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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 01:03:50 PM



Title: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 01:03:50 PM
I wrote a long post in another thread, and then realized this was it's own thread.

The original thread is here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25765.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25765.0).

Each "to hit" roll takes a while, it's true - in that way, I hope the game puts a certain amount of creative pressure on everyone to negotiate interesting consequences instead of "I hit you. I do damage. I hit you. I do damage."

Hi Vincent,

What you wrote there is what I'm interested in.

Okay, I'm actually interested in all of the how's and why's you designed the mechanic.  But this was a big part of it as I sat (and often stood, and often jumped up and down during conflicts!) playing a game on Sunday.  I like the answer because it touches on exactly what I wanted more of on Sunday: I knew you had an agenda with your game design -- but I couldn't figure it out, and I kept grinding up against the gears of it because I couldn't see it.

I'm absolutely certain, knowing the kind of thoughtful designer you are, that you were provoking and eliciting certain behaviors from the players -- between the players and the rules, and the players and each other.  (This may not have been what you meant by the terms on the thread at Anyways, but they are good words for what I'm grasping for.)

As we played, what I really felt was, "Okay, Vincent's up to something, and I'm not seeing it/feeling it.... And no one else at the table is seeing it or feeling it either. We'd have these cool color moments, and then these conversations about what the heck were we supposed to do with these results.  Or rather, not so much the results (though it was that, sometimes), but why we had gone through the steps to get the results.

Now, something that occurred to me this morning before I read your post -- which was exactly what you wrote: "a certain amount of creative pressure on everyone to negotiate interesting consequences"  I though... Well, you know, if I kept playing the game, I'd get tired of spending 40 minutes taking another PC down, and eventually I'd start using the system to do new things that didn't feel repetitive and scratchy.  (A feeling based on how we were using the system, not the system itself.  I think.  That's what I'm trying to figure out!)

***
So, if you could talk about what sorts of contested actions work best for the system?  Does that make sense as a question?  As you just said, and I realized, direct death matches aren't what the system is really designed to do.  So can you talk about the kinds of contested actions it is designed to do?

***
What sort of interaction did you want the system to provoke and elicit between players? 

***
The dice mechanic itself.  During the first rolling of dice I got confused.  I haven't had a chance to take it apart again since Sunday night, but at first blush it all seemed kind of random.  You roll dice, I roll dice.  Random numbers are generated and then someone wins the round.  I could obviously choose which size die to use, but I didn't see any real strategy involved -- except pick the big one! 

Then I realized I might go in on the first round with smaller dice to get the bonus die.  (That might not be the game's technical term for it.)  Okay, so that's a choice. 

But then it occurred to me that there's no penalty for losing on the first or second rounds, right?  The victories or losses aren't cumulative -- all that matters is the third round.  So, I wasn't sure what the three rounds are for or why you designed the system the way you did.  I'm sure you had your reasons, but without having you there I was like, "Okay, this is clearly designed to do something, and right now it feels like I'm missing that something and using the game 'wrong' -- and if I could only figure out HOW this thing is supposed to be used and used it effectively, the questions at the back of my head would settle down and we could focus on the cool color, content, situation and character this game is generating."  So, if you could talk about why the mechanic is designed the way it is, I'd be greatly appreciative.

Thanks!

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Moreno R. on February 21, 2008, 01:51:13 PM
The dice mechanic itself.  During the first rolling of dice I got confused.  I haven't had a chance to take it apart again since Sunday night, but at first blush it all seemed kind of random.  You roll dice, I roll dice.  Random numbers are generated and then someone wins the round.  I could obviously choose which size die to use, but I didn't see any real strategy involved -- except pick the big one! 

Then I realized I might go in on the first round with smaller dice to get the bonus die.  (That might not be the game's technical term for it.)  Okay, so that's a choice. 

But then it occurred to me that there's no penalty for losing on the first or second rounds, right?  The victories or losses aren't cumulative -- all that matters is the third round.  So, I wasn't sure what the three rounds are for or why you designed the system the way you did.  I'm sure you had your reasons, but without having you there I was like, "Okay, this is clearly designed to do something, and right now it feels like I'm missing that something and using the game 'wrong' -- and if I could only figure out HOW this thing is supposed to be used and used it effectively, the questions at the back of my head would settle down and we could focus on the cool color, content, situation and character this game is generating."  So, if you could talk about why the mechanic is designed the way it is, I'd be greatly appreciative.

Christopher, I know that you played a lot of Sorcerer. What do you make of the similitudes between the dice mechanics in IAWA and Sorcerer? (my group is playing Sorcerer & Sword these days, but we tried IAWA once when it was published, and a player said to me that he understood how the S&S dice system worked only after playing IAWA). What confused you in the dice system in IAWA, after becoming familiar with the one in Sorcerer & Sword?


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 02:17:16 PM
Hi Mareno,

lol... Well, if I knew what confused me, I wouldn't be asking the questions.

And now I'm more confused... The dice mechanics are similar to Sorcerer?  My brain just twirled on that.  I mean... Each round of rolling in Sorcerer produces effects upon the characters immediately (which, if I understand IaWA), isn't the case (effects are at the end of three rounds).  Bonus dice are earned by providing color in Sorcerer, not so in IaWA (which asks for color to justify dice).  In Sorcerer Initiative and effectiveness are determined from one roll of dice, there's full defense and dodge, which are important options, dice bonuses carry over into the next round, from round to round, which can encourage players to cat-and-mouse their opponent for a while with all sorts of non-combat skills to nail someone with a final combat attack (or visa versa.)

In Sorcerer players roll their intent, and then the dice rolls determine whether a) the Intent happened at all, and b) if it did, what the result of the intent moving forward was.  As Vincent says, the IaWA system is designed to provide consequences for contested actions, not resolve intents. 

As far as can tell, after writing those two paragraphs up, IaWA might confuse me BECAUSE I've played Sorcerer!

If you want to break out the similarities, that would be great.  It might help me grok something.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 02:23:39 PM
By the by....

Given what I just wrote, the difference between resolving a PC's Intent and providing Consequences for Contested Actions is HUGE.

Now that I see that distinction, I know I'm supposed to see something clearly about how to a) build contested actions, and b) move toward cool consequences that come about because of the contested actions (as oppose to "I hit you, you hit me, repeat")

But my brain is having trouble going, "YES!  I see what this game is encouraging now!"  (And I put that all under the context of the questions from my first post and look forward to Vincent's answers.)

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Alan on February 21, 2008, 07:35:11 PM
Hi Christopher,

In another thread you wrote "This is exactly how you mean the system to run: Two PCs want to kill each other, and they run the conflict mechanic again and again until someone goes down."

As I read the rules, yes, if two players have some reason to want each others character dead, this can happen. However, in the three chapters I played, I never saw two characters who both had killing each other as their best interests. There was always something else they really wanted out of the conflict and so negotiations happened. The system sings when most of the character's best interests are in competition but not outright mutual destruction.

I think the true genius of IaWA's conflict system is that it doesn't require that players have intentions clearly in mind when they start, but the consequence negotiation causes such intentions to emerge.

The conflict system does resemble Sorcerer's in several ways: first, it's just about conflicts of interest (actually a subset called "action") and doesn't require stakes be identified; second, the high roller's dice stand and all responders have to reroll; third, a win in one round produces an advantage dice for the next.

The three round structure encourages players to model the standard pattern of heroic conflict where the hero starts out at a disadvantage and makes a comeback -- players are encouraged to choose lower dice so they can get on the Owe list. Then in later rounds, if they don't get the advantage dice by rolling, they can get one by burning an entry on the Owe list. Also, in a multiple character conflict, when one gets knocked out earlier than the others, this can produce interesting dynamics.

Very cool.


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on February 21, 2008, 07:44:37 PM
Hey Christopher, it sounds like you don't have the rules in front of you and maybe haven't read them. Is that true? I'm happy to answer your questions either way, but it'll help me know where to start.

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 08:18:04 PM
Hi Vincent,

Yes.  Sorry.  I mentioned that in the other thread.  I should have repeated it here.

I feel kind of awkward about that, honestly.  I usually wouldn't do it this way, but I'm really curious about the design.  If you want, we can pass on the discussion until I can dig them up from someone on my end of the world.  I'd completely understand.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Moreno R. on February 21, 2008, 08:30:53 PM
And now I'm more confused... The dice mechanics are similar to Sorcerer?  My brain just twirled on that.  I mean... Each round of rolling in Sorcerer produces effects upon the characters immediately (which, if I understand IaWA), isn't the case (effects are at the end of three rounds).  Bonus dice are earned by providing color in Sorcerer, not so in IaWA (which asks for color to justify dice).  In Sorcerer Initiative and effectiveness are determined from one roll of dice, there's full defense and dodge, which are important options, dice bonuses carry over into the next round, from round to round, which can encourage players to cat-and-mouse their opponent for a while with all sorts of non-combat skills to nail someone with a final combat attack (or visa versa.)

In Sorcerer players roll their intent, and then the dice rolls determine whether a) the Intent happened at all, and b) if it did, what the result of the intent moving forward was.  As Vincent says, the IaWA system is designed to provide consequences for contested actions, not resolve intents. 

As far as can tell, after writing those two paragraphs up, IaWA might confuse me BECAUSE I've played Sorcerer!

If you want to break out the similarities, that would be great.  It might help me grok something.

Well, the first similarity is see, it's the kind of long-term game it build: IAWA seems (by reading the rules - I only played one one-shot until now) designed to build a not-chronological narration that create, session by session, a cohesive world by adding sketchy colorful setting elements. And that seems to me the kind of "Sword and Sorcery narrative" that Ron advised using Sorcerer & Sword for.

Looking at the conflict system (it's not really a conflict _resolution_, but a mechanic that get triggered by conflict. The conflict could be very well unresolved at the end):
- as in sorcerer, there is no stakes or "find the conflict in this scene": you want to do something, someone try to stop you, get out the dice!
- you roll dice and "read" them exactly like in Sorcerer [there are no bonus dice before the first roll, but seeing that they were a problematic element for me in trying to play Sorcerer, I don't miss them. The number of dice is changed to the kind of dice, losing the elegance of the currency rule , but doing away with bonus dice and carry-overs it would not be used much anyway. All in all it seems to me like a very simplified and standardized Sorcerer roll. You lose a lot of options and the player is not pushed to role-play to get bonus dice, but by the other hand the simplification is considerable]
- The player with the highest die "act" and the other defends, re-rolling his dice and losing his declared action (like in Sorcerer, if the player choose to drop his action. In Sorcerer he could try to defend with a single dye, this option is absent in IAWA. Again, dropping options to get a simpler, faster game with less tactical choices)
- The player who lost the first round don't get a number of "victories" and bonus dice, but a single bonus die, that add to the highest die in the next roll (I see this as a simplified version of the sorcerer bonus dice: seeing that you don't get a variable number of victories, you get a variable bonus from winning the round)
- As in sorcerer, you can't force someone to do what you want by winning a conflict: all you can do is to give them dice penalties

So, it's not _exactly_ Sorcerer, not by a long shot, but the similitudes are not trivial, and I don't think that they can be casual. I think that Vincent started with the Sorcerer mechanics and altered them to suit the scope of this game (and I would really like to know the reason behind every change, but I am curious like that). By the way, the only rpgs listed in the "direct sources" section are Sorcerer (& Sword), Trollbabe, and Primetime Adventures (the last one surprised me: I still don't see the link to PTA in this game). And Conan is listed as another source, linking again the objective of this game to the ojectives of Sorcerer and Sword.

(my player was talking specifically about the reading of the dice and the "the loser reroll" mechanism. All the options in S&S confused him and he didn't see the basic system underneath. It was my fault in not being able to spot his confusion, too, obviously)


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 08:41:51 PM
Hi Alan,

I think you just gave me a light bulb moment.  "Best Interest."  Hmmmm... I don't know if that's exactly what we we're playing.  We were playing more, "What my PC really, really wants." 

I think framing things as "Best Interest" shifts the mind into subtler territory, where conflicts of interested can be better -- surprise! -- negotiated.

This is the kind of thing I was talking about where I don' t think I was understanding the point of view/logic of the game.  Right up front, we're not talking about "Goal" -- we're talking about "Best Interest."  And that's a big shift in how to approach the creation of the character and situation -- which in turn will have a big impact on conflicts.

***
Sidenote: I really, really don't want to get all confounded with the Sorcerer/IaWA stuff... But I don't think losers of the initiative re-roll.  You can choose to do that with a Full Defense, or you can Suck It Up, which leaves your dice standing on the table and you roll one die for defense.  But yes, dice carry over.


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 08:44:36 PM
Hi Moreno,

Yes, in terms of the die reading, it's like Sorcerer.  But as I touched on in my response to Alan, I believe where I got confused was in the whole point of view of leading up to the conflict.  Reading the dice was easy.  What confused me was what the dice meant in relation to the conflict of the action, which conflicts would be best for the mechanic, and so on.

But your points are good ones.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 08:49:07 PM
Hi Vincent,

I've thought it over.  Let me track down a copy of the game from the L.A. crew.  It's just too goofy to make you all explain it to me if it's right there in the book.  Let me check it out and I'll get back to you.

I honestly think the shift from Goals to Best Interest is a huge one and that's going to inform my reading of the rules in a significant way.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Alan on February 21, 2008, 08:57:55 PM
Characters don't have to know what's in their best interests, but the player does. And I think there's opportunities to make best interests that are apparently irrational or point to an unusual solution -- eg one of mine was "It's in Zahir's best interest to yield to temptation" while there was a tempter demon in play. To rationalize through play how that's his best interest was a challenge.


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on February 21, 2008, 09:31:50 PM
Christopher - okay. I really am happy to answer questions either way, so if you can't chase a copy down, let me know.

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 21, 2008, 09:37:10 PM
Dude,

If you want to go for it, I'm all ears.  I just didn't want to put you on the spot.


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on February 22, 2008, 08:06:17 AM
Not at all!

So let's see. Here's how the game works. This is for players, not GMs; for GMs it works a little differently.

In a session, I presume that you have two goals for your character: to do well in this session, and to come back in future sessions. The game makes these goals mutually compatible, but in tension. Here's how.

1. To come back in a future session, you have to be on the owe list. To go on the owe list, you have to go up against people rolling better dice than yours.

2. To do well in this session, you have to win rolls. The most reliable way to win rolls is to go up against people rolling worse dice than yours. (You can still do well, by luck, if you go up against better dice - that's how the goals are compatible.)

3. Once you're on the owe list, you can scratch your name off for a bonus to your current roll - you can trade away your character's future for her success in this session.

So the purpose of your character's best interests is to throw you into action against other characters, so you get to roll dice. When you create your character's best interests, you're supposed to know the above tension, so you name best interests that put your character into conflict with other characters' strengths, so that you'll be rolling against them where their dice are better than yours. There's a section in the rules that's explicit about this.

Of course the other players know it too, so they're casting their characters' best interests against your character's strengths. Consequently, it's in the warrior's best interests to win the heart of the diplomat; it's in the diplomat's best interests to defeat the warrior in battle.

Now when those two characters come together, there's plenty for them to do to one another and plenty to be decided between them, not just who kills whom.

Making sense so far? I've barely talked about the dice, but if "best interests?" underlies your real question, this should help, I think?

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 22, 2008, 04:44:01 PM
Hi Vincent,

It's making sense so far.

I should clarify that "Best Interest" isn't underlying my question.  My point simply wast that to have something on a character sheet called, "Best Interest" introduces something new to this game that I haven't seen before.

It follows -- for me, at least -- that there are probably other things: points of view, agendas, assumptions what have you, that you built into the game.  To elicit, to provoke and so on between players.

Best Interest is new.  It implies a moment of thought (or two or three) before writing something down.  We often can leap at naming goals, but often our own desires aren't in our best interest.  And often what we think we want to fulfill our needs actually isn't the best choice to fulfill those needs.

As pointed out above, the Best Interest isn't what the character thinks is in his Best Interest, but what the Player thinks is in the PC's Best Interest.  This introduces all sorts of possible irony, as the Player can see the field of narrative from a much better perspective.  He can have the PC play toward conflicts that are against his best interest and so on, only to then have the PC get a better sense of his or her Best Interests as play continues.

Further, this leads to thinking about the consequences for intended actions.  Since I would say a big anchor for the game are the Best Interests, players will start "magnetizing" their thinking about consequences in terms of challenging their fellow players about their PC's Best Interests.  Best Interest does not mean Goal -- it means Best Interest.  So the consequences aren't, "I kill you..." because "Stay Alive" wasn't the Best Interest at stake. "You embarrass yourself before your follows," might make a hell of a lot more sense -- depending on how the Player of the losing player defined Best Interest.

All of this feeds into the mechanics we'll discuss next, I'm presuming.  (I've obviously already begun thinking about it.)

But we missed all this on Sunday. Off the top of my head we didn't dig deeper with our original ideas. I was playing the ghost of a noble woman.  My Best Interest was to keep Wolf Spirit away from a temple. But that's a goal, with the Best Interest buried somewhere beneath it.  (The Wolf Spirit was another PC)

Now that I know we're talking Best Interests, I would ask, "Okay, but why is it in my Best interest to keep the Wolf Spirit from the Temple."  Certainly, I decided that the Wolf Spirit had killed my husband, and the temple had belonged to the Wolf Spirit.  I died driving the Wolf Spirit from the Temple -- filling it with Gorilla Spirits to keep the Wolf Spirit away.

But that's all Motivation. It's not Best Interest.  Best Interest implies a QUALITY to the motivation and the goals.  My expectation is that thinking things through a bit more would influence the group and guide them to certain kinds of actions to contest and consequences to declare....

Which I'd love to hear more about, Vincent.  Especially from the point of view of what you want the system to do, elicit, inspire and so forth.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on February 22, 2008, 07:07:01 PM
When you played, did you have only one? You're supposed to have two - I think that's an important point, actually.

I can't really just plunk down an answer for "what do you want the game to elicit?" I mean, I want it to elicit stories that are like (somehow like) Tanith Lee's in the Flat Earth, but that's not a helpful answer. I hope that by talking about the game, I can get you to ask me smaller, tighter questions that taken together add up to that one.

Anyhow, that's why I ask, did you have only one?

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 22, 2008, 09:36:14 PM
Oops!

Yes. We had only one.

If I remember correctly, the GM said our Best Interest should be connected to two PCs, but I suspect now he elided the rules of having two Best Interests, each connected to another PC, to one Best Interest that connected to one character.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on February 23, 2008, 10:15:25 AM
They shouldn't even necessarily be to other PCs. NPCs have an important part to play too - since NPCs can't recur, don't go on the owe list, the GM is free to cast NPCs' strengths against PCs' weaknesses.

A cool thing is, your own two best interests don't even have to be mutually compatible. Your best interests are valuable for the conflicts they create, not in the achievement of them. It's in the warrior's best interests to win the heart of the diplomat, it's in the warrior's best interests to make an example of the diplomat's father.

So that's best interests. From play, did you get how the owe list works?

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 23, 2008, 12:13:45 PM
Hi Vincent,

This part here....

A cool thing is, your own two best interests don't even have to be mutually compatible. Your best interests are valuable for the conflicts they create, not in the achievement of them.

That's an invaluable point of view about Best Interests.  I think that would clearly color how conflicts and outcomes are stated.  As I said, we saw them more as goals -- and everything was about getting those goals accomplished.

As for the We Owe list... I absolutely see how it works and it's game tension from your description.  However, this was con game -- so we sort of blew past that.  There was no incentive to stay on the list, since we wouldn't be playing again.  So, for us, last weekend, the We Owe list was just a bank to get another die when we felt the pinch of a conflict.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on February 25, 2008, 06:52:51 AM
I think that the owe list works okay for that - "go up against better dice now, get a bonus die later" isn't a terrible rule - but obviously the owe list does its real thing only in multi-session play.

So now what? I don't think I've answered your whole question, at all, but I'm not sure what to talk about next.

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on February 25, 2008, 02:21:28 PM
Hi Vincent,

Well, I'd love to hear more about the resolution system:

Why three rounds, for example.  And, really, anything else you want to say about it from an under-the-hood perspective.

And thanks for all the answers you've given!

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 01, 2008, 08:18:31 AM
Hey Vincent!

There are now a ton of threads floating around hamming key points about the game.  (And the threads on Poison'd, both here: http://lumpley.com/comment.php?entry=350#10306 (http://lumpley.com/comment.php?entry=350#10306) and here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?board=44.0 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?board=44.0) are also really important!)

Plus, I finally got a chance to read the rules and, lo and behold, a lot of the confusion from the con game vanished.  I'm not sure if I would have grasped everything as is without the confusion first, but as it is now, I can look back at the con game and go, "Well, Vincent did write, "Do this..." "Beware of this..." and, "Tend to head in this direction..."

So all in all I think I see how the game works now.  At least I have a better grasp of it, a much better grasp, than I did before. 

I think a lot of my confusion two weeks ago did stem from the issues you brought up in the Anyway thread: the hypermechanization, as you put it, of a lot Indie rules.  As you said, none of that is bad in of itself.  It is one way to play, and there are others.  This, I think, is one of the reasons for my reactionary taste in RPGs right now.  I kind of miss all the, you know, talking we used to do with RPGs.  I ran both Pendragon and HeroQuest at the con, and it was quite refreshing to just keep playing until the dice rolling was needed.

I know that when I read the Poison'd rules, I read them much as Ralph did -- more board game, like, the rules will carry play.  And when the In a Wicked Age rules were described to me at the con, I heard them similarly.  Whether this was a confusion in the text, or the GM's reading of the text, or my confusion upon hearing the GM, I no longer know, nor am especially interested in.  I do know that this hypermechanized thing is in the air and, at least in the Los Angeles area, it seems to be becoming the default position.  Some folks are grabbing on to really trad designs to avoid it, others of us (me at least) are happily taking all the stuff I've learned that like about playstyle and technique and bringing it to games that have, in my view, more breathing room (like, say, Sorcerer and HeroQuest.)

I see now that I've been wrong -- or unfair, or something -- in some of my judgments about how some games are supposed to work.    Now that I've read the rules -- and read a lot on the Internet -- I see what you're going for, and it isn't what I thought it was.  Which is why I kept trying to dig at questions, because certain pieces and who you are as a designer weren't jibing with what I thought I was seeing.

I do still, however, have a few questions.  Poison'd, ultimately isn't my cup of tea.  But In a Wicked Age might be. 

Now, I've asked a few times about the dice mechanic, specifically, I've asked twice "Why three rounds?"  You might choose not to answer again, but I'm asking again!

Something I finally saw, which I didn't see the night of the con game and which really led to some confusion and a little frustration, is that the system is designed to put the brakes on taking another PC out.  You can't, in fact do it in the unit of time that encompasses the three round resolution.  I kept banging my head on that during the game.  "I want to take this guy out -- why can't I do it?!?"  Well, call me dumb.  I just couldn't see that that was the point.  And this is what I meant in previous posts about trying to understand the design elements under the hood; what it was you were trying to elicit from the Players.  Because if I have Best Interests I'm pursuing, and killing another PC is the least effective way to do it, what other options and actions can I take to pursue my best interests.  If I do it well, I might play a whole session in pursuit of my Best Interests without ever having a conflict! Right?  I could cajole, seduce, lie, weep, tug heartstrings, give gifts, aid others with materials and so on -- and be serving my PC's Best Interests the whole night.

But I still want to know, "Why three rounds?"  As far as I can tell, since the model is completely different than the ablative model of most conflicts (we wear each other down till one of us can no longer do anything, and then it ends) you had to come up with some method of actually ending the darned thing.  Is that it?  You needed to pick a number of rounds to make it finite, and three was the number you picked?  I don't know.  I'd like to know.

Another question. And I might really be asking, "How do you play?" instead of how the game is supposed to work.  Which is fine for me.  I'm just looking for something more specific -- from your own experience -- than, "Have fun with it! Do what you like!" 

Setting and Situation.  I've been giving this matter a lot of thought these days, plowing through Ron's thread on HeroQuest and Glorantha, as well as Ron's work with Sorcerer and Sorcerer & Sword.  In my view, how we handle setting and situation does a lot to support the game play.  Different games have different levels of detail required to work, but I'm pretty sure that one needs "enough" (a value, still figuring it out) to make sure there's enough context for the PCs and the fiction to rest inside of to be clear and give weight to the characters' choices and actions.

In a Wicked Age provides lots of situation and spots of setting from the Oracles.  As Character creation continues, more details of setting and situation get added.  The rules state that when the Best Interests are defined, it's time to start playing. 

I'm just curious: Do you sketch out maps at all while doing these early creation phases?  Are any other details of the world generated while fleshing out the Oracle details and characters?  By that I mean, "If my PC is a merchant, let's have a big market in a walled city where he arrives every month."  Honestly, that seems to heavy handed and like a lot of extra fat.  But it seems like if there's noting defined but the elements sketched out from the Oracles and the Characters, there's not enough detail of a world for the PCs to exist inside of.  I know that the rules say to build timeline and maps between game sessions.  I'm curious what else might be done before the first scene of play.

Now, I might just be being a scaredy-cat.  But I think that one of the problems we had the night of the con game was a lack of world around the PCs.  We were just these characters in conflict that changed CGI green screen backgrounds from scene-to-scene.  I didn't feel like we were in a specific place; we lacked an interconnected world of locations, culture, and points of view that the PCs lived in and made choices about.

My guess is that part of the game is to go slowly and accrete details as we go, scene by scene.  Now, from my own experience (not just with that night of IaWA), this tends to produce the lack of anchored game play I described above, with Players almost rushing all crazy into creating details and adding stuff until there is no coherence to the setting and it's all just motion.  But IaWA might produce different results.  Or I might have missed an "intter-textual" reading that clarifies this point.  Or you might do something with play that you didn't want to impose on others.  Or the sort of play I'm trying to avoid is exactly the result the game should provide. 

So, setting and situation -- not just for the PCs, but for the "world" around them. Any thoughts on that?

Thanks!

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 01, 2008, 09:55:30 AM
I forgot to say I loved the art.

You did that art?  It's fucking awesome!

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: DainXB on March 01, 2008, 04:55:57 PM

Something I finally saw, which I didn't see the night of the con game and which really led to some confusion and a little frustration, is that the system is designed to put the brakes on taking another PC out.  You can't, in fact do it in the unit of time that encompasses the three round resolution.



Now, I might just be being a scaredy-cat.  But I think that one of the problems we had the night of the con game was a lack of world around the PCs.  We were just these characters in conflict that changed CGI green screen backgrounds from scene-to-scene.  I didn't feel like we were in a specific place; we lacked an interconnected world of locations, culture, and points of view that the PCs lived in and made choices about.

My guess is that part of the game is to go slowly and accrete details as we go, scene by scene. 


Christopher, I don't want to intrude in a thread that's become basically a dialogue between you and Vincent (and a very interesting one to read, too), but I think maybe I can shed a little light on a couple of your points, quoted above.

As far as I can tell from reading the rules, it's impossible to kill a character (PC or NPC) without the controlling player's agreement during a conflict.  The controller can always say "You exhaust or injure me.  Pick."  However, once a character has been knocked down repeatedly, and has two forms at zero dice, they are out of the chapter, and can take no actions.  Meaning that, barring outside interference from some other character, you can unilaterally kill them.  The victim no longer meets the 'can and would try to interfere' clause of the rules, so, however much his controller wants to, his character can't act.  No conflict ensues, just the narration of a coup de grace.  So far as I can see, that's the only way a character can die without the agreement of the controlling player.  (Unless, of course, Vincent tells me I'm wrong. :) )

Your second point, about the lack of a world around the PCs, is dealt with, I think, by the 'say one concrete detail' clause on pg. 10.  You're right, details about the world accrete slowly, one concrete thing at a time.  Your merchant mentions that he is on his way to the bazaar in Tarshish.  That's a concrete detail, and suddenly the world contains the city of Tarshish, which has a bazaar.  Someone else may mention the yellow clay walls around Tarshish, and now we know it's a walled city, and so on.  (This presumes that everybody builds on the details everyone else gives, more or less cooperatively, of course.  I don't think that there's any rules mechanism for denying someone else's detail narration.  It's just down to the social contract of your group.) 

For example, playing a warlord, I might say 'I burned Tarshish to the ground, and slaughtered it's people!" as an incidental boast.  Or, playing a well-traveled character I might say "Tarshish?  Never heard of such a place.  It must be an insignificant little hole!"  Neither of these negate the existence of the detail you added, they just modify it.  I presume that we wrangle out in narration and counter-narration whether the boastful warlord or the skeptical traveler are telling the objective truth, or just voicing their opinions.  Maybe it turns out that the warlord is fresh from battle, and your merchant, appalled by this news, now has reason to go into conflict with him.  Maybe the sacking of Tarshish was years ago, and your merchant knows that the city he's heading for has been rebuilt by the survivors -- "I trade in Tarshish every month!  It's a prosperous city -- and you know, they've built a wall now..."

In later chapters, maybe the Mayor of Tarshish winds up being a character, with the particular strengths 'city walls' and 'prosperous bazaar' grown from the details of caravanserai banter earlier in the story.  To me, that's the way the world is built around the characters.

--
DainXB   





Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Darren Hill on March 02, 2008, 02:05:03 PM
About the three questions, i have an idea.
The playtest version of the rules had no limit on rounds, and it was quite possible (I know from experience) that conflicts could go on and on, getting more and more tedious.
So I think the three turn limit was introduced to put the brakes on that without needing to introduce another ablative stat to keep track of.
Given that the conflict system resolves a unit of action, kind of, and several conflicts can be strung together in an attempt to achieve the same goal ("I keep at it till he's dead, dead, dead!), a limit like this seems to me to be very necessary.


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 02, 2008, 02:49:32 PM
Hi Darren,

Yes, absolutely.  I was just curious if there was a reason for three, of if it was, "Well, we gotta stop this somehow... Three seems to be the right length for fun. Three it is."  (Which is a perfectly fine explanation.)


Dain,

As for the world building -- yes.  I just was curious how Vincent plays the game.  Again, I've found across many games and sessions, that when I tried to build out without any setting/fiction structure the world felt less substantial.  I'm just wondering about how Vincent plays.


For the people who kept saying, "Dude, it's like Sorcerer," and I was all, "What???"  I am soooooo sorry.  I swear, this experience of slowly sinking my brain into IaWA has been really embarrassing.  Yes, of course it's like Sorcerer.  Each round of rolling dice advances the fiction moment-by-moment, and each next rolling grows out of the fiction dictated (and improvised out of) the dice roll results. 

For some reason when I played two weeks ago I had it in my head that I was supposed to declare an outcome I wanted, and then roll dice on my way to getting to that outcome.  I was using the rules almost like this:

I'm a guy with a sword in AD&D and I want to kill an orc.  So I keep rolling a D20 until I do.

It did not occur to me  -- for reasons I cannot tell you -- to think, "Okay, conflict of interest.  Roll dice, see who's on top, dictate/negotiate fiction, advance to another round of dice rolling to establish further fiction, until the three rounds are over and an outcome is reached that closes a unit of conflict." 

I have my guesses as to why my brain jumped that way.  But the fact it never occurred to me simply figure out how to use the game when I was so confused boggles my mind.

So, sorry I was so thick.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on March 03, 2008, 10:18:38 AM
But I still want to know, "Why three rounds?"  As far as I can tell, since the model is completely different than the ablative model of most conflicts (we wear each other down till one of us can no longer do anything, and then it ends) you had to come up with some method of actually ending the darned thing.  Is that it?  You needed to pick a number of rounds to make it finite, and three was the number you picked?

Yep. In early playtesting, you kept going until somebody doubled somebody, which kept it down to three rounds or less 75% of the time, but the rest of the time never, ever ended. Three rounds was the maximum I really wanted to play through - I found that after three rounds I'd just wish it'd end. So three rounds it is.

Quote
I'm just curious: Do you sketch out maps at all while doing these early creation phases?  Are any other details of the world generated while fleshing out the Oracle details and characters?  By that I mean, "If my PC is a merchant, let's have a big market in a walled city where he arrives every month."  Honestly, that seems to heavy handed and like a lot of extra fat.  But it seems like if there's noting defined but the elements sketched out from the Oracles and the Characters, there's not enough detail of a world for the PCs to exist inside of.  I know that the rules say to build timeline and maps between game sessions.  I'm curious what else might be done before the first scene of play.

I don't do any world creation stuff at all before character creation and I try to keep a tight lid on backstory during character creation. The philosophy's very much "we start HERE and go forward." I don't have anything against making a quick map during character creation and best interests, but it shouldn't be detailed, of course. In my experience, the world of the first session is handwavy and very sketchy, kind of scattered, but not like malignantly scattered.

Then in the second session, details from the first that didn't seem to matter much at the time get revealed as significant, connected to one another and to new details in ways we wouldn't've individually guessed. It really starts with the third session that the game's world seems like a real place, with its own momentum.

There's a further rule that's important but I didn't draw any special attention to it in the text, something like "whenever anybody asks you to describe or explain something, do," with the implication that your description is more or less authoritative. It's not just a matter of everyone throwing out details in the midst of action. I can turn to you and say, "hey, tell us about the religion of the horse tribes?" and you can lead us in some real world building. That's when most of the maps get drawn in our games, too, not between sessions. Somebody's like, "what does this city look like?" and there are a couple of us who can't answer the question WITHOUT drawing a map.

The GM has oversight over all this, but I hesitate to say veto power. More like the responsibility to introduce cohesion when it's called for, additively, not by contradiction. If there's a need for a real veto in your game, you're kind of outside the creative contract I've imagined for the game.

Con games are naturally the worst, since everybody knows there's no investment past the single session, and everybody's kind of anxious to have some high-action fun with strangers.

Was there a third question? I misplaced it.

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on March 03, 2008, 10:25:12 AM
I should add, I say "con games are the worst" but I've only played 3 of them. They seemed to confirm what I'd expect, which is that con games are the worst, but maybe I shouldn't say it like it's a given.

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 03, 2008, 10:46:49 AM
Hi Vincent,

If there's a third question, I've misplaced it, too.  With all the threads popping up all over the place, I certainly have enough info to give it another go with a great deal more success.  I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  Your patience has been awesome.

This:

There's a further rule that's important but I didn't draw any special attention to it in the text, something like "whenever anybody asks you to describe or explain something, do," with the implication that your description is more or less authoritative. It's not just a matter of everyone throwing out details in the midst of action. I can turn to you and say, "hey, tell us about the religion of the horse tribes?" and you can lead us in some real world building. That's when most of the maps get drawn in our games, too, not between sessions. Somebody's like, "what does this city look like?" and there are a couple of us who can't answer the question WITHOUT drawing a map.

... really turned a screw for me.  I thought that passage was about, you know, describing something in-action.  Breaking it out like that explains all my questions about the world building process for IaWA.

Also: Con Games.  Well, I ran a session of HeroQuest and Pendragon at a local con two weeks ago and the games seemed to go great.  I know I had a blast.  And I played games of Sorcerer & Sword and Primetime Adventures at the previous local con a few months back that also went really well, so I don't think it's cons per se.

I do think that in this case we had gathered a bunch of people who wanted to give the "rules" a spin. And that meant the dice mechanics.  And so we were focused on getting to them, rather doing all that 90% of the role-playing iceberg that I now see IaWA depends on, if that makes any sense.  In the HeroQuest game I ran, for example, we rolled dice for conflicts I think four times (three standard and one extended conflict).  Compare that to the IaWA game, where the whole session was pretty much moving from one scene-as-die-rolling conflict to another. 

So, I'd say a lot of our IaWA game was misplaced effort simply because we wanted to see how the game "plays" -- not realizing (for whatever reason) that taking the time to just "make stuff up" is a big part of IaWA, and it isn't about getting to the dice, but that the dice serve a specific function when the making stuff up phase leads characters to a point where we can't just make choices for our characters, but that a conflict between the characters will demand action and adjudication from the rules.  In other words, I think we meant well, but blew it in our eagerness to see how Vincent's new dice rolling system worked!

Again, thanks for all the effort and information.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: lumpley on March 03, 2008, 11:05:37 AM
My pleasure. More questions are always welcome.

I just meant that the particular techniques in the Wicked Age don't work as well for con games. I've had stellar con games too (especially, yes, Primetime Adventures).

Also, thanks for saying so about the illustrations. I'm happy with them.

-Vincent


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 03, 2008, 11:27:10 AM
Right.  Absolutely.  In a Wicked Age was designed as campaign game.  The "We Owe" list is all about that, which will in turn dictate choices for Players during conflicts.  Who is the Protagonist?  What is the world like?  The first session of IaWA, I see now, is the nice, slow beginning of the tale, and we'll be getting deeper and harder the further into play we go.

With only one session and no expectation of further sessions it's too easy to just slide by features of the game and be rushing, as you said, to the action and fights.  So I completely agree.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: John Harper on March 04, 2008, 01:08:21 PM
I like to play Wicked with the idea that a chapter is roughly an hour long. Sometimes that means they're two hours. But with some gumption you can get 2 chapters done in a convention time slot (and with some luck, 3), which is fantastic.

The guys at ConQuest did a fun thing: the kept one Owe List for the whole day as they rotated GMs and swapped players in and out. I may try something similar at Games on Demand at GenCon.


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on March 04, 2008, 02:28:23 PM
Hi John,

I actually had been thinking of something along similar lines with swapping out GMs and keeping the story going.  Players could come back in and find out what the story had become through the weekend.

CK


Title: Re: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys
Post by: Alan on March 04, 2008, 02:42:06 PM
It worked well at ConQuest. I played an early chapter and a later one, then GM'd the 6th one. I had a certain sense of continuity.

I also have a plan to keep the same Owe list for all games I run and flesh out a world map to go along with it. That will let the map grow just like the one for Elric or Conan grew as the author wrote stories in specific locations.