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Author Topic: The role of fortune  (Read 35721 times)
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« on: September 19, 2005, 08:22:38 AM »

Why do we care about Fortune mechanics? Why does it matter that randomness has an effect on our games?

What if it doesn't? For instance, Polaris has indeterminacy without randomness. It's unexpected because you don't know what the other players are going to do, not because you have a randomly effective action.

I have reasons for asking this question, but I'll leave them until I understand this assumption more.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2005, 08:35:27 AM »

Fortune is a scape-goat.  Basically, when two people disagree, and neither wants to say "Okay, but we're going it my way, because we need to make a decision," they flip a coin and blame the coin.
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Sven Seeland
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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2005, 08:46:19 AM »

Yes, what Tony said seems to be reason number one. However, there are a few more (marginal) aspects to randomnes in games, at least in my oppinion.

One is the fact that dice (or cards or coins or whatever) are less predictable than people. This can be good and bad. For one it can highten the surprise (removing the "I knew you where gonna do that" aspect) but then it can also create quite some rubbish, since dice never take into account the actual circumstance in which they are rolled, don't have a feeling for drama and don't know which results the players would actually like and which they would be annoyed by.

Another aspect becomes obvious once you look at randomness outside of the resolution context. Randomness can be used to spark creativity or to get the game rolling again when it becomes scale. Prime examples are random encounter tables and things like that.

Oh yea, come to think of it: as a tangent of Tony's point, dice can also be opposition. In a game where there is no formal opposition amongst the players the dice can be the opposition. This really combines the aspects of scapegoat and the creativity spark of the random encounter tables. This is actually not too far from the game I'm currently working on.

Hope that helped a little.
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- Sven

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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2005, 08:59:09 AM »

Fortune is a scape-goat.  Basically, when two people disagree, and neither wants to say "Okay, but we're going it my way, because we need to make a decision," they flip a coin and blame the coin.

That's not how it looks in Dogs, though: the dice are resources. Before anything happens, those dice become real numbers, and it's the GM's responsibility to play those dice as hard as sHe can.

So I don't buy it.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2005, 09:09:33 AM »

One is the fact that dice (or cards or coins or whatever) are less predictable than people. This can be good and bad. For one it can highten the surprise (removing the "I knew you where gonna do that" aspect) but then it can also create quite some rubbish, since dice never take into account the actual circumstance in which they are rolled, don't have a feeling for drama and don't know which results the players would actually like and which they would be annoyed by.

Well, that problem can be properly dealt with by changing the meanings of dice to exclude disappointing results. That's fairly standard these days, in fact: Dogs in the Vineyard, With Great Power..., and Prime Time Adventures all make sure the dice say something interesting.

From a fiction-creation standpoint, why do you want something less predictable than people? People have come up with every single dramatic resolution you've ever seen in a movie, play, book, or story. Stories are coherent tales, not random events.

Quote
Another aspect becomes obvious once you look at randomness outside of the resolution context. Randomness can be used to spark creativity or to get the game rolling again when it becomes scale. Prime examples are random encounter tables and things like that.

That's interesting. Mozart wrote a game in which one rolled dice to create music. I have to think about that.

Hm.

Quote
Oh yea, come to think of it: as a tangent of Tony's point, dice can also be opposition. In a game where there is no formal opposition amongst the players the dice can be the opposition. This really combines the aspects of scapegoat and the creativity spark of the random encounter tables.

I'm not sure at all that that's better than a human who's assigned to give opposition. I expect not. After all, a randomly effective opposition is statistically less effective than a directed one, and effective opposition is at the core of the concept of "antagonist".
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Sven Seeland
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« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2005, 09:31:46 AM »

Well, yea. The points I added to Tony's are kind of weak but I still thought they deserved to be mentioned.

Quote
From a fiction-creation standpoint, why do you want something less predictable than people?
I could imagine that you could grow a little bored if you played the same game with the same people for a long time because those people would tend to use the system in similar ways over time. Of course the solution could be "play a different game then with different people!" but maybe somebody might not want that. And I also think it's kind of a lame argument since it basically puts an expiration tag on a game, which I consider to be bad design, unless it was specifically intended to be a game with a short life-span.

I'm not saying that you absolutely have to have some element of fortune in the game. You don't. I'm just saying that there are advantages. Of course you could go and write a game completely without fortune mechanics. It's been done successfully.

You don't even need random mechanics for a scapegoat. Non-random rules can be perfect scapegoats. Saying "We do things my way because the rules say so" is just as good as saying "We do things my way because the dice say so". It's just that the first case tends to be more static and some people might not cope with that too well (I'm guessing here).
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2005, 09:52:30 AM »

Randomness can just be flat-out fun. I mean, you could figure out how much you were going to spend at the casino, then run the odds and figure out how much you'd lose on average, and throw that money in the garbage, but there's no excitement to it. If I'm playing Blackjack, I don't want the dealer telling me what my cards are, even if they're doing it to "heighten the excitement."
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lumpley
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2005, 09:54:12 AM »

Maybe you've all read this already, but it really needs to be in the conversation: Ron on "the Ball".

Quote
From a fiction-creation standpoint, why do you want something less predictable than people?

Correctly-handled randomness is as effective a way to give the ball bounce as any other. If you want to understand why randomness is cool and useful, look at what it has in common with Polaris' structured interaction, in the games you mentioned and others like 'em, not what's different between them.

-Vincent
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HenryT
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2005, 10:02:38 AM »

As someone who started out playing and running games without randomness, and later started playing with dice, I usually think of randomness as a tool to spur creative thinking: left to my own devices, it's too easy to just go along with the flow of events.  Having a random element stops me from falling into a rut, because every so often the dice do something unexpected, and the act of incorporating those results usually gives a more interesting result than the one I'd been going along with.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2005, 10:14:37 AM »

Randomness can just be flat-out fun. I mean, you could figure out how much you were going to spend at the casino, then run the odds and figure out how much you'd lose on average, and throw that money in the garbage, but there's no excitement to it. If I'm playing Blackjack, I don't want the dealer telling me what my cards are, even if they're doing it to "heighten the excitement."

Ah, see, this might be instructive here: I hate gambling because I can't see the difference between it and throwing away your money. This may be a thrill I just don't experience that others do.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Keith Senkowski
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2005, 10:33:13 AM »

Here's my take on it, and it is definately related to Ron's ball that Vincent pointed out.  Games are fun cause of the bad shit that happens in them.  bad shit isn't as easy to come by if we are all agreeing and predeterimining shit cause we see it coming.  How fucking boring would everything be if we just chose it and it happened as we wanted or we knew what was going to happen in advance?  Very fucking boring, which is why we have fortune, cause the unknown and reacting to the unknown is more fun than sitting around telling each other how fucking awesome we are.

Keith
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2005, 11:17:48 AM »

I still don't buy it, everyone. Go and Chess wouldn't be better games if you rolled dice. There are just so many interesting options in those games that they don't need it.

I think randomness is a short cut around some interesting territory.

Consider each character as a stack of resources that the player can use to deal with conflict. Each of those resources has an effect that comes at a cost. That means that a player will want to use resources at the most effective level. If that means it's always the same sequence, the game's broken, but that's not a tremendous issue, I don't think. The issue is having enough resources with enough creative applications that you have a Complex situation: little differences in input make big differences in output.

Vincent, I read that post a long time ago. My feelings in the matter remain unchanged. I agree that there has to be something that hops up the situation, but it doesn't have to be randomness.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
TonyLB
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2005, 11:30:10 AM »

Joshua:  When you say "I don't buy it," which are you saying?
  • "That is a legitimate way to use Fortune as a tool, but I believe there are other, equally legitimate, answers and I'd like to explore those instead," or
  • "That is not a legitimate way to use Fortune at all, you are completely wrong."

Because if you're saying the first then, cool.  I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

If you're saying the second ... well, then I'm not so much interested.
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lumpley
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2005, 11:39:03 AM »

Vincent, I read that post a long time ago. My feelings in the matter remain unchanged. I agree that there has to be something that hops up the situation, but it doesn't have to be randomness.

Of course it doesn't. Randomness just works fine, same as lots of other things.

You won't find the answer to "why randomness?" in examining randomness, what makes randomness different from (for instance) non-random resource management or structured interaction. Because that's not why. The answer to "why randomness?" is "because well-designed randomness works the same way that (for instance) well-designed non-random resource management or well-designed structured interaction do."

Compare Dogs' conflict resolution with Carcassonne. Dogs has randomness: you have some resources available, but you don't know until you roll 'em what precisely they are. Carcassonne has a tradeoff: you have to decide whether to lie your little guy down in the field - a long-term move - or stand him up in the forest - a short-term move. The consequence is that your available resources are in unpredictable flux.

In Dogs, sometimes you roll poorly. In Carcassonne, sometimes you don't have any guys available when you want one. In Polaris, sometimes your Mistaken says something that takes you aback.

Randomness is a way to get it. Other good ways to get it also exist.

Now it might be you're asking "why randomness for this given game, instead of some other way?" My answer then is to shrug: randomness works, it's in vogue, we have a pretty good handle on how to design it. Maybe other design considerations make randomness the ideal solution, in this particular case. Or the easiest solution, if not the ideal one. Maybe the designer used randomness by default, and another way would have been more elegant. It sure does depend on what game we're talking about.

-Vincent
« Last Edit: September 19, 2005, 11:44:05 AM by lumpley » Logged
Andrew Morris
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« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2005, 12:16:09 PM »

Josh, I mean no attack or criticism when I say that your last post has a strong "one true wayism" vibe to it. Go and Chess were not designed to use dice, so of course they work better without dice. Craps was designed to use dice -- would it be better without them? Of course not, because then it wouldn't be Craps anymore.

Quote from: glyphmonkey
I think randomness is a short cut around some interesting territory.

If you mean "always in absolutely every case," I've got to disagree. Sometimes the randomness is the interesting territory itself.
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