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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 70 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Constructive criticism on setting material  (Read 3330 times)
Carl Bussler
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« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2006, 11:57:52 AM »

Erick - Your example of power group positioning is great. In an effort to get my horse in front of the cart, I've started working on the Power 19, and have addressed some of that, mostly in question #2 What do your characters do, and #5 How character creation supports the premise.

You can find the beginnings of my Power 19 at http://www.timelessadventures.com/files/power19.doc

In narrowing down what the game is actually about, I stumble on the working title of "To Rise Again." The world of Sagatia was once a glorious thing, and the immortals were without equal. Will the players rise again to positions of power, or will their efforts help Sagatia rise again to its former beauty?

I have encounted a problem. Big question #3 What do the players (GM) do?

I analyzed the GNS model in regards to the game's premise and ruled out Simulationist. What follows are my thoughts on Gamist and Narrativist play in Sagatia, but I need to discuss the term Ideology (which is detailed in my Power 19 document). All the characters have a belief in regards to the magi, the immortals and in whose hands the fate of the world rests. Read on...

Gamist Premise:

Can my character gain more status and influence than the other player-characters in the ongoing rivalries between Ideological groups?

Can our immortal/magi/mortal characters survive the determined efforts of opposing Ideological groups?


Narrativist Premise:

If the characters in the game were strictly magi or immortals, then the premise with a strong character emphasis, might be, "Is it right to use our arcane and divine powers to defend our Ideology, even though it has obvious negative effects on the world and the people in it? When might the justification break down?"


An issue I'm having is that I don't however want to limit characters to just immortals and magi. I think playing a mortal who doesn't have (or doesn't want) the powers of a magi is interesting too, especially if there's an immortal or magi in the group. Maybe this won't be an issue.

I think if I figure this stuff out, I can decide what a player (or GM) does in the game.

Or, am I once again showing my newbness? Am I still looking at the spoon and wondering how to bend it?

Sebastian - Good points. Once I have the foundation of this thing squared-up, I'll take another look at the setting through other points of view. Thanks again.



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Carl Bussler
Adam Dray
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« Reply #16 on: June 14, 2006, 01:20:43 PM »

Hey, glad to see you're taking this in a game design direction.

I wouldn't sweat the GNS stuff right now. Try to answer "What do the players do?" without a ton of game theory clouding it up. Once you know what you want your game to do, that stuff will come.

When you say, "Can my character gain more status and influence than the other player-characters in the ongoing rivalries between Ideological groups?" do you want players to gain status and influence for their characters without regard for the method? Or is how they do it really the cool thing for you? You mention the Ideological groups. I assume this means they have different operating methods. Some are nice; some aren't. Maybe the question to ask is, "What are you willing to do to gain your character more status and influence?"

Similarly with "Can our immortal/magi/mortal characters survive the determined efforts of opposing Ideological groups?" What about, "What are you willing to do to survive?" More specifically, questions like these make interesting premises:
  • Will you kill to survive?
  • Will you betray your friends to survive?
  • Will you betray your group to survive?
  • Will you betray your own ideals to survive?

You don't have to pick one as a designer. Basically, if those kinds of questions interest you, make your game raise questions like that in play, and let the players decide what they care about. As a designer, ask yourself how you can systematically create situations that shove these issues in the faces of the players. How can you write a game that more or less guarantees that a player will have to make a choice like, "betray my ideals or die"?  Maybe your idea of "survive" isn't avoiding death; maybe it's something less permanent, but the idea remains the same. Push situation.

Or maybe you want to support player achievement without regard to the motives. Gaining social power without really focusing on why they do what they do. In that case, you want your game to give players tools to prove their personal tactical and strategic abilities. Provide game mechanics that are fun to manipulate and tweak and rely on a certain amount of player skill to master. Give players ways to "win" the game or demonstrate their mastery of the game to the other participants.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
David Berg
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« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2006, 02:28:08 PM »

Can my character gain more status and influence than the other player-characters in the ongoing rivalries between Ideological groups?

Can our immortal/magi/mortal characters survive the determined efforts of opposing Ideological groups?


Is it right to use our arcane and divine powers to defend our Ideology, even though it has obvious negative effects on the world and the people in it? When might the justification break down?

I am trying to envision play in a game with these as major concerns, and it leads me to ask:

Do you have any preferences for the form of play?  Should it consist solely of playing through situations as a physically present participant, or should it (in the case of characters with great influence) consist partly of characters listening to GM descriptions about what happens over successive months as a result of their latest edict/war/etc.?

I once ran a game where each player had one Boss and one Minion.  The Minions did things like run, fight, investigate, travel, etc.  The Bosses schemed to conquer the Earth.  Both types of play were fun and augmented each other well.  That structure certainly seems like an option for your game, as it includes humans and immortals with varying degrees of power...
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Carl Bussler
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« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2006, 05:01:32 PM »

Adam and David - Form of play, at the moment, is the hard thing for me to visualize. My D&D roots run deep and I've been trying to open my eyes to new things. My gaming groups over the years haven't been open to too many other games besides the White Wolf products, Battlelords, Shadowrun and various D20 spawns.

I recently ordered Amber, The Burning Wheel, Warhammer Fantasy, Conan D20, and Ars Magica for me to analyze and get some new perspectives. With or without a gaming group, I'm going to expand my horizons.

Back to form of play. I like the idea of a main character and a minion. I've read that Ars Magica does something like this, which I'll see once the book shows up.†

Here's an idea which may or may not work in reality: Each player has two characters - a minion and a boss. My boss character is in charge of your minion character, and your boss character is in charge of another player's minion character, and that guy's boss is in charge of my minion. Said another way: The character Ansigar works for the boss Justinian. I will play the character of Ansigar, and my buddy in the gaming group plays the character of Justinian. The minions need to work together to fulfill their boss's Desires, but at the same time defending their Ideology.

If characters succeed in fulfilling their boss's Desires and they are able to defend their Ideology, then their boss's influence goes up and the character's status goes up. If they neglect a Desire or an Ideology, then the boss's influence or the character's status goes down (or doesn't change). Perhaps status and influence aren't the words I'm looking for, but that's a good starting point.

It's an interesting scenario, as the character's have a common public goal, but also secret goals. Player's may (should) have to choose between defending their Ideology and fulfilling their boss's Desires.

The problem I see with this is why would these various bosses (and potentially opposed bosses) send their minions to work together? Perhaps the bosses are all part of the same organization, but with personal goals, and the shared mission of the characters is an organizational goal. But, if that were the case, wouldn't all the characters have the same Ideology?

For those who haven't read my Power 19, here is a rough draft of some Ideologies that pertain to the world of Sagatia:

1) Magi and the immortals are superior to all others and their powers can be used for personal gain, despite whatever cost to others, themselves and the world. The world is an evolving, constantly changing thing. No matter what changes the magi or immortals cause, mortals will need to adapt. Motto: Survival of the fittest.

2) Magic and the immortals are aberrations and must be eliminated in order to preserve the natural order of the world.

3) Magic and the immortals are misused and misunderstood, and with patience and knowledge they can heal the world and restore its greatness.

4) A character could also choose Undecided (I donít know what to believe).

5) A character may be Unconcerned (I donít care) at the beginning of play.

6) The character believes that the immortalsí supremacy entitles them to rule, to be worshiped and all opposition must be removed, including magi.

7) The character believes that immortals are the saving force of the world, but magic is an aberration and must be removed.

8) The character believes that magi are the new caretakers of the world. Immortals had their chance and failed.

Examples of Desires are Power, Independence, Curiosity, Acceptance, Order, Honor, Idealism, Social Contact, Family, Status, Vengeance, Romance, Physical Perfection, Mental Perfection, Spiritual Perfection, and Tranquility. Specific Desires would be: Gain the trust of the other characters (Acceptance), capture the local murderer and bring him to trial (Idealism), or earn the title of Gyula (Status). General Desires are ongoing and never completely fulfilled.

Alright, that's a long post. Sorry if I've bored anyone.

Thanks again for the help. I'd like to reciprocate by posting to other topics, but I still feel like a newb.


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Carl Bussler
David Berg
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Posts: 612


« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2006, 06:07:30 PM »

Carl-

Just so you know, Erick ("baron samedi") posted a reply intended for your thread in one of my threads ([Lendrhald] Rewards system...).
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baron samedi
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Posts: 137


« Reply #20 on: June 15, 2006, 02:39:18 AM »

I'm sorry guys, I didn't realize I posted on the wrong forum. :-(
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #21 on: June 15, 2006, 08:38:30 AM »

Carl, reading those games might give you some new ideas. Playing them will be better. That's a big pile of games though, so I can't imagine you'll get through them all anytime soon. If you're looking for perspectives different than D&D's, I'd prioritize Amber and Burning Wheel. You might also take a look at The Shadow of Yesterday, available in its entirety for free online.

Your boss/minion idea is very cool. Definitely try to develop that. Do you intend to have the player running both his boss and his minion in the same games? sessions? scenes?  Ars Magica does indeed have players create troupes of characters at a variety of levels (your mage, your companion, and perhaps some mooks) but I can't remember if you play them in the same sessions and scenes or rotate the spotlight.

The game Polaris has some ideas that might be useful to you. You can probably learn what you need to know from Actual Play threads here. Search the archives for those  reports. Polaris is a four-player game and it rotates the spotlight among the players, but assigns GM powers to the other three players. Each controls one aspect of the conflict your character is in, to put it simply and not entirely accurately.

For your secret goals, they are certainly secret among characters, but are they secret among players?  They don't have to be!

I read over your Ideologies. I think, in general, they're useful tags. If you're going to have a player choose one for his character, it'd be best to assign them names or handles so players can easily discuss them, and so there's something you can write in a 2-inch box on the character sheet. I'm concerned about Undecided and Unconcerned. Convince me that letting players not choose an Ideology makes your game better. If your game is about the struggle between Ideologies, make your players choose one and stick with it.

And by all means, post to other topics! We were all newbs once. You become not-a-newb by sticking around, taking part in conversations, and learning the hard way. We'll help you out -- you have a great attitude. Jump in and make mistakes. No one will fault you for inexperience.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
David Berg
Member

Posts: 612


« Reply #22 on: June 15, 2006, 09:58:14 AM »

I'm sorry guys, I didn't realize I posted on the wrong forum. :-(

I've asked the moderators to delete Erick's post from my thread.  So, here's what he said:

Quote from: baron samedi
Hi Carl,

Your Power 19 file is very interesting ! Great propositions from other members too!

My take for question #3:

I suggest that you bring about your Ideologies under a few "families", so that you have you players minimally work together. The player's goals would be to see their faction prosper by completing important political/social objectives.

The best example I could state would be Mage RPG, where you have 3 big factions (Traditions, Technocracy, Nephandi) each comprising a variety of positions.  Thus you could have Pro-Magic, Anti-Magic and "Resurrectionist" factions, with Ideologies within each (eg. Curative Pro-Magic, Opportunist Pro-Magic, etc.). You could even have Faction Points, representing one PC's standing and influence within his faction, and allow players to total their PC's FPs when acting together - forcing group co-operation. These wouldn't be "experience points", but a measure of your world's global change towards the goal they work for. Attaining thresholds (e.g. every 10 Pro-Magic points) could give a similar bonus to motivate and reflect the world's change. I think the online game "[Something] of Camelot" has a similar mechanism, spreading players over 3 warring factions with incentives for intra-faction co-operation.

Suppose for example that your PC group is made up of 5 Pro-Magic PCs, each with his own Ideology. By playing the first part of your campaign, they complete 5 major plot points - gathering 5 Pro-Magic Faction Points together and various Ideology points individually. At mid-time,

"Winning the game" could simply imply winning 100 Faction Points and thus deciding your World's fate, representing the Faction's advance over others and ending up with 1) a Magic world ; 2) a Magicless world ; 3) the world as it was before the Cataclysm.

Moreover, secondary Ideology points could determine, within each Faction "sucess", which Ideology dominates, e.g. a Magic World tainted by Opportunist Magi or healed by Curative Magi, etc.

Non-magi could have the advantage of never suffering from the negative effects of using magic, and perhaps winning more easily Ideology points (if not Faction points, or vice-versa).

That way you give both your players and characters a setting-oriented goal. This could be Gamist as well as Narrativist, not unlike Paul Czege's My Life With Master for ex. The GM's role could be to oppose them (if you take a Narrativist system) or to challenge them (with a Gamist system). Since I'm not convinced about the existence of Simulationist systems (at least, significatively different from Gamist ones), I'll leave it without an example, with all due respect.

Just my 2 cents.

Erick
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sean2099
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« Reply #23 on: June 15, 2006, 06:07:03 PM »

A little bit of word association here:  ideologies unconcerned and undecided...I would equate them with the word neutral.  Borrowing a bit/concern from D&D alignment, is there a way to make those idea system more dynamic?  Perhaps you could some committed to some balanced view of the world, recognizing everything has a place and it's up to them to make sure that all of the other extermists don't go too far.

Perhaps unconcerned are fatalists.  They realize their destiny is "written in the stars."  Their goals/concern is figuring out what that is or trying to live as well as they can for as long as they can.  They would believe that it is silly for all of the others to run around, trying to change things that cannot be changed. 

In any case, these examples may not fit your setting but I do believe you can open-ended philosophies that serve as the "other" category.

Sean
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Carl Bussler
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« Reply #24 on: June 15, 2006, 07:12:34 PM »

Sean - Adam had suggested that Undecided or Unconcerned wouldn't force conflict within the game. Characters would stay out of the way and not get involved. That sort of character should stay home and hide in the pantry. In real life, people are undecided and unconcered with things like 'Is there a god?', 'Will I reincarnate?' and a multitude of other things, but in this fantasy game, will being Undecided impede or promote gameplay?

I think Undecided impedes gameplay, but Unconcerned may not. If, as you suggest, the character is a Fatalist, he is resolute in that all the other choices are pointless. The character goes along doing what he can to get by until his last day comes. He'll ally with any and all so long as his last day is just one more day away.

Maybe Unconcerned isn't the best word for this Ideology. I haven't decided upon a naming system for the Ideologies, so I'm open to suggestions. Fatalist is a good contender.

Thanks again!
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Carl Bussler
baron samedi
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Posts: 137


« Reply #25 on: June 16, 2006, 02:22:37 AM »

Carl,

For "Unconcerned", you could try to to focus them on the "Pragmatic" side (e.g. results matter, not means) so that they could be put to concrete use in gameplay. Possible variations could include Self-Indulgent (hedonist), Greed motivated, Politically motivated (with indifference toward magic), Fatalist, Religiously motivated, etc.

Erick
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sean2099
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« Reply #26 on: June 16, 2006, 12:51:27 PM »

Carl,

For "Unconcerned", you could try to to focus them on the "Pragmatic" side (e.g. results matter, not means) so that they could be put to concrete use in gameplay. Possible variations could include Self-Indulgent (hedonist), Greed motivated, Politically motivated (with indifference toward magic), Fatalist, Religiously motivated, etc.

Erick


Those are very good suggestions...They do change unconcerned into concerned...just not about the main storyline.  Perhaps some of the suggestions could be replaced by motivated by (blank) or motivation: (blank).  The only way I can picture undecided being a valid choice is if the character is searching for meaning...maybe motivation (self-discovery).

Sean

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