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Author Topic: Problems with Poisn'd  (Read 8648 times)
Valamir
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« on: February 26, 2008, 09:38:08 AM »

Ok, so after GoPlayPeoria, Tim K, Julie, Ron, Matt S, and myself returned to my place to play some Poisn'd.

Character creation went off without a hitch.  There was some difficulty remembering the lists since we had only one copy of the game to pass around.  If you do a character sheet for the final version, I suggest putting the lists right on the sheet and letting people check off or cross out items).

Everything after character creation...not so much.

We probably spent the better part of 3 hours wrestling with the text and trying to figure out what exactly we were supposed to do.  We concluded there were certain things we were doing wrong and certain things that just weren't established in the text.  Our ultimate conclusion is that the current text (GenCon Ashcan version) has a lot of rules, and about zero explanation for when and how to use them.

So here's what we had trouble with.


1) The escalation tables need some substantial additional text on how to use them pretty much across the board. 

For instance, the ship escalation tables:  How do you decide which table you start on?  If we want to close to boarding range, and the enemy wants to blast us to smithereens with broadsides...what table?  Does every sea battle have to start on the Pursuit Escape table, progress through Cannon to Broadside to Boarding, changing tables whenever the final escalation level for the current table allows?  What if its not a question of pursuit / escape when both parties want to engage, just at different ranges?

Another for instance.  The Knife Fight table indicates a number of things as examples of escalation.  One of the items listed is "changing weapons".  There's no text on what this actually means.  We came up with at least 3 possible interpretations:
a) the fight started on the knife fight table, it stays on the knife fight table.  If you're currently on level 1 of the knife fight table, and you escalate by drawing a sword, you move to level 2 on the knife fight table.  Drawing a sword is just color to justify the escalation.
b) If you're currently on level 1 of the knife fight table and you escalate by drawing a sword, you move to level 1 on the sword fight table (change tables but don't go up a level)
c) If you're currently on level 1 of the knife fight table and you escalate by drawing a sword, you move to level 2 on the sword fight table (both go up a level and change tables)

My instinct says "c" is the probably the intended choice (although I prefer "b" for what it does to extend fights and make starting small worthwhile).


2) Do all fights start on level 1 of the escalation table?  What if my intention is to kill you...can I just start at level three...somebody dies.  If not, how do you actually kill someone when death requires escalating to level 3 but only the loser has the option to escalate?

Near as I can tell mechanically you will never choose to escalate as the loser unless you have more dice/more Xs and are merely losing due to a bad roll.  If you have fewer dice and the odds are against you...why wouldn't you ALWAYS just choose "lose" as the option and accept the level 1 damage...which is invariably feeble and non-damaging.  And given that, how can the stronger party ever actually force the issue and kill you given that you're just going to keep quitting at level 1?

Related to this is the pretty confusing example where Hannah (I think that's the name) is trying to kill Tom Reed with a belaying pin.  Its clear she wants to kill him dead.  She makes a brutality vs. soul roll to earn "Xs" for her willingness to murder a helpless person.  Even so she has to escalate twice to get to level 3, and even after finally winning at level 3, Tom still isn't dead...she has to make ANOTHER brutality vs. soul roll to actually kill him, which she fails.  So despite a full fledged fight which Hanna won with the stated intent of killing the helpless Tom Reed...Tom's still alive in the end.  Huh?  Tim made the comment "For a game that's supposed to be about brutal depraved pirates, Vincent sure seems to have gone out of his way to make sure no one ever gets hurt". 

Further, if Hannah had had actually won the first roll, she wouldn't have even had the option to escalate to the greater damage of level 3.  Tom would have just chosen "lose" accepted the "loss of Pride and humiliation" (which is the level 1 damage for the Fist to Fist table) and Hannah...having won the roll, would have essentially lost, being unable to actually kill Tom. 

As I read what the rules actually say, choosing the "Lose" option is always a fail safe way to escape unscathed. The rules for damage say only that you when you choose "Lose" you suffer the full effects of the damage of the level of escalation you're at.  The damage for level 1 escalation is generally trivial and cosmetic.  So if you're not likely to beat your opponent's dice...just choose "lose" on level one and you escape the fight scot free.  Something's missing.  Near as I can tell there are no "stakes" in Poisn'd, so there's nothing the winner gets from winning the fight.  In fact, the rules seem pretty clear (due to the total absence of any suggestion otherwise) that the only thing the winner gets from winning a fight is to inflict the level of damage determined by the escalation level on the loser.  There doesn't appear to be any "dammit, no, I'm not stopping until he's fucking dead" option for the winner. 

Clearly there's something missing in the rules that we needed to know to make this work...either something that would provide a way around this problem, or a discussion that would indicate that this isn't actually a problem, but the way the game is supposed to work.  Can you provide a beginning to end example on how Hannah can actually kill Tom Reed...one that doesn't involve Tom foolishly escalating and playing into Hannah's hands?


3) Do you actually accomplish things with successful success rolls beyond just colorful justifications for gathering Xs?  If so, are the other player characters just furniture for you to do with as you please?  There is one and only one phrase in the text that mentions the outcome of success rolls (other than to gain Xs).  It says "accomplish the action" (or something similar, that's probably not an exact quote) with respect to actually accomplishing what the roll was for, but again (and probably intentionally) there's no stakes setting. 

So Ron said "Back Door Vittorio is going to sodomize Pretty Jim [Matt's character]. Julie had him make the vs. Helpless roll (Pretty Jim was busy carrying red shot at the time and not in a position to resist).  If this roll succeeds...has Jim been sodomized?  Matt had no input on this at all, it wasn't even his character's stats involved in determining success.  Now I'm not opposed to this being the case...for a game like this, having your character be mere furniture in other player's scenes and totally able to be brutalized without you having any recourse at all seems bleakly appropriate. But if this is the way its supposed to be...that HAS to be made abundantly and specifically clear in the text. 

Or is it more like IaWA where the sodomy absolutely doesn't happen without Matt agreeing to it, and Ron's only option would be to go to a fight and so beat down Pretty Jim, that Matt is willing to negotiate and accept sodomy vs the consequences of the fight?  This is also a reasonable interpretation given the vague text, but as there is no discussion in the fight text about negotiating consequences other than those on the table, I suspect not.

So exactly what does winning a success roll get you...just accumulating Xs?  Or does it get you the goal of what you were after when the GM made you roll?  And since there is currently zero text on limiting this, can I just say "I burn down the entire city of Cartegena" and if I win whatever the roll is...Cartegena is totally burned down?  Again, no explicit problem at this point if that's the case...but man does that need to be made explicit.

How does marginal success (a tie) play into this?  The rules say the rolling person may complete the action, they just get no Xs for it.  Does that mean that Pretty Jim gets sodomized if Ron wins OR ties?

In the actual game Ron lost his roll.  Does that mean the sodomy absolutely does not happen?  The rules say that failing to obtain Xs with a roll is an opportunity for the GM to bring a fight.  If Julie (as GM) had brought the fight between Pretty Jim (Matt) and Back Door (Ron) would those two characters have HAD to fight.  Could Matt or Ron have said "no I don't want to fight"? 


4) Starting Fights.  Man oh man oh man, was this a hornet's nest. On paper, the rules seem pretty straight forward.  There's gonna be a fight, so players have the option to make success rolls to get an advantage in the fight, when they lose a success roll the GM brings the fight...go to the fight rules.  At least that's how I interpreted the rules.  But upon further study, that's not what the rules actually say to do.  See, I initially thought that FIRST you establish that there's gonna be a fight...THEN you start making the string of success rolls related to that fight.  I actually derailed part of the game by asserting that this was how it was supposed to work.

What the rules actually APPEAR to say, is that you start making success rolls anytime you want...whether there's a fight looming on the horizon or not.  THEN when you fail one, the GM has the option to bring a fight...presumably ANY fight that would narratively make sense to happen at that point.  In play...these are actually two very very very different and completely incompatible interpretations.  The problem is that while the rules appear to support this second interpretation, there is no support at all for any of the nuances that this interpretation raises...leading to the possibility that the first interpretation (being much cleaner in practice) was the actual intention and the text is just sloppy. 

Here are the problems.


a) can a player ever call for a fight?  I'm the bos'n.  Some pirate swabbie is giving me lip, I want to give him the beat down.  The ONLY rule in the text related to starting a fight is that a fight is the ultimate end result of a string of success rolls and when a roll fails the GM can bring it.  In the absence of any text that suggests otherwise, this would seem to mean that the only thing I can do is make a bunch of success rolls earn some Xs, hope to eventually fail one, and hope further that when I do the GM chooses to bring the fight and chooses to make it between me and the swabbie I'm aiming to beat down.  Although there is zero in the rules requiring or even recommending that the GM do this.


b) who's involved in the fight...anyone the GM says?  In the above example with Ron and Matt, if the GM had brought the fight between them, can I as a player say "at that moment the bos'n arrives and says 'hey wots all this about, then' and jump in?  No where do the rules provide me with that authority...but no where do they deny it either. 


c) So there's no fight on the horizon.  Jim says "I'm gonna steal Jack's gold"...the GM has him make the "with care" roll which he wins.  Jim gets X's.  What the heck are these used for?  Are they just saved forever until eventually there is a fight?  3 days later the great Kraken attacks the ship...does Jim still have his X's from stealing Jack's gold (and as noted above, does he even HAVE Jack's gold?).  If so can he use those X's against the Kraken? 

Does everyone essentially run around doing whatever they want, making whatever rolls they can get the GM to call for, collecting however many Xs they can...until somebody fails and the GM chooses to bring a fight.  Does the fight have to be tied to the events of the failed roll?  Could we have had a dozen rolls about sodomizing this guy, stealing that gold, sabotaging this gun, etc. etc. and when the new cook fails his attempt to poison the soup the GM brings the fight by announcing "The Kraken attacks", even though none of the success rolls had been related to the Kraken?  What if the Kraken came out of the blue, completely not established in play yet, can the GM do that?  Do all of those X's from all of that other stuff apply?  The rules don't say they don't...however the rules also refer to them as "advantages" and "gaining the advantage" and "canny players sensing a fight on the horizon"...which could be interpreted as saying that only Xs that could be considered advantages in the fight that was actually called can be used.  But no where in the rules does it require noting what purpose the Xs were used for so that implies that the Xs are just an abstract currency that aren't tied to whatever action earned them

Regardless, this alone is enough to derail play.  There could easily be an entire page of text just making sure all of the above is clearly laid out. 


d) Is there any other way for a GM to call for a fight other than when a success roll is failed (or marginally successful to no advantage)?  What if the players are making a billion rolls without failing...do they get to rack up infinite Xs?  What if they're sitting around doing nothing -- just picking their noses and reveling in the naughty?  Can the GM simply say "Fine the Resolute attacks, itís a fight and you have no Xs cuz you stupidly made no rolls"?  That would seem sensible, but there is zero support for this in the text.  The only specified way in the text is the aforementioned "when a player fails a success roll".  Clearly that rule would be pointless if the GM could bring a fight whenever they want, so the existance of such a rule implies they can't.  The absence of any other stated alternative, suggests there is not another alternative.  But that seems suboptimal and puts all pacing control in the hands of the players.


e) Can the GM completely render the players' successes pointless by forcing them to waste their Xs against a trivial opponent?  Letís say the players are preparing for the fight against the Resolute.  They've had tremendous success, have racked up a ton of Xs and are going to destroy the Resolute easily.  Knowing that all accumulated Xs must be used during a fight or else they're lost, when a success roll is finally failed and the GM gets to bring the fight...can the GM simply say "in the midst of your preparations, you're attacked by a rabid seagull"?  Doing so would be a great way for the GM to burn all those Xs, forcing the players to start over.  Then the GM simply waits for a time when the players fail early without many X's and brings the Resolute then.  There's zero guidance in the text indicating whether this is a dick move or the intended strategy the GM is supposed to use.


f) Is there only ever one X total (per player) that is always used in the next fight, or are there different buckets for different fights.  In our game, Ron's attempt at sodomizing Pretty Jim came in the midst of preparations against the Resolute.  Are there separate buckets so that Matt's Xs earned from loading the guns with red hot shot are in the "vs. Resolute" bucket along with my Xs for whipping the crew and Ron's previous Xs for trimming the sails.  Or, if Julie had brought the fight between Backdoor and Pretty Jim would Ron be able to use his "Trim the Sails" Xs and Matt his "Load the Guns" Xs in the fight against each other.

What about my Xs for whipping the crew.  If I'm not a part of Ron and Matt's fight, do I keep my Xs...or do they just go away because this is the fight that the sequence of rolls led to, even though its not the fight I expected it to lead to.


g) Also related to Xs, can players combine their Xs to buy bigger nastiness against their enemies?  The rules don't say either way (or if they do, I couldn't find it because the discussion on Xs is scattered in a bunch of different places).


h) Does the Urgency cruel fortune have any impact on any of the above answers?  In other words, when the Urgency hits and the Resolute show up, does it just become a card sitting on the table waiting for the GM to bring the fight using it?  Can the players continue to make indefinite success rolls as long as they win, with the GM unable to bring the fight with the Resolute until a roll is failed?  If a roll is eventually failed, does the GM have the option to bring the fight with something else (like Ron vs. Matt or the Kraken) instead of using the Resolute?

If so, then Urgency doesn't seem very Urgent.  If instead, the intention is that when Urgency hits EVERYTHING stops and BAM you immediately deal with the new Cruel Fortune (in this case immediately fight the Resolute -- all other fights end, all success roll sequences end) then this REALLY needs to be stated.  I assumed this was the case and advised Julie to do it this way, only to later find that I had just ASSUMED that's what Urgency meant (because it was called Urgency) but that the rules say nothing of the kind.  They say only to replace the Urgency card with whatever Cruel Fortune its tied to (the Resolute Card in this case).  At which time the rules, by their silence, appear to imply that the Resolute is just a card to be dealt with eventually like any other. 

At that point we observed that the way the card actually works is as a limiter on the GM's ability to bring in new cards...so its actually the anti-urgency, or just a cinemagraphic pacing mechanic.  There was then a whole bunch of argueing over whether this was even useful since the GM could just voluntarily let the threat sit out on the table unused anyway.  I made the point that it served much the same purpose as a D&D wandering monster table...the GM could just spring the threat but has voluntarily agreed to abide by the result of the dice instead. 

Regardless that discussion is completely moot (as Tim kept trying to point out) if there's actually some extra function to Urgency that just isn't written down.

Related to this...is the Cruel Fortune that Urgency is tied to secret, open, or either?



Ok...well that's enough to throw into one post.  I think I covered all the things we wrestled with that kept our session from even getting past a single fight.  I suspect there are lots of assumptions other groups are making about how to do things that enable them to actually move forward and play, but we were trying to play precisely by the rules...and the rules REALLY let us down.

There are items like the above (maybe not as game halting) on pretty much every single page of the text (GenCon Ashcan).  Places where the rule telling us what to do, or how to apply this other rule are just plain MIA.  Vincent, if you'd find it useful, I'd be happy to comb through the text and identify all that I can find (although my GenCon copy has gone missing so I'd need to get the text from you).


Hope this is a useful report.

Ralph
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2008, 02:37:45 PM »

I'm delighted with this, Ralph, and I'm writing a reply.

Thanks for giving my game a shot, everybody! More soon.

-Vincent
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2008, 07:27:38 PM »

Okay, not delighted that you had a bad time. I'm sad about that. But this is super helpful to me. Maybe half of your rules questions follow from a key missing piece - yes, an assumption - that I hadn't figured out until now how to talk about. I've already made space in the final book for it. It doesn't call for a detailed laying out of procedures, it's a simple principle.

You were looking for the game mechanics to hand play off to one another. "Who can start a fight? When there's a fight between ships, which ship-to-ship range do we use? When the Resolute comes into play as a cruel fortune, does that mean there's a fight right now? How do I just frickin' kill Tom Reed?" If you'd managed to play a whole session, you'd be adding "how does spending leisure let me fuck Captain Rutherford's daughter?" There's never going to be an answer to any of those questions, because that's not how the game works.

How the game works is, the game mechanics hand play off to the game's fiction, then receive it back later. The game doesn't pass play from subsystem to subsystem the way you're asking, the way lots of games just now do. The most explicit example is the "changing your pirate" section, where none of the changes to your character sheet follow from mechanical effects, only from fictional events, and the whole game works exactly that same way.

So, you know at the top of page 11 where it says "it will always come to a fight"? "It" is the game's fiction. Read that sentence as "when there's a fight in the game's fiction, here's what you do." The mechanics wait inactive for the handoff from the fiction. It's not a matter of who gets to call for a fight, everybody just always says what their characters do. Sometimes the characters fight. No "call for" necessary - when there's a fight, that's when you do the fight mechanics, and not before.

When a player loses a success roll, the GM can "bring the fight." That doesn't mean "activate the fight mechanics" - no, as always, the rules hand play off to the fiction, not to another subsystem. "Bring the fight" means bring it in the fiction, it means "skip past whatever else might happen, to a fight," or else "whatever else might have happened, it doesn't, because here's the fight." It gives the GM permission to manipulate the fiction instead of following it. Yes, that means that you DO activate the fight mechanics, almost immediately, but that's because now there's a fight in the fiction, not directly because somebody lost a success roll.

Absent a player losing a success roll, the fighting mechanics have to wait until a fight just happens. "Just happens" means, of course, that two or more characters, PCs or NPCs, get into a fight. No individual player gets to choose, but they all have a choice, right? That's including the GM, so what I'm saying is, absent a lost success roll, the GM has the same power to create fights that everybody else does.

So: how do you know what range to fight at, ship to ship? Well, when the fight started, what range were you at? The GM described the ship approaching, right? Everybody looked at the new captain for orders? Eventually somebody fired the first shot, you or them. Was that when the fight started? If so, what range were you at? That's how you know.

Now, that's only one of the game's three resolution rulesets. The other two are success rolls and making bargains. The way that the three interact is really fun, but does this make sense so far? This principle - the fiction hands play to the mechanics, which hand play back - should answer a whole lot of your "lots of rules, and about zero explanation for when and how to use them."

(It also makes sense to me that some people would naturally bring it to reading and playing the game, instinctively, the way that you five didn't.)

-Vincent
« Last Edit: February 26, 2008, 07:34:19 PM by lumpley » Logged
Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2008, 08:15:14 PM »

Ok, cool.  Yeah, you'll definitely want to put that principle in the text (like exactly what you just said) because the current rules sound much more mechanistic. 

Some additional thoughts...the part in your faq on Anyway that says "if players are stuck remind them of the things they can do..." which then lists off the handful of legal dice rolls makes it sound like the game is meant to be played pretty mechanistically.  Addtionally the cruel fortune cards which formalize things that typically a GM would just do on the fly or scribble in the note book also promote the "this game is meant to be played very rigidly and mechanistically like a computer game" vibe.  I love both of those things, but you might want to be aware of that impression and phrase the final text accordingly.

So that takes care of part one of question 1, the opening bit of question 4, question 4 part a) and d)

I'll await your convenience for the rest.  I'm actually squeezing in some time on a hotel computer while on a business trip, so I'll only have sporadic access anyway.

I'm still a bit confused about how calling for a fight works, even with the new "fiction feeding" principle.

This sentence:
Quote
It's not a matter of who gets to call for a fight, everybody just always says what their characters do. Sometimes the characters fight. No "call for" necessary - when there's a fight, that's when you do the fight mechanics, and not before.

and this paragraph:
Quote
When a player loses a success roll, the GM can "bring the fight." That doesn't mean "activate the fight mechanics" - no, as always, the rules hand play off to the fiction, not to another subsystem. "Bring the fight" means bring it in the fiction, it means "skip past whatever else might happen, to a fight," or else "whatever else might have happened, it doesn't, because here's the fight." It gives the GM permission to manipulate the fiction instead of following it. Yes, that means that you DO activate the fight mechanics, almost immediately, but that's because now there's a fight in the fiction, not directly because somebody lost a success roll.

aren't meshing for me.

If I as a player say "I'm going to sneak carefully up behind Dirty Pete and while he's distracted stab him in the kidney with my wicked long knife" does that mean that I immediately make my Brutality vs. Soul roll (or only if the GM calls for me to make it) and then immediately after the roll we go to a fight because that's what the fiction says happens next (without Pete getting to make any success rolls or me makeing any additional ones)? 

If so, do I assume that if I lose the success roll it really doesn't mean anything in this context because the fight is brought anyway...or does that mean the GM has permission to bring a totally different fight...as in "as you're poised to strike you hear the first mate shouting to man the guns, the Resolute has been sighted and is closing fast".

In other words, can I phrase these two rules as follows:

"Any time any player (including the GM) wants to jump to the Fight mechanics, they can do so, as long as there is narrative support in the fiction that clearly is leading to a fight.  Further, the GM has an additional ability.  Whenever a player pirate fails a success roll, the GM can jump immediately to the Fight mechanics for any fight they choose, even one that has not yet been built up in the fiction."

Is that what you're saying, or am I still missing it?


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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2008, 10:14:13 AM »

If I as a player say "I'm going to sneak carefully up behind Dirty Pete and while he's distracted stab him in the kidney with my wicked long knife" does that mean that I immediately make my Brutality vs. Soul roll (or only if the GM calls for me to make it) and then immediately after the roll we go to a fight because that's what the fiction says happens next (without Pete getting to make any success rolls or me makeing any additional ones)?
So strange!

You make your Brutality vs Soul roll because your character's attacking someone helpless or unsuspecting. The GM doesn't call for it. The GM can remind you to make it and oversee you making it, of course - part of the GM's responsibility is to remember what triggers the game's mechanics and watch for those things, since she's the one with the objectivity and remove to do so. But you make the roll because of what your character does, not because the GM calls for it.

Immediately after the roll, I have no idea what happens, whether you go to a fight or what. Everybody should probably turn to look at Dirty Pete's player, since it's kind of in her court - does Dirty Pete fall down and start to cry? Does Dirty Pete fight back? Does Dirty Pete do something other than fight back, first, like endure duress? Does Dirty Pete's player want a flashback before the fight? Also, what if Slaughterin' Steve is watching in the shadows, and now he jumps out and attacks you? All those things are legit.

Quote
If so, do I assume that if I lose the success roll it really doesn't mean anything in this context because the fight is brought anyway...or does that mean the GM has permission to bring a totally different fight...as in "as you're poised to strike you hear the first mate shouting to man the guns, the Resolute has been sighted and is closing fast".

Losing the success roll means that either you don't stab Dirty Pete after all, or you do stab him but to no advantage. Whether that means there's immediately a fight, or which fight, or what - I dunno. It depends what the GM says. The GM has this moment of, like, dilated permission, but I don't know what she should do with it in particular. She's not allowed to say what Dirty Pete does, that's his player's job, so she can't bring THAT fight. However, she's allowed to pass to Dirty Pete's player: "so you hear him behind you and the knife and whoops! you dodge, so what do you do?" (Significantly, she's just cut you out of making further success rolls, but maybe Dirty Pete gets some.) She's allowed to bring a different fight if there's one she wants to bring: "so yeah, you stab Dirty Pete, he's like 'ow, man,' but before you can follow through the lookout starts screaming about ship ho, ship ho." It's not my call, it's the GM's.

Quote
In other words, can I phrase these two rules as follows:

"Any time any player (including the GM) wants to jump to the Fight mechanics, they can do so, as long as there is narrative support in the fiction that clearly is leading to a fight.  Further, the GM has an additional ability.  Whenever a player pirate fails a success roll, the GM can jump immediately to the Fight mechanics for any fight they choose, even one that has not yet been built up in the fiction."

Is that what you're saying, or am I still missing it?
Still missing it! "Clearly leading to" is bad, bad. So is "jump immediately to the fight mechanics." Let's see.

"Any time there's a fight in the fiction, the players of the fighting characters must do the fight mechanics."

Then, "absent a failed success roll, the GM should let fights develop in the fiction naturally, especially allowing the PCs the opportunity to plan, prepare, and do things so that the fight will come on the terms they like. For instance, closing to broadside range under fire before engaging with an enemy ship, holding the crew to silence in the fog to attack a port town, sneaking up on Dirty Pete before stabbing him. A failed success roll, however, gives the GM permission to cut off any further such opportunities."

-Vincent
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2008, 11:12:22 AM »

I'm totally confused, Vincent. I can't even figure out where or how to ask my questions right now. I'm pretty sure Poison'd is not the game for me, but that's no big deal.

I do want to know why the heck I won't just chose to "lose" and leave the fight every time I lose the first fight roll. I also want to know why the heck the winner, can't ever escalate, and thus actually kill some character/ship I want to kill unless the other player makes what seems to me a stupid choice.

Also, Ralph did a SUPERB job fairly recording the events and issues of our session.
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2008, 11:29:25 AM »

I do want to know why the heck I won't just chose to "lose" and leave the fight every time I lose the first fight roll. I also want to know why the heck the winner, can't ever escalate, and thus actually kill some character/ship I want to kill unless the other player makes what seems to me a stupid choice.

Hey, Matt: I can talk a bit about this from my own experience playing the game. We didn't have as rough a time as you guys, although there were certainly hiccups. I think largely we did not go into the game with the assumption that the mechanics would carry us (basically the whole hand-off thing that Vincent talked about above) and that we were playing out our characters primarily: with that in mind, we could invent around the missing chunks in the rules.

The strategy of fighting in Poison'd is complex.

If you don't want to be in the fight, you should give on your first round if you lose the roll. This has the effect of totally blasting away all of your lovely stored-up Xs, but ultimately that's not a huge cost, particularly if you have a wide variance in your attributes so success rolls are pretty easy.

However, if you want to be in the fight (as in: you want to kill or injure someone else, you want to take that ship, etc), losing on the first roll is a pretty good position to be in. The important thing to remember is that ground position (the dice on the table) is different from over all position (the dice on the table + the Xs you have stored up.)

So, let's say you and I are having a knife-fight, and I want to fuck you up real good. You have, to start with, 6 dice, I have 5. I have 7 Xs, you have 4.

You roll: 3 successes, 3 failures.
I roll: No successes, 5 failures.

Oh, man, I suck! Okay, so I've got to deal with this.

The first thing I do is spend Xs, one at a time, rolling new dice in until I'm just shy of success. Let's say we get a roughly normal distribution on that, so I spend four Xs. Now the status is:

Your roll: 3 success, 3 failures. 4 stored Xs
My roll: 2 success, 7 failures. 3 stored Xs

Now I escalate. I pick up my 7 failures and reroll them. Let's say we get about an even split again. Now the table, at escalation level two, is:

Your roll: 3 success, 3 failures. 4 stored Xs.
My roll: 6 success, 3 failures. 3 stored Xs

Now, even if you spent all your Xs, chances are you couldn't catch up with me. You'll have to take the level two knife fight consequences (mutilitation, I think? I don't have a copy of the rules handy) or escalate. And I have a pretty good shot even if you blow all your Xs and escalate on me.

yrs--
--Ben
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Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2008, 11:49:18 AM »

So strange!

You make your Brutality vs Soul roll because your character's attacking someone helpless or unsuspecting. The GM doesn't call for it. The GM can remind you to make it and oversee you making it, of course - part of the GM's responsibility is to remember what triggers the game's mechanics and watch for those things, since she's the one with the objectivity and remove to do so. But you make the roll because of what your character does, not because the GM calls for it.

Ok, I wish I could find my copy because the way I'm remembering the text it sounded like the only thing a player could do was describe what they were doing and then the GM told them what to roll.  I don't recall anything indicating the player could actually make a roll just because they choose to.

So you're saying any of the following is perfectly kosher?

1) Player:  "I sneak up behind Dirty Pete and stab him."
    GM:  "Make a Brutality vs. Soul Roll"

2) Player:  "I sneak up behind Dirty Pete and stab him.  I'm going to make a Brutality vs. Soul Roll"
   GM:  "Sure"

3) Player:  "I sneak up behind Dirty Pete and stab him.  I'm going to make a Brutality vs. Soul Roll".
   GM:  "No, let's call that an "Act Carefully" Roll instead.

With respect to #3, is choosing which type of roll 100% GM authority?  If so, is the GM supposed to use this authority solely and only to match the type of roll as closely as possible to the fiction?  Or is the GM supposed to use this authority to influence the fiction by playing to the players' strengths or playing against their weaknesses?

Quote
Immediately after the roll, I have no idea what happens, whether you go to a fight or what. Everybody should probably turn to look at Dirty Pete's player, since it's kind of in her court - does Dirty Pete fall down and start to cry? Does Dirty Pete fight back? Does Dirty Pete do something other than fight back, first, like endure duress? Does Dirty Pete's player want a flashback before the fight? Also, what if Slaughterin' Steve is watching in the shadows, and now he jumps out and attacks you? All those things are legit.

Ok, now you're losing me again.  Why are we looking to Dirty Pete for those decisions and not me?  

Lets back up.  I say "I'm stabbing Pete".  I roll.  I get 3 Xs.  Is my knife right now at this very moment in the fiction plunged to the hilt in Dirty Pete's kidney?  Does winning the success roll actually mean that what I said happens?

If so, I assume that just because I said I stabbed Pete, and just because my knife is now in his kidney that Pete isn't actually suffering any ill effects from this at this time.  The only mechanical effect is my 3 Xs which I'll be using in the subsequent fight to actually inflict the damage.

So if all that's true...why are we looking to Pete?  Why isn't the GM looking to me and saying "Ralph, do you want to take this to a fight?"  What in the rules tells us that before I can force a fight, Pete gets a chance to do a flash back or to endure duress?

See there's something absolutely fundamentally critical missing here.  And that is the actual absolute trigger for a fight.  There has to be one or there is no way to answer any of these questions.  What good does it do me to sneak up on Pete and stab him in the back, catching him completely unawares...if he can turn around and make a dozen success rolls to earn way more Xs than I got?  If that's what Pete's player does, then what prevents me from making a dozen more success rolls so I can get the advantage again.  This could continue forever ad naseum if there's no rule that says unequivicably...stop pissing around...take it to the fight rules already.

What does that?


Quote
She's not allowed to say what Dirty Pete does, that's his player's job, so she can't bring THAT fight. However, she's allowed to pass to Dirty Pete's player: "so you hear him behind you and the knife and whoops! you dodge, so what do you do?" (Significantly, she's just cut you out of making further success rolls, but maybe Dirty Pete gets some.)

Woah...completely lost me there.  That's not in the rules at all.  

Again, same question as above...why is it Pete's player who gets the authority to call for the fight?  How does this "pass to Dirty Pete's player" work?  I don't understand what's being passed.  How am I cut off from making future success rolls?  If the GM doesn't end the success roll sequence by calling a fight, there's nothing in the rules preventing me from just narrating something else and making more rolls...how did the GM get that authority?

First let me ask you this...are you describing how you're going to write it up for the final product, so I shouldn't worry about none of this being in the Ashcan at this point...or are you describing how it actually is written up in the Ashcan that I just completely missed.  

Quote
"Any time there's a fight in the fiction, the players of the fighting characters must do the fight mechanics."

Ummm, this is me looking at you all squinty...this sounds awful dang circular to me.  Who decides what's a fight and what's a success roll?  I just totally stabbed Pete in the freaking Kidney...how is that NOT a fight in the fiction?  And yet, we didn't use the fight mechanics...we used the success mechanics to handle it.  So now I'm standing there, with a bloody knife, totally wanting to finish Pete off...how is that NOT a fight in the fiction?  And yet, we aren't going to fight mechanics yet...we're allowing Pete to roll duress and flashbacks.  

So point blank...when the hell do we get to the fight mechanics?  There've been 2 opportunities in this example so far that meet your above statement, and neither of them have triggered it...so clearly, there has to be something else.  "you'll know it when you see it" I don't think is going to cut it as an effective rule here.  How are you defining "there's a fight" so that every one is clear what one is?

The buck has to stop somewhere.  Who in this example has the authority to say "no more stinking success rolls, now we go to the fight mechanics", and when do they get to say it?

How do I force a fight on Pete?
How does Pete force a fight on me?
How does the GM say "enough, this BS has gone on long enough, time to fight and get it over with already"?

I'm really struggling with this, because I know you understand IIEE as well as anybody...and yet...this seems like a huge IIEE disaster waiting to happen (actually, in our case, it did happen).  So what am I missing?

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lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2008, 01:40:30 PM »

Dirty Pete has to fight back, of course! If he doesn't fight back, it's not a fight! It's just a stabbing!

-Vincent

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Valamir
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2008, 01:59:12 PM »

Why would Dirty Pete do that?

If I were Dirty Pete's player, I'd be all like:  "Ok, fine...I'm bleeding...I have no loss of effectiveness, I have taken no "damage"...and absolutely nothing has happened to me whats-so-ever except fictional color...Ok, whatever, I go back to making my preparations for the fight against the Resolute and Ralph can continue to stab me until his little heart is content because it doesn't actually mean anything in the game, and I'm totally not interested in going there.  This is me, bleeding all over the deck, and walking away."

Meanwhile what can I do?  I REALLY REALLY want Dirty Pete dead.  Dirty Pete's player is totally not interested in giving me the satisfaction and won't engage me in a fight.  Now what.  Here I am, bloody knife, fury in my eyes, spouting amazing piratey soliliquies...and what...Pete can just walk away and leave me hanging?

Really?

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lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2008, 02:17:01 PM »

On page 16: "If your pirate suffers a deadly wound, strike a bargain or die," with a list of possible bargains you can strike to avoid dying. With a surgeon, with God, etc.

You can prevent Dirty Pete from striking a bargain with a surgeon, easily, just by not letting any surgeon near. Harder to keep him from striking a bargain with God, of course, but on the other hand, if he and God can come to an arrangement, it probably should trump your stabbing him. I mean, it's God, after all.

I don't know where you got the idea that being stabbed was inconsequential. It wasn't from the game text!

Now, there's some interesting play around whether your stabbing him in the kidneys constitutes a deadly wound, but it's interesting play, not an IIEE crisis. I'm willing to talk about it, but only once you're solid that the rules actually work. For now: whether he fights back or not, if you stab Dirty Pete in the kidneys he's well and truly fucked.

-Vincent
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rafial
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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2008, 02:20:24 PM »

Okay I had gotten as far as:  If the system is handing back results to the fiction, then if Dirty Pete doesn't fight back, Dirty Pete ain't walking away, because he's just gotten a long knife in the kidney and is down on the deck bleeding his life out.  The fiction sad he was stabbed, the success roll was made, and stabbed he was.

But I also thought, if Dirty Pete doesn't want to accept being stabbed in the kidney, then he must bring the fight.  But based on Vincent's last post, maybe that doesn't help either?
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lumpley
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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2008, 02:27:46 PM »

Like I say there's some interesting play there, but talking about it should wait, I think.

Frankly though, if Dirty Pete's been so bad to our unnamed hero that he WILL KILL HIM and nothing else will satisfy, Dirty Pete's fucked.

Oh - this is all supposing that Dirty Pete's a PC. If he's an NPC, pff. He's so past fucked it's not even a thing.

-Vincent
« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 02:29:27 PM by lumpley » Logged
lumpley
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« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2008, 03:22:45 PM »

Hey Ralph -

I don't know where you got the idea that being stabbed was inconsequential. It wasn't from the game text!
That was more gleeful than I needed to be, I'm sorry. I don't need to play gotcha with you.

What I think's going on is what I said upfront - you figured that "suffers a deadly wound" was a game-mechanical term, so you were looking for which other subsystems created it. The fighting subsystem mentions it explicitly, and no others do, so you figured that's how it happens.

In reality, "if your pirate suffers a deadly wound" is there to receive the handoff from the fiction, without caring how your pirate came to suffer a deadly wound. Receiving one in a fight is only one way to suffer one.

-Vincent
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Valamir
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« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2008, 10:02:17 PM »

Ok, good.  Progress, one more piece is clicking into place.  This was actually an important question I asked (#3 on the list) that you hadn't answered yet...whether the things narrated in a success roll actually happen upon rolling a success, so good to get that clarified.  Does scope matter?  If I had said "I sink the Dagger" and succeed, does the Dagger sink?  If I had said "I light off the gunpowder in the powder room and destroy the ship and everyone on board"...is everyone dead"?  If I had said, "I set fire to a barn in Cartegena and the entire city burns to the ground"...does the city burn?  If I say "I build a rocket ship and fly to the moon"...  Who gets to set the parameters for what is acceptable and accomplishable with the narration leading to a success roll?

Definitely (IMO) you want to spend some ink explaining this in the text, in more than just a sentence or two.  Generally when I read the rules and read "here is how you do this thing" and it explicitly describes 1 situation and there is no reference anywhere else to any other situations also letting me do that thing...I'm going to conclude 100% of the time...that that's the one and only way of doing that thing.  Maybe that's the board game rules reader in me...but my mantra is precision, precision, precision.  So if its possible to inflict a deadly wound on someone simply by saying "I inflict a deadly wound on Pete...here's my roll...success, Pete has suffered a deadly wound" that needs to be spelled out pretty explicitly I think.

You're right in your impression of what's going on with my understanding...in my own defense I'll just say, I read the rules as rules and did everything they said to do and nothing they didn't say to do...because that's how rules are supposed to work IMO.  I'd love to see everything you're saying in this thread make it into the next version of the text.

So circling back to item three from the original post...essentially, Dirty Pete is just furniture for my narration.

He has no recourse, he can't counter, he can't stop me, he can't use any of his game stats or Xs in any way...if I'm a brutal SOB...he's taking a deadly wound anytime I say he takes a deadly wound, right?  So when do bargains come in timing-wise?  Lets say I'm not sneaking and Pete see's it coming.  I say "I stab Pete, here's my roll"...Pete's player says "hold up, let's make a bargain..."I promise to support you for Captain if you promise to keep me from harm"...I say "cool, sounds good" and then don't make the success roll I was about to make?  What if I've already rolled, can I pretend the roll didn't happen, or is Pete stabbed and now I need to help save him to keep the bargain?

I'm certainly now seeing why you've focused on the importance of bargains in earlier threads.  Also a part of the text that could use a bit of spotlighting, because they didn't seem as centrally important as they are seeming as a result of this discussion.

Yeah, this has been a pretty bizarre thread.  I went from thinking this is a pretty mechanical game where everything is regimented and orchestrated mechanically, board game style...but has a lot of holes and assumptions that haven't made it into the text and need to -- to now thinking this is a pretty open, freeform, hardly regulated game...but has a lot of holes and assumptions that haven't made it into the text and need to.  They're just very different holes than I thought they were.

Cool...I'm a little disappointed to learn that, because I was grooving on the plays-like-a-boardgame vibe I got from the text, so I'll have to adjust my expectations for the next time I play; but I'm at least starting to feel like I could play it and get it to work better than it did this time.
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