[IaWA] Breaking Bad Habits

Started by lumpley, April 17, 2008, 02:43:58 PM

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Mike Holmes

Excellent, you've started to predict my upcoming questions, and have skipped ahead two steps in the discussion at least with that last post. So, I'm guessing that you've predicted my next question, too, which comes down to you discussing the "time-and-space" considerations that you discussed, or why I might, as answerer, not just always narrate my character denying yours.

Basically, if on the last round (per the example you give), you decide as answerer to keep the ring, then we're back to where we were. Basically, win or lose, you can prevent my character from getting the ring with the last say. And, eventually, it comes down to how much I'm willing to gamble losing (with diminishing chances of success, as you note) on going at you another time to get what I want. Yes, we're technically free to chose to lose. But I'm seeing no incentive to do that. Why not have the objective to bargain with if you lose? Why voluntarily give that away, and have to bargain with less?

Drama, right?

Yeah, I get that I'm somehow missing some aesthetic consideration here that I'm supposed to get. The game clearly sides with drama in some cases, like encouraging players to take on things over their character's heads, so that they get on the owe list. But it very much the resolution looks to me like the same old escallation system, with negotiation between each phase, with the limit on number of escalations being the number of dice I have before I am eliminated. You can rearrange the verbage, but the rules seem to me to work the same. The player gives you what you want, or you escalate to a new round. Eventually you get the stakes, or you lose.

Or you give up because aesthetics tell you to.

Now, if you're saying, yes, that's how it works, and that's fine, then we're back to my original objection, which is that this leads to the uncomfortable pressure that I mentioned earlier.

So are we back to that, or am I still not understanding the mechanical repercussions?

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Mike Holmes

Let me try this zen approach, shorter than the above:

Mike: It feels as though the system doesn't resolve anything neccessarily, unless you press to the death.
Vincent: See, there's no stakes, it doesn't resolve anything in one conflict (though we can do that by narration if we wish), other than who has the stick.
Mike: Yes, that's the problem exactly.

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My zen answer:

Mike: It feels as though the system doesn't resolve anything necessarily, unless you press to the death.
Vincent: Right. Fortunately, it does resolve all kinds of things unexpectedly. Also, pressing to the death is fun too, when you mean it.

I'm saying the opposite of the aesthetic thing you're predicting. I'm saying, cool, press to the death, if that's what you want to do. It's allowed. In fact, it's what you should obviously do when you're intent-to-the-death upon something and your opponent is intent-to-the-death upon keeping it from you.

If you're playing the dice and narration right, pressing to the death is just as fun as negotiating. The fact that pressing felt to you like repeating means that you were mishandling the dice and narration. Do the dice and narration right - and I mean procedurally right, not "aesthetically right" - and pressing will be pressing, and you won't hesitate to do it.



Quote from: lumpley on April 29, 2008, 05:32:25 PM
And here's another, also valid:

Round 1: I challenge, I win, you narrate my character grabbing the ring, but mine having yours off-balance and vulnerable.
Round 2: I challenge, I win, you narrate my character punching yours repeatedly (which was my character's action), but yours still holding onto the ring.
Round 3: I challenge, I win the round and the overall contest, you narrate. I'm stomping your character but he's curled up fetal around the ring.
In negotiation, I propose that you just give me the goddamn ring already, but you'd rather be exhausted or injured, so I injure you.

Don't you mean in Round 1 "you narrate your character grabbing ring" for this to flow consistently?


Eero Tuovinen

As I understand from listening to Vincent, the game's system doesn't actually resolve conflicts in any explicit manner. It merely allows characters to take actions and resolves those, assigning mechanical packets of damage to the characters. There is another game that works like this. It's Dungeons & Dragons. The only difference is that here the combat is paced forcibly (somebody damages somebody by necessity, so there's no whiff) and players are allowed to negotiate detached from character motivation (which allows things like a character stumbling and failing by player permission). Of course the fight coreography is also enforced differently: in D&D you have to differentiate between armed and unarmed attacks and such, while in IWAWA you need to describe how characters threaten each other and how they have an advantage against their opponent.

The reason that conflicts get resolved in D&D, or in IWAWA, is that players will either back off or characters die at some point. IWAWA supports characters striving to win while players back off for dramatic reasons, though, which opens up the range of possible conflict resolutions that do not work in D&D without special rules for knocking characters out, making them fall down, etc. In IWAWA players do not need to have their characters die for their convictions just because they're paladins - they can go behind the character's back and negotiate that the character drops down a cliff or whatever, and thus can't insist on continuing on to the bitter end.

Perhaps the system would be easier to understand if it was not considered as a "conflict resolution system" in the forgean sense, but rather as just a fighting system ("system for resolving armed or other conflicts of interest between characters", eh?). It certainly is a task resolution system, theory-wise, resolving conflicts only by the virtue of pressuring players to negotiate a resolution to their conflict. Even sticking to the resolution is not enforced, except for the threat of new violence. So there's a conflict resolution system there only insofar as "you have to negotiate to resolve conflicts" is a "system".

Seems pretty clear to me. My game-in-development Eleanor's Dream has a pretty similar negotiation system, actually.
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So... late to the party, but, doesn't Sorcerer more or less work like that?

I mean, I could've sworn there was a discussion about exactly that somewhere on Storygames a month or so back. Cues, pressure, building advantage that doesn't force you to lose your authorship unless it kills you... sounds like the same conclusions.

Or am I remembering wrong?
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Sorcerer and In A Wicked Age are kissing cousins in terms of resolution.  I maintain that they ARE conflict resolution but they resolve only momentary action driven clashes between characters, not chunks of plot.



Eero: That's why Vincent likes to call rounds 'action sequences'.

Eero Tuovinen

Rereading what I wrote last night, there's probably an argument there about task/conflict resolution for anybody minded to uphold those two as polar opposites. That's not the case, however: as I'm fond of saying, all games resolve tasks and all games resolve conflicts somehow, for any other way lies madness. It's just a matter of how you resolve them, and it seems to me that in IAWA that resolution always happens by player consensus egged on by imminent bodily harm to the underdog character if the player doesn't find an equitable compromise. The matter of who happens to have the ring at any given moment is a red herring in this, as no conflict is actually being resolved and set aside by the players, unless they make a deal and hold to it: a player can always come back and try to get the stakes again, thus no conflict being resolved simply by utilizing the combat mechanics. This is just like D&D or other games that do not respect conflict stakes: you can hit each other all day long in D&D, but it doesn't actually prevent a character from trying the grapple mechanics for the seventh time to get the ring. Only one party backing down or being incapacitated does that.

And yes, Sorcerer has a lot of the same action going on, although my understanding has been that in Sorcerer you're supposed to have tacit agreement with the other players about there being a conflict of interest that is being resolved, with the current action as a crucial turn in the events. So if the conflict was about getting the ring, for example, then the one resolution procedure would resolve who is being locally in control of the ring, and that's that, unless we go into the fight mechanics. Somebody with more Sorcerer wrangling in their history can probably outright say whether this is so or not - could a player in Sorcerer just come back and demand a reroll? I don't think so. Definitely they could if it was a complex conflict with harm and all, but not in a normal one as far as I understand. So in that regard Sorcerer does explicit conflict resolution: stakes (implicit ones) are being won or lost, and players are expected to honor those stakes.
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Peter Nordstrand

Regarding Sorcerer, I suggest that you take a look at the illuminating thread Amazing Series of Sorcerer Threads on SG, including all the threads at storygames linked to therein.
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law


One of the things I'm trying to get to here is that in the Wicked Age, you ALSO can't just demand a reroll. By the end of an action sequence, circumstances have changed enough that pressing the fight ISN'T just a reroll.

Mike, I think I had an insight into your dissatisfaction, driving to work this morning.

In the game's source material:
- the person who holds onto the ring despite every grief poured out upon him: Conan.
- the person who pours vast grief upon Conan but never wins the ring from him: the Sorcerer-king.

The reason that the loser can hold on to the one thing that really matters, while the winner can do nothing but smash, rend, break, bloody, and ultimately kill, never taking the one thing that really matters, is because that's how it works in the Flat Earth, Lyonesse, and the Hyborean Age.

You'll notice that the owe list rules are extremely coherent with this.

My conclusion: the game mechanics were treating your character as a villain, because your character was acting the villain. You said (I'm paraphrasing) "why wouldn't I always choose driving goal best interests, and why wouldn't I always fight to the death for them?" The answer is: please do, if you want to. However, you should know that when you do, the game appropriately considers your character a villain, and treats him accordingly.


Mike Holmes

Funny, I see how it's supposed to work now, but I think your arguments are bad.

First, I don't agree that pounding to get what you want is neccessarily villainous. If you look at the characters in question here, while John's character was a protagonist in her own way, she was at least as villainous as my character. I think that everyone felt that she deserved to get pounded by the ogre. What's more, again, by that point I had revealed how my character was, in fact, giving of himself to get what he needed for others. That is, he didn't want to be an ogre, he felt he had to in order to get what he wanted. What's more, he didn't really want to pound on folks, but did it because he knew that the survival of his culture was on the line.

I thought that it was very hyborian age in it being about end's justifying means, and being very grim. About survival.

I was Conan trying to get the ring from the Sorcerer King. At least that's how it felt to me. And the fact that I couldn't get John to give up the ring without pounding seemed odd.

Rather, again, I think the real problem was that John felt uncomfortable accepting the deal. That is, in keeping with the source material, he should have done what he did, and he did give. The problem being that he felt that he was being potentially jobbed by the mechanics, which couldn't enforce the deal he was making. That is, the mechanics were telling him that, despite the Hyborian aesthetic, where he should give, that he was being compelled not to do so. So that when he did go with the aesthetic, he felt a bit the fool for doing so. Or, rather, was doing it despite what the mechanics were telling him to do.

Of course... it was really much more like my character was Conan beating up on Red Sonya. That is, both were protagonists in their own right, so there's bad guy to give. His character should hold on, if they want to in order to be the protagonist who doesn't give in, but at the same time this makes my character look like the villain, yes. That's a contradiction right there.

Could the problem be that we had more than one protagonist, and the genre allows only one? Or that all protagonists be on the same side, instead of having best interests that oppose each other?

Second, I'm not understanding your statement that the situation will neccessarily change in conflicts. If, in fact, that was the case, then I'd probably have much less objection. But, while I understand that players do have the power to change the situation during conflicts through narrations, I'm not seeing that this will always automatically happen. In fact, in our play it was precisely because these situation changes did not occur (just one reason) that it felt wrong to do the contest again in several cases.

If what you're saying is that the technique you give of resolving the question on the first round solves this, again, I'm not seeing this as likely to happen often, or be effective at the end. I'm seeing the character who answers on the last round putting the situation precisely back to square one in most cases. He starts out saying, "Oh no you don't" and ends up saying, "Oh no you don't, unless you negotiate with me." So the only change in the situation, if they take injury or exhaustion instead of accepting negotiation, is the description of the events of the scuffle. The question of character situation remains unchanged.

There's the associated tacit question I ask above. Let me be more explicit: when agreeing to a negotiated result, how much lattitude to the players involved have to create finished action after the conflict?

Lets say in the actual play example that I had offered: "I get the treasure, but then we together conquer Player C's character." As in we don't go and attempt to conquer player C's character, but, if agreed to, the event is a done deal. Is that valid? Or can negotiations only involve the reasonable outcome parts of the conflict that's occuring?

If, in fact, you can do more than have your character promise future action, but can actually effect it, that changes things. Put another way, is the negotiation between the players, or is it between the characters? If between the players, what are the boundaries of the choices made.

My apologies at this point for not having a copy of the game on hand. The answer to this question might be plainly in the text, and I've merely forgotten it.

All this said, if, in fact, the system is just has an extended resolution system that is sorta reminiscent of D&D as stated above, then I get it. And I think it might work better than D&D in terms of moral questions because of the context of the other rules (Combat plus EXP creates amoral genocide play). I'll have to consider it in that context. But that doesn't change how I felt in actual play.

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David Artman

Quote from: Mike Holmes on April 30, 2008, 02:37:39 PMAll this said, if, in fact, the system is just has an extended resolution system that is sorta reminiscent of D&D as stated above, then I get it.
From my recent demo-driven actual play and full reading (and recognizing how our AP didn't quite follow the rules) and reading Vincent's various replies... yeah, you get it. Forget stakes--there are none. There's "I Do This And Fuck All Of You" and there's "Oh, No, You Don't, You Fucking Asshole!" and a slight ret-con (not undoing the I Do This, but interrupting it mid-Do).

It's all Means, not Intent. We don't care about your intent. We care that you Did something which we can't accept lying down.

Roll the dice for initiative, winner keeps that as attack roll, loser rolls again to "defend". No one doubled up? Ok, then high roller has advantage and add die. (Maybe We Owe the loser.) Loser describes the setback. Negotiate or go to round 2.
Repeat rolling in round 2. Negotiate or go to round 3.
High roll in round 3 injures or exhausts loser, or negotiates with that stick with the loser.

No where in that is "set stakes" or "and the winner gets what he or she intended prior to round 1." Hell, the conflict could be across a continent and months of time away from the MacGuffin over which the fight began. The MacGuffin could have been destroyed in the scuffle--this time, it's a ring; next time, it might be a mirror or a fragile damsel. Or the round 3 negotiation could be "OK, you get the damned thing, already." I'd negotiate to let you have it in lieu of my being injured or exhausted, if narration got us to that point. "No, don't strike! Here' take it, with my best wishes." And then...
(To GM) "He turns around and I stab him in the back."--"Oh, No, You Don't!" Repeat.

But usually, the "I Do This" is gone forever, UNLESS "I Do This" is the winner's narration, all over again. And, yep, the loser can--if not out of game/dead--say "Oh, No, You Don't" all over again. As I see it, this is one of the very few ways a single "scene's" conflict can take a character from fit and healthy to dead. No one backs off on I Do or No, You Don't; and two or three injuries/exhausts will kill most characters.

Making sense? Apple butter or shit?

Note that, for myself (and maybe your own sanity) it might be best if you did winner, proactive narration rather than loser, reactive narration. Some scenes sort of demand the latter (sneaking around, a chase scene); but for a straight-up fight, I'd prefer winner narration over trying to come up with some way to self-disadvantage after every losing roll. Plus, with loser narration, it's tempting to get into mealy mouth "disadvantages" like "I get the ring back, but slip and fall at your feet." --yeah, you get the MacGuffin, but it feels 'wrong' to me to be able to "lose" and yet gain the MacGuffin under dispute, if only for a round... but what's to say I don't keep it the whole exchange, and as such end "losing" in possession of he ring? Well, nothing--and that's how you get rolling battles. You'll have that ring if you have to lop off my hand--and head--to keep it....
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Mike Holmes

David, the first part of your post simply seems to be recapitulating what Vincent said. So I'm not sure what your point is with that part.

For the second part... you're proposing an alternate rule? That you and I might like better?

Note that I think the whole "No stakes" thing is semantics. Yeah, the resolution system doesn't directly resolve who gets X, but if you kill the thing that's stopping you from getting X, you get it. That is, very much even if the stakes are not resolved, that's not to say that they aren't present. No matter the fact that the system didn't give me a way to resolve if I got the treasure, that was what I was seeing as being at stake when I went into the conflict.

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