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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 141 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Poison'd: Why, now?  (Read 8252 times)
Levi Kornelsen
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« on: September 02, 2007, 12:35:02 PM »

So, Vincent, as I understand it, you've built a game in which players are rewarded for doing horrible things, or having horrible things done to them.

That is to say, your design contributes to an atmosphere in which people play out horrible stuff.

Why is that?
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2007, 04:33:09 PM »

Thanks for asking, Levi.

Before I even start, "rewarded for" isn't really it. Your character doing horrible things and having horrible things done to him has game-mechanical consequences, none of which are unequivocally to your benefit. Not doing horrible things and not having horrible things done to him has game-mechanical consequences too, as (equivocally) beneficial. What you're rewarded for is more complicated than that, and has to do with bargains and ambitions far more than it has to do with doing and done to. Doing and done to is a small piece.

But I'll fully grant that the design creates an atmosphere of brutality. That's on purpose, and that's what I'll tell you why for.

I remember, like, 1995 or whenever, me and Emily coming out of Cutthroat Island with Geena Davis. I was clutching my head. I said, "they'll never, ever, ever let me make a pirate movie. Know why? Because it'd be Reservoir Dogs on a boat." Look at Pirates of the stupid Caribbean, even. There's Elizabeth Swann on board the Black Pearl, and all the pirates are leering and closing around her, and she shouts out "parlay," right? There's a threat there. And we know that in Disney's Caribbean, the threat will never come true, but in my movie, my Reservoir Dogs on a boat? We don't know any such thing. In my movie Elizabeth Swann is in danger. When that scene starts, you in the audience don't know whether this is the scene where I (as writer-director) back away from brutality or the scene where the gloves come off.

And that's how Poison'd works. You can play it like Disney would if you want to - all that means is that every single time, you back away from brutality. I've played the game like that, and it's fine. Nobody wants to go there, so nobody does. The PCs' stats stay more or less how they were at the end of character creation and the reward system tears away on history, bargains and ambitions like it's supposed to. All good.

Or, sometimes, you see the violence implicit as a possibility in a given scene, and you're like, "crap. I knew my character was capable of brutality, and here it comes." Then your pirate's stats destabilize and the reward system tears away on history, bargains and ambitions like it's supposed to anyway. Also all good.

So, that's why. Given that I was going to make a pirate game, it was always going to be a game where rape and torture were on the table, available as elements in the fiction whether you choose to include them directly or leave them implicit.

Followup questions welcome!

-Vincent
« Last Edit: September 02, 2007, 04:43:57 PM by lumpley » Logged
coffeestain
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« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2007, 05:48:47 PM »

Hey, Vincent.

Can you talk a little about how you see Bargains, Ambitions, and history play a greater role as a reward than changing your pirate's stats through scenes of brutality?  It's very obvious how pushing toward new sins and brutal acts can help your pirate accomplish things, grow stronger in fights, and even remain in play for longer.  I think everyone gets that.  What's the alternative and why should people strive toward that?

I have my own answer but, you know, I'm interested in hearing yours.

Regards,
Daniel
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2007, 06:37:58 PM »

Actually, unless I'm misremembering the formulas...the only thing that on going brutality will do for your character is make you more and more one dimensional...not more and more effective.  Sure you'll be more effective at doing that one thing...but more doors close than will open.

At least that's how it played out in our game where players didn't skip on the brutality and so the captain was too stupid to make a plan that worked, and the gunner couldn't hit shit with his broadside.
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2007, 08:09:22 PM »

Sure you'll be more effective at doing that one thing...but more doors close than will open.

"Specialisation" is often viewed, mechanically, as the slickest way to get powerful in an RPG.

I'm not sure if I have a specific point I'm trying to make by bringing that up, but it does strike me as relevant.
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Jye Nicolson
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« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2007, 08:23:09 PM »

"Specialisation" is often viewed, mechanically, as the slickest way to get powerful in an RPG.

I'm not sure if I have a specific point I'm trying to make by bringing that up, but it does strike me as relevant.

In most games where optimisation is an issue, it's a strong choice because it's usually easy to frame your problems in terms of your strength, and offload anything totally out of that scope to your differently specialised buddies.  As a result, I can see why people would see a chance to minmax as a reward (normally I would too).

That brings up the question of how Poison'd stops you from using your Devil to solve all your problems (or Soul for that matter).
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2007, 08:25:20 PM »

In my movie Elizabeth Swann is in danger.

This, to me, is an interesting statement.

Form my perception, in the Disney film, the audience knows that the danger will not come to that effect; and the *enjoyment* stems from seeing how she'll get out of it.  That's what makes the scene engaging.

Now, it seems to me that some games have moments of actually being on the edge of horrible, awful, things, where I the player know my character might, really and truly, go over that edge.  And those *can* be really great moments; I can think of a couple (both involving my characters being on the verge of performing torture, as it happened) that were.

However.

Those moments aren't *always* really great.  Sometimes, following through on those moments fucks up the vibe for the whole table.  So I'm hesitant to take the plunge, since I don't have any clear way of being *sure* if this would raise the intensity or break the whole-group flow.

I'm not sure, again, where I'm going with this.  But it strikes me, again, as awfully relevant, and I'd like to know if you could speak to that specific part of the experience.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2007, 07:49:50 AM »

Your film would be like Pan's Labyrinth.

Quote
So, that's why. Given that I was going to make a pirate game, it was always going to be a game where rape and torture were on the table, available as elements in the fiction whether you choose to include them directly or leave them implicit.

This was one of your explicit goals for the Dragon Killer, Vincent, as I recall. Rape at least. Adult young adult fiction. 
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2007, 06:56:56 PM »

Levi, I think my actual play post here addresses that last question well. Let me know.

Rules answers, tomorrow.

-Vincent
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2007, 04:11:33 AM »

Levi, I think my actual play post here addresses that last question well. Let me know.

It does, thanks.
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lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2007, 07:00:49 AM »

Rules answers!

Daniel: Well, changing your stats is fun sometimes, but it's not necessary. You start the game with basically the stats you want, anyway. As Ralph says, changing your stats from their starting position will usually be a further canalization of your character's options, with an overall decrease in your character's effectiveness.

So, no, that's not the game. The game is this: your characters' ambitions will generally be at odds with the collective good of the ship, while your bargains with your shipmates will generally be to the benefit of the ship. The real game exists in the tension between those two - like the real game of The Mountain Witch exists in the tension between Dark Fates and Trust.

Jye:
> That brings up the question of how Poison'd stops you
> from using your Devil to solve all your problems (or Soul
> for that matter).

Ha ha! Solve all your problems. Your Devil (and your Soul, Ambition and Brutality) are the cause of all your problems. It's like in Unforgiven, where Clint Eastwood's character is super-effective with violence. What stops him from using it to solve all his problems?

Like I say, upping your Devil canalizes your character, it doesn't specialize him.

I think that's all the outstanding rules questions? More welcome.

Also, here's a fact that so far NOBODY has picked up on: there's a way to get the exact same benefit as when you increase your Devil, but you don't have to commit a new sin to get it. Can I ask somebody who's read the rules to tell what it is?

-Vincent
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Temple
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Skjalg Kreutzer


« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2007, 08:52:05 AM »

The game is this: your characters' ambitions will generally be at odds with the collective good of the ship, while your bargains with your shipmates will generally be to the benefit of the ship. The real game exists in the tension between those two - like the real game of The Mountain Witch exists in the tension between Dark Fates and Trust.

Thats really interesting. When I played the game, it didnt play like this at all. We ended up having a blast, but our game of Poison'd was more of a gamist competition between the players over who had the most Xes and who won the fights, with a backdrop of nasty pirates doing awful things.
Could you tell more about the tension you mention here?

Quote
Also, here's a fact that so far NOBODY has picked up on: there's a way to get the exact same benefit as when you increase your Devil, but you don't have to commit a new sin to get it. Can I ask somebody who's read the rules to tell what it is?

Well, you get just as effective at stealth and deciet by giving upon your Ambitions, but I suspect that may not be what you are referring to..
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With regards,
Skjalg Kreutzer
lumpley
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« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2007, 09:01:01 AM »

That's the one. Going into danger means rolling Devil vs Ambition, so dropping your Ambition is functionally the same as upping your Devil. Given that you want to be better at going into danger, you can choose which way you prefer to do it - weighing the implications of a lower soul vs a lower ambition.

All subject to your character's compelling inner logic, of course.

> Could you tell more about the tension you mention here?

Not sure what to tell. In your game, you had ambitions and outstanding bargains, right? I predict that, for some of your characters, pursuing their ambitions would have meant backing away from their bargains, and vice versa. Am I wrong?

-Vincent
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Temple
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Skjalg Kreutzer


« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2007, 10:07:35 AM »

Not sure what to tell. In your game, you had ambitions and outstanding bargains, right? I predict that, for some of your characters, pursuing their ambitions would have meant backing away from their bargains, and vice versa. Am I wrong?

-Vincent

Not exactly wrong, but not right either. There were some small moments where Ambitions and Bargains where in conflict, mostly around the election for captain. But after the position had been filled, those conflicts died down. I suspect that they might have risen again if we had played several sessions, but after the single session I played they didnt seem like the real core of the game.

In your view, how does this conflict between ambitions and bargains highlight what the game is about? Do you feel that the tension is intuitive and will naturaly emerge in play, or should it be brought to the players attention before play begins?
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With regards,
Skjalg Kreutzer
lumpley
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« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2007, 10:19:29 AM »

I don't know! It seems super-intuitive and natural to me. That's what this ashcan thing is about. It's useful to hear that it didn't really come out in your game.

-Vincent

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