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Title: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 08, 2011, 10:31:36 PM
"SBP" stands for Story Before Participationism.  It's basically gaming where (a) the GM makes certain things unavoidably happen in play as a part of getting across a "story" (by which I mean a plot, experience, or other sort of vision) they've conceived, and (b) the players are aware of this and are engaged in contributing meaningfully to that story.

In this thread about SBP (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32122.45), Frank T. made an interesting assertion that rolling dice for momentary success and failure of character actions can be fun even in a context where major plot points are never in doubt.  You can't stop the jewel thieves' escape, but you can reveal your character in ways that enrich the story, or all sorts of other good things.

So what play contributions qualify here as good things?  One way to look at it is that they ought to offer meaningful reflections of both the GM's planned content and the content of the fiction to date.  A reflection, in this sense, means expressing a unique interpretation of what's come before, and a unique choice of what can and should follow.  This needn't be explained (and is probably better if it isn't), but it does need to be expressed.  Frank's Star Wars game provides a perfect example, when the Han Solo clone sells out the Alliance.  That player saw a Star Wars in which that can happen, and through her actions got everyone else to see it too.

So, here's the question for this thread: Yes, rolling for success can produce these good things.  But are there better ways to produce them in more regular and rewarding fashion?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 08, 2011, 11:08:41 PM
In high school and college, I ran a homebrew I called Pitfighter.  It was a severely abashed Story Before Illusionist game, using resolution rules derived from AD&D2.  The particular kick I was high on at the time as GM was "my world, my conspiracies".  I'd filled the globe with cool factions doing various covert things to rule the world.  The players' job was to discover enough of my hidden info to save the world.  Which I pretty much ensured, doling out reveals at just the right moments to elicit gasps and outcry.

None of that had anything to do with the dice.  The PCs winning a fight or picking a lock just determined how much I'd need to intervene to get the PCs to the next reveal.

The players eventually realized that the game was most fun when they engaged with my world and my conspiracies, and they found various ways to do this.  Giving emotional responses to my reveals.  Asking questions and expressing curiosity about my facts and factions mentioned but not yet seen.  Theorizing about how my world worked and what must also be true based on what they knew.  Processing what had just happened, providing their unique stories and takes on what had happened, what it all meant, and how it all mattered.  Proposing additional material to me by fishing around for it in-character.

Again, no connection to the dice.  I maximized the emotional responses by timing my managing my reveals.  I rewarded fishing that matched my vision of my world with free resources.  Processing, theorizing, and curiosity all tended to happen after some conversation with some NPC, and en route to a decision about what to do next or how to prepare for what they'd do next.

We stuck with the dice because they performed several important functions.  They took the social responsibility for simply deciding "You succeed" or "You fail" off of anyone at the table.  (Well, most of the time.  When I couldn't let something succeed, I had various techniques for that, most of which seem weak now.)  They created anticipation and suspense, as they were picked up, shaken, and rolled.  Whenever the extremely unlikely happened, it was neat to be greeted by a situation we wouldn't simply have come up with ourselves.

That's all good generic "play a game instead of just making stuff up".  But it has nothing to do with Story Before, nor with the Illusionism I practiced then and the Participationism I'm interested in now.  There's got to be a more optimal solution, right?  There's got to be a better way of looking at what to resolve, and how to go about resolving it, and how to view outcomes, and what outcomes to produce.  A way that inspires meaningful, reflective interactions between the players, the GM's plot, and the fiction thus far.

Whatcha got?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: stefoid on November 09, 2011, 12:44:30 AM
I use the example of the rickety, decrepit rope bridge across the chasm to get to the castle.  Theres no other way around, the bridge must be crossed, but for some reason a challenge is warranted.  Perhaps a character is afraid of heights , or overloaded with loot or something else that makes rolling worthwhile ( as opposed to narrating crossing the bridge and etting on with it). 

So we're rolling, but failure isnt an option - a character falling to their death on the results of a dice roll isnt acceptable.  So we dont roll for WHAT happens (as in, does the character get across the bridge at all)   -- we know they do, thats a given.  We roll for HOW.  In what manner does the character proceed across the bridge?  Do they conquer their fear and stride across?  Or must they be carried at great inconvenience and humiliation?  Do they manage to get their great sack of loot across or is something dropped, never to be recovered?

So your SBP is like one giant bridge - you pretty much know WHAT is going to happen, your just looking for those points where HOW is important, and focusing on those moments.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 09, 2011, 01:52:22 AM
Steve, yeah, game-appropriate measures of HOW could definitely be a good thing to resolve!  In my Pitfighter game, I'm not sure what that'd be.  Maybe how much a character behaved like a given faction?  (Domineering vs manipulative, perhaps?  Using murder or using misinformation?)

Here's a thought:

In many RPGs, a mechanical resolution produces an outcome.  Player creativity then fills out the details of how that outcome specifically occurs; that is, what it looks like.  These details are mere color, with the outcome itself being the fuel for the next situation of play.

What if we exactly inverted that?  Mechanically resolve color, and then player creativity fills out the details of success/failure?  Because, in SBP play, the outcomes of character tasks don't have to be the main ingredient for subsequent situations.  In fact, the purpose of play might come across more clearly if they aren't.  An alternative is to look at it as the GM's plot dictating situations, and the characters' progress in that plot only that dictates the next situation. 

So, in my Pitfighter game, what mattered was progress in the characters' understanding of my factions and their schemes.  Where they were along that arc dictated what situation could happen next.  So, if we're going to give the dice a similar role to the one they perform in most "roll to succeed/fail" RPGs, the appropriate thing here would be to "roll to advance your understanding or not".

What if, whenever you had a chance to learn truth or be fooled, there was a fun mechanic for that?  And everything else was just "say what happens"?  That might be putting the focus in just the right place.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 09, 2011, 05:47:29 AM
Stephen,

I am concerned that you have not yet processed Story Before as a concept. Here and as I now realize, in your previous thread, your description is way, way too broad - it basically says, "When the GM puts in important stuff happening." That is not what I mean by those terms.

Story Before means the players have no power whatsoever over the story. They get to be in the story, and that is all. So this is a double-check - are you sure you're really getting this?

It's an important issue. I'm just now working up some pretty massive posts about it. I'm worried that you're lunging forward without internalizing the single most important point.

Story Before does not merely mean "prep cool things to happen." It means prepping cool things to result, during play, from what happens.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on November 09, 2011, 06:47:24 AM
Hey David,

Personally, I’m not too big a fan of that whole “hidden conspiracy” theme. As a player I hate, hate, hate it when I don’t really know what’s going on but am still forced to make decision on how to act. It doesn’t much help knowing that the GM is going to reveal what I need to know, eventually. I’m having a hard time contributing meaningfully. So much for my personal preference.

With regard to what the rules can or should contribute, I think your example highlights two different aspects:

1) Interaction of resolution mechanisms and so-called “social conflict”

As probably everybody knows, it’s a recurring discussion between trad gamers whether to roll the dice or “role-play it out” in what is commonly called a “social conflict”. Can I fast-talk the guard into letting me pass? Can I seduce the lady? This is a pretty complex topic but I think it’s enough to note, here, that it may well be, in an individual group’s case, that these “social situations” are mostly resolved by acting and good judgment, while “action scenes” are resolved by rolling some dice. If you’re interested, I got a little deeper into this topic in the thread Roll-playing Versus Roleplaying (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=30224.0) and the follow-up, [Reign] In-Character Acting and the Higher Level (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=30425.0).

It’s always fun to think up interesting new ways for rules to handle this or that but on a purely speculative basis, I don’t know how worthwhile that is.

2) Amount of impact of character success or failure, the Fruitful Void

The way I run SBP games, the story isn’t planned blow-by-blow. It’s more of a general scheme with maybe a couple of bottlenecks and a staged “grand final”, but there is quite a bit wiggling space. So a genius idea or a lucky roll by a player will affect the course of events, it will be adopted into the planned story flexibly. On rare occasions, it might even break the planned story completely if it became too much of a stretch to still squeeze through the next bottleneck in a plausible way that wasn’t entirely blatant “my way or the highway”. This has happened maybe two or three times over the years in my games, but still.

When I explained Bass Playing to people over at the German forums, they kept saying, hey, that sounds pretty hard to do. And I said, it’s not a no-brainer, but good Bass Playing is way easier than good Railroading. To run an SBP game is an elaborate dance. You have to be elegant, you have to force the story with a light touch, you have to incorporate the players’ contributions without making them meaningless, you have to understand the players’ vision of their characters to provide them with the necessary stage to pursue that vision, and so on.

This elaborate dance, when done skillfully, is really fun and rewarding for both sides. If you are looking for game mechanisms which support it, I think you should mainly look at Reward System. You don’t want Resolution to take this out of the players’ hands. That’s the Fruitful Void, right there.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Dan Maruschak on November 09, 2011, 10:59:03 AM
I wonder if the term Participationist is clouding what you want to talk about, Dave. If you figure out ways to make the game system carry the load of making Story Before work then you don't necessarily need active "participation" to make that part of the game functional (as least that's what I usually assume is important about Participationism).

I think I mentioned it in the other thread, but my take on Mouse Guard's system is that you usually aren't rolling to succeed or fail, but rolling to avoid a cost (i.e. avoid becoming Angry, Hungry, etc.) or to avoid a deeper, involved focus on a related situation (i.e. avoid a twist, which usually turns into more skill rolls or a conflict, both of which will tempt you to use resources to win).

It's not exactly rolling, and I haven't played any of the games myself, but I think Gumshoe games guarantee the backstory revelation that's characteristic of a mystery story but lets you optionally get "extra detail" by spending a resource. (I've never really understood this design direction myself, since it seems like it's asking the GM to do a lot of work to make up details the players may not choose to pay to see, but since I don't have any direct experience with the games I may be missing something). I think Graham's Cthulhu Dark uses the same "guaranteed clue finding" paradigm, but has you roll for how much detail you get with the expectation that the GM will improvise at least some of it. The sanity rolls in Cthulhu games are another variation of the "roll to see if it costs you" idea.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 09, 2011, 11:11:37 AM
Hi Dan,

The term "Participationist" specifically refers to the players not being fooled by the GM's thorough authority over how the story turns out. That's all it means. Important secondary outcomes include the facts that (i) they don't feel railroaded because their authority over many character choices (at varying levels of subtlety) is ceded outright, (ii) there's no need for the GM to trick them into thinking they're really exerting control over "what the characters do" at certain levels, and (iii) intrinsic conflicts of interest between player announcements and GM goals are not assumed to be the default of play.

All of this is embedded in the sub-subset of play which includes explicit "make a story" as a goal, and one person having complete Outcome Authority.

I would not ordinarily be such a stickler about my jargon, but this thread is founded upon my recent essay, and David is working with it directly.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on November 09, 2011, 03:39:01 PM
David,

Just speculating about the pitfighter scenario - mechanical progress in understanding the conspiracies, just so we can maybe have something of a concept to bat around.

So, there is a precedent in the "tech tree" from sundry RTs games.  Lets imagine you have a chart of the conspiracies and their interactions.  Not just operational links though, also things like layers of doctrine and initiation.  The tech tree example thing works well here - so, you have different trees for different conpiracies.  Each layer has a number of points of "insight" you need to gain before you know it.  So, knowing that a major bank is in fact run by the Freemasons needs like 8 points, knowing that the Freemason are controlled by the Illuminati needs 20 points, that sort of thing.

Now players take actions as you usefully defined them - theorizing, processing, fishing.  Essentially, the first two amount to make guesses to the GM and, if correct, being awarded with a point of insight.... or something like that, its breaking down a bit.  Fishing is presumably shoe-leather detective work.

Could that sort of thing work for you?  I guess the idea would be to structure a set of (eight) clues to reveal to the players that this bank is controlled by the Freemasons.  They can investigate, or guess, or whatever, in the course of actual play.  That's the real action.  When the get the 8 points the entry on the "tech" chart is opened and it is confirmed that they know this thing, and to express a visible form of progress.  What is happening in the physical world the characters inhabit can be governed by some other set of rules or left to free play, or something.

Obviously, as abovem, this is not presented as a real game concept but as a sort of vague silhoette of what the features of such a game might be.  How does it look to you?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Callan S. on November 09, 2011, 03:44:34 PM
Quote
Frank's Star Wars game provides a perfect example, when the Han Solo clone sells out the Alliance.  That player saw a Star Wars in which that can happen, and through her actions got everyone else to see it too.
I'm not sure I get this in relation to 'story before'. It seems to be 'story now', despite the assertions (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=25449.msg245368#msg245368) it's just regular simulationist genre convention breaking fun? It really seems to put the integrity of the character, however the character turns out (soley at the purview of one player(not the GM), the player playing the PC, regardless of any planning the GM might (or might not) have made), over and above the integrity of the setting and how the setting is 'supposed' to turn out.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 09, 2011, 04:54:11 PM
Dan,

I find the label helpful, but if you'd rather think of it as "Story Before that's also a game with something meaningful for the players to do", that's pretty damn close!  I should talk about Gumshoe in a bit.  I've thought about Trail of Cthulhu a lot, played twice, and read the book multiple times, and I can't tell whether my problems with it are more system or presentation.  In the end, I'd put it in the "compatible with SBP, but not much help" category.


Gareth,

That breakdown of player progress does seem to me like it might be useful. 

That such progress would be made by players making guesses makes me nervous.  But maybe that's not because it's a bad idea, it's just because I've never seen it done well.  As long as a wrong guess isn't a meaningless waste of time, and as long as the players have enough material to make FUN guesses, then it could work!


Frank,

A few separate points:

1)  GM secrets and player ignorance

I hear you that GM secret-keeping CAN definitely produce disoriented players.  But that's a problem I'd like to solve! 

I think one of the big GM appeals of SBP is Reveals, and one of the big appeals of a Reveal is that you get to answer some Big Question that the players have been lugging around with them and investing in.  In other words, a Secret.

It seems to me that it shouldn't be too hard to give the players both secrets to be mystified by AND enough orientation to, y'know, do stuff. 

Like, I dunno, your character is a spy but also a dad, and everything he does as a spy impacts how we see his past, present, and future fatherhood.  So when the spy trail grows cold, you can still use your larger character vision to move forward (e.g. "here, a good dad would...").  I'm not thrilled with that example, but there are probably better ones out there already in the gaming world...

2) Reward Systems -- later?

I definitely want to talk about this, but I was planning a separate thread.  Here I want to just talk about resolution.  Maybe I'm doing this in the wrong order.  I'll try to get an SBP Rewards thread started soon.

3) Fruitful Void

Your point there sounds important, but I don't quite understand it.  What exactly is the fun thing that you see being taken away from the group by the approaches I've proposed?  My thought was that the skillful dance of play was just being moved, not eliminated.  So it'd be, I dunno, more about skillfully describing outcomes within resolved color parameters, and less about skillfully describing color within resolved outcome parameters, or something.

Ps,
-David


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: stefoid on November 09, 2011, 05:08:03 PM
Stephen,

I am concerned that you have not yet processed Story Before as a concept. Here and as I now realize, in your previous thread, your description is way, way too broad - it basically says, "When the GM puts in important stuff happening." That is not what I mean by those terms.

Story Before means the players have no power whatsoever over the story. They get to be in the story, and that is all. So this is a double-check - are you sure you're really getting this?

It's an important issue. I'm just now working up some pretty massive posts about it. I'm worried that you're lunging forward without internalizing the single most important point.

Story Before does not merely mean "prep cool things to happen." It means prepping cool things to result, during play, from what happens.

Best, Ron

I guess I dont get it then.  I figure Story before is prepping what happens beforehand - scene 1: players interrupt bank robbery in progress, and bank robbers get away

I figure the purpose of this thread was the question - given that nothing the players do is going to effect that outcome, what is there to roll dice about?

My answer to that question is "HOW the PCs perform their various activities".  Maybe they are able to prevent innocent bystanders from being shot.  Maybe they are able to determine clues about the robbers that will come in handy latter.  etc...


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 09, 2011, 06:02:59 PM
Gah! David, not Stephen. I did it again! Will do better.

My post was directed toward David. Your post was peachy (American English, means "fine") and you clearly understand fine.

David, I want to stress that I am seeking confirmation only out of nervousness and the desire for the meaning of the term not to slide off the rails.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Roger on November 09, 2011, 07:21:46 PM
Hi David,

Are you familiar with those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books?  It sort of looks like you're describing a GM-moderated CYOA experience.  Does that seem sort of accurate?



Cheers,
Roger


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 09, 2011, 09:12:42 PM
Hi Ron,

I spelled out how I'm using "Story Before" here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32122.msg288920#msg288920).  That hasn't changed.

If you're worried that I'm talking about any ol' prep, like, "And then you see this thing in the distance that I planned!", I'm not.

If you're worried that I'm talking about play where the GM doesn't plan every single encounter and its outcome, I am indeed including that.

The place where I've drawn the line is at the group agreement that the GM will make big important things happen that directly concern the players' and characters' primary matters of interest.  "The bad guys you wanted to catch do get away, you do find clues about their plan, your searching and fighting does lead you to them before they can destroy the city." 

How often the GM does this is less of a concern for me right now.  If I'm GMing my story but I leave the final scene's outcome up to the dice or the players... well, I still want support for all the play that led up to that final scene.

I wouldn't want to be misusing an already-defined term, so if you've got a better one for me to sub in for "Story Before", just let me know!

Thanks,
-David


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 09, 2011, 09:30:49 PM
Gah, this is frustrating and hard for me to communicate.
How often the GM does this is less of a concern for me right now.
That may sound way more open than I meant it.  There's definitely a lower bound of "how often".  And that is, "often enough for this to be an ongoing mode of play".  Less often than that, I'd design for differently.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 09, 2011, 09:36:17 PM
Roger,

While CYOA could definitely fall under this umbrella, it wouldn't be my first choice as a model.  As GM, I neither want to put in the work to support player path selection really mattering, nor want to concern myself with prepping something that doesn't really matter.  I wanna focus on my story.  But that's just me...


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on November 10, 2011, 02:57:03 AM
Hi David,

I’m the last person to rule out the possibility that there could be interesting new applications of Resolution to spice up SBP. But I’ll say this much: Mind the pitfalls. Look closely. Do not readily put the axe to something that seemingly “doesn’t matter” before you are sure it really doesn’t matter. That’s also why I pointed out the huge difference between “fiction leads” and “rules lead” in the parent thread.

Personally, I have found that I actually like the way that trad games build the fiction. I did not like high points of contact and handling times, did not like how rules mastery gave you a lot of an edge, did not like large amounts of crunch or implausible results produced by Resolution. So I cut all that away and built a system that did not have any of that, but apart from that, resolved actions and conflicts just like that ol’ Star Wars d6. Then I added some rules for transparency and a Reward System. That’s my way and it works well for me, but of course it’s not the only possible way. But it gives me a hard time with your brainstorming approach.

As far as Reveals go, sure, it’s part of SBP, but I suggest that there is a huge difference between just some fun revelation providing for an “aha” moment or a surprising plot twist, and the Grand Revelation that is the whole point of a scenario or even a campaign. When I run an SBP game, the players know more or less what’s going on. There is certainly some stuff they still need to figure out, but they have a good idea to start with. Or maybe there is this one thing that I deliberately mislead them about, and then start dropping clues so they eventually figure out that they’ve been fooled.

But this is way different from the Great Unknown where the players can play several sessions without the slightest clue what’s going on and who’s behind it. I don’t know if that’s what you’ve been doing in your Pitfighter games, and I do know that many players and GMs enjoy it, but again, me personally, I just hate it with passion and so I’m probably the wrong person to say anything about it. One should note that by necessity, a lot of control lies with the GM in that kind of scenario, so the P for Participation will have to work on a micro level, which is why you will often play scenes in a very detailed way and pacing will be rather slow.

About the Fruitful Void, I don’t want to start rambling but I am very suspicious of a certain mindset, let’s call it the Dumb Story Games Poster Mindset, that kind of goes like this: “Hey, let’s look at what this is really about. It’s about fishing. So, what’s up with all the camping and the beer and the guitars and the friends coming along? Do you need any of these for fishing? And what about those terribly inefficient fishing poles? Just toss in this dynamite bar and you’ll be done with the fishing in a minute. Anybody can do it, just light the cord, and be home for breakfast! You’re welcome!”

Just be sure not to walk into that trap.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on November 10, 2011, 03:24:14 AM
My own experience, though, is that the resolution system - of the existing types anyway - steadily lose significance, to the npoint that I start to discard them.  I mean sure, it's moderately useful to know if this PC and pick this lock or whatever, but really it's either information I want them to know - cf. wandering clue type things - or it isn't, in which case I'm not going to let them anyway.

I've more or less come to the conclusion that this sort of resolution just doesn't matter very much.  Almost everything that is really significant is happening outside the action resolution system, and occurring in the GM's control of scene setting, pacing, information access and so on.  That's what the real system is - GM fiat.  By default, because it's not formally regulated by any specific techniques.  Therefore I think it is correct to approach this from the angle of trying to systemetise what the GM is doing, and setting conventional resolution aside - or at least, not being trapped within it.  System is bigger than resolution, and it is that larger system we need to construct.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 10, 2011, 04:58:53 AM
This is incredibly productive.

First, in private messages, David hazarded the term "pre-plotted" to clarify to me what he was talking about, That's the confirmation I was hoping for; yeah, that's what I mean by Story Before subject to the unusual medium of role-playing. So all's good with that, name-confusion mis-messaging aside.

Second, what Gareth just wrote, and the posts flowing into it, finally explain to me why the hell so many RPG resolution examples are so loaded toward "does he notice me" and similar, and why discussing resolution often has a so-what, isolated quality. If resolution does not have a concrete, consequential role in resolving situation, then it's not really "resolution" so much as a means of adding Color. And the breakdowns we've all seen in "can I, can't I," "you can, you can't" arguments seem to me now as classic disputes over the border between Color and System. Or rather, since Color is kind of like a modifier of everything else, whether we're talking about a verb (System) or an adverb (Color).

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 10, 2011, 12:41:24 PM
I agree with Gareth on GM fiat being a higher-level system than mechanical resolution is.  When the players attempt something the GM either won't allow or really wants, it happens or doesn't accordingly.  The mechanical resolution system is employed when the GM's response to an attempt is, "Hmm, could be cool either way.  I'm going to switch out of storyteller mode and let some gameplay throw new elements into my story!"  I think that's one of the major differences between SBP play and just, y'know, telling a story to an audience.  So I still think mechanical resolution can be very important to SBP design.

Clearly the GM isn't going to take that "Let's see what happens!" stance for resolving situations that are important to the plot.  (Is there a valid place in SBP play for situations that aren't important to the plot?  I think there is, but maybe that's something to come back to later.)  So, yeah, if mechanics aren't employed to resolve situations, they need to earn their keep in other ways or be ditched. 

Here's a brainstorm of some such "other ways":

1) Coloring action attempts and outcomes.  The GM determines what happens, but the mechanics determine what it looks like. 

2) Resolving fictional positioning (possibly including effectiveness/resource), which feeds into subsequent situation.  The GM says you win the fight, but the dice say you lost your sword, your eye, and the deed to your land.  Now the next scenes aren't going to be about sniping and hacking and bossing around; they might be about going back for another deed and squabbling with nobles while your enemies gather strength, or about learning how to wrestle.

3) Adding context.  Adding flashbacks, cutaways, or other fictional content that adds context to the characters' actions and the GM's outcome.

4) Manipulating the medium.  Are the facts of the fiction described as if in a movie, or as if read from an ancient scroll?  Do we speak loudly or quietly, all at once or in turns?  Do we invoke key phrases or other rituals?

5) Developing character.  Beyond what the actions and cutaways show us, is there anything else the audience ought to see or know now about your guy?

Without elegant examples, I'll be the first to admit that these sound like they could get micro-manage-y, distracting, flow-breaking, and stupid.  That micromanagement is what you were talking about, right, Frank?

Here's my counterpoint.  There's this quote I remember.  I think it was about movie studios buying scripts and was in an intro to a Sandman collection, but I'm not sure.  The quote is, "You're not paying for the story, you're paying for the way the story is told."  To me, that's a big enough endeavor that there's room for players, GMs, and mechanics to all have a role.

Like, in Swords Without Master, what you can narrate is constrained by (a) the GM's situation, (b) the scene type, and (c) a die roll of "Grim or Jovial" -- and it's still super fun to describe what your character's up to.  Or in PIE (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26838.0), where it sounds like the players may roll even for foregone conclusions just to see whether the inevitable outcome is more based on their Character, Opposition, or Environment.

I want to talk about this more, but I also want to follow Gareth's excellent suggestion of looking at systematizing GM fiat.  I'm not sure whether two threads is the way to go or whether we can all keep things straight in this one.  I'm open to suggestions or to playing it by ear.  Please consider both topics fair game here for now.  (I had a third thing about Color, but I'm deeming that too much for this one thread, and I'll be giving it a new one.)

Ps,
-David


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on November 11, 2011, 01:52:34 AM
Hi David,

I’m not sure about micromanagement, but distracting and flow-breaking, yeah, that’s what I’m cautioning against. And also, you know, that “fiction leads” vs. “rules lead” divide. Did I mention that?

I’ll tackle your points one by one.

Quote
1) Coloring action attempts and outcomes.  The GM determines what happens, but the mechanics determine what it looks like. 

Depending on how broadly you define “outcome”, that’s already happening in your typical SBP group with that trad game system. Within the “wiggling space” of the planned story, there is certainly room for the outcomes of single actions/conflicts or even scenes to be meaningfully determined by the rules, but “bottleneck” scenes will not have that space and in that case, whether I fail a roll or not becomes a matter of color, as Ron also pointed out above.

Quote
2) Resolving fictional positioning (possibly including effectiveness/resource), which feeds into subsequent situation. (…)

I think your examples sound suspiciously like “real consequences” and “stakes”. How about “resolving Situation insofar as it is not dictated by Story Before requirements”? For example, in my Star Wars d6 game, at one point a character even died, because the player just really had to make another attempt at taking out his nemesis, even though he had just burned his last Force Point to survive the previous attempt. The nemesis didn’t have script immunity at that point, the overall outcome of the story did not depend on whether either of them lived or died. The Alliance would suffer a setback, which would set the characters up for the next adventure, just as I had scripted it. But would the laconic scout take out the nemesis with a lucky shot? Or would he die trying? We left that to the dice, and the player had to make up a new character.

Quote
3) Adding context.  Adding flashbacks, cutaways, or other fictional content that adds context to the characters' actions and the GM's outcome.

Sure, why not. Just bear in mind that non-linear narration and consistency, in the improvised context of role-playing, are natural enemies.

Quote
4) Manipulating the medium.  Are the facts of the fiction described as if in a movie, or as if read from an ancient scroll?  Do we speak loudly or quietly, all at once or in turns?  Do we invoke key phrases or other rituals?

I’m not sure what you are saying, here. Are you saying the rules should enable players to manipulate the medium, or are you saying the designer should manipulate the medium by designing the rules accordingly? To the latter, a whole-hearted “yes”.

Quote
5) Developing character.  Beyond what the actions and cutaways show us, is there anything else the audience ought to see or know now about your guy?

I’d say this is a sub-point of 1), aka Color (Character).

About systematizing GM fiat, here’s some food for thought: A rule saying, “GM, you cannot do this right now” would probably make it a different game entirely. A rule saying “GM, you can do anything but then…”, on the other hand, now that’s an idea with potential.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 13, 2011, 05:39:50 PM
Argh.  Life got busy, and then another topic here grabbed my attention for the little free time I had today.  Frank, I will respond soon.  In general, what you are saying makes sense to me.

I was hoping that my brainstorm might inspire others to chime in with their own proposals!  I hope my list isn't all the options we have!


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 15, 2011, 08:45:02 PM
Hi Frank,

First, to the numbered points:

1.  Yup, trad task resolution colors outcomes.  Does it do so optimally, though?  Is pass/fail really the best kind of color?  I think PIE and Swords Without Master do more.

2.  Your clarification "insofar as it is not dictated by Story Before requirements" is exactly what I was working from re: positioning.  Your example scout death is a particularly high-consequence example. 

This strikes me as fruitful design space!  What sorts of positioning are open to resolution through play? 

Maybe "GM plot that's independent of character survival" and "character death is on the table" is an excellent option!  As GM, did you find that to be a tough way to plot?  If the GM can be flexible about time-scale, then a big part of play could be seeing how many TPKs it takes to get to the finale!  "There will be a face-off at Mount Doom, but will it be your current guy or his great-great-grandson standing there?"  That's probably not enough for rewarding play by itself, but it sounds like a good start!

3.  I was imagining "what's been played" is a constant constraint on subsequent narration, regardless of in-fiction sequence.  Have you seen that not work?  I don't have much experience with this myself.  I also don't know if it'd be fun.  I think the players would need a lot of ammo to get good bang for their buck.  You'd need more cutaway fodder and inspiration than cutaway opportunities.  For that to be the case, I imagine that, during the bulk of play, players would need to be developing something they wanted to share, but couldn't in the moment.  The first example that comes to mind is "inner thoughts", but there must be other options...

4.  I agree that the designer should design the interaction with the medium.  But that's not what I was saying.  I was saying that play could take that designed interaction and tweak it.  It's like the pacing dial in Delve, or Bringing Down the Pain in tSoY.  Something happens, either in the fiction or at the table, and then you zoom in, or zoom out, or otherwise change your orientation.  What I'm suggesting is that the field of acceptable orientation shifts may be larger than what's been explored.

Example: Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet movie.  We know before we enter the theater what the plot is, but we go to find out how an MTV aesthetic is going to be applied to it, moment by moment.  When will we go from naturalism to stylized jump cuts, 4th wall-breaking, and overbearing soundtrack?  And then when will we go back to naturalism?

5.  Yeah, probably a sub-component of the others.  Just wanted to throw it out there in case focusing on it inspired anyone.  I think character development really is a natural complement to a planned plot that is about something other than character development.  (Which maybe all GM plots ought to be?  More on that here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32432.msg289445#msg289445).)

Ps,
-David


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 15, 2011, 08:46:52 PM
Gonna wait on fiction/rules-leading and systematizing GM fiat for now.  I am psyched about rules that say, "yes, but" to the GM, though!


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Jeremy S on November 17, 2011, 09:11:47 AM
Very interesting conversation. Just registered to join in.

An idea that comes to mind regarding resolution & system structure: take advantage of the Three-Act Structure commonly used in movies, TV, etc.

Prep & Character Creation: the GM (or maybe just the "Writer") drafts out the Story Before. This includes requirements for the cast, major plot points, maybe even a prologue.  Say you wanted a game like The Mummy with Brandon Frasier.  The "writer" could dictate:
  • All the flashback stuff about Imohtep, the City of the Dead, the pharaoh and his mistress, the mummy's curse
  • Basic plot points: the PCs will investigate the City of the Dead & awaken Imohtep; Imohtep will regenerate and appear to be unstopable; he'll carry off the female romantic lead; the other PCs will try to rescue her.
  • Character requirements. Among the PCs, there need to be the following (pick and choose; all must be chosen, but a single character could fill more than one of these): a female romantic lead with ties to Ancient Egypt; a strong male romantic lead; someone who's been the City of the Dead; a badass; a scholar of ancient Egypt; someone who knows about Imohtep and the curse.
  • Character options. Ideas for other things that character's could be or have. Someone devoted to protecting the world from Imohtep; another badass; a rogue/rascal; etc.
From there, you have your let folks make characters.  Maybe pick some core traits, resources, maybe some keys (ala TSOY or Lady Blackbird). But I think you leave a lot of blank spaces in the characters right now.

In play, adopt a three-act structure. 

The first act involves establising the characters. This would be very rules-light, I think.  Director (GM in play) presents situation, and players describe how they respond to them.  Ask questions like crazy to establish things.  "O'Connel, you're a badass and you've been to the City of the Dead.  How'd you end up there?  Oh, you were in the Foreign Legion?  Let's play that out."  In the course of play, players say what their character does and how. No rolling, but rather establishing the character's traits.  As traits are established on screen, they get written onto the character sheet as effectiveness, resources, and positioning.

The second act involves advancing the plot.  The players know there are key plot points to hit, and they get rewarded for hitting them.  They also get rewarded for portraying their characters (maybe with a Key system like in TSOY or Lady Blackbird).  So the more gleefully they advance the story, the more resources and/or effectiveness they have going in to act 3. Actual resolution rules now come into play, making use of the effectiveness, resources, and positioning established in act 1.  There can be costs and setbacks and fallout during this act, but nothing that derails the plot.  In the Mummy, this would be the parts where they: get to the City of the Dead; learn about the pharaoh's bodyguards, release Imohtep; encounter Imohtep; run for their lives; learn that he's chosen Evie as his sacrifice; learn how they can stop him; flee from him and his minions; Evie gets captured and wisked away to the City of the Dead for the final ritual.

Act three then becomes an inevitable climax. For this act, the gloves are off.  No scripted immunity, no plot points that must be hit. Just a final confrontation in which the PCs use the effectiveness, resources, and positioning they've gained in Acts 1 & 2 to confront the final challenge.  The better they did in the initial acts, the better situated they are here.  But the PCs might lose. They might win at great cost. It's this act where you learn if you've been playing a comedy, a tradgedy, or some ambiguous art piece.

Anyhow, that's an idea of how you structure things at a high level to make  character action and player decisions matter.  And there's all sorts of room in the middle for meaningful contribution in the establishing of the characters, how they go about hitting those plot points, how they change over the story, etc.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 17, 2011, 02:10:17 PM
Hi Jeremy,

I like the vision you're describing.  There are various parts of it I'd like to discuss later in other threads, but for now, the one key thing for me is what the resources, effectiveness, and positioning you describe are for.  Are you thinking success/failure of attempted actions, or something else?  Within the framework you've laid out, I could see it going that way, or not.

Ps,
-David


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Jeremy S on November 17, 2011, 06:56:59 PM
Hi David,

I think it would change act-by-act, and possibly player-to-player.

Say, in act 1 you start with a boatload of currency and no codified success/fail mechanics. Success/failure would be negotiated by the fiction and GM fiat. You spend your currency to get to establish new things about your character, which might result in a success/failure on screen but which is primarily establishing effectiveness & keys for later. Maybe there's rolling involved as you do this, but it wouldn't be success/fail oriented.  I think it'd be more about color and control over the effectiveness traits you get to add.

In act 2, you've got some effectiveness traits established that *do* play into success/failure, but also narrative control. I think that'd be important to hit the plot points and character keys that generate more currency and effecitiveness for the climax in act 3.

In act 3, yeah, I think it's mostly about success/failure.  Though players with more "supporting cast" characters (ones not directly involved in the climactic struggle) might spend their currency to add more color, twists, etc.

That's all just spitballing.  My main point is that you could vary the system (including the outcomes of the resolution mechanics) based on the current act, in a way that makes player contribution meaningful yet still results in the story following the established plot.

Does that answer your question?

-Jeremy


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 17, 2011, 09:51:04 PM
"Buy character traits during play rather than before play" first struck me as kind of a separate issue... but your idea about combining that with a roll for color/control is really interesting!

So here's one thing Act 1 resolution could determine: how much of whose vision gets applied to which character.  Maybe no one has "their" character* at the beginning of Act 1, and who controls who is only determined at act's end.

This is actually kind of similar to something I've done before play.  It could be a fun thing to do while the fiction's rolling, but I worry that a bunch of as yet undefined characters would produce crappy fiction.  For it to work, I think there might need to be some chain of fictional situation -> resolve stuff about character(s) -> new fictional situation.

Hmm.  Maybe when you win authorship over a character, you resolve not only "what we learn about them now" but also "in what circumstances we'll see them next"?  If the GM pre-authors these "next up" aspects, that could be kept compatible with the Story Before.  As the players discover what the roles in the story will be, the GM discovers which characters will be filling those roles, and everyone discovers which of the story's issues intersect in each character.

This sounds pretty sweet if everyone present already has some sort of vision for the fiction through which to appreciate the evolving specificity.  Lacking that, it might not be very punchy, satisfying curiosity and nothing more.

This kind of play reminds me strongly of the "establishing" phase of a good, long, slow burn movie.  "Who's that guy?  What's his role in this movie going to be?"  At the same time as we're establishing characters, we're also establishing time and place and tone and proto-themes.  Which the GM can probably just do, but maybe it'd be fun to throw a system wrinkle in there too.

Lemme see if I can add this to the list:

6.  Resolving relationships between participants and fictional elements.  Who controls which character, etc.  (Heck, this could even include the recruiting of a 2nd GM, or a conspirator who knows a certain portion of the Story Before!  Or a player getting to introduce a subplot!  Or the GM upgrading NPCs to player-character status in the eyes of the mechanics!)

I think the rest of what this method provides is covered by the other 5 points...

Cool stuff, Jeremy!  If you're seeing potentials here that I've missed, feel free to bring 'em up.  Pardon my skipping the 3-act structure for now.  I hope to get to issues that aren't directly about resolution in a bit.


*Or characters, plural.  My high school Pitfighter game actually included 2 per player.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 29, 2011, 04:46:38 PM
I have a thought about resolving the fiction's space of possibility.

All roleplaying inherently does this -- every time narration moves the fiction forward, some possibilities are closed and others open.  However, not all roleplaying puts big possibility shifts explicitly on the table, to be anticipated, worked toward, or dreaded (in a fun way).  Not all roleplaying uses these big shifts to alternate between different goals for different phases of play.

Swords Without Master, Danger Zone, and Jeremy's idea above all say, "At certain times, we want X range of fictional outcomes (etc.) on the table; at other times, we want Y range of fictional outcomes on the table."  So X and Y use different rules, not just about what a roll can produce, but about who rolls, and what for (that's what the "etc." above meant).

I know that in Swords Without Master, the shift is a big deal when it happens!  I anticipate the coming of a Struggle Scene, so I try to get as much out of my Questing Scene as I can while there's still time!

Within the context of SBP, where we're not playing to produce the story's destination but rather its shape and details, it strikes me that this sort of thing -- altering the fiction's space of possibility* in a way that is strongly felt going forward in play -- is particularly meaningful.

That could be a fun thing to work toward, or avoid, and to roll for!

7. Refining the possibility space for "what could happen" going forward, potentially including changes to the system for producing "what does happen".  This could create new modes of play, or simply alternate between pre-designed ones.

* within the constraints of the given destination


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 29, 2011, 04:52:00 PM
I think that's a good segue to talk about rules-leading vs fiction-leading play as it applies to SBP resolution options.  After all, what's a character going to do that changes the rules of playing the game? 

I'm much more familiar with such changes being imposed by players acting from outside the fiction, as critics of it.  "I judge that this point in our narrative is a good time to initiate, or invoke the mechanic that initiates, Endgame Mode!"

This seems like a valid way to play.  Maybe some SBP GMs will love critical feedback on their plots! 

Personally, though, I'm with Frank on this one.  As a GM, I want to create an experience, and as a player I'd much rather live the GM's story than critique it.

Are the resolution approaches I'm suggesting in this thread a bad match for the experiential style of play, working only for the critical?

My first thought is that it depends on whether the resolution method is (a) triggered by fictional actions, and (b) continuing the fiction that preceded it. 

  • If resolution meets both of those criteria, then we can go right on imagining stuff and enjoying the experience.

  • If it fails condition (b), we're going to experience a sort of "jump cut", which bothers some players more than others.

  • If it fails condition (a), that's where we might start feeling like we're playing the Let's Make A Story boardgame.

I'm not sure of any of that.  It's just a working theory to get me to this example:

We're using a resolution rule where: player announces intent and action, rolls a d20, GM announces intent's success or failure, die determines whether character looks good or bad in the process.  But!  If you roll a 20 on the d20, then we shift from Discovery Phase to Fate Phase.  Now the rule says: player announces intent and action, rolls a d20, GM announces intent's success or failure, die determines whether character is injured or empowered in the process.  Enough injury kills them, removing them from the story, while enough empowerment makes them a major figure in the setting and likely the GM's plot.

So, let's say I'm in Discovery Phase, and my character goes to leap from a rooftop onto the badguys' moving truck.  The GM wants to show me more about the badguys, so he decides I will indeed land on the truck.  My character's boss watches him jump, and I roll the d20 to see if the leap will look bold and deft or insane and lucky.  I roll a 20!  Well, shit.  Now it's not about whether I look good in my truck assault.  Now it's about whether I survive it.  The GM says, "As you fall toward the truck, you a hear a villain say, 'Time for the heavy ordnance,' and there's a click and a loud hum." 

This sounds pretty easy and harmless to me.  Is there anything I'm missing here?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on November 30, 2011, 05:29:30 AM
I've been meaning to post about Smallville for a while now, but I keep getting behind on reading the discussions and the linked threads. I think I'm reasonably well caught up now, though. However, I'm also down with a cold so this might be a bit incoherent in places.

The reason I think Smallville is of interest in this discussion is that it accomplishes one of the goals quite well: giving the players meaningful things to do even when they can't steer or strongly affect the plot. (I should note that while Smallville isn't set up to do only Story Before, I think it can do it quite well.) It does this by having the players and characters be interested in different things. While the characters may be highly interested in solving or progressing the plot, the players are mainly interested in getting the characters into trouble, particularly by having them be at odds with each other.

To take an example, I recently played in a Smallville game set in the great opera in Castle Falkenstein Vienna. There was a murder plot going on with all kinds of mysterious events, and while the characters (or some of them at least) were quite interested in finding out what was going on, or at least make sure it didn't blow back on them, the players were much more focused on a love triangle and the musical director's plan to replace the orchestra with musical automatons.

It also helps that as a player in Smallville you often want your character to fail at things (because that gives you Stress, which is one of the two sources of the equivalent of experience points) and be mistaken about people (because that is the other main source of xp-equivalent).

Taking the previously discussed scenario with the escaping robbers, doing that scene in Smallville wouldn't be particularly controversial since the players a) know that they will get the story whether they succeed or fail at stopping the robbers, so failing to stop them won't deprive them of anything regarding the plot, and b) their main interest isn't in controlling or discovering the plot but in pitting their characters against each other in interesting ways. While Smallville characters might be performing the exact same actions as the characters doing the same scene in a different system, the game mechanics aren't very interested in those things but more in how they are using their actions to affect their relationships with the other characters.

To take a hypothetical example, if you were doing that scene using d20 Modern a daring detective might roll Jump to move from a racing car to the robbers' truck, while in Smallville he might be rolling Love (because he's showing off for Jane, his romantic interest) plus his relationship with someone he suspects is also interested in Jane, and the player isn't rolling to see if he successfully jumps to the other vehicle but to see if he does it with enough flair to catch Jane's eye.

In relation to the discussion about WHAT you do vs. HOW you do it, Smallville is much more on the HOW side with regards to the plot, but also WHY you do it.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: stefoid on November 30, 2011, 03:01:00 PM
Anders: cool!


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on November 30, 2011, 03:01:17 PM
Good call, Smallville's an excellent example to look at here!

The relationships between player characters make for a perfect example of what I meant by #2: resolving fictional positioning.  Those relationships (1) are easy to link to whatever's going on in the fiction at the moment, (2) they're always there, (3) they foster interaction between players, (4) they provide orientation and motivation moving forward, and (5) it's easy to make a GM plot that doesn't depend on them going any particular way.  Fantastic!

On the other hand, Smallville's combo of requirements and rewards really highlights the relationship stuff, to the point where I wonder if a GM plot would fade to relative insignificance (which would defeat much of the point of playing SBP).  What's your experience been with this?  I've only played 2 one-shots.

Also, are the evolving relationships unsatisfying if they don't follow a good dramatic arc that concludes when the game does?  If it's just sort of a meandering, "now I like you more, now I like you less", I could see how that could fade to insignificance.

The way Smallville connects positioning changes with task resolution also seems worth looking at, though I have nothing useful to say on that now.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 01, 2011, 01:25:16 AM
My experiences with Smallville are still fairly limited but I'll tell you what I've got so far.

1) The Third Wave

This was a fairly straight-forward game of teen supers, lasting two episodes over four or five sessions of three to four hours each. (That's excluding character/setting generation, which was another full session.) At this point we didn't really get the system so the players made characters who mostly got along and were on the same side, with all the big conflicts being with the NPCs. The group was me as GM and three of the core players from our main group.

This was intended as a test run and with the issues we had discovered we decided not to push it forward.

2) Tortona

For this game we added another player from the main group. It lasted one episode over three sessions. The setting was a small city state in northern Italy during the late Renaissance/early Enlightenment, with a little bit of magic and a little bit of da Vinci-type supertech (though none of that showed up much in the game). The characters all belonged to the circle closest to the prince - his uncle, his younger son, his mother-in-law and his spymaster - and while they were a lot more adverserial with strong wills and conflicting interests they were still mostly cooperating. Part of that was because the plot I had put together involved a group of republican revolutionaries whom everyone but the younger son opposed, and while he was sympathetic to their cause he was strongly opposed to their methods in this case.

This was another test game, and while I think we had the start of something solid the new player felt the game system was harsh on her light asperger's - having to constantly try to figure out what the other players and other player characters were after so she could position herself right in the conflicts was a heavy load for her.

3) The Great Opera

This game was run by another player from our main group for me, two of the ones who had been part of the previous two games, and one other, and it lasted for about six sessions which was how long it took for the GM's plot to run its course. It was set in the Great Opera in Castle Falkenstein Vienna, and the GM's plot centered around a murder mystery. As a player I was pushing hard to put myself "out there" in the sense of getting into conflicts, getting into trouble and looking for emotional triggers for myself as a player, though with limited success. I think some of the reasons were that the GM and one player were new to the system so there was quite a lot of rules talk (and those of us who were new to the game were still not sure about everything), and at least two of the others were playing much more defensively.

The GM remarked at the end of the game that she had expected us to be more interested in the murder plot. In the games I ran I felt the players were interested in the plots, but then I'm not sure how much we were playing the game as intended so I don't know how representative those are.

Speculation

I think it's quite possible to run a fairly tight SBP game using Smallville, provided the GM uses the right techniques. Aggressive scene framing (which is what the book recommends) in particular will let the GM put (some of) the characters into situations where the players get to experience the plot, while the game mechanics will encourage them to get into conflicts with each other so that they have meaningful actions to take. I should also note that because of how the conflicts are set up, it's always possible for the GM to prevent the PC:s from killing or otherwise incapacitating an important NPC (and the same is true for the players regarding their PC:s).

I think having an arc planned out for your character, or at least a theme to the type of emotional changes you want them to go through, is a very good idea, since it will let the other players (including the GM) know how to get you into conflicts, though I also think you have to be open to other opportunities.

(We're still struggling a bit with the game because it's so different to what we're used to. The GM-player, player-player and player-character relationships are quite different to the games we typically play, and I think it has highlighted some Creative Agenda issues that haven't been very relevant before, as well as some related social contract questions, but that's for some other thread some other time. I know there are some things with how the game is set up that hasn't worked very well for us and I was working on some changes to get around that, but now I think it's more due to issues with the player group rather than the rules themselves. However, I don't want to threadjack so please ignore this as other than a caveat for the previous.)


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 01, 2011, 06:19:56 AM
I forgot to mention one thing that makes Smallville interesting in this context: it puts weight on things that are internal to the characters more than on their capabilities. When you're playing a game like that it matters less if you can't affect the plot because you can focus on how the plot affects you.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 08, 2011, 04:44:07 PM
I can't really infer anything from those accounts about how well the relationships and the GM plots get along.  This, though:

I forgot to mention one thing that makes Smallville interesting in this context: it puts weight on things that are internal to the characters more than on their capabilities. When you're playing a game like that it matters less if you can't affect the plot because you can focus on how the plot affects you.  (Emphasis mine. -D.B.)

That is a great way to tie this all back to the beginning of this thread. 

My brainstorming here has mostly been about general types of resolution outcomes.  I think the question now is, how can these be used to support SBP play specifically?  How do they help players contribute their own unique reflections and twists on the fiction and GM plot to date?

Given that resolution mechanics, among other functions, tell us what to pay attention to, and when, I think that's where we'll find our answers.

How:

First, a quick observation on how resolution mechanics elicit a given type of contribution:

We can be reminded to contribute stuff we might otherwise forget.  (Cyberpunk 2020: Next to the Perception score I'm about to roll, I see that the score factors in my Low Light Eye Implants.)

We can be required to contribute stuff we might not naturally bother with.  (Swords Without Master: You can't narrate at all without first rolling to establish whether the tone of your narration will be Grim or Jovial.)
 
We can be rewarded for contributing stuff we might otherwise value.  (Smallville: Address your relationship with the highest attached die, and you gt to roll that die toward success in your action.)

On the Fruitful Void front, the objective here is to supplement narrative contributions rather than supplant them.  Grim/Jovial can act as a creative constraint and springboard.  You don't get to decide for yourself whether the event is grim or jovial, which is a sort of loss, but you have plenty of other things to decide and relate, and working the established to into those other things can be a fun challenge.

What:

I think Anders' point about "internal to the characters" is a nice match for the "reflection and twist" I've been talking about.  I actually think we can extend that from "what do the characters think about all this now?" to "what do the players think?"  Of the techniques I mentioned in my second post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32397.msg289291#msg289291), I think all of them fall under this umbrella.  Processing, theorizing, and curiosity can all be expressed in or out of character.  Emotional response is more in-character, and fishing is more out of character, but I don't see any hard lines.

Let me demonstrate all this with an example of a requirement:

You jump for the truck!  The GM will decide whether you make it or not.  Before they can decide, however, you must roll accordingly on the Reflection Table:

Character's current state: 1d10
Story tone: 1d10+10
Relevance of earlier events: 1d10+20
Anticipation of future events: 1d10+30

And then each entry on the Reflection Table has some game/plot-relevant focus for the resulting narration.  Like, if I roll "27 - paranoia", I think of an earlier event that makes my character anxious, and I connect that to my current truck-jumping via whatever links I prefer -- mood, motivation, flashback, etc.

The GM then incorporates all this narration into their decision of whether the action succeeds or fails, and how, and why, and what else is revealed in the process.  Maybe something is recorded that affects the GM's prep for next session.

That was an inelegant example, but hopefully it illustrates various possibilities.

Here's a simpler option:

Tell the GM one question you'd like to ask them, and how your current action relates to that.  If the GM is psyched about your question, you succeed.  If the GM isn't interested in your question, you fail.

When:

Part of the question "is there anything better to roll for than success?" is, "is there any time that's better to roll than when a character tries to do something?"

"Character tries something" has all sorts of utility as a mechanics trigger, but in SBP specifically, I think the utility comes down to "a situation that arises in the fiction that we can easily recognize".  I suspect that anything that meets that criteria should be actionable, and I think we have some fun options.

(You could do "a situation that arises at the table that we can easily recognize" too, but that risks rules-leading boardgamey territory as mentioned earlier.)

Example:

During char-gen, you pick 3 adjectives that define your character.  Then, you (perhaps with the help of the whole group) classify 3 situations that will ideally show those qualities to an audience.  Those are the situations in which you engage your character-focused mechanics.

From my vague memory of Die Hard, John McClane is Heckled, Ornery, and Tough, and these are shown in situations of Unpleasant Duty, Social Conflict, and Violence.  So you'd roll whenever your McClane character enters one of those situations.

If you had 4 player characters, that's 12 situations, which might sound like a challenge to recognize at first, but hey, remembering 7 in Apocalypse World isn't hard, so I'm optimistic.

So that's a trigger for resolution of character-based stuff.  Let's look over my full list of what sorts of things one might resolve.  I'll see if I can provide an appropriate trigger example for each:

1) Coloring events.  Game or group defines what sorts of events deserve additional exploration of color.  "Whenever you enter a new location", "Whenever anyone dies", "Whenever magic is used", etc.

2) Resolving fictional positioning.  Whenever a character stands to gain, lose, or change.  Probably whittled down to the types of gain/loss/change relevant to the particular type of plot.

3) Adding context.  Not sure.  Whenever something random happens?  Whenever someone (in or out of character) asks "Why?"

4) Manipulating the medium.  This one is challenging to tie to the fiction.  The Romeo and Juliet formula tied style of presentation to tone of fictional content -- crazy jump cut camera-voguing for action scenes, naturalism for quiet reflective scenes.  You'd probably have to tie moods to events associated with them.  Example: roll the "medium change" dice when there's an Intimate Moment, a Desperate Gambit, or Death is On the Line.

5) Developing character.  Covered above.

6) Relating participants to fictional elements.  Any time a new element is introduced.  Any time an old element takes on new relevance.  Might wanna whittle down "elements" into types, like Person, Place, Object.

7) Refining possibility space.  This is a natural fit for crisis points, when conflicts of interest cannot build any further, and something has to give.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 08, 2011, 05:20:52 PM
I'm a little concerned that this is heading generally in a direction that IMO goes rather to far in eliminating player input to situation.  I don't really want to shift player decision and character action so far away from what is going on.  It may be true that I want to be able, as GM, to specify that the truck gets away, but I don't think that means, say, that I want to shift the question of whether a character can gun down one of the goons defending it away from a putative "shoot people" score and onto a "why I want to shoot people" score.

One of my interests in all of this is to approach a kind of historical simulation.  I'd be interested in exploring historical situations in a way that allows players to live the experience in much the way that the people there at the time did.  This means that they do really need to be able to act in ways that bear directly on the situation.  I'm not averse to some of the shift into a characters perceptions and internal processes and so on, but I don't want to eliminate the directly situational concerns.  The players have to have buy in to the thing that matter in the situation.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 08, 2011, 07:30:33 PM
I'm with you.  I don't want to minimize "what is going on right now" either.  Do you think what I've been exploring here will do that?

I have two thoughts on that:

1) Is it really that different?

In a typical task resolution system, I get to decide "I will attempt to jump onto the truck", which is already significant in that it's dictating a direction for the fiction different from if I had done something else.  Further, I get some say over whether that attempt succeeds, in the form of spending resources, calling on my character's strengths, describing positioning in order to lobby for situational bonuses, etc.  However, all this influence I have is fed into a whirlwind of social and systemic interpretation -- do you actually get to roll for that, does this bonus actually apply here, oops you rolled badly, etc.

In what I'm proposing, the significance of choosing to attempt action is unchanged, and the influence over success is still present but muddy.  It's just a different kind of muddy.

Trying to show the GM all the cool ways I'll interface with their plot if they let me catch the truck doesn't strike me as any less meaningful than trying to show the GM why my position on the staircase qualifies as a Height Advantage.

2) I've tried having no influence over success in small doses, and liked it

When I run Delve, there are encounters with knowns and unknowns.  Sometimes the players do a lot of planning, sometimes they do very little.  But there's always some moment where the players will just try something, without knowing much about it.  I'd say these moments are characterized by fear, anticipation, and extreme attention to the GM's feedback as it's delivered.  As long as I'm not a dick, it's super fun, and well-suited to SBP.

What do you think?  Am I missing your point?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Callan S. on December 08, 2011, 07:37:58 PM
Are you sure that's an example of no influence? In a 4E recent lair assault game, the players made this big plan to cross a chasm of lava to get to the door on the other side. They formulate the plan, get across - fake door.

Sounds like there is no influence, except they went this way after a T intersection. So they could have gone the other way.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 09, 2011, 06:35:24 AM
Er, sorry, I was probably doing far too much talking about the games I were in and far too little answering your question. I'll think some more and have another (shorter) go at it, if you're still interested.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 09, 2011, 11:55:19 AM
I'm with you.  I don't want to minimize "what is going on right now" either.  Do you think what I've been exploring here will do that?

What I wish to flag up is that recent discussion has shifted into a framework that essentially sets the system that governs character actions and concerns at right angles to the concerns that govern plot, to stop them coming into conflict.  What I'm getting at is that I think for some purposes at least, they do need to coincide.  Frex, I may be that I need and want the players to worry about things like whether high ground gives them an advantage, because the plot is going to put them in a position where the high ground makes a plot point work.  If the system is directing them away from that as a concern, and towards things like how stylishly they perform or how things impact their psychological state, then the significance of the high ground factor won't carry over, and the (my) goal of a sort of experiential simulation will be defeated.

As before, I don't want to rule out the use of those orthogonal methods by any means, I just wanted to mention that I think there will be some cases where the coincidence needs to be preserved.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 09, 2011, 03:18:54 PM
Well, if we want experiential simulation (which I like too), we need the high ground to matter in the system, definitely.  But I don't think that system needs to be mechanical.  If the GM is the means of resolving success/failure, then as long as the GM agrees with you that high ground matters, you're set, right?

I really dislike the attitude that we can only trust each other to treat the fiction as a serious causal entity if we "prove" how everything matters by chopping it up into visible mechanical quantities.  That seems particularly unnecessary in SBP, where players have signed up to say that, at least sometimes, force is okay.  Am I being unrealistic here?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 10, 2011, 03:10:05 AM
Hmmm.  Not at all sure about that.  Take for example the case of something like Honour in LOT5R.  For any kind of perception or mindset that is different to ours, I think it needs to be mechanically expressed or it gets washed out by our default expectations.  In LOT5R the Honour mechanic does a repectable job of mitigating the "wandering bandits" pattern of many fantasy games, because there is a metric of success and right behaviour other than accumulating GP.  As another example, the idea that "money doesn't weigh anything" is quite common in default fantasy games, which has quite far reaching ramifications.  If money has mass, then you need a place to store it, and you priobably need flunkies to guard it, who have to be reliable, and all this requires social interactions which are usually absent.

So I do think these things need to be visibly and concretely expressed in ther system, thery need to be there and imposing thermselves on the sorts of actions that players can take.  I think the setting must "teach itself", and if the goal is to to construct a context which is to p[rmpt the players to think as thoise people would have thought in a historical context, then a big part of the job IMO is figuring out which mechanics work to represent that.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 10, 2011, 01:53:12 PM
I agree with you that mechanics may be needed to drive home how the characters' mindset differs from the players, but that doesn't inherently have anything to do with success/failure, does it?  I would think that honor would be exactly the kind of thing my proposed approaches ought to draw attention to.  It could be a character-development issue (list item #5), or, as in your example, setting-based fictional positioning (list item #2).

And if honor does help determine success/failure, well, the players will learn that pretty damn quick regardless of whether it's tracked by mechanics or just by the GM, right?  "Our honorable foes keep beating us when they act with honor, and our dishonorable foes keep beating us when they act with dishonor; maybe we'd better pick one and act accordingly!"


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 10, 2011, 04:46:28 PM
Well, yes, if the GM applied it consistently, they would (eventually) learn the same lesson as if it were expressed mechanically.  But there are problems with this approach; it relies on the GM being absolutely consistent, it assumes the players buy into what the GM is trying to communicate, it requires the players notice it i the first place.  I just don't think it is reliable, and if we're discussing a sort of game in which this is the point, then that kind of vagueness just isn't good enough.  If you want people mto behave in certain ways, then you have to set up incentives that prompt them t behave in those ways, and those incentives have tio be explicit and visible.

If I set up a game in the intention is that players should behave with the logic that would apply, say, to a samurai, then I don't really want to go through all the trial-and-error, bumping heads stuff that conveys what I mean, I want it to be right there on the character sheet, part of their character design decisions, fully visible from the start.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 10, 2011, 10:34:35 PM
Does it have to be mechanical to be visible, though? Couldn't it be enough to make it clear in the game text that that is how things work?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Callan S. on December 11, 2011, 12:42:20 AM
Mechanics are the way you make it clear how things work. When you want things to be deliberately less clear, you simply describe how things work. Generally if the A+ feature of your game that aren't in other games is described rather than mechanically implemented, I'd estimate that A+ feature generally wont happen.

Quote
while enough empowerment makes them a major figure in the setting and likely the GM's plot.
How does that work? It sounds to disruptive of prior determined plot? I'm thinking if major NPC's are actually scripted to do big GM plot stuff but these fate rolls come through, instead it's the PC who does it. Perhaps with control of colour that is within the scope of what the NPC was scripted to do. Say the NPC was going to destroy the goblin village, well the PC can do so but maybe leave some supplies for the remaining fleeing goblins since that's still 'inside' what the NPC would have done.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 11, 2011, 01:14:52 AM
In general, I agree. BNote that this was added to resolve having explicit game mechanics on the one hand and discovering the GM's way to decide how things go by trial and error on the other as the only two options. When a major game mechanic is "the GM decides if you succeed or fail" then describing how to act to have the GM decide that you succeed is as close as you're going to making those mechanics explicit.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 11, 2011, 09:30:39 AM
Well, hang on.  I'm not at all signed up to the idea that "the GM decides if you succeed" should be overt, or that it can't be taken care of with the right kind of system, hypothetically.  That is historically the ways it's been done, but that doesn't mean that things have to stay that way.  In addition, there is a difference between the GM-as-scenario-writer and the GM-as-system-administrator.  I'm not committed to necessarily keeping "GM decides" on pricniple, anyway; if the decisions the GM would make can be offloaded onto system (or scenario, or some synthesis of the two) in some way that would be better.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 11, 2011, 09:52:02 AM
I was basing my points off of this:
And if honor does help determine success/failure, well, the players will learn that pretty damn quick regardless of whether it's tracked by mechanics or just by the GM, right?  "Our honorable foes keep beating us when they act with honor, and our dishonorable foes keep beating us when they act with dishonor; maybe we'd better pick one and act accordingly!"
If we've eliminated that I missed it.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 11, 2011, 11:22:47 AM
I think we all agree on what purposes mechanics can serve.  Callan, I'm with you, anything that's just instruction tends to wind up being played as if it were optional.

I hope it's clear that I haven't been proposing "no mechanics!" for any sort of fictional determinations other than simple "does my action succeed or not?" 

Samurai honor?  Perfect for #2 Fictional Positioning, or #5 Character Development.

The one tricky case is when you might wish to highlight how something in the fiction influences success/failure.  If we can agree that that's what needs discussing here, I'm prepared to address it.  So, are we agreed?

Separately, I think it's about time to start another thread to discuss Gareth's excellent suggestion of systematizing the GM's higher-level role in SBP resolution.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 11, 2011, 11:43:07 AM
Anders, I stand by that point you quoted, but I think we're now shifting from examining "what input do the players receive?" (honor impacts success!) and "how is that input delivered" (by the GM!) to "how is that input generated?"


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 11, 2011, 11:49:01 AM
Fine with me.

Have we settled (or at least finished discussing) how overt the GM is supposed to be about what things the players can influence and not? I.e., will they know beforehand (on a game, session, scene or action basis) what they can and cannot succeed at?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 11, 2011, 12:07:16 PM
The system for determining succeed/fail must be known beforehand.  I do not think the outcomes it produces need to be predictable, though.  Apparent randomness in the form of dice, hidden information, the GM's judgment, etc. are all fine with me.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 11, 2011, 12:21:14 PM
What I meant was that as this is Story Before, there will be things the players cannot affect as they are part of the story. Will those be known, and if so, how far in advance?


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 11, 2011, 12:52:35 PM
The only short answer I can give is the one I just gave.  There does need to be a known system for "sometimes the players cannot affect certain things".  Specifics beyond that depend on the individual game.  If you have thoughts on what game priorities would dictate which approaches, I'd be happy to discuss that in another thread!


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Anders Gabrielsson on December 11, 2011, 12:56:05 PM
It does seem like an interesting topic. I'll think a bit more on it.

I probably won't post more in this thread unless something specifically calls out to me. I need to absorb before I say more.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: stefoid on December 11, 2011, 08:40:13 PM
The only short answer I can give is the one I just gave.  There does need to be a known system for "sometimes the players cannot affect certain things".  Specifics beyond that depend on the individual game.  If you have thoughts on what game priorities would dictate which approaches, I'd be happy to discuss that in another thread!

Sorry if I missed anything skimmin the second half of this thread..

I reckon there needs to be player decision making.  The game needs to present the player with meaningful choices otherwise its yawnsville for the players.    Meaningful choices are those that have significant in-game consequences.  I reckon this is a given for whatever game you are playing - its fundamental. 

you need to work out the nature of the choices players will be making in your game, and the nature of the consequences that will render those choices meaningful.



Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 11, 2011, 11:38:11 PM
Hi Gareth,

Just wanted to reiterate this after the last bunch of posts:

The one tricky case is when you might wish to highlight how something in the fiction influences success/failure.

Am I correct that this is on track for addressing your concerns?  I think what you brought up is an important issue here.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 13, 2011, 10:40:47 AM
I don't really see that.  I don't see anything about this case that is different to the general case.  Ideally I'd like t make things as explicit as possible, as with the flowchart things I proposed.  That may not strictly be system in the sense of dice and numbers, but it is formal and overt.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 13, 2011, 02:38:09 PM
Crap, dude, you lost me.  I'm still trying to talk about this:

What I wish to flag up is that recent discussion has shifted into a framework that essentially sets the system that governs character actions and concerns at right angles to the concerns that govern plot, to stop them coming into conflict.  What I'm getting at is that I think for some purposes at least, they do need to coincide.  Frex, I may be that I need and want the players to worry about things like whether high ground gives them an advantage, because the plot is going to put them in a position where the high ground makes a plot point work.  If the system is directing them away from that as a concern, and towards things like how stylishly they perform or how things impact their psychological state, then the significance of the high ground factor won't carry over, and the (my) goal of a sort of experiential simulation will be defeated.

Here's my thought:

1) The only character concern that I'm potentially cordoning off from plot in this thread is "do I succeed or fail?"  Every other sort of concern, like "how does my attempt or success or failure make me a better samurai" is still very much on the table to be highlighted.

2) For experiential simulation, it may be important for my character to problem-solve, that is, to attempt to align the odds of success/failure in their favor through whatever means are appropriate.

3) If the group has any method to agree on which such means are appropriate (rather than, e.g., getting stuck arguing about whether high ground "would really matter here"), then the group's goals, if not the designer's, are in good shape. 

4) If the designer takes the position of, "I am a combat guru and I wish to teach you all my knowledge and insights!" then setting and advice text (and links to articles) are fine for that.  If the group cares, that shared knowledge becomes part of their basis for determining what happens*; if they don't care, then it doesn't.  In the context of a game that is both Story Before and Participationist, I don't see any value in mandating that certain factors must be dealt with by characters specifically in order to align the odds of success/failure in their favor.

Like you, I enjoy picking times and places different from our own, and roleplaying through, "What's it like operating in these situations?" 

Sometimes that's not about problem-solving at all -- in that case, I think the methods I've been exploring in this thread are perfectly supportive.  If you disagree, I'd like to hear what you're seeing.

Sometimes it is about problem-solving: "Now that I'm using a rapier, does high ground matter?  Ah, the book says it does, so now that's part of my tools and constraints for beating this challenge!"  When I'm in the mood to do that, I don't think I'd wanna play SBP.  Would you?


*And every game that looks to the fiction above and beyond the mechanics for "what could happen here?" needs such a group rationale, regardless of how many mechanical options exist.  Right?  A "+2 for high ground" rule still doesn't tell you whether that applies when fighting a giant on a staircase or whatever.


Ideally I'd like to make things as explicit as possible, as with the flowchart things I proposed.
If you wanna draw that, I'd love to see it.  If not here, then hopefully in the upcoming SBP GM-System thread.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 13, 2011, 04:33:26 PM
Quote
Sometimes it is about problem-solving: "Now that I'm using a rapier, does high ground matter?  Ah, the book says it does, so now that's part of my tools and constraints for beating this challenge!"  When I'm in the mood to do that, I don't think I'd wanna play SBP.  Would you?

I think this is where we are diverging.  Essentially, yes I would.

So one thing about learning-through-playing is that I know I kearn things like maps much better if I play a game on them than if I just read about them. Engaging with the game teaches you those facts as if they were true.  Now say instead I want to do a game that simulates, for example, the Battle of Hastings, in some sense.  The prevailing view of the battle is that the Saxons lost it when part of their force broke ranks and chased routing* Normans down the hill they were defending.  In order to have the learning-from-play effect, it is vitally important that players, on either side, recognise the significance of that event when it happens.  Even if the event is predetermined, it has to be among the things the players are concerned about - it has to be present as a relevant factor in the system.  Otherwise, it's just a story - not an experience.

More generally, I don't really want to move away from determinations of success wholesale.  I probably only need to have an influence on success for a minority of playing time.  In the escaping truck scenario, the only thing I need to control is the escape of the truck - I wouldn't really want to eliminate success determination of the "can I grind this goon's face into the tyres" variety, in true Indiana Jones stylee.

For me, the question "what is it like operating under these circumstances" only comes to life when it involves problem solving.  Otherwise its just tourism.  You have to be working at the coalface in order to really appreciate the constraints and be able to internalise them, rather than just observe them and think "isn't that interesting".


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 13, 2011, 07:47:03 PM
Hmm.  Yeah, fair enough.  "Problem solving" was too broad a term for what I had in mind.  I was thinking primarily of physics-based problem solving.  I guess you could call "do I really want to try this, given how it will impact my Honor?" problem solving too, and in that case, I agree with you about making the simulation come to life.

With that Hastings example, let me see if I read you right:

Coming into the game, the players may not value the importance of keeping or breaking ranks.  Or, even if they do get it intellectually, they won't have any experience of how it plays out.  Setting info in a book may alert them to the value, but it's never going to give them the experience.

So, as GM, having plotted a major event of the Saxons breaking ranks, you want that event to hit the players with maximum impact, speaking not just to what they've read, but also to what they've been through.  Accordingly, you want to be sure that, before your big plotted event, the players have definitely experienced in play that breaking ranks matters.  You don't want to leave it to chance.

Correct?

If so, I agree that simulation-oriented mechanics are one way to go, but in SBP, I think we also have other good options...


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 14, 2011, 02:20:05 AM
Yes that's it.  Things might get a bit fuzzier when the thing being demonstrated is not physical, but it has to be made real, it has to be a fucntional concern.  I'm open to ways that might be achieved, but I don't think it likely that it can be done without addressing it in success/failure terms.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 15, 2011, 02:26:58 PM
I think it depends on my vision as GM, and which of the following it covers:

1) The fictional reality in general.

If I, as GM, had a general vision for what life in the time of the Battle of Hastings was like, and it covered various factors, and I wanted to invite my players to experience that world, and let "which factors come up when, and how they're experienced" occur organically, then I'd want simulation mechanics. 

I'd expect that the players would look at their sheets and see the bonus for holding ranks, along with the bonuses for all sorts of other situations, and file it away for reference to use when such situations came up.

2) Certain factors in the fictional reality.

But if I had a specific vision for which factors I wanted the players to experience, then I might appreciate mechanics, sure, but I'd also be putting some thought into creating situations in play where those specific factors would apply.

So the players do wind up in a formation fight.  At that point, that part of the character sheet will be referenced, the mechanics will be employed, and the simulated dynamic will be experienced and remembered in some unspecified fashion.

3) Certain factors and sequences in the fictional reality.

And if I had a plan for a progression or timeline of when the players need to experience those factors, now I'm obviously devoting a fair amount of attention to this in play.  I'm taking responsibility for saying, "Here, now, you're in this situation," and then I watch for the mechanics to teach you what I want you to learn right now.

At this stage, the benefit of (a) having the Hold Formation bonus filed away in player memory, and (b) having mechanics resolve things the way I want them resolved, is starting to become pretty marginal.  It pales in comparison to the work I'm already doing, and doesn't save me much more work.  Is saying, "And then, because you held formation, you defeat them!" any harder or less effective than waiting for the dice to say that same thing? 

The only task required of me as GM is to verbalize the lesson I've already put in the work to support.  I know what it is, I know when I want it to hit.  I can just say it. 

If the players are used to looking to mechanics for what matters, then maybe this doesn't stick with them; but if they're used to looking to me, then I think it does.  (Though perhaps some formal action could help, like me saying, "Write that down in the Notes section of your sheet.")

4) Certain factors, sequences, and character experiences in the fictional reality, plus player experiences.

Finally, if, as GM, I had a plan for not just which factors would arise and when, but also how they would be experienced, then I'm the whole show, and the mechanics aren't helping me one bit.  I'm involved in responsively crafting the right moments, working with the players instant by instant to steer their attention and cultivate the right emotions.  I raise my voice at the right times, dwell on the right details, address responses that weren't what I expected, and make sure "breaking ranks equals disaster" is etched in the players' brains in a truly striking fashion.

This, I think, is one of the appeals of SBP.  "When the Saxons break ranks to chase the Normans, I want it to hit the players, like, 'Oh god, no!'" and then you go out and play and use your own skills to make it happen.

Final notes:

That's my take.  It's based in part on my experience that relying on mechanics for these purposes has its downsides.  Neither "look it up on the table" nor "ask the GM" is perfect or hopeless; it all depends on what the participants can and wish to contribute themselves.

I should probably clarify here that my position in this thread is not that SBP shouldn't use mechanics to resolve success/failure.  It's simply that it doesn't have to, and that it would be good to have some grasp of the alternatives.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: contracycle on December 16, 2011, 03:04:45 AM
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Is saying, "And then, because you held formation, you defeat them!" any harder or less effective than waiting for the dice to say that same thing?

I would say "yes, it is less effective".  For much the same reason that science teachers like to have you dissect a frog or explode some chemicals; the personal, hands on experience is more "sticky" than just another set of words.


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Finally, if, as GM, I had a plan for not just which factors would arise and when, but also how they would be experienced, then I'm the whole show, and the mechanics aren't helping me one bit.

But they may be helping the players. The GM's is not the only relevant perspective.

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I should probably clarify here that my position in this thread is not that SBP shouldn't use mechanics to resolve success/failure.  It's simply that it doesn't have to, and that it would be good to have some grasp of the alternatives.

That's fine, and I'm not disagreeing as such.



Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 16, 2011, 12:30:40 PM
Er, my comment on "not helping the GM" was about "not helping the GM create an experience for the players".  I'm very much thinking about the players' perspective here.

I'm with you on learning through hands-on experience.  I've just found that, in RPGs, the experience of a really goal-oriented player-GM back-and-forth teaches me better than enacting knowledge I have from a character sheet.  It's like the sheet is an algebra textbook, and using rules in play is like taking a multiple-choice algebra test, while solving and getting feedback just through the fiction and the GM's words is more like doing a complex word problem, where you need to apply your powers of understanding to several steps, discovering new things along the way.  I dunno, I guess some players probably hate word problems.  I like 'em.  And clearly some textbooks are better than others.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: David Berg on December 17, 2011, 01:47:14 AM
I've begun a new thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32640.0) to address these excellent ideas:

My own experience, though, is that the resolution system - of the existing types anyway - steadily lose significance, to the npoint that I start to discard them.  I mean sure, it's moderately useful to know if this PC and pick this lock or whatever, but really it's either information I want them to know - cf. wandering clue type things - or it isn't, in which case I'm not going to let them anyway.

I've more or less come to the conclusion that this sort of resolution just doesn't matter very much.  Almost everything that is really significant is happening outside the action resolution system, and occurring in the GM's control of scene setting, pacing, information access and so on.  That's what the real system is - GM fiat.  By default, because it's not formally regulated by any specific techniques.  Therefore I think it is correct to approach this from the angle of trying to systemetise what the GM is doing, and setting conventional resolution aside - or at least, not being trapped within it.  System is bigger than resolution, and it is that larger system we need to construct.

About systematizing GM fiat, here’s some food for thought: A rule saying, “GM, you cannot do this right now” would probably make it a different game entirely. A rule saying “GM, you can do anything but then…”, on the other hand, now that’s an idea with potential.


Title: Re: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?
Post by: Mael on April 05, 2012, 06:32:30 AM
Hi David and everyone,

I’ll try to answer the original question (“is there anything better to roll for that success”) based on my own experiences in play.

Personally, I never liked to roll “for success”.
It is probably due to my late discovering of the hobby, and the fact that I started with the White Wolf’s games and was trapped in “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast”.
So, I always tried to roll for story, and was mostly not satisfied by the result. Even when Resolution was not about fight, it still had this strange taste of success and failure. Maybe that is an effect of “Fortune-at-the-end” : once you’ve announced your action, you can’t go back on what you said, and avoid your character making a fool of himself.

I think that Resolution is one of the most powerful tools, because when it’s used, the player acts - that should not be a mechanical process. Thus I have the feeling that the question of what we should roll for is really related to the CA.

(note : I’m keeping the “roll” term, but I’m talking about all kind of resolution here)
- “Story now” : “roll” when there is opportunity for story creation.
- “Step on up” : “roll” when there is a challenge, or an opportunity to step on up.
- “The right to dream” : not sure about that one … maybe one could “roll” for causality (sounds like what many systems already do, or try to) ? Or, more interesting, “roll” when there is an opportunity to Explore Character, Setting, or Situation ?

Anyway, in my opinion, Resolution should only be used when :
- the result of the task or conflict is not already defined (at least two meaningful choices, sometimes choice is totally open)
- the people around the table care about that result

As an example, when I was playing Exalted, each combat turn started with a look at our character sheets, then a long and fastidious search on the tables to recalculate the attack, defense, what powers were available, which ones can be used during the same turn, and so on ...
The 3 other regular players were really not enjoying so many Points of Contact, so the GM frequently had to tell a player how many dozens of dice it was supposed to roll (in fact, the GM almost totally created those players PCs) ? more work for him, no fun for anybody, “The Fruitless Full” in a sense.
What we were all really waiting for was the descriptions, all the cool effects promised by the game, sound and light all over the place, and obviously the story, with great revelations and terrific NPCs - but we never had to roll for these things to happen.

The method of resolution could also vary depending on the importance given to the action by the players and the GM. For example, Heroquest provides three ways to deal with an action :
- no interesting consequences for failure : no roll
- a failure can be interesting : simple roll
- the action is really important and calls for “suspense” : extended roll

I think that time and space also need some consideration.
For example, in many systems based on task resolution, the range of actions a character can do is limited by both (“you can’t hit that guy right now because he’s too far, you have to run two full turns under fire so you can get him in range”).
An interesting way to consider this is when the roll can affect how much time it takes to complete one task (I think that at least Shadowrun had this feature).

That remembers me that Exalted provided an interesting system to deal with initiative and “action turns” :
- a circle is at the center of the table
- all involved PC and NPC “roll for initiative” (in this context, it represents the reaction speed), that determines the order of first action
- each put one token on the circle following that order
- then we parse the circle : everyone declare and plays his action when its turn comes, and then move its token according to the length of the action taken (based on the book’s many tables)

That’s a pretty heavy system, but considering “causality” only, it seemed more satisfying to me than many others, especially when more than one action per turn is allowed.
What is also interesting with Exalted is that the minimum amount of time (“tick”) can vary according to the type of conflict the PCs are in (combat, social, …).
That being said, the system is really heavy, and involves far too many Points of Contact for me.

Anyway, one important thing when it comes to Resolution is that the players should always know exactly what elements of the setting or the situation are out of their range - they have acknowledged that the Story is already partly written, but that does not grant any insight about what to do, and especially what not to.
About that, contracycle mentioned the “threat token” system from 3:16, and that seems indeed a good idea. I also think that this should be related to reward system (to encourage players to go to the “right” direction), and to the GM role as well (it could be seen as overt Force).

Mael.