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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Valamir on February 26, 2008, 09:38:08 AM



Title: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 26, 2008, 09:38:08 AM
Ok, so after GoPlayPeoria, Tim K, Julie, Ron, Matt S, and myself returned to my place to play some Poisn'd.

Character creation went off without a hitch.  There was some difficulty remembering the lists since we had only one copy of the game to pass around.  If you do a character sheet for the final version, I suggest putting the lists right on the sheet and letting people check off or cross out items).

Everything after character creation...not so much.

We probably spent the better part of 3 hours wrestling with the text and trying to figure out what exactly we were supposed to do.  We concluded there were certain things we were doing wrong and certain things that just weren't established in the text.  Our ultimate conclusion is that the current text (GenCon Ashcan version) has a lot of rules, and about zero explanation for when and how to use them.

So here's what we had trouble with.


1) The escalation tables need some substantial additional text on how to use them pretty much across the board. 

For instance, the ship escalation tables:  How do you decide which table you start on?  If we want to close to boarding range, and the enemy wants to blast us to smithereens with broadsides...what table?  Does every sea battle have to start on the Pursuit Escape table, progress through Cannon to Broadside to Boarding, changing tables whenever the final escalation level for the current table allows?  What if its not a question of pursuit / escape when both parties want to engage, just at different ranges?

Another for instance.  The Knife Fight table indicates a number of things as examples of escalation.  One of the items listed is "changing weapons".  There's no text on what this actually means.  We came up with at least 3 possible interpretations:
a) the fight started on the knife fight table, it stays on the knife fight table.  If you're currently on level 1 of the knife fight table, and you escalate by drawing a sword, you move to level 2 on the knife fight table.  Drawing a sword is just color to justify the escalation.
b) If you're currently on level 1 of the knife fight table and you escalate by drawing a sword, you move to level 1 on the sword fight table (change tables but don't go up a level)
c) If you're currently on level 1 of the knife fight table and you escalate by drawing a sword, you move to level 2 on the sword fight table (both go up a level and change tables)

My instinct says "c" is the probably the intended choice (although I prefer "b" for what it does to extend fights and make starting small worthwhile).


2) Do all fights start on level 1 of the escalation table?  What if my intention is to kill you...can I just start at level three...somebody dies.  If not, how do you actually kill someone when death requires escalating to level 3 but only the loser has the option to escalate?

Near as I can tell mechanically you will never choose to escalate as the loser unless you have more dice/more Xs and are merely losing due to a bad roll.  If you have fewer dice and the odds are against you...why wouldn't you ALWAYS just choose "lose" as the option and accept the level 1 damage...which is invariably feeble and non-damaging.  And given that, how can the stronger party ever actually force the issue and kill you given that you're just going to keep quitting at level 1?

Related to this is the pretty confusing example where Hannah (I think that's the name) is trying to kill Tom Reed with a belaying pin.  Its clear she wants to kill him dead.  She makes a brutality vs. soul roll to earn "Xs" for her willingness to murder a helpless person.  Even so she has to escalate twice to get to level 3, and even after finally winning at level 3, Tom still isn't dead...she has to make ANOTHER brutality vs. soul roll to actually kill him, which she fails.  So despite a full fledged fight which Hanna won with the stated intent of killing the helpless Tom Reed...Tom's still alive in the end.  Huh?  Tim made the comment "For a game that's supposed to be about brutal depraved pirates, Vincent sure seems to have gone out of his way to make sure no one ever gets hurt". 

Further, if Hannah had had actually won the first roll, she wouldn't have even had the option to escalate to the greater damage of level 3.  Tom would have just chosen "lose" accepted the "loss of Pride and humiliation" (which is the level 1 damage for the Fist to Fist table) and Hannah...having won the roll, would have essentially lost, being unable to actually kill Tom. 

As I read what the rules actually say, choosing the "Lose" option is always a fail safe way to escape unscathed. The rules for damage say only that you when you choose "Lose" you suffer the full effects of the damage of the level of escalation you're at.  The damage for level 1 escalation is generally trivial and cosmetic.  So if you're not likely to beat your opponent's dice...just choose "lose" on level one and you escape the fight scot free.  Something's missing.  Near as I can tell there are no "stakes" in Poisn'd, so there's nothing the winner gets from winning the fight.  In fact, the rules seem pretty clear (due to the total absence of any suggestion otherwise) that the only thing the winner gets from winning a fight is to inflict the level of damage determined by the escalation level on the loser.  There doesn't appear to be any "dammit, no, I'm not stopping until he's fucking dead" option for the winner. 

Clearly there's something missing in the rules that we needed to know to make this work...either something that would provide a way around this problem, or a discussion that would indicate that this isn't actually a problem, but the way the game is supposed to work.  Can you provide a beginning to end example on how Hannah can actually kill Tom Reed...one that doesn't involve Tom foolishly escalating and playing into Hannah's hands?


3) Do you actually accomplish things with successful success rolls beyond just colorful justifications for gathering Xs?  If so, are the other player characters just furniture for you to do with as you please?  There is one and only one phrase in the text that mentions the outcome of success rolls (other than to gain Xs).  It says "accomplish the action" (or something similar, that's probably not an exact quote) with respect to actually accomplishing what the roll was for, but again (and probably intentionally) there's no stakes setting. 

So Ron said "Back Door Vittorio is going to sodomize Pretty Jim [Matt's character]. Julie had him make the vs. Helpless roll (Pretty Jim was busy carrying red shot at the time and not in a position to resist).  If this roll succeeds...has Jim been sodomized?  Matt had no input on this at all, it wasn't even his character's stats involved in determining success.  Now I'm not opposed to this being the case...for a game like this, having your character be mere furniture in other player's scenes and totally able to be brutalized without you having any recourse at all seems bleakly appropriate. But if this is the way its supposed to be...that HAS to be made abundantly and specifically clear in the text. 

Or is it more like IaWA where the sodomy absolutely doesn't happen without Matt agreeing to it, and Ron's only option would be to go to a fight and so beat down Pretty Jim, that Matt is willing to negotiate and accept sodomy vs the consequences of the fight?  This is also a reasonable interpretation given the vague text, but as there is no discussion in the fight text about negotiating consequences other than those on the table, I suspect not.

So exactly what does winning a success roll get you...just accumulating Xs?  Or does it get you the goal of what you were after when the GM made you roll?  And since there is currently zero text on limiting this, can I just say "I burn down the entire city of Cartegena" and if I win whatever the roll is...Cartegena is totally burned down?  Again, no explicit problem at this point if that's the case...but man does that need to be made explicit.

How does marginal success (a tie) play into this?  The rules say the rolling person may complete the action, they just get no Xs for it.  Does that mean that Pretty Jim gets sodomized if Ron wins OR ties?

In the actual game Ron lost his roll.  Does that mean the sodomy absolutely does not happen?  The rules say that failing to obtain Xs with a roll is an opportunity for the GM to bring a fight.  If Julie (as GM) had brought the fight between Pretty Jim (Matt) and Back Door (Ron) would those two characters have HAD to fight.  Could Matt or Ron have said "no I don't want to fight"? 


4) Starting Fights.  Man oh man oh man, was this a hornet's nest. On paper, the rules seem pretty straight forward.  There's gonna be a fight, so players have the option to make success rolls to get an advantage in the fight, when they lose a success roll the GM brings the fight...go to the fight rules.  At least that's how I interpreted the rules.  But upon further study, that's not what the rules actually say to do.  See, I initially thought that FIRST you establish that there's gonna be a fight...THEN you start making the string of success rolls related to that fight.  I actually derailed part of the game by asserting that this was how it was supposed to work.

What the rules actually APPEAR to say, is that you start making success rolls anytime you want...whether there's a fight looming on the horizon or not.  THEN when you fail one, the GM has the option to bring a fight...presumably ANY fight that would narratively make sense to happen at that point.  In play...these are actually two very very very different and completely incompatible interpretations.  The problem is that while the rules appear to support this second interpretation, there is no support at all for any of the nuances that this interpretation raises...leading to the possibility that the first interpretation (being much cleaner in practice) was the actual intention and the text is just sloppy. 

Here are the problems.


a) can a player ever call for a fight?  I'm the bos'n.  Some pirate swabbie is giving me lip, I want to give him the beat down.  The ONLY rule in the text related to starting a fight is that a fight is the ultimate end result of a string of success rolls and when a roll fails the GM can bring it.  In the absence of any text that suggests otherwise, this would seem to mean that the only thing I can do is make a bunch of success rolls earn some Xs, hope to eventually fail one, and hope further that when I do the GM chooses to bring the fight and chooses to make it between me and the swabbie I'm aiming to beat down.  Although there is zero in the rules requiring or even recommending that the GM do this.


b) who's involved in the fight...anyone the GM says?  In the above example with Ron and Matt, if the GM had brought the fight between them, can I as a player say "at that moment the bos'n arrives and says 'hey wots all this about, then' and jump in?  No where do the rules provide me with that authority...but no where do they deny it either. 


c) So there's no fight on the horizon.  Jim says "I'm gonna steal Jack's gold"...the GM has him make the "with care" roll which he wins.  Jim gets X's.  What the heck are these used for?  Are they just saved forever until eventually there is a fight?  3 days later the great Kraken attacks the ship...does Jim still have his X's from stealing Jack's gold (and as noted above, does he even HAVE Jack's gold?).  If so can he use those X's against the Kraken? 

Does everyone essentially run around doing whatever they want, making whatever rolls they can get the GM to call for, collecting however many Xs they can...until somebody fails and the GM chooses to bring a fight.  Does the fight have to be tied to the events of the failed roll?  Could we have had a dozen rolls about sodomizing this guy, stealing that gold, sabotaging this gun, etc. etc. and when the new cook fails his attempt to poison the soup the GM brings the fight by announcing "The Kraken attacks", even though none of the success rolls had been related to the Kraken?  What if the Kraken came out of the blue, completely not established in play yet, can the GM do that?  Do all of those X's from all of that other stuff apply?  The rules don't say they don't...however the rules also refer to them as "advantages" and "gaining the advantage" and "canny players sensing a fight on the horizon"...which could be interpreted as saying that only Xs that could be considered advantages in the fight that was actually called can be used.  But no where in the rules does it require noting what purpose the Xs were used for so that implies that the Xs are just an abstract currency that aren't tied to whatever action earned them

Regardless, this alone is enough to derail play.  There could easily be an entire page of text just making sure all of the above is clearly laid out. 


d) Is there any other way for a GM to call for a fight other than when a success roll is failed (or marginally successful to no advantage)?  What if the players are making a billion rolls without failing...do they get to rack up infinite Xs?  What if they're sitting around doing nothing -- just picking their noses and reveling in the naughty?  Can the GM simply say "Fine the Resolute attacks, it’s a fight and you have no Xs cuz you stupidly made no rolls"?  That would seem sensible, but there is zero support for this in the text.  The only specified way in the text is the aforementioned "when a player fails a success roll".  Clearly that rule would be pointless if the GM could bring a fight whenever they want, so the existance of such a rule implies they can't.  The absence of any other stated alternative, suggests there is not another alternative.  But that seems suboptimal and puts all pacing control in the hands of the players.


e) Can the GM completely render the players' successes pointless by forcing them to waste their Xs against a trivial opponent?  Let’s say the players are preparing for the fight against the Resolute.  They've had tremendous success, have racked up a ton of Xs and are going to destroy the Resolute easily.  Knowing that all accumulated Xs must be used during a fight or else they're lost, when a success roll is finally failed and the GM gets to bring the fight...can the GM simply say "in the midst of your preparations, you're attacked by a rabid seagull"?  Doing so would be a great way for the GM to burn all those Xs, forcing the players to start over.  Then the GM simply waits for a time when the players fail early without many X's and brings the Resolute then.  There's zero guidance in the text indicating whether this is a dick move or the intended strategy the GM is supposed to use.


f) Is there only ever one X total (per player) that is always used in the next fight, or are there different buckets for different fights.  In our game, Ron's attempt at sodomizing Pretty Jim came in the midst of preparations against the Resolute.  Are there separate buckets so that Matt's Xs earned from loading the guns with red hot shot are in the "vs. Resolute" bucket along with my Xs for whipping the crew and Ron's previous Xs for trimming the sails.  Or, if Julie had brought the fight between Backdoor and Pretty Jim would Ron be able to use his "Trim the Sails" Xs and Matt his "Load the Guns" Xs in the fight against each other.

What about my Xs for whipping the crew.  If I'm not a part of Ron and Matt's fight, do I keep my Xs...or do they just go away because this is the fight that the sequence of rolls led to, even though its not the fight I expected it to lead to.


g) Also related to Xs, can players combine their Xs to buy bigger nastiness against their enemies?  The rules don't say either way (or if they do, I couldn't find it because the discussion on Xs is scattered in a bunch of different places).


h) Does the Urgency cruel fortune have any impact on any of the above answers?  In other words, when the Urgency hits and the Resolute show up, does it just become a card sitting on the table waiting for the GM to bring the fight using it?  Can the players continue to make indefinite success rolls as long as they win, with the GM unable to bring the fight with the Resolute until a roll is failed?  If a roll is eventually failed, does the GM have the option to bring the fight with something else (like Ron vs. Matt or the Kraken) instead of using the Resolute?

If so, then Urgency doesn't seem very Urgent.  If instead, the intention is that when Urgency hits EVERYTHING stops and BAM you immediately deal with the new Cruel Fortune (in this case immediately fight the Resolute -- all other fights end, all success roll sequences end) then this REALLY needs to be stated.  I assumed this was the case and advised Julie to do it this way, only to later find that I had just ASSUMED that's what Urgency meant (because it was called Urgency) but that the rules say nothing of the kind.  They say only to replace the Urgency card with whatever Cruel Fortune its tied to (the Resolute Card in this case).  At which time the rules, by their silence, appear to imply that the Resolute is just a card to be dealt with eventually like any other. 

At that point we observed that the way the card actually works is as a limiter on the GM's ability to bring in new cards...so its actually the anti-urgency, or just a cinemagraphic pacing mechanic.  There was then a whole bunch of argueing over whether this was even useful since the GM could just voluntarily let the threat sit out on the table unused anyway.  I made the point that it served much the same purpose as a D&D wandering monster table...the GM could just spring the threat but has voluntarily agreed to abide by the result of the dice instead. 

Regardless that discussion is completely moot (as Tim kept trying to point out) if there's actually some extra function to Urgency that just isn't written down.

Related to this...is the Cruel Fortune that Urgency is tied to secret, open, or either?



Ok...well that's enough to throw into one post.  I think I covered all the things we wrestled with that kept our session from even getting past a single fight.  I suspect there are lots of assumptions other groups are making about how to do things that enable them to actually move forward and play, but we were trying to play precisely by the rules...and the rules REALLY let us down.

There are items like the above (maybe not as game halting) on pretty much every single page of the text (GenCon Ashcan).  Places where the rule telling us what to do, or how to apply this other rule are just plain MIA.  Vincent, if you'd find it useful, I'd be happy to comb through the text and identify all that I can find (although my GenCon copy has gone missing so I'd need to get the text from you).


Hope this is a useful report.

Ralph


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 26, 2008, 02:37:45 PM
I'm delighted with this, Ralph, and I'm writing a reply.

Thanks for giving my game a shot, everybody! More soon.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 26, 2008, 07:27:38 PM
Okay, not delighted that you had a bad time. I'm sad about that. But this is super helpful to me. Maybe half of your rules questions follow from a key missing piece - yes, an assumption - that I hadn't figured out until now how to talk about. I've already made space in the final book for it. It doesn't call for a detailed laying out of procedures, it's a simple principle.

You were looking for the game mechanics to hand play off to one another. "Who can start a fight? When there's a fight between ships, which ship-to-ship range do we use? When the Resolute comes into play as a cruel fortune, does that mean there's a fight right now? How do I just frickin' kill Tom Reed?" If you'd managed to play a whole session, you'd be adding "how does spending leisure let me fuck Captain Rutherford's daughter?" There's never going to be an answer to any of those questions, because that's not how the game works.

How the game works is, the game mechanics hand play off to the game's fiction, then receive it back later. The game doesn't pass play from subsystem to subsystem the way you're asking, the way lots of games just now do. The most explicit example is the "changing your pirate" section, where none of the changes to your character sheet follow from mechanical effects, only from fictional events, and the whole game works exactly that same way.

So, you know at the top of page 11 where it says "it will always come to a fight"? "It" is the game's fiction. Read that sentence as "when there's a fight in the game's fiction, here's what you do." The mechanics wait inactive for the handoff from the fiction. It's not a matter of who gets to call for a fight, everybody just always says what their characters do. Sometimes the characters fight. No "call for" necessary - when there's a fight, that's when you do the fight mechanics, and not before.

When a player loses a success roll, the GM can "bring the fight." That doesn't mean "activate the fight mechanics" - no, as always, the rules hand play off to the fiction, not to another subsystem. "Bring the fight" means bring it in the fiction, it means "skip past whatever else might happen, to a fight," or else "whatever else might have happened, it doesn't, because here's the fight." It gives the GM permission to manipulate the fiction instead of following it. Yes, that means that you DO activate the fight mechanics, almost immediately, but that's because now there's a fight in the fiction, not directly because somebody lost a success roll.

Absent a player losing a success roll, the fighting mechanics have to wait until a fight just happens. "Just happens" means, of course, that two or more characters, PCs or NPCs, get into a fight. No individual player gets to choose, but they all have a choice, right? That's including the GM, so what I'm saying is, absent a lost success roll, the GM has the same power to create fights that everybody else does.

So: how do you know what range to fight at, ship to ship? Well, when the fight started, what range were you at? The GM described the ship approaching, right? Everybody looked at the new captain for orders? Eventually somebody fired the first shot, you or them. Was that when the fight started? If so, what range were you at? That's how you know.

Now, that's only one of the game's three resolution rulesets. The other two are success rolls and making bargains. The way that the three interact is really fun, but does this make sense so far? This principle - the fiction hands play to the mechanics, which hand play back - should answer a whole lot of your "lots of rules, and about zero explanation for when and how to use them."

(It also makes sense to me that some people would naturally bring it to reading and playing the game, instinctively, the way that you five didn't.)

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 26, 2008, 08:15:14 PM
Ok, cool.  Yeah, you'll definitely want to put that principle in the text (like exactly what you just said) because the current rules sound much more mechanistic. 

Some additional thoughts...the part in your faq on Anyway that says "if players are stuck remind them of the things they can do..." which then lists off the handful of legal dice rolls makes it sound like the game is meant to be played pretty mechanistically.  Addtionally the cruel fortune cards which formalize things that typically a GM would just do on the fly or scribble in the note book also promote the "this game is meant to be played very rigidly and mechanistically like a computer game" vibe.  I love both of those things, but you might want to be aware of that impression and phrase the final text accordingly.

So that takes care of part one of question 1, the opening bit of question 4, question 4 part a) and d)

I'll await your convenience for the rest.  I'm actually squeezing in some time on a hotel computer while on a business trip, so I'll only have sporadic access anyway.

I'm still a bit confused about how calling for a fight works, even with the new "fiction feeding" principle.

This sentence:
Quote
It's not a matter of who gets to call for a fight, everybody just always says what their characters do. Sometimes the characters fight. No "call for" necessary - when there's a fight, that's when you do the fight mechanics, and not before.

and this paragraph:
Quote
When a player loses a success roll, the GM can "bring the fight." That doesn't mean "activate the fight mechanics" - no, as always, the rules hand play off to the fiction, not to another subsystem. "Bring the fight" means bring it in the fiction, it means "skip past whatever else might happen, to a fight," or else "whatever else might have happened, it doesn't, because here's the fight." It gives the GM permission to manipulate the fiction instead of following it. Yes, that means that you DO activate the fight mechanics, almost immediately, but that's because now there's a fight in the fiction, not directly because somebody lost a success roll.

aren't meshing for me.

If I as a player say "I'm going to sneak carefully up behind Dirty Pete and while he's distracted stab him in the kidney with my wicked long knife" does that mean that I immediately make my Brutality vs. Soul roll (or only if the GM calls for me to make it) and then immediately after the roll we go to a fight because that's what the fiction says happens next (without Pete getting to make any success rolls or me makeing any additional ones)? 

If so, do I assume that if I lose the success roll it really doesn't mean anything in this context because the fight is brought anyway...or does that mean the GM has permission to bring a totally different fight...as in "as you're poised to strike you hear the first mate shouting to man the guns, the Resolute has been sighted and is closing fast".

In other words, can I phrase these two rules as follows:

"Any time any player (including the GM) wants to jump to the Fight mechanics, they can do so, as long as there is narrative support in the fiction that clearly is leading to a fight.  Further, the GM has an additional ability.  Whenever a player pirate fails a success roll, the GM can jump immediately to the Fight mechanics for any fight they choose, even one that has not yet been built up in the fiction."

Is that what you're saying, or am I still missing it?




Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 27, 2008, 10:14:13 AM
If I as a player say "I'm going to sneak carefully up behind Dirty Pete and while he's distracted stab him in the kidney with my wicked long knife" does that mean that I immediately make my Brutality vs. Soul roll (or only if the GM calls for me to make it) and then immediately after the roll we go to a fight because that's what the fiction says happens next (without Pete getting to make any success rolls or me makeing any additional ones)?
So strange!

You make your Brutality vs Soul roll because your character's attacking someone helpless or unsuspecting. The GM doesn't call for it. The GM can remind you to make it and oversee you making it, of course - part of the GM's responsibility is to remember what triggers the game's mechanics and watch for those things, since she's the one with the objectivity and remove to do so. But you make the roll because of what your character does, not because the GM calls for it.

Immediately after the roll, I have no idea what happens, whether you go to a fight or what. Everybody should probably turn to look at Dirty Pete's player, since it's kind of in her court - does Dirty Pete fall down and start to cry? Does Dirty Pete fight back? Does Dirty Pete do something other than fight back, first, like endure duress? Does Dirty Pete's player want a flashback before the fight? Also, what if Slaughterin' Steve is watching in the shadows, and now he jumps out and attacks you? All those things are legit.

Quote
If so, do I assume that if I lose the success roll it really doesn't mean anything in this context because the fight is brought anyway...or does that mean the GM has permission to bring a totally different fight...as in "as you're poised to strike you hear the first mate shouting to man the guns, the Resolute has been sighted and is closing fast".

Losing the success roll means that either you don't stab Dirty Pete after all, or you do stab him but to no advantage. Whether that means there's immediately a fight, or which fight, or what - I dunno. It depends what the GM says. The GM has this moment of, like, dilated permission, but I don't know what she should do with it in particular. She's not allowed to say what Dirty Pete does, that's his player's job, so she can't bring THAT fight. However, she's allowed to pass to Dirty Pete's player: "so you hear him behind you and the knife and whoops! you dodge, so what do you do?" (Significantly, she's just cut you out of making further success rolls, but maybe Dirty Pete gets some.) She's allowed to bring a different fight if there's one she wants to bring: "so yeah, you stab Dirty Pete, he's like 'ow, man,' but before you can follow through the lookout starts screaming about ship ho, ship ho." It's not my call, it's the GM's.

Quote
In other words, can I phrase these two rules as follows:

"Any time any player (including the GM) wants to jump to the Fight mechanics, they can do so, as long as there is narrative support in the fiction that clearly is leading to a fight.  Further, the GM has an additional ability.  Whenever a player pirate fails a success roll, the GM can jump immediately to the Fight mechanics for any fight they choose, even one that has not yet been built up in the fiction."

Is that what you're saying, or am I still missing it?
Still missing it! "Clearly leading to" is bad, bad. So is "jump immediately to the fight mechanics." Let's see.

"Any time there's a fight in the fiction, the players of the fighting characters must do the fight mechanics."

Then, "absent a failed success roll, the GM should let fights develop in the fiction naturally, especially allowing the PCs the opportunity to plan, prepare, and do things so that the fight will come on the terms they like. For instance, closing to broadside range under fire before engaging with an enemy ship, holding the crew to silence in the fog to attack a port town, sneaking up on Dirty Pete before stabbing him. A failed success roll, however, gives the GM permission to cut off any further such opportunities."

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Matt Snyder on February 27, 2008, 11:12:22 AM
I'm totally confused, Vincent. I can't even figure out where or how to ask my questions right now. I'm pretty sure Poison'd is not the game for me, but that's no big deal.

I do want to know why the heck I won't just chose to "lose" and leave the fight every time I lose the first fight roll. I also want to know why the heck the winner, can't ever escalate, and thus actually kill some character/ship I want to kill unless the other player makes what seems to me a stupid choice.

Also, Ralph did a SUPERB job fairly recording the events and issues of our session.


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Ben Lehman on February 27, 2008, 11:29:25 AM
I do want to know why the heck I won't just chose to "lose" and leave the fight every time I lose the first fight roll. I also want to know why the heck the winner, can't ever escalate, and thus actually kill some character/ship I want to kill unless the other player makes what seems to me a stupid choice.

Hey, Matt: I can talk a bit about this from my own experience playing the game. We didn't have as rough a time as you guys, although there were certainly hiccups. I think largely we did not go into the game with the assumption that the mechanics would carry us (basically the whole hand-off thing that Vincent talked about above) and that we were playing out our characters primarily: with that in mind, we could invent around the missing chunks in the rules.

The strategy of fighting in Poison'd is complex.

If you don't want to be in the fight, you should give on your first round if you lose the roll. This has the effect of totally blasting away all of your lovely stored-up Xs, but ultimately that's not a huge cost, particularly if you have a wide variance in your attributes so success rolls are pretty easy.

However, if you want to be in the fight (as in: you want to kill or injure someone else, you want to take that ship, etc), losing on the first roll is a pretty good position to be in. The important thing to remember is that ground position (the dice on the table) is different from over all position (the dice on the table + the Xs you have stored up.)

So, let's say you and I are having a knife-fight, and I want to fuck you up real good. You have, to start with, 6 dice, I have 5. I have 7 Xs, you have 4.

You roll: 3 successes, 3 failures.
I roll: No successes, 5 failures.

Oh, man, I suck! Okay, so I've got to deal with this.

The first thing I do is spend Xs, one at a time, rolling new dice in until I'm just shy of success. Let's say we get a roughly normal distribution on that, so I spend four Xs. Now the status is:

Your roll: 3 success, 3 failures. 4 stored Xs
My roll: 2 success, 7 failures. 3 stored Xs

Now I escalate. I pick up my 7 failures and reroll them. Let's say we get about an even split again. Now the table, at escalation level two, is:

Your roll: 3 success, 3 failures. 4 stored Xs.
My roll: 6 success, 3 failures. 3 stored Xs

Now, even if you spent all your Xs, chances are you couldn't catch up with me. You'll have to take the level two knife fight consequences (mutilitation, I think? I don't have a copy of the rules handy) or escalate. And I have a pretty good shot even if you blow all your Xs and escalate on me.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 27, 2008, 11:49:18 AM
So strange!

You make your Brutality vs Soul roll because your character's attacking someone helpless or unsuspecting. The GM doesn't call for it. The GM can remind you to make it and oversee you making it, of course - part of the GM's responsibility is to remember what triggers the game's mechanics and watch for those things, since she's the one with the objectivity and remove to do so. But you make the roll because of what your character does, not because the GM calls for it.

Ok, I wish I could find my copy because the way I'm remembering the text it sounded like the only thing a player could do was describe what they were doing and then the GM told them what to roll.  I don't recall anything indicating the player could actually make a roll just because they choose to.

So you're saying any of the following is perfectly kosher?

1) Player:  "I sneak up behind Dirty Pete and stab him."
    GM:  "Make a Brutality vs. Soul Roll"

2) Player:  "I sneak up behind Dirty Pete and stab him.  I'm going to make a Brutality vs. Soul Roll"
   GM:  "Sure"

3) Player:  "I sneak up behind Dirty Pete and stab him.  I'm going to make a Brutality vs. Soul Roll".
   GM:  "No, let's call that an "Act Carefully" Roll instead.

With respect to #3, is choosing which type of roll 100% GM authority?  If so, is the GM supposed to use this authority solely and only to match the type of roll as closely as possible to the fiction?  Or is the GM supposed to use this authority to influence the fiction by playing to the players' strengths or playing against their weaknesses?

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Immediately after the roll, I have no idea what happens, whether you go to a fight or what. Everybody should probably turn to look at Dirty Pete's player, since it's kind of in her court - does Dirty Pete fall down and start to cry? Does Dirty Pete fight back? Does Dirty Pete do something other than fight back, first, like endure duress? Does Dirty Pete's player want a flashback before the fight? Also, what if Slaughterin' Steve is watching in the shadows, and now he jumps out and attacks you? All those things are legit.

Ok, now you're losing me again.  Why are we looking to Dirty Pete for those decisions and not me?  

Lets back up.  I say "I'm stabbing Pete".  I roll.  I get 3 Xs.  Is my knife right now at this very moment in the fiction plunged to the hilt in Dirty Pete's kidney?  Does winning the success roll actually mean that what I said happens?

If so, I assume that just because I said I stabbed Pete, and just because my knife is now in his kidney that Pete isn't actually suffering any ill effects from this at this time.  The only mechanical effect is my 3 Xs which I'll be using in the subsequent fight to actually inflict the damage.

So if all that's true...why are we looking to Pete?  Why isn't the GM looking to me and saying "Ralph, do you want to take this to a fight?"  What in the rules tells us that before I can force a fight, Pete gets a chance to do a flash back or to endure duress?

See there's something absolutely fundamentally critical missing here.  And that is the actual absolute trigger for a fight.  There has to be one or there is no way to answer any of these questions.  What good does it do me to sneak up on Pete and stab him in the back, catching him completely unawares...if he can turn around and make a dozen success rolls to earn way more Xs than I got?  If that's what Pete's player does, then what prevents me from making a dozen more success rolls so I can get the advantage again.  This could continue forever ad naseum if there's no rule that says unequivicably...stop pissing around...take it to the fight rules already.

What does that?


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She's not allowed to say what Dirty Pete does, that's his player's job, so she can't bring THAT fight. However, she's allowed to pass to Dirty Pete's player: "so you hear him behind you and the knife and whoops! you dodge, so what do you do?" (Significantly, she's just cut you out of making further success rolls, but maybe Dirty Pete gets some.)

Woah...completely lost me there.  That's not in the rules at all.  

Again, same question as above...why is it Pete's player who gets the authority to call for the fight?  How does this "pass to Dirty Pete's player" work?  I don't understand what's being passed.  How am I cut off from making future success rolls?  If the GM doesn't end the success roll sequence by calling a fight, there's nothing in the rules preventing me from just narrating something else and making more rolls...how did the GM get that authority?

First let me ask you this...are you describing how you're going to write it up for the final product, so I shouldn't worry about none of this being in the Ashcan at this point...or are you describing how it actually is written up in the Ashcan that I just completely missed.  

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"Any time there's a fight in the fiction, the players of the fighting characters must do the fight mechanics."

Ummm, this is me looking at you all squinty...this sounds awful dang circular to me.  Who decides what's a fight and what's a success roll?  I just totally stabbed Pete in the freaking Kidney...how is that NOT a fight in the fiction?  And yet, we didn't use the fight mechanics...we used the success mechanics to handle it.  So now I'm standing there, with a bloody knife, totally wanting to finish Pete off...how is that NOT a fight in the fiction?  And yet, we aren't going to fight mechanics yet...we're allowing Pete to roll duress and flashbacks.  

So point blank...when the hell do we get to the fight mechanics?  There've been 2 opportunities in this example so far that meet your above statement, and neither of them have triggered it...so clearly, there has to be something else.  "you'll know it when you see it" I don't think is going to cut it as an effective rule here.  How are you defining "there's a fight" so that every one is clear what one is?

The buck has to stop somewhere.  Who in this example has the authority to say "no more stinking success rolls, now we go to the fight mechanics", and when do they get to say it?

How do I force a fight on Pete?
How does Pete force a fight on me?
How does the GM say "enough, this BS has gone on long enough, time to fight and get it over with already"?

I'm really struggling with this, because I know you understand IIEE as well as anybody...and yet...this seems like a huge IIEE disaster waiting to happen (actually, in our case, it did happen).  So what am I missing?



Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 27, 2008, 01:40:30 PM
Dirty Pete has to fight back, of course! If he doesn't fight back, it's not a fight! It's just a stabbing!

-Vincent



Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 27, 2008, 01:59:12 PM
Why would Dirty Pete do that?

If I were Dirty Pete's player, I'd be all like:  "Ok, fine...I'm bleeding...I have no loss of effectiveness, I have taken no "damage"...and absolutely nothing has happened to me whats-so-ever except fictional color...Ok, whatever, I go back to making my preparations for the fight against the Resolute and Ralph can continue to stab me until his little heart is content because it doesn't actually mean anything in the game, and I'm totally not interested in going there.  This is me, bleeding all over the deck, and walking away."

Meanwhile what can I do?  I REALLY REALLY want Dirty Pete dead.  Dirty Pete's player is totally not interested in giving me the satisfaction and won't engage me in a fight.  Now what.  Here I am, bloody knife, fury in my eyes, spouting amazing piratey soliliquies...and what...Pete can just walk away and leave me hanging?

Really?



Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 27, 2008, 02:17:01 PM
On page 16: "If your pirate suffers a deadly wound, strike a bargain or die," with a list of possible bargains you can strike to avoid dying. With a surgeon, with God, etc.

You can prevent Dirty Pete from striking a bargain with a surgeon, easily, just by not letting any surgeon near. Harder to keep him from striking a bargain with God, of course, but on the other hand, if he and God can come to an arrangement, it probably should trump your stabbing him. I mean, it's God, after all.

I don't know where you got the idea that being stabbed was inconsequential. It wasn't from the game text!

Now, there's some interesting play around whether your stabbing him in the kidneys constitutes a deadly wound, but it's interesting play, not an IIEE crisis. I'm willing to talk about it, but only once you're solid that the rules actually work. For now: whether he fights back or not, if you stab Dirty Pete in the kidneys he's well and truly fucked.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: rafial on February 27, 2008, 02:20:24 PM
Okay I had gotten as far as:  If the system is handing back results to the fiction, then if Dirty Pete doesn't fight back, Dirty Pete ain't walking away, because he's just gotten a long knife in the kidney and is down on the deck bleeding his life out.  The fiction sad he was stabbed, the success roll was made, and stabbed he was.

But I also thought, if Dirty Pete doesn't want to accept being stabbed in the kidney, then he must bring the fight.  But based on Vincent's last post, maybe that doesn't help either?


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 27, 2008, 02:27:46 PM
Like I say there's some interesting play there, but talking about it should wait, I think.

Frankly though, if Dirty Pete's been so bad to our unnamed hero that he WILL KILL HIM and nothing else will satisfy, Dirty Pete's fucked.

Oh - this is all supposing that Dirty Pete's a PC. If he's an NPC, pff. He's so past fucked it's not even a thing.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 27, 2008, 03:22:45 PM
Hey Ralph -

I don't know where you got the idea that being stabbed was inconsequential. It wasn't from the game text!
That was more gleeful than I needed to be, I'm sorry. I don't need to play gotcha with you.

What I think's going on is what I said upfront - you figured that "suffers a deadly wound" was a game-mechanical term, so you were looking for which other subsystems created it. The fighting subsystem mentions it explicitly, and no others do, so you figured that's how it happens.

In reality, "if your pirate suffers a deadly wound" is there to receive the handoff from the fiction, without caring how your pirate came to suffer a deadly wound. Receiving one in a fight is only one way to suffer one.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 27, 2008, 10:02:17 PM
Ok, good.  Progress, one more piece is clicking into place.  This was actually an important question I asked (#3 on the list) that you hadn't answered yet...whether the things narrated in a success roll actually happen upon rolling a success, so good to get that clarified.  Does scope matter?  If I had said "I sink the Dagger" and succeed, does the Dagger sink?  If I had said "I light off the gunpowder in the powder room and destroy the ship and everyone on board"...is everyone dead"?  If I had said, "I set fire to a barn in Cartegena and the entire city burns to the ground"...does the city burn?  If I say "I build a rocket ship and fly to the moon"...  Who gets to set the parameters for what is acceptable and accomplishable with the narration leading to a success roll?

Definitely (IMO) you want to spend some ink explaining this in the text, in more than just a sentence or two.  Generally when I read the rules and read "here is how you do this thing" and it explicitly describes 1 situation and there is no reference anywhere else to any other situations also letting me do that thing...I'm going to conclude 100% of the time...that that's the one and only way of doing that thing.  Maybe that's the board game rules reader in me...but my mantra is precision, precision, precision.  So if its possible to inflict a deadly wound on someone simply by saying "I inflict a deadly wound on Pete...here's my roll...success, Pete has suffered a deadly wound" that needs to be spelled out pretty explicitly I think.

You're right in your impression of what's going on with my understanding...in my own defense I'll just say, I read the rules as rules and did everything they said to do and nothing they didn't say to do...because that's how rules are supposed to work IMO.  I'd love to see everything you're saying in this thread make it into the next version of the text.

So circling back to item three from the original post...essentially, Dirty Pete is just furniture for my narration.

He has no recourse, he can't counter, he can't stop me, he can't use any of his game stats or Xs in any way...if I'm a brutal SOB...he's taking a deadly wound anytime I say he takes a deadly wound, right?  So when do bargains come in timing-wise?  Lets say I'm not sneaking and Pete see's it coming.  I say "I stab Pete, here's my roll"...Pete's player says "hold up, let's make a bargain..."I promise to support you for Captain if you promise to keep me from harm"...I say "cool, sounds good" and then don't make the success roll I was about to make?  What if I've already rolled, can I pretend the roll didn't happen, or is Pete stabbed and now I need to help save him to keep the bargain?

I'm certainly now seeing why you've focused on the importance of bargains in earlier threads.  Also a part of the text that could use a bit of spotlighting, because they didn't seem as centrally important as they are seeming as a result of this discussion.

Yeah, this has been a pretty bizarre thread.  I went from thinking this is a pretty mechanical game where everything is regimented and orchestrated mechanically, board game style...but has a lot of holes and assumptions that haven't made it into the text and need to -- to now thinking this is a pretty open, freeform, hardly regulated game...but has a lot of holes and assumptions that haven't made it into the text and need to.  They're just very different holes than I thought they were.

Cool...I'm a little disappointed to learn that, because I was grooving on the plays-like-a-boardgame vibe I got from the text, so I'll have to adjust my expectations for the next time I play; but I'm at least starting to feel like I could play it and get it to work better than it did this time.


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 27, 2008, 10:48:11 PM
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I don't know where you got the idea that being stabbed was inconsequential. It wasn't from the game text!

Oh, and yes I did get that from the game text.  I won't harp on it here cuz we're past that.  But if you think it would be helpful to know for purposes of writing text that would reach people like me I can outline it in fair detail...as soon as I get home where I can download the PDF and quote the rules accurately.


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 28, 2008, 06:47:15 AM
Scope: You say your character's action. If you like, you can say your character's intent, it doesn't matter. It's often very natural to do so. Either way, you make your success roll; that determines whether the action "comes off," and whether it's to your advantage X-wise.

The consequence of your action depend on lots more than the success roll.

"I sink the dagger" is a consequence, and intent, not an action. "...And destroy the ship and everyone on board" is a consequence too. So is "...and the entire city burns to the ground." No, one success roll doesn't decide those things. Those things are complicated to decide.

This, oh my god, you'll get me ranting. This question? It's a result of stupid stakes-setting rules. Stakes setting has stunted our collective ability to tell the difference between an action and its consequences. I'm seeing the same thing with In a Wicked Age. If you bring intent-action-consequence confusion into the game, where there is no such confusion in the design or the text, based only on your assumptions about how indie games obviously must work, you WILL fuck it up.

You'll notice that even Dogs in the Vineyard, one of the three great pillars of stakes setting, distinguishes clearly between actions and consequences.

("I build a rocket ship and fly to the moon" can go fuck itself. If I thought you had a moment's genuine confusion about that one, I'd give you your money back.)

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 28, 2008, 02:21:31 PM
I'm not seeing any stakes setting issues here.  I'm well aware of those pitfalls, so no need to point them out to me.

But this is a point of the rules that is absent.  If you prefer to use the terms intent and consequences, great, lets do that.  Who has the authority to decide the consequences...the GM?  The player?  The player's collectively?  Somebody has to.  Somehow those consequences get entered (or not) into the SIS...what is that process in this game?

So my action is to set fire to the barn...my intent is that the fire will spread with the consequence that the whole city of Cartegena burns to the ground.  I make my success roll.  I have successfully lit the barn on fire.  So then what?  What process determines whether or not Cartegena burns, and if so, how much? 

Scope is a totally non trivial thing, it should not be left to whim lightly.  We wrestled quite a bit with this problem in Universalis and dedicated an entire section of the text to it.

One could just as easily say that my action is NOT to set fire to the barn.  My action is to knock the lantern over into the hay...my intent is that the hay will catch fire with the consequence that the fire will spread to the barn.

Who gets to decide whether the scale of the action is knocking over the lantern, or setting fire to the barn.

Somewhere the buck needs to stop for these decisions.  You acknowledged issues like this in Dogs with the simple expedient of following the aesthetic of the most critical person at the table.  Other games like Uni and DIrty Secrets use a more formalized challenge / appeal system.  There's lots of ways to do it, but it needs to be done somehow.

But this discussion is ranging farther and farther, from the initial issues, most of which are still open questions, so perhaps we should wait until more specifics are clarified before getting too esoteric



Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Peter Nordstrand on February 28, 2008, 03:04:32 PM
Hi Ralph,

But this discussion is ranging farther and farther, from the initial issues, most of which are still open questions, so perhaps we should wait until more specifics are clarified before getting too esoteric

I've been following this intently, but I'm beginning to get lost. Just to clarify, would you mind telling us which of your original questions you feel haven't been answered? I'm not taking a poke at you. Elucidating this matter would really make the thread (and your points) easier to follow.

Thank you in advance for indulging me.

/Peter


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 28, 2008, 03:25:14 PM
Well, there’s part 2 of question 1 on the matter of what “draw a new weapon” means for escalation.

Pretty much all of question 2 related to whether all fights start on level 1 of the escalation table, the confusing example with Tom Reed and strange success roll at the end of the fight and why Tom isn’t dead.  And I’m still not clear on why, if you have a disadvantage in dice, and you’re losing you wouldn’t just choose “lose” as your fight option and never escalate the fight to where there are actually damaging consequences.

And pretty much all of question 4 except a) and d)


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 28, 2008, 07:43:32 PM
Question 1 part 2: Interpretation a.

Question 2 (a): page 11, section "Dice," paragraph 3. All fights start at the first and can escalate no further than the third.

Question 2 (b): Tom suffered a deadly wound to end the fight. He's helpless and dying. Hannah wants some Xs so she attacks him again, to "smash his head fucking open," instead of letting him die of his deadly wound. She fails that roll, so she doesn't smash his head fucking open. He dies unnoticed, perhaps as she's howling at Pigfuck Dan.

Question 2 (c): I presume you have your reasons. You can't think of any? That's fine. Don't do it. You're allowed to ditch out of a fight you're losing with minor consequence, if you want to.

Question 4 part b: Whoever's in the fight is in the fight. If there's a pirate who might be fighting and you don't know whether he is, ask his player, she's the one who can decide that.

(Notice also the rule about withholding dice when you're fighting on a side. That's a different question.)

Question 4 part c: There is always a fight on the horizon.

Save your Xs until there's a fight including your character. At the end of any fight including your character, erase any Xs you didn't spend during the fight.

Do not track what actions gave you your Xs. It's irrelevant.

Question 4 part e: Yes, you can wind up in a fight you didn't want, forced to spend or lose your Xs you were saving for something better. Life sucks.

Your "rabid seagull" question is like your rocket ship question: it can go fuck itself.

Question 4 part f: No buckets for different fights.

Question 4 part g: You're right, the rules don't say whether you can combine them, like if I spend 1 and you spend 2 we can together buy a 3X effect.

Question 4 part h: When urgency resolves into the Resolute, now the Resolute is present. It is fully available to the game's fiction, under the GM's control. I don't know what you mean by "just a card to be dealt with eventually like any other." All the cards in play are effective immediately and constantly, under the GM's control.

The GM names the cruel fortune the urgency will resolve into when she brings urgency into play.

---

It's clear from your questions - and this conversation - that you were trying to interpret the rules to support some other game ("a pretty mechanical game where everything is regimented and orchestrated mechanically, board game style"), and in that light the rules didn't make sense to you. That's too bad, I'm sorry about that much. However, the only question in this post that isn't answered by the rulebook is 4g.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 28, 2008, 08:35:04 PM
I have some questions back!

Matt, did Ben answer your question? Did I manage to, in answering Ralph?

Whose idea was it to play Poison'd? What other games did you consider? Why did you choose Poison'd over the others? What interested you about the game? Who was most reluctant to play it?

Julie was the GM?

You all gave it three hours of grief? Why on earth didn't you bag it sooner?

Julie, Ron, Tim, do you have anything to add to Ralph's and Matt's posts?

I have to tell you, I already knew from conversations at GenCon that it wasn't the pirate game you wanted it to be, Ralph. I kind of thought you'd understood that too, I was surprised to hear that you'd played it.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Valamir on February 29, 2008, 08:35:45 AM
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It's clear from your questions - and this conversation - that you were trying to interpret the rules to support some other game ("a pretty mechanical game where everything is regimented and orchestrated mechanically, board game style"), and in that light the rules didn't make sense to you. That's too bad, I'm sorry about that much. However, the only question in this post that isn't answered by the rulebook is 4g.

Actually, I think you have this completely backwards...and I think that's coloring the way you're interpreting my points.

I'll say this as clearly as I can, so forgive the bluntness, please.

I did not try to interpret the rules to support some other game.  I interpreted YOUR rules, and that led me to my understanding that the game was meant to be regimented and mechanically orchestrated board game style.  That is NOT (not not not) me layering my own bias on your game where it doesn't belong...that's how your rules read.

Everything I thought about how your game was supposed to be played that you've now indicated is completely wrong, came from trying to play the game EXACTLY the way you wrote it.  We did what the rules said, and didn't do anything the rules didn't say. 

The rules say that the GM starts a fight when a success roll is failed...that's the only way a fight gets started per your rules.  I didn't bring any extra baggage to the game, that's exactly what your rules say...that's ALL they say.  You indicate here that the ACTUAL way a fight starts is whenever one player narrates one of their characters attacking someone and the player of that character narrating that they fight back...then a fight happens.  Sorry, that's NOT in the rules anywhere.  If that's how fights start...then write it that way in the text.

You've indicated that narrating a serious wound to someone as part of a success roll actually does inflict damage of the sort that requires "make a bargain or die".  But your RULES don't say that...anywhere.  your rules only reference suffering injury as the result of the fight mechanics, and don't indicate that injury can be suffered at any other time.


I say this, not to harp on it, but as lead up to say this.

Please don't conclude "this is not the game for Ralph, this is not the game he was expecting, he brought his own baggage and preconceptions in, and that's why he didn't get it"...and then use that (false) conclusion to set my comments aside as not being really relevant. 

We read your rules very carefully.  We disected them ad naseum.  We tried to do exactly what the rules said and we wound up in a place 180d from where you wanted us to be.  That's not our fault...that's a serious failing in the text. 

I didn't go into the game HOPEING to find a board-game-like set of rules...I read your rules, and concluded that you intended them to play like a board-game.  It is now clear that you don't intend that...so it is now equally clear the current text is doing a pretty poor job for conveying how to play.

Everything you said in this thread...and everything you didn't say but could have...NEEDS to be put in the final version of the game text...the current text isn't cutting it.  I am certain that there's a hellofa game hidden in these rules...but hidden it is, and it needs to become unhidden.  Don't just give me the rules, give me instructions on how to use them.  You do this very well in Dogs, but you're not doing any of it in the Ashcan for Poison'd.

So, what I'd love to hear from you is that everything I just wrote is something you're already planning to do, and all that stuff we just talked about in this thread is absolutely going to be in the final version of the text.  And I'd LOVE to playtest again using THAT version of the text.  I'd love to play this game the way YOU intend it to be played...but you're going to have to do a better job telling me what that is.

I'm not criticising your game here...I AM criticising the current text.  It is really really not delivering.


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 29, 2008, 10:58:46 AM
Okay. I'll go through the text with your confusions in mind. I'll add text about handing off between the subsystems and the fiction, instead of from subsystem to subsystem, and I'll add a section about the game's overall approach. I'll do what I can for you.

But this game is never going to be Dogs in the Vineyard. I'm going to add 4 pages to it, no more, and I've already filled 2 of them. Your need for an expansive text is at odds with my creative needs for this game.

Especially, anywhere you said "substantial additional explanation" and "more than just a sentence or two," abandon hope. I'll do my best, but my page budget for this game is strict. It'll always depend on its audience making the right leaps instead of the wrong ones.

Okay! Ralph, to head off grief - I'm saying yes to you, yes to your concerns. I'm telling you not to expect a longer book, but yes, I'll do what I can. Wish me luck.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Ben Lehman on February 29, 2008, 11:39:50 AM
"I interpreted YOUR rules, and that led me to my understanding that the game was meant to be regimented and mechanically orchestrated board game style"

Hey, Ralph: Could you elaborate about what gave you this impression?

What I'd really like to see is an example of rules text which gives the impression that the game needs to be played board-game like, and a text with the impression that the game needs to be played in a different way.

This is a pretty important nut to crack, I think.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 29, 2008, 01:01:06 PM
I find this discussion interesting as well. For what it's worth, I'm big on intertextual contextualization of game texts, which is a fancy way of saying that I think it's important to realize that there are no absolute, nature-directed ways of reading and interpreting game texts. Expectations and prior experience affect our reading. Where this becomes interesting is in how the game writer opts to lean on the support of this shared cultural background in making the game understood. There is no one right or wrong way, I find; while clarity and doing your utmost to explain everything may help the unfamiliar reader to understand you better, it will also make the text dryer, slower and more difficult to read, and might potentially occlude the important stuff with less important things. On the other hand, a game text that relies heavily on shared expectations and, most importantly, the interpretive powers of the reader, will often be a very inspirational, thought-provoking read that allows one to attain crystal clarity simply because the reader has no difficulty understanding the unsaid portions of the whole.

I'm saying all this for one simple reason: when I read game texts, I'm always looking for functional and useful "readings", not some perceived author's intent. This makes me for the most part a very competent reader and interpretator of rules texts. It also tends to make me prefer a text that does no hand-holding, when it comes to my personal aesthetic experience. While I fully recognize and appreciate the textual virtues of a game with lots of fiddly explanation, like The Mountain Witch, for example, I have little patience for it personally and will always favor and get excited by the texts that focus on speaking to me on a real level where the writer is operating, or perhaps where I am operating as a reader.

(There's also another angle to this: a game writer might intentionally wish to leave some matters of procedure unsaid simply because he wishes the game group to use their own, established methods in that part of the game. This is often the case with semi-traditional games that introduce only partially innovative systems.)

So I'm not saying that Ralph is wrong, but I am saying that his own writing style is big on comprehensive, wordy verbalization, while I see Vincent as writing more as an expressive writer. I might even say that Vincent strives for an artistic impression to his rules writing style if this weren't likely to be misunderstood as some kind of wanky aesthetisation of a forthright matter. I can imagine Ralph's mental space in interpreting the rules of the game pretty well, and can see how he would get a completely different interpretation out of it than Vincent might have intended. Those are hazards of context-dependent writing, but they are also risks for the writer to take.

What I mean to say here, shortly: I'm seeing a bit of back-and-forth about who's to blame that Ralph misinterpreted the rules, and I don't think it's anybody's fault particularly. What is important is that the rules achieve the aesthetic transmission Vincent's looking to achieve, and it seems he has a pretty strong vision of how he wants to express the game in this case.


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: lumpley on February 29, 2008, 08:28:37 PM
I'd also still like answers to my questions, if any of you feel like it!

-Vincent


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Temple on March 01, 2008, 02:39:33 AM
I dont want to butt into this fascinating discussion, but I felt like chiming in and saying that what I got out of the text and what Vincent describes pretty much line up perfectly, as far as how the game is played is concerned.

The times Ive played Poison'd, I havent been quite able to get the players on the same page as me though, so we have ended up playing it in a board-game-like fashion, just going from subsystem to subsystem with very little roleplaying in between. My players have been very focused on harvesting Xes through rolling dice, and havent payed much mind to telling stories about pirates. But Im working on that.


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'd
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 01, 2008, 01:29:45 PM
I only discovered this thread yesterday and it's gone so far awry from anything relevant to our game, that there's not much point in posting.

I think a new thread in Playtesting will be better at some point.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Problems with Poisn'dif
Post by: Emily Care on March 03, 2008, 05:04:25 PM
Ron's latest post may have been intended to close this thread, but I have a couple simple notes about the text that clarify the initial questions. It seems useful to share them. I am technically violating agreements of the Forge by answering line by line, but it seems the best way to address the points.

1) The escalation tables need some substantial additional text on how to use them pretty much across the board. 

For instance, the ship escalation tables:  How do you decide which table you start on? If we want to close to boarding range, and the enemy wants to blast us to smithereens with broadsides...what table? 
On the bottom of the page 14 it describes dealing with a fight when both contestants are fighting using different means.  It indicates that each escalates up their own chart, and that the consequences on the other party if one wins, are those of the winner's table.This could use some clarification, but it implies that you pick one based on what your character is doing and escalate up it, not across to others.

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2) Do all fights start on level 1 of the escalation table? 
Yes. On page 11, in the middle of paragraph 3 of the Dice section says:

All fights begin at the first, and can escalate no farther than the third.


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Related to this is the pretty confusing example where Hannah (I think that's the name) is trying to kill Tom Reed with a belaying pin.  Its clear she wants to kill him dead.  She makes a brutality vs. soul roll to earn "Xs" for her willingness to murder a helpless person.  Even so she has to escalate twice to get to level 3, and even after finally winning at level 3, Tom still isn't dead...she has to make ANOTHER brutality vs. soul roll to actually kill him, which she fails.  So despite a full fledged fight which Hanna won with the stated intent of killing the helpless Tom Reed...Tom's still alive in the end.  Huh?
Tim Reed is an NPC. If she'd wanted to kill him all that character's player needed to do was to use 3 Xs before (meaning, I presume, "not during") a fight. See page 12, first paragraph of Spending Xs:

You can spend 3 Xs to kill and NPC with no fight, any NPC within your reach.

Here, Tim Reed is an opportunity to establish things about your character, and gain Xs for the coming fight.

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As I read what the rules actually say, choosing the "Lose" option is always a fail safe way to escape unscathed. The rules for damage say only that you when you choose "Lose" you suffer the full effects of the damage of the level of escalation you're at.  The damage for level 1 escalation is generally trivial and cosmetic.  So if you're not likely to beat your opponent's dice...just choose "lose" on level one and you escape the fight scot free. 
As Ben described, the Xs make this less straightforward than it seemed to you.

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Something's missing.  Near as I can tell there are no "stakes" in Poisn'd, so there's nothing the winner gets from winning the fight.  In fact, the rules seem pretty clear (due to the total absence of any suggestion otherwise) that the only thing the winner gets from winning a fight is to inflict the level of damage determined by the escalation level on the loser.  There doesn't appear to be any "dammit, no, I'm not stopping until he's fucking dead" option for the winner.
Let's see, Vincent mentioned Deadly Wounds. How they are dealt with is discussed on page 16. They are possible consequences at level 3 escalation in Knife to Knife, Sword to Sword, and Gun to Gun. Third level escalation in Canon to Canon, Broadside to Broadside and Company to Company all include crew killed. I don't know if that includes PCs.
 
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3) Do you actually accomplish things with successful success rolls beyond just colorful justifications for gathering Xs?  If so, are the other player characters just furniture for you to do with as you please? 
I think this has already been addressed, but I just wanted to point to page 11, paragraph 2 of Profiles:

For fights between players' pirates, whichever side has the higher Profile, that player gets additional Xs for the fight...", and so on. It is described at various points how to deal with PvP fights. Three out of four of the types of conflicts involved in Success Rolls all deal with the character in question doing something to endure or evade things that impact them. The last, (Brutality vs Soul), requires that the other party be helpless or unaware--which as was pointed out, if another player's character is targeted for this, they do get to say whether they fight back, and if they do it becomes a fight instead.

It seems like a simple assumption not present in the game is that players can narrate more than their character's actions. They can frame scenes though. Last paragraph of page 10, Flashbacks:

If you're a canny player, recall, you'll see a fight coming and you'll look for success rolls to make, to build up some."

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Could we have had a dozen rolls about sodomizing this guy, stealing that gold, sabotaging this gun, etc. etc. and when the new cook fails his attempt to poison the soup the GM brings the fight by announcing "The Kraken attacks", even though none of the success rolls had been related to the Kraken?  What if the Kraken came out of the blue, completely not established in play yet, can the GM do that?  Do all of those X's from all of that other stuff apply?  The rules don't say they don't...however the rules also refer to them as "advantages" and "gaining the advantage" and "canny players sensing a fight on the horizon"...which could be interpreted as saying that only Xs that could be considered advantages in the fight that was actually called can be used.  But no where in the rules does it require noting what purpose the Xs were used for so that implies that the Xs are just an abstract currency that aren't tied to whatever action earned them.

Yes. 

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Regardless, this alone is enough to derail play.  There could easily be an entire page of text just making sure all of the above is clearly laid out.
 

The assumption here, as I see it, is that the players are telling a story together, not running around trying to get advantages willy nilly. The constraints are the constraints of the narrative. Or rather, the rules for gaining Xs constrain what the players can narrate in order to get them. The information you are given (the character's background/sins  suffered or given, the bargains made, the vows and goals) give you things to spring off of to think of ways to gain Xs that make sense within the narrative you are making.  The fact that the GM can bring the fight as soon as someone fails an Advantage roll creates a limit on how much people can delay.

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f) Is there only ever one X total (per player) that is always used in the next fight, or are there different buckets for different fights.  In our game, Ron's attempt at sodomizing Pretty Jim came in the midst of preparations against the Resolute.
All Xs go away at the end of a fight, regardless of how they've been gotten. The way to keep Xs is either to 1) not get involved in the fight, or 2) to withhold them by not helping the Captain in a group fight.

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g) Also related to Xs, can players combine their Xs to buy bigger nastiness against their enemies?  The rules don't say either way (or if they do, I couldn't find it because the discussion on Xs is scattered in a bunch of different places).
During the fight you can spend Xs to do evil shit to the other side. After, you can use them to reduce harm to you.

For group fights, see Page 11-12, Fighting on a side:

..it'll happen sometimes that the players' pirates fight under the captain's orders...Captain's player take dice for Brinkmanship into your hand.."
And so on. The Captain give dice to the players whose characters are helping, they get bonus dice, and they have the option to take part or not, and if they don't the Captain doesn't get those dice. They choose at the start and can't add in later. I don't think that is explicit.

It seems that having help is a special power of the Captain. Has its costs.


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h) Does the Urgency cruel fortune have any impact on any of the above answers?  In other words, when the Urgency hits and the Resolute show up, does it just become a card sitting on the table waiting for the GM to bring the fight using it?  Can the players continue to make indefinite success rolls as long as they win, with the GM unable to bring the fight with the Resolute until a roll is failed?
You don't need to wait until a fight comes on or an Advantage roll is lost to bring it in. Page 21, Urgency:

Whenever you like, at a lull in the action or a moment of tension, roll a die..." And then the rules are given for how it will come into play.

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At that point we observed that the way the card actually works is as a limiter on the GM's ability to bring in new cards...
This assumes that this is the only way to bring in a new Cruel Fortune. Each of them has a condition in which they can be brought into play at the start of their description. When that occurs in the narrative, the mechanics can be invoked.

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Related to this...is the Cruel Fortune that Urgency is tied to secret, open, or either?
This isn't in the rules that I can see, but since what having a Cruel Fortune on deck via Urgency is to worry the players with it, the only way it can have that effect is for them to know about it. :)

best,
Emily