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Author Topic: [More Abyssals] CA Clashes and holes in gamist systems.  (Read 8537 times)
lampros
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« on: December 04, 2005, 12:14:20 AM »

I ran into a problem with my Abyssals game the other night. There was a large battle scene, one of the players really wanted to use their badass new spell. She had some extras as bodyguards to protect her while she did so. An opposing badass comes up and smacks her around, stopping the spell. The badass GMC ignored the bodyguards, cuz of the general (but unarticulated) principal that important characters treat extras as so much set dressing. (the players have used this principal to their advantage before.) The player felt sort of cheated. I'm trying to diagnose the problem.

A) We're in a grey area in the rules. There are no clearly delinated rules for defending others, and the rules don't lend themselves to any obvious GM call. If you're in this situation during Gamist play, what do you do?

B) I think there was a creative agenda clash here. The player wanted to use the spell cuz it was COOL. I'm not sure if "winning" was important to her or not. I wanted the players to "earn" their victory using the rules. The players do too to some degree - they can narrate almost any move they want whenever they like, but they still put serious effort into devoloping mechanically better attacks. I think this clash was part of the problem.

C) Would you say "the players should earn their character's victory using the rules" is a gamist or simulationist concern? Or does it break the system?

yours,

Alex
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2005, 10:37:59 PM »

B) I think there was a creative agenda clash here. The player wanted to use the spell cuz it was COOL. I'm not sure if "winning" was important to her or not. I wanted the players to "earn" their victory using the rules. The players do too to some degree - they can narrate almost any move they want whenever they like, but they still put serious effort into devoloping mechanically better attacks. I think this clash was part of the problem.
Do you think the serious effort with the system may be to produce stuff (like that spell) with their characters. Stuff that's cool to use? What do they talk about after they've put in serious effort?

Quote
C) Would you say "the players should earn their character's victory using the rules" is a gamist or simulationist concern? Or does it break the system?
Focusing on the players, do they actively reach for the rules in order to achieve any objectives they may have stated for themselves during play? Or are the rules approached with a causal pattern in mind 'first I do this, THEN I get this'
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2005, 05:49:02 AM »

The badass GMC ignored the bodyguards, cuz of the general (but unarticulated) principal that important characters treat extras as so much set dressing. (the players have used this principal to their advantage before.) The player felt sort of cheated. I'm trying to diagnose the problem.

Okay.  When you say "ignore" are you saying "He slapped him aside without even breaking stride, with the broken bones and the bodyguards flying across the battleground and everything," or are you saying "He just walked past them, while they beat on his back with swords"?

It seems to me that the bodyguards serve (at least) two purposes:  one is to be mechanical defense.  Clearly Exalted doesn't back this up, as you've said.  The second is to give your adversary a chance to look cool by sweeping them aside in brutal fashion, which in turn makes the protagonist look cool by being the one who can face this really-buff adversary.

If the player is objecting to the fact that the bodyguards didn't give a mechanical defense then that's sorta strange, and probably a misunderstanding.  If she objects that the bodyguards weren't allowed to sacrifice themselves to make the main characters look cool, that's pretty understandable, and easy to correct in future.

If it's something else, of course, then I hope you'll clarify!
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lampros
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« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2005, 01:57:26 PM »


Okay.  When you say "ignore" are you saying "He slapped him aside without even breaking stride, with the broken bones and the bodyguards flying across the battleground and everything," or are you saying "He just walked past them, while they beat on his back with swords"?

It seems to me that the bodyguards serve (at least) two purposes:  one is to be mechanical defense.  Clearly Exalted doesn't back this up, as you've said.  The second is to give your adversary a chance to look cool by sweeping them aside in brutal fashion, which in turn makes the protagonist look cool by being the one who can face this really-buff adversary.

If the player is objecting to the fact that the bodyguards didn't give a mechanical defense then that's sorta strange, and probably a misunderstanding.  If she objects that the bodyguards weren't allowed to sacrifice themselves to make the main characters look cool, that's pretty understandable, and easy to correct in future.

If it's something else, of course, then I hope you'll clarify!

Actually the 'bad guy' flew over the bodyguard with his wings. The player was annoyed cuz she wanted to look cool by getting her spell off, and she had specifically mentioned that the bodyguards were going to help her with that goal, and they didn't; with the result that she didn't get to use her spell. Well - the spell would have looked cool, but it also would have done lots of damage.

In retrospect, I think I may have misdiagnosed the nature of the CA clash. I wanted the rules to be gamist, so that I know who wins and there are no hurt feelings. The rules are basically sim, and inevitably leave a lot of holes where the GM has to call things. But I dunno, I'm sort of new to this G/N/S stuff.
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lampros
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« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2005, 02:04:11 PM »

Do you think the serious effort with the system may be to produce stuff (like that spell) with their characters. Stuff that's cool to use? What do they talk about after they've put in serious effort?

Yeah, the effort is to produce stuff to cool to use.

But, as one of the players told me, they like the framework the rules provide. I think the character's abilities feel more real if they work within the framework of a rules set.

Quote
Focusing on the players, do they actively reach for the rules in order to achieve any objectives they may have stated for themselves during play? Or are the rules approached with a causal pattern in mind 'first I do this, THEN I get this'

I'm not sure what you're asking here. The players don't reach for the rules very much during play (neither do I). Most sessions, the rules's main task is to provide cool new abilities for the characters through XP expenditure. Last session, the rules were called upon to A) resolve conflict between them and powerful GMCs and B) to provide a tactically interesting combat.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2005, 08:00:34 PM »

Quote
The rules are basically sim, and inevitably leave a lot of holes where the GM has to call things.
I think if you recognise it as a sim agenda, one wonderful thing you can do is realise there is no competition barrier  to bringing the players in on making calls like this "Help me make the call on this - I think X, but I'm open to negotiation. How do you imagine the world to work?". Or at least that you can lower the competition barrier if its part of the creative process (simulationists can benefit from competitive play just as much as narrativists).

Quote
Well - the spell would have looked cool, but it also would have done lots of damage.

Is lots of damage a concern because the game world just doesn't work that way in your mind - in the game world getting to do lots of damage while putting up a flimsy defence against someone interupting, just isn't how the game world works? Perhaps it's not so much a gamist concern of getting something for nothing (since gamism can involve tons of that), it's more a matter of the game world itself working on a 'you get what you put in' principle? And if that principle isn't met, the play isn't meaningful?
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Danny_K
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« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2005, 08:22:41 PM »

Speaking as an Exalted rules guy, a role that feels very strange to me, sorcery in Exalted is supposed to work *exactly* as you describe.  The PC spends a combat turn (or more, for really big spells) getting his mojo working, and then boom -- there's a very big effect.  It makes perfect sense in Exalted to target the guy who's standing off by himself with the big glowy aura.  That helps balance the really, really powerful spells that even beginning characters get.

So I suspect there's some Drift away from Gamism and the focus on rules going on. 
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2005, 09:08:02 PM »

Hello,

This is looking clearer and clearer to me. First, check out Bumpy Exalted game; my comments are on the second page.

Now, what I think I'm seeing is the more-or-less predictable outcome of trying to satisfy CCG-influenced Gamist goals in the short-term (tactics, Charms, fights, timing, etc) within a larger context of trying to satisfy classical White-Wolf-style Illusionist "story play" in the long term. One developer for that company described Exalted to me as if it were obvious: "Why not let players do what they do best, kick butt and strategize, and let GMs do what they do best, tell stories?" This is, bluntly, bonkers. Reading about Exalted actual play is like seeing snapshots of various steps in the same process - always of enthusiasm, then confusion, then try-it-again, then exhaustion, and finally frustration. With quite a bit of monetary effort along the way to "make it work," but we can talk about the economics of that another time.

What I'm after now is to suggest that both people, the woman and the GM, are caught in the bear trap of an essentially unplayable game. No, you cannot have the players kick butt and strategize in isolated subpockets of the GM telling his story. The two will, eventually, come into conflict at some juncture or another. The woman was prevented from strategizing, period - a resource she thought she could spend turned out not to count, because the GM felt like not letting it count, thank you. The GM was prevented from telling his story successfully - the woman had no particular interest in listening to said story, if it screwed with her strategizing.

You aren't going to find any solution to this problem by consulting the rules.

Now let's head back the mother lode of this problem: magic in D&D (I'm speaking of the 1978-80 AD&D, although I think it applies to AD&D2 as well). Veterans know full well that magic as written in this game, once upon a certain level, say 12th, is a barrel o'monkeys of raw chaos. If a GM is intent on his fantasy saga unfolding via the step-by-step expression of this game ("campaign"), as were so many GMs, then he must spend an enormous amount of effort to muzzle the impact of the players on his plans and outcomes. Unless he wants to match it with more magic (a losing battle; players are cunning and he's outnumbered), then he has to get good at controlling the setup, opportunities, and outcomes of the magic's use. He's best off if he can keep it covert - and I suspect this GM has been pulling versions of this stuff for a while without people really noticing - but if he can't, he puts on his faux-Gamist hat and talks about "balance."

But that's bogus to the Gamist - what's the point of having cool spells if you can't use them? And if you can come up with a way to use them (protect yourself during the window of vulnerability), then who the hell is the GM to override that? A cheater and a pussy, that's who, to the Gamist.

As I said, you aren't going to find any solution to this problem by consulting the rules. This is raw Creative Agenda clash, and lordy help you, you are attempting to deal with it in the context of a system which was specifically designed exactly as a contradiction in these terms.

Best,
Ron
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jmac
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Posts: 36


« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2005, 11:51:34 PM »

What relation has this "really want to use the new spell" thing to CA or anything within Big Model? I don't get it, actually.

Though it's clear for me that this very thing contradicts with Gamist approach. In gamist play I wouldn't want to use the spell, I would want to win, maybe in cool fashion - using that spell. Maybe it was a gamist play (the takeover took place) but players never really got in trouble, so they relaxed and tried to have fun not just winning, but winning in some cool fashion?
Could really such problem be avoided by keeping the challenge tough?
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Ivan.
Kintara
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« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2005, 12:47:09 AM »

While White Wolf games may encourage "story play," is there something inherently difficult with importing another GM management technique from somewhere else, like from, say, you Ron?  You might be drifting the game, but I'm not sure I see how it's a difficult drift.  I suppose the system is a little crunchy to make a more improvisatory style a snap, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.  I agree that the GM guidance in Exalted could be far better if it included more advice on managing a game instead of telling a story.
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contracycle
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« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2005, 02:19:42 AM »

Once upon a time my players near threatened me with physical violence out of furstration that I was derailing ALL their plans, on the basis that they had to "earn" their victories.  But this meant the players in effect never got the joy of a well executed plan, or the satisfaction of an overwhelming ambush.  So, my first comment is that they do need some opportunities to bask in the glory of victory and the pleasure of an elegant and exercise of power.

Second, the non-articulated rule needs to be articulated.  You could have had two thought processes like this:
player: "the mooks wont save me in a fight or defeat major enemies, but they will serve as a buffer while I prepare the doomsday spell"
GM: "the mooks have no significant effect on play, and certainly not to the ambitions of major characters, therefore they cant cause enough of a delay to matter".
This could be solved by saying something like "major characters can cut a swathe through mooks but this requires their action(s) for 1 turn."  Then the player will know exactly how much of a buffer their mooks are able to provide and plan accordingly.

From the players perspective they had a viable Plan.  They had taken the necessary precautions.  It should have worked, except the GM overuled the precautiuons, thus sabotaging the Plan.  And that over-ruling was based on an unarticulated principle that is therefore not itself a rule; it feels like it was used opportunistically against them specifically in order to break the plan, thus invalidating the plan, the investment of resources in the new spell, and the investment of resources in the mooks.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2005, 06:13:46 AM »

Gareth (contracycle) nailed it. If you don't understand what I wrote, then see what he wrote.

Kintara, if I'm understanding your post correctly (correct me if I don't), then you're suggesting a solution for the game we're talking about. I agree that any number of sorts of Drift would work well, although I really don't think my own preferred Sorcerer-style Narrativist GMing is a candidate.

However, I think you might be putting the cart before the horse. You don't Drift rules in order to create new goals of play; your existing goals of play lead you to Drift rules. So if this GM is meeting his goals, saying "Drift'em!" is no solution.

Best,
Ron
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Bret Gillan
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That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2005, 07:11:47 AM »

Hi Lampros,

A) Really, you need to find a system that supports this sort of thing or houserule an answer. It's a Narrativist game, from what I understand, but HeroQuest has awesome rules for followers and sidekicks and how they interact with the system. At the very least, you could always look at it for inspiration.

B) The core of the clash here is one that I'm familiar with from my Exalted play - other people have already gone over it - but the player invested resources in those Followers. The player was then attempting to use those invested resources, it was ignored by GM fiat, and now she's wishing she'd put the points into an Artifact instead. If the players earning victory is a concern here, then the player very likely feels that she was completely denied some of the tools at her character's disposal to earn that victory. It's pretty much the same as denying her use of an applicable charm or skill that she invested in.

C) Players "earning victory" seems like a Gamist concern to me, but I'm no expert.
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John Burdick
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« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2005, 07:50:06 AM »

But that's bogus to the Gamist - what's the point of having cool spells if you can't use them? And if you can come up with a way to use them (protect yourself during the window of vulnerability), then who the hell is the GM to override that? A cheater and a pussy, that's who, to the Gamist.

Ron,

Not to defend the overall game, but from my point of view I wonder if the player used the means provided to defend the spell caster. The reason Abyssals, especially the heaviest spell centic type the Daybreak, are effective combat casters is that it is difficult to disrupt them. All of the characters ongoing charm effects (armor buffs, dodge, parry, maybe counter) and spell effects continue to operate while casting. Daybreak have the special ability to negate damage after it passes armor and before the concentration check. Lesser character types that have weaker ongoing charms are less effective at casting in combat.

On the other hand flying, leaping, dematerializing and so on are normal ways of getting past a screen of guards. Unless more than one opponent gets past the guards, the one guy is now alone with an Abyssal and his guards.

I'm not trying to point at rules as some sort of solution. I'm just questioning the generic Gamist player's response to the action. If it were my character I'd welcome the chance to show how prepared I was, even if I wasn't prepared enough. If I knew all the players were dedicated Gamist, I would talk about how to work the system as an answer.

John
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2005, 08:02:52 AM »

Actually, I think we're agreeing, John. My perception is that the player did use the rules in a Gamist fashion (not generic! I am indeed talking about preparedness, again, much as with a CCG deck) and was shut down in a way which, incoherently, was also "by the rules" in a more general sense, i.e. the GM advice.

People used to wrangle about this when playing Vampire, about ten years ago, and boy did they wrangle about it when playing Champions, in a certain subset of that game's play, ten years before that.

Best,
Ron
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