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Author Topic: I ask Vincent a bunch of questions like I was a horde of flying monkeys  (Read 8520 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1159


« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2008, 04:44:01 PM »

Hi Vincent,

It's making sense so far.

I should clarify that "Best Interest" isn't underlying my question.  My point simply wast that to have something on a character sheet called, "Best Interest" introduces something new to this game that I haven't seen before.

It follows -- for me, at least -- that there are probably other things: points of view, agendas, assumptions what have you, that you built into the game.  To elicit, to provoke and so on between players.

Best Interest is new.  It implies a moment of thought (or two or three) before writing something down.  We often can leap at naming goals, but often our own desires aren't in our best interest.  And often what we think we want to fulfill our needs actually isn't the best choice to fulfill those needs.

As pointed out above, the Best Interest isn't what the character thinks is in his Best Interest, but what the Player thinks is in the PC's Best Interest.  This introduces all sorts of possible irony, as the Player can see the field of narrative from a much better perspective.  He can have the PC play toward conflicts that are against his best interest and so on, only to then have the PC get a better sense of his or her Best Interests as play continues.

Further, this leads to thinking about the consequences for intended actions.  Since I would say a big anchor for the game are the Best Interests, players will start "magnetizing" their thinking about consequences in terms of challenging their fellow players about their PC's Best Interests.  Best Interest does not mean Goal -- it means Best Interest.  So the consequences aren't, "I kill you..." because "Stay Alive" wasn't the Best Interest at stake. "You embarrass yourself before your follows," might make a hell of a lot more sense -- depending on how the Player of the losing player defined Best Interest.

All of this feeds into the mechanics we'll discuss next, I'm presuming.  (I've obviously already begun thinking about it.)

But we missed all this on Sunday. Off the top of my head we didn't dig deeper with our original ideas. I was playing the ghost of a noble woman.  My Best Interest was to keep Wolf Spirit away from a temple. But that's a goal, with the Best Interest buried somewhere beneath it.  (The Wolf Spirit was another PC)

Now that I know we're talking Best Interests, I would ask, "Okay, but why is it in my Best interest to keep the Wolf Spirit from the Temple."  Certainly, I decided that the Wolf Spirit had killed my husband, and the temple had belonged to the Wolf Spirit.  I died driving the Wolf Spirit from the Temple -- filling it with Gorilla Spirits to keep the Wolf Spirit away.

But that's all Motivation. It's not Best Interest.  Best Interest implies a QUALITY to the motivation and the goals.  My expectation is that thinking things through a bit more would influence the group and guide them to certain kinds of actions to contest and consequences to declare....

Which I'd love to hear more about, Vincent.  Especially from the point of view of what you want the system to do, elicit, inspire and so forth.

CK
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Lemonhead, The Shield
lumpley
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« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2008, 07:07:01 PM »

When you played, did you have only one? You're supposed to have two - I think that's an important point, actually.

I can't really just plunk down an answer for "what do you want the game to elicit?" I mean, I want it to elicit stories that are like (somehow like) Tanith Lee's in the Flat Earth, but that's not a helpful answer. I hope that by talking about the game, I can get you to ask me smaller, tighter questions that taken together add up to that one.

Anyhow, that's why I ask, did you have only one?

-Vincent
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2008, 09:36:14 PM »

Oops!

Yes. We had only one.

If I remember correctly, the GM said our Best Interest should be connected to two PCs, but I suspect now he elided the rules of having two Best Interests, each connected to another PC, to one Best Interest that connected to one character.

CK
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« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2008, 10:15:25 AM »

They shouldn't even necessarily be to other PCs. NPCs have an important part to play too - since NPCs can't recur, don't go on the owe list, the GM is free to cast NPCs' strengths against PCs' weaknesses.

A cool thing is, your own two best interests don't even have to be mutually compatible. Your best interests are valuable for the conflicts they create, not in the achievement of them. It's in the warrior's best interests to win the heart of the diplomat, it's in the warrior's best interests to make an example of the diplomat's father.

So that's best interests. From play, did you get how the owe list works?

-Vincent
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2008, 12:13:45 PM »

Hi Vincent,

This part here....

A cool thing is, your own two best interests don't even have to be mutually compatible. Your best interests are valuable for the conflicts they create, not in the achievement of them.

That's an invaluable point of view about Best Interests.  I think that would clearly color how conflicts and outcomes are stated.  As I said, we saw them more as goals -- and everything was about getting those goals accomplished.

As for the We Owe list... I absolutely see how it works and it's game tension from your description.  However, this was con game -- so we sort of blew past that.  There was no incentive to stay on the list, since we wouldn't be playing again.  So, for us, last weekend, the We Owe list was just a bank to get another die when we felt the pinch of a conflict.

CK
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Lemonhead, The Shield
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« Reply #20 on: February 25, 2008, 06:52:51 AM »

I think that the owe list works okay for that - "go up against better dice now, get a bonus die later" isn't a terrible rule - but obviously the owe list does its real thing only in multi-session play.

So now what? I don't think I've answered your whole question, at all, but I'm not sure what to talk about next.

-Vincent
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2008, 02:21:28 PM »

Hi Vincent,

Well, I'd love to hear more about the resolution system:

Why three rounds, for example.  And, really, anything else you want to say about it from an under-the-hood perspective.

And thanks for all the answers you've given!

CK
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Lemonhead, The Shield
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1159


« Reply #22 on: March 01, 2008, 08:18:31 AM »

Hey Vincent!

There are now a ton of threads floating around hamming key points about the game.  (And the threads on Poison'd, both here: http://lumpley.com/comment.php?entry=350#10306 and here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?board=44.0 are also really important!)

Plus, I finally got a chance to read the rules and, lo and behold, a lot of the confusion from the con game vanished.  I'm not sure if I would have grasped everything as is without the confusion first, but as it is now, I can look back at the con game and go, "Well, Vincent did write, "Do this..." "Beware of this..." and, "Tend to head in this direction..."

So all in all I think I see how the game works now.  At least I have a better grasp of it, a much better grasp, than I did before. 

I think a lot of my confusion two weeks ago did stem from the issues you brought up in the Anyway thread: the hypermechanization, as you put it, of a lot Indie rules.  As you said, none of that is bad in of itself.  It is one way to play, and there are others.  This, I think, is one of the reasons for my reactionary taste in RPGs right now.  I kind of miss all the, you know, talking we used to do with RPGs.  I ran both Pendragon and HeroQuest at the con, and it was quite refreshing to just keep playing until the dice rolling was needed.

I know that when I read the Poison'd rules, I read them much as Ralph did -- more board game, like, the rules will carry play.  And when the In a Wicked Age rules were described to me at the con, I heard them similarly.  Whether this was a confusion in the text, or the GM's reading of the text, or my confusion upon hearing the GM, I no longer know, nor am especially interested in.  I do know that this hypermechanized thing is in the air and, at least in the Los Angeles area, it seems to be becoming the default position.  Some folks are grabbing on to really trad designs to avoid it, others of us (me at least) are happily taking all the stuff I've learned that like about playstyle and technique and bringing it to games that have, in my view, more breathing room (like, say, Sorcerer and HeroQuest.)

I see now that I've been wrong -- or unfair, or something -- in some of my judgments about how some games are supposed to work.    Now that I've read the rules -- and read a lot on the Internet -- I see what you're going for, and it isn't what I thought it was.  Which is why I kept trying to dig at questions, because certain pieces and who you are as a designer weren't jibing with what I thought I was seeing.

I do still, however, have a few questions.  Poison'd, ultimately isn't my cup of tea.  But In a Wicked Age might be. 

Now, I've asked a few times about the dice mechanic, specifically, I've asked twice "Why three rounds?"  You might choose not to answer again, but I'm asking again!

Something I finally saw, which I didn't see the night of the con game and which really led to some confusion and a little frustration, is that the system is designed to put the brakes on taking another PC out.  You can't, in fact do it in the unit of time that encompasses the three round resolution.  I kept banging my head on that during the game.  "I want to take this guy out -- why can't I do it?!?"  Well, call me dumb.  I just couldn't see that that was the point.  And this is what I meant in previous posts about trying to understand the design elements under the hood; what it was you were trying to elicit from the Players.  Because if I have Best Interests I'm pursuing, and killing another PC is the least effective way to do it, what other options and actions can I take to pursue my best interests.  If I do it well, I might play a whole session in pursuit of my Best Interests without ever having a conflict! Right?  I could cajole, seduce, lie, weep, tug heartstrings, give gifts, aid others with materials and so on -- and be serving my PC's Best Interests the whole night.

But I still want to know, "Why three rounds?"  As far as I can tell, since the model is completely different than the ablative model of most conflicts (we wear each other down till one of us can no longer do anything, and then it ends) you had to come up with some method of actually ending the darned thing.  Is that it?  You needed to pick a number of rounds to make it finite, and three was the number you picked?  I don't know.  I'd like to know.

Another question. And I might really be asking, "How do you play?" instead of how the game is supposed to work.  Which is fine for me.  I'm just looking for something more specific -- from your own experience -- than, "Have fun with it! Do what you like!" 

Setting and Situation.  I've been giving this matter a lot of thought these days, plowing through Ron's thread on HeroQuest and Glorantha, as well as Ron's work with Sorcerer and Sorcerer & Sword.  In my view, how we handle setting and situation does a lot to support the game play.  Different games have different levels of detail required to work, but I'm pretty sure that one needs "enough" (a value, still figuring it out) to make sure there's enough context for the PCs and the fiction to rest inside of to be clear and give weight to the characters' choices and actions.

In a Wicked Age provides lots of situation and spots of setting from the Oracles.  As Character creation continues, more details of setting and situation get added.  The rules state that when the Best Interests are defined, it's time to start playing. 

I'm just curious: Do you sketch out maps at all while doing these early creation phases?  Are any other details of the world generated while fleshing out the Oracle details and characters?  By that I mean, "If my PC is a merchant, let's have a big market in a walled city where he arrives every month."  Honestly, that seems to heavy handed and like a lot of extra fat.  But it seems like if there's noting defined but the elements sketched out from the Oracles and the Characters, there's not enough detail of a world for the PCs to exist inside of.  I know that the rules say to build timeline and maps between game sessions.  I'm curious what else might be done before the first scene of play.

Now, I might just be being a scaredy-cat.  But I think that one of the problems we had the night of the con game was a lack of world around the PCs.  We were just these characters in conflict that changed CGI green screen backgrounds from scene-to-scene.  I didn't feel like we were in a specific place; we lacked an interconnected world of locations, culture, and points of view that the PCs lived in and made choices about.

My guess is that part of the game is to go slowly and accrete details as we go, scene by scene.  Now, from my own experience (not just with that night of IaWA), this tends to produce the lack of anchored game play I described above, with Players almost rushing all crazy into creating details and adding stuff until there is no coherence to the setting and it's all just motion.  But IaWA might produce different results.  Or I might have missed an "intter-textual" reading that clarifies this point.  Or you might do something with play that you didn't want to impose on others.  Or the sort of play I'm trying to avoid is exactly the result the game should provide. 

So, setting and situation -- not just for the PCs, but for the "world" around them. Any thoughts on that?

Thanks!

CK
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Lemonhead, The Shield
Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #23 on: March 01, 2008, 09:55:30 AM »

I forgot to say I loved the art.

You did that art?  It's fucking awesome!

CK
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Lemonhead, The Shield
DainXB
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« Reply #24 on: March 01, 2008, 04:55:57 PM »


Something I finally saw, which I didn't see the night of the con game and which really led to some confusion and a little frustration, is that the system is designed to put the brakes on taking another PC out.  You can't, in fact do it in the unit of time that encompasses the three round resolution.



Now, I might just be being a scaredy-cat.  But I think that one of the problems we had the night of the con game was a lack of world around the PCs.  We were just these characters in conflict that changed CGI green screen backgrounds from scene-to-scene.  I didn't feel like we were in a specific place; we lacked an interconnected world of locations, culture, and points of view that the PCs lived in and made choices about.

My guess is that part of the game is to go slowly and accrete details as we go, scene by scene. 


Christopher, I don't want to intrude in a thread that's become basically a dialogue between you and Vincent (and a very interesting one to read, too), but I think maybe I can shed a little light on a couple of your points, quoted above.

As far as I can tell from reading the rules, it's impossible to kill a character (PC or NPC) without the controlling player's agreement during a conflict.  The controller can always say "You exhaust or injure me.  Pick."  However, once a character has been knocked down repeatedly, and has two forms at zero dice, they are out of the chapter, and can take no actions.  Meaning that, barring outside interference from some other character, you can unilaterally kill them.  The victim no longer meets the 'can and would try to interfere' clause of the rules, so, however much his controller wants to, his character can't act.  No conflict ensues, just the narration of a coup de grace.  So far as I can see, that's the only way a character can die without the agreement of the controlling player.  (Unless, of course, Vincent tells me I'm wrong. :) )

Your second point, about the lack of a world around the PCs, is dealt with, I think, by the 'say one concrete detail' clause on pg. 10.  You're right, details about the world accrete slowly, one concrete thing at a time.  Your merchant mentions that he is on his way to the bazaar in Tarshish.  That's a concrete detail, and suddenly the world contains the city of Tarshish, which has a bazaar.  Someone else may mention the yellow clay walls around Tarshish, and now we know it's a walled city, and so on.  (This presumes that everybody builds on the details everyone else gives, more or less cooperatively, of course.  I don't think that there's any rules mechanism for denying someone else's detail narration.  It's just down to the social contract of your group.) 

For example, playing a warlord, I might say 'I burned Tarshish to the ground, and slaughtered it's people!" as an incidental boast.  Or, playing a well-traveled character I might say "Tarshish?  Never heard of such a place.  It must be an insignificant little hole!"  Neither of these negate the existence of the detail you added, they just modify it.  I presume that we wrangle out in narration and counter-narration whether the boastful warlord or the skeptical traveler are telling the objective truth, or just voicing their opinions.  Maybe it turns out that the warlord is fresh from battle, and your merchant, appalled by this news, now has reason to go into conflict with him.  Maybe the sacking of Tarshish was years ago, and your merchant knows that the city he's heading for has been rebuilt by the survivors -- "I trade in Tarshish every month!  It's a prosperous city -- and you know, they've built a wall now..."

In later chapters, maybe the Mayor of Tarshish winds up being a character, with the particular strengths 'city walls' and 'prosperous bazaar' grown from the details of caravanserai banter earlier in the story.  To me, that's the way the world is built around the characters.

--
DainXB   



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Darren Hill
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« Reply #25 on: March 02, 2008, 02:05:03 PM »

About the three questions, i have an idea.
The playtest version of the rules had no limit on rounds, and it was quite possible (I know from experience) that conflicts could go on and on, getting more and more tedious.
So I think the three turn limit was introduced to put the brakes on that without needing to introduce another ablative stat to keep track of.
Given that the conflict system resolves a unit of action, kind of, and several conflicts can be strung together in an attempt to achieve the same goal ("I keep at it till he's dead, dead, dead!), a limit like this seems to me to be very necessary.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #26 on: March 02, 2008, 02:49:32 PM »

Hi Darren,

Yes, absolutely.  I was just curious if there was a reason for three, of if it was, "Well, we gotta stop this somehow... Three seems to be the right length for fun. Three it is."  (Which is a perfectly fine explanation.)


Dain,

As for the world building -- yes.  I just was curious how Vincent plays the game.  Again, I've found across many games and sessions, that when I tried to build out without any setting/fiction structure the world felt less substantial.  I'm just wondering about how Vincent plays.


For the people who kept saying, "Dude, it's like Sorcerer," and I was all, "What???"  I am soooooo sorry.  I swear, this experience of slowly sinking my brain into IaWA has been really embarrassing.  Yes, of course it's like Sorcerer.  Each round of rolling dice advances the fiction moment-by-moment, and each next rolling grows out of the fiction dictated (and improvised out of) the dice roll results. 

For some reason when I played two weeks ago I had it in my head that I was supposed to declare an outcome I wanted, and then roll dice on my way to getting to that outcome.  I was using the rules almost like this:

I'm a guy with a sword in AD&D and I want to kill an orc.  So I keep rolling a D20 until I do.

It did not occur to me  -- for reasons I cannot tell you -- to think, "Okay, conflict of interest.  Roll dice, see who's on top, dictate/negotiate fiction, advance to another round of dice rolling to establish further fiction, until the three rounds are over and an outcome is reached that closes a unit of conflict." 

I have my guesses as to why my brain jumped that way.  But the fact it never occurred to me simply figure out how to use the game when I was so confused boggles my mind.

So, sorry I was so thick.

CK
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lumpley
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« Reply #27 on: March 03, 2008, 10:18:38 AM »

But I still want to know, "Why three rounds?"  As far as I can tell, since the model is completely different than the ablative model of most conflicts (we wear each other down till one of us can no longer do anything, and then it ends) you had to come up with some method of actually ending the darned thing.  Is that it?  You needed to pick a number of rounds to make it finite, and three was the number you picked?

Yep. In early playtesting, you kept going until somebody doubled somebody, which kept it down to three rounds or less 75% of the time, but the rest of the time never, ever ended. Three rounds was the maximum I really wanted to play through - I found that after three rounds I'd just wish it'd end. So three rounds it is.

Quote
I'm just curious: Do you sketch out maps at all while doing these early creation phases?  Are any other details of the world generated while fleshing out the Oracle details and characters?  By that I mean, "If my PC is a merchant, let's have a big market in a walled city where he arrives every month."  Honestly, that seems to heavy handed and like a lot of extra fat.  But it seems like if there's noting defined but the elements sketched out from the Oracles and the Characters, there's not enough detail of a world for the PCs to exist inside of.  I know that the rules say to build timeline and maps between game sessions.  I'm curious what else might be done before the first scene of play.

I don't do any world creation stuff at all before character creation and I try to keep a tight lid on backstory during character creation. The philosophy's very much "we start HERE and go forward." I don't have anything against making a quick map during character creation and best interests, but it shouldn't be detailed, of course. In my experience, the world of the first session is handwavy and very sketchy, kind of scattered, but not like malignantly scattered.

Then in the second session, details from the first that didn't seem to matter much at the time get revealed as significant, connected to one another and to new details in ways we wouldn't've individually guessed. It really starts with the third session that the game's world seems like a real place, with its own momentum.

There's a further rule that's important but I didn't draw any special attention to it in the text, something like "whenever anybody asks you to describe or explain something, do," with the implication that your description is more or less authoritative. It's not just a matter of everyone throwing out details in the midst of action. I can turn to you and say, "hey, tell us about the religion of the horse tribes?" and you can lead us in some real world building. That's when most of the maps get drawn in our games, too, not between sessions. Somebody's like, "what does this city look like?" and there are a couple of us who can't answer the question WITHOUT drawing a map.

The GM has oversight over all this, but I hesitate to say veto power. More like the responsibility to introduce cohesion when it's called for, additively, not by contradiction. If there's a need for a real veto in your game, you're kind of outside the creative contract I've imagined for the game.

Con games are naturally the worst, since everybody knows there's no investment past the single session, and everybody's kind of anxious to have some high-action fun with strangers.

Was there a third question? I misplaced it.

-Vincent
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lumpley
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« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2008, 10:25:12 AM »

I should add, I say "con games are the worst" but I've only played 3 of them. They seemed to confirm what I'd expect, which is that con games are the worst, but maybe I shouldn't say it like it's a given.

-Vincent
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #29 on: March 03, 2008, 10:46:49 AM »

Hi Vincent,

If there's a third question, I've misplaced it, too.  With all the threads popping up all over the place, I certainly have enough info to give it another go with a great deal more success.  I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  Your patience has been awesome.

This:

There's a further rule that's important but I didn't draw any special attention to it in the text, something like "whenever anybody asks you to describe or explain something, do," with the implication that your description is more or less authoritative. It's not just a matter of everyone throwing out details in the midst of action. I can turn to you and say, "hey, tell us about the religion of the horse tribes?" and you can lead us in some real world building. That's when most of the maps get drawn in our games, too, not between sessions. Somebody's like, "what does this city look like?" and there are a couple of us who can't answer the question WITHOUT drawing a map.

... really turned a screw for me.  I thought that passage was about, you know, describing something in-action.  Breaking it out like that explains all my questions about the world building process for IaWA.

Also: Con Games.  Well, I ran a session of HeroQuest and Pendragon at a local con two weeks ago and the games seemed to go great.  I know I had a blast.  And I played games of Sorcerer & Sword and Primetime Adventures at the previous local con a few months back that also went really well, so I don't think it's cons per se.

I do think that in this case we had gathered a bunch of people who wanted to give the "rules" a spin. And that meant the dice mechanics.  And so we were focused on getting to them, rather doing all that 90% of the role-playing iceberg that I now see IaWA depends on, if that makes any sense.  In the HeroQuest game I ran, for example, we rolled dice for conflicts I think four times (three standard and one extended conflict).  Compare that to the IaWA game, where the whole session was pretty much moving from one scene-as-die-rolling conflict to another. 

So, I'd say a lot of our IaWA game was misplaced effort simply because we wanted to see how the game "plays" -- not realizing (for whatever reason) that taking the time to just "make stuff up" is a big part of IaWA, and it isn't about getting to the dice, but that the dice serve a specific function when the making stuff up phase leads characters to a point where we can't just make choices for our characters, but that a conflict between the characters will demand action and adjudication from the rules.  In other words, I think we meant well, but blew it in our eagerness to see how Vincent's new dice rolling system worked!

Again, thanks for all the effort and information.

CK
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