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Author Topic: [Synergy] - Bare Bones v1.0  (Read 6154 times)
Roy
Member

Posts: 153


« on: July 04, 2003, 03:55:08 PM »

Hey everyone!  I took a little vacation from the hobby, but I'm back and better than ever.  I really missed you guys.

I started seriously working on my own roleplaying system this week and I need some feedback from you.  You can download it here.  

I'm using Synergy as the working title because it really describes the concept I'm trying to capture:  the players and Moderator working together to create an entertainment experience that's greater than the contribution of any one player.

Synergy is designed to be a scene-based player-driven roleplaying framework that can be used with any setting and premise the group desires.  Like Ron's Sorcerer, it takes a toolbox approach to roleplaying but with a premise that concerns the style of play rather than the content ("You've got all the tools you need to build a good story.  What are you going to do with it?")  

I know that sounds just like a hundred other "universal systems" out there, but I've tried to design the action resolution system in Synergy to encourage a cinematic building of drama through the use of complications (something that changes the circumstances of the situation).

Here are a couple of specific questions I would really appreciate your feedback on:

1.  Does the action resolution system help you build the sense of drama through complications?

2.  Does the Plot Point reward system encourage you to build a more interesting character?

I'll think of more questions later, but these are the two main questions I need to focus on right now.  Let me know what you think and don't worry about pulling punches.  I'm pretty good at taking constructive criticism.  (Fire away, Mike.  I've got my titanium asbestos bullet proof vest on!)

Hey, Ralph:  What do you think?  Any thoughts?  Feedback wanted please. :-)  Sorry, but I just couldn't resist.

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com
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Roy
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2003, 12:32:30 PM »

What?!?  No takers?  Is this something that only interests me? Or am I on the right track?

Any feedback you can offer will be appreciated.

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com
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Jack Spencer Jr
Guest
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2003, 01:14:04 PM »

OK, I d/led your file. Still a little rough. You'll need to work on sections that require refering to other games e.g. Universalis, but you already knew that.

You may wish to read a few books on the creation of stories. It'll help if you understand the process a bit better. You wish to make a game for creating stories, yet the highest dice result is action succeeds without complications. In short, boring story. A story is about a character pursuing a goal of some sort. The character takes action to meet this goal but a discrepancy appears between the expected results and the actual results.

I went to the gas station. After I put twenty dollars into the tank, I decided to put a little air in the tires. I wheeled the car over to the pump, which was free, haven't seen free air since the seventies, and filled the front tires which were a little low and drove home.

Boring.

I went to the gas station. After I put twenty dollars into the tank, I decided to put a little air in the tires. I wheeled the car over to the pump, which was free, haven't seen free air since the seventies, and filled the front tires which were a little low. However, I was tired since I had just gotten off work and didn't notice that the tire was actually deflating instead of inflating. It turns out the pump, the nice free pump, was broken and before I noticed it, the tire was pretty flat. Weary and adle-minded, I figured I didn't have the hose properly attached and readjusted and continued until the tire was completely flat. There I was in the middle of the night just outside of downtown Utica with a flat tire and no way to get home...

See the difference. See how the difference in what I expected and the results made for something more interesting? I suggest you look less at action resolution and aim more for scene resolution, resolution that constantly keeps the characters from their goal until the final resolution.

That's my suggestion.
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Jack Spencer Jr
Guest
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2003, 01:35:03 PM »

Quote from: Roy
1.  Does the action resolution system help you build the sense of drama through complications?

My take on that should be pretty obvious. How do you distinguish major and minor... anything? A minor trait may turn out to be a major trait in actual play. I figure just trait and complication is good enough.

Quote
2.  Does the Plot Point reward system encourage you to build a more interesting character?

Eee....errrrr...uhmmmm....  No. I don't think so. I can see it encouraging filling a page or index card with stuff, which may or may not be used.

But then, I'm not thrilled with the use of plot points, either, to mostly effect the setting. That's mostly my opinion.
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Roy
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2003, 03:26:34 PM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr


Hey, Jack!  Thanks for taking the time to respond.  I appreciate it.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Still a little rough. You'll need to work on sections that require refering to other games e.g. Universalis, but you already knew that.


I'll flesh out those sections in future drafts.  I wanted to focus on the main mechanic and reward system right now.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
You may wish to read a few books on the creation of stories. It'll help if you understand the process a bit better.


I've done some research on screenwriting, short fiction (short stories), and long fiction (novels).  The main ingredients to creating good stories that I noticed are:

1.  Creating characters that the audience either loves or hates.
2.  Revealing interesting details about characters.  Characters don't usually get "better", they get more interesting and often change as the story goes on.
3.  Establishing a strong conflict between characters that will go to great extremes to get what they want.
4.  Placing the characters into interesting situations and skipping the boring details.
5.  Adding complications that change the situation without resolving the conflict.

I'm trying to incorporate these into Synergy.  I've had some good roleplaying experiences this week using Synergy, but I'm not sure if it's the system itself or just the way I'm running it.


Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
You wish to make a game for creating stories, yet the highest dice result is action succeeds without complications. In short, boring story.


The die results represent the possible outcomes of any action in a story.  In a story, the main characters do succeed at some actions without complications while other actions produce complications.  Since the player can choose which die to present the Moderator, he has some choice on whether complications affect the action.

The interesting thing I've noticed during play this week is that the players quickly figure out that "success without complications" is boring, so they start choosing die results that give them complications.

I've also noticed that the "success without complications" result is usually used to represent mooks.  For example, my wife was playing a Celtic warrior in a game based on the TV show "Roar".  Her character was facing three Roman horsemen with spears.  She used two "success without complications" to dispatch two of the horsemen, then switched to other die results for the last warrior.  She basically told me which characters were mooks and which ones were important.  

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
See the difference. See how the difference in what I expected and the results made for something more interesting?


Sorry Jack, but both of your examples were boring.  You start a scene with something interesting.  Using your example, I would start with:

"You've just had a flat tire in the middle of the night outside Utica.  You go to get your spare out of the trunk, but you find something you never expected ... a dead body in your trunk.  It must be your lucky day because a cop comes over the hill and notices you're having car trouble.  He starts pulling in behind you.  What do you do?"

I know what you're trying to say and I agree that a scene would be boring if every action succeeds without any complications.  But not every roll will give you a result without complications and not every player will choose success all of the time.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
I suggest you look less at action resolution and aim more for scene resolution, resolution that constantly keeps the characters from their goal until the final resolution.


I have looked at scene resolution, but I think it feels a little flat sometimes.  I like the action resolution because it usually produces scenes with a bit more meat and detail.  

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
I figure just trait and complication is good enough.


That's a good point.  I'll try that out and see how it plays.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
I can see it encouraging filling a page or index card with stuff, which may or may not be used.


The trick is that it has to be an interesting AND RELEVANT detail.  The audience (other players and Moderator) are the judge of this.  I'll go into more detail on that in the next draft.

Thanks for your suggestions.  I'll definitely consider them as I prepare future drafts and playtest Synergy more.

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com
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Jack Spencer Jr
Guest
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2003, 04:10:38 PM »

Quote from: Roy
The interesting thing I've noticed during play this week is that the players quickly figure out that "success without complications" is boring, so they start choosing die results that give them complications.

My point exactly.
Quote
Sorry Jack, but both of your examples were boring.  You start a scene with something interesting.  Using your example, I would start with:

"You've just had a flat tire in the middle of the night outside Utica.  You go to get your spare out of the trunk, but you find something you never expected ... a dead body in your trunk.  It must be your lucky day because a cop comes over the hill and notices you're having car trouble.  He starts pulling in behind you.  What do you do?"

I know what you're trying to say and I agree that a scene would be boring if every action succeeds without any complications.  But not every roll will give you a result without complications and not every player will choose success all of the time.

My point was to try to illustrate the gap bewteen expectation and results that is necessary to make a story go. Perhaps is was a piss-poor example, or just worded badly. The diffence between:

The tires are a little low, I pumped them up and drove home

and

The tires were low, I pump them up but the pump was broken and now my tire is completely flat and undrivable. Now what do I do

Side note: I am disturbed, but not surprised by your suggestion of the dead body in the trunk. It seems to be a typical gamer-Emeril kick-it-up-a-notch k3wl powerz kind of thing to do. I don't mean to insult you or anything, but if a gamer had made Jaws it would not have been a shark but a shark with a laser on its head. Or such is the conclusion I have drawn. Gamers simply cannot have something simple happen. At least most of the ones I have met, anyway.
Quote
I have looked at scene resolution, but I think it feels a little flat sometimes.  I like the action resolution because it usually produces scenes with a bit more meat and detail.

Suit yourself. At time action resolution feels like micromanagement to me.  
Quote
Thanks for your suggestions.  I'll definitely consider them as I prepare future drafts and playtest Synergy more.

Good luck
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Roy
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2003, 05:17:15 PM »

Jack,

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
My point was to try to illustrate the gap bewteen expectation and results that is necessary to make a story go.


Conflict and dysfunctional characters who will go to extremes to get what they want are what drives a story.  Complications add unexpected and interesting details that change the situation without resolving the conflict.

A flat tire, in and of itself, is not a complication.  A flat tire while you're being chased by a crazy guy trying to run you off the road with a semi truck is.  :-)

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Side note: I am disturbed, but not surprised by your suggestion of the dead body in the trunk. It seems to be a typical gamer-Emeril kick-it-up-a-notch k3wl powerz kind of thing to do.  I don't mean to insult you or anything, but if a gamer had made Jaws it would not have been a shark but a shark with a laser on its head. Or such is the conclusion I have drawn.


Don't worry, no insult taken.  It's hard to get me riled up.  Don't piss me off, though ... I'll have to get my pet shark with a laser on its head after you. :-)

I'm guilty of kicking it up a notch, but I don't know what the "k3wl powerz" has to do with finding a dead body in your trunk.  To make the scene you described interesting, I had to put some conflict in it.  And finding a dead body in my trunk with a cop pulling up to help me would definitely create some conflict.

Now, if the dead body was really a zombie and the cop was it's master, you might have a point for the "k3wl powerz" comment. :-)

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Gamers simply cannot have something simple happen.


The scene I described above was simple, but it was full of conflict.  Can you give me an example of what you mean by simple?  Or do you mean gamers mix genres too often for your tastes (as with the Jaws example)?

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com
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Jack Spencer Jr
Guest
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2003, 06:13:26 PM »

Quote from: Roy
A flat tire, in and of itself, is not a complication.  A flat tire while you're being chased by a crazy guy trying to run you off the road with a semi truck is.  :-)
....

I'm guilty of kicking it up a notch, but I don't know what the "k3wl powerz" has to do with finding a dead body in your trunk.  To make the scene you described interesting, I had to put some conflict in it.  And finding a dead body in my trunk with a cop pulling up to help me would definitely create some conflict.

....

The scene I described above was simple, but it was full of conflict.  Can you give me an example of what you mean by simple?  Or do you mean gamers mix genres too often for your tastes (as with the Jaws example)?

Mixing genres, yes, but also making everything the action, adventure or horror genre. The tire thing really happened. Why the hell would there be a dead body in my trunk? It seems that whenever a gamer touches something, actual possibility goes that-a-way.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? No but when a dead body or crazy guy in a semi truck is as normal as things get, I dunno, I just find it old. I found the crazy guy who drove up in his pickup truck.. to help? No to borrow five bucks because he was thrown out of his house and needed money for a motel room was more interesting.
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Roy
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2003, 09:34:35 PM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Mixing genres, yes, but also making everything the action, adventure or horror genre.


Action adventure and horror films are two of the most popular types of film.  Why?  Because that's what sells.  That's what the audience tells the film companies they like by voting with their dollars at the box office.  

Sure some gamers like other styles of games, but they are definitely in the minority.  Kind of like people who love French character pieces.  There's nothing wrong with preferring either one.  It's just a matter of taste.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
The tire thing really happened.


That's precisely why most people find it boring.  I've had a lot of flat tires and I've never found one of them interesting, just frustrating.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Why the hell would there be a dead body in my trunk?


Ah!  Now you've hit on the power of that situation.  The players are going to try to answer that question all throughout the roleplaying session and they're going to be interested because of it.  

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
It seems that whenever a gamer touches something, actual possibility goes that-a-way.


Both of the examples I gave (dead body in trunk and psycho in semi-truck) can definitely happen in real life.  It's unusual, yes, but that's also what makes it interesting to most people.  Why would I want to roleplay washing my clothes when I do that all the time in real life?

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
I found the crazy guy who drove up in his pickup truck.. to help? No to borrow five bucks because he was thrown out of his house and needed money for a motel room was more interesting.


We definitely have different tastes.  You won't like it when I GM and I won't like it when you GM.  The best part is that it's OK.  These little differences are what makes life interesting.

Take care and thanks for the discussion.  I've enjoyed it and you've given me a few things to think about.

Anyone else have any opinions, questions, or comments on Synergy?  

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com
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Jack Spencer Jr
Guest
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2003, 06:53:46 AM »

Actually, Roy, while this discussion has moved over to the Sharks With Lasers On Their Head thread in RPG theory, I finally realised what my problem was. It wasn't so much the dead body so much as this hypethetical incident started with the dead body, with not real reason to even possibly expect it.

The flat tire is the kicker, in Sorcerer terms. Or it's more like a pre-kicker. Its the immediate situation the character has to deal with and, while in that situation, further complications can happen.

To open the trunk and find a body in it is shocking. Shock is cheap. I think Hitchock described it as having people sitting around having tea and then a bomb suddenly goes off. Effective, but a cheap effect. Suspense he described as the same group having tea but show the audience the bomb as the timer slowly ticks. More effective. At least I find it so.

Opening the trunk and finding the dead body is shocking, but without any precendent, it's like coming home and finding the entire interior of your house pained blue. It's a surprise. A shock. And makes no sense.

However, put me back by the flat and I get out the jack and spare, but the wheel is rusted onto the axle and won't come off. As I look at the tire, frustrated, the crazy guy comes up, try half-heartedly to help but can really only stare at the tire, too. He then hit me for five buck because he was thrown out his house. I give it to him to get rid of him and walk over to the pay phones on the other side of the station to call the wife, even though I know there is little she can do either. When I get back, the guy gone, my spare and jack are still there. I decide to put away the spare because there's no way I'll be able to make use of it,  but the trunk is closed. I don't remember closing it, but I don't think anything of it until I open it and there's a dead body in the trunk.

It's a matter of setting it up somehow that it can be believable. Otherwise it's like this bit from this page.
Quote
You can have cowboys sitting next costumed super heroes, while an angel flies overhead and flirts with a paladin who is using a cell phone. No matter how unlikely the character or situation, it can and usually does happen in a basic Freeform setting

Why is there a dead body in the trunk? Is that what the players have to find out? OK. But why should there be a dead body in the trunk? Did it flow naturally from the situation in one way or another or is it like cfinding the cat's been painted blue. Not reason, just painted blue.
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Kester Pelagius
Member

Posts: 508


« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2003, 09:48:11 AM »

Greetings Roy,

Quote from: Roy
What?!?  No takers?  Is this something that only interests me? Or am I on the right track?

Any feedback you can offer will be appreciated.

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com


Hopefuly the review that I have posted HERE will be of help to you and future developments of you system.


Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
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"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri
Roy
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2003, 10:33:41 AM »

Hey, Jack!

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
The flat tire is the kicker, in Sorcerer terms. Or it's more like a pre-kicker. Its the immediate situation the character has to deal with and, while in that situation, further complications can happen.


The flat tire is not a kicker, because the character can just sit there on the side of the road and do nothing.  A good kicker REQUIRES the character to take some sort of action, but gives the player the freedom to decide what that action will be.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
It wasn't so much the dead body so much as this hypethetical incident started with the dead body, with not real reason to even possibly expect it.

...

To open the trunk and find a body in it is shocking. Shock is cheap. I think Hitchock described it as having people sitting around having tea and then a bomb suddenly goes off. Effective, but a cheap effect. Suspense he described as the same group having tea but show the audience the bomb as the timer slowly ticks. More effective. At least I find it so.

Opening the trunk and finding the dead body is shocking, but without any precendent, it's like coming home and finding the entire interior of your house pained blue. It's a surprise. A shock. And makes no sense.


What you're talking about is building suspense through foreshadowing.  It's an effective technique in cinema and written fiction where you have a somewhat captive audience, but it can be tough to pull off in roleplaying.  Do I use foreshadowing?  Sure, but it's just one technique among many.

I hope I don't offend you, but it sounds like you may have fallen in love with this technique and want to use it for everything.  If you overuse it, you can kill it's effectiveness.

It all comes down to us having different styles.  I would probably find your style boring and you would think my style's too "in your face".  That's ok, we can agree to disagree.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr

...
When I get back, the guy gone, my spare and jack are still there. I decide to put away the spare because there's no way I'll be able to make use of it,  but the trunk is closed. I don't remember closing it, but I don't think anything of it until I open it and there's a dead body in the trunk.


All we're doing is arguing semantics, Jack.  You do your exposition "on camera" and I do mine "off camera".  In this case, we both have a reason for the dead body in the trunk, but I'm not telling my players what that is.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr

It's a matter of setting it up somehow that it can be believable.
...
You can have cowboys sitting next costumed super heroes, while an angel flies overhead and flirts with a paladin who is using a cell phone.


That quote has nothing to do with believability.  It concerns adhering to the setting agreed upon in the social contract and mixing genres.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Why is there a dead body in the trunk? Is that what the players have to find out?


The players don't have to find anything out, but if I do my job right then they'll WANT to.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
But why should there be a dead body in the trunk? Did it flow naturally from the situation in one way or another or is it like cfinding the cat's been painted blue. Not reason, just painted blue.


Why do you need to TELL the players why the dead body is in the trunk?  Is it a control issue?  A lack of trust in the players?

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com
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Roy
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2003, 10:38:56 AM »

Kester,

Thanks for the review.  I'll take some time to consider it before posting.  

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com
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Roy
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2003, 09:18:17 AM »

Hey, Ron ...

This thread's done.  Can you close it, please?  Thanks!

Roy
roypenrod123@yahoo.com
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