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Author Topic: [Cranium Rats] Review Raised Questions  (Read 8519 times)
Thunder_God
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« on: April 30, 2006, 09:30:57 PM »

Dotan Dimet had posted a Review/Critique of Cranium Rats Beta 1.1(current version), I then posted my reply.
In the thread some interesting questions were raised:

1. Would you be interested in playing a third-wheel "character"(Aspect)?
For every player there's one Character, each Character has 3 Aspects, one of which is relatively passive and much of its role is hindering the other two, how would you feel playing such an Aspect?
Keep in mind that every player plays one passive Aspect and two active Aspects, spread over three characters.

2. How Important is "Mathematical Beauty"?
I have a rather clunky mechanic, designed to fight Death Spiral, where if you roll a multiplier of your Aspect you multiply your successes by said multiplier. Base pool equals your Aspect though, with numerous things which can add dice. This isn't a very likely proposition(however, it becomes more likely the lower your Aspect, for it to be any useful you need 8 successes when Aspect=4, but only 4 Successes when Aspect=2, and the things which raise your dice pool always raise it by the same amount). Cutting it off takes away an anti-death spiral mechanic but clears a stage of the resolution and makes the game "cleaner".

3. On fiddlyness.
3.1.1. To keep or not to keep "Different Tokens"?
Right now each Player(not Aspect or character) has different colour Tokens, and what you can do is different based on if you use someone else's Tokens or your own, this adds a whole layer of fiddlyness, one that doesn't exist in source material(no difference between my sheep and your sheep in Settlers of Cattan for example), but also makes players consider their choices.

3.1.2. How to diminish the Token pool?
If I do remove the "Different Tokens", how do I remove Tokens from the pool? Right now one of the major ways of removing Tokens is you getting back one of your own Tokens, which won't exist any longer if I change it.

3.2.1 To Bang Bang Bang! or Not?
I am leaning to make the Water the narrator, but in order to make the source material shine through every Scene or two should end in a "Bang", is that viable? How do I teach players to Bang and keep the Bangs happening?

3.2.2. How do I mix Goals and Bangs?
If I do "Bang Bang Bang!", how do I build off it? Right now a scene must be set up in a way which relates to one of the Aspects' Goals, I'm considering that in the next "Round" one can also use the Bang provided(round being till that player's turn comes next), but that takes away from the importance of Goals.

Thank you for your time :)
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Dotan Dimet
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« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2006, 07:45:58 AM »

Xrist, there's an animated marquee icon in the Post reply toolbar. Someone kill me (or it!) now.

I understand that by "Bangs" you're referring to the Sorcerer concept, like Judd mentions here: http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=638&page=1#Item_0.

You've got goals, so you've got something to build the Bang on top of. Also, it's in the player's interest to achieve goals, so he will be inclined to set up scenes with a view towards achieving his goal. A bang in this context would be a complication that heightens tension rather than deflating it. You could actually put in explicit advice that a player that has narration can (and should) put obstacles in front of another Aspect's goal but only in a way that isn't blocking. Except this really makes Water even more antagonistic.
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2006, 09:17:37 AM »

Well, eventually if it'll be too blocking he won't go for it, if he doesn't go for it he isn't setting up a scene, and you want him to set up a scene so you could vie for control/push him into losing a Dot.
Also, if you "Block" him then his Goal is resolved. Don't forget, you resolve a goal either when you succeed OR when you fail.

Yes, I mean the Sorcerer way, though I kinda meant to do this to encourage the Guy Ritchie way, of having things complicated and to keep tensions running high(such as finding a suitcase full of cash; most kickers from Sorcerer core fit here). I wish Judd would put forth his opinion on Bangs and the new "Setting Questions", what do you think of those BTW? Tried to put those in to encourage what you talked about regarding Setting Vs. Background, I may put in a sample setting: "Suburbia", but we'll see.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Thunder_God
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« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2006, 01:44:39 PM »

Another question I had today when I went over the text one last time post-printing it was about Character Death.
No real way for the players to go "Oh shit!" in the Play Example if they're protected by Narrative Causality from death.

Possible fix is that one can Narrate character Death(given Enlightened permission, as always), but each other player gains Tokens equal to the Aspect Dots he had in that Character.
This brings back up the win/lose situation, and turns it into Win/lose across the board, where you "lose" a fight when a character reaches Enlightenment and win if you win somewhere at all.

But does that sound feasible? Because then when someone reaches victory you're left behind, so I think keeping win/lose seperate per character would work better, but then, how to incorporate character death, if at all?
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
John Kirk
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2006, 08:31:06 PM »

Another question I had today when I went over the text one last time post-printing it was about Character Death.
No real way for the players to go "Oh shit!" in the Play Example if they're protected by Narrative Causality from death.

From looking at your game, I'm not sure you need character death as an option.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that a player wins the game by earning an Aspect value under his control up to a value of 10.  Correct?  If so, the "Oh shit!" moments will occur when other players attain 8, 9, or 10 values in Aspects under their control.  As Aspect values rise, tension will rise.  That's really all you need.  Not all games need characters to die.  In fact, your game may be harmed by introducing the possibility of death, as that may only distract from the central gamist contest.  If there is some design goal satisfied by character death that cannot be accomplished better by some other means, then adding it is reasonable.  Otherwise, leave it out.

If you feel that your game currently lacks a sufficient mechanism to create rising tension in the game, you might want to read my write up on Contest Trees in my RPG Design Patterns book.  You also might want to take a look at Gnostigmata to see how I used the Contest Tree pattern to invoke rising tension in that game.

Incidentally, the same can be said for "fiddly bits".  If a fiddly-bit satisfies some specific design goal, keep it.  Otherwise, pitch it.  Boil your game down to its core.  Then, if what's left does not completely satisfy your design goals, you'll have room to add more mechanisms to fill the gaps.  In my opinion, you should allow the game's "fiddliness" to arise naturally from the game's core tenants rather than try to make "fiddliness" a design goal in itself.

To do that, though, you have to know what your game's core design goals are.  Do you?  Can you list them for me?  You state that the game should have the feel of the movies: "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels", "Snatch!", and "4 Layer Cake".  Not having seen any of those movies, I'm not sure what goals this source material implies.  Can you articulate them for me?
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John Kirk

Check out Legendary Quest.  It's free!
Thunder_God
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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2006, 06:55:57 AM »

From looking at your game, I'm not sure you need character death as an option.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that a player wins the game by earning an Aspect value under his control up to a value of 10.  Correct?  If so, the "Oh shit!" moments will occur when other players attain 8, 9, or 10 values in Aspects under their control.  As Aspect values rise, tension will rise.  That's really all you need.  Not all games need characters to die.  In fact, your game may be harmed by introducing the possibility of death, as that may only distract from the central gamist contest.  If there is some design goal satisfied by character death that cannot be accomplished better by some other means, then adding it is reasonable.  Otherwise, leave it out.
I'm referring to "Oh shit!" when something can threaten the character, otherwise we can get what we'll have if our Vampire: the Masquerade characters are impervious, a different game-play. This is me worrying(probably needlessly) on the game level.

If you feel that your game currently lacks a sufficient mechanism to create rising tension in the game, you might want to read my write up on Contest Trees in my RPG Design Patterns book.  You also might want to take a look at Gnostigmata to see how I used the Contest Tree pattern to invoke rising tension in that game.
Your book is on my hard-drive, waiting to get a read. Sadly, I'm way behind on my fiction shelf(some 80 books deep about now) so much of my RPG read is being postponed for 3 weeks or so, after I've taken 20 books off the list.
I do not think my game misses rising tensions, on the contrary: When one Aspect rises the others go against him, and it may carry over to other Aspects, once that "threat" is resolved things assumedly go back to being happy-happy, but betrayals and bonds are not so easily forgotten.

Incidentally, the same can be said for "fiddly bits".  If a fiddly-bit satisfies some specific design goal, keep it.  Otherwise, pitch it.  Boil your game down to its core.  Then, if what's left does not completely satisfy your design goals, you'll have room to add more mechanisms to fill the gaps.  In my opinion, you should allow the game's "fiddliness" to arise naturally from the game's core tenants rather than try to make "fiddliness" a design goal in itself.
Exactly, I want fiddlyness that stems from options' interactions, not from options proliferation. Look at Chess, I don't want to make each piece needlessly complicated, just the arising options.

To do that, though, you have to know what your game's core design goals are.  Do you?  Can you list them for me?  You state that the game should have the feel of the movies: "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels", "Snatch!", and "4 Layer Cake".  Not having seen any of those movies, I'm not sure what goals this source material implies.  Can you articulate them for me?
Goals, which I may have a hard time putting in words, since I didn't really "Bother" to do it before. I feel fine with everything swimming in my mind:
Game-play should be competitive, between players. When some fight, others act as checks and balances.
There should be a story told, it should have conflicts in it. Those conflicts drive it forward.
The story being told, through conflicts, is made of several story-lines which should interact/progress through a different agent during each section.

That's it, in an ultra succint way.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Thunder_God
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2006, 07:13:35 AM »

Oops, forgot to put that in.

The other Design Goal, which most of my games share, is to show people are not in control of their actions, or that was where it started, the current design goal as it stands(see how design goals can stem from the semi-finished project? :D) is "Multiple agents vying for control of people's inner landscape", which it shares with The Uchtman Factor and the unwritten Glass House and Rock.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Thunder_God
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2006, 06:23:25 AM »

Another issue Dotan raised was that of Narration codification(well, I codified it, he pointed out that I did).

It currently goes thus:

Clarification and Codification of Narration:
 
1) Enlightened Sets general stage.
2) Rat/Dirt pick Goal, Narrate Scene.
3) When a Conflict of interest arises, or any of the Aspects wants something to happen they interject; Roll the Dice or Say Yes.
4) When a Conflict between the character and an NPC occurs and the dice are rolled, OR when the different Aspects strive for different goals, Roll the Dice.
5) Water Narrates results according to Stakes.
Repeat Stages #2-#5 as necessary per character.
 
"Free play" or story development only happens at stages #2 and #5. The only story happens in order to get to or as a result of a conflict.
Scenes have _at least_ one stage #4, if stage #4 leads to another such immediately after, any player may call for scene continuation, subject to Enlightened's Veto.


How do people feel about "No free play"?
How do you feel about "No conflict>Scene did not yet end!"?
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2006, 05:05:28 AM »

The game is all about conflicts, right? So what would be the point of no conflict scenes? In the context of this game they would be mostly meaningless.

What's more, what important could occur in such non-conflict scenes, anyway? Role-playing the relations between the character and NPCs? Exploring the world? Players are Aspects, and so they are by definition interested only in events in which the character is involved in a conflict. The whole rest of his life may as well be out of stage.
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2006, 05:10:36 AM »

I take it you're in support then ;-)

Well, the "Non Conflict" parts can still lead to Goals.
Goals then lead to Conflicts*.
Conflicts let the Currency flow.
Goals lead to Currency flow.
Currency flow leads to Goals.

Note, a Goal may be something as simple as "Take a vacation", it's a goal of the character. It's the players' narration which will lead to Conflict. Technically, someone can narrate for 5 mins until someone finds a conflict to initiate.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
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