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Author Topic: [& Sword] Armies in Conflict  (Read 3391 times)
James_Nostack
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« on: March 20, 2006, 08:34:43 AM »

In a Conan story--"The Scarlet Citadel," I think--Conan is in charge of a huge army, fighting against this other huge army.  In the first Elric novel, Yyrkoon and the Angsty Albino command big fleets against a human armada.  Granted that most S&S fiction involves battles on much smaller scales, how would Sorcerer handle something of that size?  Treat the army as a demon?  Opposed Past rolls by the generals, using an appropriate Will: Leader of Men as rollover?

I'm asking because it came up on an RPG.Net thread, when some poster claimed he wanted a game that does S&S fiction, but which can also "scale up" fairly easily to encompass Real Big Battles.  It struck me that I didn't quite know how to do that in Sorcerer.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2006, 09:51:28 AM »

Conflict resolution, conflict resolution. Whose fictional interests are directly opposed? Roll those.

It's really hard to discuss this without actual play context, because saying "a battle" is a lot like saying "a chair." Is dealing with the battle (chair) a conflict of interest in the story-as-being-created? Well, I don't know. Not enough information.

I can definitely think of many situations in which the outcome of the battle itself is indeed a matter of fictional conflict of interest among characters. I can also think of many in which it is not, but is instead window dressing for a conflict among individuals. And finally, I can think of many situations in which battle-level rolls set up and provide victories & contexts for individual-level rolls, and vice versa.

Food for thought: In the first battle in Elric of Melnibone, there is no conflict against the Young Kingdoms pirates. They're window dressing for the real conflict between Elric and Yyrkoon, which culminates in Elric being pushed over the side of the ship.

However, such talk is filled with landmines and pitfalls. As I tried to explain in the Narrativism: Story Now essay, you cannot take a fiction-only description of role-playing material and isolate or identify anything about the techniques and approaches that went into it.

And that's what the poster you're talking about is trying to do, James. The very fact that you cannot answer him is important, because it means that the question is absolutely orthogonal to any decisions that go into playing Sorcerer. the answer to the question is automatic if you ignore it and focus instead on what you should be focusing on.

Let's say, in play, you and I and three other people have characters and NPCs all wrapped up in a battle situation.

Question: Do any characters (PC or NPC) have opposed interests regarding the outcome of the battle, yes or no?

Question: Do any characters (PC  or NPC) have opposed interests that are irrelevant to the outcome of the battle, yes or no?

Question: Do any characters (PC or NPC) have specific, non-battle opposed interests whose resolution can affect the outcome of the battle, yes or no?

Question: Do any characters (PC or NPC) have specific, non-battle opposed interests whose resolution can be affected by the outcome of the battle, yes or no?

These are the only things you roll for, and nothing else. Unless the first and/or last questions are answered "yes," then the outcome of the battle isn't rolled for at all.

Everyone rolls! And you're into plain old Sorcerer resolution, subject to any and all ordering and damage-based phenomena, just as usual. Some of the rolls might concern the mobilization of hundreds of troops and hours of in-story time. Others might be the blink of in-story time. Doesn't matter, because the ordering handles what comes down before what else.

Best,
Ron
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2006, 10:32:47 AM »

he wanted a game that does S&S fiction, but which can also "scale up" fairly easily to encompass Real Big Battles. 


If you change the word "does" with "simulates" I think you'd be a lot closer to what the average gamer thinks they want out of a battle game. The act of simulating the battle comes before reaching the dramatic crux of the battle, so if Connan rolled crap they would have to live with him getting stomped.

Techniques that serve a narrativist agenda are unlikely to serve a simulationist agenda very well. I know, I've hit the wall for many years with wargames. The Matrix Game technique of hainv players make arguments about events with dramatic sidelines into counter-arguments, conflict and trouble arguments and speeded up play, can serve narrativist ends (as I will show in an actual play posting - once work settles down again.) Wargamers - who usually want a sim kind of game - have long resisted Matrix Game techniques because they are "too fast". Rather than slog through fifty twenty second turns, they jump from critical event to critical event.

If a player wants a battle in a game - they first need to clarify what they want out of that play. If they want to play a ten hour miniatures game in a Sorcerer session, then they are playing the wrong game. I'm certain that Sorcerer could "do" a battle, but it would not look like a wargame - it would be "too fast".

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
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