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Author Topic: [With Great Power...] Old Cons, New Tricks  (Read 1603 times)
Kat Miller
Member

Posts: 141


« on: July 20, 2006, 01:02:00 PM »

I’ve been running a lot of convention play WGP this summer and I’ve been noticing something powerful happening. 

I have a scenario that I usually run with.  Its called “League of Their Own” and it’s a bit of a DC tribute. I’ve been running this scenario for almost 3 years now and know it inside and out. 

I though at first it was the water in Columbus Ohio, because the Games I ran at Origins were AMAZING!  I went to New Jersey over the weekend to Dex Con.  I ran a brand new scenario, new characters same world.  I ran the game twice and I got to play in one WGP game and again the amazingly great play happened.

Then I realized it’s not the water.

With Great Power pushes the plot through setting stakes and counter stakes.  Often the players are just trying to understand the system and so they set non-conflict oriented stakes, and then I nail them with counter stakes that make them flinch.  And in doing so I am controlling bits of plot and direction of play.  This summer I learned something new about enrichments and stakes.

Friday 8pm June 30th 2006 – Columbus Convention Center- Origins

I am only sorry I didn’t get their names.  My memory is notoriously bad, and these Guys took me to task with this Game.  The First couple of Enrichments involving The Stalwart and Purge were standard.  Purge wanted recognition of heroic acts.  The Stalwart wanted to raise his credibility.  I through counter stakes that implied The Stalwart was working with Perjury.  Tame stuff.

Justice takes a turn and its wake up time:  He sets his scene in the Governors Mansion at dinner time.  Debris and Belle are all there.  He wants to argue with his father with the stakes being the Hero’s license.

In setting this one scene he shifted all my preconceived notions for the game.  It was a simple thing. 

This setting gave the players invited into the scene much room to show off their characters.  Debris player described how she’s being pristine and perfectly lady during this argument between father and soon.  Belle’s player decided that Belle was doing a documentary on the family life of the Patriots.  One of the other players took on the role of her cameraman.

In framing this setting Justice’s player creating a warm inviting environment that everyone was engaged in.  We revealed our cards, and I played a Jack I think, but Justice’s player paid a King for the right to have the license.  I hadn’t expected to hand over a license so early in the game, but the player paid a high card to have it, and it grew pretty obvious that the struggle to get a license was not where the players thought the fun was.

The argument was played out and then the American goes to his private garden to sulk.  Debris player adds her stakes that despite the instability of the patriot family she looked normal.  I Countered by Lampooning Debris.  I won this conflict and the table had some fun coming up with possible headlines that might run.  “Not house Broken” and “You can dress her up but where do you take her?” are two of my favorites.

Belle’s player decides to have her scene with the sulking American.  The Stakes were standard enough.  The Documentary makes the Patriots look good.  Liberty Belle’s Strife was Celebrity.

I decided that there was a picture of Belle and her Father hugging.  I suggested my counterstakes that the media would question the father/daughter relationship.

That got the attention of the whole table.  We played the cards, Aces.  We were tied.  We had to escalate.

Belle’s player went with the public demanding that Liberty get her license.
I decided that while the Patriots were being investigated for impropriety that Belle would have to move in with The Stalwart.

We played the cards.  Two more Aces.  I laughed and sat down.  The guys rallied around Belle’s player, trying to help him escalate one more.  Getting the license was the most he had though he could gain.

It was in that moment that I knew nothing is off limits in enrichment stakes.  Stakes aren’t merely conflict resolution mechanic anymore – they are vehicles for plot and drama.

Belle’s player added Saturday Morning cartoons and a toy line for Liberty Belle.  This matched the Celebrity Strife perfectly; A Heroes License, National Love and a line of toys.

I looked had at those 4 aces.  And then grinned. Implications of Incest, Forced removal to the Stalwarts, and the investigation uncovers she’s NOT the daughter of the American, but of Dr. Venom.

It was a beautiful moment.  The Player only has 5 cards to start with, 6 by priming celebrity, and his highest cards were on the table.   I think he threw me a 10.  I don’t know.  I threw low.  I really didn’t want him having all those Aces.

So The Player won a license for Liberty Belle and the table cheered.  I took those high cards into my hand doing my own kind of happy dance quiet and in my head, the Gm way.

We did some side stuff with Debris – licking her wounds as the media makes fun of her.  It was this point that I addressed the player and had him change Debris’ Strife.  It had been ex-cop, but he was putting so much energy and play into “I am Not a monster” and hadn’t even primed ex-cop yet and he agreed that “I am Not a monster” was the Aspect of Debris that was most important right now.

As a WGP Gm its very important to pay attention to where your players are going.  What are they having the most fun with?  If its close to the beginning of the game, don’t be afraid to change the Strife.

We did a single Combat Between Debris and Mudslide, and the Player knew he was going to yield.  Our Pages were Me-Debris couldn’t escape the apartment.  Him- Mudslide is enthralled with Debris and will do what ever she says. We did a few blows down the page, Debris is entangled in the mud.  The Player looks at me yielding after devastating the “I am NOT a monster.”, he said “if you can’t beat them” and described Debris kissing Mudslide.  He then grabbed the Though Balloon adding the color of a few hours later after a tussle in the sheets with Mudslide “I hate myself.” Each of us at the table enjoyed Debris moral downfall.

More enrichment stakes –
Purge impressing the American into giving him a license.

We invited The Stalwart to the Governors mansion so that The American could persuade the Stalwart to Lead his children under the New Liberty League. This scene escalated, when The Stalwart decided he wanted to Name the New Team.  I countered with changing the Stalwart to “The Defender of Liberty”  The escalation led to allowing The Stalwart to come clean about his identity
And me adding a new tacky liberty symbol to his suit.  I lost this.

Then lost another enrichment to Debris allowing her to gain Mudslide's loyalty. 

Then the main combat of the Night.

The Stalwart wanted Earnest To be seen as a Hero in his own right.
I wanted Earnest to be seen as unfit to call himself the Defender of Truth
The player had to leave early and yielded)

Debris wanted to save the Governor.
I wanted the world to believe Debris a Super villain
(he also yielded)

Justice wanted to capture Perjury
I on the other hand wanted The American (Justice’s Strife) to take a mortal wound

Belle wanted to be a hero in her own right
I wanted Liberty to need to be rescued.
 

Purge wanted to be 2nd in command of the Liberty League
I wanted Purge to leave with Perjury

There has been enough yielding that balance has shifted in the game.  They were canceling my cards as I played them.

I yield to Belle after her player described Belle racing a bullet to catch it in her hand and save The American’s life. I didn’t HAVE to yield then but it was just too good a set up not to.

Purge’s turn comes.  I have at least 2 aces on my side.  Purge doesn’t want to yield.  He devastates his “Illusion that thinks” and describes Purge flooding the room with his purging light which reveals all illusions. He looks down and he has disappeared.

It was a beautifully dramatic moment.

Instead of attacking I switch tactics to “grappling” and hearing the sincere panic in his “son’s” voice when he blinks out.  Perjury rushes over pulling Purge into a hug and telling him it will be OK.   

Then I turn to face Justice.  I was trying to shoot The American to make my mortal wound, but I decided that the Liberty Bell's Dolls were all made of explosives and  The American even had one in his breast pocket. . .The tension was mighty….

And I didn’t have the cards.  We did several cancel, cancel, cancel.  And I’m being handed junk and he’s taking wild and high cards out of my hands.

I was forced to yield.  Justice captures Perjury.  Leaving Purge in that last embrace with his “father” The Master Plan was devastated.  The Game was over.


I came away from this game a changed woman.  No longer will I set passive "maybe" stakes.  Scene Framing can drive the story.  Enrichments make a difference.



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kat Miller
Michael S. Miller
Member

Posts: 846


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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2006, 06:11:28 AM »

Belle’s player decides to have her scene with the sulking American.  The Stakes were standard enough.  The Documentary makes the Patriots look good.  Liberty Belle’s Strife was Celebrity.

I decided that there was a picture of Belle and her Father hugging.  I suggested my counterstakes that the media would question the father/daughter relationship.

That got the attention of the whole table.  We played the cards, Aces.  We were tied.  We had to escalate.

Belle’s player went with the public demanding that Liberty get her license.
I decided that while the Patriots were being investigated for impropriety that Belle would have to move in with The Stalwart.

We played the cards.  Two more Aces.  I laughed and sat down.  The guys rallied around Belle’s player, trying to help him escalate one more.  Getting the license was the most he had though he could gain.

It was in that moment that I knew nothing is off limits in enrichment stakes.  Stakes aren’t merely conflict resolution mechanic anymore – they are vehicles for plot and drama.

Belle’s player added Saturday Morning cartoons and a toy line for Liberty Belle.  This matched the Celebrity Strife perfectly; A Heroes License, National Love and a line of toys.

I looked had at those 4 aces.  And then grinned. Implications of Incest, Forced removal to the Stalwarts, and the investigation uncovers she’s NOT the daughter of the American, but of Dr. Venom.

It was a beautiful moment.  The Player only has 5 cards to start with, 6 by priming celebrity, and his highest cards were on the table.   I think he threw me a 10.  I don’t know.  I threw low.  I really didn’t want him having all those Aces.

So The Player won a license for Liberty Belle and the table cheered.  I took those high cards into my hand doing my own kind of happy dance quiet and in my head, the Gm way.

This is one of my favorite aspects of With Great Power... in play. Allowing the player to choose which card they're going to play (within the limits of what's in their hand) really gives the GM the freedom--and the obligation--to make the counter-Stakes dramatically powerful. Since they will gain a card if they lose, the player has an incentive to lose. It's up the GM to give him an incentive to win: To prevent the counter-Stakes from happening. It really makes everyone at the table sit-up, take notice, and get excited about the game.

The other cool part about this example is how when cardplay is tied, the Stakes have to go up. You think you've already asked for everything you could ever want when you set your initial Stakes, and then the cards say "ask for more." It forces people to think outside their comfort zone and drives the story in directions no one at the table would have made it go on their own.

It's also great how you point out that by choosing to win their Enrichment scenes, the players are giving you high cards. I always make a point of saying "Thank you for the Ace. You'll be certain to see it later." to remind them that they've just given me a stronger hand for the next Conflict scene. The players eat it up.
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Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!
Iskander
Member

Posts: 226

Alexander Newman


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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2006, 06:15:06 AM »

Setting yourself up to take an interesting fall is always fun, and I love the balance in With Great Power... between the power I have as a player to do that, and the power I have to take falls and set myself up for crushing victory!
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Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Marhault
Member

Posts: 185


« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2006, 08:02:57 AM »

I played Purge in this game and had a fantastic time!  The enrichment scenes were somewhat difficult to frame, having not created the characters ourselves.  I hate to say it, but I flubbed my first one; I set the stakes as something like "gaining recognition as a hero," because I am the son of a well-known villain trying to make good, but what I really wanted was to get an inkling about my own illusory origins.  I should have just set the stakes along those lines.

That final conflict was absolutely awesome.  I was scrambling as hard as I could to stay in the conflict, I literally could not assess fast enough to gain any measure of control over my page of conflict.  Each turn I had one play, then Kat would counter it, my hand was forced every time.  I had to make Purge's actions fit the circumstances of the fiction AND the mechanics, which was a great spur to creativity.

Kat had an enormous hand, I had no hope of winning.  In truth, I didn't really have any hope of weakening her enough for it to make a difference in her conflict with Justice.  Rather, I was fighting to not be taken back by Perjury!  I knew it meant either to be associated with him as a villain and imprisoned with him, or worse, he escapes and I'm stuck with him, still trying to prove that I'm no longer under his influence, all the while being transformed into the illusion that obeys.

So I held on, just long enough.  I would have had to yield on my next turn, but instead Kat yielded to Justice, and we won the arc!  I didn't get to be 2nd in command of the "Liberty League," (weak stakes!  It plagued me all night.) but I did manage to fight long enough not to fall in with Perjury again.

The game did exactly what I thought it would in play.  If this is what it's like with novices, I would love to play it with an entire group who are familiar and comfortable with it.  Oh, and I am absolutely in love with the player stakes/GM stakes setup.  That was absolute dynamite!
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Michael S. Miller
Member

Posts: 846


WWW
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2006, 08:53:25 AM »

I played Purge in this game and had a fantastic time!  The enrichment scenes were somewhat difficult to frame, having not created the characters ourselves.  I hate to say it, but I flubbed my first one; I set the stakes as something like "gaining recognition as a hero," because I am the son of a well-known villain trying to make good, but what I really wanted was to get an inkling about my own illusory origins.  I should have just set the stakes along those lines.

The other option you could have done is simply include Purge getting an inkling about his own illusory origins into the scene itself, and not make it part of the Stakes. You'd be priming the "Illusion That Thinks" Aspect in the scene, but certain events that you feel absolutely MUST happen in a scene (e.g., Spiderman beats up the jewelry-store robbers) just get written right into the story. If they're not in doubt, then they're definitely not ripe for Stakes.

Quote
I had to make Purge's actions fit the circumstances of the fiction AND the mechanics, which was a great spur to creativity.

I love it when a design comes together.
Glad you enjoyed the game.
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