls to be avoided and Scattershot's possible solutions.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I suggest that some "evolutionary context" for each of these might be made available for Scattershot, as a "as we go along" game-group-developing mechanic. In other words, as you continue to play, the rules change or focus as folks see fit, in a reasonably comfy, not patch-it way. So all the rules they've been using get honed or tweaked or shaped, in such a way that either ethical/behavior crunch or stakes & achievement are emphasized as the point of play.

This is exactly what I was getting at talking about in 'focusing play on the current Transition point' coherence issue.  I believe I will be including both something that gives perspective of where a group is and techniques for short shifts and how to use the mechanics to suit the new 'positions,' as well as things of value that may motivate these Transitions in a groups future.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
How to do that? Damn good question. Scattershot offers us an arena to address it.

I'm counting at least four questions.  Care to start a thread about today's favorite question?  (We'll deal with the others later, please.)  In the mean time I'll keep working on my 'just the mechanix' list.  Perhaps I'll start talking about the first few techniques that have emerged from playtest.

Fang Langford
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