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Title: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on August 07, 2008, 08:25:54 PM
We played the second session last night. First session can be found here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26521.0). It was pretty fun, but I have mixed feelings about some emerging play trends and how I handled them.

Here's a PC recap:

Jake: Sugarbaker, out of work and down on his luck (Naif)
Demon: his Backyard which he's scared will eat him, but answers questions when he talks to it. (Desire=Power, Need=Fresh Meat)
Kicker: His housemates all vanished in the night, and his rent is due.

Seth: Nobody, crazed street kid and Expanded Consciousness fanatic (Solitary Adept)
Demon: Twitch, the parasite that's granting him speed and awareness and rewiring his brain. (Desire=Mayhem, Need=Drugs)
Kicker: In his hideyhole in the tunnels below Chinatown, Twitch has discovered a passel of his rare and Sorcerous books missing.

Willem: Robin Last ("The Robin Hood of Corpses"), native issues activist stealing and interring museum corpses (Coven)
Demon: Ravengod, a parasite granting totemic powers (Desire=Mischief, Need=to consume animal young)
Kicker: A stolen corpse disappears in transit.

Jana: V Magnolius, punk chick black market broker for weird food and voodoo supplies, furious about the establishment raping natural resources (Naif)
Demon: QuiŮones, a set of amorphous keys that open or close anything (Desire=Mischief, Need=To open a new lock)
Kicker: Bizarre highway accident with truckload of live chickens led to her finding QuiŮones; she wakes up in the hospital with the dead trucker's foot sewn on to replace her own--and a stiff bill.


What happened in brief: We started with a knock on Sugarbaker's door: Nobody is responding to the Craigslist ad for roommates he just posted minutes ago. They talk and agree to have Nobody move in, but Nobody's jumpy the whole time, not to mention dressed in tattered clothes stained in hipster blood (they both failed to notice each others' Telltales). Nobody's out the door before SB can even get his name, and SB retires to the couch to await Nobody's return with cash, less than confident in his new roommate.

Meanwhile V Magnolius makes her escape (in hospital gown and bedsheet skirt) out the window to a lower rooftop to meet with Pigeon, while arousing the suspicion of a brutish orderly. Pigeon helps her across to a neighboring rooftop and down a fire escape, into a blind alley, where a sleek sedan pulls up and cuts them off. The suspicious orderly and V's doctor get out, and tell her she's jeopardizing her recovery and really needs to come back to her room. V evades both the orderly and the doc (who tries to sedate her) and takes off, but returns to aid Pigeon who's wrestling with the orderly. She takes out the orderly with QuiŮones' Hold, and escapes with pigeon, who tells her she owes him big for this shit.

And finally, Robin is driving frantically through town with cohort Thorn, retracing his steps to track down the mummy. Thorn's scared and wants reassurance, but Robin browbeats her and scares her more. He finds nothing along the route, but Ravengod communicates through raising his hackles as a mysterious car cruises by. Using his browbeating bonuses to cow her into submission, he sends Thorn off to stall Alice Walker with a live hand grenade (telling her it's fake, just for intimidation if Alice wants to turn them in), then ditches the van and wings it after the car. He follows it to a warehouse near the Pearl District, full of chicken feathers and Voodoo imagery, busts in all Ravened out, scares the shit out of one guy and demands to know "where the corpse is". Guy takes him to a corner and pulls off a sheet. . .to reveal a mangled foot-less trucker's corpse! The other guy comes after Robin with a gun, winging him, but then both guys flee before Robin's Ravengod Wrath. Willem speaks cryptically to their boss Eva on the gun guy's cell phone, and hangs up on her. Then flies off to the diner to meet Alice (and Thorn).

*                              *                              *

First, I'm still getting the hang of calling for dice rolls. The players are all merrily chatting away, doing actions and dialog and not waiting for a "does it succeed?" cue, so I really have to assert and interrupt to get the rolls in. I think they're all used to games like PTA or Shock: where you roll or draw to resolve the whole overarching conflict of a scene, or games like Panty Explosion where you're encouraged to narrate whole swaths of stuff with each roll. Like, in Nobody's interview with Sugarbaker, there were no rolls (they both wanted the same thing and assented to all of each others' stipulations) until the end when SB's trying to get the guy's name and Seth narrates Nobody just leaving. . .and then Seth's rattling on about where Nobody goes and what he does and I had to cut in, "hold it! Sugarbaker wants something and Nobody's opposing it, so let's roll." We did, and Jake won with three victories. Nobody still left, but now SB has a +3 bonus to deal with him on further roommate stuff.

Another example, with Jana: She narrated for V, "I dive and wriggle under the car" and before I could pipe up with "OK, the orderly tries to grab your ankles, let's roll" she'd went right on with ". . .and I pop up the other side and say all this stuff about never going back to the hospital." It kept breaking my heart to have to rewind and say "OK, you gotta roll the dice and win, then V gets to say all that stuff." It really killed the flow and momentum of a lot of moments.

I'm also having an issue on the other side of the dice roll; players tend to assume that once they win a volley they're "free to go," as if the other actors in the conflict weren't still standing right there, opposing them. Again, this wouldn't be a problem in some games, like Shadow of Yesterday: "You roll athletics to jump over the car and escape? OK great, you did it! You're good and escaped." But with Sorcerer. . .I particularly find I kept having to dial back with Jana, who was genuinely surprised each combat round that she still had an orderly and a doctor to contend with. She'd be like, "and Pigeon and I escape to my cabin on the Gorge<" and I had to say, "actually Pigeon is still on the other side of the car, wrestling with the orderly in the alley." "O-o-oh. . .well crap, i guess I better go back for him." I dunno, maybe it's a learning curve; I sure hope so. The other thing along these lines that I had to contend with along these lines was Jana (others too a bit, but mostly Jana) adding a bunch of tack on details, for instance when defending against the Doc with syringe: Me: "OK, he clumsily grabs at you but you shrug him off. Jana: "And knock the syringe out of his hands!" Me: thinking eh, why not and letting it stand; Jana, a moment later, after some more table talk: "and the syringe punctures the tire!" [another combat round or two passes] Seth, piping up from the sidelines: "the deflating tire collapses the car on both of them and you get away!"

Looking back, I think a big part of the problem was a lack of clear border between actual play input, and table talk. The first comment went by, and I thought, "she doesn't really have the authority to do that," but it seemed inconsequential to me (the doctor fled after that, anyway), so I let it slide. . .then before I know it she and even other players are building on it and making it consequential (not to mention silly), which confuses me because I'm not even sure if they mean that to be an actual SIS input, or just "ha ha, what if" stuff. And now in the cold light of day I see that they simply aren't valid inputs and thus, as you're apt to say, Ron, "just table talk." I guess I need to discuss this next time we meet, and get the dividing line clear on how different statements are handled.

I also fumbled a bit in assigning bonus dice. It was a tricky to spot where to apply them, partly because a lot of the stuff that got a laugh or made people go "oh shit!" was outside of the context of a conflict. I handed out some bonuses to Willem in his scuffle with the warehouse guys I think I might have awarded one to Jana in her fight as well), but that petered out as I began to feel his attacks were repetitive. I'm starting to realize that the real money (for MY preferences, anyway) in roleplaying bonuses is not in HOW you do something, but WHAT you do, as when I awarded Seth a die last session for the mere idea of ambushing the scenesters. The "pirouette in midair, pivot and strike" type stuff, is much more hit and miss.

I'm not at all satisfied with my handling of Robin's scene--bluntly, I fell into a lot of old OTE habits that didn't serve the game well. I started out with no clear idea of what Robin would discover by retracing his steps (I DO know exactly what happened to the body and who's responsible, but couldn't see Robin's retracing as anything but a dead end), and kept improvising in a one-step-behind-the curve fashion until the sequence of events wound down. I says to myself, "Lessee, he wants to pick up the body's trail, but what sort of clue would he find? OK, how 'bout some underlings of the person who took it driving around [doing what, I'm still not sure]? OK, he's following 'em, so he finds the Voodoo warehouse, but. . .damn, I can't just have 'im recover the body neat as you please, it's too soon! Well, the body wouldn't be here anyway, so. .. hey! It would make sense for the trucker's body to be here [since I HAVE established in my prep that Eva has appropriated it], he'll find THAT! Oh, I'm so clever!"

. .. except that I've now delivered a frivolous red herring that might cause him to give up on those guys even though they are connected with his missing corpse. And I've created a sort of bizarre and random string of events that I have to backtrack in my head to justify. And on top of it all, I totally deprived Willem of the legitimate chance to uncover the truth by neglecting the dice rolls (easy to do, given the above issues) for his interrogation, which by rights could well have led him right to Eva's doorstep. Instead I decided for myself exactly what the guy would say, so as not to let Robin get too far, too soon. Not my finest moment, at ALL.

And one final thing I have to bemoan--I COMPLETELY missed the chance for a great Humanity Check! Robin treated Thorn really, really shitty, verbally pummeling her with this stream of stuff like "this is the REAL DEAL! You've got to get WITH it!" "B-but--" "Oh GOD!! Shut UP Jesus Christ, this isn't playtime! Get it together!!" just for the purpose of cowing and controlling her. And now he's sent her off with a 'fake' hand grenade to negotiate with his lover. Everyone at the table was going "God, he's an asshole!" And our Humanity definition is Empathy. Aaand I blew it. Should have been Humanity Check city. I'm tempted to bring it up next time and do the check right then, but I don't want to set a dangerous precedent: "Hey gang, before we get started this week, I've just got the usual list of backtracks and do-overs. Still, I need to establish the Humanity Check system to get everyone on the same page with that. Hmm.

*                              *                              *

Some initial self-diagnoses as I mull this stuff over:

First, it's premature to think I've got all my GMing "kinks" from earlier, less satisfying days worked out. I still have it in me to do A) the opposite of what I've cogently determined I enjoy enjoy in a game and B) the opposite of what the rules of a particular game say. I'm going to have to be fucking vigilant and not let happy-happy forum epiphanies beguile me into thinking I don't need any more retraining or discipline.

Second, it occurs to me that the phenomenon of players having to relearn habits from specific systems that don't port well to other games is not specifically a Trad ==> Indie phenomenon. I see players doing a lot of stuff that serves well in other Indie games with various distribution of Authority and Narration, but simply doesn't apply to Sorcerer.

Third, I'm still pretty optimistic that these are growing pains, a bit of awkwardness as we transition to a new set of skills and procedures for a particular game. It seems to me we're at a sensitive juncture where the "effortless roleplaying" I spoke of in my first report butts heads with the cold reality of game mechanics, and the two need to integrate so they're working seamlessly together. The challenge here will be to actually deal with this as a group, rather than the social-turtling response of just enduring a dissatisfying dynamic (and-heh-posting about it on the internet) out of misguided reticence: "Oh, I don't want to have to tell Jana 'no, you don't get to say that in this game'! It might *gasp* hurt her feelings!"

*                              *                              *

I'll close with an account of a couple of positive things to balance it out. First, I noted that people were really starting to use their Demon abilities. If I can get Humanity Checks up and running, not to mention keeping an eye on plain ol' consequences of actions, that should be a recipe for fun. Second, I'm seeing the paths of the various PCs entwine very organically and satisfyingly. Nobody and Sugarbaker becoming roommates is a natural and story-ripe development, and when I look at the web of NPCs on everyone's back pages,connections are starting to pop out. Case in point is Eva Hallex, a socialite and "punk priestess" who V delivers Voodoo supplies to. a moment's thought told me that she was the most likely candidate to be screwing around with dead bodies and their spirits, hence she's responsible for Robin's cadaver escaping and the weird incident with V and the dead trucker's foot. Boom, now every PC is connected to at least one other PC. Not too much, not too little. Then, as feels natural, I can start to draw the two halves of the character network together (you can BET my activist Demon Drummer has something to say about Eva's frivolous use of Sorcery for social advancement).

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 03, 2008, 01:07:58 AM
Hi Joel,

Holy crap - this discussion was completely eclipsed by GenCon and I'd forgotten all about it until today. I think I can work my way through your points pretty much one by one.

Regarding discussion with your group about the dice and narrations, here is a useful concept: this is cinematography. Let the dice be your cameraman and work with what they say. It's possible that they are dealing with a simplistic dichotomy between so-called story games ("I get to talk! A lot!") and old-school ("Shut up, it's time to roll dice," rattle rattle, "he cuts your hand off"), and that phrasing can help get past it.

That said, regarding the fight in the car, they were right and you were wrong. The basic idea was escape, and it should have been one roll for each of the two characters. There was no need for any complex scuffling. You should save the fight mechanics for orthogonal situations only, and then only when timing/order matters.

About bonus dice, you can always say "yeah!" and give one to the player for the next roll. That's drifting a bit, but not too bad. I agree about what does and doesn't work for assigning them, and you should trust your preferences as GM. In this game, that particular title or task makes you the arbiter, or are accepting the group's endorsement as such, for these things.

The whole Robin sequence was painful to read - yeah, you blocked big-time. "Can't find the body! That would finish the story!" My take is that you need a bandolier of Bangs for this character, in a big way, and that won't be possible unless you are personally interested in the bevy of NPCs and activities that underly, or have been revealed by, the Kicker. My current take is that you aren't actually interested in the whole body-snatching thing at all. All your text about it has been a little bit iffy and Hollywoodish, not in a good way. I suggest ramping up the satirical elements, being as harsh and sarcastic as you can be about the actual real-world issues. Look how much fun you have when Nobody freaks out some hipsters.

Regarding Humanity checks, missing them is no big deal - the solution is in fact to roll'em at the beginning of the next session. Now, your instincts are right on target about the do-overs, but for this one single issue, you should do it. Besides, it's not a do-over, it's a judgment.

Regarding PCs' connections with one another, don't push it or weave any harder than you've done already. Stick with NPC priorities and Bangs, and the process will continue very easily.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on September 06, 2008, 11:49:40 AM
Hi, Ron! Thanks for coming back around. Oddly enough, you've got good timing. . .our game was postponed a bit and we're playing next this Tuesday.

So, good points generally. I've always really dug the "cameraman" analogy, at least for Combat (orthagonal) sequences. I'm a bit unclear how that looks for a more simple VS Roll, though--how do the dice "direct" the camera in this case?

About the fight, I'd like to point out that there were four fictional participants in that conflict; V, her pal Pigeon, the Doctor and the brutish Orderly. So it makes sense to me that we would go into full Orthagonal mode, as, for instance, the Orderly grabs for V, Pigeon rushes to grapple with the Orderly, and V dives under the car. And then once she does dive under and out the other side, there's the Dr standing there, with a chance to subdue her. Running away with the narration to the point of "and now we're far away from the city, an hour or so later" seems A) excessive in scope, and B) inappropriate in any case until they've gotten away "clean". But maybe my understanding of the Oppositional vs. Orthagonal thing is spottier than I thought, as evidenced by this thread. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26698.0)

"Can't find the body! That would finish the story!"
Yep. Exactly the thing used to go through in Over the Edge; I was unable to see a middle ground between "wrap up all loose ends immediately" and "defer their resolution indefinitely." I was vaguely unaware that the story needed some way to "keep going," and be interesting, and that some sort of pacing was necessary, but in practice I didn't know how to do that except stall, stall, stall.

My take is that you need a bandolier of Bangs for this character, in a big way, and that won't be possible unless you are personally interested in the bevy of NPCs and activities that underly, or have been revealed by, the Kicker. My current take is that you aren't actually interested in the whole body-snatching thing at all. All your text about it has been a little bit iffy and Hollywoodish, not in a good way. I suggest ramping up the satirical elements, being as harsh and sarcastic as you can be about the actual real-world issues.
I see what you mean. You're quite correct that I wasn't seeing anything that grabbed me about the missing body scenario. I was especially thrown by Willem's idea that it was walking around somewhere; every time I try to visualize that I can only picture something like Bubba Ho-Tep, perhaps standing on the side of the road with a "Tribal Burial Grounds of Bust" sign. Though that idea did make a good and logical connection with Eva the Voodoo priestess, so I ran with that. But anyway, what DID interest me as we began playing is all of the people in Robin's life, and specifically just how shitty he's treating all of them. Stringing along the curator he banged, running off his panicked henchmen, mercilessly abusing the one person who would stick by him. . .hell, I can't wait to see how he treats characters that haven't been introduced yet, like Ben Frank. So far Robin Last is the epitome of narcissistic avoidance of responsibility, and I think I'll enjoy making that blow up around him. Heh. . .literally, considering the 'negtiating tool" he sent with his scared partner. . .

Regarding PCs' connections with one another, don't push it or weave any harder than you've done already.
Agreed. I really like where things are at in that regard.

Thanks for the help! Look forward to hearing from you.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 07, 2008, 07:15:56 PM
Hi Joel,

Quote
I've always really dug the "cameraman" analogy, at least for Combat (orthagonal) sequences. I'm a bit unclear how that looks for a more simple VS Roll, though--how do the dice "direct" the camera in this case?

Easy as pie - just go by the rules. The dice say whether it's success or failure, and if you want some nuances to inspire narration, use the degrees of victory. But since that wasn't obvious to you, I suspect more underlies your question. Specifically ...

Quote
About the fight, I'd like to point out that there were four fictional participants in that conflict; V, her pal Pigeon, the Doctor and the brutish Orderly. So it makes sense to me that we would go into full Orthagonal mode, as, for instance, the Orderly grabs for V, Pigeon rushes to grapple with the Orderly, and V dives under the car. And then once she does dive under and out the other side, there's the Dr standing there, with a chance to subdue her. Running away with the narration to the point of "and now we're far away from the city, an hour or so later" seems A) excessive in scope, and B) inappropriate in any case until they've gotten away "clean". But maybe my understanding of the Oppositional vs. Orthagonal thing is spottier than I thought, as evidenced by this thread.

Your logic is screwy. It looks to me as if you're getting distracted by number of participants and especially by the scale of a particular announced action. Oppositional-vs.-Orthogonal is about goals. You can always ask, given the situation, what is the character actually trying to do? The situation in this case is being captured. If the answer is "Escape from this guy who's trying to catch me!" then it's straightforwardly opposed in a zero-sum way. If there are two characters and each is trying to escape, and each is being chased by a different person, and there's no particular reason to concern yourself with the timing, then it's still easy: A tries to catch B, C tries to catch D. Since all B and D are doing is opposing the announced goals, it's just two opposed rolls, and you quickly find out what happens.

All that yipyap about rolling under cars and so on is perfectly fine narration and role-playing. It might, in fact, have landed a bonus die or two depending on your sense as GM. But it doesn't make anything orthogonal. The bad guys' goal was to catch the two characters. The two characters opposed that goal. All set. Roll. I think you might have been in previous games' mode of any physical confrontation necessarily being a round-by-round, complicated fight. I also think that you can enjoy narration a little more, and know whether you should call for a roll, if you think in terms of characters' intentions, always, always. You can always ask for them when the announced action is "only" an action.

(You might ask, so can't a fight be just a single opposed roll? The answer is, in Hero Wars yes, in Sorcerer no. In Sorcerer, getting into a fight always means the four-way outcome of the orthogonal framework, and it always gets into the damage/penalties method for establishing final success. That's why it's so dangerous.)

Quote
You're quite correct that I wasn't seeing anything that grabbed me about the missing body scenario. I was especially thrown by Willem's idea that it was walking around somewhere; every time I try to visualize that I can only picture something like Bubba Ho-Tep, perhaps standing on the side of the road with a "Tribal Burial Grounds of Bust" sign. Though that idea did make a good and logical connection with Eva the Voodoo priestess, so I ran with that. But anyway, what DID interest me as we began playing is all of the people in Robin's life, and specifically just how shitty he's treating all of them. Stringing along the curator he banged, running off his panicked henchmen, mercilessly abusing the one person who would stick by him. . .hell, I can't wait to see how he treats characters that haven't been introduced yet, like Ben Frank. So far Robin Last is the epitome of narcissistic avoidance of responsibility, and I think I'll enjoy making that blow up around him. Heh. . .literally, considering the 'negtiating tool" he sent with his scared partner. . .

I think you're good with the insight that stalling indicates your own disinterest, expressed as deflection. However, stalling has an evil twin, which you are now displaying: projection, or "trapped in the future." Instead of being paralyzed because you can't think of what to do next, you jump ahead and start dreaming about how good it'll be two or three unplayed steps down the road. Which is just as bad, because what you actually need to think about is what's going to be good in the next ten seconds of play.

(1) Land Robin with a Humanity check for each of these actions, at the beginning of the session. Hold off only if the next roll would bring him to 0. I'm glad you're putting more attention to this during play itself. Perhaps it will help to think of yourself not as "story manager," but as judge. (2) Instead of bringing in new NPCs, hit Robin with major consequences of past actions by the curator, the henchmen, and the person sticking by him. Those consequences can be anything! Take one of those characters, say to yourself, "OK, that was the last straw," and ask yourself what he or she would do now. Do it immediately.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on September 08, 2008, 02:21:14 PM
Hi, Ron,

My understanding of the Cameraman Analogy was that it had to do with the order and flow of events, hence it pertained to the "Combat" rules specifically. I think I'm clear on "The dice say whether it's success or failure," but didn't see that as the same thing as "directing the camera."

So anyway, I think we're looking at different thresholds for what constitutes a "fight" here. Does people grappling each other differ from people punching each other? Does everyone have to be trying to hurt someone else to constitute a "fight?" The situation wasn't quite "two people trying to get away from two people." The initial stated actions were, V tries to get away, and pigeon wrestles with the Orderly to let V get away.  The Doctor wasn't in it until v slid under the car, to the other side where he was waiting to try 'n tranq her.

I'm not trying to quibble. I'm starting to understand your perspective and its value for my play. But I also want to honor the whole fictional situation--in this case, all of the obstacles to escape: the Orderly, the Doctor and the car blocking the alleyway. Jana's stated action cleared the orderly and the car, leaving the Doctor to menace V while Pigeon was still stuck with the other two obstacles to deal with. So V had to double back to bail him out, then they could escape together. V could've gotten away quicker if she was willing to abandon Pigeon (who hadn't escaped), but she wasn't.

I feel like I'm belaboring the point a bit, so if you want to move on that's fine with me. I don't want to get too caught up in mental fine-tuning to the point where it overshadows the very real confidence and understanding with the system that I DO have. I'm not sure what kind of communication or conceptual difficulties are going on here, but I at least feel like I do get the point even if it doesn't look like it to you.

I think you're good with the insight that stalling indicates your own disinterest, expressed as deflection. However, stalling has an evil twin, which you are now displaying: projection, or "trapped in the future." Instead of being paralyzed because you can't think of what to do next, you jump ahead and start dreaming about how good it'll be two or three unplayed steps down the road. Which is just as bad, because what you actually need to think about is what's going to be good in the next ten seconds of play.
I get what you're saying here, but I don't think I'm quite in that trap yet (believe me, it's a familiar one). I'm quite grounded in what's happening immediately next (read: hand grenade), and was just pausing a second in the post to reflect that I'll bet Robin will also continue to be a magnificent bastard to other people. It was just an aside, really.

Quote from: Ron Edwards link=topic=26578.msg254729#
msg254729 date=1220843756
Take one of those characters, say to yourself, "OK, that was the last straw," and ask yourself what he or she would do now. Do it immediately.
As a matter of fact, I've already done this. It's the disgruntled henchmen, and they're ratting him out to the cops.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 10, 2008, 04:34:33 AM
Hi Joel,

Youíre talking yourself into a tangle, unfortunately. Looking over the thread, I realize that I havenít fully described how Iíd GM that situation with the tussle by the car. Iíll do that first.

Your justification regarding ďobstaclesĒ needs to be thrown out; itís gumming you up. This is about conflicts of interest. The car is not a character, so it will only be involved as a minor modifier to make things harder for the chasees, or as Jana correctly utilized it, as a possible source of bonuses. The only opponents are the doctor and the orderly.

Instead of lining up a list of obstacles to be overcome, you should work with exactly what the characters are doing going into the roll. The orderly, for instance cannot be blocking both V and Pigeon. That is exactly why you canít use the obstacle-list, because he canít be opposing both of them at once without some kind of special equipment or something like that.

In the opening stages of that conflict, V and Pigeon are separately trying to escape, and theyíre rolling against whoever was trying to get them or hem them in. Apparently the orderly is concentrating on Pigeon. Jana says V does this whole tuck-and-roll thing, then faces the doctor. All right, the rules are right there in hand to use for this: a Stamina roll, then if successful, the victories become bonus dice for the vs.-Doctor roll. Thatís the roll that can get her free, and letís say, as in play, she did Ė she escaped.

The various features of the situation have all been honored: car, orderly, doctor. Iím hammering this hard because itís a big deal. There is a way to handle conflicts that lies halfway between a single opposed roll and a full-on complex, orthogonal mess. Iím trying to outline exactly how itís done. Itís still composed of basic rolls, but with augmenting rolls and a strong sense of positions of characters relative to one another.

That conflict is over, but the scene is not, because V now has a choice: she can either enjoy her new freedom or she can get back into the situation to help Pigeon. She does (worth a Humanity gain roll, Iíd say)! Thatís a new goal, new thing, new conflict, new roll. Now, itís all about rescuing Pigeon.

Well, that has a lot of possible orthogonality involved. The orderly will choices to make about whom to grab or thump. The doctor might try to jump in, if he can. Depending on the various stated actions, itís pretty likely that youíll move to complex resolution.

However Ö itís also possible that you wonít. When would that be? If Vís stated action was to help Pigeon escape, Pigeonís action is to escape, the doctorís is to prevent Pigeon from escaping, and the orderlyís action is to prevent Pigeon from escaping.

Do you see why that is? If the announcements line up like that, then you simply have outcome A and outcome B again, in a zero-sum one-gets-it situation. If thatís the case, then go back to baseline opposed rolls: probably V vs. the orderly, with a roll by Pigeon feeding into hers, and the doctorís feeding into the orderlyís. (I assigned V to be the primary roller on one side, because Pigeon lost to the orderly already.)

Iím not saying that the announcements had to line up like that; for all I know, V was the real prize rather than Pigeon, so the orderly and the doctor might have concentrated on her. In that case, we shift into orthogonal resolution.

Does that help, or make sense?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Reithan on September 10, 2008, 08:26:23 AM
Just wanted to but in here and say, this thread is AWESOME. There's a lot of good insight and tool here for anyone who's reading.

On the other hand, what in the word does "orthagonal" mean? o.o


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 10, 2008, 10:53:34 AM
Actually I felt bad about my last post. I wrote it once for content, went over it for concept-checking and organization, and then was about to go over it again for tone when I was interrupted. So it's about ten times harsher, more in my speaking voice which can be alleviated by body language, than I wanted.

You're kidding about orthogonal, right? I don't really get emoticons, so I'm not sure.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Reithan on September 10, 2008, 11:10:03 AM
I haven't played Sorcerer specifically, so if it's something explained/defined in that rulebook, then that'd be why I don't know.

But, other that that, no, I have no clue what orthagonal means.


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 10, 2008, 11:34:43 AM
Hi there,

No problem.

The term "orthogonal" is from geometry. It means "at right angles," and in the context of narrative, means actions that are happening at the same time but are directed toward different things, and yet still might affect one another. For instance if Bob is trying to grab the widget which is falling (and might blow up), and if Sam is trying to shoot Bob, then all sorts of things might and might not happen.

Bob might get the widget and then get shot by Sam
Sam might shoot Bob, and that might or might not spoil Bob's chance to get the widget
Bob might get the widget and avoid being shot
Bob might avoid being shot and then get the widget

... and so on. The alternative is "oppositional," which I think I described pretty well above - either one side is trying to do X and the other is trying to avoid or stop X, or both sides are trying to get X and only one will.

RPG techniques have traditionally handled this badly, relying on logic with no uncertainty (most "initiative" mechanics) or on pure judgment on one person's part who simply mandates what goes when. One of the very few exceptions was Zero, published in 1994, from which I was inspired for Sorcerer's timing/order mechanics. Most of the games which arose from the Forge community since 2000 have done a pretty good job of addressing the issue, in one way or another.

The terms got their first workout in Orthogonal & oppositional conflicts (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21236.0), courtesy of Jesse Burneko. The issue had been discussed at some length in other contexts (especially in [Frostfolk] Carrying on (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21546.0)), starting about halfway down the first page), but he was the one who really broke it out into meaningful categories. Ever since then, I have no idea how any of us ever accomplished worthwhile RPG design without them.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Reithan on September 10, 2008, 11:41:40 AM
Thanks for the great explanation.

Very useful and starts some more gears a turnin'. :D


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on September 13, 2008, 09:21:05 PM
Hey, Ron, thanks! Your description of how you'd run the scene is indeed extremely helpful in clarifying what you're talking about. Yay clarity!

So: There are just a few details I apparently wasn't clear about--RE Pigeon and the Orderly, it was the other way around actually; Pigeon was concentrating on the guard, specifically grappling with him to help V escape his clutches. Pigeon was NOT, in this raft of actions, trying to escape. He succeeded, which helped V escape and roll under the car, then in the next volley V rolled vs the DR to escape, and Pigeon rolled vs the Orderly to escape; V succeeded and Pigeon failed. SO V had to double back (the Dr fled) to bail out Pigeon, which she did through judicious application of Quinones' Hold.

Also, I wanna say that absolutely the car was just a prop for the various contestants ("conflictants"?) to utilize; that's all I meant by obstacle. I wasn't "rolling for the car" or anything.

But that stuff's all detail, which I explain 'cuz I wanna be completely clear about what did happen. The real prize is this:

If the announcements line up like that, then you simply have outcome A and outcome B again, in a zero-sum one-gets-it situation. If thatís the case, then go back to baseline opposed rolls: [ETC]
Yes! I get it! No matter how many ontestants, if the goals line up neatly along mutually exclusive intents, like this:

0 <------> X
0 <------> X

(or even with criss-crossing but still mutually exclusive intents),

Then it's simple Oppositional and not Orthogonal. Ho-kay, got it.

I figured out what was tripping me up, actually. You might laugh. Y'know that thing you laid out in the Adept press thread linked above on Orthogonal vs Oppositional? You said Oppositional involved "(a) trying to stop him, (b) trying to avoid the effects, or (c) trying to do it first". And I was all hung up on (c) as including stuff like "trying to hit you first." In which case how could combat be Orthogonal, except that it just is, meaning all "combat" is Orthagonal, meaning tussling around to capture/escape would qualify.

So. . .yeah. It finally dawned on me that the reason two dudes hitting each other is Orthogonal is because they can both succeed at hitting the other guy. Simple, no? But that's what was hanging me up. Sheesh.



It makes me interested in exploring the possibilities of using Orthagonal Conflict outside of "Combat" situations; like you've all got non-exclusive goals declared and you roll, with people "aborting to defend" and such with "defend" being whatever means of opposition is appropriate to the action.Wouldn't seem to be hard to implement, but explaining it in light of the "combat" ;abel might be a doozy.

Peace,
-Joel

PS Don't worry 'bout the tone; yes it was a bit abrasive, but I think I've learned to recognize that for what it is by now, though I could probably "read" better if I met you face to face. Podcast footage helps a bit.


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 14, 2008, 04:39:30 AM
Yay hug.

Quote
It makes me interested in exploring the possibilities of using Orthagonal Conflict outside of "Combat" situations; like you've all got non-exclusive goals declared and you roll, with people "aborting to defend" and such with "defend" being whatever means of opposition is appropriate to the action.Wouldn't seem to be hard to implement, but explaining it in light of the "combat" ;abel might be a doozy.

That's one of the running topics in Sex & Sorcery. In Chapter 3 I go into the way the combat mechanics shake out in combat, and then in Chapter 7 I use diagrams (with one error, damn it) to show the same thing for a bunch of influential actions and rituals firing at once.

The really fun thing is that you can use the same technique to run concurrent conflicts in different scenes, which by definition are orthogonal. It's not absolutely necessary because the two (or more) conflicts' results may not affect one another, but it's gold at the table in social/creative, artistic terms. During 2004, I honed a technique I call "flashpoint" which is for us to play all the characters in their different places and activities across all their scenes, and hold off on the dice mechanics until everyone is in a conflict, then run the whole damn thing like a "fight" across three or four scenes at once. The Sorcerer mechanics do this without a lick of sweat, and in fact any system which is clear about its oppositional-orthogonal applications can do it.

Best, Ron

P.S. For clarity: I began experimenting with the flashpoint technique with The Riddle of Steel in 2002-2003; there's a thread waaaaay back in that forum and a couple in Actual Play about it.


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on September 14, 2008, 09:33:52 AM
Cool. Willem owns Sex & Sorcery so I'll be reading it sooner or later (I've got his &Sword and Sorcerer's Soul right now, the first of which I've finished). I'll check out the chart and see if I can spot the error!



Incidentally, we played again last week. Willem took his raft of Humanity checks in good sport, exclaiming "Nice1" or 'Well played!" as I detailed the reason for each. The bastard made all but one, dropping Humanity from 5 to 4. Then during play he was approaching the Flying J truckstop (it's so much fun using real locations in the game!) just as the whole front was blown out by grenade blast. He waited a moment, when neither Thorn nor Alice came running out, Robin went "Stupid kid," shook his head, and flew off. Another check! (which he made.)

He's now at Ben Frank's place on the Cascades surrounded by cops demanding that Robin Last come out. Mwuhaha.

Meanwhile Sugarbaker's power was shut off (and his meat spoiling!). . .he ended up at a shady little downtown address the Yard sent him to, to fence a couple of undelivered paychecks (not his own!) that he scammed off of his former employer. Beware the Naif Sorcerer with monster Will!

And Nobody was sent off, crying, by a Powell's manager when he tried to sell off some rare books for Sugarbaker's rent. Turns out we've found his weakness: authority figures. :)

Oh, and Jana was feeling burnt-out and opted not to have any scenes. I wholeheartedly agree about her Humanity Gain roll for Pigeon and I'll open next session with that. Which reminds me, Willem and Jana gave me some shit, kinda joking but maybe kinda not, about Robin getting a boatload of Humanity Checks but Nobody terrorizing scenesters and not getting any. I can see how Nobody quite literally failed to empathize with them, but for my money it's all context. Nobody did not have a relationship with the guys in the alley like Robin had with Moss, Thorn, Jeff, and Alice, nor were the hipsters seeking empathy or relationship of any kind. In fact they were the ones antagonizing him; if they were player characters they'd garner Humanity checks. I do think, though, that I should keep an eye for checks on Nobody's interaction with Sugarbaker.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on September 17, 2008, 10:32:55 PM
Something I'd like to delve into further as I prepare for our next session: repairing the damage from my horrible floundering about with "mystery" in Robin's scenes. The repercussions are alive and kicking in the most recent session, where Robin goes to Ben Frank and lays all his problems on him, telling him about the missing body and puzzling that the goons and the other body seem to be unrelated.

So now we're in a fix such that I jerked a player around, and consequently he's set to direct his character away from events related to his Kicker, because I stupidly gave him the impression that they weren't related to it.

There are several ways to proceed, far as I can see. I could:

(A) Let the misunderstanding be, and accept the ultimate "It was them all along! But I already ruled them out!" reveal
(B) Cut the crap and have Robin encounter the missing corpse directly, whether in someone's possession or walking around on its own, and let the error get corrected sooner rather than later
(C) Keep mum and try to redirect through the fiction, by pointing Robin/Willem back on the trail with fresh clues
(D) Just straight-up level with Willem at the metagame level: "Hey, dude, I screwed up, Eva really does have your missing mummy, so feel free to direct Robin back toward her."

All four have good and bad points; (A) is my least favorite, recalling my earliest Over the Edge days. You lose so much time and energy waiting for the disconnect to clear up, and it's unfair to the player that you clumsily threw off track (note that this is completely different from the situation where the misdirection is an intentional device, a feat of skill appreciated by everyone at the table). But if everyone is willing to roll with the fictional input as a valid story direction, it could be the least jarring. Depends on how dumb or uncool such a misunderstanding makes the fictional character out to be.

B) This one ain't bad; it clears things up pretty quickly while avoiding heavy-handed nose-leading. But possibly it's heavyhanded in another way: the over-eager rush to provide the character/player with their object of desire, such that attaining it is flat and meaningless. All in the details, I suppose. . .

(C) was Standard Operating Procedure midway through my OtE days, where I was vaguely aware of having strung everyone along horribly, and tried to make up for it by doing the same thing that caused the problem: jerking the players around, only jerking in a new direction. I don't think I'm going to solve anything this way.

D) could indeed clear everything up, but leaves a bad taste in my mouth as it relates to the actual roleplaying at the table. if I get into the mode of always apologizing/nitpicking/retracting the actual play that we do together, it just undermines the process. Instead of "that fun game we played together", it could become "that game that we played that was great once we selectively edited out the lame parts as we went." Ick.

So I'm thinking the best option is something like (B). Let the water stay under the bridge, and move forward: with the mummy surfacing as soon as is fitting, in whatever manner is most natural at that point. The fact that Eva and her followers are behind the corpse-vanishing shenanigans can emerge naturally as well, and the misdirection can just become a footnote of intrigue.

Any thoughts? Possibilities I'm missing? Am I right in assessing the problem, worrying about nothing, or worse, headed for a disastrous "solution"?

Peace,
-Joel

PS bear in mind that the game's going well overall and I'm pretty confident in most aspects of GMing it. highlighting this problem is just working the kinks out as far as I'm concerned, but it seems like a pretty important kink.


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 18, 2008, 03:29:43 AM
It's B.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Sorcerer] Cascadiapunk: New Wrinkles and Old Habits
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on September 18, 2008, 05:10:29 AM
Well, there you go.