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Author Topic: "Gritty, Dangerous" pseudo-Comics Code  (Read 11828 times)
Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« on: February 27, 2006, 12:43:33 PM »

Hello all:

After my experience at Pandemonium, and looking at Tony's marvelous suggestion for a comics code for mysteries on a separate thread, I wanted to put the following comics code out for discussion.  The intent is to create a gritty, dangerous feeling comics story ala Frank Miller's Daredevil run back in the '80's.  However, I also think it might work for a very modern four-colour story (such as Grant Morrison's recent Justice League or X-Men stuff).  It is a "pseudo" comics code, I think, because it is not simply a list of gloatable things that can't happen, and involves a new rule.


"Gritty" psuedo-Comics Code

* The following narrative elements can ONLY be established through the resolution of a conflict that includes the element as its consequence.  The resolving character may choose to gloat instead of causing the element to actually come about.:

  • Death of any person or the return of any person from death
  • Catastrophic harm (loss of limb, rape, etc.) to any person or the repair or trivialization of catastrophic harm to a person
  • The exposure of the secret identity of any person or the recreation of a secret identity for an exposed person
  • A major change in history or the reversal of a major change in history
  • Monumental change to the existing world order (cure for cancer, abolish world hunger, plague makes all men sterile, etc.) or a reversal of a monumental change to the existing world order

* The world cannot be completely destroyed.

The obvious intent here is to make it so that something really serious cannot be simply narrated out of hand, but must occur as the result of a conflict.  One strange aspect to this setup is it makes a lot of things "good" characters would want to do gloatable.  The character playing Spiderman could gloat over a "Goal: Bring Gwen Stacy back from the dead", for example, which seems both strange and evocative to me.  Also, it requires some more specificity on conflicts; you can make a "Goal: Destroy the Golden Gate Bridge" and wipe it out completely, but to actually kill someone, it would need to be "Goal: Destory the Golden Gate Bridge and drown in San Francisco Bay every person using it at that moment."

What do you think of this?  Any obvious problems?  Any interesting features?  I will be starting my first series of Capes games (instead of single-night one shots) soon, and this comics code is on the table for negotiations. 

It also brings up one quick question: if there is the "Event: World is about to be eaten by Galactus", and I, playing Mr. Fantastic, am able to resolve it, can I gloat?  What if it were "Goal: Galactus eats the world"?  In other words, can I describe Galactus ALMOST eating the world, and reduce my side of the conflict?  This seems legal to me, but it could end in a situation where two sides just keep gloating on a conflict to reap story tokens, until finally they grow bored of the silliness.  That may just be another one of those things in Capes that could happen but never really does in actual play.
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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2006, 02:24:38 AM »

This has been sitting for a week or so? Hey! I wanna know if this gets the TLB seal of approval!

Sounds pretty cool to me.
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Tuxboy
Member

Posts: 125


« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2006, 03:46:46 AM »

I've been messing with the idea of a more gritty Comics Code for a while now as I have always preferred the darker era of comics and would like my games to reflect this.

I like what you have done here, but I would add the following at the end on the first sentence:

", and by unanimous vote of the players."

This would stop the maiming or death of a character just because one player wanted rid of them, and make it more a matter of a dramatic element to the story. Of course if theplayers really didn't want it to happen then they could all gang up to make sure it didn't, but sometimes resources and dice rolls just don't go your way.

Quote
It also brings up one quick question: if there is the "Event: World is about to be eaten by Galactus", and I, playing Mr. Fantastic, am able to resolve it, can I gloat?  What if it were "Goal: Galactus eats the world"?  In other words, can I describe Galactus ALMOST eating the world, and reduce my side of the conflict?  This seems legal to me, but it could end in a situation where two sides just keep gloating on a conflict to reap story tokens, until finally they grow bored of the silliness.  That may just be another one of those things in Capes that could happen but never really does in actual play.

My interpretation of the Gloating mechanic is that you can only Gloat if your claimed resolution would violate the Comics Code. In your example unless Reed had claimed the villain's side of the conflict, and outside of a fiendish mind control device why would he, his resolution would not be in violation of the Code so he could not Gloat and reduce for Story Tokens.

"Besides the day I can't maim thirty radioactive teenagers is the day I hang up my coat for good!"
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Doug

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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2006, 04:19:07 AM »

Welcome to the Forge, tuxboy!

Yeah, it is definitely a rules variation. That's why I wanted to see what Tony thought of it.
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2006, 06:07:52 AM »

By the way, thanks for the replies.  I was beginning to feel a little lonely and unwanted.  *sniff* :)

{snip]
I like what you have done here, but I would add the following at the end on the first sentence:
", and by unanimous vote of the players."
This would stop the maiming or death of a character just because one player wanted rid of them, and make it more a matter of a dramatic element to the story. Of course if theplayers really didn't want it to happen then they could all gang up to make sure it didn't, but sometimes resources and dice rolls just don't go your way.

I'm not sure if I'm willing to go this far.  In most RPG's, the death of a major character (and most other major events) are not usually consensual, so I'm not certain I would want Capes to be different.   But in most RPG's, a major event is at least the result of some game mechanic that the players (usually the GM vs. the players) have to fight over.  My intent was to associate a game mechanic with these events, not to prevent them happening, but to allow them to happen and still allow gloating.   

That being said, I can understand why some would want the safety net that the unanimous vote would provide.  I'm guessing Tony LB will hate it.  :) 

My interpretation of the Gloating mechanic is that you can only Gloat if your claimed resolution would violate the Comics Code. In your example unless Reed had claimed the villain's side of the conflict, and outside of a fiendish mind control device why would he, his resolution would not be in violation of the Code so he could not Gloat and reduce for Story Tokens.

Ah, but there really isn't a "villain" side and a "good guy" side.  There are just sides that players have claimed.  The player playing Reed Richards could also be playing Galactus at the same time.  Or maybe the player playing Reed doesn't want the Scene to end yet, and resolving the conflict would end it.  Or maybe the player playing Reed just wants some story tokens.  Even in a non-gloatable context, there is nothing that prevents the resolving player of a conflict to describe his character's utter abject failure, if the player chooses to. 

As the player of Reed Richards, I might have "Goal: Reed Richards prevents Doctor Doom from escaping".  But when the final moment arrives, I might decide it is just too cool for Reed Richards to FAIL for once, for his much vaunted intellect to be too little too late, and describe Doom flying away on a the Fantasticar, laughing at Reed's foolishness.  So I guess my question is; is it any different for gloatable conflicts?
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Tuxboy
Member

Posts: 125


« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2006, 07:15:49 AM »

Thanks Larry...long time ghoster, first time poster...

Quote
In most RPG's, the death of a major character (and most other major events) are not usually consensual, so I'm not certain I would want Capes to be different.   But in most RPG's, a major event is at least the result of some game mechanic that the players (usually the GM vs. the players) have to fight over.  My intent was to associate a game mechanic with these events, not to prevent them happening, but to allow them to happen and still allow gloating.   

That being said, I can understand why some would want the safety net that the unanimous vote would provide.  I'm guessing Tony LB will hate it.  :)

Yes but Capes is not like most RPGs, that for for me is the unique quality of the system, it thrives on interaction between the players. I see it as more of a storyteller tool than a pure RPG, and if one players actions can disrupt that for the others i.e the player with the most Story Tokens and Inspirations wanting to kill some other character; then maybe there needs to be a mechanism to deal with that. The vote thing is not perfect but is one method.

Quote
Ah, but there really isn't a "villain" side and a "good guy" side.  There are just sides that players have claimed.  The player playing Reed Richards could also be playing Galactus at the same time.

"villain/hero" side was a statement on the nature of the conflict, "Goal: Galactus eats the world" is pretty black and white.

Don't you have to rationalise why the character is claiming a conflict? From my reading of the rules and the examples it seems implied at least. "Good" guys should want it to fail and...well in fact pretty much everyone except Galactus would want it to fail. Even if the player is playing both Ol' Stretch and the Eater of Worlds the Gloat mechanic would mean he could use Galactus to gloat and harvest Story tokens but not Reed as in the specific example he would not be conflicting with the Comics Code.

Quote
As the player of Reed Richards, I might have "Goal: Reed Richards prevents Doctor Doom from escaping".  But when the final moment arrives, I might decide it is just too cool for Reed Richards to FAIL for once, for his much vaunted intellect to be too little too late, and describe Doom flying away on a the Fantasticar, laughing at Reed's foolishness.  So I guess my question is; is it any different for gloatable conflicts?

Ah I see what you mean!

Engineering a failure for your character is a great tactic, but is not covered by gloating unless the Comic Code is in conflict with the claimed result. So in your example Reed could "roll down" his side of the conflict but not gloat and turn it to one as it doesn't effect the Code, so the best he could do is gain debt, and possible Inspirations on the conflict.

Or am I misinterpreting the Gloat mechanic, cos  it has worked pretty well for me in play sessions?

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Doug

"Besides the day I can't maim thirty radioactive teenagers is the day I hang up my coat for good!" ...Midnighter
Tuxboy
Member

Posts: 125


« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2006, 07:27:19 AM »

Quote
so the best he could do is gain debt, and possible Inspirations on the conflict.

Should read:

"so the best he could do is gain debt, and possible Inspirations on the conflict, with Story tokens at Von Doom's player's discretion rather than recycling the conflict for multiple gloat Story Tokens"

Multi-tasking...what's that? *LOL*
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Doug

"Besides the day I can't maim thirty radioactive teenagers is the day I hang up my coat for good!" ...Midnighter
TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2006, 08:07:51 AM »

This has been sitting for a week or so? Hey! I wanna know if this gets the TLB seal of approval!

I certainly would love to hear from someone who's playtested it.  The part about "If you want to narrate this you gotta win a conflict where it's explicitly stated" would be really interesting.  I know what it would do to what people can do, but I'm not sure I know what it would do to what people want to do, if you follow me.  I don't have a strong intuition for what the second-order effects of the change would be.

I'm also interested in the "perpetual gloat of silliness" cycle that people have already mentioned.  I don't know whether it would actually occur, but I think it would be a problem if the game actually drove toward that.  Again, I'd love to hear people's playtest ideas.

So ... I dunno.  I don't really have a seal of approval to toss sardines to.  This is some carefully thought out stuff, and I don't see any immediate break-strategies except the one that Hans is already concerned about.  It looks like something that would be well worth giving a try!
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2006, 08:41:54 AM »

Yes but Capes is not like most RPGs, that for for me is the unique quality of the system, it thrives on interaction between the players. I see it as more of a storyteller tool than a pure RPG, and if one players actions can disrupt that for the others i.e the player with the most Story Tokens and Inspirations wanting to kill some other character; then maybe there needs to be a mechanism to deal with that. The vote thing is not perfect but is one method.

I agree with you that Capes is unique.  But what you seem to see as a danger ("one player's actions can disrupt that of the others") seems to me to be a design feature.  Remove the word "kill" in your sentence above and replace it with something else ("humiliate completely", "french kiss", "shove in jail", "force a swing dance competition on", "maim, hideously scar, or otherwise make leprously ugly") and there is not a darn thing in the rules that prevents it.

To my mind the most important feature of my suggested code is not that it allows a conflict to kill a character.  The most important feature is that once a character has been killed it requires a conflict to bring them back!  Otherwise, immediately after the conflict that killed them, another player could simply narrate away the death.  Wasn't really that character, it was a clone.  Wasn't really fatal.  God loves the character, and resurrects them.  Who knows?

The biggest problem some of the people I play with have found with Capes in playing it is that there is no sense of permanence.  I sort of like the fluid nature of things, but I decided to craft this code as a response to those players, to give a sense of permanence, at least to very important changes.  It forces, players to commit their resources (debt, story tokens, inspirations, actions) to make important changes, and then, once those changes are made, it forces the same commitment to reverse them.

"villain/hero" side was a statement on the nature of the conflict, "Goal: Galactus eats the world" is pretty black and white.
Don't you have to rationalise why the character is claiming a conflict?
From my reading of the rules and the examples it seems implied at least. "Good" guys should want it to fail and...well in fact pretty much everyone except Galactus would want it to fail. Even if the player is playing both Ol' Stretch and the Eater of Worlds the Gloat mechanic would mean he could use Galactus to gloat and harvest Story tokens but not Reed as in the specific example he would not be conflicting with the Comics Code.

Its not clear to me that you do have to rationalize the claim.  Remember, all of the resources that are gained as the result of winning (inspirations) or losing (story tokens) the conflict acrue to the player, not to the character.  Moreover, it is players who Claim conflicts, not characters, and players who resolve them (see Pg 22).  As a player, I could be using both Reed's and Galactus's abilities to roll up my side of the conflict (describing Reed failing at various things, and Galactus succeeding).  

To take another viewpoint, as Galactus's player, I could just as easily narrate Galactus failing to eat the world as succeeding at it.  Maybe I'm tired of playing and want to go home.  Maybe I have some other idea for a story I want to get to in the next scene.  Maybe I want all of those juicy inspirations now, and have enough story tokens.  So if Galactus's player can choose NOT to gloat, why can't Reed's player choose to gloat?

And another viewpoint.  Lets say there is a third player, who is playing State of Emergency.  This is a non-person character, with traits like "Crazed Evacuees", "Communication Difficulties", "Emergency News Conference", etc.  Seemingly the player of this character has no iron in the fire of "Goal: Galatctus eats the Earth".  The character is neither a good guy or a bad guy, or even a guy at all.  However, I can't find anything that prevents the player of the State of Emergency from getting in on this Goal by rolling, claiming a side, and resolving it.  So can the player playing the State of Emergency gloat?  The player could narrate something like "Galactus makes some final adjustments to his Earth eating machine, but pauses and savours the coming meal with satisfaction", change some dice to ones, and reaps some story tokens.  Next page!  

Engineering a failure for your character is a great tactic, but is not covered by gloating unless the Comic Code is in conflict with the claimed result. So in your example Reed could "roll down" his side of the conflict but not gloat and turn it to one as it doesn't effect the Code, so the best he could do is gain debt, and possible Inspirations on the conflict.

Or am I misinterpreting the Gloat mechanic, cos  it has worked pretty well for me in play sessions?

I don't think you are misinterpreting the Gloat mechanic, but I do think you are reading in limits on what Reed's player can narrate that don't exist in the rules, which was why I asked the question in the first place. You seem to be saying that since Reed is a "good guy", the player of Reed is not allowed to narrate anything that would allow that player to gloat.  I agree that this makes some intuitive sense, and I can see why a group of players could choose to play this way.  But I am not convinced that this is actually in the rules.  
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2006, 08:46:55 AM »

So ... I dunno.  I don't really have a seal of approval to toss sardines to.  This is some carefully thought out stuff, and I don't see any immediate break-strategies except the one that Hans is already concerned about.  It looks like something that would be well worth giving a try!

First session of a 4-5 sesssion series starts next week, so I will let you all know how it goes.  Your reassurance, Tony based on your obviously MUCH greater experience than mine, that there are no obvious flaws is gold to me, even without an actual pinniped involved. 

One quick thing; Tony, could you mention if you allow any player to gloat on a conflict in your own games, or just the perceived "bad guys"?
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Tuxboy
Member

Posts: 125


« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2006, 09:24:17 AM »

Quote
To my mind the most important feature of my suggested code is not that it allows a conflict to kill a character.  The most important feature is that once a character has been killed it requires a conflict to bring them back!  Otherwise, immediately after the conflict that killed them, another player could simply narrate away the death.  Wasn't really that character, it was a clone.  Wasn't really fatal.  God loves the character, and resurrects them.  Who knows?

I agree whole-heartedly...a conflict should have to be used to reverse a previous conflict in terms of a permanent result. I think my objections are more a reaction to the propensity of comics to have characters return from the dead, regrow limbs, etc. Death is death, even in a superheroic setting, and to my mind you better have a damn good excuse for bringing someone back even if you are using a conflict ;)

The unanimous vote is more of a way to make sure that everyone wants a perma-death for that character rather than a way to stop it happening.

Quote
And another viewpoint.  Lets say there is a third player, who is playing State of Emergency.  This is a non-person character, with traits like "Crazed Evacuees", "Communication Difficulties", "Emergency News Conference", etc.  Seemingly the player of this character has no iron in the fire of "Goal: Galatctus eats the Earth".  The character is neither a good guy or a bad guy, or even a guy at all.  However, I can't find anything that prevents the player of the State of Emergency from getting in on this Goal by rolling, claiming a side, and resolving it.  So can the player playing the State of Emergency gloat?

As long as the player of State of Emergency has claimed the side of the conflict that would violate the Comics Code I don't see any reason why he couldn't Gloat on it and receive Story Tokens.

Quote
I don't think you are misinterpreting the Gloat mechanic, but I do think you are reading in limits on what Reed's player can narrate that don't exist in the rules, which was why I asked the question in the first place. You seem to be saying that since Reed is a "good guy", the player of Reed is not allowed to narrate anything that would allow that player to gloat.  I agree that this makes some intuitive sense, and I can see why a group of players could choose to play this way.  But I am not convinced that this is actually in the rules. 

Its not any issue of "good/bad", its a matter of which side of the conflict you have claimed. I think the issue here is that we are functioning on two different perceptions due to the example that was originally used.

Let's say there is the following generic conflict  "Goal: Something happens that violates the Comics Code" and two players with a character each, "Able" and "Bravo", "Able" claims the No side of the conflict "Bravo" claims the Yes.

My view on the gloat mechanic is that "Bravo's" player can gloat on this conflict as he controls the side that violates the Code, but "Able's" player cannot as he doesn't a gloat worthy claim. "Able" would be able to roll down the Yes side just not gloat on it.

Is that any clearer? Although I would appreciate clarification if I have overstated the control of the gloat mechanism.
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Doug

"Besides the day I can't maim thirty radioactive teenagers is the day I hang up my coat for good!" ...Midnighter
TonyLB
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« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2006, 09:38:44 AM »

One quick thing; Tony, could you mention if you allow any player to gloat on a conflict in your own games, or just the perceived "bad guys"?

Anyone.  Absolutely.

For instance, cast your mind back to a piece of key inspiration, the Spiderman movie.  Remember that scene in the end, after Spiderman has beaten the Green Goblin?  When the question is whether he'll finish him?

"Event:  Green Goblin is killed"
"Comics Code:  No person may die through action or inaction of the heroes"

That interaction right there?  The result of that is Peter Parker stumbling over his words ... "But ... you tried to kill Mary Jane ... Aunt May...."  He tries to work up the will to do the deed, but of course he can't. 

In a Capes game that would be the Gloating Rules at work.  Spiderman's player is up to resolve the Event, but can't, so Gloats.  And, because it's an Event, he can't just choose to break from the tension.  The only way out is for the Goblin to eventually win the conflict and kill himself.
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Sindyr
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« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2006, 10:00:10 AM »

"Comics Code:  No person may die through action or inaction of the heroes"

For the purposes of inquiry I will use a slightly modified CC:
"Comics Code:  No innocent or hero may die through action or inaction of the heroes"

Side question:

Does the above Comic Code constrain what actions the characters can do?

For example, a player want to have his hero throw a bus at the bad guy.  However, there are bystanders present. so: Event: Captain Good throw a bus at Mr. Evil (or Goal: Captain Good incapacitates Mr. Evil by throwing a bus at him)

Is the hero disallowed from throwing the bus at Mr. Evil?

Another example, Mr Evil take a hostage.  Does the above Comics Code prevent the heroes from placing the hostage's life in jeopardy, or does it state that whatever the heroes do, they will not able to harm the hostage, so they should feel free to open fire on Mr. Evil?

After being involved in a few discussions about Capes, my gut is telling me that what a rule says is all that is bound and not one whit more.

So *my* read on this is that the above Comics Code, by preventing any action or inaction of a hero to cause the death of someone, it *actually* free the heroes up to take any action they wish knowing that the *can't* cause the death of anyone.

I mean, the hero Sarge, when asked how in god's name he could fire the rocket at the Mr. Evil with the hostage, can merely say, "I knew (in my heart) that no innocents would die today"

Right?

And because of the Comic's Code, none will. 

In essence, that Comic's Code is a rules that says, "if a person is about to die through the action or inaction of a Hero, something must be narrated to prevent that death"

For example, a rushed narration might be added (... luckily, the hero "The Teleporter" was nearby and beamed the innocent out in the nick of time.)

Another interesting thought is if someone argue that the hero can't perform any actions that *seem* to put innocents in danger, heck, having ANY superpowered fight in a populated area is crazy from terms of risk.  Also, seems to who?

Actually, I quite like the idea of the above CC giving hero's players carte blanche to do anything knowing the innocents are not in any real danger.  After all, why else would heroes in every comic book fight baddies while easily killed mortals watch nearby?
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Hans
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Posts: 576


« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2006, 10:13:16 AM »

Let's say there is the following generic conflict  "Goal: Something happens that violates the Comics Code" and two players with a character each, "Able" and "Bravo", "Able" claims the No side of the conflict "Bravo" claims the Yes.

My view on the gloat mechanic is that "Bravo's" player can gloat on this conflict as he controls the side that violates the Code, but "Able's" player cannot as he doesn't a gloat worthy claim. "Able" would be able to roll down the Yes side just not gloat on it.

Is that any clearer? Although I would appreciate clarification if I have overstated the control of the gloat mechanism.

Now we get to the crux of our confusion.  Your understanding of the gloat mechanism is faultless.  It is your understanding of conflicts themselves that I respectfully suggest is not consonant with the rules.  

Page 29 of the rules says "Technically there is no such thing as a "for" or "against" side of a Conflict. The sides are defined by who rolls which dice, and what narrative goals they pursue in doing so."  Also, characters don't claim conflicts, their players do (page 22).

Therefore, there is no "yes" and "no" side to a conflict.  There are just sides.  As Able's player, I can roll on the "Goal: Able Succeeds", and claim a side, if I choose to.  Is that now the "for" side?  Only if I think Able succeeding is a cool thing to happen.  

To take it a step further: as Able's player, I could put out "Goal: Able Fails Miserably", claim a side of it, and roll up that side using Able's own character traits, perhaps narrating what a bumbling fool Able is.  This could even be a big deal in the story: maybe Able is normally played by some other player, who really has been working to make Able into something more than a bumbling fool.  But someone else has claimed them for this scene before Able's normal player got a chance to.  Maybe they claimed Able expressly for the purpose of squeezing Able's normal player for story tokens, because they know that Able's normal player will fight tooth and nail to keep bad stuff happening to Able.  This may seem far-fetched to you, but I have seen almost this exact situation in actual play, and several situations similar to it.  All of them led to some really cool story-telling.

As a play group, you could CHOOSE to make more formal the sides of a conflict.  You could make a claimant to a conflict state how they will resolve it, and make their statement binding.  Heck, you could even write the words "for" and "against" on the index card.  But this would be a home rule addition, not a requirement.

It is exactly the rule above that makes me have questions about the gloating rule, found on page 114: "Any time that Resolving a Conflict would make [a violation of the comics code] happen, the Resolving Player must Gloat instead."  In light of the rule on page 29, what does "make them happen" mean?  Nothing MAKES anything happen, its all a matter of player choice.  So then, who gets to gloat?  

I guess now I am appealing to Tony, directly.  Tony, what did you mean by this rule on page 114?  What circumstances do you think "make" a violation of the comics code happen?  In your actual play, do you allow "good" players to gloat?
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2006, 10:14:09 AM »

I guess now I am appealing to Tony, directly.  Tony, what did you mean by this rule on page 114?  What circumstances do you think "make" a violation of the comics code happen?  In your actual play, do you allow "good" players to gloat?

Ignore this, Tony.  You and I seem to be online at the same time, and I note you have already answered it.  Thanks!
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* Want to know what your fair share of paying to feed the hungry is? http://www3.sympatico.ca/hans_messersmith/World_Hunger_Fair_Share_Number.htm
* Want to know what games I like? http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/skalchemist
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