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Author Topic: [Thugs and Thieves] Conflict Resolution  (Read 5737 times)
ethan_greer
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« on: August 11, 2003, 11:25:37 AM »

This is something I haven't playtested yet, and I wanted to run it by folks here and get some feedback.

Quote

Conflict Resolution
Cool things happen in RPGs. That's usually the intention, anyway. Exactly what happens (and why it's cool) depends on the game and the people playing it. In general, Thugs and Thieves is designed to encourage rip-roaring pulp-fantasy action. Task resolution is the basic building block of determining, in game, what exactly happens as a result of an isolated expenditure of effort. Which is all well and good, but when you're dealing with intense situations, an "I roll, then you roll, then I roll again" system of doing things can have a detrimental effect on both the pace and the evocativeness of the game.

The conflict resolution system is used whenever multiple characters and/or NPCs get involved in a conflict of some sort. This conflict could be a combat, a legal debate, a chase through a crowded market, a scavenger hunt, or any situation that meets two qualifications:

1. Some entities are acting in opposition to some other entities.
2. The situation seems to call for more than a single task resolution roll in order to be resolved.

Phase 1 - Scripting
When such a situation is entered into, some discussion should take place. This discussion is the Scripting phase of the conflict. Each participant announces what he wants to accomplish in the immediate future; this includes all the NPCs' intentions, which are announced by the GM. Intentions may be revised at any time during the Scripting phase. Continue the discussion until everyone is happy with what their characters or NPCs are going to be doing. During this process, if there is any doubt as to what Abilities each entity is going to use, the GM will make a ruling. Any modifiers the GM assigns should also be fully disclosed during this phase.

Phase 2 - Action
Once all intentions have been announced and everyone knows what ability their characters/NPCs are going to use, the Action phase begins. This phase is where everything happens. Every participant rolls on the appropriate ability. Starting with the smallest number rolled and continuing in order from lowest to highest roll, the intentions (or failed intentions) are resolved and described. The GM narrates the result of each roll in turn (with guidance and suggestions from the players). Note that there is no way to change what an entity is trying to accomplish during the Action phase. Likewise, there is no way to guarantee the order in which the actions take place. All the planning and discussion in the Scripting phase should take these points into account. If one entity's action is dependent on happening before or after another's, the potential is always there for the best laid plans to go aglee. That's a big part of how things get interesting.

Also note that different actions in the Action phase can take different amounts of time, and that's fine. The system is designed to create interesting action sequences rather than to manage in-game increments of time.

Some conflicts can be resolved in a single iteration of Scripting and Action. Others may take a several iterations. If, after a single iteration, the two conditions described above continue to be met by the in-game situation, the conflict resolution continues with further iterations until the conflict is resolved.


Now, anyone familiar with Sorcerer will probably recognize where most of this is coming from.  The question is, do I adequately describe how this is supposed to work?  Could you sit down with this text and be able to run cool conflict scenes?  Does the text raise questions that aren't addressed?  General impressions and feedback appreciated.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2003, 11:42:07 AM »

Hi there,

I'm a little surprised that you aren't including some kind of pre-empting or abort option into the resolution phase. In Sorcerer, Zero, or The Burning Wheel (all of which use some version of this technique), the player has at least a couple of choices when his or her turn comes up - not to come up with a novel action, but whether to remain committed to the previously-stated one.

Without such an option, and it strikes me that there's a lot of untapped room for variety in this sort of option, the game-play might well degenerate into a plausible but boring exercise. In fact, as I recall, my experiences with Story Engine demonstrated that setup for the roll was fun, but actually playing out the events after the roll was dull ... specifically because no choices were possible after the dice had hit the table.

Best,
Ron
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2003, 12:10:31 PM »

Well, I don't own BW or Zero, but I do have Sorcerer.  Unfortunately it is still packed from a recent move.  Looking at the Apprentice version, I see an option to abort your action to defend.  Good idea, I guess I should have copied your work more dilligently... :)  That's one additional option, you mention that there's at least one.  What are some others?  Just deciding not to do the action?  I could see that being a worthwhile option to add also.  For example, if your companion kills the giant snake, you can pull up short from throwing a spear at it.

So, abort to defend, abort just because you feel like it.  These both strike me as pretty obvious in the "why the hell didn't I think of that" sense. Anything else?

Thanks!
-e.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2003, 12:39:35 PM »

Hi Ethan,

Actually, I was thinking more in terms of having the post-roll decision-making be related more to themes embedded within Thugs & Thieves. In other words, maybe aborting an announced action is only possible in terms of things that are important to that character, such as friendship or loyalty or whatever - the kinds of things that are put under stress in exactly those sorts of situations.

This is totally off the top of my head and should be treated by you as a springboard, not a direct rules-suggestion, but here it is. Characters X, Y, and Z all state their intended goals/actions, and everyone rolls. The order is Y, X, and Z. As it turns out, Z's action, by the time it comes around, is now pretty badly misplaced in terms of Z's well-being. But the rule says, the only way to abort it is to threaten some priority of Z's (say, a certain amount of the loot has to get fragged, or something like that).

See how that works? It integrates the "take it back" option based on the dice rolls with a thematic issue, which is to say, "when is money not enough?" Only a suggestion and a springboard, though.

Best,
Ron
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2003, 01:20:10 PM »

Hmm.  Interesting.  I will let that simmer.  Thanks.

In the meantime, what about the presentation itself?  Clear?  Concise?  Overly wordy?  Confusing?

Thanks,
-e.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2003, 01:22:03 PM »

Hi Ethan,

I'm really slow when it comes to commenting on games. I have the printout; will respond eventually.

Best,
Ron
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2003, 01:38:59 PM »

Ron, no sweat.  I'm not in a terribly great hurry, but I am excited about the project so my posts will come fast and furious.  :)

Just to clarify, since it looks like you may have gotten the wrong impression, this thread is just about the conflict resolution section quoted above, and my questions here about wording, clarity, and such-like refer to that passage and not the game as a whole.

Thanks!
-e.
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2003, 10:20:48 AM »

Um, for further clarification, I'd love to hear from others about the conflict resolution in Thugs and Thieves, too - I wasn't only talking to Ron.  Anyone?
-e.
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iago
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« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2003, 03:16:14 PM »

The most glaring issue that I can see (which I think may have been addressed by your interactions with Ron above) is that it doesn't really mention sufficiently what to do if your declared action has become invalidated by a resolution that came earlier in the chain of precedence than yours.

I think you explain how things are playing just fine, but I am a big screaming fan of examples.  Without examples, the rules don't really have any reinforcement: you either get them when you read them, or you don't.  An example, even if it's retreading what you just said, and even if it seems obvious, is the quickest route to "aha!" for a lot of readers.
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2003, 03:39:29 PM »

Invalidated how?  Do you have an example in mind?  If it's a matter of the person simply can't do the action, it would just be an automatic failure.  Maybe I should include text to that effect.

If, on the other hand, it would just be really bad for the character to continue, I'm thinking that there should be some cost to abort, as Ron suggests. Right now, I'm thinking you can abort if you want, but it will cost you a -1 penalty on your next Purchasing roll.

And yes, I agree with you on the examples.  There will be a detailed example of conflict resolution in the book.
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iago
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« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2003, 04:03:32 PM »

Quote from: ethan_greer
Invalidated how?  Do you have an example in mind?  If it's a matter of the person simply can't do the action, it would just be an automatic failure.  Maybe I should include text to that effect.


Hm, something like "I am going to try to catch the ball" being declared, but during resolution, the ball is removed from play (someone else intercepts it, someone else shoots it out of the sky, the ball explodes mid-air, the ball is turned into a bird) before the catcher's resolution.  At which point, what was the sense in that person trying to catch the ball?  I'm concerned about the slow character finding himself frequently dead-ended with automatic failures and obligations to cancel, when it comes down to it.
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2003, 05:15:54 AM »

Well, the order in which the actions take place relies only on the number on the dice.  So, in theory, everyone will have their slow times.  Degree of success only comes into play when it's your turn.  Being the most agile, quickest character doesn't help you much if you roll an 11 - you're likely to be one of the last to go with a roll like that.  Likewise, the clumsiest character imaginable can roll a 2 or 3 and act first.

In the ball example, if the ball explodes before you can catch it, you don't catch it.  That's the price you pay for rolling higher than the character who caused the ball to explode.  Now, if it were a magical levitating ball hovering over a bottomless pit, and you were leaping out to grab hold of it and hang on, you would want to abort your action if the ball was removed.  What I'm hoping is that if your action is rendered invalid, it won't always be a big deal.  But when it is, you have the option to abort if you need to.

Also, it's important to understand that while the timing of the announced actions isn't flexible, the in-game time is.  So, it's not necessarily a sequence of events.  So for example, say the conflict round starts with the ball in the air.  Player A announces his intentions to leap to catch it.  Player B intends to blast the ball to smithereens.  Dice are rolled, and Player B goes first.  If Player A decides to abort, he stops himself short before making the leap.  If Player A decides not to abort, the ball explodes while he's in midair.  (This might be a case of Fortune-In-The-Middle, but I'm not certain of that.)

It's also worth pointing out that even if the character chooses to make the leap for the now nonexistent ball, he won't die as a result of the fall into the pit unless the player agrees to the death.  So a player won't ever be forced to abort an action to save the life of the character.  (This is something that Mike Holmes talks about in this thread.)

But again, I haven't yet playtested these particular rules, so you might have a valid concern.  Have you played any games with a conflict resolution like this (Sorcerer, Burning Wheel, Zero)?  How did it work?

BTW, this thread is what turned me on to this type of conflict system.  Don't know if it'll help, but it might clarify exactly the sort of thing I'm trying to accomplish.  In particular, see Ron's last post in that thread.
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