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Author Topic: Ygg take 3  (Read 9561 times)
Christoffer Lernö
Member

Posts: 822


« on: April 18, 2002, 10:01:16 PM »

Ok, I tried to make up a little better game example to be able to do something like Roy suggested in his thread. Tell me if you think I'm heading in the right direction here:

[Brokk: Adventurous dwarven trader, Yon Doh: experienced human huntsman and tracker, Grendel: young, rash and compassionate swordsman, Brim: a young sorceress]

GM: You see a trail of blood leading down the cracked
staircase.

GM: roll awareness

GM checks all results.

Brokk: What kind of blood is it?

Brim: I pick up a little and sense it.

GM to Brim: It must be human blood

Brim: *Sniff* *sniff* Human blood, it lacks the potency of
demon blood. I can feel it. Looking longingly on her
fingers


Yon: Then we didn't even injure it. Turning to Grendel
How are you holding up?

Grendel: Takes more than that to kill me.

Brim: I start down the stairs

GM: You all follow Brim down?

Rest: Yes.

GM: Everybody roll awareness

GM checks people's results.


GM: As you venture further down the stench of decay and
death grows ever stronger.

Brim: I summon my demon knives

GM: You see energies crackling around Brim.

Brokk: I look on grimly.

GM: The twin demon knives appear, faintly glowing in the
dark. But even worse you see the familiar demon marks
appear on Brim's skin and her face has assumed that deadly
pale hue you're now getting familiar with. Her voice is now
nothing more than a whisper.

GM to Brim: make a check that your taint is now one step closer to being permanent

Brim (whispering): I am ready.

Yon: It wasn't necessary.

Brim (whispering): It was and you know it.

Grendel: We have no time to waste! Why aren't we going down?

Brim: I continue down the stairs

GM: As you reach the bottom you hear strange sounds from
within. A kind of gnawing sound which really bothers you.

Grendel: I ready my sword.

GM: You pull your sword from it's scabbard. Do I need to
mention there is little light other than Brokk's torch?

Brim: I will take care of it. Summon the death lanterns!

GM: With a raise of your hand a whirlwind of faint lights,
growing increasingly stronger appears around you. The
motion slowly wears off as the lights grow stronger. There
are now strange lights dancing around Brim.

Brokk: What the hell is that?

Brim (whisper): Death lanterns, don't touch them, it will
kill them.

Brokk shies away from Brim

GM: You continue through a wide passage into a large
chamber. It's lit with an eerie bluish white gloom
seemingly coming from the walls and the floor. It cast
strange shadows on the DEMON WOLF gnawing on the bones of
the little girl you came to rescue. And beyond...

Grendel: Damn them all! I attack!

GM: Let me finish, and beyond, on a throne, the shape of
young woman, peacefully sitting, legs crossed, smiling at
you. You sense she is not human, if nothing else than for
the fact that the Demon Wolf looks up at her from time to
time as if it was he faithful dog.

Grendel: I've had it! They hurt so many innocent people. I
jump forward with my sword, attacking first the Wolf.

Brim (whisper): NOO! GREN!

Yon: Wait!

GM: Grendel, you throw yourself forward, your magic blade
trailing behind you in an arc of death... When suddenly the
woman opens her palm and a glyph like that of an eye
appears in a burst of light. You get caught in it!

GM to the rest: You see Grendel freezed in midflight,
transfixed by a pale light. In fact it almost seems as if
his soul is being sucked out of him...

Brim (whisper): Deathlight? No, impossible! Only humans can
use demonic magic!

---

Just let me know what you think of the game example so far.
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Fabrice G.
Member

Posts: 206


« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2002, 12:03:25 AM »

Hi Pale Fire,

I think that the exemple is quite fine. But Roy's way to use it is then to look at it to see what is game is about, yes ?

So, by your own exemple of play, I think that your game is a lot more about character and decisions. So your system should focus on that.
About your combat system, look to the exemple...did Grendel look for the most opportunate moment or the best angle to attack, no. He just leaped at his foes (not a very tactical decision, more of what I call character's decision).
Ok, your combat exemple is short, but if you envision combat as it's described in your exemple, then IMO you should nail those "characters elements" and buid your combat system around it (e.g. bonus for spectacular action, for good roleplay, etc.).

Like many before me in other threads, I think you should really take your vision of your game and build a new system  around it...

Fabrice.
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Andrew Martin
Member

Posts: 785


« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2002, 01:26:51 AM »

Pale Fire wrote:
> Just let me know what you think of the game example so far.

Uhm, I'm disappointed. You (as GM) seem to have stopped a player from doing an action, twice! See:

Quote

GM: You continue through a wide passage into a large
chamber. It's lit with an eerie bluish white gloom
seemingly coming from the walls and the floor. It cast
strange shadows on the DEMON WOLF gnawing on the bones of
the little girl you came to rescue. And beyond...

Grendel: Damn them all! I attack!

GM: Let me finish,...


First prevention of player action!

Quote

...and beyond, on a throne, the shape of
young woman, peacefully sitting, legs crossed, smiling at
you. You sense she is not human, if nothing else than for
the fact that the Demon Wolf looks up at her from time to
time as if it was he faithful dog.

Grendel: I've had it! They hurt so many innocent people. I
jump forward with my sword, attacking first the Wolf.

Brim (whisper): NOO! GREN!

Yon: Wait!

GM: Grendel, you throw yourself forward, your magic blade
trailing behind you in an arc of death... When suddenly the
woman opens her palm and a glyph like that of an eye
appears in a burst of light. You get caught in it!

GM to the rest: You see Grendel freezed in midflight,
transfixed by a pale light. In fact it almost seems as if
his soul is being sucked out of him...


And here's the second prevention. Which makes the character and player even more foolish, as it's quite clear now that the sorceress/demon woman have had time to prepare.

The player and the character agreed in taking quick (and definitely rash) action. You as GM stopped him. Then when he took the next available action, you again stopped him by using an NPC to cast a spell before he could attack. If I was the player or any of my players were this particular player, I (and my players) would be very annoyed.

Instead, I'd have cut to the combat with Grendel attacking and being successful in striking the wolf-demon. Those characters that wanted to "waste" time scanning the room would then get the rest of the description, and then risk the sorcerous attack of the demon-woman.

Of course, this is just my opinion, and the typical response from most of my players.

Pale Fire, I also think you should take note of this thread: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=18401#18401 about making mechanics that fit the setting.
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Andrew Martin
Christoffer Lernö
Member

Posts: 822


« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2002, 03:53:28 AM »

Quote from: Andrew Martin
Quote from: Pale Fire

Just let me know what you think of the game example so far.

Uhm, I'm disappointed. You (as GM) seem to have stopped a player from doing an action, twice! See:

Yeah maybe. Then again I remember I really bad adventure I ran millions of years ago when I was a kid. One player was so hot at attacking the bad guy he didn't hear it was like 30-50 meters to get there. He started running.... and before he could get there he was totally annihilated. Now it was a very sucky adventure, but the point was he wouldn't have charged if he knew what was really happening. :)

But sure, I like to be emotional and play it out like Grendel too. It's not a bad thing. But how would you have handled the situation?

Quote

And here's the second prevention. Which makes the character and player even more foolish, as it's quite clear now that the sorceress/demon woman have had time to prepare.

If that's your only complain about it. Then I don't know. I was writing the example explicitly like this because I was thinking that I'd like the situation to play out in this manner, with people able to interrupt each other's actions.

Quote

Instead, I'd have cut to the combat with Grendel attacking and being successful in striking the wolf-demon. Those characters that wanted to "waste" time scanning the room would then get the rest of the description, and then risk the sorcerous attack of the demon-woman.

I think I see what you're getting at. You don't mean this as general thing right? But only in this particular case? If so you're probably right. Should I update the story to reflect it?

Quote

Pale Fire, I also think you should take note of this thread: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=18401#18401 about making mechanics that fit the setting.


Err, that thread is exactly why I'm presenting this story in the first place :) To try to follow Roy's idea.
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[Yggdrasil (in progress) | The Evil (v1.2)]
Ranked #1005 in meaningful posts
Indie-Netgaming member
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2002, 05:54:42 AM »

Hi PF,

It strikes me that you are very accustomed to Illusionist GM technique, and have become so accustomed to it, that it seems equivalent to "how to GM" at this point.

Illusionism is no bad thing. It is a way to play, and it generates "sensible story." Its goal is to generate entertainment by not permitting in-game, player-driven events to "ruin things."  It relies greatly on the GM being able to nudge players' decisions both before and during scenes, and also sometimes on having outcomes of scenes being pre-set, with in-scene mechanics simply "getting there."

[Forgeites please note: I tried to phrase the above to account both for Illusionism as defined by Paul Elliott, in which story-creation is retroactive, and as added to by me, which includes pre-play story-creation as an alternative.]

Now if you're playing in this way, the first step is to decide whether it's what you want to do, or whether it's only what you are used to doing in the absence of perceived alternatives. Everything you've said, in the many, many posts, leads me to think that you have seen only negative alternatives.

If indeed this is the way that you want to play (or to encourage via your game design), then the next question becomes, how does one write an effective Illusionist system? That strikes me as a phenomenal, powerful question for the RPG Theory forum.

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2002, 06:03:32 AM »

Oh, I dunno... I see Pale Fires position on this one.  I've certainly been in circumstances in which a players precipitous action was in fact innapropriate - if they had waited for me to finish the description (which occurs in microseconds subjectively to the character, but possibly minutes subjective to the player) it would have been obvious it was a stupid idea.

This is part of my interest in pure visuals.  I will also stop player activity if I feel that I want to complete a description before players act.  IME players feel even more unjustly exploited if you play strictly by the book and hold them to an action which is, and would have been, evidently futile once the facts were known.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2002, 06:18:56 AM »

Hi,

I'm not criticizing PF at all. Please don't construe me as saying, "Don't play Illusionist!" My point is to know what you're doing and what it's about. If people would read my essay without construing it as an indictment of Illusionism, they would realize that I presented Illusionism as a solution to incoherent game design.

It all comes down to IIEE, as Fang pointed out during his exhausting exchange with PF. Announcing an action is composed of Intent, Initiation, Execution, and Effect. Now, as we all know through painful RPG experience, this process must be organized in some fashion. A huge amount of published RPG design fails to do so, and the ones that do almost always rely on over-regimentation.

Very few games permit Intent to be announced and discussed in the absence of forced commitment to Initiation. Zero did it, and I promptly imitated Zero in Sorcerer. What no game until The Pool ever, ever did, was permit stating the Effect to shift formally around the table.

Now, back to PF and Illusionism. The essence of Illusionism is to modulate IIEE through social and interventional means, because the system itself is either over-vague or over-regimented relative to the kind of experience people at the table want. I read PF as modulating IIEE almost constantly throughout the description of play, "under cover" as it were of formal things like initiative or task resolution.

What matters is that this mode of GMing is consistent with the 80s mantra, "System doesn't matter, all you need is a good GM." Which is to say, "Game systems don't do shit except provide some meat/materials for the GM to nudge or shape or modulate into coherence." That strikes me as utterly consistent with PF's personal experience in gaming and with all of his presentations regarding Ygg. To him, the system doesn't matter. It just has to look like a game system, and give players something to do (roll to hit!), and provide enough structure for the GM to work with in terms of modulating events during play.

In that case, Ygg is fine as is, d12+whatever and all. I do not think it meets the stated goal of "generating wonder," but if I am reading PF's philosophy right, it doesn't have to - the Good GM will be able to do that via play, just as he achieves any other form of satisfaction for himself and the players via play - through Illusionist mastery.

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2002, 06:50:14 AM »

Anyone familiar with any systems which break IIEE up into ame mechanical segments?

I once saw a karate championship fight which I don't think many systems could duplicate - the whole thing was about intent, implied intent, threat of intent.  It sounds like a koan, but the only fight to throw a punch lost.

Perhaps this is part of my concern with duelling systems like TROS - you shift your weight from one foot to another and the intent you are implying or threatening changes.  Therefore, action only occurs when someone actually initiates a proposed intent, and that exchange is usually resolved in an opportunistic flurry.  I guess, I am intrigued by looking at this way, a hell of a lot of the "negotiation" between combatants is analysing intent and predicting implementation.

Perhaps L5R's iaijutsu mechanic is an example of establishing intent before resolving implementation.  Any others?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2002, 07:03:12 AM »

Hi Gareth,

My preference these days is to parse Intent out of the "in-game action sequence" entirely. In other words, it's handled mainly as a non-committed phase in strictly metagame terms, using words like "Goal" and so on. Hero Wars, Sorcerer, Zero, and (soon) Trollbabe all incorporate this idea, as is Alyria (sorry Seth, I know it's supposed to be secret, but I ain't giving away much). As you can see, I'm sure, it's also highly related to Fortune in the Middle.

I agree with you about The Riddle of Steel, and that's why it intrigues me - it very clearly presents a heroic attempt to keep Intent "in-game" without falling into the traps that RuneQuest (the previous most-heroic attempt to do so) did. Whether it works, especially relative to the central Narrativist goals of the design, is an extremely important question.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2002, 07:13:18 AM »

Quote

GM: You see a trail of blood leading down the cracked
staircase.

GM: roll awareness

GM checks all results.


I would suggest that determining whether or not you need to have "awareness rolls"  is part of this process.  You've here assumed that you will need them and so put them in, which is a little bit of cart before the horse.


Quote

Brim: *Sniff* *sniff* Human blood, it lacks the potency of
demon blood. I can feel it. Looking longingly on her
fingers



This I think is an important part of your example.  When you're analyzing this, one thing to identify is exactly how Brim knew this.  The GM told her it was human blood (so we know that there is a GM playing a fairly traditional role of feeding the players information) but he didn't say anything about HOW she knew.

So does Brim know about the potency of blood and have the ability to "feel" this potency because this is a power written up in the game rules?  i.e. does the description of Sorcerer in the rules indicate this kind of knowledge and relationship to blood.  OR is the game fairly silent on this and Brim's PLAYER chose to fill in the details this way.  

In other words, the GM simply told her it was human blood, she COULD have tasted it, or put it in a test tube, or drawn upon some medical skill or whatever, but instead SHE chose that she could "feel it".

Similiarly why was she looking longingly at the blood?  Is this another trait featured in the rulebook for sorcerers...or is Brim's player adding a chilling feature to her own character.

Now I can tell you how I'd answer the question.  I'd vote for this being player empowered and for the rules to have explicit mechanics encouraging players to come up with this sort of thing.  In my oppinion this is part of developing the wonder of the game.  How much more chilling is it for the other players (the audience) to watch this scene if its something Brim's player is inventing for them, then if they already know about Sorcerers and blood from having read the class description in the players guide.

But it doesn't really matter how I'd answer the question.  And I'm not really asking you to provide the answer here.  I'm pointing out an example of the type of question your example of play has raised for you to answer for yourself as you use the example to compile a list of features for your game.



Quote

Yon: Then we didn't even injure it. Turning to Grendel
How are you holding up?

Grendel: Takes more than that to kill me.

Brim: I start down the stairs

GM: You all follow Brim down?

Rest: Yes.


This is another telling section.  I'm going to assume here that you wrote this section because this is how you WANT to play and how you ENJOY playing.  This is a very traditional way of playing and assumes a certain degree of distrust between the players and the GM.  In otherwords the players don't trust the GM to simply frame the scene, they are basically demanding that the GM assumes nothing about their characters actions without their explicit permission.

Now Ron had earlier asked about your gaming experience and what other games you've played (I don't recall you answering that question) so I'm just going to point out that the above is NOT the way is HAS to be.  So if you included this sequence because you LIKE playing this way, great.  If, on the other hand, you included this sequence because thats the way you've always played and you know of no other way to do it, then you may wish to broaden your horizons in this regard before continueing on.

For example, there are many games (and this is fairly encouraged here at the Forge) for which every single act of the characters is not expected to be detailed out by the players and reacted to by the GM.  Many games would simply have the GM cut out of the last scene with the blood, skip over the boring details, and frame the next scene at the next point of interest.

Compare an action movie today with an action movie from the 70s and 80s (like any of the Dirty Harry movies).  Dirty Harry seems almost slow and plodding by comparison because alot of the mundane activity is actually shown on the screen (people getting into cars, people getting out of cars, people walking up to the door, people ringing the doorbell, people waiting for someone to answer the door, etc).  Today (largely I expect from the influence of Hong Kong) most of these mundane activities are skipped and the next scene framed so that the audience knows that all of this has happened but hasn't had to sit through and watch it.

Point being that your above exchange is very much like the former, which is 100% ok, if thats what you like, I just wanted to point out that that isn't required, just in case you weren't familiar with the alternatives.

Quote

GM: Everybody roll awareness

GM checks people's results.


GM: As you venture further down the stench of decay and
death grows ever stronger.


Again this is a very very old school way of playing.  In this case I'm going to actually step over the line a bit and say IMO this is wrong for your game.  There is nothing more guarenteed to shatter any sense of wonderment that your narrative has built up, than calling for an awarness roll.

Plus, examine what you're asking them to roll for?  Is it even possible for anyone to NOT notice a stench of decay?  I think you need to set the bar for automatic success a little lower than this.  You wouldn't make someone roll to keep their balance while crossing the street (I assume), you shouldn't make them roll to smell a decaying corpse.  

Now MAYBE if the stench is bad enough, you make some sort of resist feeling nauseous (if thats the sort of game you like, I don't really enjoy that type of rolling any more but your group may) but not to just be aware of it.

The only reason for your description of the smell to exist is to set the mood.  To cue the players that something nasty is coming up.  To let them know that they're "not in Kansas anymore".  There is absolutely no conceivable reason why you as the GM would NOT want to describe the atmosphere to them...why risk them failing a roll?


Quote

Brim: I summon my demon knives

GM: You see energies crackling around Brim.

Brokk: I look on grimly.

GM: The twin demon knives appear, faintly glowing in the
dark. But even worse you see the familiar demon marks
appear on Brim's skin and her face has assumed that deadly
pale hue you're now getting familiar with. Her voice is now
nothing more than a whisper.


Now heres a cue to the answer to the above question.  Here very clearly, the GM is filling in the mystic details.  What you need to ask yourself when you're studying this example is the following (IMO, of course).

a) is the GM just relating description from the text of the spell description (worst choice, IMO, but again I'm not making this game, you are -- I'm just deciding whether I'd ever want to play it).

b) is the GM inventing this description for the spell.  If so, than you need to provide some guidelines for how to go about doing this.  Not necessarily as detailed as buying effects with points but something more than "just make it up" I have some ideas in this regard, but I think it's still to early in this process to jump into specifics.  

c) OR could the above description have been provided by EITHER the GM -OR- the player, but in this specific instance the GM took on the task.  If so then you'll need explicit rules for who gets the story power.  When can the player call the shots and when can the GM?  There are lots of different ways of handling this, but again, too early for specifics.  (IMO this is the best choice, but YMMV)


Quote

GM to Brim: make a check that your taint is now one step closer to being permanent

Brim (whispering): I am ready.

Yon: It wasn't necessary.

Brim (whispering): It was and you know it.



This is perhaps the best exchange of the entire example.  It introduces a key concept that will definitely have to go on your list of features (Taint for using sorcery).  But it tells something much more than that.  Something far less cut and dry and something that will probably be the single most difficult part of your design.

What is happening here is a powerful interaction between player characters.  There is apparently some very profound consequence from the Taint.  Yon's is obviously aware of the consequences (and hense so must be his player) and Yon obviously cares for Brim.

This should definitely be part of the list of features that you're going for.  Later in the process you'll have to think about how do you design a game that encourages this sort of thing, because if you don't embed this in your game, then you're relying simply on the roleplaying ability of the players, in which case your results will be sporadic just as depth of character interaction in D&D is sporadic.  

You put this scene into your example of what you would consider "perfect play" so it is obviously something important to you.  You now must come up with a way to embed this into the game so it will be important to people who play the game also.  

How to do that...well, save the specifics until later, but there are some techniques that can help (probably more radical than what you're used to) but at the very least you have to make sure you don't write rules that discourage this.  D&D, for example indirectly discourages this by focusing the game so much on killing monsters there is never really a need (save player desire) to worry about the depth of character interaction.  You must ensure that your reward mechanics at the minimum don't focus the game away from what you really want the players to be focused on.



Quote

GM: As you reach the bottom you hear strange sounds from
within. A kind of gnawing sound which really bothers you.


Here you'd get a negative reaction from some members of the Forge.  What you've done here is decide for the players what does and doesn't bother their characters.  I may well be playing a character who wouldn't be bothered by the sight of a demon wolf gnawing on the bones of a young girl, and don't want you telling me otherwise.

There's an interesting dichotomy at work here, that has alot to do with the type of players you want to attract to your game.  In my experience there are alot of players who would dislike you making assumptions about what their character is DOING (like having to confirm they really want to go down the stairs), but couldn't care less about you commenting on what they're FEELING.  On the other hand, there are alot of players that are willing to allow the GM to make radical scene frameing shifts that involve what the character does but would crucify you for trying to tell them what they feel

I think to some extent this can be identified along GNS lines.  I suspect that players who are of the "don't assume my character's actions" ilk but who don't care much about their feelings are likely playing in a Gamist style.  Those for whom their character's feelings are inviolate, but they don't mind you just assuming they ran down to the bottom of the stairs are likely to be playing in a Narrativist style.  Those who want to reserve both character actions and character feelings for the player alone are likely playing in a Simulationist style (probably with character Exploration emphasis).

This is where GNS theory was designed to help try to match game design with player preferences.


Quote

Grendel: I ready my sword.

GM: You pull your sword from it's scabbard. Do I need to
mention there is little light other than Brokk's torch?


This minor exchange actually brings up a profound question with far reaching consequences for its design.

Is this the sort of game where if a player doesn't specifically say "I ready my sword" than it isn't ready?

This is a very Gamist kind of approach to take.  There is basically a game mechanic toggle "ready" vs "not ready" and its part of the joy of the game is for the players to manage these toggles and succeed or fail based on how well they do so.  

This is where some dysfunction can arise in your game if you as a designer don't try to give some focus to your design.

For example a Simulationist player would likely respond to the above "My character is a trained warrior who's gone on a dozen adventures...he's not going just "forget" to take his sword out, thats ridiculous...even if I didn't say it you can assume that he'd behave like a professional".

[yes, I know, I'm making several GNS generalizations here.  This isn't the GNS forum.  I'm just trying to point out some of the considerations that are arising even from this fairly routine dungeon delve example]


Quote

Brim: I will take care of it. Summon the death lanterns!

GM: With a raise of your hand a whirlwind of faint lights,
growing increasingly stronger appears around you. The
motion slowly wears off as the lights grow stronger. There
are now strange lights dancing around Brim.

Brokk: What the hell is that?

Brim (whisper): Death lanterns, don't touch them, it will
kill them.

Brokk shies away from Brim


More of the questions I raised above about who provides this information.  I'd love to see a game where Brim's player invented the Death Lantern effects and the game provides rules that encourage her to do so (not necessarily deeply detailed "design a spell" rules, but rather something that encourages creative description) but again you have decide what you'd rather have.

Quote

GM: You continue through a wide passage into a large
chamber. It's lit with an eerie bluish white gloom
seemingly coming from the walls and the floor. It cast
strange shadows on the DEMON WOLF gnawing on the bones of
the little girl you came to rescue. And beyond...

Grendel: Damn them all! I attack!

GM: Let me finish, and beyond, on a throne, the shape of
young woman, peacefully sitting, legs crossed, smiling at
you. You sense she is not human, if nothing else than for
the fact that the Demon Wolf looks up at her from time to
time as if it was he faithful dog.


Andrew brought up a perfectly valid point, but I think I'd alter his sentiment somewhat.  The purpose of this example is for Pale Fire to design HIS perfect example of play...not Andrew's (or mine) perfect example of play (although I know I crossed that line above).

This section of the example may or may not have been intentional but it does speak about a fairly profound aspect of the game that should go into your list of design features.

Some games are written with the intention (and many GM's play this way) of "your player said it so now you do it".  The above is an example where this is clearly NOT happening.  I don't think this is wrong, but it is a fairly significant design philosophy that you should pay attention to as you develop the game further.

In my oppinion your response to Andrew indicates again a fairly Gamist attitude.  A Gamist player wants to succeed or fail based on his skill at using the resources available to him.  It would be entirely reasonable for this sort of player to feel cheated if the GM did not elaborate on the existance of the Sorceress.  If the GM does not provide all of the facts that the character would be aware of, then the player isn't going to be able to optimize his chosen reaction.  

A Simulationist or Narrativist player may share the sentiments Andrew expressed.  A Simulationist may WANT his character to rush in where angels fear to tread and damn the torpedoes because that's what his character would do.  A Narrativist may be perfectly willing to behave in a "character foolish manner" if it creates a compelling complication to the story that the players enjoy haveing to deal with.


Quote

GM: Grendel, you throw yourself forward, your magic blade
trailing behind you in an arc of death... When suddenly the
woman opens her palm and a glyph like that of an eye
appears in a burst of light. You get caught in it!

GM to the rest: You see Grendel freezed in midflight,
transfixed by a pale light. In fact it almost seems as if
his soul is being sucked out of him...


Now here is where some careful GNS consideration can help you.  Andrew pointed out 2 places where you as the GM stopped a player's desired actions.  The problem is, is that the first place would likely be acceptable to a Gamist (who'd be grateful for the added info to base his actions on)...but this second place would almost certainly be unacceptable to a Gamist.

[again its a generalization, I know...we can discuss it in the GNS forum if someone cares to]

Few Gamists are going to be pleased with having their character rendered impotent by GM fiat without having some options to avoid (even something as old school as a "saving throw").

Also many Narrativists may have a problem with something that essentially deprotagonizes their character.  The protagonist shouldn't be the one frozen while other people fight the battle...thats what side kicks and innocent bystanders are for [another generalization, yes].  A Simulationist may be willing to accept the above as "well, I ran in, thats how the Sorceress would have responded, and that's the most likely outcome" but I think truely pure Simulationists (who wouldn't be the least bit tweaked off by losing control of their character no matter how realistic it is) are not the most common sorts.

At any rate, this section should give you some pause as you are writing up your features list.  There are some very backwards things you've done.  You've used Fortune mechanics to decide something very inconsequential (the above Awareness roll I commented on), but you've used Drama mechanics to decide something of major impact to a character.  

IMO the sorts of players who'd be willing to accept fortune rolls intruding into their roleplaying at every step (check for this, check for that) are NOT the sorts of players who'd be willing to accept drama resolution freezing their character.  Conversely, the sorts of player who'd have no trouble accepting their character's fate are not likely to tolerate constant fortune checks.

These sorts of conflicting mechanics are what leads to GNS dysfunctional play.


Quote

Brim (whisper): Deathlight? No, impossible! Only humans can
use demonic magic!


Again, another place to decide where this comes from.  In your perfect example are you postulating a player who is so intimately familiar with the Sorceress Splat Book that she can consistantly rattle off little tidbits of knowledge like this right from the text (I know some players who can do this with WoD or Deadlands).  If not, if Brim doesn't have this knowledge because the player memorized the splat book, and this knowledge was not provided by the GM (you didn't write into your example anything to indicate that the GM told Brim's player about this), then the only other option I can think of is that Brim's player invented it on the spot.

Now this may or may not coincide with what the GM had in mind.  The rules may never have said that only humans can use demonic magic, the GM may never have decided it.  But the player has just come up with it, and its pretty cool.  This is an example of what we call Director Stance.  Games that encourage strong Director Stance would instruct the GM that he is now obligated (although often providing some veto power) to incorporate the player's creative statement into the world.  

In other words it is now impossible in the world (or at least widely believed to be impossible) for non humans to use Demonic Magic, because a player said so (not the rulebook, not the GM, the player).

Conversely a rule book that opens (as many old school books did) with the section on "The GM is god.  His word is final.  All authority is vested in him" is generally discouraging player Director Stance.

Here is another place in your example which points out the need for you to decide how this will work in your own game.

Personally, I'd vote for the Director Power...IMO, you're far more likely to experience a sense of wonder that way.  Wonderment comes from things not being or working the way your limited experience would predict they should work.   If all of the really cool stuff in your world is defined in the rule book, than any player who reads the book will know exactly how they work.  If on the other hand the actual effect of magic, etc. are left to the GM and or players to determine during play, than no player will really know what is about to come.

But again you have to decide what you want.
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2002, 07:16:09 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi PF,
It strikes me that you are very accustomed to Illusionist GM technique, and have become so accustomed to it, that it seems equivalent to "how to GM" at this point.

Ok, I'm not familiar with the term. Let me see if I undestand it right. You mean the GM hides the system from the players, only using it as he/she feels fit (as a guide more or less) and then cover up the rest through improvisation?

If so, then yes, this represents the way I'm used to.

On the other hand, I also like player driven play, where players act rather free form with little involvement with the GM except for him/her providing input on general events and running NPCs.

But maybe that's also included in the Illusionist GM thing?

In any case it's a quite different feeling to the player driven and the GM driven story (as I tried to describe above very quickly). As a GM I can shift between them easily, actually prefering the player driven play. On the other hand I know at least one GM who excels in GM driven style of play, but have a lot of difficulty when it's turning into player driven style.

But maybe I'm talking about something quite different from what you were thinking of?
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« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2002, 07:25:42 AM »

PF,

In response to your private message yesterday, right this minute I'm composing a very extensive private reply which gets right at this issue.

Can I ask that we let this thread rest for a while, as it really isn't about Ygg at all, and you and I can do some private conversing? Trying to do the public and private dialogue at once is not going to work.

Best,
Ron
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2002, 07:29:48 AM »

Quote from: little nicky
So, by your own exemple of play, I think that your game is a lot more about character and decisions. So your system should focus on that.

Yeah well, I actually stopped short of the actual combat because I was a little unsure of how this story would work out. Maybe I should complete it with the combat scene?

Quote
About your combat system, look to the exemple...did Grendel look for the most opportunate moment or the best angle to attack, no. He just leaped at his foes (not a very tactical decision, more of what I call character's decision).

Yeah, I don't want tactical "you take the front and we will circle around the back as the mage runs the diversion tactics" kind of thing. It bores the sh*t out of me and usually is nothing but an attempt to optimize the advantages of the particular game system.

As someone pointed out elsewhere, tactics can quickly become quite game mechanics dependent. For example, in SR it helps if your opponents are injured, whereas in AD&D it doesn't matter if the monster has full 50 hp or down at 10. It's still just as dangerous. A guy said on rpg-create something to the effect of: "Well, when we played AD&D our tactic was single out one monster and attack it until it was dead and then go over to the next [because of previously mentioned situation]. In SR our tactics was different, there we tried to injure as many as possible in the first rounds"

I guess what I definately don't want is a combat mechanic where there are more or less optimal tactics in taking out bad guys.

It's supposed to be emotional, live the situation, be there and feel with your character kind of thing.

Quote
Like many before me in other threads, I think you should really take your vision of your game and build a new system  around it...


Yes, I've already taken that advice to heart :)

edit: What I mean is, I'm trying to step away from all system I have right now and see what happens if I start from scratch.
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« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2002, 08:05:21 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
I once saw a karate championship fight which I don't think many systems could duplicate - the whole thing was about intent, implied intent, threat of intent.  It sounds like a koan, but the only fighter to throw a punch, lost.

Perhaps this is part of my concern with dueling systems like TROS - you shift your weight from one foot to another and the intent you are implying or threatening changes.  Therefore, action only occurs when someone actually initiates a proposed intent, and that exchange is usually resolved in an opportunistic flurry.  I guess I am intrigued by looking at [it] this way; a hell of a lot of the "negotiation" between combatants is analyzing intent and predicting implementation.

Perhaps L5R's iaijutsu mechanic is an example of establishing intent before resolving implementation.  Any others?

The problem I think is that, in watching the competition, you are not seeing 'intent' precisely; you're seeing action.  This was one of the most important concepts we brought into Scattershot's 'no initiative' system.  Each of those "shift your weight from one foot to another and the intent you are implying or threatening changes" actions are, by virtue of the high degree of training involved in Karate championships, Feints in Scattershot.

A Karateka shifts his weight, his opponent 'reads' that as the prelude to a specific action; that makes it a feint.  If the opponent acts upon the 'shift' he falls for the Karateka's 'trap' allowing him to follow-through with a trained sequence, a 'flurry' of activity, learned specifically to 'take advantage' of this reaction.  (Honestly, to me, they always look like they're 'daring' each other to 'go for it.')

In Scattershot, combat does not begin with the resolution of the first physical attack as determined by an initiative die roll; it begins when the narrative indicates the intent for bodily harm has been decided (in the championship, when the referee calls for it) and with whoever has the character who makes that decision.  Following that is all the 'posturing' and maneuvering that leads up to the first attempted physical attack.  Instead of calling it initiative, we call it 'engagement.'

How does that compare to your read of the championship?  (The 'displayed intent' is actually feinting.)

Fang Langford

p. s. This is beginning to look a little like a sub-thread (and I'd certainly be happy to take it elsewhere if there's interest in continuing, PM me).
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Christoffer Lernö
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« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2002, 10:32:16 PM »

I'm really supposed to take a little pause with the mailing and think through my ideas, but I feel some explanations are in order...

Quote from: Valamir
Quote

GM: You see a trail of blood leading down the cracked
staircase.

GM: roll awareness

GM checks all results.


I would suggest that determining whether or not you need to have "awareness rolls"  is part of this process.  You've here assumed that you will need them and so put them in, which is a little bit of cart before the horse.


Yes, well, originally my story had no reference to game mechanics, but a friend suggested I put it in to clarify approximately when I felt it appropriate to roll.
As for the awareness roll, let me explain it because I don't think my intention is obvious.

Basically it's a roll for the GM to see if he/she should reveal any ADDITIONAL information. So only exceptionally good results are really interesting here. I find it annoying dealing with exceptional failures from game mechanics (one could imagine that a fumble would make a character tumble down the stairs or walk into a wall in the darkness, but I think such things are high maintenance things if the GM is to handle them. Naturally you could take the approach of some of the indie games and let the players participate in these descriptions, but then we run into a wholly different type of play).

If the GM would spot an exceptional result then that would let him/her hint at more information to that particular character than he/she would usually have. For example they might even from the beginning hear the faint sounds of bones being gnawed clean instead of having to wait for it to be obvious to all.

Quote

Quote

Brim: *Sniff* *sniff* Human blood, it lacks the potency of
demon blood. I can feel it. Looking longingly on her
fingers



This I think is an important part of your example.  When you're analyzing this, one thing to identify is exactly how Brim knew this.  The GM told her it was human blood (so we know that there is a GM playing a fairly traditional role of feeding the players information) but he didn't say anything about HOW she knew.

So does Brim know about the potency of blood and have the ability to "feel" this potency because this is a power written up in the game rules?  i.e. does the description of Sorcerer in the rules indicate this kind of knowledge and relationship to blood.  OR is the game fairly silent on this and Brim's PLAYER chose to fill in the details this way.  


Ok, you're thinking about: "does the players participate in shaping the setting?"
The simple answer is "no". That was not my intention when I wrote the example. When I wrote it I was thinking that this was an ability written down in the sourcebook or whatever.

On the other hand there are such a variety of ways to do things I feel I should really make it possible to customize powers and their effects. I started writing down various ways to use very similar powers but it very quickly ran out of hand.

For example an ability to "detect magic". Now many games would leave it at that "it's detect magic and you sense magic using it", pretty abstract and from the description it's more like a vague feeling than any specific "sensation".

I thought that was pretty dull, so I invented "smell magic", "see magic", "feel magic", "taste magic". All of these pretty different skills, and I was thinking that a character would have one but not the others. I could positively see some warlock hunting warrior sniff in the air and declare "I smell the presence of demonic magics!". "Taste magic" is actually my favorite :)

But all these things ultimately become high maintenance, so ideally I'd have some mechanism for how to extend and specify effects while still restraining them within the common theme. At the same time I don't want there to be any optimal way of forming a spell or an ability. And all this without the need to assign points or in other ways calculating the "effectiveness" of a certain ability.

Quote

Similiarly why was she looking longingly at the blood?  Is this another trait featured in the rulebook for sorcerers...or is Brim's player adding a chilling feature to her own character.

I think this could work either way. Either Brim developed a longing to devour blood according to what the rulebook detailed for her specific type of demonic transfiguration, or this is an effect the GM and Brim's player agreed on when fleshing out her particular mental and physical changes because of the demonic taint.

Quote
Quote

Yon: Then we didn't even injure it. Turning to Grendel
How are you holding up?

Grendel: Takes more than that to kill me.

Brim: I start down the stairs

GM: You all follow Brim down?

Rest: Yes.


This is another telling section.  I'm going to assume here that you wrote this section because this is how you WANT to play and how you ENJOY playing.  This is a very traditional way of playing and assumes a certain degree of distrust between the players and the GM.  In otherwords the players don't trust the GM to simply frame the scene, they are basically demanding that the GM assumes nothing about their characters actions without their explicit permission.


Hmmm.. it's a hard thing to say. For me personally it varies from situation to situation, depending on how focused the scene is. Basically the GM is saying: "Grendel and Yon, you're playing a scene here. Do you want to keep doing it or is it ok if we move on with the adventure?"

Quote

Now Ron had earlier asked about your gaming experience and what other games you've played (I don't recall you answering that question) so I'm just going to point out that the above is NOT the way is HAS to be.

No, I took that to private mail instead. I'm discussing this very thing with Ron right now actually :)

Quote

Quote
GM: The twin demon knives appear, faintly glowing in the
dark. But even worse you see the familiar demon marks
appear on Brim's skin and her face has assumed that deadly
pale hue you're now getting familiar with. Her voice is now
nothing more than a whisper.


Now heres a cue to the answer to the above question.  Here very clearly, the GM is filling in the mystic details.  What you need to ask yourself when you're studying this example is the following (IMO, of course).

a) is the GM just relating description from the text of the spell description (worst choice, IMO, but again I'm not making this game, you are -- I'm just deciding whether I'd ever want to play it).

b) is the GM inventing this description for the spell.  If so, than you need to provide some guidelines for how to go about doing this.  Not necessarily as detailed as buying effects with points but something more than "just make it up" I have some ideas in this regard, but I think it's still to early in this process to jump into specifics.  

c) OR could the above description have been provided by EITHER the GM -OR- the player, but in this specific instance the GM took on the task.  If so then you'll need explicit rules for who gets the story power.  When can the player call the shots and when can the GM?  There are lots of different ways of handling this, but again, too early for specifics.  (IMO this is the best choice, but YMMV)


I'd like to have some sort of guidelines for the GM(/player?) to help understanding what the magic in general ought to look like.

From my descriptions you might understand I like magical symbols appearing for no reason whatsoever and magical energies in general are slightly luminicent, demonic items have things that distictly make them look different from normal items and so on... Because this goes with the general feel I intend for the game I feel it is important to have some way to include it. Maybe even something so silly as a "random characteristic magical side effects table" to produce instant spell characteristics in line with my idea. :)

On one hand I want many different ways of doing the same thing, on the other I'm afraid "design your own spells" (or magical side-effects or whatever) is relying on the player being both imaginative and having a lot of inspiration.

I guess you notice how split I am about this. On one hand I WANT to empower the players enhance their characters and the scenes, on the other I don't want to rely on such a method of play exclusively. Somehow there has to be a crutch for players who aren't used to it, or for other reasons are unable to fully utilize their freedom.

Quote

Quote

GM to Brim: make a check that your taint is now one step closer to being permanent

Brim (whispering): I am ready.

Yon: It wasn't necessary.

Brim (whispering): It was and you know it.


This is perhaps the best exchange of the entire example.  It introduces a key concept that will definitely have to go on your list of features (Taint for using sorcery).  But it tells something much more than that.  Something far less cut and dry and something that will probably be the single most difficult part of your design.

What is happening here is a powerful interaction between player characters.  There is apparently some very profound consequence from the Taint.  Yon's is obviously aware of the consequences (and hense so must be his player) and Yon obviously cares for Brim.


Didn't I write down what the taint worked somewhere? That basically the more someone uses demonic magic, the more their soul will be tainted by the magic. Superficially this results in physical disfigurements which makes the characters look increasingly demonic. Aside from the disfigurement, other physical effects could be things like the character is attracting worms and maggots or insects (imagine wherever you step, maggots and worms will gather... You lie down to rest, and when you get up there are maggots and worms crawling in a perfect siluette of your body... )

As for the character play, I don't know how to make or break that. I think that's a matter of type of players rather than something I can induce with the system. The above is my type of play which I prefer to be full of emotional content. I never played a game which managed to facilitate it though.
Or maybe I can think of one thing: Downplaying the importance of "killing monsters" for improving characters helps. Any game where you get rewarded for playing in character and with high drama helps keeping the "kill monsters" guys on the same power level as those who work more with drama.

Quote
D&D, for example indirectly discourages this by focusing the game so much on killing monsters there is never really a need (save player desire) to worry about the depth of character interaction.  You must ensure that your reward mechanics at the minimum don't focus the game away from what you really want the players to be focused on.

And in fact the primary way to character advancement is slaying monsters and earning treasure.
In this way Palladium is better. The rewards for good roleplaying can often outweigh that of defeting monsters. They both use an XP system, but because of the focus is different in XP, so will the focus also shift in actual play.


Quote

Quote

Grendel: I ready my sword.

GM: You pull your sword from it's scabbard. Do I need to
mention there is little light other than Brokk's torch?


This minor exchange actually brings up a profound question with far reaching consequences for its design.

Is this the sort of game where if a player doesn't specifically say "I ready my sword" than it isn't ready?


I was thinking that Grendel actually says that as a way to announce his intent to the other players rather than for the GM. The confirmation from the GM is a little confusing here I agree. But from my POV it's only Grendel showing the other players that his character is really intent of settling this a violent way.


Quote

Some games are written with the intention (and many GM's play this way) of "your player said it so now you do it".  The above is an example where this is clearly NOT happening.  I don't think this is wrong, but it is a fairly significant design philosophy that you should pay attention to as you develop the game further.


Yes. This is a personal preference. Maybe it comes from playing with too many bad GMs:

GM: "The demon laughs at you"
Me (upset): "Gah! I shoot it GODDAMN!"
GM: "It's very dark, you can hardly see so you get minus XX to roll. The demon will likely kill you for doing this"
Me: "Oh, so I won't hit it? Then there is no use"
GM: "No you said you would attack so now you do it!"
Me: "What? But you just told me it was suicide!"
GM: "Well, tough luck! You're shooting, roll your die while I calculate the [immense] bonus [my favorite badguy] demon will get"

(Ahh, horrible memories!)

On Grendel's attack
Quote

Few Gamists are going to be pleased with having their character rendered impotent by GM fiat without having some options to avoid (even something as old school as a "saving throw").

Yeah, I agree this passage was maybe a little unfortunate.

Well, look at me, here I was just gonna clarify some points and ended up writing almost a whole reply. :)
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