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Author Topic: [Best Friends] Game in a pub  (Read 8374 times)
Graham W
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« on: October 16, 2006, 04:36:38 AM »

On Thursday, I met up with various forum people (Steve, Alex, Drew and Jukka) in a London pub. We had a quick game of Best Friends: which turned out to play really well in a pub.

So there's five characters (I forget the names). We're trying to play without a GM, with each of us stepping in to frame scenes as and when needed. After some discussion, we decide to be twenty-something City types, getting together before Steve's character gets married.

The system of getting attributes from other people works well and creates some instant relationships: I'm a pedantic, spoilt law student (very Rich, very Smart, but not Cool); Alex plays a journalist (also Smart and not Cool). We decide we're intellectual rivals.

Steve and Jukka play Pretty, Cool types. Steve's character is the prospective bride and Jukka is a blonde bimbo. They're rivals in being the Coolest. Finally, Drew's character, Yvonne, is a butch, Tough dungarees-wearing type. Steve writes, in his Nonsense, "Yvonne makes me kiss her". Drew writes "[Steve's character] makes me kiss her": so both characters are under the impression that the other makes them kiss. If you see what I mean.

So we set a scene: it's the Hen Night. It's in one of the richer character's houses (I forget who), and it's a huge mansion. We quickly decide we want the groom, Brad, to appear at the mansion, so we bring him in on a pretext.

We get into conflicts fairly quickly. Jukka tries to get Brad drunk. I try to lure Brad into the garden with my brilliant conversation. It's interesting to note that Brad wasn't ever assigned stats: all the conflicts were thrown between the girls, with Brad treated as a thing to be passed around.

Some interesting stakes things happen during the conflicts. For example, Jukka launches a conflict against Steve: "I want to turn Brad on". But it turns out that Steve's character, who's the bride, doesn't mind Brad being turned on. I forget quite how we resolved that one: I think we just played out the conflict and decided Brad was turned on.

There are some interesting examples of stakes being combined. Jukka and me are competing to gain Brad's attention and Jukka decides to do a sexy dance, with the intention "I want to send Brad wild with desire" (or something like that). I set my stakes as "I want Jukka's character to make a drunken fool of herself". We tie the conflict and combine the stakes: Jukka's character makes a drunken fool of herself, but Brad quite likes that, so it sends him wild with desire.

We play for about an hour, perhaps an hour and a half. During that time, it's mostly conflicts and, by the end, Brad has "had a quickie" with Jukka's character. We decide to wind up the scene there, with the intention of moving to the wedding as the next scene. In the event, the restaurant isn't very conducive to roleplaying, so the game ends there.

It was fun, although short. The play seemed to consist mainly of throwing conflicts, without much advancement of the narrative but, then, it was only the first hour of play, and we set up a lot that could have been used in a later narrative. If we played again, I think I'd be the GM and frame things more aggressively, moving the story on when needed.

Graham
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Ricky Donato
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Just chillin'


« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2006, 05:18:19 AM »

Hi, Graham,

I'd like to know more about what it was like playing in the pub. You said:

In the event, the restaurant isn't very conducive to roleplaying, so the game ends there.

Why is this? And were there any good points to playing in the pub?
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
Graham W
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« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2006, 08:13:46 AM »

Hey Ricky,

Best Friends needs no preparation and doesn't use many props: just character sheets and counters. That's why I said it played well in a pub: it suits that style of spontaneous, low-prep play. And it supports a jokey, slightly cartoony style: nothing too serious.

The restaurant was crowded and there wasn't enough room on the table for character sheets. That's why we stopped playing. Besides, the people next to us might have thought it strange if a group of blokes wore badges saying "Sarah" and "Yvonne", like we did in the pub.

Graham
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Alex F
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« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2006, 10:15:30 AM »

On the space thing, it was counterintuitive but we did have far more private space (and relative quiet) in the pub - where we sat in a booth that just fit the five of us - than the restaurant - where we were seated on long benches shared with other parties.

Best Friends was great fun. I got to give the bride jitters about her vows, and got tossed out a window!

On playing with people you haven't played with before: it's interesting that even when you mesh relatively well, friction points can arise where you realise you are on a different page to everyone else. When I got turfed out the window,  I wanted to win a price* that I somehow got evidence of this crime. A to-and-fro of friendchip expenditure ensued, with fictional implications that various options (camera, security video) weren't available to me.
I was like: "oh yeah? well, I still have a chip so... I can find a witness to implicate you... oh, how about [Graham's character's] dog!"

At this point the free-flowingness stuttered the barest amount, and I think it was because I had diverted from the tone of the fiction others had in their head (specifically, my  tone was Daria-esque). I hit our wall of system; a bunch of people mentally going "uh, really?" and then finding a way to accommodate this (we resolved that the dog was a source of evidence to the crime because he was soaking wet from being knocked into the pool by my swandive).

It was just a little thing, but it's worth mentioning that if we had continued, for the next scene I envisioned my character  approaching Graham's and offering her a choice of subpoena - she can perjure herself  and say she witnessed the event, or ... the dog will take the stand! Stretching things? The others can say; my sense was that if so it was a stretch rather than a snap, an issue of the preferred level of whimsy. I suspect that negotiating preferences like this work best when they evolve out of group experience, but any other thoughts on this are welcomed.

A question to Gregor, if he reads this - bearing in mind I haven't seen the rules and had them explained to me with a few drinks in my belly. I've cut it up, for clarity, I hope.

A) situations can arise where the mechanics alone do not provide definitive resolution - when the field of conflict (cool, smart etc) is one where both characters rely on the other for advantage. I'm cool but think you're (too) cool, you're in the same position, we're both paying each other chips to give us the cool edge, potentially ad infinitum. 

B) When two characters shape up to be alpha females in one domain, such as mine and Graham's smartypants, it feels intuitively right to deem them rivals, making a conflict on that terrain (Smart) feel like rich fictional territory.

Now, when two characters have a conflict on a field where they are both strong (B) the chance of (A) occurring is at its highest (if i've got a 2 in smart, at least 2 characters deem me smart, so not unlikely one is you). So, the system seems to encourage recursive conflicts that are only resolvable through the fictional consequences ("what you said was too cool to try and limit") for fictionally resonant rivals. Is this true? Whether intended or not, I think it's potentially a powerful feature.

*I don't know what it's called in the game - the outcome you append to the goal being put to you.
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Alex F
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« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2006, 10:24:01 AM »

Oh, and obviously the fictional rivalry can directly arise from the fact that the 2 characters hate each other for a given trait/field of conflict - as I think was part of the rationale for Graham and I - in which case the likelihood of A&B co-occurring are 1.
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2006, 12:49:16 PM »

Thanks Graham for running the game and posting up the thread. Great stuff.

To answer Alex's questions.

(A) You can only push once in a conflict. That probably answers your question quickest and easiest.

(B) I've seen people with similar strengths play the characters as really tight friends. In the infamous Frat Boys game at GenCon Jeff and Alexander played the Tough/Cool guys as partners in crime, while Julie and Iain were the Smart/Rich ones (I got the vanilla "all ones" piggy-in-the-middle). But still that is also fertile ground for fictional content too.

But to flesh it out a little, say we have two Cool 2 characters putting their nerve on the line, directly opposed.

Character 1: I want to stare down character 2, I have a Cool of 2.
Character 2: Hell, I want to stare down character 1, I also have a Cool of 2.

Well, at this point wey've got an impasse. They're staring away and it seems to me that they break at the same time. They both want to win but there is no outcome where that can happen -- so they both fail (and probably for the same reasons of insecurity deep in their psyche!).

Or someone can push a friendchip to someone else and win. Let's say that the player of character 1 gives the damned friendchip to the player of character 2, which is the situation you talk about. Well, in that case character 1 can win, but only if character 2 chooses not to push back. If that's the case then the player of character 2 keeps the friendchip, so in return for losing they do get pai with some currency.

The other option is that someone else sticks their nose in and pushes supporting one or the other characters. And when you're all Best Friends you often find more than one character has a vested interest in one or the other getting their way.

A few little questions from me.

1) It sounds like one player was pushing more than once in a conflict, though. Was that the case?

I don't recommend that for a few reasons -- mainly, it means that a player that really wants an outcome, against the other players wishes, will keep pushing for it, which I don't like. My take is that anyone can get what they want if (1) they have a higher rating (the others in effect gave them that permission at character generation), or (2) they push for it -- but only if the others don't push back. You do have a say, but not at the expense of the other characters having a say too.

2) Did you find the meshing of character backgrounds easy? Did things just pop up? Was there a lot of nonsense crossover?

3) Was anyone fazed by the lack of control of their own character's creation? Or did everyone just buy into setting everyone else's characters?

4) How many friendchips did you use? Did anyone get too many and horde them? Did anyone get their stack down to zero? How did the flow affect things for you?

5) Did you find it intuitive to set what Hatred conflicts came under?

Anyway, that's enough questions from me. :-)
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Merten
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2006, 02:27:22 AM »

Heya.

I played Karin, the bimbo exchange student. This was, in a sense, the first time I've played this type of game with players I haven't met before. Some notes in mixed order.

I very much liked the theme of the game and the hatred-part of character creation. The picture of the character is also a nice touch. I ended up writing quite a bit of Nonsense, since I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to write there.

Playing Best Friends was a bit confusing for me; mostly confusing in entertaining kind of way, but coming from a bit different style of play, we mostly focused on doing stuff the way I'm not used to do it. We decided the scene together and someone framed it, but the rest of the scene consisted of conflict after another without really anything in between. I'd suspect this was partly because none of us had previous experience playing Best Friends and we kind of wanted to try out the rules. Also, from Gregor's answer I understand that in one conflict there's only friendship bid per player - we didn't have this limit, so some conflicts became kind of "bleeding her dry"-oriented, which then resulted in players starting more conflicts in order to get to spend their tokens or accumulate more of them.

Stuff that I missed and that can be taken with a grain of yer old immersive salt:

Playing the characters and dialogue. I think we did a few short dialogues, but not much else between the conflicts. This kind of distanced me from the character - I started conflicts without really paying attention to my character, thinking more in terms of resources (I have Pretty 2, who can I oppress with it?). It would be intresting to play Best Friends in a way where conflicts originate from free playing and dialogue. Is that the direction play usually goes after the initial try out -period?

I didn't really have much to build conflicts upon. Thinking back, this would probably be stuff I should have written into Nonsense. Now I had some notes on the character, one of them being "likes to ensure her superiority and tends to bed married men". When we decided to do a hen-night, I sort of made this my goal. It wouldn't have carried much longer. I'd like to have something upon which to build the conflicts; hatred's are the other things I used, so I tried to start conflicts with girls I hated, which was kind of hard, since the usually had higher scores than I had - and it mean that I had to bid my tokens to them. I was able to justify this to myself since, well, I wasn't playing the smartest kind in the block.

I was a bit confused with the fact that the mechanics didn't seem to have much to do with the fiction. So, if you place a friendship token to someone else (a person you hate), is this only resource allocation or should placing the token somehow be felt in the fiction? For instance, if I'd place a friendship token to someone I hate because they are prettier than me, in a conflict about being pretty, wouldn't that indicate that I'm kind of begging for support from that way-more-pretty girl against other way-more-pretty girl? I missed this kind of relevancy.

Also, the conflicts seem to be one-to-one, which works well enough until a third character wants to weight in. For example, if I'm trying to bed Brad and another character is opposing me in a contest of, say, Smart, and another character would like to support me by distracting my opponent or making her look bad in Brad's eyes, this is kind of hard to do. My understanding would be that we first solve my conflict and then the other player creates another conflict. This bogs things down somewhat and doesen't really tie into the fiction.

About the pub: it was pretty good place to play, except that it was hard to follow the discussion from time to time because of the mix of background noice and me not being a native English speaker. I think I lost some nuances. I lost most of the popular culture (et all) references, but I kind of prepared for this by creating a non-native character who ended up being not smart. It was kind of fitting.

All in all, it was intresting and entertaining, but I think I'd love to try Best Friends again after the reading the rules and allocating more time for the character/setting preparation, lot's of free play and conflicts arising from it. I'd really like to get into the mindset of the character and see if conflicts just come up without anyone really trying to set them.

1) It sounds like one player was pushing more than once in a conflict, though. Was that the case?

Yes.

Quote
2) Did you find the meshing of character backgrounds easy? Did things just pop up? Was there a lot of nonsense crossover?

I think we missed some of this; at least my Nonsense wasn't crossovered, though some of it matched by change.

Quote
3) Was anyone fazed by the lack of control of their own character's creation? Or did everyone just buy into setting everyone else's characters?

Not that I noticed; we could probably have used a more collaborative way of creating the characters and especially the Nonsense.

Quote
4) How many friendchips did you use? Did anyone get too many and horde them? Did anyone get their stack down to zero? How did the flow affect things for you?

Three per player. Some got quite a horde of them and some went down to one momentarily; could have been zero, I cannot recall. Due do the multitude of conflicts, the token situtation evened out pretty soon if a stash was exhausted or horded.

Quote
5) Did you find it intuitive to set what Hatred conflicts came under?

See above. Also, we sometimes discussed about the nature of the conflict for a while and decided what kind of type suited it best.
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Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi
GB Steve
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2006, 02:36:28 AM »

1) It sounds like one player was pushing more than once in a conflict, though. Was that the case?
It was. We didn't have the rules, only Graham had read them, and only once. So we were probably doing it wrong. That said, we did have so, even if it was badwrongfun. What this meant was that if you found someone who hated you, you could use this to pump tokens to yourself making the starting of conflicts more tactical. It also lead to much interesting to-ing and fro-ing during conflicts as more tokens were used and narrated as they were played. So definitely an interesting variant.

2) Did you find the meshing of character backgrounds easy? Did things just pop up? Was there a lot of nonsense crossover?
At the start, Graham said that nonsense crossover was good so I (as Marie) wrote "Susan makes me kiss her". When Drew turned up to play Susan I told him this so he put (as Susan) "Marie makes me kiss her".

3) Was anyone fazed by the lack of control of their own character's creation? Or did everyone just buy into setting everyone else's characters?
No. Yes.

4) How many friendchips did you use? Did anyone get too many and horde them? Did anyone get their stack down to zero? How did the flow affect things for you? Lots and often, mainly because we spent several in conflicts. I think one was the lowest anyone went.

5) Did you find it intuitive to set what Hatred conflicts came under?
We had discussions on a few but it wasn't too hard.
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Graham W
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« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2006, 02:42:29 AM »

1) It sounds like one player was pushing more than once in a conflict, though. Was that the case?

Yes. We drifted there. It seemed natural at the time: what happened, as I remember, was that one player would say "I want X" and push; and the opponent would say, "OK, well I want Y" and push; and then the first would come back with "Oh, well, in that case I want Z" and push again.

(See Steve's comment about badwrongfun)

But I promise I won't let that happen next time.

Quote
2) Did you find the meshing of character backgrounds easy? Did things just pop up? Was there a lot of nonsense crossover?

There was, but I'd told everyone, at the start, that it was good if their Nonsense involved other people. Being experienced roleplayers, they used the Nonsense to create lots of relationships with each other (such as "Yvonne makes me kiss her").

Quote
3) Was anyone fazed by the lack of control of their own character's creation? Or did everyone just buy into setting everyone else's characters?

We all bought into it. It worked really well.

Quote
4) How many friendchips did you use? Did anyone get too many and horde them? Did anyone get their stack down to zero? How did the flow affect things for you?

We started with three each. Nobody seemed to be hoarding them (in a tactical sense) and I don't think anyone ran out completely, although I came close. At one point, Alex had loads of the damn things: about seven. I wanted to interrupt and make him get rid of them (note: the rule is that, if you've got more than five, you have to spend them immediately), but other people kept firing off conflicts, and I didn't get in fast enough.

Quote
5) Did you find it intuitive to set what Hatred conflicts came under?

That could be really difficult. For example, at one point, Jukka's character and my character were competing to get Brad's attention: he was being tarty and I was trying to entice him with my brilliant conversation. So I was playing on Smart and he was playing on Pretty. We decided it was a Pretty conflict, but it felt a bit wrong.

Oh, I'm running this game at Dragonmeet, so any tips are welcome. My note for myself is that I need to get better at scene framing: my impression is that the players will happily sit there creating conflicts, so that I need to pick the interesting bits of those, and frame scenes to make the whole thing into some sort of coherent narrative. If that makes sense.

(Crossposted with Steve and Merten)

Graham
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2006, 03:47:21 PM »

Hey everyone, thanks for the answers.

My feeling is that with the bidding limited to one chip the conflicts will be sharper and drift less (i.e. they will more sharply be about the conflict at hand and less likely to grow legs and run away). The play will be focused more clearly on the characters and the fiction. I think that the temptation in the play style you had is to spiral into bidding wars with chips and it gets more about moving chips than telling a story.

Still, I think at the heart of it you were still telling a story and definitely having fun, so I'm glad that it worked for you.

I don't know why it is the case but the character creation method and the numbers it gives you as a player just seem to engender character ceration very effectively. I always find myself liking these goofy characters that are thrown my way. And feel free to add/drop Stuff and Nonsense as you go.

Thanks for the notes on 3 chips. I feel that it is a "safe" number to use and no one gets "chip starved" too hard. On the other hand, I've been gaming with only 2 for the last few games and it puts at least one player under the hammer every time, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It certainly sharpens the game.

And finally, although the characters all have hatreds for each other it should be noted that they are also Best Friends.

I'll be at Dragonmeet too and it'll be good to meet up with you guys there.

Oh, and I have an AP thread to write up about a game set in Imperial Rome where we created a really rich background of Nonsense at the start that threw up story so well in play. But more on that later...

Are there any more questions/points you guys have about this AP or game?
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2006, 04:09:21 PM »

...
It would be intresting to play Best Friends in a way where conflicts originate from free playing and dialogue. Is that the direction play usually goes after the initial try out -period?

...

I was a bit confused with the fact that the mechanics didn't seem to have much to do with the fiction. So, if you place a friendship token to someone else (a person you hate), is this only resource allocation or should placing the token somehow be felt in the fiction? For instance, if I'd place a friendship token to someone I hate because they are prettier than me, in a conflict about being pretty, wouldn't that indicate that I'm kind of begging for support from that way-more-pretty girl against other way-more-pretty girl? I missed this kind of relevancy.

...

Also, the conflicts seem to be one-to-one, which works well enough until a third character wants to weight in. For example, if I'm trying to bed Brad and another character is opposing me in a contest of, say, Smart, and another character would like to support me by distracting my opponent or making her look bad in Brad's eyes, this is kind of hard to do. My understanding would be that we first solve my conflict and then the other player creates another conflict. This bogs things down somewhat and doesen't really tie into the fiction.

Oops, forgot to answer these points. OK, from the top...

(1) Yeah, I've found that once people get over the novelty of pushing on each other that they start to tell stories with their characters. Though some try to push other players harder than others, that's just variations in style -- I found that "shaking down" for chips gets more common when someone is short-stacked, though they usually find a really good fictional way of working it in.

(2) When you push it should be narrated in the fiction. But you aren't doing it to appeas anyone. You're doing it to push yourself because of your inadequacy that someone is better than you, even if that person isn't the person you're in a conflict with. You hate Susan for being Prettier? Well, if you want to be really Pretty tonight then deep down you're insecure that Susan is still Prettier right, even though you pushed.

(3) In multiple player conflicts I start off looking for who has the highest Hatred. They win. If one of the lower Hatreds wants to push then they can push to win. The higher Hatred can then, if they choose to do so, push back to win again. At this point those two players have pushed once, and so can't push again. If someone else wants to push over then the side they're supporting wins, unless someone else helps the other side, and so on. I found that works quite well for me, and better than doing a series of one-on-one conflicts.

Janey is Cool (3) and she tells Stella (1) and Gina (0) to shoplift some stuff for her, browbeating them to do her dirty work. So Janey is currently winning with no pushing. Stella then pushes to stand up for herself, "No, I won't do it", with her player narrating some vitriol hurled in Janey's direction "How dare you ask me to do that?!", so Stella is now winning. Janey pushes back and her player accompanies it with some home truths about Stella and how she should do what she's told "I'm not asking Stella, I'm telling!". With both Janey and Stella having pushed once, Gina, the uncoolest of them all, then pushes to support Stella: "But Janey, you tell us it's never Cool to do what we're told" and Stella and Gina win. (Of course, in the course of that some fiction has been established and three chips have changed hands -- it's quite possible that Stella and Gina's both went to Janey and Janey only gave one of them away.)
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Merten
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« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2006, 10:48:53 PM »

(2) When you push it should be narrated in the fiction. But you aren't doing it to appeas anyone. You're doing it to push yourself because of your inadequacy that someone is better than you, even if that person isn't the person you're in a conflict with. You hate Susan for being Prettier? Well, if you want to be really Pretty tonight then deep down you're insecure that Susan is still Prettier right, even though you pushed.

That's a good explanation and makes a whole lot of sense, thank you.

(3) In multiple player conflicts I start off looking for who has the highest Hatred. They win. If one of the lower Hatreds wants to push then they can push to win. The higher Hatred can then, if they choose to do so, push back to win again. At this point those two players have pushed once, and so can't push again. If someone else wants to push over then the side they're supporting wins, unless someone else helps the other side, and so on. I found that works quite well for me, and better than doing a series of one-on-one conflicts.

Again, this will probably work just like I'd like it to, thanks.

I just got a date set for an evening of Best Friends, so if we stumble on some new insights or questions, I'll do a followup AP. I'll probably try to change the outcome of conflict towards less narration and use it more as a resolution mechanic in social situtations (so, instead of the winner narrating what happens, winning a conflict is just a subtle hint for other players to yield) and see how that works.
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Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi
Graham W
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2006, 07:43:47 AM »

The multiple conflict thing is really useful. I'll use that.

Have you got any advice on deciding which Hatred a conflict falls under? I'm thinking of that example I gave above, with two of us fighting for Brad's attention: one using Smart, one using Pretty.

And do you think we did the right thing by not involving Brad in conflicts? Whenever there was a Brad-related conflict, we made the conflict between the girls, not with Brad. Was that wise, do you think, or over-complicated?

Graham
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2006, 12:33:46 PM »

OK, advice on which conflict it falls under.

Well, what does Brad think? You see? Why are the two players wanting to view this conflict by different Hatreds? I guess it's implicitly because it's most advantageous for them to use either Smart or Pretty. So, OK, we have two potential Hatreds for this conflict to be under. Now, back to the first question I posed. What about Brad? Is he the kind of guy who would base it on Pretty? Or could he be duped by Smart? Which is most likely? If you have a GM then he can pick one of them, hard, to focus the conflict. What does the group feel Brad is like? Maybe he likes Cool chicks? Maybe it takes guts to go up to Brad, look in his dreamy eyes and just to talk to him. Brad Pitt, right? Or Brad the gardener? Brad the shy academic? Brad the football player? Who is this guy?

Now, the conflicts are all about the Best Friends. NPCs cannot push, so any "obstacle" be it an NPC or some sort of external force can be overcome if a player pushes. Set a new world record in the Marathon? Well, push for it.

So, maybe now you are thinking what use do these NPCs and external forces serve? Well, they make you make that choice about pushing.

Brad wants you to blow off your friend's hen night and come with him to the theatre. He's got a Cool of 1 and he really makes a big deal of it.

So what if you have a Cool of 2? Well, that's easy -- you win without pushing and Brad is cow-towed. It's probably the last time he ever speaks out of turn, right?
What if you had Cool 1? Well, we have an impasse -- you reach some half-way house going to the theatre, leaving at the interval and then turning up late for the hen night? Or you blow off the theatre and the hen night to stay in.... or you push.
What if you had Cool 0? Well, unless you push then you're at the theatre. And all your Best Friends knew that would happen because you never stand up to anyone and your pushed around by everyone that knows you. Or you push.

This other thread shows nicely how another group started naturally fleshing out their NPCs and they do a great job of it I think.

And one thing is that players can push through "helpful"/unhelpful comments by their characters to help NPCs, I think Jeff did that on the GenCon demo at the Sons of Kryos.

I think you did just fine though, and I think you can see where you have the potential as a GM to place players in situations where they have to make choices (sometimes fun, sometimes hard) and play out the stories of their characters.
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