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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Balancing Capes  (Read 7579 times)
Vaxalon
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« on: April 02, 2005, 04:24:25 PM »

Another thought just struck me.

Let's say that there's a player in the game group who really has it all together.  He rakes in the story tokens, and earns an inspiration on just about every conflict.  He plays those story tokens and inspirations shrewdly, and they usually result in MORE story tokens and inspirations.

"Great!" says Tony, "That's the way Capes is supposed to work.  Someone who plays the system with skill should reap the rewards."

(This happened at the DC Forge meetup, by the way... Tony raked it in, all five of the rest of us had to fight over the scraps...)

Now I know what my reaction to this would be.  Would I try to hone my Capes dice-shuffling skills?  Yes, well, some.  But I'll never be as good as Tony, or any other person with a real mind for that kind of thing... so what I'd do, is get together with the other bottom-feeders, and gang up on Tony.  If Tony's playing a villain, we'll all play heroes, and vice versa.  There'll be plenty of story tokens, since he's going to have lots of debt from lost conflicts.  Needless to say, it'll be easier to win inspirations against him, too.

Chances are, he'll be able to handle the attention.  Heck, knowing Tony... he'd probably figure out how to make a profit in story tokens on THAT situation, too... but that isn't the point...

What it DOES do is give Tony a lot of control over the story.  He decides who's going to lose, by playing that character.  He decides what plots will fail, who lives and who dies.

It makes Tony the gamemaster...
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
John Harper
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« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2005, 11:10:26 PM »

I need to see this actually happen before I believe it. And even then I doubt anyone involved would say it was a bad thing.

In order to play Capes at all, you have to be invested in telling stories about superheroes and their trials. Playing the game lets you tell those stories. If you play the system well, you get rewarded. If you play the system badly, you don't get rewarded as much. But all players, good and bad alike, get to tell stories about superheroes and their trials.

I don't see anything in the Capes system that allows for a dramatic shift of authority such that one player is authoring the game while the others watch. Your hypothetical situation seems all but impossible to achieve given the way Capes works at a mechanical level. The Veto power alone is enough to keep the GM-syndrome from happening.

I think this is a total non-issue.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2005, 04:22:55 AM »

Fred: I am not grasping the connection you see between "a player who contributes a lot to the creation of the game" and "GM-tasks."  From the glossary:
Quote from: Provisional Glossary
GM-Tasks:  A family of tasks which are necessary to establish the Components of Exploration as play proceeds. They all concern Credibility regarding Scene Framing, IIEE, and Resolution. Significantly, not all instances of role-playing include the same GMing tasks or organize them in the same way; using the term "GM" or "GMing" is often problematic as different people organize and negotiate GMing tasks differently. See Narrativism: Story Now for a list of GMing tasks.

... and then in Narrativism:  Story Now
Quote from: Narrativism: Story Now
Here are some of those GM behaviors, roles, and tasks: - rules-applier and interpreter, as in "referee" - in-game-world time manager - changer of scenes - color provider - ensurer of protagonist screen time - regulator of pacing (in real time) - authority over what information can be acted upon by which characters - authority over internal plausibility - "where the buck stops" in terms of establishing the Explorative content - social manager of who gets to speak when

So, are you actually talking about any of these tasks?  Or something else entirely?
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2005, 06:46:46 AM »

I'm not saying it's a problem, not at all.  In fact, I'd say it's a feature, in that the person in the group who's best able to handle the position moves towards the center.  It's a meritocracy.

There are gamemaster tasks that are not listed in the glossary.  One of them is, the gamemaster is responsible for creating antagonists and other challenges for the main characters to encounter and (usually) overcome.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2005, 06:12:57 PM »

We had a really cool discussion on very much this topic in GM-Task: Test to Extremity, actually.  The question of whether it is, in fact, a GM-task is still an open one I think.  For the moment, I'm going to suggest that we use the terms Coaching, Coach and Coaching-Task, just so that nobody feels any obligation to debate whether the "GM" terminology applies here.   Unless that particular issue is where somebody wants to go with this thread, of course.

I certainly agree that proper Coaching gains a player resources.  I'm interested in people's opinions on whether those resources are self-reinforcing.  Specifically:  Say it takes you X amount of effort to go from a 0 Story Token lead over your nearest competitor, to a 5 ST lead.  Is the amount of effort it takes to go from a 5 ST lead to a 10 ST lead:[list=a][*]Less than X[*]Exactly X[*]More than X.[/list:o]My experience has been that the answer to that is very heavily "(c)", but then my experience has also been formed by the people I'm playing with, and won't be universal.
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2005, 06:52:40 PM »

Well, I can't really say yet because I have been in precisely one game session where one player dominated the story tokens.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
TonyLB
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« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2005, 04:08:55 AM »

Okay, it's your thread.  What question would you like to address?
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2005, 04:21:07 AM »

I find it interesting that you mention a "lead" in story tokens.

Do you really think people would hoard them, keep them on the table and not use them?
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
TonyLB
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« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2005, 04:56:48 AM »

At our last wednesday session, our group of three players ran out of blue poker chips (of which I have 25) and had to start substituting other colors for a while until people spent them down.  Currently I think we stand at: Eric-10, Sydney-9, Tony-5.  So, yeah, I see build-up happening in games where people enjoy the process of earning the story tokens, and where spending them is secondary to that enjoyment.
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2005, 05:10:44 AM »

Hm.  Fascinating.

I would say, "Damn!  If I had that many story tokens at once, I'd hold a big ol' story token potlatch and spend 'em all in one scene."

On the other hand, looking at my character sheet for Mike Holmes' Heroquest game, I can see that my character there has over ten hero points accumulated... at one point I had more than twenty.  As far as story control is concerned, I'd put a hero point at about half a story token... so maybe 5-10 story tokens set aside isn't so farfetched for me, after all.

On the gripping hand, I recently spent more than fifteen hero points in two sessions, when my character had a major change of outlook.

Does this mean that, on some level, story tokens have come to have some other significance for you, beyond what it can buy in the game?  Is there an aspect of competition or rivalry to it?  Does having a fat stack of story tokens give you a certain amount of power over the game, in the sense that someone with fewer might say, "I can't do that... he'll just spend a few of that hoard of story tokens and squash this gambit flat... I gotta get some more of my own before I can do that..."?
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
TonyLB
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« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2005, 06:16:30 AM »

I don't think Eric or Sydney care about having Story Tokens at all any more.  They may chime in on this, but if I just said at the beginning of next session "Okay, we're all starting at zero Story Tokens again," I would be utterly shocked if they complained.  At most, I think they might ask "Hey, why do you get to make that decision unilaterally?" on principle.

They enjoy the process of earning the Story Tokens, the same way a really hot investment guru can enjoy the process of working the market, and not care a whit for the numbers in his bank account.  They care about the moment they are handed the Story Tokens... the moment that says "You did a good job of providing adversity, and here's the proof."

But there's a flip-side to Story Tokens, and I figured it out and sprung it on them last session.  "Okay guys," I said, "You've got a ton of Story Tokens.  That means it's time for you to decide something really important that you want to contribute to the evolving story."  Basically, they'd been being supportive of me (as I spent story tokens at a rapid rate) and I called them on it.  The game isn't supposed to be about everyone being supportive of me.  I want (demand, in fact) their contributions, firmly and unequivocally tossed into the pot.

How does that work out?  I'll be able to tell you after this upcoming wednesday session.
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2005, 06:25:00 AM »

So the kick of GETTING one is bigger than the kick of SPENDING one?
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
TonyLB
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« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2005, 06:27:54 AM »

For me?  Yeah.  For other people?  I can't speak to that.

EDIT:  I actually get most of my Story Tokens by accident.  I mean, yeah, I can often say to you in hindsight "Oh, playing that Conflict assured I would get Story Tokens," but in the actual moment I was just doing what I do, which is to stir up emotionally charged trouble.
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2005, 06:31:05 AM »

Whoa.  That wasn't the impression I got when you were playing at my house at all... not only from your play, but from the way the book was written, it seemed like you're playing with both things in mind.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
TonyLB
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« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2005, 06:33:32 AM »

Which both things?  Spending and earning Story Tokens?  Or the subjective "This is what I do" style and the objective "This is what gets Story Tokens" strategy?
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