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Author Topic: [Shab-al-Hiri Roach] Revisions, Questions, Kušu Barultag  (Read 17073 times)
Jason Morningstar
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« on: August 31, 2005, 04:21:17 AM »

Hi everybody,

I want to continue the discussion of The Shab-al-Hiri Roach that began here in Actual Play.  I'm in the process of revising this game, and my most current drafts are here if you'd like to take a look (.txt files):

http://www.meekmok.com/sassy/games/roach/

I have two current conundrums. 

1.  What's the best way to handle a PC with zero Reputation?  As written he can still participate in conflicts by wagering, under the principle that with no Reputation, there is nowhere to go but up.  I'm not sure this is the best solution, because it does not represent any penalty.  I could just say that Reputation begins at one and cannot go lower - any other ideas? 

2.  What's the best way to handle PC death?  Ron suggested - and I agree - that a PC dying does not need to be a problem, since the core Reputation mechanic is not predicated on being alive.  It supports the mood I'm going for, so I hate to just rule "you cannot kill PCs", which is what I have inthe rules now.  But PC death messes with the cards a bit, and it definitely messes with the power of the Roach to show up and take over. 

So how do I handle cards that direct character action, when the character definitively cannot act? 

What impact can the Roach have on a dead dude - or, more appropriately (and encouraging suicide), Death frees you from the Roach's iron grip, how can this huge advantage be balanced in play?

It occurs to me that the Roach could easily possess and animate a corpse, going through the motions of academic life in zombie fashion...but that seems like a different game. 

Thanks for your ideas and comments,

--Jason

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GB Steve
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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2005, 04:50:42 AM »

It occurs to me that the Roach could easily possess and animate a corpse, going through the motions of academic life in zombie fashion...but that seems like a different game.
That seems to be the same game to me! Perhaps dead characters can only act if they have the roach, and they can only win if they lose the roach in the last turn, and then only posthumously.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2005, 05:14:17 AM »

I'll let the death-discussion continue by others.

As far as 0 Reputation goes, I strongly recommend that the person with 0 can stake 1 chip, and may win it. This worked very well in both games I've played in, and in one case, that person came very close to winning (Maura, in the game I've posted about). It is not complicated, is not broken, and requires no kludgy stuff like "only goes down to 1."

However, you and I may be reading a different MS. We doped out the above interpretation through sheer desperation, as I did not find, in the IGC rules, any mention of how to deal with 0 Reputation. I'll head off to the new files now.

Best,
Ron
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2005, 05:20:39 AM »

The IGC version actually said "when you have 0 Reputation, your personal die drops to D4" and did not address participation in Scenes.  I think my (sleep-deprived) assumption was that you simply couldn't. 

I recognize now that the D4 thing is brutal and unnecessary and I took it out.  The current revision adopts your suggestion and makes 0 Reputation "nowhere to go but up".  Whether this is the last word on the subject I don't know - I'd like for there to be pressure not to let Reputation slip, beyond the obvious end-game victory condition. Maybe it's not a big deal.

--Jason
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2005, 05:39:14 AM »

I like the idea that, for dead characters, "having the roach" means that their corpse is animated by the roach, and (obviously) they can't win if that's the case.

yrs--
--Ben
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2005, 06:02:41 AM »

OK, the whole zombie thing - first of all, zombies are always funny.  I love a zombie.  I just don't see how this improves the quality of play. 

If you are dead and just a Roachy flesh-puppet, you can't win, which isn't a super big deal, and you would act on the Command - maybe you're forced to perform the Command in every Scene, rather than once in the overall Event, because the Roach is truly in charge and things ought to be an order of magnitude crazier. 

So you've got a player who is really just there to fuck shit up - am I missing something?  Ben, are you thinking you can still go back and forth between Roach-bound and free even when dead?  If so, what happens when you are dead and free of the Roach? 

--Jason
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2005, 06:08:56 AM »

Damn. The zombie thing seemed so sensible.

And it could work, I think, by the rules. Getting free of the Roach while dead simply means we do the "Rep at stake although I'm dead and not there" thing; getting roach-bound while dead means your corpse lurches upright and runs around doing stuff.

The trouble is, neat as it is, workable as it is, it moves the game into "somewhere else." Another game entirely. This is a game about real live academics, not about mystical Lovecraftian grue in a fanboy, horror-movie, Dead Alive sense. Or that's my reading and experience of play, anyway.

Damn damn damn. More brainstorming, maybe some days to sleep on it. No deadline on this one, after all.

Best,
Ron
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2005, 06:15:13 AM »

Quote
So you've got a player who is really just there to fuck shit up - am I missing something?  Ben, are you thinking you can still go back and forth between Roach-bound and free even when dead?  If so, what happens when you are dead and free of the Roach? 

--Jason

Uhm, yeah, of course...  Essentially, when you aren't roach bound, you are playing your "on-going legacy as a member of academy and the human race" and when you are, you're still playing the same thing, but there's your lurching, zombie-like corpse fucking up (or inadvertantly helping) your legacy.

yrs--
--Ben
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2005, 06:46:23 AM »

My gut feeling is that there has to be a more elegant way of handling PC death.  Like I said, I love a zombie, and there ought to be a "zombie in the ivory tower" game (probably about figuring out who is dead and who isn't - not an easy task), but I'm pretty sure this isn't it.  In this game, being a Roach-controlled zombie would mean that you were actually playing the Roach, since your PC had been extinguished.  I don't like that. 

So ... you die, but your Reputation lives on, is even enhanced by the fact of your death.  You still have narration rights like any other player, and Reputation to gamble on conflicts.  You lose your Enthusiasms.

You are immune to the Roach and, therefore, have a powerful edge in the game.  Something must counter this advantage.  Maybe you don't get a personal die and must rely on others to promulgate your legacy.  That's not enough.

Cards - Opportunities - no longer make sense for you.  This is a problem.  Maybe you grant your card to another player somehow?  Maybe they bid Reputation for it?  I'm open to suggestions.

--Jason

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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2005, 07:04:50 AM »

you're still playing the same thing, but there's your lurching, zombie-like corpse fucking up (or inadvertantly helping) your legacy.

"Zombie-like" is probably a good phrase. That could mean any number of "weren't you supposed to be dead?" conditions. "Zombie" brings its own baggage.
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GB Steve
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« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2005, 07:05:57 AM »

You could just stop getting new cards when you're dead, you'd only get them if roach possessed. Or dead people might lose their enthusiasms. It's a bit difficult to be enthusiastic if you ain't breathing. Just thinking out loud really.

But there is, as Ron says, the issue that this moves the theme into Reanimator territory, which is definitely part of the HPL canon but you don't necessarily want to be in the Jeffrey Coombs version.

Perhaps you might suggest different ways to deal with the dead:
- zombies - as above
- ghosts - you can act in scenes but cannot interact physically.
- don't speak ill of the dead; your reputation survives at what is was when you died, and you count as roach free too. You just can't act directly in a scene even though you can frame one. Whether you can use your enthusiams is moot too although. Perhaps the dice you roll depends on what your rep was when you died. This might be too powerful an option.
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jrs
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Posts: 373


« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2005, 07:12:19 AM »

So ... you die, but your Reputation lives on, is even enhanced by the fact of your death.  You still have narration rights like any other player, and Reputation to gamble on conflicts.  You lose your Enthusiasms.

You are immune to the Roach and, therefore, have a powerful edge in the game.  Something must counter this advantage.  Maybe you don't get a personal die and must rely on others to promulgate your legacy.  That's not enough.

Cards - Opportunities - no longer make sense for you.  This is a problem.  Maybe you grant your card to another player somehow?  Maybe they bid Reputation for it?  I'm open to suggestions.

Oh good--zombies in academia are so over used.  And the potential for zombification just takes over a game.  I vote for no zombies in the Roach; the Roach shouldn't have to compete with the undead.

I like the idea of reputation and narration continuing, and the elimination of enthusiasms and the personal die makes sense.  I don't know that opportunity cards are completely useless, some maybe, but not all.  It will just take more creativity to incorporate them into play and forces the player to utilize NPC's.  I can easily imagine taking advantage of opportunities post-humously or through other forms of influence (*cough* research assistants *cough*).

Julie 
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2005, 09:56:38 AM »

I like the idea of reputation and narration continuing, and the elimination of enthusiasms and the personal die makes sense.  I don't know that opportunity cards are completely useless, some maybe, but not all.  It will just take more creativity to incorporate them into play and forces the player to utilize NPC's.  I can easily imagine taking advantage of opportunities post-humously or through other forms of influence (*cough* research assistants *cough*).

Thanks, Julie!

OK, there are 30 Opportunities, plus 10 Roaches.  Some are easy to narrate after death (some, like Hobby, could actually be more interesting in a weird way) and some are not.  Here are the ones that are problematic:

Modifications to Enthusiasm: 

CHAMP
PUBLIC SCANDAL

Things you need to be alive for:

RECEIVE ACADEMIC APPOINTMENT
EARN TENURE
SHOVING MATCH (Could be metaphorical, but that's covered by another opportunity)
INFLUENZA

One idea - if you are dead and draw any of these, you are just out of luck.  A death penalty.  6 (+10 Roach cards) are useless to you. 

I like the idea of someone carrying on your work and preserving your legacy.  If it were a a grad student, they would have a D4/D10 personal die - could be interesting.  Would this replace or augment your dead Profs personal die?  You'd narrate the grad student into a scene as needed, but always if you draw any of the "must be breathing" cards. 

Important that you are not introducing a new PC, though - as in real life, the grad student is merely a tool. 

This seems like a pretty sweet arrangement - free from the Roach with a new NPC.  It can't be sweet.  It must be a terrible burden and an unattractive option. 

--Jason
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Graham W
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« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2005, 11:02:16 AM »

What a lovely game. OK, Jason, here's some very quick thoughts:

1.  What's the best way to handle a PC with zero Reputation?  As written he can still participate in conflicts by wagering, under the principle that with no Reputation, there is nowhere to go but up.  I'm not sure this is the best solution, because it does not represent any penalty.  I could just say that Reputation begins at one and cannot go lower - any other ideas? 

I genuinely like the rules the way they're stated at the moment: that you can still wager one chip when you have zero reputation.

I like the idea that people in academia should be fearful of someone with no reputation: after all, someone with no reputation can say anything or do anything, and that's a huge power. I'd be tempted to give them an extra dice, or an increased dice size, just because of this power.

Of course, it's a false power, because you're very unlikely to win the game. But still. I like the idea that someone going down to zero reputation should be an event, because it might lead to trouble for everyone with a reputation.

2.  What's the best way to handle PC death?  Ron suggested - and I agree - that a PC dying does not need to be a problem, since the core Reputation mechanic is not predicated on being alive.  It supports the mood I'm going for, so I hate to just rule "you cannot kill PCs", which is what I have inthe rules now.  But PC death messes with the cards a bit, and it definitely messes with the power of the Roach to show up and take over. 

My first thought, when I read this, was that a dead academic should live through his writings. So, throughout the rest of the game, journals could be discovered, posthumous criticisms could be published and love letters could be received by other characters.

Can a dead character win the game? If he can't, then that creates a nice opportunity, which is that dead characters only exist to help others win the game. (Of course, it would also reward PCs for killing other PCs...so...er...maybe not)

With regard to the various things you listed: I don't have a problem with CHAMP or PUBLIC SCANDAL being posthumous (posthumous scandals are quite common, I think). The same with Receive Academic Appointment (it's a posthumous chair) and, well, if you phrase Earn Tenure as "Promotion", you could do it posthumously.

Shoving match...that's difficult, but it could be a shoving match between the supporters of your theory and the opposition. Influenza's a bit more difficult. Still...if it was syphilis...

I hope some of that helps - no major solutions, though, I'm afraid.

Graham
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2005, 11:14:04 AM »

Hiya,

Here are some of my thoughts on all this.

1. I don't see any problem at all regarding dead characters employing CHAMP, PUBLIC SCANDAL, RECEIVE ACADEMIC APPOINTMENT (post-humous! happens all the time), EARN TENURE (ditto!), and SHOVING MATCH. The only tricky one seems to be INFLUENZA.

2. I also think that any proxy (grad student, whoever) contributes no die to your side, and that the character's base die should still be employed. In fact, it might be interesting if that character were available as an opposition die, if anyone wanted to claim it (and well they should).

3. Dead characters ought to be able to win the game. Memory-rep is just as important as I'm-still-living rep. Talk to some academics some time; you'll see.

4. Dead characters cannot initiate nor be drawn into physical conflicts such as stabbing someone with a butcher knife. Not even through proxy.

5. Death, in general, should neither be undesirable nor desirable in terms of play. Rep is still at stake through the same rules, some of the cards need a little interpretation, and certain attention to plausibility must be observed. But that's it.

6. All that remains is the risk of the Roach. Which I think should indeed persist, and then we have to consider how, if the zombie thing gets put by the wayside.

And Jason, just in case all this talk is getting into your sinuses like a roach-spawn, you always have the option of saying, "This game is for the living," and disallow player-character death. In fact, it might be the best option, although it's fun to thrash through all the permutations at the moment.

Food for thought!

Best,
Ron
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