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Author Topic: [OtE] Rewards  (Read 4469 times)
Joel P. Shempert
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« on: August 02, 2006, 05:22:07 PM »

I'm considering overhauling Over the Edge's mechanical reward system with my group, with the main goal of vitalizing play, getting people jazzed about cool stuff happening, and rewarding them tangibly and immediately when it does.

To that end, I'm thinking of tweaking the existing mechanic, Experience Dice. Currently, characters start with one Exp. Die in their pool, and gain more at the end of each session, by a sort of checklist: one for showing up, one for accomplishing a goal, one for getting really fucked around or screwed over, one for pulling off an impressive feat, and one for "good roleplaying." A lot like White Wolf's system, really. The dice can be used to buy new traits or improve existing ones (spending like 5-10 dice at a pop),--said dice are lost forever--or as a bonus for rolls, with an accomanying justification of why this action is important to the character--these dice are refreshed between sessions.

I've found this really limp in practice. . .for starters, the reward criteria really end up meaning everyone just gets 2-3 dice in most sessions. It also has the effect (or non-effect) of dissociating the reward with the reason, we just play for awhile, then everyone recieves dice for no discernible reason, then we play another chunk, etc. Also, both of the ways to spend Exp. dice are kind of discouraged by the book through various advisory texts, stuff like "well, sure, you can use a die for a bonus, but it better really be a good reason. . ." or "yeah, you can improve a trait with the dice, but to get really good would require the character retiring to a Shaolin Temple for 20 years, so it's really beyond the scope of the game." So we've got reward currency that nobody's really excited about (sure, they want it, but in a weary, workaday, gotta get through Friday for my paycheck sorta way), being rarely spent, and extremely disconnected from anything that's happening in play.

Now, none of my players have read the OTE book, even the parts that players are SUPPOSED to read; I even got the "Players' Survival Guide" and shopped it around but nobody really bit (which is annoying considering how religiously they pore over new D&D books). So any idea about how OtE is "supposed" to be played has been communicated through me. I can do what I can to correct that in how I play and in how I communicate in the future, but I'd like to get some mechanical support for what I want, as well.

So. I have a couple ideas for tweaking Exp. dice. One is to treat them more like PTA fanmail. . .I give them out on the spot for cool things or significant accomplishments. This would mean instant connection between action and reward, AND mean giving out dice more often, encouraging people to spend them. The second idea, partly to adjust for the new ExD economy, is to require permanently spending ExDice to use them for bonus dice. On the other hand, I want to be freer with their use; sure, I'll still ask what the "justification" is, but more for narrative purposes--I'll trust the players and assume that if this is important to them, than it is. I may even consider allowing them to spend multiple dice at once for this purpose. Due to the way OtE dice mechanics work, "Bonus Dice" only generate better odds for rolling well, not adding to your number per se, so I don't think it'd overbalance things, since you DO have to spend more to use more. In fact, often it seems that rolling *A* bonus die is frustratingly ineffective, since it may or may not even improve a roll significantly at all.

I mentioned these ideas to my group, and they seemed to really like the idea of instantly-awarded dice, were even disappointed that I wasn't implementing it right away. But I wanted a chance at analyzing the nuts and bolts before implementing it, perhaps with the help of knowledgable Forgites. :) And if people prove reasonably interested, perhaps I'll examine some other aspects of the OTE mechanics.

Peace,
-Joel
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Ricky Donato
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Posts: 156

Just chillin'


« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2006, 06:25:01 AM »

Hi, Joel!

So. I have a couple ideas for tweaking Exp. dice. One is to treat them more like PTA fanmail. . .I give them out on the spot for cool things or significant accomplishments. This would mean instant connection between action and reward, AND mean giving out dice more often, encouraging people to spend them. The second idea, partly to adjust for the new ExD economy, is to require permanently spending ExDice to use them for bonus dice. On the other hand, I want to be freer with their use; sure, I'll still ask what the "justification" is, but more for narrative purposes--I'll trust the players and assume that if this is important to them, than it is. I may even consider allowing them to spend multiple dice at once for this purpose. Due to the way OtE dice mechanics work, "Bonus Dice" only generate better odds for rolling well, not adding to your number per se, so I don't think it'd overbalance things, since you DO have to spend more to use more. In fact, often it seems that rolling *A* bonus die is frustratingly ineffective, since it may or may not even improve a roll significantly at all.

This all sounds like a great idea.

Let me throw in some additional ideas that I've stolen shamelessly from Shadow of Yesterday. I'm not familiar with OtE so I hope my suggestions make sense in the context of that system.

  • To make Exp Dice more relevant, you could institute the rule that someone can spend Exp Dice to improve his character at any time, even in the middle of a conflict. This means you can have situations like, "Man, I'm getting my ass handed to me by this dragon! I'm going to spend 4 Exp Dice to permanently increase my Dragon-slaying skill by 1. That will make this combat easier."
  • Are you familiar with Shadow of Yesterday's Gift Dice mechanic? It works like so: Every player (including the GM) starts each session with a number of Gift Dice equal to the number of people sitting at the table. Whenever someone takes an action, anyone else can give that player any number of Gift Dice. They can do so for any reason. You could institute something similar.

Hope that helps.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
Joel P. Shempert
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Posts: 451


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« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2006, 01:41:34 PM »

Hi, Ricky,

1) That "instant expenditure" rule sounds like it could be pretty exciting to implement. . .however, given the scaleof OtE's trait ratings, I'm not sure it would work very smoothly. In brief, 2 starting traits are rated at 3 dice, and one trait at 4 dice. So you roll as many D6's as you have in the trait (2 dice if you've got no relevant trait), and compare the total to a target, or another roll. The game text talks about raising to 5 being monumental and time-consuming, and 6 dice being "beyond the scope of the game." so there really isn't that far to go.

Of course, you CAN develop NEW traits, which might be something to encourage more. So far I've found that players' character concepts are already fairly "tight" in terms of capabilities, so there isn't a big scramble to develop characters "out," only "up." Nobody's playing, for instance, "Joebob the tourist," who as he becomes more seasoned and wary on the mean streets of the Edge, can develop things like "street fighting" and "watch my back." Everybody's like "Professional assassin," or "ex-cop detective," or "Psychic superspy." And really, if I can already roll a 3 or 4 dice trait to cover all the really nitty-gritty stuff, like survival and investigation, and keep improving THAT trait, what incentive do I have to thro dice into some other trait that'll probably just double up some aspect of my already-sufficient one?

2) That gift dice things is brilliant! It'd make things even more like PTA fanmail, in fact, since other players could contribute based on THEIR enjoyment. This helps quell a fear that I had that since I was the one very obviously and baldfacedly rewarding things i like i real time, the game might degenerate into a mindreading "figure out what Joel likes" kind of exercise. On the other hand, like Tony was saying about his Capes competitive scoring system, my reward system IS about rewarding "play Joel likes," but allowing other players their Gift Dice contribution can go a long way toward decentralizing that and prevent it becoming a ego trip or "one man show."

Thanks!

-Joel
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Ricky Donato
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Posts: 156

Just chillin'


« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2006, 08:11:34 AM »

Hi, Joel,

Have you considered changing games entirely? It may be easier than retooling a system that clearly wasn't designed to satisfy your needs.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2006, 09:25:35 AM »

I can see where you're coming from on that, and if circumstances were different I'd probably give it strong consideration. But that fact is I'm working toward a conclusion of my OtE "campaign," by wrapping up the individual stories of the PCs. Then, by all means, I'm gonna try something in a new siystem, Middle Earth in HQ to be exact. Whether that happens, as Mike Holmes reccommended in another thread, in 2 sessions or, as my inclination is, a few months, I think it would be superfluous and confusing to jump systems entirely. All I'm talking about in this thread is taking the reward system that OtE has already got and making it more compelling.

Any thoughts on my musings above?

Also, any folks more familiar with Over the Edge have any input here? Ricky's given me some great stuff to work with, but it'd be nice if someone with a good analytical eye AND OtE familiarity can tell me if these changes are a good idea or if I'm playing with fire. Particularly: Does anyone think it would tremendously destabilize the game to remove the upper limit on trait ratings, allowing people to shoot up to 6, 7, 8 dice? And also, what of Ricky's "instant improvement" idea above?

-Joel

PS I ran my game last night, and noticed the EDs were flying already, just after MENTIONING my initial tweak ideas. IThe first guy to ask if he could have one, I asked why, then clarified: "I'm going to let you have it. The only reason I'm going to ask for justification from now on is to inform the narrative. You're already demonstrating that it's important to you by spending the dice in the first place." he was cool with that, and really into the ramifications of, in this instance, "I have a bonus because of the bloodlust inspired by the spirit of the dead satanist whose spirit now inhabits me." Which rocked. Then another guy spend his whole load of like 7-8 dice in a series of actions, on things like, "I think he's respoinsible for the ritual killing of my pregnant wife some months ago." Also rock. Even though most of the actions in fact failed, the spending of the dice made it all MATTER, reinforced the narrative in a way that was mechanical but not forced. Super cool. Overall, I think this setup is going to work just fine.
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Ricky Donato
Member

Posts: 156

Just chillin'


« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2006, 08:31:22 AM »

1) That "instant expenditure" rule sounds like it could be pretty exciting to implement. . .however, given the scaleof OtE's trait ratings, I'm not sure it would work very smoothly. In brief, 2 starting traits are rated at 3 dice, and one trait at 4 dice. So you roll as many D6's as you have in the trait (2 dice if you've got no relevant trait), and compare the total to a target, or another roll. The game text talks about raising to 5 being monumental and time-consuming, and 6 dice being "beyond the scope of the game." so there really isn't that far to go.

Hmm. I was going to suggest that the cap of 5 dice be lifted, but you've already answered that you're not sure that's a good idea. So the question is what bad stuff could happen if you remove this 5 die cap?

Quote
Of course, you CAN develop NEW traits, which might be something to encourage more. So far I've found that players' character concepts are already fairly "tight" in terms of capabilities, so there isn't a big scramble to develop characters "out," only "up." Nobody's playing, for instance, "Joebob the tourist," who as he becomes more seasoned and wary on the mean streets of the Edge, can develop things like "street fighting" and "watch my back." Everybody's like "Professional assassin," or "ex-cop detective," or "Psychic superspy." And really, if I can already roll a 3 or 4 dice trait to cover all the really nitty-gritty stuff, like survival and investigation, and keep improving THAT trait, what incentive do I have to thro dice into some other trait that'll probably just double up some aspect of my already-sufficient one?

One incentive I can think of is to challenge the players in areas that their characters are not proficient. If the professional assassin has no people skills, then force him into social situations. He will be forced to start adding traits to deal with the situation.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2006, 09:23:48 AM »

Hi there,

Ricky's onto something, but I think it's more than just expanding the sphere of a given character's effectiveness.

When I look at an OTE character, I don't see "how good he is" at this and that and the other thing. What I see is a constellation of conflicts, whether generated by the character internally or because such traits make him or her a target to all the various NPCs and their shenanigans.

I'm doing this from memory, not by the book, so forgive me if some dice aren't allocated correctly ...

Biker chick (scary hair) 2
Snake-spirit pal (any sort of snake-themed accessory; she has many) 3
Tough as nails (hard stare) 3
Flaw: Ex law student (nicely-kept fingernails)

OK, this is the kind of OTE character who's not really built to fit into some existing conspiracy or other aspect of Al Amarja, but rather from the textual recommendation that they're some quirky character who has arrived on the island. You can see what's there to work with - a macho attitude, an embarrassing establishment past she's rejected, and a fillip of the occult which will serve as a handle into mysterious setting stuff, but not a direct or necessary connection.

Now, as a GM, what do you do with such a character? Easy - push her buttons. Throw in a smooth-talking, disgustingly sexy lawyer and see if she's attracted to him, or later, have a friend need some legal advice. Provide an opportunity to see if toughness is the right way to go with her new approach to life; in Al Amarja, about a dozen ways to do that suggest themselves immediately.

So, what about experience for this character? Here I am, playing her ... do you see that buying the new trait "Hell on wheels law expert"  would represent a whole new context for conflicts? Or that pumping dice into the snake spirit is really a flag for "hot damn, more of this occult stuff, I wanna get some payback on that."

So I suggest that what you need, in your game, is to resolve some conflicts and get some stories finished, because only in those circumstances do people buy new traits and expand old ones in such a way that you can tell what the new conflicts should be about.

Best, Ron
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2006, 09:48:41 AM »

Ron, that rocks. And it totally blows wide open my conception of what traits mean and are for in OtE; my understanding was hovering around this concept in my exploration of flag framing and stuff, but this really nails it. Thanks.

And in terms of resolving conflicts iit slots pretty well into what Mike and I are discussing in the other thread, so cool.

Ricky,

Hmm. I was going to suggest that the cap of 5 dice be lifted, but you've already answered that you're not sure that's a good idea. So the question is what bad stuff could happen if you remove this 5 die cap?

Maybe you misunderstand me. I'm saying that I WOULD like to remove the die cap, and am asking if anyone more savvy can tell me any reason not to that I'm not seeing.

Peace,
Joel
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Ricky Donato
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Posts: 156

Just chillin'


« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2006, 06:37:05 PM »

Hmm. I was going to suggest that the cap of 5 dice be lifted, but you've already answered that you're not sure that's a good idea. So the question is what bad stuff could happen if you remove this 5 die cap?

Maybe you misunderstand me. I'm saying that I WOULD like to remove the die cap, and am asking if anyone more savvy can tell me any reason not to that I'm not seeing.

Ok, I did misunderstand you here. I thought you were hesitant to remove the cap because of the rules text you quoted.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
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