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Why Skill Resolution in a Sim game?

Started by Christoffer Lernö, August 18, 2002, 03:21:46 PM

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Christoffer Lernö

Digging into the skill resolution thing, I'm starting to question the fundamentals. I guess some would say this is a good thing.

I think there aren't any Simulationist games out there without any resolution system, correct me if I'm wrong.

But the uses for it? It always differs. The main question to me is "what is it used for?" It doesn't have an obvious answer.

To say that it's for creating consistent results of actions is hiding the main point.

No matter what, there are always situations that are NOT dealt with withing the skill system, in some games with insane amounts of skills, almost everything is goverened by a skill-roll, whereas others only use skills in specific profilic situations.

The biggest misconception in sim game design must be that more complex & detailed rules leads to better simulation of "real life". This is obviously not the case (I don't bother to argue why), so we should really be searching elsewhere for the why's to the question than "evoking a realistic emulation of real life".

Let's look at one usage: "Determining the Quality of Actions" (1). Let's say the characters need to write a formal request to send to the city council. How good is it? Well, here the skill resolution might kick in and tell you because IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE DETAILS. Or is it? Can't the GM simply decide how good it is? If it's vital to the plot that they make it well, why risk the roll (the chasm thing again)?

It might be important to know the details but is it important to have it resolved consistently? Because this, in the end is what a skill resolution system does. Make two identical situations resolve with the same fortune/karma parameters.

If it's not important to be resolved consistently, we can have the GM decide it, can't we? After all we're not rolling about how well we walk down the street? Even though a great roll might impress people, or fumbling might get you wet and dirty and make a bad impression on the king. (Ok, there might be games that make you roll for that, but they're few in between)

Obviously for (1) we should choose to have it resolved through the resolution system only when consistency is vital.

Why? Because every situation we try to resolve will add to the complexity of the system and potentially disrupt it's consistency despite the fact that the resolution system is there to ensure that very thing! The most complex systems out there tend to be the least consistent ones (but I won't get into details).

So when is consistency vital? I'm thinking that this is a matter of focus of the game. Despite temptations to do otherwise, one should not create a resolution system for events that does not enter the focus of the game. For example, if we're talking about a generic fantasy game without focus on city politics, forget about having a resolution system for the quality of the letter, NOT EVEN A SIMPLE ONE. (It might be tempting to write up something simple about having it depend on the charisma and/or intelligence of the writer together with a general success roll)

Another usage is "Choosing The Path" (2). Maybe the players run into an ambush and the GM hasn't decided on what's the most interesting outcome. Both letting them discover it and not has it's appeals. So he/she let's the dice decide with a perception roll or whatever.

This usage is hard to live without, especially when improvising an adventure.

Why? Because you decide so many things that it's very helpful to have some of the decisions out of your hand. It's nice to be surprised yourself.

How do we deal with this? Maybe through identifying the "Choose Your Path" situations and implementing a resolution system for it. Perception rolls are an obvious thing. I think there are a few other examples of the "Choose Your Path" situations, mostly involving aquiring non-essential information which will lead the players in different directions depending on whether it is aquired or not.

Actually, not all games include these rules, but I've noticed GMs tend to come up with a way to simulate them sooner or later anyway. This is one of the first house-rules that are implemented if the game lacks it.

If we continue we have "Determining Success & Failure" (3). Traditionally this is a biggie, but that's because the first games only had rules for success and failure. Quality and stuff had to be improvised afterwards. I think the rules for when to have (3) is pretty much the same as (1), so I'll leave it for now.

Let's look at a more interesting thing "Differentiating between Characters" (4). How do we notice that the thief is a thief and the warrior isn't? Well whipping up a lockpick kit might be a hint, but unless the thief is a lot better at picking the locks than the warrior, he might be considered little more than a weak warrior.

Some games don't emphasize the differences between the characters, while others do. I think this is a hard nut to crack in the latter case. Actually D&D got closest by introducing orhogonal classes, but that would be worthless unless the class abilities had a resolution system to go with them.

Most games traditionally have a combat system, so it's easy to differentiate between different fighting prowess, but what about the rest? It sucks to have to implement massive amounts of skills and associated resolution systems just to bring forth differentiation between the characters. On the other hand, what choice does one have? If there is no consistent resolution, one cannot differentiate low skill from high, and there is no clear difference except maybe between those who are allowed to even try to use the skill and those who don't know ANYTHING about it.

This is the kernel of the problem, the one that generates all the unnecessary stuff. But what can one do about it?

Since combat usually is very well formalized, it does not seem to do to make a vague (although functional) skill system if this is used to differentiate characters. The imbalance between the differentiating capability of the combat system versus that of the skill system would be to obvious and disruptive to the game.

Naturally one could make all differentiating skills to tie in strongly with combat, but that imposes severly limiting conditions.

Incidentally the same ought to hold true if something other than combat is the main focus of the game, as long as the main focus is heavily formalized in form of a solid game mechanic.

How does one avoid those problems, and are there other considerations to give to the skill resolution system as well?
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Le Joueur

Hey Christoffer,

Great questions!

Quote from: Pale FireDigging into the skill resolution thing, I'm starting to question the fundamentals. I guess some would say this is a good thing.

I think there aren't any Simulationist games out there without any resolution system, correct me if I'm wrong.
I can't think of any, but that might be because a game without a resolution system might not be called a game.  For example, in playing 'house' there is no resolution system and yet the little girls are trying to explore what it would be like to be a mommy and such.  Is that a 'game' in the sense you're referring?

Quote from: Pale FireTo say that it's for creating consistent results of actions is hiding the main point.
Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you're probably letting this 'consistency' idea completely take over your thinking.  Worse, I don't even think the word means what you're using it for.  (In other words, I don't understand what you're saying with all the 'consistency' remarks, because that doesn't sound like any kind of consistency I've heard of, taken all together.)

If I read you the way you want to be understood, it sounds more like you're talking about the 'feeling of fairness' or the 'feeling of being treated with objectivity.'  Now, I could understand that the 'feeling of fairness' would feel like every person being dealt with consistently, but dealing with every situation consistently would mean rolling dice to cross the street.

Also, I always call it the 'feeling of...' because you don't really need literal, actual fairness, if all parties feel they're getting it.  (And there's really no way to achieve actual objectivity in gaming.)

Quote from: Pale FireLet's look at one usage: "Determining the Quality of Actions" (1). Let's say the characters need to write a formal request to send to the city council. How good is it? Well, here the skill resolution might kick in and tell you because IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE DETAILS. Or is it? Can't the GM simply decide how good it is? If it's vital to the plot that they make it well, why risk the roll (the chasm thing again)?
This is one of the great 'grails' of game design that emulates reality.  Obviously, as an abstraction, you cannot make accurate use of all details that go into a situation (largely because many of them are unknown).  What the dice do (and the other mechanics as well) is 'hide' the detail; when the dice roll, they're said to 'fill in' the effect of the extra detail.

The problem with most reality-emulating games is that they never talk about an abstraction's variable level of detail and the importance of the same.  So, okay, you got a game set in modern reality, your character fills out their taxes don't they?  Do you roll that up?  Is it even mentioned?  Not usually.  Why?  Because it's not relevant.  That's pretty much it.

"Is it important to know the details?"  Only if it's relevant.  What makes it relevant?  Do the players care?  Does anyone (especially the gamemaster) think it will impact something the player do care about?  That's the trick and the part most often ignored by game system designers.

So, if no one cares, then it doesn't matter if the gamemaster unilaterally decides it, does it?  Another problem you might have is if you keep implying there's a plot to a game that emulates reality.  Reality has no plot, to emulate it you must avoid thinking in terms of plot.

Quote from: Pale FireObviously for (1) we should choose to have it resolved through the resolution system only when consistency is vital.

Why? Because every situation we try to resolve will add to the complexity of the system and potentially disrupt its consistency despite the fact that the resolution system is there to ensure that very thing! The most complex systems out there tend to be the least consistent ones (but I won't get into details).

So when is consistency vital? I'm thinking that this is a matter of focus of the game. Despite temptations to do otherwise, one should not create a resolution system for events that does not enter the focus of the game. For example, if we're talking about a generic fantasy game without focus on city politics, forget about having a resolution system for the quality of the letter, NOT EVEN A SIMPLE ONE. (It might be tempting to write up something simple about having it depend on the charisma and/or intelligence of the writer together with a general success roll)
You're on to something with this discussion of "focus of the game."  I hope you plan on the "focus of the game" being a group consensus.

This particular question seems to run into the confusion I have over the use of 'consistency.'  If we're talking about consistency between situations, then the game's resolution system will have to be flexible enough in case the players decide that they want to 'pull a fast one' with the local political structures.  It is emulating reality isn't it?  It should allow pretty much anything 'realistic' right?  Otherwise the simple act of letting the players "write a formal request to send to the city council" is shifting the 'focus' outside of the parameters of the rules.

Quote from: Pale FireAnother usage is "Choosing The Path" (2). Maybe the players run into an ambush and the GM hasn't decided on what's the most interesting outcome. Both letting them discover it and not has its appeals. So he/she let's the dice decide with a perception roll or whatever.

This usage is hard to live without, especially when improvising an adventure.

Why? Because you decide so many things that it's very helpful to have some of the decisions out of your hand. It's nice to be surprised yourself.
I think you're really getting away from both Simulationist and reality emulating games here.  I know that a game that emulates reality simply doesn't have the gamemaster deciding the outcome; they are almost exclusively "Choose the Path" excursions.

So at this point you're going to have to either have a game where the gamemaster chooses the outcome or one that emulates reality.  If you're going for Illusionism, then the mechanics will definitely need to look like players are "Choosing the Path" but these will need to be 'blunt mechanics' so that it doesn't get in the way when the gamemaster wants to choose the outcome.

Quote from: Pale FireIf we continue we have "Determining Success & Failure" (3). Traditionally this is a biggie, but that's because the first games only had rules for success and failure. Quality and stuff had to be improvised afterwards. I think the rules for when to have (3) is pretty much the same as (1), so I'll leave it for now.
This is another one of those areas.  Either you empower the rules to "Determine Success or Failure" or you have the gamemaster choose the outcome, because the two of these are never comfortable bedfellows.  Once again, I'd suggest mechanics that look like they "Determine Success or Failure" (like they look like they let the players "Choose the Path"), but actually leave it in the hands of the gamemaster; that should serve the purpose of Illusionism.

Quote from: Pale FireLet's look at a more interesting thing "Differentiating between Characters" (4).

...Most games traditionally have a combat system, so it's easy to differentiate between different fighting prowess, but what about the rest? It sucks to have to implement massive amounts of skills and associated resolution systems just to bring forth differentiation between the characters. On the other hand, what choice does one have? If there is no consistent resolution, one cannot differentiate low skill from high, and there is no clear difference except maybe between those who are allowed to even try to use the skill and those who don't know ANYTHING about it.

This is the kernel of the problem, the one that generates all the unnecessary stuff. But what can one do about it?

Since combat usually is very well formalized,
Should it be?  If you want a plethora of characters that aren't warriors then a game that focuses so much on combat is just plain wrong.  Is the problem that you want it both ways?

Quote from: Pale FireIncidentally the same ought to hold true if something other than combat is the main focus of the game, as long as the main focus is heavily formalized in form of a solid game mechanic.

How does one avoid those problems, and are there other considerations to give to the skill resolution system as well?
Maybe a game where, say 20% of the focus is combat, 20% of the focus is magic, 20% of the focus is subterfuge, 20% of the focus is deific intervention, and 20% of the focus is on "Choosing the Path" to riches and power, and they model more or less as parallel, whenever one is the focus it overwhelms all others.  That way each character choice would have equal value as long as the gamemaster presents a 'proper balance' of opportunities.  None of these foci is separately "very well formalized" so the creation of the game system is not terribly frustrating.

Basically?  Decide on the focus (or foci) of the game before you start (whoops, there I go with the 'design specifications' stuff again).

I still want to know what the heck you mean with the 'consistency' thing and how that relates to the 4 points you made earlier.

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!

Christoffer Lernö

Quote
Quote from: Pale Fire
To say that it's for creating consistent results of actions is hiding the main point.
Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you're probably letting this 'consistency' idea completely take over your thinking. Worse, I don't even think the word means what you're using it for. (In other words, I don't understand what you're saying with all the 'consistency' remarks, because that doesn't sound like any kind of consistency I've heard of, taken all together.)

Consistence : Firm coherence in applying principles or a policy

Basically what I mean is that if you are gonna leap that 5 meter chasm, the game would produce consistent results if there was the exact same chance of succeeding if the in-game (including meta game) parameters were the same.

Or in other words, it doesn't depend on the mood of the GM, of the players. If the GM thinks the character ought to survive or not (unless there is a meta game parameter to influence the roll, in which case the parameters aren't the same anyway).

In addition, there should be no big unwarranted jumps in chances due to pure game mechanical flaws. An example which springs to mind is a BRP game which states that anyone can jump twice their height without any roll, while anything beyond that requires a roll. In practice that might mean you can jump 3.6 m with 100% chance but 3.7 m you only have 10% chance of succeeding.

Quote"Is it important to know the details?" Only if it's relevant. What makes it relevant? Do the players care? Does anyone (especially the gamemaster) think it will impact something the player do care about? That's the trick and the part most often ignored by game system designers.

Yeah, I think that was my point too.

Quote
You're on to something with this discussion of "focus of the game." I hope you plan on the "focus of the game" being a group consensus.

Actually I was thinking more of this being the game designer's job. If the game is about combat, no rules for politics and intrigue. Conversely if the game is about politics and intrigue, no combat system.

Quote
This particular question seems to run into the confusion I have over the use of 'consistency.' If we're talking about consistency between situations, then the game's resolution system will have to be flexible enough in case the players decide that they want to 'pull a fast one' with the local political structures. It is emulating reality isn't it? It should allow pretty much anything 'realistic' right? Otherwise the simple act of letting the players "write a formal request to send to the city council" is shifting the 'focus' outside of the parameters of the rules.

Consistency is only insuring that an important situation resolves the same way (having the same chances of resolving into different situations) every time. My point is that outside of the focus areas of the game, this is not necessary to uphold.

Let's look at the intrigue game with no real combat system. If it's combat then the GM makes up what's happening. The chances of the exact situation occuring more than once is small, and the outcome should be of little importance to the players or wholly dependent on the focus on the game which is intrigue.

For example, let's say the players hires an assassin to kill the King. The assassin shows up, do we now use a combat system to resolve the fight? Nope. Maybe the GM rolls a die to check if the assassin is going to succeed or not. The scene plays out accordingly. Maybe not even the die roll is needed.

Next time the players hire an assassin will probably be quite a different situation and again there is no need for great detail but the GM can be allowed to dictate it.

However, in a combat game the focus would really be on the assassin (probably player controlled) overcoming the king's guards with her fighting and sneaking skills. Suddenly the details become important because they define the character's actions. With details comes the need for consistency in results.

It won't do that one day she can slay three of the King's Guard single handed and the next day a goblin spanks her because the GM decides on resolving combat a little differently.

A little clearer now?

Quote
So at this point you're going to have to either have a game where the gamemaster chooses the outcome or one that emulates reality. If you're going for Illusionism, then the mechanics will definitely need to look like players are "Choosing the Path" but these will need to be 'blunt mechanics' so that it doesn't get in the way when the gamemaster wants to choose the outcome.

Exactly! One Illusionism technique is simply not calling for awareness rolls (or whatever) unless the GM wants to let them choose. That works if the awareness roll goes from being a "player right" to being a GM controlled thing. The GM only gives out awarness rolls when he/she wants, players are never ENTITLED to one. Another thing is letting the GM provide arbitrary difficulty numbers or randomize them as he/she feels is the most appropriate. See the skill idea I posted for an example of that.

Quote
Quote
Let's look at a more interesting thing "Differentiating between Characters" (4).
Should it be? If you want a plethora of characters that aren't warriors then a game that focuses so much on combat is just plain wrong. Is the problem that you want it both ways?

I think the problem arises even when combat isn't the focus, but some other part. There will always be differentiating things which aren't in the focus of the game, and quite necessarily so.

Let's say all characters are warriors of some sort. Let's say we have Paladin, Ranger and Martial Artist. Now the Paladin might be distinct due to riding skills and religions knowledge (and powers?). The Ranger due to wilderness skills and the Martial Artist might have Chi or whatever. Aside from the M-A these skills are not in the focus of the game. Despite that they have to be at least partially handled by the system unless you want to make them flow into each other (what's the difference between a Paladin who learned wilderness skills and a Ranger who learned to ride and has knowledge about religions?)

If you have a resolution system then you can say that one consistently does something better than the other (The Paladin despite his wilderness skills isn't as good a hunter as the Ranger who's been at it all his life).

QuoteMaybe a game where, say 20% of the focus is combat, 20% of the focus is magic, 20% of the focus is subterfuge, 20% of the focus is deific intervention, and 20% of the focus is on "Choosing the Path" to riches and power, and they model more or less as parallel, whenever one is the focus it overwhelms all others.

Isn't this simply an example of a game that lacks proper focus?
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Andrew Martin

Quote from: Pale Fire
QuoteMaybe a game where, say 20% of the focus is combat, 20% of the focus is magic, 20% of the focus is subterfuge, 20% of the focus is deific intervention, and 20% of the focus is on "Choosing the Path" to riches and power, and they model more or less as parallel, whenever one is the focus it overwhelms all others.

Isn't this simply an example of a game that lacks proper focus?

I thought it was AD&D; Fighter, Mage, Thief, Cleric, gaining more levels... :)
Andrew Martin

Christoffer Lernö

QuoteI thought it was AD&D; Fighter, Mage, Thief, Cleric, gaining more levels... :)

Can't be. AD&D is a game with 70% of the focus is combat, 6% of the focus is magic, 1% of the focus is subterfuge, 3% of the focus is deific intervention, and 20% of the focus is on "Choosing the Path" to riches and power.

Maybe a little more focus on combat, but what the heck.
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Le Joueur

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote from: Le Joueur
Quote from: Pale FireTo say that it's for creating consistent results of actions is hiding the main point.
Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you're probably letting this 'consistency' idea completely take over your thinking. Worse, I don't even think the word means what you're using it for. (In other words, I don't understand what you're saying with all the 'consistency' remarks, because that doesn't sound like any kind of consistency I've heard of, taken all together.)
Consistency: Firm coherence in applying principles or a policy

Basically what I mean is that if you are gonna leap that 5 meter chasm, the game would produce consistent results if there was the exact same chance of succeeding if the in-game (including meta game) parameters were the same.
I thought this game had the gamemaster setting difficulty levels.  Are you switching to tabular interpretation?  (This is the method I prefer in my gaming.)  That is; you look at the situation, find it on the table, and then resolve it.

So consistency is between situations?  It really sounded more like you wanted the situations to be consistent with 'realism.'  Okay, I'm with ya now.

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote from: Le JoueurYou're on to something with this discussion of "focus of the game." I hope you plan on the "focus of the game" being a group consensus.
Actually I was thinking more of this being the game designer's job. If the game is about combat, no rules for politics and intrigue. Conversely if the game is about politics and intrigue, no combat system.
Depends on who's writing the system.  I was thinking focus-as-created-by-the-game-designer was somehow more difficult with "a Sim Game" (as the thread title puts it).  I guess I don't know what you mean by "a Sim Game."  Can you clarify?

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote from: Le JoueurSo at this point you're going to have to either have a game where the gamemaster chooses the outcome or one that emulates reality. If you're going for Illusionism, then the mechanics will definitely need to look like players are "Choosing the Path" but these will need to be 'blunt mechanics' so that it doesn't get in the way when the gamemaster wants to choose the outcome.
Exactly! One Illusionism technique is simply not calling for awareness rolls (or whatever) unless the GM wants to let them choose. That works if the awareness roll goes from being a "player right" to being a GM controlled thing. The GM only gives out awarness rolls when he/she wants, players are never ENTITLED to one. Another thing is letting the GM provide arbitrary difficulty numbers or randomize them as he/she feels is the most appropriate. See the skill idea I posted for an example of that.
That could be a difficult sell.  Not calling for an awareness roll could send the players into howling for consistency; "Last time we got an awareness roll to spot the intruders, what gives?" they might say.

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote from: Le JoueurMaybe a game where, say 20% of the focus is combat, 20% of the focus is magic, 20% of the focus is subterfuge, 20% of the focus is deific intervention, and 20% of the focus is on "Choosing the Path" to riches and power, and they model more or less as parallel, whenever one is the focus it overwhelms all others.
Isn't this simply an example of a game that lacks proper focus?
Nope.  Sounds pretty tight to me.  Five narrowly defined (and balanced) centers of interest are a lot more focused than 'whatever the players want to do.'  (I always lean towards 100+ page gamebooks though; and it was a jab at the lack of 'focus balance' in early Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.)

Overall, I'd say you really got something here.  Once you solve the 'gamemaster doesn't call for an awareness check' consistency issue, I'm gonna have to watch your progress real close (always gotta keep an eye on the stiff competition).

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!

Marco

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote
Isn't this simply an example of a game that lacks proper focus?

It's a game that lacks complete and militant attention to focus on in-game player priorities. There's nothing "proper" about it.

The idea of a game "focusing" on intrigue and guile and lacking a combat system would (IMO) likely be a difficult one to make--if not outright broken--since all of diplomacy and intrigue is built around the avoidance of violence (violence being the natural conseqence of failed diplomacy).

-Marco
[Note: I'm talking about political diplomacy--not trade negoitations ... and I'm being general. ]
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M. J. Young

A lot of this thread seems to resolve around the use of the word "consistent"; it seems there are different ways it can be used that might be relevant, and that there are some mistakes being made.

Arguably, it is consistent to say that if the character does the same thing, he will get the same result. There is a sense in which this kind of consistency is inherent in life, in some areas of life at least. It is the basis for experimental science, certainly (it's called reproducibility, I believe). If you throw oil on the fire, it burns; if you throw water on the fire, it douses the flames. If suddenly the water caught fire, that would be inconsistent in this sense of the word.

On the other hand, the kind of consistency Christopher is arguing is one of applying the same treatment to the same situation, even if a different result is obtained. I might not be able to light a fire with two matches consistently, whatever my scout training. It will be more difficult if everything is wet and I'm trying to use birch bark for tinder, much easier if we're in the midst of a drought warning and a dropped cigarette might easily touch off a forest fire. But if my effort to start a fire is always met with a die roll that takes into account my training and the conditions under which I'm working, we have consistent treatment of the situation even if I somehow get the fire started in the rain but fail in the drought.

Christopher makes the mistake of suggesting that drama resolution is inherently inconsistent.  "If it's not important to be resolved consistently, we can have the GM decide it," he says. Let me suggest that this is often the case, but not necessarily so. The entire English speaking world uses a system of rules that are, in our terms, "drama resolution": judges sitting in courts make decisions based on what they, in their best judgment, think should be the outcome. Certainly there are book rules they consult, in the form of legislation and administrative rules, but a large part of the reason we have courts at all is so that a referee can decide what the rules mean and how they apply to this situation. But this drama resolution system has its own consistency. We call it precedent. Every major court decision is written down, giving the facts of the situation, the decision of the court, and the reasons for that decision. Every judge making a decision looks at any cases which previously examined this question and decides how like or unlike the current case is to each of them. In the end, he attempts to make this decision fit with those, so that the outcome this time will be most like those situations which are most like it on the facts.

A decent referee in a drama-resolution game has to do much the same thing. He has to create his own sense of precedent. That doesn't mean that he has to get exactly the same outcome from the same facts, but that he has to be perceived as and to actually be deciding outcomes in a consistent manner, basing current decisions on previous decisions. When I succeed in picking a lock, I might not know how likely it might have been that I would fail; if I fail on a future lock, I might not know what chance (abstractly) I might have had to succeed. But it must seem as if the referee took into consideration the same level of skill now that he considered then, or it will fail.

I think Christopher's point about Choosing the Path resolution was misunderstood. I did not see in that some kind of referee force trying to make the players go a particular direction (as Fang seems to have done) but rather a creative exploration of what the reality really is.

I run a forum game on the Multiverser forum on Gaming Outpost. One of the players requested that I run them individually through The Postman, to see what they would do. Each of them did something different--one used guerilla tactics to try to bring down the Army of Eight from the outside, one fled toward the east to try to get help and rebuild America, one was taken and attempted to foment rebellion from within. I let them go wherever they wanted with it. But one character, having successfully brought down Bethlehem's reign, decided to build a balloon and try to make it to the west coast. Nothing in my source material and nothing in my notes or expectations told me what was on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. I was put in the place of inventing it.

Multiverser gives me exactly the kind of mechanic Christopher is referencing here: I use a general effects roll to determine whether these unknowns are what the character particularly wants or particularly fears, or somewhere between, and I invent the detail accordingly. At no time am I pushing my decision about where the character is going; yet in a major way I am determining where the game is going. I am creating the reality around him as he moves through it. He is unaware that none of it existed before he arrived (shades of Schroedinger's Cat), but everything that happens comes from the interaction of my decisions concerning what he finds and his decisions of what he does with that.

This, I think, is what Christopher means by mechanics for choosing the path.

I see there's yet another related thread, so I'll hold my comments at this and watch for what develops.

--M. J. Young

Christoffer Lernö

Quote from: Fang
Quote
Basically what I mean is that if you are gonna leap that 5 meter chasm, the game would produce consistent results if there was the exact same chance of succeeding if the in-game (including meta game) parameters were the same.

I thought this game had the gamemaster setting difficulty levels. Are you switching to tabular interpretation? (This is the method I prefer in my gaming.) That is; you look at the situation, find it on the table, and then resolve it.

I'm not sure what you mean by tabular interpretation. If we look at a concrete example. The characters come to The Chasm (tm) and wants to jump it. How difficult is it? 3 is 50-50 chance for an average human. 8 would be human max rating maybe. That would leave 8 at 7 meters or so, right?

The GM can set the difficulty three ways. Either the GM decides he wants it so difficult that only a person with rating 5 can jump it, so he sets the difficulty to 5 and after that estimate that's 5.50 m or so.

Or, the GM decides that the chasm is 5 meters wide and therefore sets the difficulty to 5.

Or, finally, the GM might decide that he just wants a chasm and rolls a D12 to see how difficult it is to pass. he rolls a 5 and so tells the players it's around 5.5m wide.

Basically, if the GM thinks he knows what the difficulty should be, then he sets it. If he doesn't know but wants it a little random, simply roll and add a modifier. If he doesn't know then just roll a die and see.

Quote from: Fang
Depends on who's writing the system. I was thinking focus-as-created-by-the-game-designer was somehow more difficult with "a Sim Game" (as the thread title puts it). I guess I don't know what you mean by "a Sim Game." Can you clarify?

I thought we had identified what I wanted to make as a simulationist illusionist game focused on exploration of situation (or what was it? I don't have the GNS document here as I'm writing this)

But I think you're after something else. What I meant by focus, is that if I make 10 pages of combat system and 1 page with skills and skill resolution, the mechanics have a focus on combat. This is what I mean by the focus being created by the game-designer.

Quote from: Fang
Quote
Exactly! One Illusionism technique is simply not calling for awareness rolls (or whatever) unless the GM wants to let them choose. That works if the awareness roll goes from being a "player right" to being a GM controlled thing. The GM only gives out awarness rolls when he wants, players are never ENTITLED to one. Another thing is letting the GM provide arbitrary difficulty numbers or randomize them as he feels is the most appropriate. See the skill idea I posted for an example of that.
That could be a difficult sell. Not calling for an awareness roll could send the players into howling for consistency; "Last time we got an awareness roll to spot the intruders, what gives?" they might say.

I think this is as simple as NOT having rules for it in the game, but simply listing it as a game master technique for deciding on the proper way to soliloquy the situation. On the other hand, as I mentioned, the other way is simply to adopt the skill system I suggested and which we discuss elsewhere, which allows for the GM to arbitrary determine difficulty. If a player yells for awareness rolls in that case, the GM can simply state that the difficulty was simply too high for any of the players to get a roll (since there is only a roll in the 50-50 chance), something the GM could have checked by inspection (or he/she probably has it written down anyway)

Quote from: FangOverall, I'd say you really got something here. Once you solve the 'gamemaster doesn't call for an awareness check' consistency issue,

Well, Fang, let me know how I'm doing and spank me (verbally of course) if I seem to get out of line too much :) It's appreciated although we don't always agree on how to do things.

Quote from: MarcoThe idea of a game "focusing" on intrigue and guile and lacking a combat system would (IMO) likely be a difficult one to make--if not outright broken--since all of diplomacy and intrigue is built around the avoidance of violence (violence being the natural conseqence of failed diplomacy).

Why, do you want to run the individual battles of every soldier in the armies you arrange to clash? Seriously though, there is no need for combat I really stand for that. You might have general outcome mechanic, like a resisted roll to see who wins if two challenge each other or something, but beyond that - nope. Basically a combat system is a detailed skill resolution system for a narrow group of skills. It's purpose is to give detail to combat. If there is no need for detail in combat it shouldn't be there. End of story. This has been pointed out quite eloquently before on the Forge by other people.

Putting a combat system in every game despite focus is one of the biggest and most common mistakes in making rpgs, especially commersial ones tend to be guilty of this.
formerly Pale Fire
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Le Joueur

Quote from: M. J. YoungI think Christopher's point about Choosing the Path resolution was misunderstood. I did not see in that some kind of referee force trying to make the players go a particular direction (as Fang seems to have done) but rather a creative exploration of what the reality really is.

...At no time am I pushing my decision about where the character is going; yet in a major way I am determining where the game is going....

This, I think, is what Christoffer means by mechanics for choosing the path.
I'm inclined by all the discussion he's given that Christoffer wants to create what he calls "a functional Illusionism."  Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but that would mean that the gamemaster is pushing their "decision about where the character is going," simply in a covert fashion.

We'll have to wait and see what Christoffer says.

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!

Le Joueur

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote from: Le Joueur
Quote from: Pale FireBasically what I mean is that if you are gonna leap that 5 meter chasm, the game would produce consistent results if there was the exact same chance of succeeding if the in-game (including meta game) parameters were the same.
I thought this game had the gamemaster setting difficulty levels. Are you switching to tabular interpretation? (This is the method I prefer in my gaming.) That is; you look at the situation, find it on the table, and then resolve it.
I'm not sure what you mean by tabular interpretation. If we look at a concrete example. The characters come to The Chasm (tm) and wants to jump it. How difficult is it? 3 is 50-50 chance for an average human. 8 would be human max rating maybe. That would leave 8 at 7 meters or so, right?

The GM can set the difficulty three ways. Either the GM decides he wants it so difficult that only a person with rating 5 can jump it, so he sets the difficulty to 5 and after that estimate that's 5.50 m or so.
You come to a chasm.  The map says that it was a 5-meter chasm last time you were there.  The table says a 5-meter chasm is a 5 difficulty; that's tabular results.  If the same 5-meter chasm (all other things being equal) has a different difficulty number each time the players encounter it, that would be non-tabular results.

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote from: Le JoueurDepends on who's writing the system. I was thinking focus-as-created-by-the-game-designer was somehow more difficult with "a Sim Game" (as the thread title puts it). I guess I don't know what you mean by "a Sim Game." Can you clarify?
I thought we had identified what I wanted to make as a Simulationist Illusionist game focused on exploration of situation.

But I think you're after something else. What I meant by focus, is that if I make 10 pages of combat system and 1 page with skills and skill resolution, the mechanics have a focus on combat. This is what I mean by the focus being created by the game-designer.
Ah, but if you're going to allow exploration of situation, don't you have to let the players have every tool for exploration possible?  Leaving politics off means that Scooby and the gang can't go down to the hall of records and discover that all the parcels of land are being bought up by one individual.

What we're talking about isn't focus, but scope.  Sure a game is focused on combat at the 10 to 1 ratio, but you can still use your skills to explore the situation, if you desire.  That's the scope of the game.

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote from: Le Joueur
Quote from: Pale FireExactly! One Illusionism technique is simply not calling for awareness rolls (or whatever) unless the GM wants to let them choose. That works if the awareness roll goes from being a "player right" to being a GM controlled thing. The GM only gives out awarness rolls when he wants, players are never ENTITLED to one. Another thing is letting the GM provide arbitrary difficulty numbers or randomize them as he feels is the most appropriate. See the skill idea I posted for an example of that.
That could be a difficult sell. Not calling for an awareness roll could send the players into howling for consistency; "Last time we got an awareness roll to spot the intruders, what gives?" they might say.
I think this is as simple as NOT having rules for it in the game, but simply listing it as a gamemaster technique for deciding on the proper way to soliloquy the situation. On the other hand, as I mentioned, the other way is simply to adopt the skill system I suggested and which we discuss elsewhere, which allows for the GM to arbitrary determine difficulty. If a player yells for awareness rolls in that case, the GM can simply state that the difficulty was simply too high for any of the players to get a roll (since there is only a roll in the 50-50 chance), something the GM could have checked by inspection (or he/she probably has it written down anyway)
Then where's the consistency in awareness rolls?  You've got rules for them but if you're having the gamemaster withhold the opportunity (or heavily skew the difficulty), won't the players catch on that there's no real consistency?

That being said, having explicit gamemaster techniques listed for this ensures that the players won't come back to it feeling cheated.  Kudos for that insight!  I think this is a very good solve for the 'no real consistency' issue.

Quote from: Pale Fire
Quote from: Le JoueurOverall, I'd say you really got something here. Once you solve the 'gamemaster doesn't call for an awareness check' consistency issue,
Well, Fang, let me know how I'm doing and spank me (verbally of course) if I seem to get out of line too much :) It's appreciated although we don't always agree on how to do things.
This was never meant in an authoritarian manner.  Like all your customers, I had some questions.  Like a few of them, I express myself a little differently.  I didn't know how you satisfied the 'gamemaster/awareness check' situation, now I do.  Sorry if I write like a reviewer, but it had to be asked somehow.

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!

Marco

Quote

Quote from: MarcoThe idea of a game "focusing" on intrigue and guile and lacking a combat system would (IMO) likely be a difficult one to make--if not outright broken--since all of diplomacy and intrigue is built around the avoidance of violence (violence being the natural conseqence of failed diplomacy).

Why, do you want to run the individual battles of every soldier in the armies you arrange to clash? Seriously though, there is no need for combat I really stand for that. You might have general outcome mechanic, like a resisted roll to see who wins if two challenge each other or something, but beyond that - nope. Basically a combat system is a detailed skill resolution system for a narrow group of skills. It's purpose is to give detail to combat. If there is no need for detail in combat it shouldn't be there. End of story. This has been pointed out quite eloquently before on the Forge by other people.

Putting a combat system in every game despite focus is one of the biggest and most common mistakes in making rpgs, especially commersial ones tend to be guilty of this.

I'm afraid I don't agree--both with the sentiment and the conclusion (this doesn't mean you're wrong, simply that I don't agree with you).

1. Combat can be factored into any resolution system so long as it's there, it isn't a gaping hole (if diplomacy resolution is matching a wits roll with modifiers for guile then combat can be matching a body roll with modifiers for skill--same system, not more or less complex--but still there). It needn't be complex, merely complete.

2. The question about playing out every soldier in an army is a straw man question and unnecessary. If I build Barron Bad-Ass whose tactical brilliance and great size and strength is used at the negoiating table to intimidate people (primarily) and someone calls my bluff your game is going to short-change me when there's no way to resolve me mopping the floor and/or the battle field with the guy who stands up to me.

3. I don't agree with your definition of Focus. VtM needs a combat system. Seventh Sea needs a combat system. I can't think of a game that doesn't need *some* way to resolve physical combat (Ghost Light?)

4. You don't address what happens if, during roleplaying, the focus of the participants changes. How about a Little Fears game where the characters are all military brats--and the players think it might be cool to see how some appropriated heavy weapons function in Closet Land? I mean, I realize it's pushing the scope but it might be a hell of a lot of fun--especially if the last Little Fears game ended in tragedy ...

Focus doesn't (and IMO shouldn't) be so complete and narrow as to disallow actions the game's creator didn't want.

-Marco
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Christoffer Lernö

Quote from: M. J. YoungChristopher makes the mistake of suggesting that drama resolution is inherently inconsistent.

In any sort of system - drama, karma or fortune, there is always a certain amount of inconsistency. The question is if it's noticeable to the players AND if the players feel that there are inconsistencies (no matter if there actually is one or not).

If we have a game with high focus on combat where the character's abilities are supposed to determine their abilities. In this case, not only need the GM have a very solid grip on the the capabilities of the characters but has to make sure that every situation FEELS like it's treated the same way.

In a mechanical system, the players know they're using the same rules and are in some ways comforted by that thought. It also gives the referee a support, something to fall back to when he/she isn't sure how the last situation was treated. Although in theory it is possible to use precedents like you say M.J. I don't see it as a practical solution.

A mechanical system is a much less lightweight method to get the same effect. Or so I feel anyway.

Quote from: M. J. YoungI think Christopher's point about Choosing the Path resolution was misunderstood. I did not see in that some kind of referee force trying to make the players go a particular direction (as Fang seems to have done) but rather a creative exploration of what the reality really is.

Quote from: Fang
I'm inclined by all the discussion he's given that Christoffer wants to create what he calls "a functional Illusionism."  Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but that would mean that the gamemaster is pushing their "decision about where the character is going," simply in a covert fashion.

Actually M.J.'s take on this is the correct if we're talking about Choosing the Path.

Me and a friend of mine usually both improvise our adventures around a general idea. The adventure is created as the players go along and discover the things, although some basic plot stuff is known beforehand.

For example, the players are walking into an ambush (an ambush which only came about because the GM thought it would fit with the current atmosphere). Do the players discover it or are they totally taken by surprise? The GM feels that that isn't important. Either way would work, so he let's everyone make an awareness roll.

Why? Because should someone succeed they can feel their character managed well, if they fail they had a chance. But most importantely it's because the GM doesn't feel like deciding. So here the GM actually uses the game mechanic as a random number generator. It has nothing to do with illusionist techniques, but is simply a helpful method when improvising adventures.

This can be combined with illusionist techniques too. "Do they find the tracks after the kidnappers?" Everyone rolls. Failure? Well then the adventure goes to discover who could have arranged the kidnapping, or maybe some clue comes from a different encounter. Succeess, then the game instead continues into a pursuit and a battle with the kidnappers. It's possible to "succeed" with the adventure no matter what (illusionist), but there is a random input which controls the path taken to the end point. (A dysfunctional use of this would be to let the roll decide on success and failure, so if they don't find the tracks they can't succeed with the adventure)

---

Quote from: FangYou come to a chasm.  The map says that it was a 5-meter chasm last time you were there.  The table says a 5-meter chasm is a 5 difficulty; that's tabular results.  If the same 5-meter chasm (all other things being equal) has a different difficulty number each time the players encounter it, that would be non-tabular results.

Ok, then it's definately tabular.

Quote from: FangAh, but if you're going to allow exploration of situation, don't you have to let the players have every tool for exploration possible?  Leaving politics off means that Scooby and the gang can't go down to the hall of records and discover that all the parcels of land are being bought up by one individual.

Are we talking about the same thing here? What's the premise and stuff like that. That's what I'm thinking about. "What type of play is the game supposed to facilitate"

Quote from: FangThen where's the consistency in awareness rolls?  You've got rules for them but if you're having the gamemaster withhold the opportunity (or heavily skew the difficulty), won't the players catch on that there's no real consistency?

Only if they are somehow able to judge what the factual difficulty should be. I mean if a player says "I'm looking into the woods searching for ambushes" and he's good at perception, but the GM says he doesn't see anything, and then the next second has them ambushed by totally normal badguys then of course they will suspect things. There's a lot of should's and shouldn't's for the GM. But that's because it's illusionism. The GM has power but can't blatantly abuse it.

And Fang, I didn't mean that "spank" in a negative way. I like to have my ideas put to the test. I appreciate you and others taking the time to look at and question what I'm doing.
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Mike Holmes

First, I think a better term for what Christoff is looking for is Arbitrary instead of Consistent. The feeling that there is as little bias as possible in the resolution of events. When the system intercedes, this is often present, whereas, I agree, drama can throw it off. Life is pretty arbitrary, so it's a very Sim desire to want that sort of arbitrariness. IMO.

In any case, I disagree with you, Fang, on the whole "players should be enabled to explore whatever they want". A particular designer may, if they think it necessary, restrict play in any manner they wish if they think that it will improve the game. For instance, Little Fears does not have any special rules for heavy weapons, very much because having such be implemented in game would be very much against the feel of the game. The designer is trying to provide direction to the players in clear terms in a way that he feels will improve their experience.

This is not to say that heavy weapons should never make it into a game. Just that allowing them to alter normal resoolution would be a big mistake. A LAW in LF is no more likely to take out a closetland monster than anything else. Thus the participants are informed of the priorities, while internal game consistency is maintained.

That all said, I have nothing against games that can support a wide array of things, but that's just a choice, IMO. Not at all mandatory. Matt Snyder could include rules for how to do things in the Real World outside of Dreamspire, but I'd think that would be pointless. The game is all about getting out, and there should be no play outside in the Real World. If you want to do that, just pick up GURPS, or something else, and use that. The narrow focus of Dreamspire is valuable.

The rules inform us as to what sort of play will produce good results. As such the manners in which they restrict us are important. One can always play Freeform if one wants no restrictions at all.

Mike
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Le Joueur

Quote from: Mike HolmesIn any case, I disagree with you, Fang, on the whole "players should be enabled to explore whatever they want".
Mike, you seem to be disagreeing with a statement I never made.

Improvisation like Christoffer mentions requires a game of a certain scope doesn't it?  What does this game require?  I doubt the world of Ygg will lack politics even if the rules do.  Can you say the same about Little Fears?  Or Dreamspire?  Don't they have 'general rules' for situations that the game designers didn't think of?  That's good enough for me.

I was worried that Christoffer might absent some rules out of an idea of focus without narrowing his game's aim, without limiting its scope.  I did not call for their inclusion, I asked about handling their absence.  Christoffer hadn't said much up to that point about how he meant to focus his game; I had to ask for it.

Quote from: Mike HolmesThe rules inform us as to what sort of play will produce good results. As such the manners in which they restrict us are important.
Exactly!  Thus I asked (indirectly) how the game would restrict from the political arena.  I wanted to know how it focused.  He answered that it was all about its Premise; I'm fine with that.  If that is how he writes it, then it'll work.  But I couldn't know until I asked.  All that had been indicated that far was that certain areas would not be covered by the rules.

So ultimately we agree.  A designer decides how a game should be restricted; that is mandatory.  Since we don't have the whole game to look at, I had to ask what the 'restrictions' were.  With only the description "Simulation with exploration of Situation," it seemed necessary that "players should be enabled to explore whatever they want" in regards that Situation.  Now we have clarification.

Unless you want to start an argument.

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!