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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 156 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Cool & Clever?  (Read 9477 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« on: July 15, 2003, 04:48:20 PM »

Quote from: On the Nobilis List, R. Sean Borgstrom
Why do the rules exist? Today I think it is "to get the players to feel cool and clever on a regular basis."


Wow.  That's a striking point-of-view.  May be old news to some of you, but I haven't encountered that before.  Obviously has relevance to Nobilis, but I was chatting with Shreyas about it and he was saying he's noticed it showing up in his D&D games.  I can definitely see it applying to projects I'm working on, all over the place.  Thoughts, anyone?
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2003, 05:09:45 PM »

I'm working on a new video game.  Since I've never designed a video game before, I listened very carefully to the priorities of the people around me.

I finally was able to write down the two guiding design priorities for the project.

The first was, "To make the player feel cool."

The second was to "Let the player choose how he'll feel cool."

I can't say this is the design set for other video games.  But having crammed a lot of video games lately, it sure seems to be the engine driving a lot of video game design -- whether or not the designers know it.

Christopher
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contracycle
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« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2003, 09:19:41 AM »

Maybe cool is the qualia of protagonism. Cool is what it feels like to be protagonistic.
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W. Don
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« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2003, 09:42:11 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
Maybe cool is the qualia of protagonism. Cool is what it feels like to be protagonistic.


That's an interesting and rather uhm cool and clever observation, Contracycle. I'm not sure how others feel about this, but personally I'd second that notion.

- W.
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Alan
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« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2003, 12:50:29 PM »

I'm not sure what the word "cool" means to others.

To me, "feeling cool" means feeling effective, empowered, and respected.

That seems to match my idea of protagonism pretty well.

It might be worth asking what level or kind of effectiveness makes the player feel cool.  Does the player only need effectiveness in the immediate world around his character, or on the higher levels - directing the flow of narrative, for example.
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- Alan

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pete_darby
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2003, 12:54:20 AM »

my problem is that "cool" conjurs up the whole Calvin & Hobbes cool discussion.

"Cool people don't wear sombreros."
"Well, what's the point of being cool then?"

"I can't see anything with these sunglasses on"
"Cool people don't move much."

"If your cool, why are you looking so bored?"
"Everything bores cool people."

This is obviously NOT what we're talking about, but "empowerment" makes it sound like a new age self help book.

So, with the caveat that Cool is a very flexible term, I'm putting Christopher's two points into the design goals of the TV Drama game I'm looking at doing.
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Pete Darby
Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2003, 12:12:33 AM »

On further reflection, I think that Rebecca's statement is a charismatic way of putting, "System Does Matter, it affects the players' enjoyment of the game."  Think of what the statement implies - it is possible for the rules to obstruct enjoyment of the game, making the players feel thick-witted and uncool.  Why, just today I caught myself saying, "Dang, doing anything cool in D&D requires a feat."
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2003, 04:41:13 AM »

Quote from: Shreyas Sampat
On further reflection, I think that Rebecca's statement is a charismatic way of putting, "System Does Matter, it affects the players' enjoyment of the game."  Think of what the statement implies - it is possible for the rules to obstruct enjoyment of the game, making the players feel thick-witted and uncool.  Why, just today I caught myself saying, "Dang, doing anything cool in D&D requires a feat."



Looking at Nobilis, I think it's safe to say that R.S.B. doesn't think rules matter much. The whole game system boils down to, "Ask the GM* if you can do it, use these Aspect, etc. things as guidelines."

Chargen is the same way. "I'm the Power of Armadillos. Can I use this (points to char. sheet) to curl up into a ball?" GM thinks for a bit and says, yes/no.

*Oh, Hollyhock God.
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
adaen
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2003, 05:50:36 AM »

Quote from: Shreyas Sampat
On further reflection, I think that Rebecca's statement...,snip>  Why, just today I caught myself saying, "Dang, doing anything cool in D&D requires a feat."


Though it is lauded one of the best features of the D&D 3E/d20 system, I feel that the Feat system is essentially a patch. I prefer systems that do not require a feat to do something cool. I think that one of the main things that bothers me is the binary nature of many of the feats and the fact that their acquisition often feels pretty arbitrary (there is no built-in "in-game" acquisition system). I feel that other games that use advantage/disadvantage systems at creation and have in-game mechanisms for further development are much more elegant. That being said, I primarily play D&D 3E due to the "excellentness" of my GM's campaign.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2003, 06:19:15 AM »

Quote from: Jared A. Sorensen

Looking at Nobilis, I think it's safe to say that R.S.B. doesn't think rules matter much. The whole game system boils down to, "Ask the GM* if you can do it, use these Aspect, etc. things as guidelines."

Chargen is the same way. "I'm the Power of Armadillos. Can I use this (points to char. sheet) to curl up into a ball?" GM thinks for a bit and says, yes/no.


BL>  Having run and played a lot of Nobilis, it generally doesn't work like that in play.  Yes, a lot of things are up to GM discretion, BUT the GMs judgement not a question of whether or not you can do something, merely how expensive it is to do.  Since miracles have definite levels (at this level you can create a single instance of [effect]), in most cases you don't have anything to worry about.

(For example, the power of Judgement wants to give someone the ability to clearly assess their situation.  This is pretty clearly a level 4 Domain miracle, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.)

This makes a huge difference in actual play -- Nobilis players have a HUGE amount of power over the world.

Consider the above example when the target is pre-Fall Eve.  Yes, this happened in one of my games.

NOW, there have been some attempts by some GMs (most of which are new to the concept of very-high power gaming) to "reign in" the power of their players by redefining the lower level miracles (well, level four miracles only make a MINOR instance, so you can't do anything really cool with them...) but these are lame, and certainly not Game as Written.

So, err..., lay off Nobilis...

yrs--
--Ben
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Marco
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« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2003, 07:46:14 AM »

Quote from: Alan
I'm not sure what the word "cool" means to others.

To me, "feeling cool" means feeling effective, empowered, and respected.

That seems to match my idea of protagonism pretty well.

It might be worth asking what level or kind of effectiveness makes the player feel cool.  Does the player only need effectiveness in the immediate world around his character, or on the higher levels - directing the flow of narrative, for example.


Not all of my most enjoyable characters have been effective, empowered, and respected. Some of them earned that in the game (and I'd like to feel that "earning it" was, well, earning it).

I've also enjoyed being an under-dog for a variety of reasons (at a severe power-gradient to the world)--so clearly it's not as simple as being a bad-ass.

It's more like the game system rendering the character as the player envisions him/her.

But then ... what happens when my vision of my character conflicts with your vision of my character? What if my vision of my character stomps all over yours (and I go and call you "Tonto")?

These are the things game-rules can help to adjudicate (Lumpey principle)--as a result, meeting out empowerment in the form of Feats isn't necessiarly a bad idea--in fact it's actually critical to some forms of play (contrast to another game where the PC's start out as action movie heroes).

Becasue the game creates a shared space, that probably means an individual PC *is* going to be limited in some fashion (even if the limits are very broad) and may very well fail at someting the player tries to do (when that player's vision is pushing the limits of the agreed upon play space).

Thus: sometimes how cool your characters are depends on how cool you play them.

-Marco
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Alan
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« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2003, 08:07:01 AM »

Quote from: Marco
Quote from: Alan
I'm not sure what the word "cool" means to others.

To me, "feeling cool" means feeling effective, empowered, and respected.

That seems to match my idea of protagonism pretty well.

It might be worth asking what level or kind of effectiveness makes the player feel cool.  Does the player only need effectiveness in the immediate world around his character, or on the higher levels - directing the flow of narrative, for example.


Not all of my most enjoyable characters have been effective, empowered, and respected. Some of them earned that in the game (and I'd like to feel that "earning it" was, well, earning it).


By effectiveness, I meant the player's ability to influence the fantasy - not just having a character that has a lot of power within the fantasy.  So, if you were able to take a character from in-fantasy low power to in-fantasy high power and this is what you wanted, you had an effective - or cool - character.
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- Alan

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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2003, 12:43:08 PM »

Quote from: Jared A. Sorensen
Looking at Nobilis, I think it's safe to say that R.S.B. doesn't think rules matter much. The whole game system boils down to, "Ask the GM* if you can do it, use these Aspect, etc. things as guidelines."


Whereas in umpteen other games, the whole system boils down to "Ask the GM for a target number, use this little chart as a guideline?"  I don't really get the point you're trying to make here, Jared.  The different Miracle Levels in Nobilis are basically just target numbers with descriptions that specify what exactly a "7" really means.  I don't see how this means that the rules don't matter much.  Can you explain further?

Quote from: Alan
To me, "feeling cool" means feeling effective, empowered, and respected.


Yeah, but as several people pointed out, not all "cool" characters fit those guidelines.  You can have cool losers who aren't effective, empowered, or respected.  Watch Johnny Depp's take on Capt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates, for a recent example.  I think that, more often, seeming "cool" involves acting out of a particular idiom, either the idiom of the character (loser pirate who never seems to do anything quite right, but is incredibly lucky) or the idiom of the game/genre itself.  If I was to have a diabolical mad scientist kidnap a character for medical experiments in a game that was supposed to have a fairy tale quality, the other players would likely say that it "wasn't cool."  However, if the same thing happened in a steampunk or weird west game, they'd be all over it.

As for making the players "feel clever," that's a little harder to pull off.  Too often, scenario designs spoon-feed clues to the PCs, hoping that someone will eventually be clever enough to solve the mystery.  This, when I've been a part of it, often results in mysteries that are too easy or too hard, causing the players to feel stupid either way (because the GM/scenario-writer either under- or overestimated them).  Better ways of making players feel clever is giving them a way to directly affect the direction of the game, offering input that makes the game better and makes them feel smarter for having thought things up.  But it's also reflected in stuff like Nobilis' "Monarda Law," which encourages GMs to never tell players that they can't do this-cool-thing-that-I-just-thought-up.  It certainly helps that Nobilis is set up to allow the players to do basically anything, but this kind of thinking might be incorperated into other designs.  After all, as long as the players are working within the idiom of the game, is there really any reason to knock-down cool ideas that they come up with?
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Jeffrey Miller
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« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2003, 03:09:29 PM »

Quote from: Alan

By effectiveness, I meant the player's ability to influence the fantasy - not just having a character that has a lot of power within the fantasy.


Ah!  the key word here being player not character; I've played characters who died in the first episode and stuck around as a ghost who occasionally rattled chains and moaned, having no discernable effect on the game/story/plot other than comic relief as I struggled to be noticed.. and had a blast, because the rules (combined with the social contract) allowed me to continue to participate.

-j-
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SFEley
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« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2003, 05:41:06 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Yeah, but as several people pointed out, not all "cool" characters fit those guidelines.  You can have cool losers who aren't effective, empowered, or respected.  Watch Johnny Depp's take on Capt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates, for a recent example.


Almost.  Jack Sparrow wasn't respected, sure, and he was only empowered within a very limited range, but he was certainly effective.  Just luck, sure, but his stupid plans did work.

Quote
I think that, more often, seeming "cool" involves acting out of a particular idiom, either the idiom of the character (loser pirate who never seems to do anything quite right, but is incredibly lucky) or the idiom of the game/genre itself.


Succeeding in the idiom, and doing it with a particular elegance.  I think a key component of coolness is that everything falls smoothly into place with an illusion of effortlessness.  The Fonz wouldn't have been as cool if he had to put quarters in the jukebox like everybody else.  The Matrix was cool because of all the effort they put into slacking on the laws of physics.  Athletes who execute their craft with style and make winning look easy are cool; the ones who grit their teeth and make it look painful aren't.

I know there are exceptions to this, and other ways to be cool (including the opposite), but elegance is a common and significant one, and more to the point, one that should be fairly easy to execute within the mechanics of a role-playing game.


Have Fun,
 - Steve Eley
   sfeley@sff.net
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