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Author Topic: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys  (Read 8261 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1159


« on: February 21, 2008, 01:03:50 PM »

I wrote a long post in another thread, and then realized this was it's own thread.

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

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

Hi Vincent,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks!

CK
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2008, 01:51:13 PM »

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

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

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

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

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2008, 02:17:16 PM »

Hi Mareno,

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

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

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

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

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

CK
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2008, 02:23:39 PM »

By the by....

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

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

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

CK
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Alan
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2008, 07:35:11 PM »

Hi Christopher,

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

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

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

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

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

Very cool.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2008, 07:44:37 PM »

Hey Christopher, it sounds like you don't have the rules in front of you and maybe haven't read them. Is that true? I'm happy to answer your questions either way, but it'll help me know where to start.

-Vincent
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2008, 08:18:04 PM »

Hi Vincent,

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

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

CK
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Moreno R.
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Posts: 547


« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2008, 08:30:53 PM »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2008, 08:41:51 PM »

Hi Alan,

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

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

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

***
Sidenote: I really, really don't want to get all confounded with the Sorcerer/IaWA stuff... But I don't think losers of the initiative re-roll.  You can choose to do that with a Full Defense, or you can Suck It Up, which leaves your dice standing on the table and you roll one die for defense.  But yes, dice carry over.
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2008, 08:44:36 PM »

Hi Moreno,

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

But your points are good ones.

CK
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2008, 08:49:07 PM »

Hi Vincent,

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

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

CK
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Alan
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« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2008, 08:57:55 PM »

Characters don't have to know what's in their best interests, but the player does. And I think there's opportunities to make best interests that are apparently irrational or point to an unusual solution -- eg one of mine was "It's in Zahir's best interest to yield to temptation" while there was a tempter demon in play. To rationalize through play how that's his best interest was a challenge.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
lumpley
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« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2008, 09:31:50 PM »

Christopher - okay. I really am happy to answer questions either way, so if you can't chase a copy down, let me know.

-Vincent
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2008, 09:37:10 PM »

Dude,

If you want to go for it, I'm all ears.  I just didn't want to put you on the spot.
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
lumpley
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2008, 08:06:17 AM »

Not at all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Vincent
« Last Edit: February 22, 2008, 08:07:59 AM by lumpley » Logged
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