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Author Topic: [Afraid] A few questions on conflict and scene framing  (Read 5397 times)
Hans
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« on: January 04, 2007, 10:21:15 AM »

First, let me say that I have never played Dogs in the Vineyard, or read the rules for that game.  It could be that persons who have played Dogs are much more capable of grasping what is intended by the current rules of Afraid, but all I have to go on is the Afraid rules themselves.  Forgive me if I ask the obvious.

I played in a session of Afraid before the first of the year  without having read the rules, and enjoyed myself, but a number of questions came to mind as we played.  After that, I did obtain the rules and read through them, and am even more impressed.  But some questions still remain...(quotes below are from the rules text)

Quote
One of the jobs of the GM is to cut from scene to scene.

When you frame a new scene for a character, adhere to the character's circumstances.

I understand from this that it is always the GM's responsibility to frame the next scene.  Is the correct?  If it is, I like it...it is a horror type game after all, and the players should feel the pressure and lack of control.  But it is also a detective type game as well; for the players to gather information about the monster, sometimes they will need to be able to have some control over what their character does and where their character is next.  How are the broader intentions of the players taken into account when the scenes are framed?  Is there a framework for this that I am missing, or is it by conversation?

In play, do you expect there to be at least some role-playing involved before a conflict begins, or does scene=conflict?

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Name the stakes and the opening arena. Set the stage.
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Once everyone in your group can read the stakes implicit in a declaration of intent, there's no need for any especial formality. Formally, explicitly naming the stakes is useful as a learning tool and when you require absolute clarity; otherwise, feel free to play casual.

First, the larger question.  Assuming that scene is not equal to conflict, and there is some role-playing in a scene that preceeds it, who decides when the conflict moment is reached.  In other words, who "declares intent" first and initiates the conflict procedures?  Can it be anyone?  Just the GM?  By consensus?

Once conflict has begun, who is the implied "you" of the two sentences above who names the stakes and the opening arena and set's the stage?  The GM?  The players? The group as a whole?  Who has the final say if there is a disagreement?   

I can see how any of the above could make sense, but all have different implications for whose in control, who has a say, who can object, etc.  I would say this was the biggest difficulty we had in the session we played; figuring out exactly when conflict started and what would be at stake.  After reading through the rules, I do appreciate the way the rules define stakes as "the thing at stake itself", and not any particular resolution of that thing.  I like that a lot.  But coming to exactly what the thing is is still fuzzy for me.

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The stakes can include changes to the characters' circumstances. Simply include the circumstances - explicitly or implicitly - when you name the stakes.

In other posts it seems implied that other mechanical things (besides the results of fallout) can also be at stake.  Is this true?  Examples would be:
  • Traits: Can the stake of a conflict be a trait of a character?  Can the winner of a conflict change, remove, or add a trait? 
    [li]Relationships: Can the stake of a conflict be the relationship between two characters, can the winner of the conflict adjust the dice in that relationship? 
  • Belongings: Can the stake be a belonging of a character?  Can the winner permanently deprive a character of a belonging, or increase its value?
  • Bonds: Can the stake be a bond? Can the winner cause a character to violate a bond, or create a new bond for a character?
If any of the above are true, are there any suggestions as to what a reasonable magnitude of change per conflict would be? 

Quote
To reduce the monster's power - quite explicitly, to reduce the d10s you get to roll on the monster's behalf - the PCs will have to cut the monster off from her victims. That means finding how she's accessing them, breaking that access, and blocking any alternate means.

Lets say the stake is my character's daughter, a victim of the monster, leaving the house (which my character has somehow prevented the monster from entering).  One assumes that implicit in this stake is the level of victimization of the daughter.  If I win the conflict, I have denied the monster access and the number of dice should be reduced.  If I lose the conflict, the monster gets better access to the victim, and dice increase.  Am I understanding this correctly?  If so, is it usually one die per conflict, or could one expect that to vary depending on circumstances?  If it varies, does the winner decide the magnitude?

Any assistance provided by anyone would be appreciated.
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2007, 11:01:14 AM »

Hey Hans! I like rules questions.

1. Scene framing:

The GM says, "okay, where do you go then?" The player answers. The GM then takes that and makes it into a scene setup, using the character's circumstances. The GM says when, where, and what's going on. She can solicit the players for suggestions if she wants, however much she wants, but it's her final say.

GM: Okay, where do you go then?
Player: Back to my mother's house.
GM: Let's see, alone and in trouble. Cool. Nobobdy's there when you arrive, even though they said they would be, and the car's in the garage, and the cellar door is ajar...

2. Free play:

Yes. There's plenty of free play in scenes. Before, after and between the conflicts. Lots of scenes have many conflicts - especially, an initial conflict and then a followup conflict or two or three. Some scenes have no conflicts; they're just setting the stage for future conflicts.

3. Who decides when it's a conflict:

Anyone can say "hey let's roll dice over this." It's the GM's especial responsibility, but everyone has the authority.

Dogs in the Vineyard's text about this is very good.

4. Who sets the stage, names the stakes, etc.:

Anyone can. It's the group's responsibility. If you don't like someone else's suggestion, you should modify it or build on it, not veto it; you're obliged to take the spirit of the other player's suggestion to heart. The GM's responsibility is first to participate, and then to make sure it happens and happens smoothly - only slightly more responsibility than the other players have.

Dogs has lots more about how this works, including examples.

5. What can be at stake:

Off the top of my head, only two mechanical things can be directly implicated in the stakes of a conflict: a character's circumstances, a monster's access to a victim. Traits, belongings and relationships can't be. It's in the conflict's fallout that those things change.

For the monster's access to a victim, limit the stakes to 1 die's worth.

For example, say that the monster first accesses her victim through the television, then through the radio, then through the cd player (no matter what cd is in). The victim's victimized at 2 - the TV and the radio. The player says, "what's at stake is, do I through all the victim's personal electronics out the window!" The GM says, "that's too much. 1 die's worth would be the TV or the radio - which?"

Furthermore, no, if the player loses the conflict, the monster doesn't get to increase access. That wasn't implicated in the stakes, and shouldn't be. It'd count as a second die.

In the rare cases where 2 dice must be at stake, you should make it explicit at stakes-setting.

There's pretty good text in Dogs about what scale the stakes should be, too.

Ooh, come to think of it, bonds can be implicated in the stakes too. Player: "I get 3d10 as long as I don't cut my hair." GM: "here comes the monster's slave with a pair of scissors. Does he cut your hair?"

I think I got all your questions, yeah? Making sense?

-Vincent
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Ludanto
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« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2007, 11:43:54 AM »

Hey, that brings up a question I had.  If a Victimization conflict can only be about going up or going down, how do you handle Victimizations that are don't have an obvious way of "undoing" them?  If the Monster (pardon the absurdity of these examples) has to smack the Victim with a salmon (2 dice) and then with a cod (3 dice), it's obvious that you can stop the Monster from increasing the Victimzation, but what kind of conflict would decrease it?

Maybe my understanding of "access" is not very good.  A (poor) Monster I made had "Drink in her presence", "Have her drink the 'special' wine", "Drink her blood", "Have her drink my blood", "Drink her dry".  While the first two aren't bad, I guess, the "access" of the last three is actually pretty much the same as the first, despite the different requirements.  So, are they just bad "accesses"?
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lumpley
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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2007, 12:52:36 PM »

Cool question!

What would someone have to do to counteract a monster's hitting a victim with a fish? Immerse her in blessed water? Find the fish and burn it? Draw holy symbols on her skin with greasepaint?

There'll come a moment in play when the players are like, "...crap. He's already hit her with the fish. Crap. We ... can we do anything about that?" Then you say, "you could try to counteract it somehow." And they say, "that's true. How?" And you say, "ask Mitch, his character's the veteran."

Mitch thinks of something off the top of his head (you can prod him to come up with something evocative and within the tone of the game, that won't be any problem) and you roll dice on it. Washing her with pure milk? That could definitely work! Now you find out whether it does.

Cool, huh?

-Vincent
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Ludanto
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« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2007, 02:51:14 PM »

Man, you are the master of giving answers that amount to, "Eh.  Just let the group figure it out", while still being very useful and very cool answers. :)

(Due to the confused ambiguity of the previous statement, let me point out that it was a compliment)
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Tim M Ralphs
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« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2007, 01:45:25 AM »

The single thing I love most about Dogs, and Afraid, (although it might just be because this is my first experience with Conflict resolution) is that whatever the players do to reduce the access will reduce the access. The on
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...the Mystery leads to Adversity and only Sacrifice brings Resolution...
Tim M Ralphs
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2007, 02:21:24 AM »

Argh, ignore that, Windows jumped at a bad moment.

The single thing I love most about Dogs, and Afraid, (although it might just be because this is my first experience with Conflict resolution) is that whatever the players do to achieve their goals will help achieve their goals if the dice are there. There is no circumstance in which any of us can say "No, that can't work." only "Yes, you want that to happen, it happens" or "If you really want that to happen we'll have to roll dice for it." or "That would have worked, but I have these dice here which say otherwise."

If you set out to reduce the access then what you decide to do can reduce the access. There might be constraints about fitting the established facts and broadly sticking to the genre constraints, but in the games of Dogs and Afraid I've played this simply hasn't come up, it isn't necessary, people stick to these things because they are having fun and they feel empowered already.

Let me give you an example from one of my games. In order to keep her access over a victim my Monster, who isn't really there but can project apparitions, is telling a small girl a story. It's clearly having dramatic harmful effect on the girl, she's writhing in pain and spontaneously bleeding. Part way through the conflict one of the players challenges with injecting the girl with sedatives so she can't hear the story.

Until he suggested that I'd not thought about whether access would work like that. It didn't feature in the image I had of the Monster in my head, but clearly there's a case that it might work, and it was thematic and we were all bought into the action. The player put the dice forward and the conflict continued. What makes sedating the girl work as a way of reducing access? It didn't work because I as GM decided it could work, it didn't work because the people round the table thought it was a good idea, it worked because the player had dice to invest in the action and thought it should happen in the story.

I don't really understand how it happens, but experience suggests time and again that because the dice in Dogs and Afraid assure the players that whatever they try and do will be effective it suddenly frees them up to do powerful and unexpected things, and then they do powerful and unexpected things and it's awesome.

Oh, and Hans, Vincent can't say this because it would change the relationship he has with you, but I can:

Buy Dogs. It's fricking brilliant.
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...the Mystery leads to Adversity and only Sacrifice brings Resolution...
Hans
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« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2007, 06:17:18 AM »

I think I got all your questions, yeah? Making sense?

-Vincent

Could not be clearer...now I'm really looking foward to taking another few whacks at it.  Part of my problem was that I have recently come from playing games that either a) don't have any scene framing mechanics at all (TSOY, TROS, Donjon), or b) have a very detailed scene structure with a fixed conflict relationship to scene (PTA, Grey Ranks, Burning Empires, Capes).  I was trying to put Afraid solidly in one category or the other, but really its a bit on the fence; some scene framing mechanics (Circumstances), but a lot of free-form in the middle.  Now that I understand that, a lot of my (and I think the other players and GM of our group) confusion over who is responsible for what is eliminated.

My only thought is that when you do publish Afraid, include all of that stuff in the text or make it an official "supplement" requiring Dogs to play.  I'm sure that's obvious to you.  Is it possible that I am the first person to try Afraid that hasn't played or read Dogs first?  That would be odd.

Oh, and Hans, Vincent can't say this because it would change the relationship he has with you, but I can:

Buy Dogs. It's fricking brilliant.

This I have heard, Tim.  It's on the list.
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lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2007, 07:40:21 AM »

Tim, thank you!

Hans, cool!

When I publish Afraid, it'll be a whole and complete game, alone-standing. As far as I can tell, yes, you're the first person to play Afraid without being familiar with Dogs first. Odd, maybe - someone had to be, right?

-Vincent
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lumpley
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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2007, 09:02:08 AM »

Oh and I meant to say:

> Due to the confused ambiguity of the previous statement, let me point out that it was a compliment

I'll take it!

-Vincent
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