News:

Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[Afterworld] Resolution problems

Started by Marhault, July 31, 2006, 09:03:38 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Marhault

The world as it once was has come to an end.  All that is left is a few scattered pockets of survivors trying to rebuild.  The Player Characters are members of one such group.  The game follows them (and possibly their successors) as they attempt to build a community that will last in the ashes of the old civilization.

What was that civilization like?  How did it come to an end?  My intent is to have those questions answered by the players/GM for each game.  This is probably something I'll post about again in the future, but for now, I'm struggling with resolution.

The entire group is linked to a single community, and it is their goal to protect the community from whatever hostile forces exist in their world.  That community has the potential, perhaps even the destiny, to become the seed for the next great civilization of mankind.  If it should fail, there will be nothing left for humanity but savagery for ages to come.  That is, if we even survive at all.

The characters and their home will be threatened by forces both external and internal, and if the PCs don't deal with them, they will get worse and worse until they eventually cause the downfall of the community.  Furthermore, it is the methods that the PCs use that will determine the development of their community, and the threats thereto.

Basic resolution is a Player Vs. GM roll of dice pools.  Dice range in size from d4 to d12, with the highest die winning the conflict.  One thing I want to do is extend that a little bit to make the conflicts more interesting, with more back and forth and requiring more detailed narration.

Dice are added to the pool by drawing on resources, (pretty much anything on the character sheet), for example, a character might have "Stilleto, 1d6."  Additionally, each resource is tagged with one or more methods.  Methods are ways in which conflicts can be resolved, things like treachery, violence, negotiation, or knowledge.  So that stilleto would probably be "Stilleto, 1d6, Treachery, Violence."  A resource can only be called upon if one or more of its methods are applicable to the current situation.  The GM keeps a tally of what methods were used to activate resources during the adventure.

The tallies then become a pool of points that are spent for two things.  The GM spends points to create new threats to throw at the players and their community, and the players spend them to develop the community and their characters.  The intended result, then, is that the players will guide the shape of the game (and the game world) by their decisions when dealing with the in game conflicts.

So, that's the basic idea.  Directed feedback time.
1) Firstly, as always, suggested reading is invited.  If you know of any games that have done anything similar, or which might be helpful if studied, please tell me about them.
2) I like the direction that conflict resolution gives to a game, but I want to reinforce the action mechanically.  With a task resolution based system, this happens automatically, a roll for every little action ensures a certain level of detail.  How can I duplicate this without stealing from Dogs or scrapping what I have of a system so far?
3) How detailed should the methods list be?  I've waffled on this a couple of times and have done lists of anywhere between 5 and 20.
4) I'm thinking about plenty of other issues, but let's just start with these.  General comments and questions are also appreciated.

Matt Wilson

Dude, don't worry about that whole "stealing" thing. Everybody takes stuff from everyone else's games. If the bits from Dogs work well, go ahead and use them. That's a good game to take ideas from.

As for methods, I'd just come up with a list to start playing with, and play will reveal the ones that are redundant or missing.

Nathan P.

I would say that the Methods should be thematically appropriate to the kind of fiction you want play of your game to generate. In Carry, I have a related thing where you choose one of four Approaches when you enter a conflict. The four Approaches I chose to have are Violent, Peaceful, Subversive and Honorable, because I want play of the game to focus on those kinds of intentions and the resultant tensions and actions.

I'm a little unclear from your description how the resolution currently works. But I would suggest that you start a conflict using one thing, and then you can bring in more things if you want to keep extending the conflict. So you start with Stiletto, and roll your die. And you're losing, boo! So you bring in Street Thug and roll that die. Ah crap, still losing...mmm....Lowlife Connections. And bringing in each thing requires you to describe how that thing comes to your aid or how you use it in the conflict.

This has the advantage of scaling, and scaling within the bounds of one conflict (like Dogs, actually. But Dogs is a Good Place TM to steal from, IMO) You could lose with the knife, and the pull in your contacts and allies and describe how you go home licking your wounds and give your buddies a call.

Does that help any?
Nathan P.
--
Find Annalise
---
My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters

Josh Roby

Quote from: Marhault on July 31, 2006, 09:03:38 AM2) I like the direction that conflict resolution gives to a game, but I want to reinforce the action mechanically.  With a task resolution based system, this happens automatically, a roll for every little action ensures a certain level of detail.  How can I duplicate this without stealing from Dogs or scrapping what I have of a system so far?

I'd suggest you examine what you really mean by #2.  What does "reinforce the action mechanically" mean?  Does it mean: (a) every little thing that you do, ever trait that you invoke, has an impact on the fiction, (b) every trait you invoke has an impact on player success/failure, or (c) every little thing you do is judged effective or not by a GM?  Note that Conflict Resolution pretty much kills (c) dead, and if that social reinforcement is something that you want in your game, then CR may not be the right choice for your design.  (b) is difficult, but not impossible, to implement, but to my mind you'll need to have people choose a method/trait and stick with it -- no rolling in more crap -- in order to avoid people rolling low and rolling in something else at no cost to them.  If rerolls are free, then any given roll is potentially irrelevant.  (a) is the easiest to implement, and Nathan's described it just fine.

As for how many methods are available -- well, first off, are you doing something like an equipment list where these things are pre-defined?  Or do players freely create their traits and assign a method or methods to each trait?  Cause if it's the latter, you might consider having the playgroup define the methods for their game.  In any case, I wouldn't spread them too thin -- four is probably ideal; I suspect six is the upper limit.  Anything more and some will be ignored and you'll get some quibbling over whether something should be Skullduggery or Espionage.  Keep it in broad, simple categories.
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog

Bill_White

My game Ganakagok addresses a similar thematic (the end of the world is coming...what do you do?) and I think it tackles some of the same issues mechanically.  I see you moving towards similar solutions, albeit different in the specific implementation.  For example, in Ganakagok, players invoke character resources (called 'Gifts' and 'Burdens') in order to modify the conflict die roll.  The upshot of the roll includes who controls narration (success or failure, in other words) and how much accrues in terms of long-term advantage or disadvantage.

The thing I like about your incipient system is that the resources being brought to bear are categorized according to the methods they imply, and thus the use of a particular means to any given end is a moral choice as well as an instrumental one.  What I mean is, suppose I've got a big 1d10 resource (I call it a 'Car Bomb') but it's categorized as a 'Terror' method.  My decision to invoke that resource in play may require that our nascent civilization accrue a point of bad karma (in Ganakagok, it's called "Bad Medicine") that can be compared to the amount of good karma that accrues over the course of the game.  So my very effective tool can have ultimately negative consequences on my civilization, perhaps to the point of smothering it in the cradle.  Nice.

As far as 'how many methods?' I would say fewer is better.  I can even tell you how many I'd use:  four.  To a degree, I'm basing this on examples like Joshua Newman's Shock:, where part of the game set-up is figuring out what the modes of action in the game-fiction are.  Conceptually, what you've got is complementary pairs of opposites.  So, for example, if you decide that "Violence" (direct, physical action) is one method, then its opposite ("non-violence") might be "Persuasion" (direct, social action).  The complementary pair will thus be indirect physical and social action, and could be called "Escape (Avoidance)" and "Deceit (Treachery)".  This isn't exactly how Shock: does it, but it works as a general way of conceptualizing how you want folks to orient themselves to action in the game-world.

Marhault

Wow!  Thanks for the great responses, guys!

Matt, I get what you're saying totally.  Just to clarify my own stance on the idea, stealing bits and pieces from other games or using them for inspiration is great.  Taking large chunks of other games removes those chunks from their original context, meaning they're probably less appropriate to the new one.  Plus, I personally want to create something new.

Nathan, you're right, I was a little bit vague before.  To use your example traits, it would be something like "I'm going to draw on Stiletto, Street Thug and Lowlife Connections for 2d6 and 1d8."  *rolls*  "My best is a 6, what's yours?"  *Compares*  "Okay, here's what happens."  Rolling them in individually draws out the conflict, giving the right amount of detail, It also has the added bonuses of associating each activated resource directly with the game fiction and making sure none of them get lost in the shuffle.  Really, "scaling within the bounds of one conflict" is exactly what I'm looking for.

Joshua, by "reinforce the action mechanically," I really mean that I want the rules to do two things.  Obviously, the first is that they have to resolve the situation at hand, pretty much a given.  The second is that I want them to impose a certain degree of detail on how that situation gets resolved.  I guess what I'm looking to avoid is the conflict resolution version of "I swing at the orc.  Hit.  4 damage."  Interesting stakes are only half of a cool conflict.

Looking at your specific items, I'd say what I'm trying to include here is both (a) and (b), or slightly modified versions thereof.  For (a) it doesn't have to be every single thing, just as long as there's something exciting happening, and for (b) I'd say "every trait you invoke has a potential impact on player success/failure.  If a given trait rolls low, it doesn't have much impact, except, I guess to not win the conflict.  (c) is not something I'm interested in at all.

I definitely want the players to be able to define their own traits and assign methods to them.  I can see some possible benefits to them defining the methods themselves. . . I'll have to think about that, look at the pros and cons for each option.  I think the quibbling about which method is necessary will be somewhat mitigated since the method need only apply for drawing a particular resource into a conflict, rather than the method applying to the conflict itself (This is a Violence Conflict, you can only use Violence traits).  Also, the more specific the methods are, the more interesting I think the town/threat development phase will be.  If it doesn't muddy the waters too much, I see that as desirable.  I'll put together a concrete list and see how it looks.

Bill, I haven't looked in on Ganakagok since the game chef tournament ended.  I will have to do so.  Your "Car Bomb" paragraph is right on the money.  Actually, there's hopefully even more, that being that methods determine the progress of the civilizations advancement as well.  If the Players always resolve conflicts through violence, the town will become a violent one, with bloodsports, riots and murder.  Alternatively, if they never do, then the place will be peaceful, but unable to defend itself.  Tightrope.

Thanks everybody for your help so far.  I'll take a long list at my potential methods, and maybe post a test list.  And maybe an alpha version of the dice system too.

Marhault

I took some time to look over the lists that I had previously brainstormed.  Made some cuts, and took a very critical look.

The first thing I noticed was that I had broken down social conflict way further than physical conflict.  It definitely was not the way I wanted it to be, everything should be around the same level of abstraction.  So, two ways to go there, break violence down further or abstract social to the same level.  Here are the lists I came up with.

High Abstraction Methods
1)  Violence
2)  Stealth
3)  Negotiation (as a Social catch all)
4)  Technology*
5)  Magic*

Lower Abstraction Methods
1)  Stealth
2)  Subterfuge
3)  Negotiation (specific usage)
4)  Charm
5)  Technology*
6)  Magic*
7)  Perseverance
8)  Intimidation
9)  Avoidance
10)  Brawl
11)  Duel
12)  Firefight
13)  War

*Technology and Magic appear in both lists and would be highly dependant upon the setting being used.  Both could obviously be broken down further, and it may be necessary/desirable to do so, if I wind up using the lower abstraction methods.  I plan to include a step to add or subtract methods from the standard list to customize it for the setting.

The lower abstraction methods feel much more like what I have in mind.  The problem is that it's much more difficult to put together a "complete" list at that level.  The higher level leaves me feeling somewhat cold, it doesn't inject a whole lot of color into the process.  That might be something that good guidelines in the text would help with.  I think I'll try translating some characters into this setup, using both lists, and see if that exposes any strengths or weaknesses.

One thing that bears mentioning.  Conflicts in this game will definitely not be exclusively between characters.  The environment itself is too interesting and dangerous and too important to the style of game I want to create for me to leave it out of this part of the game.

Things I need to do before it's complete enough for a playtest:
1)  Refine methods lists
2)  Fancy up the dice rolling.  Nathan's given me a great foundation, but it needs a little flair.
3)  Hmm. . . Short list.  Time for a blitzkrieg!

Nathan P.

Rockin.

One thing to keep in mind is that your list limits as well as provides options, and you can use this consciously. Like, on your High Abstraction list, one cannot approach a conflict in a manner that isn't violent, stealthy, negotiating, or involving technology or magic. Thats cool.

Secondly, (and this is totally an "idea I'm throwing out cuz it occured to me" not "something you MUST DO OMG!!!eleven!!") you could keep both lists, and have a toggle between levels of abstraction depending on how important the conflict is to the player(s) in question, maybe having one of them generate higher reward but be higher risk than the other. Bringing Down the Pain in Shadow of Yesterday is a model for this approach, as well.

Anyhow. More work! Yes! Have fun!
Nathan P.
--
Find Annalise
---
My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters

Josh Roby

Quote from: Marhault on August 07, 2006, 10:42:32 AMHigh Abstraction Methods
1)  Violence
2)  Stealth
3)  Negotiation (as a Social catch all)
4)  Technology*
5)  Magic*

...The higher level leaves me feeling somewhat cold, it doesn't inject a whole lot of color into the process.

That's because you didn't put any color into them, Marhault. ;)

Theives' Guild game: Smashing, Sneaking, Conning, Gadgetry, Legerdemain
Argonauts/Odyssey game: Warfare, Cleverness, Diplomacy, Clockworks, Divine Blood
Science Fiction game: Tactics, Covert Ops, Interfacing, Engineering, the Force

It sounds like you're trying to consider the system separate from everything else; don't do that.  GURPS and Fudge have already got you beat.  Take a look at the kind of game that you want, think of the kind of actions that you want to see, and then categorize that into your higher-level list.
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog

Marhault

Quote from: Nathan P. on August 07, 2006, 11:37:11 AM
One thing to keep in mind is that your list limits as well as provides options, and you can use this consciously.
Good point.  Do I want to limit the players options in this way?  My kneejerk response is "no," but. . .  I'm going to have to consider the question at length.

Quote from: Joshua BishopRoby on August 07, 2006, 02:53:41 PM
That's because you didn't put any color into them, Marhault. ;)

I. . .  Well, yeah, I guess it is.  Okay, I concede the point that just as much color can be injected at the higher abstraction level.  Cool.  For a quick example Afterworld setting, it could be Savagery, Cloaked Action, Society, Recovered Machinery, Spirit Conjuring. 

Quote from: Joshua BishopRoby on August 07, 2006, 02:53:41 PMIt sounds like you're trying to consider the system separate from everything else; don't do that.  GURPS and Fudge have already got you beat.  Take a look at the kind of game that you want, think of the kind of actions that you want to see, and then categorize that into your higher-level list.

Again, you're right.  Why am I doing that?  I think it's related to my answer to Nathan about limiting options.  The Characters are going to have adversity thrown at them, and each time, the players will know that it comes as a direct result from their previous actions.  If I deny the players access to certain actions or tell them what they should do as a part of the game system, doesn't that limit the impact of that cycle?

Nathan P.

Quote from: Marhault on August 08, 2006, 09:54:46 AMAgain, you're right.  Why am I doing that?  I think it's related to my answer to Nathan about limiting options.  The Characters are going to have adversity thrown at them, and each time, the players will know that it comes as a direct result from their previous actions.  If I deny the players access to certain actions or tell them what they should do as a part of the game system, doesn't that limit the impact of that cycle?

Mmmm.

A general principle (that I'm stating, not attempting to debate): constraint makes it easier to make choices. The blank page gives you too many options. The full page, of course, denies you options. What you want is a page that gives you somewhere to start, and more importantly, lets you know what you dont need to worry about when you're making your decision.

A second general principle (same caveat): all game design is the designer telling the group what to do. That's what they accept when they play the game, man.

As long as the choices they have are meaningful (in whichever sense that needs to be for your design goals), no-body will miss the extra options. By paring down options only to those that are meaningful, you gain focus and lose "I go to the bar" kind of disengagement possibilities. Obviously, if you present only one or two options, this is filling in the page too much, and this seems to be what you're afraid of. But as long as each of the options is different and has a certain meaning, it's going to be fine.

Hrm. Does any of that make sense?

Nathan P.
--
Find Annalise
---
My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters

Josh Roby

Okay, for the most part, my response is "What Nathan just said."

But -- D&D doesn't have rules for driving tanks through the walls of a building.  Because in D&D, you don't drive tanks through walls.  It's not a part of that game.  So too when you're designing your game, you need to figure out what is and is not a part of that game.
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog

Marhault

Yeah, totally.  Guys, please forgive me if I'm sounding hardheaded about any of these things.  It's a little weird being actively involved in discussing my own game design.  Further, a lot of this is brainstorming based on your questions and comments, I'm honestly trying to force myself to examine my ideas in light of the comments and questions you've all posted.  Sometimes it's easy to be a little bit blind when you look at your own baby.

Quote from: Nathan P. on August 08, 2006, 11:16:15 AM
A general principle (that I'm stating, not attempting to debate): constraint makes it easier to make choices.
*snip*
A second general principle (same caveat): all game design is the designer telling the group what to do. That's what they accept when they play the game, man.
Okay.  No debate offered - nor would there be under different circumstances, I agree with both wholeheartedly.  So, some discussion and consideration of the game under the microscope of those two principles is warranted.

We'll do the second principle first, since it's nice and easy, and since it'll have an effect on the way we discuss the other one.  What am I telling the players to do?
Quote from: Marhault on July 31, 2006, 09:03:38 AMThe entire group is linked to a single community, and it is their goal to protect the community from whatever hostile forces exist in their world.
*snip*
The characters and their home will be threatened by forces both external and internal, and if the PCs don't deal with them, they will get worse and worse until they eventually cause the downfall of the community.  Furthermore, it is the methods that the PCs use that will determine the development of their community, and the threats thereto.

Do:
- Play characters that are linked to a particular community.
- Deal with threats to yourself and your home.
- Determine appropriate responses to said threats, given the consequences.

Do Not
- Play "lonesome drifter" type characters.
- Wander around looking for mutants to kill so you can take their stuff.
- Carry on heedless of the consequences of your actions.

Using those answers as a guideline, where should I place my constraints?  Well, obviously a big part of it is going to be connection to the community itself.  The community will present resources (shared, I think), so there will be more/better resources available for dealing with threats that effect the town.  What else?

Setting constraints will always be a factor in a specific sense (like "No, of course you can't have a rocket launcher!  We're in the Forgotten Realms!"), but this is a more general setting to be customized later.  How can I use that to my advantage?  Hmm...

But I've drifted away from Resources and Methods somewhat.  The way I see it, the function of Resources in Afterworld is much like that of traits in Dogs in the Vineyard, they give you resources (small r) to resolve conflicts and add color.  The Methods are there to feed back into the situation creation and 'experience' rules somewhat the way fallout feeds back into the character.

Josh Roby

Marhault, am I reading correctly that there is no specific setting attached to the game, that it's sort of a rule set for a kind of scenario rather than a specific setting?  If the players are supposed to customize the setting, maybe the players should customize the methods appropriate to that setting.  What if each game opens with the players deciding -- through some consensus-building system -- what six methods will be available in the game, and then making their characters?
On Sale: Full Light, Full Steam and Sons of Liberty | Developing: Agora | My Blog

Marhault

Yeah, that's about right, Joshua.  I want it to be somewhere along the same lines as Sorcerer, wherein the specifics of the setting are determined individually for each game, but the thrust of the game is defined in the text.  Does that make sense?

I'm open to the idea that Methods should be defined per setting, but it seems like an awful lot to leave on the group.