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Author Topic: [Misery Bubblegum] Stakes Resolution  (Read 3780 times)
TonyLB
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« on: February 09, 2006, 09:34:36 AM »

Okay, first check out this actual play thread where I talk hazily about the prospect of using mechanics to set stakes, rather than to resolve them.  This is my first crack at that.

Equipment:
  • 3x5 Cards with your Stakes/Traits written on them:  "Johnny is so very cool," "Johnny's relationship with Bridget," "Johnny's hair-trigger temper" and so on.
  • Lots of blue six-sided dice.  The blues.  Blues music.  These are called "Misery Dice."  They start in a bowl in front of one of the players.  Other players, at the start of the game, can just grab a handful.
  • Lots of red six-sided dice.  These are called "Passion Dice."  They start in a bowl in front of another player.  Again, other players can grab a handful to start with.

When you want to resolve something simple, the procedure is simple:  Say you want to see whether you get in the door to the mob lord's (or school principals) office.  No big stakes, you just need to know whether you get in or not.  If any player (but especially the player holding the bowl of passion dice) is willing to give you one of their passion dice then you succeed.  Yay.  Likewise, if anyone (but especially the player holding the bowl of misery dice) is willing to give you one of their misery dice then there is some complication to your success or failure.  They can put these dice either straight into your pool or onto one of the trait-cards in front of you.  Simple, neh?  Basically, minor success and failure is being run much like PTA Fan Mail, as a way of communicating "Hey, that's sorta cool."

Let's say that you got a passion die put onto your "Reckless Curiosity" trait, a misery die put into your pool and another misery die put onto your "Relationship with Amy" trait:  You get into the room by breaking the window and opening the door from the inside.  But now there's a broken window, which may (or may not ... whatever) attract attention, and you're going to have to change your jacket before meeting Amy after school (unless you want to attract attention from her).

Now you've got a non-simple thing to resolve:  there's a non-simple procedure.  You call on somebody at the table to be on the spot to make a decision.  This can be you.  Let's say that you decide that you will be the one to make the decision.

Now, what is the decision?  Don't know yet.  There are two sides, and you're going to get to choose only one of them.  Right now there's nothing on either side, so it's probably a moot point.  But you want to put something on one side ... probably both sides, in fact.  And that's where the stakes resolution system comes in.

You are the person who is going to decide.  So you are going to be using passion dice to add, remove and change stakes on the conflict.  Anybody who wants to mess around with your stakes will use their misery dice to do that:  so, passion dice give you power to control the sort of decisions you have to face, misery dice give you power to force hard decisions on other people.

You're using passion dice.  Your base difficulty on any roll is going to be the number of misery dice you have in your pool.  We'll say you had three before starting the scene.  You got one more (breaking the glass on the door).  The one you got on your "relationship with amy" card doesn't count.  It's on the card, not in your pool.  So your base difficulty will start at a four.  You want to add the "Story:  Evidence of wrongdoing" card (currently in the "unowned" area in the middle of the table) to Side #1 of your stakes.  You roll a Passion die, and it comes up a two.  Not enough to beat your base difficulty.  You roll another, and this one comes up a four (sure ... now!)  Two plus four is six, well above the target number of four.  You've got two passion dice there, holding the "Evidence of Wrongdoing" card in place on side #1.  Go you!

Now I step up to plate, because I'm just a bastard that way.  I don't want you to have any chance of gaining the evidence of wrongdoing.  In fact, I don't even think it's in that safe!  So I want to remove that card from the stakes.  I have no passion dice right now, so my base difficulty is zero.  I need to beat the greater of my base difficulty (zero) and the highest die you've got holding down the card (a four).  So I need to beat a four.  I roll a six on my first die, because (again) I'm lucky and evil that way.

I now take the two passion dice that you had holding down the card.  I have two passion dice.  Yay for me!  And currently, "Evidence of Wrongdoing" is being held out of the stakes by my single die of six.

Well you won't tolerate that, so you roll dice, a three, and a two, and a five.  That finally brings you to a total of greater than six.  You take my misery die (bringing your own pool to five) and "Evidence of wrongdoing" is back on the table.  But you've now spent five of your six passion dice.  Just one left.

I don't like the idea of going up against that five.  Plus, I'm actually interested to see what sort of evidence of wrongdoing you turn up.  But I don't want it to be without cost.  So I roll a misery die, getting a three (just greater than my now-greater pool of two passion dice), and I add your Reckless Curiosity to Side #2 of the choice.  Yay me!

"Reckless Curiosity" comes with a passion die.  You decide to roll that immediately ... but you get a two.  You roll your remaining passion die from your pool ... and get a three.  Now that five is greater than my rolled three, but it's not greater than your pool of five misery dice (the four you started with and the one you earned from my for forcing "Evidence" back into the stakes.  So you're screwed.  You're out of dice, you can't effect the stakes any more.

I'm not out of dice though.  So I add "Relationship with Amy" to side #2.  Because I'm evil that way, and I can do it essentially for free (using the misery die already on the card).

Now, the situation:  On Side #1 you have "Evidence of Wrongdoing."  On Side #2 you have "Reckless Curiosity" and "Relationship with Amy."  Which will you choose, which will you choose? 

You choose Side #1.  The "Evidence of Wrongdoing" card goes into the area that you control.  The cards from Side #2 go into the central pile in the middle, that nobody controls.  You can make stakes again later to try to control them ... but, likewise, I can make stakes to try to take them and control them myself.  Then I would decide (a) whether your reckless curiosity helps or hinders you and (b) when you get to make decisions with that at stake.  Since I'm a vindictive fiend, if I got control of your character's reckless curiosity then I would probably use it to lead him into places he really shouldn't be, and to generally screw him mightily.

All of the dice that are still out there holding down cards (or having tried and failed to regain initiative) go back into their respective bowls.  And that's it.  You, the choosing player, get to narrate something that (a) gets you closer to real evidence of wrongdoing and (b) makes your reckless curiosity and relationship with Amy more tenuous in terms of whether they help or hinder you.


Wow ... that's a lot of rambling.  I really, really, really don't have this clear enough in my head to describe it with precision.  Is what I'm saying making any sense to people, or am I just babbling my own private moon-language?
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2006, 10:40:05 AM »

[/list]

Why not make them pink and call them "Bubblegum Dice?" Then, for Misery Bubblegum, you'll have Misery and Bubblegum dice.

TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2006, 10:46:22 AM »

It's "Steve's Reckless Curiosity."  So if I (Tony) am playing Jessica, and I take control (as a player) of Steve's Reckless Curiosity then I get to use it to influence the story.

To what extent Joe (playing Steve) controls Steve's actions ... that's a detail I'm not clear on yet in my head.  The two easy options are (a) I get to tell Joe when Steve is or isn't recklessly curious or (b) Joe still controls it, but I have some reward/punishment mechanism that I get access to whenever Steve's reckless curiosity comes into play ... so if Joe defies me he suffers, and if he follows my lead he benefits.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2006, 11:24:46 AM »

So you're fighting over control of story elements?  That sounds like a good start.  I do wonder what that control really means -- which you say is not clear yet, which is fine -- and also who gets to frame exactly what losing control of those story elements means in the narrative.  It sounds like the choosing player gets to narrate what that means, exactly.  So like, if I lose the Evidence card in the stakes, I don't get to say what the evidence is, right?  But can I narrate that I take the evidence out of the safe, and since I'm spooked by a noise at the door I bolt out of the building with the evidence in my bag, unlooked at?  Or is moving the evidence around without saying what it is exerting some control over it?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2006, 02:51:10 PM »

Well, if you stuck it in your bag and fled without looking at it then you've narrated what looks like significant progress toward controlling the evidence, but you haven't backed that up with the game mechanics.

That means (I think) that when you attempt to actually (oh, say) open your book-bag and look at the evidence, it's not going to be that easy.  The gap between how easy the task looks, and how hard it measurably is in the game-mechanics, does you in.

At worst, you'll just find yourself unable to do so (and be compelled to think up an excuse).  People will use their superior resources to prevent you from adding that as stakes ... like, ever.  Turns out that the papers that looked so useful were, in fact, worthless.  Another dead-end.

An option that is a little less brutal (and easier for your opponents to achieve) is that you may be forced to choose between opening your bag and keeping your girlfriend.  You can still have the evidence, but if you open that bag, something else is going to be seen which puts you completely in the dog-house with Amy.  What the hell are you keeping in that bookbag?  A half-used pack of condoms or something?  Why the hell did you ever agree to stash those for Richie, anyway?  Amy will never believe the truth, it's too far-fetched.

Does that make any sense?
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2006, 04:49:47 PM »

Makes perfect sense, and sounds awesome.  The only difficult I see is in clearly communicating the limits of narration in regards to the ownership of story elements.  By the by, what are you calling "the stuff you put on cards"?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2006, 07:42:02 AM »

Dunno.  I'm short on terms for a lot of things:
  • Stuff that goes on cards
  • The person who will eventually choose between the two options being listed
  • The person who holds the Misery Dice bowl
  • The person who holds the Passion Dice bowl
  • A choice that is being presented and modified, vis-a-vis its stakes
  • The act of presenting and modifying that choice
  • The state of having a card in front of you, rather than in the middle (not exactly "control", not exactly "profiting from", but something between the two)
  • The state of a card being in the middle, where anyone can include it as stakes

Anyone have ideas?  Some terms would help me think about this.

Also:  Should players need to spend some resource in order to open a conflict?  It strikes me that, if two people both have high Passion dice and low Misery dice, the question of who gets to open the first conflict (and, presumably, end up being the person choosing between stakes, and therefore the person with access to their Passion dice) is a big deal.  How do you mediate that?
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Bryan Hansel
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« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2006, 12:04:53 PM »

I'll take a stab at some term ideas.  Maybe it will help or spark something.  -Bryan


Quote
Stuff that goes on cards

Why not just Trait Cards and Stake Cards?  It's simple and describes them perfectly.

Quote
The person who will eventually choose between the two options being listed

Maybe, Active Player?

Quote
The person who holds the Misery Dice bowl

The Punisher? The Tormentor?

Quote
The state of having a card in front of you, rather than in the middle (not exactly "control", not exactly "profiting from", but something between the two)

Influence?

Quote
The state of a card being in the middle, where anyone can include it as stakes

In flux?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2006, 08:03:38 PM »

Why not just Trait Cards and Stake Cards?  It's simple and describes them perfectly.

Well, there aren't two classes of cards.  Every Trait is a potential Stake and every Stake is a potential Trait.  So two terms seems a bit overkill.

Here's another question for folks:  Do you think the in-flux cards are pulling their weight?  I get the feeling that the game will drive faster and cleaner if I can figure out how to make sure that any cards you choose not to take immediately go to some other player who may well not have your best interests at heart.

The thing is, I can't figure out (outside of the obvious one-on-one confrontations) how to distribute those cards.  If four people are all fiddling around, adding and removing stakes on the decision, how do you know which of the three non-choosers gets a given card?
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2006, 12:38:39 AM »

The thing is, I can't figure out (outside of the obvious one-on-one confrontations) how to distribute those cards.  If four people are all fiddling around, adding and removing stakes on the decision, how do you know which of the three non-choosers gets a given card?

Turn them over, add a couple blanks, shuffle them, and deal them to the other players.  Blanks go back onto the pile of blanks.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2006, 10:55:57 AM »

But ...

Think, think,

See, there are times when the card clearly needs to go to a specific player.  Take a look at this example:

Quote
Preston wants to keep Becky safe.  Becky wants to get close to Preston.  Victor wants to find Preston's weak spot, and use it to destroy him.

Becky asks Preston whether he loves her.  She puts "Preston/Becky relationship" on one side of the stakes.  Victor is watching in secret.  If Preston admits his love for Becky, Victor will know that she's his weak spot.  Victor puts "Becky's safety" on the other side of the stakes.

Suppose Preston denies his love for Becky.  The relationship is back in Becky's court.  Victor has no motive to be involved, and really isn't thematically tied to the issue of Becky's anger and rejection.  The card has to go to Becky's player.

Suppose Preston confesses his love for Becky.  Becky's safety is now a tool that Victor can use against Preston.  The card clearly has to go to Victor.

So, in this simple example, the formula is easy:  the person who put the card down is the one who gets it if it's up for grabs.  But I think there are a lot of situations in which that simple outcome won't work.  What if Becky's player thinks it would be neat if Victor were the danger?  What if she puts both cards in the stakes ... does that mean that there's no way that her safety can end up in Victor's control at the end of the decision?  That sort of robs Preston's decision of much of its weight.

Am I making sense?  Rambling?  Both?
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Bryan Hansel
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2006, 11:22:53 AM »

I sort of see where you're going with this, but am finding it a little hard to follow.  Probably my fault.  But once the cards are in the center aren't they open up to whoever wants to put stakes on them.  If one player wants the card and no one opposes that desire to control that stake wouldn't that player just get the stake.  If to players want the card, then shouldn't their be a stake biding war?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2006, 11:44:02 AM »

Oh!

And also, d'oh!

Right.  Why would coveted cards ever stick around in the middle?  They wouldn't.  Victor probably bought himself a whole bunch of Passion dice during his work at setting the stakes.  So then he immediately pours those into grabbing "Becky's safety" out of the middle.  And if Becky agrees that he should have it then she dumps her dice into the same situation, and ...

Thank you.  You've helped me (I hope) to not get my brain wrapped around the axle as severely as it might have been.

Right.  Now I gotta get some people together to play-test this.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2006, 11:55:18 AM »

Tony, I think you mapped out one way in which that situation could unfold, but it's not the only way.  Sure, Victor can see Preston declare his love for Becky, and conclude that Becky is Preston's weak spot (and get the Becky's safety card).  However, it could just as easily go that Victor sees the love declaration but Preston takes responsibility for Becky's safety (and he gets Becky's safety).  Or the love-declaration thing goes down and Becky realizes that she's entering dangerous waters and will have to watch herself (and she gets the card).  Also, don't rule out the possibility of follow-up conflicts where Victor can try and take Becky's safety from Preston or whatever other combination you want.

What's the difference in the decision that Preston has to make if (a) the stakes I don't choose go to Victor specifically or (b) the stakes I don't choose get scattered to the winds, and I can't control where they go?

Additionally, is there any narration that gets paired with the die-rolling that determines what's at stake?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2006, 07:21:06 PM »

However, it could just as easily go that Victor sees the love declaration but Preston takes responsibility for Becky's safety (and he gets Becky's safety).

Yeah, but that's ... that's different stakes.  If Preston gets to choose that then it's because "Relationship" and "Becky's safety" are on the same side of the conflict.

Now that might seem all simple:  If Preston can take responsibility for Becky's safety and improve their relationship, and he loses nothing in exchange, why would he ever choose anything else?  Well, first off because Victor is going to attack anything that Preston is holding, looking for weakness.  So (and here's where I get really excited about the prospect for wonderfully true heartache) Preston might well choose the side of the stakes that has nothing.  He wants to admit his love, and he wants Becky to be safe ... and that's why he can't accept Becky's affections, why he can't let her count on him to protect her.

Heh.  God, that would suck ... and rock.

Additionally, is there any narration that gets paired with the die-rolling that determines what's at stake?

Yeah.  Don't know how it'll be structured yet.
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