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Author Topic: I want to roll more dice!  (Read 8864 times)
TonyLB
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« on: June 13, 2005, 06:09:30 AM »

You know what I've heard an awful lot?  "Why would you roll dice to argue / manipulate / race / whatever if it's possible to resolve the same conflict between the players through negotiation?"  And I've given (and heard) the response a lot too:  "Because system can contribute to the process, pointing out possibilities and creating structure that people wouldn't easily come to on their own."

So I'm trying to write up some draft rules, and my mind keeps providing the same basic assumption:  "If (and only if) the players are in conflict, you use dice."

So here's my question:  "Why would you roll dice to brood / chat / get drunk together / whatever if it's possible to just play the scene without any conflict whatsoever?"  I think that the response should be: "Because system can contribute to the process, pointing out possibility and creating structure that people wouldn't easily come to on their own."

But I am ludicrously blocked on what those things would be.  Surely system can help people to choose between alternatives in the absence of conflict?  But how and why?
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2005, 06:27:38 AM »

Well, I don't know that this is exactly what you are talking about but in my first playtest of my game one of my players was trying to decide which side, Inquisition or Wizard Cabals, he was going to be aligned with initially.  Instead of spending a huge amount of time considering his character's motivations or discussing it for time immemorial, he just said, "Odd... Inquisition.  Even... Cabals." and then rolled a d6.

I could see something like that happening in actual play also (not just confined to character creation).  In fact, I have seen it a couple of time even though the players did it sheepishly, like they were cheating or something.  There's a choice of activities or something that isn't a Conflict or a Task and the player didn't want to choose... so he rolls and lets the dice choose.

I certainly think you could design stuff like this into a game.  I would say you'd need to be careful about taking all the decision making away from the player and putting it on the dice though.  While I love dice and rolling them, taking away all my decision making power would be very not fun.
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Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2005, 06:36:10 AM »

So what's the purpose of the scene if there's no conflict?

Probably one answer is 'to explore the characters.' But in exploring them you learn about what they're in conflict with, or what they care about, what they're fighting for, etc., and that's what I personally would want the purpose to be. No big surprise there.

So say, um, it's the dice system from Sorcerer. In a scene with two chums hanging out, I might want to roll to establish that my guy's kids mean more to him than anything, because a) cool, we learn about my guy, and b) it sets up the story for later on. I roll and get three victories. Now when my guy's in conflict and his kids have to do with the stakes, I get those victories as bonus dice.

What if I fail? Just as cool. My guy's in doubt about being a good father, maybe I take that as a cue to be self destructive or something. A smart GM wouldn't use the victories to hurt the kids via a villain. He or she would use them to have my guy fail to express love or care, or maybe to add to the difficulty the next time I try something like this.

That's just one way of looking at it, but there ought to be something going on like that for me to be interested.
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Warren
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2005, 07:41:34 AM »

I've just thrown together a quick game design that came, unbidden, into my head after reading this thread. It's here if anybody wishes to comment.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2005, 08:25:42 AM »

Matt:  Okay, but... the first one isn't a conflict, is it?  Who is opposing your player attempt to "establish"?  How, specifically, could you actually fail?

I think, in fact, that the "succeed/fail" dichotomy is part and parcel of conflict.  What can dice do other than tell us whether we succeed or fail?  Andrew's example is clearly one possibility, a choice between two options, neither preferred.  Are there others?
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C. Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2005, 12:05:47 PM »

(Should we be making a distinction between character conflict and player conflict?)

In Cradlethorn the resolution system is used to determine the general tension level of a scene, which player sets the scene, the number of conflict rolls allowed in a scene, and which player narrates the results of a conflict roll. It's a little more involved than that, but kind of difficult to explain.

In 3 Line Samurai resolution determines which player narrates the results of a roll (not necessarily a conflict) and what sort of skill or effect must be used in the narration.

There is a lot of unexplored potential for ways to use a resolution system to do more than just resolve conflicts.

-Chris
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TonyLB
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« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2005, 12:17:32 PM »

Chris... yeah.  Lots of unexplored territory.  I'm sort of talking about both the idea of character non-conflict and player non-conflict.  The two you're listing seem (to my loose understanding) to be talking about player-conflict, character non-conflict.  And that's one that's easier for me to get my brain around.

You could have a roll determine which player chooses what the success or failure of an action means, for instance.  So that killing the orc could (in the hands of the player whose character does the whacking) demoralize the rest of the horde, or honorably failing to kill the orc could impress them so much that they adopt the character into their clan.  Or it could (in the hands of someone else) enrage them so that they fight twice as hard as before, and failing to kill it could demoralize the hero's own compatriots.  Which would result in player conflicts (I expect) but not necessarily character conflicts.
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Alan
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2005, 12:25:06 PM »

Hey Tony,

I've been bothered by the "why roll if we can negotiate everything" argument too.  I've had trouble verbalizing why I think some means of introducing unexpected results is actually a good thing for roleplaying.  I've just remembered something I heard about creativity once: a creative inspiration only occurs when two (or more ideas) come together in unexpected ways.

It seems to me that a randomizing mechanic does two things:
1) It adds a sense of risk -- which intensifies player experience of the moment.

2) Group consensus has a tendency to conform.  The introduction of a random result inserts gaps between what the player wants and what the system says results.  This creates a desire to create and adjust -- it sparks creativity.
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- Alan

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John Kim
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2005, 01:58:29 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB
So I'm trying to write up some draft rules, and my mind keeps providing the same basic assumption:  "If (and only if) the players are in conflict, you use dice."
...
But I am ludicrously blocked on what those things would be.  Surely system can help people to choose between alternatives in the absence of conflict?  But how and why?

I find this hard to wrap my head around, because from my point of view, I would never use dice to resolve player conflict.  If two players are actually in conflict, I would use negotiation to settle their differences.  For most tabletop games, I use dice to throw in random elements (i.e. events, results, etc.) which spice the game up and hopefully take it in directions which no one expected.  

I guess some uses for dice to consider: random character creation, random encounters, random adventure generation, and randomized character development.  There is the aforementioned "If you can't decide, roll a die" method which has numerous variations.  

It seems to me that you're stuck in a bit of a rut of thinking.  Consider it this way: dice aren't necessary for play at all.  You can use them for whatever part of play you want.
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- John
GB Steve
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« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2005, 02:52:30 PM »

Quote
"If (and only if) the players are in conflict, you use dice"
Isn't that Dogs in the Vineyard?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2005, 03:05:36 PM »

John:  So you would never use dice to determine whether a fighter hits an orc?  I'm confused.
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John Kim
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« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2005, 03:44:07 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB
John:  So you would never use dice to determine whether a fighter hits an orc?  I'm confused.

But that's not a conflict between players.  It's between characters.  That is, at least in a typical game I play, the roll will depend on what the character does and wants, which is not necessarily what the player wants.  (I have played other games, like Soap, where this isn't true -- but I'm speaking primarily.)  Let me take an example from the HarnMaster game I played last week.  

For example, an NPC fighter attacks my orc PC, Ripper.  The GM rolls to-hit, and then rolls hit location and damage.  This does not indicate that the GM disagrees with me or is in conflict with me as a player.  We can explicitly see this since later in that round, an NPC orc allied to Ripper named Throg attacks the NPC fighter in response.  The GM identically rolls to-hit, hit location, and damage.
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- John
Callan S.
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« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2005, 05:08:35 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB
But I am ludicrously blocked on what those things would be.  Surely system can help people to choose between alternatives in the absence of conflict?  But how and why?

Aren't you talking about something much like '100 adventure seeds' in the D&D dungeon masters manual and in many other games? I'm sure plenty of GM's like to roll on them and go 'Nah, crap idea' a few times, until via free association they roll one and think 'Hey, I could do something with this!'

It's rolling dice so the system will suggest a conflict you could use. You keep rolling until you find a conflict, which like a jigsaw puzzle piece, fits the game. Then the player plugs it in.

It can be enabled by mear suggestion, as above, or you could be rolling for actual resources which would enable the conflict Eg, rolling to see how drunk you are, to see if the particular level of drunk would be useful for a conflict....PS: I can't help doing an in joke "Roll to see if I'm drunk yet!"

Or way off?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2005, 06:41:26 PM »

John:  The GM wants his fighter to spill Ripper's entrails.  You, as a player, don't want that to happen.  The fact that there are entirely different things that two of you aren't conflicted over... I don't see why that's relevant.

Callan:  I think that "make random choices" is one application, but not the only one.

Another possible example:  You're travelling through elvish woods.  Every once in a while you make rolls on the "Creepy, evocative elvish stuff" rules.  These are (hypothetically) more structured than "table of creepy stuff, selected randomly" in the same way that My Life with Master is more structured than "flip a coin, if it's heads you do something evil, if it's tails you do something good."  As the balance of Elvish stuff shifts toward creepy, we see elves stepping willingly into their own graves, and their servants tossing dirt down on top of them.  As it shifts more toward evocative, we see them planting flowers of immortality and regret, in bowers where the blooms intertwine in inimitable beauty.  And so on and so forth.  The dice (again, hypothetically) lead us to create all of these things in the same way that DitV dice lead us to create compelling, escalating conflicts.

I don't see any reason to think that this sort of randomly-guided emerging structure shouldn't be as powerful in a non-conflict situation as it has proven to be in conflicts.  Thoughts?
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Remko
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2005, 07:02:11 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB

Another possible example:  You're travelling through elvish woods.  Every once in a while you make rolls on the "Creepy, evocative elvish stuff" rules.  These are (hypothetically) more structured than "table of creepy stuff, selected randomly" in the same way that My Life with Master is more structured than "flip a coin, if it's heads you do something evil, if it's tails you do something good."  As the balance of Elvish stuff shifts toward creepy, we see elves stepping willingly into their own graves, and their servants tossing dirt down on top of them.  As it shifts more toward evocative, we see them planting flowers of immortality and regret, in bowers where the blooms intertwine in inimitable beauty.  And so on and so forth.  The dice (again, hypothetically) lead us to create all of these things in the same way that DitV dice lead us to create compelling, escalating conflicts.

I don't see any reason to think that this sort of randomly-guided emerging structure shouldn't be as powerful in a non-conflict situation as it has proven to be in conflicts.  Thoughts?


On the contrary... why would you roll for this? You could see it as a way to eliminate a traditional GM or give him surprises, but why would you want such a random creation? When we take our GNS: For Gamism, you could do that to add more flavour, but you aren't really interested in real flavour.  For Sim: it's mucht to random, for most players want some consistency in their world. When you create a random world, you aren't exploring the world you as GM created, but you are exploring a random world. Nar: You can create conflicts in whatever situation you would like, but why would you use a table to roll on? People like to decide themselves what they want.

I think most of the people using such a book are only using it because they want to add flavour, but they'll choose the most appropriate of the list. So, no randomness is neccesary to get to that goal.

I guess the only way to you could use it when you want to do Gamism in a world of which you are too lazy to develop or if you don't want to use a GM at all and still play a Gamism game.
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Remko van der Pluijm

Working on:
1. Soviet Soviet Politics, my November Ronnie
2. Sorcerer based on Mars Volta's concept album 'Deloused in the Comatorium'
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