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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 76 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: [Shab-al-Hiri Roach] PC Death  (Read 7332 times)
Jason Morningstar
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« on: September 17, 2005, 06:10:29 AM »

My recent playtest exposed the rules about PC death as problematic and I want to fix them, or get rid of them. 

The good:  It is deliciously appropriate in theme and tone for players to off themselves or each other.  The fact that the game's currency is Reputation means that a dead PC is only hindered mechanically but his player is not relegated to the sidelines.  I really, really like this. 

The bad:  As written it screws things up, and it is hard to change because of causality - being dead means you are Roach free, and I don't see a reasonable way around that.  The worst-case is a player suiciding successfully late in the game with a high Reputation, which happened in the recent playtest.  It makes perfect sense tactically.   I can imagine a variety of special case rules, the most obvious one being "if you are dead, you cannot win the game, regardless of how much Reputation you accrue".  But I don't really like that too much.  Here's the current text:

"WHEN SOMEONE DIES

You can never set the stakes as the death of the Roach (its oily brood scuttles under every wainscot), but go ahead and try to murder another player character.  Or, like poor Dr. Applewhite-Jenkins, try to kill yourself.  It is perfectly acceptable to make a player character's life or death the stake in a conflict.  Being dead is hardly an impediment to an academic career. 

Regular old characters (even named characters) can, of course, drop like flies.  This has no direct effect on the game and is heartily encouraged - it can even be part of narration and not the crux of a conflict if desired.  If a named character dies, his legacy must come up during any Event featuring him. 

WHEN THE SOMEONE WHO DIES IS YOU

In some academic fields you are nobody until you die anyway, so death isn't really a huge impediment in the Shab-al-Hiri Roach.  A dead player character has some special rules, however.

A dead player character's Reputation lives on - in fact, it is even enhanced by the fact of his death.  You automatically add a point of Reputation at the time your characters' death is publicly announced as a one-time bonus.

Your character no longer have a personal die at all.  Any Opportunity that enhances the personal die must be ignored. 

Your character immediately loses all Enthusiasms.

You still have narration rights like any other player, and can still gamble Reputation in conflicts. 

You may still frame Scenes and introduce characters and groups into them.  Certain Card Opportunities may require a bit of creativity to play; it is fortunate that you have a devoted graduate research assistant to promote your legacy at Pemberton. 

Finally, being dead, your character is immune to the Roach and, therefore, has a powerful edge in the game.  This alone should put a curb on player character bloodletting - keeping one another alive can be seen as enlightened self-interest.

Being dead is a mixed bag.  You are out of reach of the Roach, but you are also down at least one die in all conflicts, and many of the best Opportunities will pass you by like fog in a graveyard."

So I'm open to suggestions and comments...thanks for your thoughts.

--Jason
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Christoph Boeckle
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Geneva, Switzerland


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« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2005, 07:06:07 AM »

I've never read the text of your game, but did read an AP. So I'm the guy who has no clue that at best can see an obvious feature/bug of your game. I'm really interested by games that can have the PCs killed without destroying the player's fun (barring personal preferences of course), so I might delve into this game a bit more in the future.

Ok, here goes my little question:

Imagine that the players have their characters commit suicide in accordance to the rituals of their sect/cult (or whatever). Now all players play at the same level, and cannot be posessed by the Roach. Would you consider this as an interesting way to play your game, or is this completely ignoring the fundamental aspects of the game?

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Regards,
Christoph
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2005, 07:31:48 AM »

It's certainly possible within the current framework, and would be a noteworthy game.  I don't think it would be quite as much fun, because dead PCs are mechanically constrained in a pretty severe way.  Plus, it is unlikely, because the other players definitely have a vested interest in preventing the death of other PCs - they are immune to the Roach, which is a powerful bonus.  Still, an "all dead" game would be all about NPCs promoting the Reputations of the dead guys, and that could be really funny. 

If you want to check out the game text, there is a link in my sig.  Thanks for your question.
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Christoph Boeckle
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Geneva, Switzerland


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« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2005, 10:09:18 AM »

So the game as written would present a big incentive for at least one PC not to commit suicide (continuing my example), to make all the players wary of "treachery" from another player and as such build up quite a tension just about the question "is it worth killing a PC or not"?
I could imagine that if one player does not have his character commit suicide, that the others could bring friends of the dead into the scene and frame the remaining PC as the instigator of the deaths, giving him some hard time reputation-wise (that is, if it works intuitively). But maybe it's worth the trouble in the end!

If your game supports all these kind of things, I think it's definetly worth to give it a try and as a matter of fact I probably will as soon as I get some time to check it out!

I must say though that the text in .txt format is painful to read.
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Regards,
Christoph
Graham W
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2005, 08:17:46 AM »

Jason,

My gut feeling here is that, if you have different rules for dead characters, there will always be some way of taking advantage of those rules: either by killing yourself to get an advantage or by killing other characters to get an advantage.

So, to cope with that, you'd either need to a. Ban death in the game (which would be a shame) or b. Make the rules work so that dead characters use exactly the same rules as live ones.

Let's see. I can think of two ways of using the same rules for dead characters as live ones.

Firstly, you could cook up some rationale which explains why dead characters work the same as live ones. The problematic one there is the Roach: perhaps, since they don't have a physical form after death, they can fall under the Roach's influence simply by their...er...spirit...um...succumbing to the will of the Roach. Or something.

Secondly, you could expand the "graduate student" idea below. On death, the dead character's work is continued by a new character, who is all too ready to leap into the academic fray to defend the dead character's legacy. So the player just takes on a new-but-similar character. It doesn't have to be a graduate student: it could be a newly recruited Assistant Professor or similar.

I actually like this a lot: it's rather like what happens in academia. One philosopher (say) dies and his ideas are carried on by a fiercely enthusiastic young successor.

In any case, those are just sketchy ideas, but I hope they're of some use.

Graham
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2005, 10:06:40 AM »

Thanks Graham!

We'd initially hashed out the "enthusiastic grad student" idea, but really only in the context of 'carrying on Professor Upham's legacy".  So if the rule was:

"Go ahead and kill yourself, or somebody else.  They are immediately replaced by a grad student, who the Roach immediately inhabits."

That would resolve my concerns and allow for dramatic and hilarious PC deaths.  Reputation is not messed up as a currency.  Hmm, must consider. 

--Jason
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Kirk Mitchell
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Posts: 268


« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2005, 04:28:14 PM »

I really like the "enthusiastic grad student" idea. The potential is incredible. Also, you could keep the increase of Reputation gained from death, perhaps because they worked on the Professor's thesis with them or something. Y'know, as an assistant.

The Redundancy Department of Redundancy says: I like it.

Kirk
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Jeph
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Jeff Schecter


« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2005, 05:56:05 PM »

I don't think the rules on death need changing at all, really--mass suicides near the endgame are rather terribly thematic.
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Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2005, 06:08:38 PM »

Thanks Jeff, but in play it breaks things.  What happened in the most recent playtest was two players deliberately suicided (yay!) because, tactically, it made them untouchable.  So one player suicided when she had a pile of Reputation and then played boring and conservative.  She won.  The other guy waited until the last scene of the last Event and bet 5 Reputation, hoping he'd A)top her total and B)get Roach-free to win the game. 

It just wasn't right.  Killing yourself is beautifully thematic and I don't want to lose it, but the way it is currently tied to Reputation makes it encourage less, rather than more, fun.

--Jason
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Jeph
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Posts: 338

Jeff Schecter


« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2005, 08:01:36 PM »

Going back over your actual play report, I see what you mean... Mayfield dies and isn't much heard from again. It looks like the game worked its way into a situation that discouraged everyone except Steve from being proactive. Val wanted to play conservatively, and you and Tom weren't really in the running.

Now correct me if I'm on the wrong track, but it looks like things would have been kicked into high gear instead of languishing if death encouraged action rather than inaction--if a character's death gave everyone opportunity and impetus to Do Stuff (tm). The simplest way that I can think of accomplishing this is to allow any living player character to gamble a dead character's reputation in a conflict; or, rather, when a player gambles their character's reputation, they may state that they are stealing credit for the deceased's work, riding on their coat-tails, whatever. If they win the conflict, then all the reputation that they gain is taken from the dead character, and if they lose, then all the lost reputation is given to the dead character.

Hopefully, that would encourage a dead character to get into the thick of things and ramp of their Reputation as a defense against others thieving it, which would in turn encourage others to attempt to steal it to cut them back down to size.

It's late, so I may be babbling on incoherantly here. Am I making any sense..?

PS: You must run this game at YukiCon Part Two :)
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Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other
Jack Aidley
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2005, 01:05:58 AM »

I'm not sure why you want to add death at all, Jason? I don't think it will add much to the game, while tending to steer it towards uncomfortable directions. Having said that, if you are going to include it I think it should have mechanical significance and I suspect the rules you present above could work well. I would add a rule about not being able to commit suicide when Roach-infested to prevent players using death as a means to avoid the central gamer of the game: the power of the Roach vs. the inability to win if infested.
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- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2005, 03:49:45 AM »

It's a conundrum, because the original draft simply said "no PC death", which completely solves this problem.  When someone (Ron, I think) suggested that death really wasn't an impediment to play (a la The Mountain Witch) I realized it was really a nice, evocative feature I wanted to include and encourage.  Unfortunately it leads to the possibiltiy of unsatisfying play.

Jeff, I'll think on your idea, which would make suicide far riskier and make homicide far more attractive.  I'm not sure that's really a solution, but it changes the problem a bit...

Thanks,

Jason
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2005, 07:00:53 AM »

What do you think?

"WHEN THE SOMEONE WHO DIES IS YOU

In some academic fields, you're nobody until you die anyway, so death isn't really a huge impediment in the Shab-al-Hiri Roach.  A dead player character calls for some special rules, however.

A dead player character's Reputation lives on - in fact, it is even enhanced by the fact of his death.  You automatically add a point of Reputation at the time your characters' death is publicly announced as a one-time bonus.  The death itself will open up lots of good opportunities for following Scenes - the funeral, the wake, the first public attack on a life's work and legacy, those  sorts of things.

Every professor has a bright-eyed graduate student or two that will be eager to carry on their important work and secure their legacy.  A player whose character expires immediately picks up one of these willing pawns and continues play.  The Roach, who loves slaves of every sort, will instantly climb aboard any player character graduate student, even if the professor he is replacing died Roach-free. 

As a graduate student, your personal die is D10/D4 - a simultaneously lethal and pathetic combination.  Graduate students have no Enthusiasms, but they do have an Expertise - that of the character they are replacing.  Regular rules apply for gaining and losing the Roach. 

You still have narration rights like any other player, and can still gamble Reputation in conflicts.  You may still frame Scenes and introduce characters and groups into them. 

Death of a player character will often be thematically appropriate, and is definitely to be encouraged.  Continuing play as a graduate student has some limitations, but nothing an enterprising player cannot overcome."
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Graham W
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2005, 07:20:59 AM »

You're going to hate me for this.

Let's say we're in the penultimate round of the game. Tactically, wouldn't it always be a good idea for me to kill the person with the highest Reputation?

That would automatically infect their character with the Roach, so they can't win. And it would also mean that they lost their Enthusiasms, so that even if they drew a card with the Roach on, they couldn't get rid of the Roach.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2005, 07:22:25 AM »

Hiya,

I'm sorry I ever brought the topic up, frankly.

Now, after all the debate and (arguably) having played more Roach than anyone else, I really think that character death needs to be absent from play entirely.

I suggest playing through the game a couple of times with this major constraint fully in place; as I've said before, with it in place, play was unequivocally fun and brutal.

After that, then maybe try the grad student thing.

Best,
Ron
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