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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 48 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Grey Ranks] Another playtest  (Read 8042 times)
jrs
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« on: May 23, 2007, 04:21:57 PM »

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2007, 03:17:56 PM »

Whew - finally got a chance to contribute.

I like Grey Ranks a lot.

Here's my one concern: personal scenes seem a little too self-enclosed to me. I'm not very fond of posing my own character's adversity and then stating his actions in response to it without some kind of intermediate input or constraint in there as well. I think we've ended up drifting things a little by having a lot of group interjection right at that point, so one's own situation isn't entirely of one's own making.

Thoughts on that?

Best, Ron
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Emily Care
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« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2007, 12:10:39 PM »

I've enjoyed getting to play Grey Ranks, too. What were a couple high (is that the right term?) points in the plot for you when you played?

best,
Em
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2007, 12:53:57 PM »

Hey all,

Thanks so much for playing Grey Ranks.  I'll answer your questions in more detail when I get back from my vacation (tomorrow night).
But:

1.  Yes, can't go below d4 or above d12.

2.  You got it right. 

3.  Thanks for the catch; my intention was one fewer to encourage interaction.

4.  The latter, I think the "what do we do?" text got pulled form an old version or something.

--Jason
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2007, 11:17:41 AM »

Thanks again, Julie.  The final game will have some downloadable stuff which you ought to have a version of - half-page sheets with the Radio Lightning broadcast on one side and a space for situation elements on the other.  These are supposed to get passed around and referenced in play, chapter by chapter. 

I'll take a look at the way I'm referring to prologue and epilogue (chapters one and ten).  The way the game is structured, this is a little awkward, because I can't structure the game prologue-chapter one - chapter two etc., due to the die escalation.  Chapter one is the prologue.

I hope you get a chance to continue on to later chapters, where things really heat up.  So what happened in play? 
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2007, 02:26:28 PM »

Hi Jason,

Our recommendation is indeed to call them chapters 1 and 10, but to have text in there which says, "Chapter 1 is the prologue" and "Chapter 10 is the epilogue." That text needs to be the first thing people read about the chapters and their names, because as it stands, the terms prologue and epilogue are just tossed out naked first thing, and the reader is trying to parse them regarding the chapter numbers without any orientation. So our group's collective point is very much about ordering of information in terms of reading.

Best, Ron
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2007, 02:43:12 PM »

Yes, that makes sense.  I was trying to differentiate them, because the rules are different.  It's complicated!

I guess the simplest approach is to always refer to them by number and note in the text that one is the prologue (with different rules) and ten is the epilogue (with different rules).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2007, 06:39:46 AM »

I finally got around to this again ... we're continuing our Grey Ranks play this afternoon and I really wanted to summarize events in the first session before then.

Let's see, Prologue scenes generally spun off the Radio Lightning news about the counterfeit newspapers, with the kids distributing them around the city ...

Eugenia dodged some German soldiers who even took a potshot at her, by taking to the rooftops
Tadeusz (Tod's) impressed some Grey Ranks kids from another neighborhood
Tadeusz (mine) helped dispose of a German soldier's body and ate a cake when he shouldn't have
Maura had to deal with a distraught neighbor who didn't want her to go out on dangerous missions, and bribed her with vodka

All of the above led to the terms and categories that Julie listed in the above post.

Chapter 2 was pretty complex, but it centered around the plan to hang a German officer in effigy, to add a little spice to the Radio Lightning news about the signs on the lampposts.

As far as the mission goes, well, it started fine with Tadeusz (T) acquiring a uniform to stuff, and then went south very badly when (a) Tadeusz (R) ended up stealing food from the German mess and losing the (still-alive) officer who had previous inhabited the uniform. The crew was surrounded by German soldiers; fortunately, the girls were then able to delay them and make up excuses, permitting the others to scatter, even retaining the half-stuffed effigy.

All the personal scenes succeeded, which as I recall were a little bit shy on the teen-love angle and a little bit more meaty on the tough-times-during-war angle. I was thinking to myself afterwards that I wanted to see more of the former in our upcoming session. We all moved "north" on the grid.

I particularly like the combination of Radio Lightning, the chosen but still optional scene elements (brilliant), and the neighborhoods, which are characterized just enough to get us excited about them.

I am still a bit confused about when you do or do not get to check off the boxes for the Reputations, and just how much authority is involved when someone proposes a Personal scene for their character but is strongly opposed or at least influenced by the rest of the players. Also, is every character forced to have a Personal scene every chapter? The text seems to indicate that that's the case.

I find the business about dice size change based on age very confusing in application, and I'm certain we mixed it up at least once during our session.

Best, Ron
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2007, 07:08:38 AM »

I am still a bit confused about when you do or do not get to check off the boxes for the Reputations, and just how much authority is involved when someone proposes a Personal scene for their character but is strongly opposed or at least influenced by the rest of the players. Also, is every character forced to have a Personal scene every chapter? The text seems to indicate that that's the case.

I find the business about dice size change based on age very confusing in application, and I'm certain we mixed it up at least once during our session.

Thanks, Ron, that all sounds perfect for the first two chapters, in terms of content and success ratio.  To address your questions:

You check off a reputation box when you use the die.  So if you are starting fresh, the first time you mechanically invoke a reputation in play (to re-roll any die that had a result you didn't care for), you cross off the next highest box (the first time, this will be the d6 box) and incorporate your reputation somehow, then re-roll. 

I'm not clear on your question about authority in personal scenes.  Do you mean a scene in which your stated goals are at odds with another player's character or interests?  If they care deeply, they can use their own resources (reputations and things held dear) to influence the outcome.  I've often found that people will change intentions to reach an informal consensus if their initial idea is sharply at odds with somebody else's desires, though.  I think that's fine - that's just being friends. 

Everybody should have a personal scene in every chapter.  I didn't want any mechanical encouragement for being *less* involved, and allowing people to not take them, in some circumstances, does just that. 

The die mod for age thing does get a little confusing.  Some people latch on and some people forget.  The easiest way to handle it is this - the die you actually hand to the mission leader, or actually roll for your personal scene, is changed up or down immediately before you hand it over or roll it. 
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jrs
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2007, 04:40:37 AM »

We played our second session and got through chapter 5.  We hit our stride and things really started getting intense for our characters--including the destruction of what my character holds dear and her moving into three corners on the grid.  Ron said he'd do a write-up of events in play, so I'll leave him to that.

We have two procedure issues that stymied us.

1. Age thing again.  If both a reputation and age will affect the chosen die, which acts first?  For example, the player has a 17 year old character, she is putting forward her d8 (she's already used her d6) reputation die for her mission scene.  Is it: (a) start die d4, age adjust down which keeps it as a d4, change to d8 for reputation; or (b) start die d4, change to d8, age adjust to d6?
This type of thing happened several times during play and we were not sure how to proceed.  We decided that the age adjustment always happens first, but we'd like to know what you intended and you may want to make that clear in the text.

2. Final mission scene.  The rules state that before the last player's mission scene, all the mission dice are rolled to determine the success of the mission.  It is unclear if that roll should include the last person's mission die.  Since the last person could still have two dice to choose from, we did not like having to force the person into a blind choice before his or her scene.  This is what we did.  We rolled all dice collected thus far (three for our game).  Then proceeded with the mission scene for the fourth person.  This is not a guarantee that the mission outcome is known before the last mission scene, but there is a component of how much the last person matters to that outcome.  So if the three dice are rolled and beat the target number, that is a very different situation than if they do not.

Julie

p.s. I got Maura's character's name wrong in my first post.
p.p.s. When we did re-rolls, I do not think any of us chose to use the d12; we just re-rolled the original dice used. 
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Steve Segedy
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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2007, 12:45:31 PM »

I'm sure Jason will weigh in on this, but based on our own playtests* and discussions, I believe the answers are:

1.  Age modifiers are a final adjustment, ultimately modifying your personal die before it's rolled.  For example, if you plan to use a D4, age won't lower it any further.  If you wanted to use Reputation to raise it, but only had a D6 to use, it would still wind up a D4.  If you had a D8, the end result would be D6.   If you then used your last Reputation level, the D10, the end result would still be modified by age to be a D8.

2. The rolling of the Mission dice in the final scene should include everyone's dice.  Ideally, this shouldn't be a problem as the players choice of a die size guides their narration, not the other way around.  The player narrating the final Mission scene should be guided not only by their choice, but also by the results of the final roll- it's up to them to narrate the success or failure of the mission.

This last bit might be made clearer in our rules if we indicated that the pool should be rolled after the Mission scene is set up (by another player), but before any real role-playing or narration of the scene.

* I'll add the caveat that if any of this doesn't ring true, the rules may have changed somewhat between playtests
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2007, 03:57:56 PM »

Hello,

I will now put my sternness hat on. We have decided upon our official, group, consensus decree, and are not afraid to say, Jason, we think your game will be damagingly unclear unless you implement the following specific recommendations throughout the test:

Always call Chapter 1 Chapter 1. Do not call it anything else. Early in the text, the first time it's mentioned, you should say "Chapter 1 acts as a prologue and features some special rules." Note the lower-case "p."

Always call Chapter 10 Chapter 10. Do not call it anything else. Early in the text, the first time it's mentioned, you should say "Chapter 10 acts as an epilogue and features some special rules." Note the lower-case "e."


The issues Julie has outlined above must also be clarified - or else, in our view, the game will not be playable from the text. Part of clarifying them will probably require a step-by-step breakdown of the decisions a player must make on his or her turn, in order, something like:

- I review the existing narration (either from someone else, for Mission scenes, or what I've just said, for Personal scenes)
- I decide which die to use; I may use either Grid or Reputation die for either Mission scene or Personal scene
- if it is the Grid die, I adjust it by age if I'm 15 or 17
- if it is the Reputation die, I adjust it by age if I'm 15 or 17; I also adjust it to a higher die if I want to check a Reputation box
- if it is a Mission scene, I give the die to the mission leader and narrate appropriately according the instructions, based on that exact die size
- if it is a Personal scene, I roll the die for the scene and narrate appropriately based on success or failure

I think it will be valuable to state that there are no such things as: Mission die, Personal die, Grid scene, Reputation scene. Dice are Grid/Reputation, and Scenes are Mission/Personal, and choosing which die for which scene is fully under one's control.

This has been a stern-hat announcement from the Hyde Park collective game group and I am playing every ounce of trust-card that I may have earned over the last eight years of game-play and posting and Forge-running in order to get you to heed it. We're not kidding.

One small but important thing: all use of the word "exposure" should be replaced with "invoked," for Things Held Dear.

OK, the sternness hat is now off my head.

Before we started play, we reviewed the rules about Things Held Dear and upgrading Reputations, to make sure everyone was oriented about them. We also went through the situational elements in play so far and clarified our, or rather my, misunderstandings about using them. Finally, we reviewed the rules about the grid so that we could all understand what mission and personal scene outcomes might mean.

Jason, you will like this part: for the first two chapters, yes, "success" in the traditional resolution sense dominated our thinking, and since grid movement just bumped us around the middle or to middle-edges, seemed like pretty good heroic war-time stories. In playing these chapters, however, the adolescence of the characters and the repercussions of what they saw and did, transformed our sort-of Boy Scouts at War (Yay!) story into a dark, terrifying, heart-breaking drama of how patriotism is not worth the destruction of young lives.

Particularly because we glommed onto the part of the setting which spoke to all of us most sharply: the rivalry between the Home Army and the communist resistance, a classic example of making an enemy out of the ally you most badly need. As we see it, anyway. Others may disagree.

Ron: Tadeusz Chmurzenka, nicknamed Drab (which I do not know what it means, in Polish), 16
Tod: Tadeusz Fiycz, nicknamed Zodiak, 15
Julie: Eugenia Bartnik, nicknamed Zofia, 15
Wala Świderska, nicknamed Halina, 17

Chapter 3
Julie was mission leader, and she decreed that we were to steal some weapons for the Home Army. The mission was still a little prosaic and it succeeded, based on getting ourselves designated as official Polish lackey truck drivers, and included some neat scenes with Libka, our Timid intel-gatherer (an NPC in our crew). Tadeusz (T) continued his role as the main mission-accomplisher, although Tadeusz (R) finally got his Reputation up to Strong from Weak during his Mission scene, by kicking a German officer in the balls. Wala utilized her usual talkativeness Reputation to advantage in narrating our way out of trouble.

Now for a fun part. When the final mission die is a collective disaster, but the numerical outcome states a successful mission, there's now an opportunity (or rather fruitful-constraint, same thing) to narrate a pyrrhic victory. Julie had the final mission narration, and found herself in this position ... so she decreed that Eugenia ended up delivering the weapons to the communist resistance by accident. Mission completed! Whoops!

All the personal scenes used situation elements extensively as well as rounding out the NPC characters and interactions among the crew:
- Tadeusz (T) embarked on a story-sequence concerning his girlfriend Lisa Becker (Held Most Dear) (yes, a German name), including their first kiss.
- Eugenia turned out to have a crush on a crew member named Karl Fleischer (yes, of German descent, but a Warsaw native), but failed to get her first kiss. [this was our first failed roll in the game]
- Wala helped Wanda, another crew member who actually doesn't want to be in the Resistance (but we use her for cover) get married secretly. Wanda's Reputation was Unlucky to Lucky, but as you'll see soon, she did not make the shift.
- Tadeusz (R) ended up drinking vodka after the mission with Libka, in a pub full of approving tough Polish Home Army guys, and vastly appropriately, entered Nervous Exhaustion. (or maybe I have this wrong and it was the next chapter, I can't quite remember)

Now that everyone was firing on all cylinders with soap opera, and now that one character started on a corner, here's where the whole-game level of the system kicked in with a vengeance, most especially and most wonderfully via the SIS itself in tandem with numbers, dice, and reward mechanics.

Chapter 4
I was mission leader, and based on Radio Lightning, decreed that we were assigned to deliver the mail to a neighborhood (which I drew from the situation elements), with the stern decree that we were not, repeat not, to engage in any of the actual fighting. This chapter was the first that really, really hummed, with every person knowing exactly what to contribute and when. About this point, the situation elements were being used so thick & fast that only a couple remained at any given moment. Here's what happened, organized by player rather than in actual order.

Eugenia used her mission-setting, delivering mail, for a Personal scene to get a letter to someone one a street which had been obliterated by bombing; she also threatened her Dearly Held street to get a re-roll to succeed. Her Mission scene concerned preventing Olek, an Obsessed NPC member of our crew (an 18-year-old who was too sick and wounded actually to go into the Army), from hurling himself into combat in street-to-street fighting.

Tadeusz (T) found himself abandoning the mail to help a shopkeeper who'd been shot by a sniper; his Personal scene involved the picnic where he tried unsuccessfully to get Lisa to flee. As you can see, we were starting to see failures as well as successes, distributed one way or another across Personal and Mission scenes.

Based on the Radio Lightning stuff about the informer, and also from a situation element that stated "your cousin has been sentenced to death as an informer," I put Wala into her mission scene with our NPC crew member Karl, saying he was the accused informer. See, Karl Fleischer is of German descent. Maura really nailed it, as Wala decided to get Karl to hide instead, and also narrated that (as our collective disaster) that Karl's mom was the real informer, and that Wala had twigged her to our Grey Ranks identities. Damn! (I can't remember the character's Personal scene for this chapter.)

At some point or another after that, Tod started to frame a scene about a possible informer, and we all pointed at him and said "you're mission leader next time!", which is to say, we loved the idea and wanted it to be central to a whole chapter.

My Mission scene was last, and it involved how we were being upbraided by the Home Army because of all the mail we'd lost and screwed up with, but we ended up being successful after all because the people of the neighborhood thanked us and praised us, to our chief officers.

At the end of the sequence, Tadeusz (R) emerged from Nervous Exhaustion (if he didn't before; I'm still a bit lost on when that happened), and everyone else moved significantly - Eugenia into Martyrdom, which didn't really fit in my mind about her character, so I singled her out to keep her moving another square, into Derangement. Everyone nodded. Looking across all the chapters, it so happens that we tended to use in-game justification for singling-out, in the sense of saying "well, this makes most sense for you to be here instead of here." This even applied in a kind of backwards way as you'll see in the next chapter.

All of us had also gone "h'm!" when I chose to do my Personal scene after the mission was concluded back in Chapter 3, so in this chapter, the next, and probably from now on, you'll see that at least one player reserves resolving a Personal scene until then - it serves as a perfect mini-Epilogue with many small benefits.

Chapter 5
Tod was decreed mission leader and it was essentially already rock-solid that this chapter was all about the informer, Mrs. Fleischer. This was the first mission which, we decided, we arrived at by ourselves as a crew and had nothing to do with Home Army HQ. We were also inspired by people choosing no less than two situation elements involving the sewers beneath the Old City, and by the obvious conclusions to be drawn from Radio Lightning's rather pathetic attempt at propaganda, that the Home Army was actually getting its ass kicked and the communist partisans were actually providing the most effective resistance.

This chapter shined for a lot of reasons, but especially since we were really thinking structurally now, deciding when and if to take Personal scenes at the beginning and end of every Mission scene. For instance, I got the first mission assignment (lure Mrs. Fleischer away from her house) but took my Personal scene right away, in which I was to get Wanda to help us, but found her and her new husband in the middle of consummating their suicide pact. Tadeusz (R) tried to stop them but I failed the roll; I even destroyed Julie's Thing Held Dear (her street) with Stuka bombers and the re-roll still failed to prevent it ... so Wanda and the husband killed themselves in front of Tadeusz' eyes.

Julie, staring in some horror at the "Destroyed" check-box of her shattered street on her character sheet (yes Jason! it was fun!), then leaped in with an instant Personal scene, and then<part of the SIS in the Big Model.

This chapter's outcomes were savage.
- Eugenia, having moved through Martyrdom into Derangement, now moved over in entirely different direction into Suicidal Depression! Three different black corners in two turns!
- Tadeusz (T) finally moved over into Martyrdom which made all the sense in the world
- Wala moved over into Nervous Exhaustion, ditto
- mine was the best: Tadeusz (R) a little bit in the top row; Tod singled me out only because everyone else was fitting so perfectly into their destination squares (above), and for me, moving an extra square had little or no game effect.

As for Reputations, Wala is still Talkative but is now Clever; Tadeusz (R) is still Selfish but now Strong; Eugenia is still Immature but now Inconspicuous; and Tadeusz (T) is still Aloof and Careless (Tod has upgraded his Reputation die only once, I believe). As for Things Held Dear, Eugenia's beloved street is destroyed, Lisa Becker is invoked, Tadeusz (R)'s boots are invoked, and Wala's silk scarf is invoked.

After that, we were ready to stop and wait for the next session. In looking foward to later play, I can't imagine how all four characters are possibly going to be able to make it through all five remaining chapters. And that's fantastic.

Best, Ron
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2007, 04:13:06 AM »

Wow, thanks very much for the detailed report and organizational pistol-whipping.  I need to process a little and I'll have some questions. 
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2007, 06:09:31 AM »

Still processing, but I wanted to make it clear that your "stern" feedback is exactly what I, as a designer, need to hear, and that this post is a model for constructive feedback.  Maybe this is obvious, but being confronted with real cognitive and procedural problems is hugely valuable, even though the playtesters worked through them to have a fun time.  I think we often see (and I'm as guilty as anybody) playtest reports that read "So the magic sub-system was a little complicated, but we finally figured it out and it was awesome!".  Where, in fact, the magic sub-system is a huge impediment to cogent play and needs to be called out. 

More on the actual play later.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2007, 11:03:53 AM »

1. Age thing again.  If both a reputation and age will affect the chosen die, which acts first?  For example, the player has a 17 year old character, she is putting forward her d8 (she's already used her d6) reputation die for her mission scene.  Is it: (a) start die d4, age adjust down which keeps it as a d4, change to d8 for reputation; or (b) start die d4, change to d8, age adjust to d6?
This type of thing happened several times during play and we were not sure how to proceed.  We decided that the age adjustment always happens first, but we'd like to know what you intended and you may want to make that clear in the text.

I can make this clearer.  You should grab your dice for the chapter and then, when you commit one to a scene of either type, adjust it up or down. 

Quote
2. Final mission scene.  The rules state that before the last player's mission scene, all the mission dice are rolled to determine the success of the mission.  It is unclear if that roll should include the last person's mission die.  Since the last person could still have two dice to choose from, we did not like having to force the person into a blind choice before his or her scene.  This is what we did.  We rolled all dice collected thus far (three for our game).  Then proceeded with the mission scene for the fourth person.  This is not a guarantee that the mission outcome is known before the last mission scene, but there is a component of how much the last person matters to that outcome.  So if the three dice are rolled and beat the target number, that is a very different situation than if they do not.

That's not what I intended but it is intriguing.  What I intended is for that last player to roll all the dice (four in your case) and compare them against the target (4 x scene number in your case), thus knowing ultimate success or failure going into the final portion of the mission and framing accordingly.  Your way likely leaves an element of chance up to the very end, which seems fun and challenging - possibly more challenging to effectively frame.  Hmm.  There's an element of predestination in the "official" way that I actually like.  You kow how it is going to go down based on choices (dice contributed) already made, and have a little bit of breathing room to stretch and tell that tale.  Does that make sense?
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