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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 44 - most online ever: 843 (October 22, 2020, 11:18:00 PM)
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Author Topic: I'm thinking of a number...  (Read 12799 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2008, 08:51:51 AM »

Hiya,

I'm really glad you posted, Steenan. Although my preferred play and designs rely on Author Stance (and here I'm referring to the use of out-of-character knowledge to strengthen in-character play), I always want to stress that it's only one way to play.

The tension between known vs. unknown targets or results isn't a matter of good technique vs. bad technique. I experienced tension between the methods, in my own game design. In the Sorcerer rules, a single roll is to be kept closed. However, in practice, it tended not to be worth the effort, and various discussions here resulted in a more soft application. However, no one, including me, has been willing to open that particular roll completely. So that tension isn't about clinging to a bad/outdated technique, it has something to do with the right function for this particular game.

So far, people have rightly raised important points about trust. That's certainly the key issue. What really hits hard in your post, Steenan, is that you correctly point out that closed/unknown methods are not synonymous with untrustworthy, deceptive play.

Granted, closed/unknown methods may be vulnerable to such play, and as far as that goes I agree entirely with Jim and Filip.

Let's go past that, though. Given the presence of trust, what are the utility, enjoyment, and practical issues regarding closed/unknown resolution? I have some bits and pieces that I'd really like to see hammered and shaped by the discussion. Again, for purposes of all the following, let's assume that (a) no deception is being practiced, e.g., the GM really is coming up with target values; (b) no deception is even desired, so "temptation" doesn't enter into things; and (c) the actual quantitative results are honored even if most of the players don't see them.

Bit 1: Unknown target numbers aren't quite the same as unknown outcomes; the latter is more general. We could play in a game in which you, the non-GM, always know your target value but I, the GM, conduct my part of resolution out of sight and so you don't know whether the dice-outcome or whatever actually ended up doing. Champions was like that a lot, in my experience, until I realized the effort didn't match any purpose for me and started rolling openly. Or we could play a game in which you typically did know your target value (and that's all you needed), and once in a while I wouldn't tell you and you rolled anyway.

Bit 2: Logistics matter, or more specifically, handling time. In some cases, closed/unknown resolution is a pain in the ass, requiring screens, holding several numbers in your head, and stuff like that. (This reminds me of many 80s games which featured a very minor but frequent form of closed/unknown methods, in which everything was in sight except for a variety of possible penalties and bonuses that the GM had to apply mentally.) In others, it's actually easier, when you cross-reference stuff on a table - why bother explaining it?

Bit 3: Uncertainty is already built into fortune-based methods, so it's worth talking about whether further uncertainty is necessary in terms of the numbers that go into or come out of the method. If we're talking about a situation of solid trust, where's the benefit? I'm not willing to claim flat out that there isn't any possible.

Best, Ron
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jag
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« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2008, 10:49:13 AM »

Let's go past that, though. Given the presence of trust, what are the utility, enjoyment, and practical issues regarding closed/unknown resolution? I have some bits and pieces that I'd really like to see hammered and shaped by the discussion. Again, for purposes of all the following, let's assume that (a) no deception is being practiced, e.g., the GM really is coming up with target values; (b) no deception is even desired, so "temptation" doesn't enter into things; and (c) the actual quantitative results are honored even if most of the players don't see them.

...

Bit 3: Uncertainty is already built into fortune-based methods, so it's worth talking about whether further uncertainty is necessary in terms of the numbers that go into or come out of the method. If we're talking about a situation of solid trust, where's the benefit? I'm not willing to claim flat out that there isn't any possible.

Let me give you an example from Actual Play, involving Actor stance and checks whose success and failure wasn't apparent to our characters.  The uncertainty of what those checks meant added a lot of flavour to a tactical situation.

We were using home-brew D&D 3.0 and a generally traditional setup.  Our characters had, in effect, thrown rocks at a huge hornet's nest and ran back to an extremely defensible spot to await the oncoming onslaught (that we'd have no chance against on level ground).  This defensible spot was the peak of some mountain, with only a single bridge as an entrance/chokepoint.  Towards the later stages of battle, the DM made my theify-type character make Alertness checks against an unknown target number.  Each time (except for the last) my character noticed nothing, and I as a player did not know if that meant there was nothing, or that i had failed my roll.  The last time, however, i had clearly failed the check, since i was backstabbed (and put out of commission) by some high-level ranger baddie that had, it turns out, been sneaking/climbing around the back to flank us.

Not knowing the number, in this case, added to the suspense.  For me at least, it's not always possible in a tactical situation to 'ignore' information my character doesn't know.  Sometimes that's fine, but it's also nice to be surprised too.

As a counterpoint, the most exciting roll in that battle was the final one.  All of our party, except for one, was incapacitated and bleeding, and the last character was facing a barbarian in the final throes of his rage.  We knew our last character was one hit away from death, and that the barbarian would easily smack him down on his next move.  Critically, we also knew that the barbarian had 8 hit points left, which (according to our rules and the character's dagger) meant that the character had to both win initiative, AND roll a 20 on the attack to survive.  He rolled, won initiative, then to great cheers rolled a 20.  That roll only had that effect because we knew that we had won that roll without GM fudging, which required us to know the numbers before-hand.

James
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JB
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« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2008, 11:18:42 AM »

Thanks to everyone who's posted so far.  Y'all have raised a lot of great points and clarified a number of things along this topic. 

My main points when I started the thread were:
 
1) If you're writing a game, be aware of the 'disclosure issue' and be clear about the procedure in your text or you run the risk of people playing a different game from the one you wrote without realizing it. * 

2) What are the benefits of using non-disclosure/hidden resolutions, if any?   Ron's post above does a great job of further focusing this question. 

Steenan and Callan have both touched on this, and James (Jag)'s example does actually show one situation where 'knowing about the roll but not knowing the result' added to enjoyment of the game.  I'd posit that the suspense** came not from not knowing whether there was something there, but from the strong suspicion that there was indeed something there that your character was missing and not knowing what it was.  But it does seem like knowing outright that you were failing a series of rolls would have reduced the tension.  Likewise, it wouldn't have worked if the GM had gone the route of 'making the rolls for you'.  It's almost using 'obfuscation' (?) as a staging technique.

We're getting somewhere. Keep it coming.
 
Cheers,
Jim

* None of the 'Forged-indie' games I'm familiar have this problem. As examples, look at how The Number in Trollbabe, Inspectres rotating narration privileges, and the dice bidding mechanics of DitV and Dust Devils make it damn clear that you play with disclosure, as the game mechanics won't function without it.  Maybe you could adapt the mechanics to allow for play without disclosure, but again, it's damn clear that you're changing things.
 
** I read 'suspense' with a real specific definition of 'delay of the expected and/or inevitable'. That may be too tight or too loose for our use here.
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dindenver
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« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2008, 01:01:23 PM »

Jim,
  This is a good thread.
  When I wrote LoL, I had this problem in mind. In the end it was a no brainer, the roll has to be open, or the luck mechanic doesn't work. And based on that, I did have to put a blurb in the GM section reminding players of that.

  Hidden rolls are a fun part of good trust/healthy games. But, I think if there are social contract or other interpersonal issues happening, it can serve as a flash point for an existing issue with the group.
  Everything from confirming distrust (he is fudging the number to tell his predetermined plot) to robotic behavior (I failed a closed spot check. OK, I'll keep checking til I pass).But, these are non-issues if everyone in the group is playing the same game.
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Dave M
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Callan S.
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« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2008, 04:14:06 PM »

Perhaps I'm a jaded gamer, but...
If I trust him, there is no need to avoid any risk of manipulation on his part.
Well, your own sense of who to trust isn't perfect, surely? So there may be plenty of need to avoid manipulation. If both the person is like that, and a lapse in the sense of who to trust happen to coincide, then there is a very strong need to avoid manipulation that wouldn't be being forfilled.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2008, 04:35:36 PM »

Ooops, thought I was reading the second page when I wrote that.

I'll add this: In terms of someone who doesn't even desire to decieve, this includes decieving by simply having poor reading skills. Their working honestly, but their understanding of the text is flawed. This is manipulation at a level even the deciever isn't aware of because they intend no deception (sublime, eh?). When working with hidden numbers, he doesn't face potentially corrective feedback from peers.
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