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Author Topic: Drifting toward a better Sim  (Read 7096 times)
dindenver
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« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2008, 10:46:46 AM »

Hi!
  Here's my two cents.
  First, you have to put the players in a position that has influence over your "plot." Don't turn them into pawns, turn them into players. This does not mean that every char has to be a king or demi-god. But that whatever level the plot is set at (street level, epic level, etc), the players have influence commiserate to that level.
  A good example of how this can be done badly is Exalted. This is a great game and I love it. But starting characters still have the new char smell. Sure, compared to normal humans, they rock like gibralter. But, compared to the signature characters, they are less than pawns. so, your choices are: Run a gritty, street-level Exalted campaign with new characters, or 2) grant the characters XP at char gen and bring them in line with where the players want the characters to go (in line with the monks of the immaculate order, the Sidereals or even Mask of Winters).
  It sounds like you are almost there, but I wanted to state it in a different way than you have to maybe push you over the edge.

  Finally, you have plugged into a valuable idea (player creativity=fun), now you just need to kick it up a notch and let the players pick what decisions are meaningful to them, rather than trying to create meaning in the decisions you have chosen for them. This is not to say you are a bad GM or anything like that. You are making the best of the situation, but moving forward, its OK to just say to player X, "what is important to your character?" and go with it.

  Well, it sounds like your campaign is rocking, good luck with the future man!
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Dave M
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John Adams
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« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2008, 12:06:34 PM »

Dave: That's it in a nutshell. Many potential conflicts will come up during play, the players will ignore or skim over most of them and that's OK. The conflicts they choose to grab will steer the fiction and determine whether we drift into complete vanilla Nar or a stronger, more fulfilling Sim.

Ron: I've been reading the threads about constructive denial and the Sim "package", but I haven't been able to nail down exactly what our cannon is. We take our inspiration from many places, but for this game there is a very strong expectation that I *am* the cannon. If I say it's in, it's in. If I say it doesn't fit, all of the players but one will support that. The game world has been rolling for 15 years now, so we have an instinctive feel for what fits. And there are no world creation rules at play, so what do I use to decide what fits? We just call it "cool". If it doesn't fit my group's general expectations of cool, it's out.

I have a feeling this group has been trying to get at Narrativism for a long time, but we've been banging our heads against tradition and some of the players have basically given up and expect Participationism is the closest they'll ever get. How they respond to the conflicts I mentioned will tell me a lot in the next couple of weeks. I'll follow where they lead and reinforce whatever grabs them.

I'm full of angst over our lack of conflict resolution but rationally I think we'll do OK; I just need practice with the new concepts involved.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2008, 03:53:09 PM »

That's my impression too, John, from your posts. Your discussion of the new kind of Sim as a goal was rational, but didn't really jibe with what you were driving toward with your tactics, nor especially with that round of Bangs you prepped. I can only go by what you've posted, but I think Narrativism, or what we used to call "Vanilla Narr" sometimes, is being born. I like the steps you're taking and can't think of any advice or criticism.

Best, Ron
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Caldis
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Posts: 392


« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2008, 08:39:45 AM »


I think Ron posted a great example of a nar game that sounds fairly similar to what you are playing in his series of posts on D&D with the neighbors.

I think the 2nd and 3rd threads are probably more relevant but all three are a good read.  There's lots of talk there but Ron's first few posts are usually the best to check out, after that they kind of devolve into rules questions for the most part.  Here's the links.

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19311.0
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19690.0
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19889.0

You'll notice that Ron has created the plots without any input on the part of the players.  He talks about the players deciding the conflicts and what sides they will take.   
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2008, 09:13:55 AM »

Hi,

Well, to quibble with phrasing just a little, it's not the plots that I created, but rather, the back-stories: the existing conflicts among the NPCs of the immediate setting. I think of "plot" as describing the outcomes of all our decisions and interactions (them playing the PCs, me playing the NPCs) throughout the process itself - something we generated, not something that was planned.

Best, Ron
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John Adams
Member

Posts: 90


« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2008, 08:07:44 AM »

Update: Right on the money Ron. After last night's session there is a ton of thematic material and tension out there, but the payoff will need to wait for next week.

Overall, I consciously spent the whole night empowering my players instead of blocking them and it felt great. More precisely, instead of saying "OK you want to do X, I'll throw something in your way to provide a 'challenge' " it felt more like "you want to do X? OK, lets find a cool, plausible way for that to happen ..." and the challenge came right out of the pregnant Situation already on the table.

Note to self: without any additional effort, everyone was plugged-in and focused on the developing story. This is exactly what I wanted. Now we just crank up the tension a bit and let the fur fly.

All of the players had major contributions and the plot took several hard turns away from where I thought it might go, and that's totally OK.

Summary: Once again George couldn't make it. Curse you Real Life! We soldiered on with ...

Mark/Tusk ... drunken, irresponsible half-Regent (noble humaniod) warrior/thug
Andy/Kenlei ... Andy sees him as a Ronin, though there is no such thing in his culture
John/Vendal ... fighter/magic-user/cleric/thief. It makes sense, really.
Paul/Endymion ... Solari (winged humaniod) mage, specialized in space/time spells

NPC/Chamberlain Petrius ... Fighter/Cleric, leader of the Church Militant for the Goddess of Earth/Fertility
NPC/Haldren ... Fighter/Cleric, reports to Petrius, Kenlei's dad
NPC/Fire Spirit ... servant of the God of Fire/War. Possesed Tusk (see last update)

The Fire Spirit compelled Tusk to attack the Chamberlain. Haldren bravely got in the way and Tusk mortally wounded him. A combination of spells from the other PCs rooted Tusk to the spot and took away his sword, so Tusk threw his other weapons at the Chamberlain, then resorted to taunting. The Chamberlain rallied his men in time and retreated to the relative safety of the hill where 200 reinforcements were guarding the army's camp. Haldren was carried to safety, Tusk was freed (see below) and the PC's retreated too. Thanks to major PC heroics, the remaining Regents left to fight another day and the battle ended.

Major impact by the players:

* Paul used his powerful spells to great effect. He created a hurricane-force wind to drive back the 100 mustering cavalry to the north, scattered them and drove them into the woods. So no charge, which helped the clerics escape.

* Paul almost pulled off an awesome spell which would have temporarily banished Fiery Tusk from spacetime and neatly solved their problem, but he chewed on the cast check.

* Paul put Haldren into temporal stasis and saved his life.

* Mark took on the role of possesed man with a vengance. He all but killed Kenlei's dad. (Defeated -- by our new rule it's up to the character's controller {me} if that means badly wounded, unconscious or dead.)

* Once Tusk was effectively neutralized, Mark suggested the Fire Spirit should return him to normal for now and return later to fulfill the oath. Awesome! How that came about was even cooler:

* I gave Mark a chance every round to fight the control; he couldn't break free but he could act normally for a round if he rolled well. John riffed off this and had his neophyte cleric challenge the Fire Spirit directly for control of Tusk's soul! We used this to justify the Fire Spirit releasing Tusk (John eventually won his conflict), so Vendal basically performed an exorcism. (Vendal doesn't have that as a clerical ability, it was just a happy convergence of ideas.)

* John almost single-handedly neutralized Tusk with Vendal's immobilize ability and forcing Tusk to fumble his sword. Swordless, Tusk grappled the Chamberlain and Vendal used fumble again to free him, then used the initiative rules well to slip in and drag the Chamberlain out of Tusk's reach.

* Andy beat the pudding out of Fiery Tusk, and he did a good job representing Kenlei's confusion and took several rounds before he actually believed Tusk was neutralized by essentially invisible magic.

* Then Andy pulled out a key leadership conflict to convince the clerics to back off and leave Tusk alone. "He's not the real threat!" (Pointing to the Regent cavalry ...)

* Andy made sure Haldren was carried off the field as the cavalry retreated.

* Andy also wins the best one-liner of the night award. John: "Help me! We need to bring Tusk's personality to the surface!" Andy: "Got any booze?"

* But the real eye-popper came at the end. After he was free and safe behind friendly lines, Mark had Tusk walk back out onto the battlefield alone, carrying a white flag. He set the stakes, "The Regents leave and fight another day." With only a 3% change of complete success, Mark nailed it on the first try and the Regents never attacked the hill. Great and unexpected dramatic moment.


Thematic Questions:

* Vendal begged the Chamberlain to spare Tusk, considering Tusk just prevented a costly battle on the hill. The Chamberlain decided to turn Tusk's fate over to Haldren's son (Kenlei!). After all, if the man's own son won't punish Tusk, who would question that Justice was done? What will Kenlei do?

* Vendal once broke his Oath to the God of Law and for most of his career was a fallen cleric. He only recently repented and regained his abilities, rejoined the Church and affirmed his Oath. Can he turn around and help Tusk break an oath to the God of War? If not, will he insist Tusk try to kill the Chamberlain?

* Tusk has never been one for promises. Now he's stuck with an oath he *must* keep. How will he deal with that?

* What will Kenlei do with the potential slave girl? How will Tusk react to THAT?

* What will become of 700 heavy Regent cavalry? They lost their leader and some morale, will they surrender? Raid the country side? How will the PCs help or hinder them? How will the Clerics react?

I can't wait to find out.
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John Adams
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Posts: 90


« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2008, 08:59:49 AM »

Last week's game was short on action and long on dialog and social conflict, so some of those thematic questions came to the fore. Andy/Kenlei couldn't make it but George did, and we opened with a conflict to heal the battle wounded. I'm still working out conflict resolution so it was uneven and the stakes were too vague and weak, but it did give George an opportunity to narrate, get back into the game after missing a few weeks and show off aspects of his character. Also the other PCs were able to help out or react to the events of the conflict so all of the players were involved most of the time. So several of my major goals were met.

John/Vendal remembered and jumped into the "Pass judgment on Tusk" conflict which is still brewing. Because Andy couldn't play we decided Kenlei rode off with some clerics to chase stragglers from the battle, so Vendal let Tusk know that he would be keeping an eye on Tusk until Kenlei returned to judge him.

We played another conflict to convince the potential slave-girl to live, which the PC's won. She wanted to die with honor on the field, but George/Ephriam convinced her not to give up, and shortly afterward the Chamberlain showed up and declared that she and the surviving Regents would become slaves. All of the players jumped in on this one, though no one treated it as a formal conflict. I suggested several times, actually, to make it a conflict. I think when it comes to social interaction with NPC's the players are locked into the idea that they need to convince me to change the NPC's mind. I'll use this as an example next session and try to clear that up. In this case, everyone was deeply in character ("immersed", whatever) and I didn't want to break the moment with a lot of metagame discussion. We're still getting the hang of this and it may take a while.

Point #1: Social negotiations with the GM. This seems like poison to me, and I'm seeing how much of our old system absolutely depended on it. A player's only real input into the game was to convince the GM to let something happen, which meant invoking real social relationships for something as trivial as a game. Favoritism and hard feelings are inevitable, even for a group that knows each other as well as we do.

The whole point of resolving things using well defined, written rules is to avoid this. Per the Lumpley Principal, rules only exist to reach agreement on facts and events in the SIS, that is they assign Authority. The indie games I've read assign most of it directly to a person, but the other category of rules delegates authority to the rules themselves; that is we feed the Situation into the "game engine" and agree that whatever comes out the other end enters the SIS.

Suddenly it's crystal clear why Sim-heavy games often have a plethora of crunchy rules which try to cover every conceivable Situation: they try to foster the weird impression that the players shouldn't have Authority. Maybe the assumption is that exercising direct authority would break immersion or some such. Maybe it's just history and a failure of imagination that players ever could have authority. Everything is either delegated to the game engine or the GM.


Point #2: One of my goals was to make the PCs the center of the story to get all of the players involved and emotionally invested most of the time. I can't believe how easy the answer to this huge dilemma turned out to be.

PC centered story << Plot Authority << Let players declare conflicts

That's it! That's all there is to it! Declaring conflicts is Plot Authority: NOW we answer this question, now we resolve this conflict ... and Plot Authority seems to be all you really need to focus the story back on the PCs. It takes care of Dave's question ("what's important to your character?") in a most elegant direct way. The game isn't going anywhere until a player answers that question by declaring a conflict.

The only question left in my mind is whether there is any need for the GM to declare conflicts or whether that should be explicitly forbidden in my rules. Often I expect the GM to notice and enforce that the current course the player proposed is in fact a conflict, basically invoking the "Say Yes or roll" rule; but if the GM pulls a totally new conflict our of thin air isn't that invoking Plot Authority? I don't think I want that in our game.


Point #3: I'm re-writing the rules. The existing "rules" were written by me, for me and they are exceptionally sparse. They don't cover ANY of the important high-level issues like Authority, Agenda, or conflicts. They don't include a year's worth of drift described in this and the previous threads. I'd like all of my players to have a complete, thoroughly comprehensive set of rules in front of them while we play. I want them to hold me to those rules if I fall into old habits. I want someone to say "hey, the rules don't give the GM Plot Authority, so you can't do that."

Just having the rules at hand won't be enough. Our group has too much history with terrible rules, my players don't even try to read them anymore. They expect me to read and digest any new rulebook then tell them when to roll the dice. They know intuitively that the unwritten system we have culled from experience will run the game anyway, the particular rulebook isn't the biggest impact on our play. That's going to be a tough habit to break, but it's time we held our rulebooks to a higher standard.


Point #4: Conflict Resolution. I think I have a workable solution for our game. One neat coincidence is that my technique for opposed tests lets you win, lose or tie on any given test. So conflicts will just be a series of opposed tests; win or lose resolves the conflict, tie continues with another opposed test. For each roll we add a chunk of narration to describe the unfolding action, so the more ties the more detail. I'd also like to ramp up the tension with each tie, but I'm not sure how to do that formally. To make it "feel" right I'm leaning toward 3 rounds for each conflict, win 2 out of 3 to win the stakes. (Each round would be a series of ties ending in a win or loss for the player.)

One important shift is in the numbers I use for setting the opposition. Previously I'd prep important stats for important NPCs and make up the rest on the fly as needed. At bottom this was totally arbitrary. It will still be arbitrary, but I'm divorcing the idea of opposition from the skill list of the NPC and such; instead I will just set a number based on how important or dramatic I want the conflict to be. Is this a minor conflict that should be over quickly? Low opposition. Is this the big throw-down? High opposition for a longer, more detailed resolution.

Players or the GM can surrender a conflict at any time. You don't get a reward for doing so, at least so far. I'm thinking I might add that if I can come up with a good reward.
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contracycle
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« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2008, 01:59:04 AM »

Suddenly it's crystal clear why Sim-heavy games often have a plethora of crunchy rules which try to cover every conceivable Situation: they try to foster the weird impression that the players shouldn't have Authority. Maybe the assumption is that exercising direct authority would break immersion or some such. Maybe it's just history and a failure of imagination that players ever could have authority. Everything is either delegated to the game engine or the GM.

Shrug.  Why would you want such authority?  You don't have it in the real, physical world you inhabit either.  Everything is indeed delegated to the engine (physics) or GM (god, if you are that way inclined).

Once again, I wish we could address this topic without unnecessarily emotive terms like "failure of the imagination" or "weird impressions" being bandied about.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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John Adams
Member

Posts: 90


« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2008, 07:25:21 AM »

I know in my case it was exactly that: adherence to historical systems and a lack of understanding about how role-playing actually works, such that I literally couldn't imagine a functional game where players had authority. I suspect that's true for many games out there, including many mass-published games. If your group made an informed decision to give players no authority and everyone's having fun then more power to you. If, like my group you're just following "how it's done" then I suggest you consider that isn't necessary and you might have more fun with a different distribution of authority.

Zero player authority might support some skewers of Sim play, especially Realist and Purist for System, but not all of them, and not the skewer I'm shooting for if we indeed stay on the Sim side of things.

Is it really possible to give players no authority at all? Is it an important factor in Sim design that the elements of the SIS delegated to the game engine should very closely match the intended focus of the game? I think no and yes, but that's veering off topic so we can jump it to a new thread if you'd like to pursue it.
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David Berg
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« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2008, 02:45:40 PM »

John,

In my opinion, play with literally "zero" player authority isn't play at all.  It'd be, what, GM story time, and at best the players get to offer the GM suggestions?

Authority over your character's decisions is still authority, and I'm pretty sure that there could be skewers within all 3 CA families for which no additional authority is desirable (hell, I've played Gamist that way).  If your skewer isn't one of those, then kudos for recognizing that and questioning your status quo!  Just be careful about taking things that didn't work for your particular group and shitting on them in a more categorical sense.  If contracycle and I prefer cruch-heavy, limited-authority Sim, that's possibly just a matter of us having different tastes than you, not us being stuck behind history and assumptions.

I'm looking forward to seeing how your players take to declaring conflicts.  It'll change the way they relate to the SIS, and I'm curious to see whether they jump in with glee or go "Wait a minute, this is weird."

Or am I misunderstanding?  Did you play your last session with the players already declaring conflicts?  If so, I'd love to see a description of one such conflict in detail, from first statement of impending declaration all the way to resolution, complete with the entire player and GM communication.  That'd help me give useful feedback.  Actually... are you looking for any in particular?  I've lost track; apologies...

-David
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John Adams
Member

Posts: 90


« Reply #25 on: February 06, 2008, 07:11:25 AM »

Always looking for feedback, and I appreciate the time and attention all of you have shared.

David and Contracylce: I'm pretty sure we're all in agreement about those points. I'm talking about my group, my play experience; if I seemed to shit on a whole section of the hobby, mia culpa.

I'm concerned that we haven't really hit that "aha!" moment you described David, where the players really get it and have that gut reaction. So far it's more like "Okaaaaaaay ... not sure where this is going but I'll roll with it."

Part of the problem is the lack of written rules. I passed out a draft of my re-write at the end of last night's game, so that should help. Another reason is I have avoided any serious rules discussion in order to focus on getting the fiction rolling again after several months away from the game. (Paul was out on paternity leave so we played a different game.) You don't want to come back after a break like that and spend a large chunk of time talking about rule changes. It's also hard to explain things to non-Forge folks. I've been lurking around here and reading for over a year and I barely have a solid grasp of the basics. How do you explain that, without jargon, to someone who has the same mental knots I did a year ago? I figure you don't. You show them.

Here's a semi-successful conflict from the opening scene last week. Situation: Dead and wounded are lying all over the battlefield. George/Ephriam is atop the nearby hill with the other healers etc. (Ephriam is a mage specializing in healing and bone magic.)

GM: (Describe the battle scene) As you commanded your bone golems are combing the battle field, they're coming back now carrying the first wounded.

Ephriam: OK, I set up a triage and start healing.

GM: Let's make that a conflict. Give me a Heal check, then describe what you do.

E: (A little confused) well, like I just said ...

GM: Make the roll first, tailor what you do to match the roll, OK?

E: Success. So I get the wounded into a neat line and start a triage. (Stops.)

GM: (rolls for the opposition/difficulty - failure, George wins the conflict) Great, soon you have things organized. At first the other healers avoid you, but soon it's clear you know what you're doing, and without saying a word they start helping you. You give them the aid and comfort you can under the circumstances ...

E: No! No time for comfort. You! over here ... put pressure on this. Next!

GM: Excellent!

Note that I'm still fighting old habits here, there's no need for me to describe how Ephriam does things, that's George's job, and he jumped in and did it well. I was glad he took advantage of the situation to highlight certain aspects of his character, such as his terrible bedside manner.

That conflict went on a bit further, I wasn't happy with how quickly the technique played out so I fumbled around for a way to stretch it and make it more dramatic. It was a mixed success.

Obviously, things will really take off when a player declares a conflict that surprises me. I think we might be pretty close.

Situation from the end of last night: Mark/Tusk is still armed and armored, theoretically under John/Vendal's supervision until Andy/Kenlei passes judgment on him. Tusk is guarding the 20 surviving Regents in the hospital. The clerics have healed their own first, so the Regents are stable but still wounded. He just talked to Lady Amalthea (the potential slave girl) who is resigned to live but has little hope that her people will survive for much longer. Tusk told her it wouldn't be so bad once they got to the fringes of the Empire so they could start over.

GM: The Chamberlain comes back and decrees, "The 20 surviving Regent prisoners will be given as slaves to the families of the seven Lords Blackbane and his men murdered. Kenlei, as a reward for your service take the one you personally bested in combat. (Amalthea)

Tusk: (to Amalthea) "Stretch out your neck!" I stand up and draw my greatsword.

Wow! Way to take a stand! He'd rather behead her here and now than let her be a slave.

As luck would have it, Andy is out next week so we decided to play a one-nighter of Dogs in the Vineyard. We will also be reviewing rules and hopefully finishing the re-write.
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David Berg
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« Reply #26 on: February 06, 2008, 11:02:08 AM »

Ephriam: OK, I set up a triage and start healing.

GM: Let's make that a conflict. Give me a Heal check, then describe what you do.

E: (A little confused) well, like I just said ...

GM: Make the roll first, tailor what you do to match the roll, OK?

E: Success. So I get the wounded into a neat line and start a triage.

Okay, so there are some procedural things here that you'll probably iron out with practice (such as setting specific stakes for a conflict -- "I get the wounded into a line" or "I don't" -- before rolling).  But what interests me most is how this will or won't accomplish "PC centered story << Plot Authority << Let players declare conflicts".

It seems to me that the important event in your example was George coming up with something he cared about for Ephriam to do.  Your contribution to this "PC centered story" was providing a fertile situation for a healer character to "do his thing".  The conflict resolution system's contribution was nil (which is still better than "detrimental").

Of course, the conflict was declared by you the GM, but that only makes sense given the logic you're operating under:
1) GM presents gameworld
2) player forms an intention
3) GM arbitrates (based on X*) how intention is resolved: Yes or No or Roll

If you really want to let players declare conflicts, you'd have to give them power over saying whether something is possible, impossible, or automatic.  "My guy does this", "my guy can't do this", or "it fits X* criteria, so I'd like to roll!"

Think about the ramifications of doing things that way.  I'd be curious to see which of them you're comfortable with, and which you aren't.

Whether or not you keep the GM as the arbiter of Yes or No or Roll (which I don't see as inherently problematic), I think a huge question continues to be:

How are you going to ensure that your players get opportunities to do things they care about?  Is there some way for them to communicate this to you?  If so, do you have any tools to facilitate turning that feedback into game situations?  I know you've talked some about this already, but it strikes me that if every game was nothing but moments like Ephriam healing the sick, y'all'd be very happy.

-David

*  I believe your play history has identified X as "what makes causal sense within the gameworld."  You use the resolution mechanics when your sense of internal logic tells you "this character may ot may not be able to accomplish that."  Is that correct? 

I just want to point out that there are other options, such as, "how important it is to the player," "whether another player (could include GM or not) is opposed," "whether someone (everyone?) deems it a crucial Story Moment," etc.
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contracycle
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« Reply #27 on: February 06, 2008, 01:53:27 PM »


Tusk: (to Amalthea) "Stretch out your neck!" I stand up and draw my greatsword.

Wow! Way to take a stand! He'd rather behead her here and now than let her be a slave.

A stand?  Yeah, as long as it's SOMEONE ELSE's LIFE.

Arbeit macht frei and all that.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
John Adams
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Posts: 90


« Reply #28 on: February 07, 2008, 06:56:07 AM »


Contracycle:

It's a little more complex than that. First, he really wants this girl to live and help the remaining Regents build a new life somewhere else, so killing her is taking a strong stand. His life is already in question for attacking the Chamberlain; this action drastically reduces any chance of him getting out of this in one piece. He'll be a fugitive or dead. Also, the girl is going to willingly stretch her neck, her original hope was to die honorably and this is as close to that as she's liable to see.


Okay, so there are some procedural things here that you'll probably iron out with practice (such as setting specific stakes for a conflict -- "I get the wounded into a line" or "I don't" -- before rolling).  But what interests me most is how this will or won't accomplish "PC centered story << Plot Authority << Let players declare conflicts".

It seems to me that the important event in your example was George coming up with something he cared about for Ephriam to do.  Your contribution to this "PC centered story" was providing a fertile situation for a healer character to "do his thing".  The conflict resolution system's contribution was nil (which is still better than "detrimental").


That's a good summation, but it seems to me the system's contribution was ...

a) provided a framework to add specific chunks of narration to the fiction (guided and informed play)
b) provided actual resolution to the rather poorly defined stakes without resort to GM fiat. The dice spoke, we accepted the results into the SIS.
c) *should have* added to the dramatic tension of the scene. I think I have some tweaks to better accomplish that.


Of course, the conflict was declared by you the GM, but that only makes sense given the logic you're operating under:
1) GM presents gameworld
2) player forms an intention
3) GM arbitrates (based on X*) how intention is resolved: Yes or No or Roll

If you really want to let players declare conflicts, you'd have to give them power over saying whether something is possible, impossible, or automatic.  "My guy does this", "my guy can't do this", or "it fits X* criteria, so I'd like to roll!"

Think about the ramifications of doing things that way.  I'd be curious to see which of them you're comfortable with, and which you aren't.


Let me rework your list a bit ...

1) The GM has full Content and Situational Authority (presents the world)
2) The player has broad Narration Authority over his PC (declares ACTIONS directly into the SIS, unless #3)
3) Players and the GM can declare Conflicts, putting any proposed stakes into the "Roll" category. This is subject only to the Content and Situational Authority of the GM.

So basically I'm running under Vincent's "Say Yes or Roll" rule. The only time it's acceptable for the GM to say "no" is if the declared action conflicts with Content or Situation. Even then the GM and player should work to make the declared action fit if possible.

WRT Plot Authority, the player can call for an immediate answer to any question, any stakes, and the GM is beholden to make it fit with Content and Situation if the players win the stakes. The wiff factor should be very low, I'm aiming for a technique that lets you win almost all the time if you're willing to see it through, but the cost of victory goes up, up, up as the conflict goes on.


Whether or not you keep the GM as the arbiter of Yes or No or Roll (which I don't see as inherently problematic), I think a huge question continues to be:

How are you going to ensure that your players get opportunities to do things they care about?  Is there some way for them to communicate this to you?  If so, do you have any tools to facilitate turning that feedback into game situations?  I know you've talked some about this already, but it strikes me that if every game was nothing but moments like Ephriam healing the sick, y'all'd be very happy.


Emphatically not. The last 2 sessions were light on conflict resolution but not on conflict. Most of it was social and among the PCs discussing the situation and "how do we deal with this mess?" Those social interactions were great fun and are almost exactly what we're looking for. My only gripe is the players don't quite grasp yet that they can turn a social conflict over to the conflict resolution rules and still have excellent in-character exchanges with NPCs and with each other. That's going to take some practice and maybe a few system changes.

My take on the Ephriam conflict was that it was some good character stuff, but it wasn't a grippy conflict at all. The stakes were pretty limp and the mechanics were only half-baked.


*  I believe your play history has identified X as "what makes causal sense within the gameworld."  You use the resolution mechanics when your sense of internal logic tells you "this character may ot may not be able to accomplish that."  Is that correct? 

I just want to point out that there are other options, such as, "how important it is to the player," "whether another player (could include GM or not) is opposed," "whether someone (everyone?) deems it a crucial Story Moment," etc.

Historically, you  are correct. I'm trying to get to the last "X", is it a crucial story moment? In fact, I think I have a sliding scale which will let the GM (and to a lesser extent the players) make any conflict quick and easy or long and costly depending on the perceived dramatic needs of the story.

Sorry if this seems confusing. We have to test these ideas and changes in the middle of an active campaign,  so getting it right may take a while. So far I'm encouraged that the major changes have been either good or indifferent, no major screwups.
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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #29 on: February 07, 2008, 01:42:23 PM »

I see that my mention of Ephriam healing the sick distracted from my point.  I wasn't trying to talk about the conflict at all; what I meant was his idea to heal the sick.  So let's forget that example, and I'll ask again:

How are you going to ensure that your players get opportunities (i.e., the PCs wind up in Situations) to do things they care about?  Is there some way for them to communicate this to you (the GM, who has Authority over the Setting part of Situations)?  Once they communicate this to you, is there any specific way you plan to use their requests to create your Settings & Situations?
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