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Author Topic: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line  (Read 8378 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« on: December 16, 2004, 07:54:44 AM »

Okay, so design post I had going has slipped off the front page, so, according to Forge etiquette, I'm creating a new thread.  The last thread was here:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13549

Thanks to Tobias, Sydney, Dan, Eero, Thomas, and Nate for help the last time around, and additional thanks to the IRC people who helped me sort out a few more things (Ben, Shreyas, etc. etc.).

Vesperteen is a game about teenagers, sin, and monsters.

I originally had characaters rated in stats called Sins, based on the Seven Deadlies (Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth, Wrath), but, in conversation with Thomas, I admitted that these aren't really Sins in the theological or even practical sense.  The Seven Deadlies aren't really Sins.  They're character traits or tendencies that lead one into Sin.  Being lustful isn't a Sin.  Sleeping with 12-year-old kids (when you're 16 or so) probably is.

So, thought: what were formerly called Sins are called, collectively, "Forbidden Knowledge" or something like that.  So you have Knowledge of Lust and Knowledge of Pride and what not.  These are like esoteric secrets, dark knowledge of the evil of the world, and knowing more of a particular type of Forbidden Knowledge makes you better in the associated character trait: Cool, Buff, Rich, Hot, Smart, Slick, Bold.  This lets you do stuff better.

So how do you gain more knowledge?  You gain knowledge by being taught.  See, that makes logical sense now.  There is a process wherein people with greater Forbidden Knowledge teach a Lesson to those with less knowledge.  This Lesson can be initiated by either side and involves some mechanics that I haven't quite nailed down yet.  More on that later.

So normally, you have standard task resolution, where you roll a dice pool based on one of your traits (Cool, Buff, etc.), plus the amount of a resource called Self that you want to spend, and compare it to another dice pool (GM or another player).  It's not a very progressive resolution system, but we can tie it into other stuff later and maybe tweak it more.

So, say you roll your dice and the result doesn't come out the way you want.  You don't impress the boy you like, the bully punches you in the face, whatever.  Or maybe you succeed, but lots of your Self dice come up really low, meaning you're going to lose confidence from the encounter.  Not good.  This is where Sin comes in.  If you are willing to up the ante in the situation, if you are willing to hurt other people to get what you want, you can call on the power of Sin and re-roll a certain number of dice, trying to get a better roll than you currently have.  Both players have this option, continuing to up the ante and re-roll to try to get a more perfect score. (Another possibility: you can re-roll Knowledge dice but not Self dice.  However, having higher Knowledge dice pushes your Self dice down the row and makes it less likely that you'll lose Self).

I'm trying to figure out just how this "upping the ante" is going to work, since I want to make it distinct from Vincent's work on Dogs in the Vineyard, seeing as how high school is different from the West.  First thought, the player decides on what they're going to do to make sure they succeed (depends on the situation, obviously) and then then the group throws out ideas about potentially bad consequences, with the GM picking an appropriate one.  Obviously, more re-rolls means the consequences get worse and worse (or more and more).

I feel an example coming on:

-----------

John  Pride/Smart 3, Gluttony/Buff 2, Self 8
Jill  Pride/Smart 2, Lust/Hot 4, Self 6

John is trying to convince Jill to go out with him, because she's really hot and he thinks she'll look good as arm candy (he's full of Pride, right?).  First off, he tries to impress her with feats of strength and his rippling musculature before asking her (Gluttony/Buff).  She tries to counter by turning up her nose at his crude, unintelligent antics (Pride/Smart).

John adds in 3 points of Self, rolling 2d6 + 3d6 (different color dice).
Jill adds in 4 points of Self, rolling 2d6 + 4d6.

Self Dice are in Black, and are always ranked before Sin dice of the same #.

43321 -- John
643221 -- Jill

So, comparing the above, Jill wins by 4 dice (6421), destroys 2 of Johns points of Self (John: 43), and loses no Self herself (32 are both ties).  Note that Jills 1 is not blocked by anything, so it counts as a winning die.

John's player is none too happy with this.  He wants to re-roll all of his Sin dice, since they're on the bottom.  Since he's using Buff, he needs to commit some act of Gluttony in order to re-roll.  He decides that John will outdrink everyone in the party with his incredible alcohol consumption powers and then victoriously ask Jill again, "Come on, really.  Will you go to the movies with me?"

The players next suggest bad things that could happen to John: he could puke on his best friend's girlfriend, he could pass out on Jill's lap after she answers him, his parents could show up at the party looking for him (and find him drunk out of his mind).  The GM nods at all of these and might even suggest some ideas.

Finally, before John re-rolls, the GM decides that John's younger sister should show up at the party, coming to take him home.

John re-rolls his Sin dice: 461.  The comparison now looks like:

64431 -- John
643221 -- Jill

Now the result is tied with John at 2 dice (43) and Jill also at 2 dice (21), and Jill loses two points of Self (32) while John loses none.  But, since it's a draw, neither side gets what they want.  Jill doesn't agree to go out with John, but she hasn't completely rejected him either.

Next, John's sister shows up at the party, complicating matters.

And it's Jill's turn to decide whether she wants to re-roll or not...

-----------

Okay, there you go.  You wouldn't necessarily choose to roll all your dice, it just happened to work that way in this example, given the dice I rolled.  You'd just pick the lower ones that you weren't satisfied with.

Problems:

1. There doesn't seem to be a high enough cost for re-rolls, just looking at it right now.  I mean, maybe that's good.  Maybe the players should be lulled into thinking, "Aw, they won't come up with something THAT bad will they."  And then the other players totally destroy them.  I like that the re-roll involves input from all the other players.  That's good and will lead to vengeance, where people suggest horrible things to do to each other's characters out of revenge for the bad things suggested by others.  Shades of Polaris here, I suppose, but Polaris rocks, so that's cool.

2. I want players to be able to switch the conflict from one Trait to another, at some sort of cost.  So maybe Jill could switch from being too Smart for John to being too Hot for John.  Pulling in extra dice or starting a whole new conflict or something.  Suggestions on how this might work?  Also what should the cost be for such a maneuver?

3. You should probably be able to spend more Self if you want at various points, becoming more invested in the conflict.  Maybe you can't re-roll spent Self, but you can always roll more Self and try to push the lower dice out of danger?  Would that work?  The problem would be that you could spend more and more Self to ensure a win on the lower side of things, if you could get more dice than your opponent (since lower, unblocked dice count as wins).  Help!

Maybe once you help me get that sorted out, we can find a decent mechanic for Lessons.  First, though, let's see if we can get a conflict-resolution mechanic that makes sense.

Almost there!
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2004, 08:45:46 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
...say you roll your dice and the result doesn't come out the way you want..... If you are willing to up the ante in the situation, if you are willing to hurt other people to get what you want, you can call on the power of Sin and re-roll....I like that the re-roll involves input from all the other players.  That's good and will lead to vengeance, where people suggest horrible things to do to each other's characters out of revenge for the bad things suggested by others.


Not a hugely substantive comment, but I'll make it anyway:

What reall appeals to me about the system you've outlined is that it uses the real dynamics among the real people playing the game to drive the fictional dynamics among the imaginary characters in the game. The character's in-game temptation to do evil is mirrored by the player's temptation to use a nasty and dangerous game mechanic {EDIT: interesting discussion of using temptation this way in this old thread; the uncontrollable consequences of doing evil in-game are created in reality by the unpredictable inventiveness of the other players.

Although I think "revenge" as an inter-player dynamic is probably less healthy -- and less likely -- than one-upmanship: "Oh yeah, you thought that last thing was so horrible? Well how about this?" And everybody laughs or gasps or whatever. I'm told Kill Puppies for Satan produces a lot of this, where the distance between player and character allows people to screw their own and each other's PCs over in brutally inventive ways. This distance may be harder to achieve in Vesperteen, especially if people are playing transparent versions either of themselves or of the people they hated in high school and want to get back at now, but then again it could be pretty frickin' cathartic.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2004, 09:00:20 AM »

Just a word-smithing thing:  I'd recommend "Forbidden Teachings" rather than "Forbidden Knowledge."  It seems more in keeping with your idea that the information is neither independent nor passive... it was taught to you, in a way that altered you, and now it forces others to teach it in turn.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2004, 09:12:05 AM »

Quote
I'm trying to figure out just how this "upping the ante" is going to work, since I want to make it distinct from Vincent's work on Dogs in the Vineyard, seeing as how high school is different from the West. First thought, the player decides on what they're going to do to make sure they succeed (depends on the situation, obviously) and then then the group throws out ideas about potentially bad consequences, with the GM picking an appropriate one. Obviously, more re-rolls means the consequences get worse and worse (or more and more).

Sounds pretty distinct to me. Since you're asking people to dive into forbidden knowledge to get the re-rolls, it's more like puppies or bti than dogs in that respect.  And since it's the group/GM picking the consequences, not the player herself, it's really different.  

I love the idea of the group one-upping eachother to come up with bad juju to pay back players who push the edge.   In the best possible of ways.

best,
Em
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2004, 10:11:03 AM »

Good to see Vespertine progressing! Always when you start these threads I get a sinful lust to grab the game and run, and make my own version that'd have everything exactly like I want. Painful.

As a general note, I advice: don't fear the medieval! A part of the charm in the concept is exactly that these teens are buffeted by a world that's fundamentally wrong to modern sensibilities. Don't bother hiding the mortal sins or making them somehow optional or anything like that. Revel in the incongruency and conflict between modern ideals and the medieval. Sure, hiding your head in the sand and waiting for sin to go away is a winning strategy in the great game, but will the modern world give you that option? Not likely!

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

So, thought: what were formerly called Sins are called, collectively, "Forbidden Knowledge" or something like that.  So you have Knowledge of Lust and Knowledge of Pride and what not.  These are like esoteric secrets, dark knowledge of the evil of the world, and knowing more of a particular type of Forbidden Knowledge makes you better in the associated character trait: Cool, Buff, Rich, Hot, Smart, Slick, Bold.  This lets you do stuff better.


We have different design minds, because to me this is just semantics. I simply don't worry about the exact terminology before getting the stuff done.

Anyways, this is one way to do it. Separating the quality of sin from the attributes brings in a new theme, though, and it's one I don't personally care for: if the attributes are not about sin, then they are unilaterally a good thing, and in that case a significant part of character worth will come from how much abilities they have. Compare with a system where the attributes are the sins, and they are themselves the thing that lets you do things: in that case you can have low skills or high, and what really matters is your sense of self, and that only in the context of your own value system (a good christian position is that self is not important, because you're not sinning anyway, so don't need it to control the sin).

So, I like it better if the prideful geek character has an inbuilt theme about the pride/smarts thing: can he make the distinction and separate his gifts from the pride that unavoidably attachs to it? Your separate attributes lose this thing which is very near to the heart of Vespertine IMO.

Quote

So how do you gain more knowledge?  You gain knowledge by being taught.  See, that makes logical sense now.  There is a process wherein people with greater Forbidden Knowledge teach a Lesson to those with less knowledge.  This Lesson can be initiated by either side and involves some mechanics that I haven't quite nailed down yet.  More on that later.


About this, read carefully what I wrote in the last thread. Handling this with cooperative color mechanics (the yang of roleplaying) is the way to go. And let it be a powerful mechanic, to rival the conflict system in play control.

Quote

So normally, you have standard task resolution, where you roll a dice pool based on one of your traits (Cool, Buff, etc.), plus the amount of a resource called Self that you want to spend, and compare it to another dice pool (GM or another player).  It's not a very progressive resolution system, but we can tie it into other stuff later and maybe tweak it more.


I personally don't get excited about this particular resolution, mainly because it feels a little too abstract. No better ideas this moment, though, until you count the notion that die mechanic should only be chosen after you've absolutely decided all the inbuilt themes you're gonna have. While those are still up in the air, it's hard to say what will be important and what not, and thus whether the dice mechanic will be good.

Quote

So, say you roll your dice and the result doesn't come out the way you want.  You don't impress the boy you like, the bully punches you in the face, whatever.  Or maybe you succeed, but lots of your Self dice come up really low, meaning you're going to lose confidence from the encounter.


See, this doesn't even make sense anymore with the attributes separated. How is my self-confidence going to erode if my skills are so high? I'm hot, buff and smart, and I win the conflict, and I'm still losing self-confidence? Whatever for?

Quote

Not good.  This is where Sin comes in.  If you are willing to up the ante in the situation, if you are willing to hurt other people to get what you want, you can call on the power of Sin and re-roll a certain number of dice, trying to get a better roll than you currently have.  Both players have this option, continuing to up the ante and re-roll to try to get a more perfect score. (Another possibility: you can re-roll Knowledge dice but not Self dice.  However, having higher Knowledge dice pushes your Self dice down the row and makes it less likely that you'll lose Self).


Individual, fixed rituals are the way to go here. Every sin has defined stake progressions with stuff like "blame another" or "hit somebody" in them, getting worse the higher the stages get. Perhaps three stages, if the conflict always starts at the bottom, or perhaps more if the starting stage is defined otherwise.

Now, that means that you cannot use the reroll in all situations, which is a good thing. Actually, make the progressions really archaic and stuffily christian, so that there's plenty of situations where you don't dare or cannot raise. Then, bring in spells: these are what higher adepts of sin and especially monsters can teach you. What is the Enochian mark you learned from the aliens? Why, it's just an alternative Pride reroll of level three! Make the mark of Enoch, and you don't have to lie (the normal raise of that level in that sin)...

Quote

I'm trying to figure out just how this "upping the ante" is going to work, since I want to make it distinct from Vincent's work on Dogs in the Vineyard, seeing as how high school is different from the West.  First thought, the player decides on what they're going to do to make sure they succeed (depends on the situation, obviously) and then then the group throws out ideas about potentially bad consequences, with the GM picking an appropriate one.  Obviously, more re-rolls means the consequences get worse and worse (or more and more).


As for the concequences, these could be fixed too, at least if you want reflexive puzzling in the manner of Humble Mythologies ;)

Group creation of consequences is fine, but it's not particularly systemic in itself. That's what should be happening anyway, the players suggesting cool stuff and the GM choosing. That's freeform in practice.

Quote

1. There doesn't seem to be a high enough cost for re-rolls, just looking at it right now.  I mean, maybe that's good.  Maybe the players should be lulled into thinking, "Aw, they won't come up with something THAT bad will they."  And then the other players totally destroy them.  I like that the re-roll involves input from all the other players.  That's good and will lead to vengeance, where people suggest horrible things to do to each other's characters out of revenge for the bad things suggested by others.  Shades of Polaris here, I suppose, but Polaris rocks, so that's cool.


Increase the cost of rerolls by including defined hazards:
- If you roll one six with a sin-rerolled die, somebody is repulsed by your sinning. Might be later, when they hear about it. But somebody knows, somebody maybe sorta important to you.
- If you roll two sixes, there's lasting consequences, just exactly the things that are why you shouldn't sin in the first place: You get STD (lust), get injured (wrath), that kind of thing. Even if you used the sin for something completely different, it still happens. Don't have to get in bed to get STD, Jesus knows what's in your mind.
- If you roll three sixes, you monsterize as per the sin in question. Temporarily.

How's that for consequences?

Quote

2. I want players to be able to switch the conflict from one Trait to another, at some sort of cost.  So maybe Jill could switch from being too Smart for John to being too Hot for John.  Pulling in extra dice or starting a whole new conflict or something.  Suggestions on how this might work?  Also what should the cost be for such a maneuver?


No need for a cost if the consequences are potentially severe enough. Just count all sin-dice together when determining the above consequences. Activate two sins and it's even more likely that you monsterize, this time for both sins (becoming Abomination, as I explained long ago ;) Activate three, roll the sixes, and POOF... So just let the player roll more sin dice if he wants to.

In any case it's enough to demand narration of action that activates the sin in question. Like in DiV: change action type, roll more dice.

Quote

3. You should probably be able to spend more Self if you want at various points, becoming more invested in the conflict.  Maybe you can't re-roll spent Self, but you can always roll more Self and try to push the lower dice out of danger?  Would that work?  The problem would be that you could spend more and more Self to ensure a win on the lower side of things, if you could get more dice than your opponent (since lower, unblocked dice count as wins).  Help!


The relationship of sin to self is doubtful in this model to begin with. I however don't see any problem in allowing adding one self die more instead of a sin reroll or adding another sin. Make those three equal opportunities. Remember, the conflict ends if you don't pick one, and the other player gets a change to pick one, too, so picking self is safe, but it might be that it won't get you the win, in which case the other can just opt to end the conflict in his turn.

Quote

Maybe once you help me get that sorted out, we can find a decent mechanic for Lessons.  First, though, let's see if we can get a conflict-resolution mechanic that makes sense.


Lessons will be interesting. Just think out of the box, you can do it (remember the penguin pirates!). I've been seeing a kind of a dogmatism in your Vespertine work lately, you should really play it some to get it out of your system.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2004, 10:21:18 PM »

Thanks for the comments, folks.  I seem to nail down at least one critical mechanic per design thread here.  Last thread it was the relationship mechanics and so far I'm really digging the group-brainstormed consequences for re-rolls.

Quote
I've been seeing a kind of a dogmatism in your Vespertine work lately, you should really play it some to get it out of your system.


See, this really got me thinking.  What is it about this game that's making it so hard for me to get a handle on?  What's making me come up with such uninteresting resolution mechanics?  Is it that I'm trying too much to make the system sort of resemble Little Fears, which is where the whole idea came from in the first place?  Honesly, I'm beginning to think the box that I've put myself into is really the dice.  I don't really dig dice mechanics. I never have.  And unlike Vincent and Shreyas and a bunch of other people, I find it really hard to write dice mechanics that I can get excited about.  So what if I throw them out the window right now, focus on just the abstract concepts, and then reinsert a dice mechanic later, if I even decide I need it.

So let's say that instead of dice pools we just have stats that get compared, like in Amber.  John has Gluttony 2, Jill has Pride 3.  If John bids Gluttony, he's not going to win.  But what if, unlike Amber, there were systematic ways for you to raise your standing, but the question would be "at what cost?"  Throw in points of Self, but, if you lose, you lose some self-esteem.  Throw in other types of Sin, but then you have to narrate their way into play in a damaging fashion (or maybe the group can come up with a consequence).  Or, in a fashion similar to what Eero was getting at, I think, you can committ Sins in order to temporarily raise your stat.

Here's an out-of-the-box thought:

So you can raise your stat 1 for every point of Self you invest or every consequence that you accept from another player.  The consequences are written on index cards and passed to you blind; you don't know what they are before you accept them.  Then, after you accept the help of the dark forces of Sin, you look at your cards and have to accomplish those consequences in either this scene (or maybe the next one?), otherwise, you turn into a monster temporarily, wrecking havoc until your friends (assuming you have some) can bring you under control.  The game, then would provide guidelines for writing consequences.  If you're trying to raise from Guttony 4 your consequences should be worse than some guy who's got Gluttony 1 and is trying to get more attention.  Consequences that you can't accomplish yourself (like your parents or sister showing up), would be passed to the GM and s/he would bring them into play.

(Credit to Shreyas for helping me stumble on this idea).

This makes the game a mixture of "Truth or Dare" and a pact with the devil.  There's an agreement you have made to do bad things or have bad things happen to you, and if you end the scene with cards in your hand, all hell breaks loose.  This might require specific rules for scene framing, if having the scene end becomes such a critical part of play, but we might be able to make that work.  Another option might be that if you accept all possible consequences and still lose, you become a monster.

In this model, there could only be as many consequences as there are other players, and you've only got a limited pool of Self to spend, so bidding wouldn't keep going on forever, though each raise would be another part of the extended conflict.

There's got to be an easy Lesson mechanic that comes out of this model too.  Maybe you could collect cards (consequences) of a particular Sin and have to have a certain number before you could raise to the next level.  Then, once you had the right number, you'd find yourself a Teacher, who would instruct you in the ways of such a Sin (and maybe they would gain Self from the Lesson equal to the number of cards that you gave them).  Still unsure about the Lesson process, but at least I don't feel trapped in traditional mechanics anymore.

Thoughts?
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2004, 11:09:01 PM »

More stuff, after chatting with Shreyas and Josh over IRC:

So, all of this ties very well into the relationship mechanics from last time.  Remember that you can invest Self in people in order to create relationships with them.  You lose the Self you invest in others if you don't come to their aid when they are threatened (or otherwise let them down badly).  However, by investing in them you hope that they invest in you and likewise come to your aid when you need it.  Clique relationships are based on your Sin stats, not on Self.  So Gluttony 3 would give you the equivilent of a Self 3 relationship with all Jocks, but it's totally superficial, not a real relationship.  There will probably be a systematic difference between these.

Now, as far as consequences go, "kick a dog" is not nearly as interesting as "kicking the principle's dog in front of the whole school," and the relationship mechanic gives us a way to ensure that this kind of thing happens.  Just some examples (not a real system yet):

1 - Do something bad.
2 - Do something bad to someone else's friends.
3 - Do something bad to your best friend's friends.
4 - Do something bad to your own friends.
5 - Do something unforgivable to your own friends.
6 - Do something beyond the pale to the person you have the most Self invested in.

In this way, friends are additionally valuable because you might have to burn them for extra social power.  In fact, some of the higher levels of evilness might only be possible if you have friends, so you have people that you can destroy on your way to the top.  However, burning your friends definitely means that you lose all the Self you invested in them, so we needed a way for you to gain Self that was equally interesting and unpleasant.

So I thought of the Final Fantasy method of gaining experience, where you wonder around beating up minor, defenseless monsters for the little bit of experience that they give you.  Similarly, you could pick fights with defenseless underclassmen, invest some Self in the outcome, and then gain Self if you win (since I think you should gain Self equal to the Self you invested in a victorious conflict).  Of course, it's always possible that the underclassman has a powerful senior brother, or is well connected, or has higher stats than you would suspect, or is willing to accept whatever consequences he needs to in order to show you up.

How do ya like them apples?
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inky
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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2004, 11:55:21 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
However, burning your friends definitely means that you lose all the Self you invested in them, so we needed a way for you to gain Self that was equally interesting and unpleasant.

So I thought of the Final Fantasy method of gaining experience, where you wonder around beating up minor, defenseless monsters for the little bit of experience that they give you.  Similarly, you could pick fights with defenseless underclassmen, invest some Self in the outcome, and then gain Self if you win (since I think you should gain Self equal to the Self you invested in a victorious conflict).  Of course, it's always possible that


I don't understand what Self means in this case -- is it self-confidence? Or self-awareness? Or maturity? I'm having trouble thinking of a definition that applies for both winning at fights and having a meaningful relationship with people.

I think you're making a mistaken deduction about the design here. Yes, people need to have a way to raise their Sin level that requires sacrificing something and doing something unpleasant, but I don't think it necessarily follows from that they should have a way to get Self so they can make friendships so they can burn the friendships. It would work just as well for them to have some other ways to raise Sins that don't require burning friendships. Like luring somebody else into Sin ought to be worth something towards increasing your own Sin level, and defeating somebody better at you in a Sin ought to work too (how do you do that if you're not as good as they are? Find a way to cheat.)

The switch to diceless seems like a good move for you, but it's too bad you lose out on the gambling effect of "ok, I'll spend a point to make this roll -- nuts, I failed -- ok, I don't want to waste the point I spent, so I'll spend another one ..." One way to keep this would be to shuffle in a couple blank cards, but maybe that ruins the whole mechanic.
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Dan Shiovitz
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« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2004, 09:51:37 AM »

Jonathan,

I just finished reviewing the logs from the IRC discussion last night...  Here's my contribution: Burning friends (preemtively) means that you don't suffer the consequences of having them burned for you.  Just like in real high school life!

If you ditch your friends before they become a liability then you lose nothing (or at least less).  So perhaps you can burn a friend defensively to gain part of your Self back...?

Even if not, the simultaneous increas in Forbidden Teachings will raise your apperent Self rating with all the other members of that clique...  Which may balance everything out in the end.

Thomas
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2004, 07:20:50 AM »

Dan, it looks like the Self mechanics are the next thing that's going to get a major overhaul, because (as you and Eero both pointed out) right now they don't make that much sense as a unified mechanic.  It struck me yesterday that what are is, more or less, a version of Nobilis' Bonds mechanic given increased narrative potency.  You invest Self in things that you care about and then, when they are threatened, you have to defend them or risk losing Self.  So what does investing Self do for you?

Here's an odd idea that struck me recently: what if Self only aids you when things you've invested Self in come to your aid?  For example, if you invest Self in your Dad and he comes to help you against the bullies, you get your invested Self in a bonus when confronting the bullies with your Dad.  In Vesperteen, bringing along a baseball bat isn't going to help you in a fight, since all fights are based on force of personality and not what kind of weapons you have.  However, if it's your mother's baseball bat from when she played shortstop on the Parson County High Varsity team (defying those who said that girls weren't good enough to do that), you get all the Self you have invested in it when you ram it through the vampire's heart.  However, if someone steals your mom's bat, you have to try to get it back or lose that Self.

Characters in Vesperteen, then, would become much more than a collection of Sins.  They're also a collection of relationships that describe the things they care about.  Things that they have to protect or lose little bits of themself, but things that also strengthen them and give them courage.  Wow, this is sounding like high school wuxia now.  Everything I write ends up being wuxia! :)

Smerf, I'm not quite sure I agree with your reasoning.  If Self is just your investment in other people and things, I don't see how burning you friends (or burning your mom's prize bat) would allow you to keep that Self.  I think you just have to write it off as the price paid for power.

Losing Self?  That's when you are unable to protect the things you care about.  Your enemies go after you by destroying the things you've invested Self in.  All Self has to be invested in something, it doesn't just sit around.  Your sense of Self is based on your ability to stand up for what you believe in against the evils of the world.  If someone manages to kick you ass and break mom's bat in two, you lose Self.  If you have Self invested in your appearance or abilities, and someone shows you up or makes you fail, you lose the invested Self.  People with low Self, with few attachments, few things to be passionate about, are like shells.  Like someone (Ben? Tony?) said, they work at your local indie video store and rent movies to people sexier and more successful than they are.  Or, if you break someone, if you destroy their last point of Self, they might just give into Sin and become a monster forever.

Gaining Self?  You gain Self when you triumph in a conflict due to the things you care about.  If your dad helps you beat up the bullies, if your drive mom's bat through the vampire's undead heart and it turns to ash, you gain a point of Self, which you must immediately invest in something else (preferrably something related to the conflict that just took place).

How that?
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2004, 07:53:22 AM »

Note to self: don't ever try to get help on a design project during the holiday season.  Well, in the absence of comments (which I hope it due to Christmas and such, and not because I've headed off in an uninteresting direction), I'm just going to keep throwing my ideas down and trying to address some of the concerns brought up above.

So, Self is starting to look more like Sin: every point of Sin is something bad you did, some rule or social norm that you broke during a Lesson, and every point of Self is something or someone that you care about, something that supports you, but also a potential weakness to be exploited.

But Sin was originally supposed to act like Self in situations where cliques are involved.  You can always count on your fellow Goths or fellow Jocks or whatever to get your back.  In fact, that's part of the reason cliques exist at all, for mutual defense.  The question, then, is WHY cliques defend each other?  If something bad happens to an individual, does it affect the entire clique in some way, the way Self investments involve your friends in your problems?  How do we make Sin connect you to people in unhealthy-but-mutually-dependant ways?  And when does the cloque decide (like it will inevitably do sometimes) that your problems aren't their problems, leaving you all on your own?  Can people work to destroy your ties to your clique, isolating you the way they can by going after your friends?

Well, since cliques don't really care about you (except for a few members of the group who might actually share Self investments), I think they shoudl help you as long as they still want something from you.  As long as you're useful to the clique, you're protected.  How are you useful?  Well, they might want you for your connections with other people or cliques.  They might want you as their agent to be used in one of the ongoing struggles.  They might want you so you can teach them Lessons in Sins that they are ignorant in.

Are these just Self investments?  Would members of the clique invest Self in, say, a particular plot that they needed your help to complete, and then be forced to come to your aid or give up on the plot?  Maybe someone has Self invested in Get Revenge on Jimmy Jenkins and you're their current MO or something.  But Sin should also tie a group together, right?  I mean, you keep pushing each other to higher and higher levels of Sin, working up the clique hierarchy until you command the roost.  In this way, you Sin level is also a rank in the clique.  Those with 6's in a particular Sin rule their factions like Kings and Queens, just one step removed from the monsters themselves.  So maybe, while Self investments are egalitarian and mutual, the ties of Sin are necessarily hierarchical.

Here's a thought: what if joining a clique means investing Self in the clique itself, its ideals and what it represents.  Then, once you join a clique, you're a member of the Sin-based hierarchy.  And then, if you try to defy the hierarchy and take out members of the clique who rank above you, they can draw on their clique-based Self investment to use against you, since the hierarchy of the clique backs their side.  So the investment in the hierarchy is then the only thing that really makes sure the hierarchy works.  And only truly worthy up-and-comers are able to take out/replace those above them, since those in power have an advantage.  Also, with the required Self investment, all members of a clique are thereby required to support everything that the clique stands for.

This also opens the door for group-creation that might challange established cliques, just by drawing people together and getting them to invest in a particular ideal or course of action.  There would be the big cliques centered around specific Sins, or possibly hybrid groups based on multiple Sins, depending on their nature of your high school.  Maybe you want to distingish the hardcore rap boyz from the metalheads, making the boyz Greed/Wrath nuts while the metalheads are more Sloth/Wrath.  

This would let you customize things a bit, and also allow for cliques to rise and fall as people began taking out their members or assaulting people's investment in the hierarchy.  You kidnap a bunch of one clique's members, drag them into the woods under the protection of your monsters, and dare their fellows to do anything about it.  You make people feel like the clique isn't able to protect them, and they'll leave to look for people who do have the power to look after them.

Wow.  I'm really liking that.  Self investment is everything, even forming the foundation of the twisted clique relationships.  Now we just have to make sure that this doesn't overshadow Sin as the major player in the field.  Maybe the bonuses from Self investments should be capped at 3, so you can only ever get a +3 in a conflict, meaning that getting higher levels of Sin will still let you win out, assuming you have some friends on your side.

Well, that's a fair bit for now.  Maybe tomorrow I'll try tackling Lessons or the rules for constructing consequences.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2004, 08:09:28 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
If something bad happens to an individual, does it affect the entire clique in some way, the way Self investments involve your friends in your problems?  How do we make Sin connect you to people in unhealthy-but-mutually-dependant ways?

Perhaps a person higher in the Sin-hierarchy can foist off the unpleasant rules-effects of their actions on another person.  So that, instead of Heather (just to pick a name, completely at random) losing some of her Self when she is at risk of being humiliated in public, she humiliates someone in her clique instead, preserving her own skin.

Quite possibly, the amount of damage that a person can do is equal to the Sin of the target.  So high-sin people have an incentive to draw other players more fully into the clique, giving them the high level of Sin required to sustain massive abuse... but they don't want them to rise too far, because then they would become a threat.
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2004, 10:16:57 AM »

First off, I don't like the idea of capping Self bonuses.  I really, really like the idea that you can have a massively powerful tool that is also a huge liability.  Sure you can invest 9 or 10 Self in your Girlfriend, but if someone manages to break you up it's going to hurt.

With that in mind you probable need to codify rules that govern increase and decrease in Self investments.  You probably don't want let people just raise Self investments however they want, but you do want them to be able to raise them.  As to decreasing Self investments, it does happen in real life, but it may not be necessary to have a set of rules governing that.  Perhaps you can reduce Self investment by any amount at any time, but it's just as if you lost a tie of that size.  So if you wanted to go from 9 Self in your girlfriend to 5 Self, you would lose 4 Self, just as if you had lost a 4 Self investment.

I really like Tony's idea that Sin can be used to mitigate Self loss in some way.  I'm not sure exactly what that should look like, but the ability to deflect attacks onto other people is really cool.

I also think that the Sins should be very broadly applicable.  That is, you should be able to use that 3 in Lust as a bonus even if you don't have an appropriate Self relationship for a given situation.  Sin should almost always be useful.

One other interesting idea: You can not have Self invested greater than your current store of Self.  So if you lose a big relationship and your Self crashes, you should also have to lower all other Self investments so that none are higher than your new current Self.  Therefore a person with only 1 Self left can not have any Self investments greater than 1.

Further thoughts: Vesperteen may be a good candidate for a "win condition".  My guess is that at some level of Self you are essentially unassailable, a mature adult in high school so to speak.  it may be a ridiculous number like 100, or it may be something like 15, we probably won't know until we get more stuff down in terms of mechanics.  Anyway, that's something to consider.

Thomas
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inky
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Posts: 51


« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2004, 11:38:58 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

Here's a thought: what if joining a clique means investing Self in the clique itself, its ideals and what it represents.  Then, once you join a clique, you're a member of the Sin-based hierarchy.  And then, if you try to defy the hierarchy and take out members of the clique who rank above you, they can draw on their clique-based Self investment to use against you, since the hierarchy of the clique backs their side.  So the investment in the hierarchy is then the only thing that really makes sure the hierarchy works.


Yeah, I agree this pretty much makes the game right here. You don't say this explicitly, but it seems to me that the leader of the clique (and there's only one) should be able to use the invested Self however they want at any time. So usually what they do is keep some for themselves and hand out some to other people in the clique to keep them in line (which, right, is the reason to be in a clique, besides wanting lessons). I would guess that cliques have some way to increase their Self pool by exemplifying their sin somehow as a group (I dunno, science fair, or cheerleading practice, or whatever) but presumably this has to involve being nasty to someone too.

Then, right, clique warfare consists of trying to get people to leave a particular clique, which makes them burn their connection to the clique, which (I guess) removes the original point of Self they had to invest to join the clique in the first place. You can do that either by sabotaging the clique's operations or otherwise making the leader look ineffective, so the people figure they can get a better deal elsewhere, or you can harass the people individually, either by attacking them directly or by attacking the things they've made Self-connections to.

(Incidentally, your mention of Nobilis bonds earlier reminds me that you might want to look at the Nettle Rite stuff wrt attacking people's Self-connections.)
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Dan Shiovitz
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2004, 07:15:02 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Note to self: don't ever try to get help on a design project during the holiday season.  Well, in the absence of comments (which I hope it due to Christmas and such, and not because I've headed off in an uninteresting direction), I'm just going to keep throwing my ideas down and trying to address some of the concerns brought up above.


Well, actually, it's a combination of "I'm not really interested in that direction" and "Jonathan seems to be doing well on his own".

The whole idea of investing self and the explicit social web involved changes the precepts of the design in even more fundamental ways, and I kinda liked the simplicity of what you had, say, two threads back. This direction draws the game much more into the realm of relationship maps and the resulting bang-driven blood opera, a schtick pretty well covered by games from Sorcerer to Fastlane. That drives over the subtle protagonist-centered color I like the most in the game: not only the dynamic idea of changing allegiances, but the idea that sin and clique allegiances are what defines the identity of the teenager. In my experience a bang-driven game will be more about succeeding or failing in a set plot goal, and any possible psychological points are there mainly to control this plot. I was looking forward to a game more about the exploration of color instead of situation, to tell the truth. Ethics and social structures more as medieval set-pieces to consider than tools to use to get the girl.

But anyway, that's just one viewpoint. I've pretty much covered my opinions in my posts in the last two threads, so read those with care to see where I'd be going with this.

On the positive side, what you currently have seems to support an emergent system of vicious backstabbing/powerplay, and works pretty well to generally model a kind of social environment. Should serve well in quantifying specific social scenarios.

Also, take a look at Fastlane for an example of very simple clique rules. A clique in that game is simply a pool of favours-on credit: a member of a clique owes it to other members to do favors when needed, but also has to do favors back when needed. The degree of participation in the clique controls the size of the favors moved. Thus a clique in that game is just a generalization of the usual one-on-one economy of favors.
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