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Author Topic: Game-mechanic questions  (Read 8454 times)
Paul Strack
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Posts: 46


« on: February 13, 2006, 05:08:32 PM »

First off, let me congratulate Michael on a brilliant game. I have been surveying a lot of indie GM-less or GM-light alternative RPGs lately, and so far I like WGP the best. I think the way the game manages the story arc and provides hooks for improvising new scenes is sheer genius.

I do have some mechanical questions, though. I apologize in advance if I get carried away:

1) Discards and Shuffling: I assume that discards go back to the original deck from which they came, and you shuffle the discards back into the deck when the deck is empty.

2) Conflict scenes: It seems strange that the number of draws that a GM gets is independent of the number of heroes that show up for a conflict. The hand size goes up, but the number of cards drawn stays the same. With a large number of players, it seems like the GM will often start with fewer cards in her hand than her maximum hand size. I am thinking of giving the GM two extra card draws per hero in the fight (total, not per deck), but I am not sure whether this is a real problem or not.

3) Enrichment scenes: So far as I can see, there is no game-mechanical benefit for winning an enrichment scene. For losing, you get an extra card, so mechanically you are encouraged to lose. For priming scenes, I don't think this matters much, but for later scenes you could get weird effects, such as reducing an aspect's suffering in a scene but deliberating losing the stakes to get extra cards.

I am thinking of instituting a house rule whereby suffering is assessed at the end of an enrichment scene instead of the beginning, and that the GM has the option of forcing the suffering level up if she wins the stake (the player still draws cards).

4) Captured aspects: My understanding is that once a villain captures a devastated aspect, he can push up the suffering of the aspect at no real cost to himself. This in effect gives the GM "free" card draws. Assuming my understanding is correct, I like the rule. The villain will take every opportunity to increase the suffering of captured aspects, adding tension and motivating the heroes to work hard to foil his plan quickly.

5) Game flow: Based on my reading of the rules, here is my guess for a typical games flow.

a) The game starts with a series of enrichment scenes, mostly priming aspects.

b) The game moves into its first conflict scene, maybe with the B villain. The villains will mostly win the stakes, pushing up the suffering on strife aspects of the heroes. It is unlikely anything will get to the devastated level at this point.

c) The game moves into a second round of enrichment scenes. Ideally I'd like to see aspects pushed into the Imperiled level as this stage, though I am not sure the mechanics support this (since the players control aspect changes at this point). That's my motive for proposing the house rule above.

d) The game has its second conflict, with the A villain. If the villains are doing well, one or more strife aspects are pushed into the devastated level. The heroes will probably win some of the stakes, because the story arc is more in their favor. This lets them push the villain in the direction of defeat by making his plan suffer.

e) Once the villains control some devastated aspects, the game will have short or non-existent enrichment cycles, since the heroes are strongly motivated to pick fights with the villains to stop their plans. The villain will delay, taking every opportunity to push up the suffering of captured aspects. The heroes drive to the end of the story arc, so they can stop the villain and redeem their aspects. They have to lose a few more fights in the process, though, with more suffering for their aspects as a result.

f) Eventually you reach the end of the story arc, at which point it becomes a race to see who can meet their victory conditions first. It seems unlikely that the villains will actually win, but it seems quite possible that the villain might be able to transform an aspect or two before going down to defeat.

Does the above sound right? I am hoping to run WGP at a con next weekend, and I want to get an idea if I have the mechanical flow right.
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Paul Strack
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Posts: 46


« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2006, 05:48:01 PM »

Hmm. OK, I've had an hour to think more about the question and I think I can now better articulate my concerns about the rules. It seems like the heroes have many more opportunities to reduce suffering than the villains have to increase it. If heroes devoted a few cards per cycle of scenes to keeping their strife aspects down, they ought to be able to stymie the villain indefinitely.

Is this how things work in actual play, or is there something I am missing?
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Thor Olavsrud
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2006, 07:59:12 AM »

Players get lots and lots of benefits from Devastating aspects. It is in their interests to do so. The more Devastated aspects, the more cards the GM draws at the beginning of a conflict. This is why you don't need to give the GM extra draws. In my experience the GM has PLENTY of cards.

Especially early on, the GM has a very strong advantage. Players rarely seek to lower the suffering of their aspects early on. They can't afford to spend the cards AND lose the additional draws they would get at the beginning of a conflict.

In most cases, the GM should not be trying to defeat every hero in every conflict. Play each for a couple of pages to determine who is strong and who isn't, and also to get them to drive up their sufferring. Then select which stakes you can afford to lose and which you feel you must win. Give on conflicts you can afford to lose.

Technically, the benefit of Enrichment scenes is greatest when the hero loses. However, if you are doing your job as GM and really playing hardball when it comes to setting stakes, players will agonize over whether to play to win or to lose and take the extra card. Often, they'll play to win the stakes. Feel free to offer stakes that include kidnapping their loved ones, putting them in comas, firing the hero from his day job, etc. The player gets to choose between accepting it or playing a high card to win his stakes.

In answer to your first question: yes, you're absolutely correct about discards and shuffling.

Villains do get to increase the suffering of captured aspects during Enrichment scenes and during the Assessment phase of Conflict scenes. They get cards for this.

As for gameflow, that's more or less how it works. I don't usually break it down into A-list and B-list villains, but that's certainly one way to approach it, and perfectly valid. Generally, Enrichment scenes are big commodities at the end as well as the beginning. Heroes are desperately trying to decrease the suffering of their aspects, while villains are trying to increase the suffering of captured aspects.

Also, something I found from running WGP a great deal: Enrichment scenes are generally the most important scenes. Conflict scenes are awesome and intense, but they're usually about beating the lights out of the enemy. All the stuff that makes a character human -- his relationships, his struggles with work and family, etc. -- it all plays out in enrichment scenes.
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Paul Strack
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Posts: 46


« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2006, 11:11:15 AM »

First, thanks for your replies.

Players get lots and lots of benefits from Devastating aspects. It is in their interests to do so. The more Devastated aspects, the more cards the GM draws at the beginning of a conflict. This is why you don't need to give the GM extra draws. In my experience the GM has PLENTY of cards.

I admit I am speaking from the perspective of having never played the game. However, I don't see any reason why a player with a good understanding of the rules would ever willingly devastate a trait. The player gets a one-time draw of 4 cards, and gets some new wild cards. On the other side, he loses the 3-cards-per-conflict draw he gets from an Imperiled aspect, the GM gets an extra 4-cards-per-conflict draw multiplied by the number of decks, and the GM gets a series of one-time draws (1, 2, 3 and 4) which she can take at no cost by moving the captured aspect towards transformed.

It seems to me that devastated traits much more favor the GM over the player. A GM might coax a player into devastating a trait through good roleplaying, but from a mechanical perspective he would be foolish to do so.

Especially early on, the GM has a very strong advantage. Players rarely seek to lower the suffering of their aspects early on. They can't afford to spend the cards AND lose the additional draws they would get at the beginning of a conflict.

I could be wrong about the card draws. It is clear to me that the GM doesn't need double the number of cards the players have to dominate in conflicts, since he can spread his suits out more effectively among the players (and wild cards favor him in the early game). It does encourage the players to have everyone participate in conflict scenes, but I don't see that as a problem. I will try this as written before I start using house rules.

In most cases, the GM should not be trying to defeat every hero in every conflict. Play each for a couple of pages to determine who is strong and who isn't, and also to get them to drive up their sufferring. Then select which stakes you can afford to lose and which you feel you must win. Give on conflicts you can afford to lose.

Technically, the benefit of Enrichment scenes is greatest when the hero loses. However, if you are doing your job as GM and really playing hardball when it comes to setting stakes, players will agonize over whether to play to win or to lose and take the extra card. Often, they'll play to win the stakes. Feel free to offer stakes that include kidnapping their loved ones, putting them in comas, firing the hero from his day job, etc. The player gets to choose between accepting it or playing a high card to win his stakes.

Makes sense. I do recognize that the GM can coax the players to play in a particular way through good role-playing and story telling. I am a bit neurotic about rules, though. One of the parameters I use in evaluating RPGs is whether or not the rules work independent of the storytelling background. One of the things I like about WGP is that is seems to work very well in that regard. I see only a handful of loopholes.

In answer to your first question: yes, you're absolutely correct about discards and shuffling.

Villains do get to increase the suffering of captured aspects during Enrichment scenes and during the Assessment phase of Conflict scenes. They get cards for this.

As for gameflow, that's more or less how it works. I don't usually break it down into A-list and B-list villains, but that's certainly one way to approach it, and perfectly valid. Generally, Enrichment scenes are big commodities at the end as well as the beginning. Heroes are desperately trying to decrease the suffering of their aspects, while villains are trying to increase the suffering of captured aspects.

Thanks for the clarifications.

Also, something I found from running WGP a great deal: Enrichment scenes are generally the most important scenes. Conflict scenes are awesome and intense, but they're usually about beating the lights out of the enemy. All the stuff that makes a character human -- his relationships, his struggles with work and family, etc. -- it all plays out in enrichment scenes.

Yes, that makes sense to me, and fits my experience with running other RPGs. The one-on-one scenes tend to be where the most role-playing and story advancement takes place. One of things I really like about WGP is it provides a mechanism for involving more than one player in the one-on-one scenes, by letting other players take on supporting roles in enrichment scenes.

I am still not convinced that a GM will be able to push aspects up to devastated without coaxing and roleplaying. Unless the GM can coax a player to cooperate, it seems to easy enough to the player to defend his strife aspect and keep its suffering well away from the imperiled level. Even if the GM wins every conflict, the player has more opportunities to decrease suffering than the GM has to increase it.

I know that a good GM can counter this through good role-playing, and setting appropriately nasty stakes, but since winning stakes has no mechanical effect on the game, it still allows for the degenerate player strategy of "defend my strife aspect at all costs". Since I am a rules-wonk, degenerate strategies bother me and prompt me to invent house rules to counter them. I am trying to figure out if there is something in the existing rules I am missing that keep this degenerate strategy from working.

Note that I also see a degenerate strategy on the other side as well: the GM can simply yield in every conflict, so that the players never lose and therefore cannot advance the story arc. This strategy is sufficiently stupid that I don't feel compelled to fix it.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2006, 07:21:58 AM »

Hi, Paul! Thanks for reading the game!

I'm going to pull out a few quotes from your last post and address them all together, because they're all different facets of the same thing:

I admit I am speaking from the perspective of having never played the game. However, I don't see any reason why a player with a good understanding of the rules would ever willingly devastate a trait.
Quote
A GM might coax a player into devastating a trait through good roleplaying, but from a mechanical perspective he would be foolish to do so.

Quote
Makes sense. I do recognize that the GM can coax the players to play in a particular way through good role-playing and story telling. I am a bit neurotic about rules, though. One of the parameters I use in evaluating RPGs is whether or not the rules work independent of the storytelling background. One of the things I like about WGP is that is seems to work very well in that regard. I see only a handful of loopholes.

Quote
I am still not convinced that a GM will be able to push aspects up to devastated without coaxing and roleplaying. Unless the GM can coax a player to cooperate, it seems to easy enough to the player to defend his strife aspect and keep its suffering well away from the imperiled level. Even if the GM wins every conflict, the player has more opportunities to decrease suffering than the GM has to increase it.

Quote
I know that a good GM can counter this through good role-playing, and setting appropriately nasty stakes, but since winning stakes has no mechanical effect on the game, it still allows for the degenerate player strategy of "defend my strife aspect at all costs". Since I am a rules-wonk, degenerate strategies bother me and prompt me to invent house rules to counter them. I am trying to figure out if there is something in the existing rules I am missing that keep this degenerate strategy from working.

A number of people have pointed this out to me. Let me say plainly: With Great Power... is not written to work well as a straight card game. If the players refuse to care about the fictional aspects that they create, the game will fall flat. The reason I put so much opportunity for player creativity to shape the imaginary comic book is to entice players to care about it. The reason the last question in the Origin Process is "What aspect do YOU care about the most?" is to let players say what they care about. If you've ever played Chess with someone that doesn't want to win, you know what playing WGP... with players that don't care about the fictional content is like.

So, someone could attempt your "degenerate" strategy of protecting their Strife aspect at all costs, However, that probably means they were lying when they answered the Strife question in the Origin Process--if they really cared about that aspect of their hero, they'd want to feature it in scenes, which means opening it to the possibility of Suffering.

On the other hand, if they're protecting their Strife, they've got be getting their cards from somewhere. This generally means letting other aspects slide (I've found the game plays best with 4 aspects, but YMMV). This can work fine, too, and you get a story like Superman II: "I love Lois so much that I'm going to give up my powers and duty to be with her." And when that duty is Devastated, Zod takes over the White House.

Play with Stakes. Play with them hard. They're not just "coaxing and role-playing" but your decisive limits on Penciling and Inking the imaginary comic book. Trust me on this.

Does that help?
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Kat Miller
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Posts: 141


« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2006, 10:03:39 AM »

Hi Paul,

As you pointed out there is a clear strategy for the players in With Great Power…  But that same strategy is hard to maintain during the actual play of the game.  The Mechanics of With Great Power… are not generic but carefully written specifically to highlight comic book heroics in play.  Part of the fun of this game is that players know that clear strategy and struggle with doing what is better for the game strategy or doing what is better for their own characters wants and needs.

For example, I’m playing a hero in an enrichment scene.  My hero has a duty to protect the city and a romance aspect.  Our heroes are working toward a goal of being licensed heroes but as of the beginning of play we are unlicensed and any heroics that we do are considered illegal.  This was covered in our “back issue” session during character creation.

I set up an enrichment scene where I save a kid from getting hit by a truck to show off my superpowers, and my duty. Grabbing the thought balloon I say “Oh no!  that kid’s gonna get killed I must do something!”  Exposing my duty thoughts and then I describe my hero racing faster than a speeding bullet to pluck the kid from harms way.  My Stakes:  If I win the stakes then my actions are caught on camera and the media is declaring me a hero! 
I’m thinking these are easy enough stakes to lose.  Mike hears my stakes and smiles. “Ok,” he says, “But if I win your stakes, you attract the attention of the police and get arrested.  Connie your girlfriend has to post the bail”  Mike is tailoring his stakes to my aspects.  He’s making my hero look bad to my Hero’s romance Aspect.  He’s making me choose.

Now the interesting thing here is that there is no mechanics decision here.  By that same clear player strategy I should play a low card.  And gain whatever high card Mike plays.  Yet if I do that then I’m letting my hero get arrested and then get bailed out by his girlfriend.  Now it hits me that I didn’t ask enough for winning.

-kat 
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kat Miller
Paul Strack
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2006, 10:07:51 AM »

A number of people have pointed this out to me. Let me say plainly: With Great Power... is not written to work well as a straight card game. If the players refuse to care about the fictional aspects that they create, the game will fall flat. The reason I put so much opportunity for player creativity to shape the imaginary comic book is to entice players to care about it. The reason the last question in the Origin Process is "What aspect do YOU care about the most?" is to let players say what they care about. If you've ever played Chess with someone that doesn't want to win, you know what playing WGP... with players that don't care about the fictional content is like.

So, someone could attempt your "degenerate" strategy of protecting their Strife aspect at all costs, However, that probably means they were lying when they answered the Strife question in the Origin Process--if they really cared about that aspect of their hero, they'd want to feature it in scenes, which means opening it to the possibility of Suffering.

On the other hand, if they're protecting their Strife, they've got be getting their cards from somewhere. This generally means letting other aspects slide (I've found the game plays best with 4 aspects, but YMMV). This can work fine, too, and you get a story like Superman II: "I love Lois so much that I'm going to give up my powers and duty to be with her." And when that duty is Devastated, Zod takes over the White House.

Play with Stakes. Play with them hard. They're not just "coaxing and role-playing" but your decisive limits on Penciling and Inking the imaginary comic book. Trust me on this.

Does that help?

Thanks for your reply. I do trust you on this question, and it is one which the original rules made pretty clear. I really like the writing in the WGP rulebook. The rules examples make it very clear how gameplay should go. It definitely seems like it can be played (and played well) as written.

Despite this fact, of all the indie-games I've surveyed recently, I think WGP comes closest to functioning as a "pure" game. I have played with the card mechanics, and they seem to largely work on their own. The only "flaw" that I see is the relative ease with which players (and the GM) can reduce suffering.

Furthermore, I think this "flaw" could be fixed relatively easily. The best option I see is to only allow players to reduce suffering during enrichment scenes, and only then if they win the stakes. It seems weird to me anyhow that a hero increase/decrease in an aspect's suffering is independent whether the hero wins the scene. This still lets the player try to protect their aspects, but favors the GM enough that a more effective strategy is to work to defeat the villain.

On the flip side, to counter the degenerate GM strategy (of never winning), I would allow the players to push the story arc forward 1 step each time they win a conflict after they have raised a villain's plan aspect to imperiled (this would be instead of increasing the suffering of a different villain aspect). This doesn't seem likely to come up, but I want to put it in as a House Rule for "balance".

I don't think either of these changes would affect the game significantly. All of this is my admittedly not well-informed opinion, so I will tell you more once I have had a chance to actually play the game.
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Paul Strack
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2006, 10:14:08 AM »

Hi Kat,

As you pointed out there is a clear strategy for the players in With Great Power…  But that same strategy is hard to maintain during the actual play of the game.  The Mechanics of With Great Power… are not generic but carefully written specifically to highlight comic book heroics in play.  Part of the fun of this game is that players know that clear strategy and struggle with doing what is better for the game strategy or doing what is better for their own characters wants and needs.

...

I set up an enrichment scene where I save a kid from getting hit by a truck to show off my superpowers, and my duty. Grabbing the thought balloon I say “Oh no!  that kid’s gonna get killed I must do something!”  Exposing my duty thoughts and then I describe my hero racing faster than a speeding bullet to pluck the kid from harms way.  My Stakes:  If I win the stakes then my actions are caught on camera and the media is declaring me a hero! 
I’m thinking these are easy enough stakes to lose.  Mike hears my stakes and smiles. “Ok,” he says, “But if I win your stakes, you attract the attention of the police and get arrested.  Connie your girlfriend has to post the bail”  Mike is tailoring his stakes to my aspects.  He’s making my hero look bad to my Hero’s romance Aspect.  He’s making me choose.

...

I am clear on that much. What bothers me is the fact that the action/stakes are independent of the suffering of aspects. A hero could, for example, discard cards to reduce the suffering of his Duty aspect at the beginning of the scene, but still lose the stakes and let the kid die. I think it would be better to tie the increase/decrease of the suffering to success/failure in the scene.

Basically I was thinking that if the player wins, the player decides how the aspect's suffering will change, and if the GM wins, she has the option of increasing the suffering (either way, the player draws/discards as appropriate).

Actually, your comments give me an interesting idea. Depending on the stakes, the GM might have the option of increasing the stakes of a different aspect rather than the one showcased in the scene. Following your example above, the hero would screw up his Duty, but it is his Romance aspect that suffers. I like that even better.
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Kat Miller
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Posts: 141


« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2006, 01:24:18 PM »

Hi Paul,

I can see the game designer in you.  I have the very same urge to tweak games; partially to improve on what I see and partially it’s a way to mark the game in my own style.

I suggest that you actually play this game as written before you add any tweakage.  With Great Power has undergone a good deal of play testing, and on the whole there aren’t any Balance issues.

One of the cool things about this game is that some of the nuances of the mechanics don’t really hit home until game play.

This game has the same elements as non Forge like games.  There is a GM.  The GM is in charge of the villains.  Players have their own characters. 

Then there is some departure from “old school” gaming.  This is not a GM against the Players type of game.  The GM doesn’t win if the villain wins, and the players don’t lose if the Heroes lose. If the Villain wins through the story arc and the Master Plan goes off, and there was satisfying play throughout the game then no one lost.  If the Heroes defeat the villain and everyone was bored and none of the conflicts or enrichments held their interest or were about things that mattered to them-then Everyone lost. 

Now, you’ve indicated some unhappiness with the GM’s powerlessness when it comes to adjusting the scale of suffering for an aspect during enrichment. 

If I read you right you think that the GM should be allowed to adjust the scale of suffering based winning or losing the stakes.  The only time the GM gets to increase the suffering of a players aspect is during the Combat part of the game, and only if the player yields.  The GM can’t raise or lower the suffering of another player’s aspect during Enrichment. 

Let’s look at my earlier example: The X-Patriot (my hero) has gotten into a fight in which I had to increase the suffering of X-Patriot’s Duty aspect.  Combat is over and I want an Enrichment scene to decrease the suffering of my Duty from Threatened to risked.  I pay my cards and move my marker.  Now I need to frame the scene to show how I’ve decreased the suffering of this aspect.  I ask for ideas.  I like the idea of seeing a kid in danger and just springing to action.

So I describe Xpatriot taking a long walk to clear his thoughts.  He hears the truck rolling out of control.  He sees the kid.  Now, I say “I don’t want this to be about whether or not he rescues the kid.  That’s not the conflict.  I want this to be about whether he gets caught using his powers”   The I describe Xpatriot walking grab the thought balloon “I’m not licenced, maybe I don’t have an obligation to this city” He sees the boy, hears the truck, I hold up the balloon, “maybe its not a matter of choice!” and Xpatriot runs and grabs the kid out of harms way.  I set my stakes “If I win I got caught on camera, tomorrow the media will be hailing the cities newest hero!”

Mike looks at me and smiles.  “If I win the stakes the truck hits the kid. AND your duty aspect drops back into threatened.”

Mike is trying to take control of my character out of my hands.  Mike is also ignoring the boundary I set when I started scene framing.  Unless we’re playing “house rules” he doesn’t have the power to make such a stakes.  He certainly can’t change MY aspect. 

It is still my Enrichment.  I am still in charge of the scene framing.  I can say- "Kid?  What kid?  It was a dog.'  I still have the power to alter the scene.  I can say "scrap the whole thing.  I got it, I’m at a homeless shelter volunteering to had blankets out to the poor.  Thought balloon Its not about power, its about the people.  And my stakes are about Linda, She’s been trying to get a hold of me since the fight at central park.  If I win the stakes she finds me, if I lose she’s still searching hospitals.”

Now If I don’t have the boundary about the stakes not being about the rescue then Mike can suggest that I’m not fast enough to save the kid.

In the original stakes Mike sets that the Xpatriot gets arrested.  This doesn’t effect the suffering level of my romance aspect on a mechanics level.  The Gm should target the aspects to make the stakes personal.  This is done to grab everyones attention and make everyone care whats going on at the table. 

Because of the Jail stakes, if I accept them and fail, later when I want to increase the suffering of xpatriot’s girl while I’m in combat.  I can just cut to her waiting by the phone-cut to xpatriot in combat-cut back to her waiting by the phone, grab the thought balloon and say “Big loser probably forgot my birthday…either that or he’s in jail again.”  Cut back to xpatriot, as I collect my cards.  I get to build on the stuff we’ve already set up during enrichments.

The enrichments are all about developing the story stuff of your game, the reasons that you are fighting the good fight.  If you change the enrichment scenes then you have one person telling everyone else what they should care about and how they should suffer-

You might as well be playing another game.   

-kat
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kat Miller
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2006, 07:18:20 AM »

Furthermore, I think this "flaw" could be fixed relatively easily. The best option I see is to only allow players to reduce suffering during enrichment scenes, and only then if they win the stakes. It seems weird to me anyhow that a hero increase/decrease in an aspect's suffering is independent whether the hero wins the scene. This still lets the player try to protect their aspects, but favors the GM enough that a more effective strategy is to work to defeat the villain.

Except when a hero loses a conflict scene, the change in Suffering of their aspects is governed by only two factors: 1) what that hero's player wants and 2) how many cards they have. It's very important that players retain the option to choose how to work the system. That's why the change in Suffering is independent of the resolution of Stakes in an Enrichment scene. For one thing, the Stakes may be about something other than the change in Suffering (as in the example with Debris & her brother in the book).

Also, having the change in Suffering level before the resolution in Stakes in Enrichment is important because it affects the cards that the player will have when he resolves the Stakes. If he's only got 3 cards in his hand (and if he's just WON a page of conflict, he's likely to have few cards in his hand), he can't move something from Imperiled to Threatened, because he won't have any cards left to deal with his Stakes. If he moves something from Threatened to Risked, he'll only have one card left to deal with the Stakes. What if the GM makes them really unpalatable? That's the stuff of melodrama!

As for outlawing decreasing the Suffering level during Conflict Assessment, I urge you not to do that. It's already forbidden in the last panel before yielding. With decreasing Suffering requiring the player to discard a number of cards (+1 more if it's their Strife), it's a very hard choice to throw away that many cards and put themselves that much closer to losing the conflict. If you forbid that option, it's no longer a hard choice in a game about hard choices.

FWIW, these questions are very similar to ones I get a lot. Whenever I notice a pattern, I try to figure out why. I posted in my LiveJournal to try to figure out why so many different people are talking about the same things.
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Paul Strack
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2006, 07:23:23 PM »

Hi Kat and Michael,

Both of you have given me a fair amount of food for thought. I am starting to loosen up on the whole "decreasing suffering" thing. Part of all this is just my urge to tinker with a new game. I do it with every new RPG I play, and often discover that my rules changes are no better or are even worse than the original rules. It's nice to actually bounce ideas of the game's creators.

Part of my inclinations is the context in which I am planning on running the game. I want to run the game in Con slots of 4-6 hours and be able to finish the story arc, so I am focusing on mechanics that ramp up tension but don't let it come back down until the end. I am also trying to boil the rules down to its core elements to make the game easier to explain. I usually limit myself to 2 pages of rules explanation, which is a major challenge for a game like yours.

FWIW, these questions are very similar to ones I get a lot. Whenever I notice a pattern, I try to figure out why. I posted in my LiveJournal to try to figure out why so many different people are talking about the same things.

I do think your blog hits the key point: the difference between the expectations of the readers of the rules and the way the rules are intended to play.

I can't speak for everyone else, but I find your game so appealing because it is very close to something I have been looking for. Basically I want to find a game that tells a story, instead of a traditional RPG (which is only a game in a very vague sense). The rules have to be simple enough to explain in a short period of time, but rich enough to be interesting and have replay value.

Because it is a game I am looking for instead an RPG, it is the mechanical aspects that most interest me. Since I haven't played the game yet, I could be imagining problems where there are none, but my group's tolerance for "weird games" is low, and I want to be careful to get things right before I put it before them.

Anyhow, getting back to my original problem, I can see now that by tinkering with the suffering mechanism, I am undermining the core mechanic of the game and removing an important freedom of players. Since the real problem I have the difficulty of the GM "winning" the game, I think I will try a different approach.

I do think it is important for the GM (and the villains) to have a real chance of victory, otherwise the players won't feel sufficient threatened. I don't think the GM should win very often (maybe 20-25% of the time), but it should be often enough that the players worry about it and work to prevent it. A better way to achieve this goal might be to change the GM's victory conditions instead of mucking with the suffering mechanics. I am mulling over several ideas now, and I will see what I come up with (and which will still be applicable after I actually play).
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2006, 07:10:03 AM »

Conventions? <<ears perk up>> I do lots of conventions. I have the convention event, "A League of Their Own," that Kat & I have run most often partially written up--it's in the process of becoming a free download. Shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you the rough draft.

As for rules at the table, I too keep my rules explanations brief. All you really need are the rules summary pages at the back of Enrichment and Conflict. I don't even hand those out to the players anymore, I just describe things verbally. And not all at once, either. I hand out characters, then do basic concepts (Aspects, suffering, Thought balloon). Then I start an Enrichment scene, showing how to set one up, then we play it out. When it comes time to do Stakes, then I explain them. Once everyon's done an Enrichment or two, then I pick some fights and explain Conflict. Even within Conflict, I break it down so, for instance, I don't mention Assessment until the first page reaches its second panel.

As for GM victory conditions, just keep in mind that victory is not an all-or-nothing thing in WGP... If the players Devastate the villian's Plan before he's Transformed every one of their Strifes, they've won ... but, what if the villian has Devastated some of their Strifes? They may have won, but the consequence remains.
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Paul Strack
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« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2006, 09:45:06 AM »

Conventions? <<ears perk up>> I do lots of conventions. I have the convention event, "A League of Their Own," that Kat & I have run most often partially written up--it's in the process of becoming a free download. Shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you the rough draft.

I'll do that, but I probably won't have time to use it. The con starts today, and I prefer more prep time.

As for rules at the table, I too keep my rules explanations brief. All you really need are the rules summary pages at the back of Enrichment and Conflict. I don't even hand those out to the players anymore, I just describe things verbally. And not all at once, either. I hand out characters, then do basic concepts (Aspects, suffering, Thought balloon). Then I start an Enrichment scene, showing how to set one up, then we play it out. When it comes time to do Stakes, then I explain them. Once everyon's done an Enrichment or two, then I pick some fights and explain Conflict. Even within Conflict, I break it down so, for instance, I don't mention Assessment until the first page reaches its second panel.

Yeah, but you know the rules. I am still digesting them (as you can tell). By putting together a 2-page brief for the players, I not only ensure I have something to give them, but I ensure that I actually understand most of the rules, because I have transcribed them myself.

As for GM victory conditions, just keep in mind that victory is not an all-or-nothing thing in WGP... If the players Devastate the villian's Plan before he's Transformed every one of their Strifes, they've won ... but, what if the villian has Devastated some of their Strifes? They may have won, but the consequence remains.

I am still mulling this over. Some of my half formed ideas are:

  • Secret target aspects. The villain probably chooses the strife aspect as the target for his plan, since it gives the most cards, but could choose something else.
  • Story tokens. Everytime you win a Scene, you get tokens (1 normally, 4 for devastating or transforming an aspect). You can spend the tokens to control story flow, and with enough tokens, the villains can win.
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Zamiel
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2006, 12:47:00 PM »

  • Secret target aspects. The villain probably chooses the strife aspect as the target for his plan, since it gives the most cards, but could choose something else.
  • Story tokens. Everytime you win a Scene, you get tokens (1 normally, 4 for devastating or transforming an aspect). You can spend the tokens to control story flow, and with enough tokens, the villains can win.
What you're really saying with these two are:

  • "I don't want the Players to decide what things they want to see focused on; I know better than they do."
  • "In a Convention game, even more than a normal situation, I want the Players even less likely to feel themselves winning.

Do these things seem like desirable stances to you? Because they really don't seem so desirable to me. When a Player chooses a Strife Aspect, they are pointedly setting the big bad's agenda, and more importantly, telling you as GM exactly what they think is interesting. You can toss all that away, of course, but it would seem that's engaging in the worst kind of GM excess, putting your belief in what is interesting over what your audience thinks in interesting, and that way lies dissatisfaction. Likewise, the Story Arc mechanism in WGP has a fairly clear destination: the big villain plan is fairly unlikely to win. The plot gets increasingly stacked against him. But that is exactly the desirable case ... WGP is about melodramatic heroism, but heroes, nonetheless! The heroes generally win; the source literature takes that as a very core axiom, and that's why its entrenched into the Story Arc, I believe Michael would tell you. So, why not let them pull out such a win, especially after risking the things they value most, repeatedly, along the way? At a Convention game, of all places, you want people to come away feeling like heroes.

Going in, here, it just seems your head is in the wrong place to run WGP. There's too much metagame adoption of a privileged stance for the GM as Villain, rather than simply facilitator of the Arc. Yes, the GM runs the Villains, but he himself is not one, nor is he rooting for their successes except insofar as it advances the heroes' stories.
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Paul Strack
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2006, 09:46:32 PM »

  • Secret target aspects. The villain probably chooses the strife aspect as the target for his plan, since it gives the most cards, but could choose something else.
  • Story tokens. Everytime you win a Scene, you get tokens (1 normally, 4 for devastating or transforming an aspect). You can spend the tokens to control story flow, and with enough tokens, the villains can win.
What you're really saying with these two are:

  • "I don't want the Players to decide what things they want to see focused on; I know better than they do."
  • "In a Convention game, even more than a normal situation, I want the Players even less likely to feel themselves winning.

Do these things seem like desirable stances to you? Because they really don't seem so desirable to me. When a Player chooses a Strife Aspect, they are pointedly setting the big bad's agenda, and more importantly, telling you as GM exactly what they think is interesting. You can toss all that away, of course, but it would seem that's engaging in the worst kind of GM excess, putting your belief in what is interesting over what your audience thinks in interesting, and that way lies dissatisfaction. Likewise, the Story Arc mechanism in WGP has a fairly clear destination: the big villain plan is fairly unlikely to win. The plot gets increasingly stacked against him. But that is exactly the desirable case ... WGP is about melodramatic heroism, but heroes, nonetheless! The heroes generally win; the source literature takes that as a very core axiom, and that's why its entrenched into the Story Arc, I believe Michael would tell you. So, why not let them pull out such a win, especially after risking the things they value most, repeatedly, along the way? At a Convention game, of all places, you want people to come away feeling like heroes.

Going in, here, it just seems your head is in the wrong place to run WGP. There's too much metagame adoption of a privileged stance for the GM as Villain, rather than simply facilitator of the Arc. Yes, the GM runs the Villains, but he himself is not one, nor is he rooting for their successes except insofar as it advances the heroes' stories.

First off, my apologies for taking so long to respond. I didn't realize there was a new response in this thread, so I hadn't said anything. All of my comments above were written before I'd run the game, so my suggestions were based on an imperfect understanding of the rules.

Having run the game, though, I still feel that the story arc structure is too rigid. As written, there is only one way for the heroes to "win": lose 5 times (in conflict) and force the villain's plan to suffer 5 times (most likely in conflict). I'd like some variation.

For example, you can't reach the game's victory conditions without getting into conflicts, probably several of them. In the game I ran, I had to throw in gratuitous fights just to move the story forward. Since the enrichment scenes seem to me to be the most enjoyable part of the game, I'd like some mechanic that allows enrichment scenes to move the story arc forward as well.

My current thinking is using some kind of story tokens or chips. You earn 1 chip for winning in either a conflict or enrichment scene, 3 chips for devastating and transforming a trait and 5 chips for devastating/transforming a strife trait. The villains win with a certain number of chips (not sure how many yet, but at least 15). Players can spend 3 chips to move the story arc forward. They could also spend chips to counter GM chips, and when they redeem devastated traits, they take away 3/5 chips from the GM.

As for the villains winning, yes I want it to be a real possibility. Not likely, but still possible. When I run (or play in) a game, I want to bad guys to be a credible threat. If it is obvious that the bad guys have no chance of winning, then a lot of the thrill of the game is gone.
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