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[Outside] Need help with Conflict Resolution.

Started by Clyde L. Rhoer, September 11, 2005, 05:12:47 AM

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Clyde L. Rhoer

Hello Everyone,

So I'm designing a game I'm calling Outside. I've got a good portion of the game done, but am stuck on conflict resolution. Lets take care of the preliminaries first.

1. What is your Game about?

Outside is a game of childhood horror, where imagination is real. The horror is not focused on using stalking monsters, although they do appear in the game, it's more about impotence to change your future. It's about trying to keep childhood innocence alive and ultimately failing.

2. What do characters do?

Characters in Outside are children who wield amazing powers. They can create universes populated with wondrous creatures, but ultimately reality is creeping up on them to strip them of their powers. They must contend with the monsters that spring from the land of imagination, and the monsters that spring from consensual reality, all while trying to maintain their innocence. Eventually they must come to terms with their inability to win and face adulthood.

3. What do Players do?

This question throws me off as I can think of nothing to answer but, Players play characters. Can someone help me understand what this question is trying to get at?

Alright back to where I'm looking for help. I recently got my game to a state where I felt character creation was good enough to start testing, so I ran a test with some friends. After having a discussion with one of them I realized that my conflict resolution was not getting me where I wanted to go. If you are interested in that discussion I have an actual play written here. It may be beyond what is good forge taste to respond to it now.

So where am I trying to go? I'm not sure I can describe that adequately as I'm still trying to learn the forge lexicon. I'm trying to have a task resolution somewhat like what I'm sure many games use, but I can only point to Dogs In the Vineyard. Basically starting from social or mental and then escalating to physical, you agree to stakes, resolve, then narrate. I however don't want to use dice. I'd like my game to be playable as a larp with a minimum of rules changes, so I'm using what you could call Rock Paper Scissors Plus, or RPS+. I actually call it Yellow, Red, and Blue.

Essentially Outside has six statistics, Black, White, Grey, Yellow, Red, and Blue. The three that are used for conflict resolution are Yellow, Red, and Blue. Everything is represented with tokens, my preferred token is legos, but you could use poker chips, those glass beads for CCG's, dice, whatever.

Yellow, Red, and Blue basically represent different spectrum's of fight or flight. Yellow is fear, Red, is anger and Blue is calm. (For Blue think Michael Keaton's reaction in the first scene he encounters the Joker and his cronies in Batman) Yellow corresponds to paper, Red to rock, Blue to scissors.

My conflict resolution previously looked like this:

1.If the player threw Red, they did two points of damage to an opponent who threw Red or Blue. They also took a Blue token from an opponent who threw Blue.

2.If the player threw Blue, they did one point of damage to all colors, captured one token (only the color the opponent threw) from all colors, and lost one token to all colors.

3.If the player threw Yellow, they did no damage to any color, captured one Blue token from opponents who threw Blue, and two Red tokens from players who threw Red. A player who threw Yellow could also narrate an escape if they so chose.

This was weighted so that players only need to risk death when they felt it was important. The problem I had was threefold this system doesn't address social/mental conflict resolution, it locks me into "take a turn, mark off your damage, repeat", and thirdly being able to escape whenever you wanted doesn't seem to create the necessary tension for a game booking itself as a horror game

As stated earlier this wasn't my goal, I'd like to keep the strategic use of Yellow, Red, and Blue, but simply am having a hard time wrapping my mind around how to change it. The only thing I've been able to think of is for a social resolution that if a player throws Yellow and their opponent throws Red then the opponent has to throw Red if they escalate the conflict due to being enraged by Yellow. This makes a Red opponent predictable, which is only an advantage if you want to dodge or run.

So to restate what I'm asking:

1. Can someone explain better what information is being sought by the question: What do players do?

2. Any suggestions or ideas on how I can keep the strategic use of my Yellow, Red, and Blue resolution method, but also have a conflict resolution that states terms and can escalate ala Dogs In the Vineyard? I'm betting it's not too difficult, but am for some reason blind to it at the moment.

Oh yeah, Ron's stickied post says that stating your planned distribution might be helpful, so... I'm planning to release Outside as a noncommerical creative commons .pdf and .sxw . I intend to also make a few books via a pod, or Lulu. I don't expect a diceless game to be very popular, and I frankly could care less whether it's popular, I just want to make a game I like.


Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.


OK. ideas off the top of my head, straight after redaing your post, so not all are well thoguth out (or even relevant)

1. Two Tier Rock-Paper-Scissor system: in addition to the Red-Blue-Yellow qualities, what about some some 'Stances' e.g. Attack-Block-Flee? So, a player chooses their Stance (Attack = hurt opponent, Block = calm or disarm opponent, Flee = get the heck ot of the opponent's range) and their Strategy (R-B-Y)... for example, you might want to Attack and be aggressive about it (Red), logical about it (Blue) or cautious about it (Yellow); equally, you could Block and not care about how much it hurts (Red), try to minimise the damage to both parties (Blue) or just curl up into a ball and wait for them to go away (Yellow); finally, you could Flee and not care how much it hurts you (Red), take the most efficient way out (Blue) or look for the safest escape route (Yellow).
2. Dice: Instead of poker chips, could conflict be based on dice, e.g. if you pick Red, you roll d8, Blue equals d6 and Yellow equals d4; then, damage is based on the amount you roll... you could keep the poker chips, actually, since they would be won, lost & excahnged as a result of the die roll.
   I think this way, escape isn't automatic, even if you picked Flee/Yellow, and adds the possibility of ending aconflict in ways other than death or escape, e.g. the Block option. In the Rock-Paper-Scissors tradition, I would say that Attack beats Flee, Flee beats Block and Block beats Attack, but then, once an 'upper hand' is determined, you would roll the dice to see who if your Strategy worked...for example, Bob Attacks and Dave Blocks... Dave takes the upper hand, so if his die roll beats Bob's, then Bob is disarmed, otherwise the conflict continues; if Bob Attacks and Dave Flees, Bob has the upper hand and, if he rolls higher than Dave, inflicts damage on him, but if not the conflict continues
If two players pick the same result in this system, then they both automatically have the effect of that Stance on each other, e.g. if both Attack, they damage each other; if both Block, the conflict stops; if both Flee, they both leave the area of the conflict.
No idea if any of that works for you but hope its something to chew on anyway.
Caveman-like grunting: "James like games".

Eric Provost

Quote1. Can someone explain better what information is being sought by the question: What do players do?

I'll tackle this one for you and leave the other to guys (like Tony LB who makes killer cool resolution systems in his sleep).

While I was working on my new project last night I had to remind myself what my game was about and what the characters/players would be doing to keep things focused.  So this is pretty fresh in my mind.  I find it easiest to think of by looking at games that have a good focus and delivery on what players do.  Like D&D.  You kill monsters and take their stuff.  Every aspect of the game revolves around killing monsters and taking their stuff.  Or DitV where you pass judgement on sinners and make the wrong things right.

Your game reminds me of WW's Changeling.  Ever read it?  I think it qualifies as wonderfully inspired and far from ever implimented.  The stories and essays in the text (first edition if anyone cares) were fantastic tales of a child-like kingdom of fantasy that overlaps our own world.  Sewn right in were the great tragic possiblities of having your fantastic side 'killed' and returning to being no more than a mortal, loosing touch with your mortal side and becoming insane over your inability to live in the completely fantasic realm that you deserve, or, worst of all, growing up.  On the other hand, the rules supported invisible dragon killing, nifty magic spell creation, and not much else.  The tragedy was never supported very well.  For instance, doing banal things like watching TV would drag you toward your mortal side... but there was no reason for your character to watch TV.  That kind of thing.

And if I were to verbalize what players were to do in a well-designed version of Changeling it would be Battle the fantasy monsters that are born from real world horrors, struggle for power and position in a fantasy kingdom that reflects the politics of childhood, and struggle against growing up because growing up means forgetting that any of those adventures were ever real at all.


Matt Wilson

Hey C:

"What do players do" means what you think it means. "Play characters" is what 99 percent of the store-shelf RPGs have players doing, but there's lots of other stuff they could be doing:

  • creating the setting or parts of it
  • sometimes being GM (see Polaris)
  • helping other players, or hindering them (my game allows that)

That's just three things I can think of off the bat, but there's tons of them.

For conflict, why not just go back to RPS and have conflicts be win/lose. If you lose, you can choose to escalate a la Dogs, which gives you another shot.

Your character's powers could allow you maybe to spend gaming stones to change your RPS result after the fact. Like if you throw scissors against my rock, you can spend a white stone to change your scissors to paper.

The stones could be tied to powers, or to the stage of escalation. Maybe your character is really good at fighting and has a lot of red stones to change fighting results.

Hope that helps.


Quote from: c on September 11, 2005, 05:12:47 AM2. What do characters do?Characters in Outside are children who wield amazing powers. They can create universes populated with wondrous creatures, but ultimately reality is creeping up on them to strip them of their powers. They must contend with the monsters that spring from the land of imagination, and the monsters that spring from consensual reality, all while trying to maintain their innocence. Eventually they must come to terms with their inability to win and face adulthood.

Could you outline what a module designed to introduce new players and highlight your game's strengths should look like?

(In the case of D&D, for instance, that could be something along the lines of "the PCs witness the kidnapping of a young noblewoman and are assumed to follow the assailants into the sewers where they must overcome many traps and monsters to save the day".)

Alternatively (and suited to the narrative approach you seem to aim for), what could a set of example characters and their kickers (player-designed starting conflict) and bangs (conflicts the GM is ready to throw at the players) look like? How might their first scenes play out?





Since I am one of the more notorious persons who asks "What do the players do?" I'll throw you a hint or two.  Check out how Ron answered that questions when I posed it to him a while back concerning his game Dr. Chaos:

3. What do the players do?

With one exception, they play Doctor Chaos' cards when it's their turn to do so (or when they've managed to steal him), and play superheroes' cards when it's not. Yes, there is a conflict of interest embedded in that. It's there on purpose. From the text:

The whole game is about Dr. Chaos' plan and where play-as-a-whole is, relative to that.

• Maybe you want Dr. Chaos to succeed while you control him
• Maybe you want Dr. Chaos to succeed and don't care who controls him
• Maybe you want him to fail, regardless of who controls him
• Maybe you shift among these outlooks or among others as play goes along

Goals of play are therefore not absolutely fixed in terms of "Doctor Chaos succeeds" or "Doctor Chaos fails." Instead, what his success or failure means gets constructed through play, as his Issues and the Persons of the heroes develop, and decisions about one's goal of play are thereby reached.

In his game, the players do play the characters (just like you said in your answer), but they also make decisions concerning plot, character introduction/reintroduction, success of characters they do not solely own, and narrate outcomes of scenes.

"What do the players do?" is a very meta-game question.  It really refers to game currencies that the players use to manipulate the Shared Imagined Space (SIS) rather than the currency the characters use.  It also refers to things like narration rights, Creative Agenda, premise, teamwork, and rewards. 

It can be a hard question to answer, but it is one that is vital to a game.  Let me know if this helps ya any :)



LINK to Dr. Chaos Thread:


Quote from: Eric Provost on September 11, 2005, 08:46:05 AM
I'll tackle this one for you and leave the other to guys (like Tony LB who makes killer cool resolution systems in his sleep).
So, y'know, no pressure, right?

I think that coming close to rock-paper-scissors, but then diverging from the classic hand-signal version of it may be an unnecessary complexiity.  Why not just make it rock-paper-scissors, but have their respective scores in the strategy they choose influence how one rules-execution ("rock beats scissors!") turns into a lingering effect ("I have five red, you have only two blue, so I can choose to apply 5-2 = 3 points of damage to you" or "I have two red, you have three blue, so by losing this you reduce your blue to the value of my red, which is a two, for the rest of the combat," or stuff like that).

I think that this can add a stimulating quality of prediction and strategy to an already very visceral game.  If someone has a rock of 5, but scissors and paper of only two each, do you dare to play scissors against them?  If you don't dare to play scissors, doesn't that cripple you in the game?

Of course, I wholly agree with making the different hand motions correspond to different modes of "attack," with a different range of consequences.  I particularly like the idea that, while you can get pounded flat (heh) playing Paper, you're not going to get yourself killed... but you're also not going to do much damage.  However, if you make these correspond to the hand-gesture attacking, that side-steps your need to make a 3x3 matrix of outcomes, in order to simulate what's going on.  If Rock is an all-out attack, and that's the only thing that can kill people, then playing Paper will still keep you from getting killed, because the only kill-outcome (Rock beats something) is impossible.

And then there's still all manner of ways that tokens can come back in to modify the game:  If you have the ability to temporarily reduce someone's stats then a token can return it to full.  Tokens can be bid to break ties (with the spent tokens going to the losing player).  Tokens can be spent (before rock-paper-scissors) to temporarily boost the attribute they correspond to... how's that for adding some complicated bluffing?

This has some really fascinating possibilities.  I'd love to get some feedback on what, particularly, you want the conflict system to do well.  I think there's a lot of range to focus this into something tight and coherent.
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Clyde L. Rhoer

Hey everyone,

Sorry for lagging on replying. I appreciate all the great input, but it's going to take a little consideration to make some cogent replies. I'm printing this thread out, so I can make it my focus at work. Please don't let that stop you from providing input, I just wanted to make sure folks know that I am indeed paying close attention. The conflict system is the main impediment to getting done, once I've got it figured out I anticipate two weeks to a month to have an alpha state game, as everything else is essentially done.

Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.

Clyde L. Rhoer

Hey everyone,

This is very long, hopefully you'll bear with me as I may be a bit overexcited. We'll start with ...

3. What do players do?

Players in Outside play children and narrate their struggle to maintain their hold on their powers and their knowledge. They work with other players to achieve this. Players also work against one another,  as they also play another childs monster. They can create and try to defend their own settings, and exchange tokens amongst other players.

(This description is a bit weak but its getting there.)


I kind of like your idea of having two levels to the conflict resolution, one being intent and the other emotional. I think what I'm leaning towards may be something similiar, if i'm understanding you correctly.

As far as dice... I don't want to use dice for Outside as it doesn't fit the way I see it being played. I have nothing against dice, it's a rare gamer that has more dice than me, it just doesn't fit Outside.

Eric Provost:

Yes, I have definitely read Changeling. It's a game I have enjoyed. It's focus is more on setting in my mind, where Outside is more focused on character. Outside is going to not have much in the way of setting and expects the players and GM to make that part up. Also Outside is inspired more by Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland than on faerie folklore.

Your descriptive answer for question number 3 is awesome by the way and definately helped me get a grasp on my own answer.

Matt Wilson:

I like the idea of spending a token to escalate. I'm going to give that some consideration.

The main reason I don't just use normal RPS? Ego is what I think, I created something I personally haven't seen before. My ego won't let me discard it easily.


Yes, I can. Here's an outline for the way I imagine an adventure might be set up.

Ever Ever Land is fading away as The Boogie is stealing it's power. Billy has the power to stop it, but he has been captured by The Forgotten and taken to their stronghold, the Pa-sike-re-act-trick Hospital.

Do the PC's, go to Ever Ever Land and risk growing up to defeat The Boogie? Do they go to the psychiatric hospital and risk growing up to save Billy? Do they try both, or perhaps neither?

For that example, The Boogie is Billy's monster. The Forgotten are the unknowing defense mechanism of Black, basically they can be another antagonist for children, but they don't have to be.

As far as Kickers and Bangs I'm not sure I have a grasp on those yet. Bangs seem like what I've always called 'throwing wrenches" which is what I call creating moral dilemmas for players and their characters. Kickers I don't understand and the connected terms in the glossary aren't helping me either.

Troy Costisick

Yes, your post was absolutely helpful.


I realize that coming close to Rock Paper Scissors but then diverging in the name and the resolution does add complexity. In my mind this seems like a feature and not a bug. The color names add to my theme and correspond well to different emotions. It gives a palate to use if a player wants to "read auras." Also, what I really like about the idea is that its not so much about a random arbitration (luck) of who wins, but more of choosing a strategy and seeing how that compares to your opponent. I also think it blurs winning and losing since it's possible that both people "win." , although only one will narrate.

I also think that Rock Paper Scissors is so well understood that even though my system adds to the points of contact, those points will rapidly become transparent.

I don't think the comparing tokens to decide damage will work well for Outside in its present state. Right now a character loses grey tokens when they are damaged, children have very few grey tokens as grey represents your physical body, ability to run, lift, etc. Player characters have somewhere between 2 grey tokens for an infant up to 6 grey tokens for a 14 year old. That's the age range for a beginning character, its one of the few restrictions on characters Outside has. So red is fairly lethal now at 2 points. I am however giving some thought to changing Grey.

Since there is a lot of folks suggesting spending tokens, I'll address for a minute what the tokens are used for now. This may help get a better idea on the structure of the system, and brainstorm ideas that might be color appropriate. A player can have one to ten tokens of each color. i.e. a total of 60.

Black represents the force of consensual reality. It is the shared idea that we use to form our universe. Children have low scores in Black and gain them through life experiences. When Black equals White a person is considered "Grown Up." Being A Grown Up has two stages a short term of being awake, and then the likely forever term of being asleep. Awake Grown Ups can use magic with difficulty, Asleep Grown Ups can not do magic. If Black becomes equal to or greater than 1.5 times White a person becomes one of The Forgotten and loses all their White tokens.

Black is gained by:
Using White Magic around one of The Forgotten.
On a lost test when using White Magic around a sleeping Grown Up.
When the Player chooses to gain a Black Token which allows them to; Ignore any Creature, or Monster, or to leave any Setting and instantly return to Consensual Reality.

Black is lost by:
Feeding your Monster. (This puts Black tokens into the Monster pool.)
Burning the Caul that binds them. (Player Characters have a thing called a security blanket, it gives an in game benefit. It can be chosen to be permanently destroyed by a player/PC and allows them to destroy all of one person's, monster's, or creature's Black tokens. This puts these tokens out of game.)

White is creativity. It slips the bindings of Black. White allows children to do magic. Spend a White token and you can do almost anything. (Affecting anything with White tokens would require winning a challenge. Asleep Grown Ups, and The Forgotten are not affected by White Magic)

White is gained by:
Turning of, or destroying of, keys. (think modified Sweet20)
When the gamemaster or the PC's monster take control of a Player owned setting. (they purchase it by giving it to the Player)

White is lost by:
Taking White damage in a White combat.

When the player chooses to lose a White token which allows them to; create a Setting which either overlaps Consensual Reality (think changeling) or touches the edge of Consensual Reality (think Alice in wonderland). To do White Magic. (This allows the player to narrate actions that a child couldn't do.) To give it to another PC. To take control of a GM or Monster controlled Setting.

Grey is where White and Black meet. It gives a guide to a PC's physical capability.

Grey is lost by:
Being hurt in mundane combat. (think normal combat fists, knives, guns)

Grey is gained by:
One Grey token per day until at normal.

Everyone's input has helped my wheels start turning so I think I can focus more on what I'm trying to get help with. Let me give a quick list of what some of my design goals are followed by my current brainstorming.

Goals (some of these may be contradictory and might have to change):

1. Low points of contact.
1.A. I'm wanting a narritivist game that supports character sim. So I don't want to interfere with the dream too much.
1.B. I may be deluding myself based on my answer to what do players do. Maybe I actually want an incoherant system. *grins*
2. Larp and table top should require no more than a page to explain the differences in system to play each.
3. "Yes you can." should be the answer most often given to ," Can I do X?' It's o.k. to charge to do X.
4. Should be a decent amount of token trading between Players, Monsters, and the G.M. in all directions.

Here's my brainstorming. I think maybe this was what Tony meant by a 3x3 matrices?

There are three types of challenges Physical, Mental, and Social. Each corresponds to a color. Physical (red), Mental (blue), and Social (Yellow). Physical works like above except I'm not sure whether Yellow should get a free escape. The Loser can choose to escalate the conflict to a challenge that corresponds to their color? Who narrates the loser or the winner? How are ties resolved? What special effects can the colors have for each type of challenge or should special effects be only for physical. Does this idea create too much points of contact?

I'd definately love to entertain other ideas.

Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.

Simon W

I was wondering whether instead of using tokens/stones or similar, you could actually use sweets.
A good few years back some friends and I were travelling back from a con. We had a bag of coloured sweets (Starburst) and decided to play a game using the sweets as the task resolution system.
I can't remember exactly how it went, but I think we drew from the bag wnenever we had narrated the action. The colour of sweet drawn determined the degree of success or failure of the action (Red = very successful etc). I think we ate the sweets as well, meaning that when the bag was finished, it was game over, but then it was only a short journey.
This seems to be an appropriate idea for a game where you are playing kids. Every player could have their own bag. You could draw blind and go by colour drawn as above, or you could have to 'bid' a number of sweets to succeed an action....
Anyway, I'm off to work, I'll think more about it later... hope it is of interest, if not to you then to someone else (maybe I'll come up with another 'kids' game using it if you don't....)

Simon W

Clyde L. Rhoer

Thats a neat idea Simon.

I don't want to to tie down what can be used as tokens, as I don't want to make anyone have to buy anything to play the game, even though Starburst are inexpensive. I'm going to have a token sheet that will have like a star, a circle, a triangle, etc and will be colored in one of the colors, so people can just use 6 d10's, which should be no hindrance to any gamer. Plus if other people besides me and my friends play I'm curious to see what gets used as tokens, like candy.

So since I'm not going to use it, you totally have to design a little kids game now. *grins*
Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.