[Trollbabe] Keep on Rockin' in the Troll World

Started by James_Nostack, February 28, 2009, 01:35:59 PM

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Callan S.

Paul, Thanks for the description, I get what you mean a bit more now.

I don't know the rules of trollbabe, but what I'm gleaming is that incapacitation has a large statistical effect - atleast on th option of further fighting. And I'm assuming on any physical/fighting conflict, there are odds of getting an incapacitation (I may very well be wrong - ignore the rest of this post if so). Ie, there are no 'just for show' fights or 'grind off a few hitpoints' fights. Did it seem like a significant choice about the trollbabes future (and the future of anyone she might have affected otherwise) at the time?



The only true effect of Incapacitation, under the rules, is that if--while you're still incapacitated--you fail some one more roll, you're seriously screwed (and possibly dead if the player chooses).

The difficulty with incapacitation, during our game, is that the rules imply that recovery shouldn't be a trivial matter.  So, my inclination was to keep Thora out of the story for, say, a day or so as she gets her act together.  This is problematic vis-a-vis two players in the same scenario, because while Thora licks her wounds, Ingrid's out there kicking ass all over the place, and it (comparatively) deprotagonizes Thora.  She's like the dude playing D&D whose character dies and he has to sit and watch for a while.

The obvious solution was to frame scenes for Ingrid over a longer time period - so Thora's recovery takes place a scene later (as happened in play) just that the next scene is days later.  Nobody's deprotagnized or even notices the problem.  Easy enough, but it was late after a hard day's work and it slipped my mind.

Ron Edwards


The interplay of rules is subtler than that, although I recognize that there's no way to explain it to someone who doesn't know the rules, including not even what a Series of rolls is.

Incapacitation is narrated either by GM or player, depending on who wins that final roll (and whether it goes to possible incapacitation and that final roll is player's choice in the first place, as you know). Let's stick with player narration for purposes of my point.

I'm playing the trollbabe. She gets incapacitated. How is precisely and only up to me. That means that if I narrate terrible wounds which will factor into later narration, and most immediately require a long time to recover to preserve even a hint of in-story plausibility, then it was my choice to do so. You, as GM, cannot possibly be deprotagonizing my character by according with the constraints which I, given 100% freedom about it, chose to impose.

If I want my trollbabe kickin' and rarin' to go as soon as possible in the story (and even, although I think it's another boogeyman, perhaps concerned not to "lose time" relative to another trollbabe), then all I have to do is narrate injury and incapacitation in ways which do not require much in-story time to recover from.

Paul and Dave, I don't know whether you were under the impression that narrating injury and incapacitation had to follow the same in-story content usually associated with those terms in role-playing games - and with the associated mechanics that impose considerable recovery time. In the case that that wasn't clear, then I'll state it here: they don't.

This is another rules-update issue, in two ways. First, various injury rules are now different, most significantly that Injured is a single status that isn't changed by being injured again, and also that recovery is much simpler and doesn't require "going back up the ladder". (That'll make a big difference to you, Paul, because you can get it all back with just one scene). Second, I've now integrated these rules with the narration issues from the Series itself, as I briefly touched on in the first part of this post.

Best, Ron
edited to remove redundant sign-off

Paul T

Ah, Ron, that clears up a lot of things. Thank you for taking the time to discuss this with us in such great detail!

I just wanted to add:

You know how you said that the whole "player narrates failure" part is important?

Well, two things.

One, as I understood the rules (note: I have not read the book), once I was incapacitated and/or injured twice and rolling two different Action Types, failure meant that the GM narrated, unless I was prepared to narrate a death or other final fate for my character.

This may be due to a misunderstanding of the rules on my part. But it certainly caused part of the problem. It sounds like you're addressing it in the new text (and, possibly, the old text as well).

Two, and this is more of an observation I find interesting:

There is a distinctly different headspace, at least for me, for "narrating failure". In one such "headspace", I am a creative author, coming up with some interesting twist in the story that comes about from a character's failure. I'm used to exercising this as a GM, and also as a player in some games of my own design. In another headspace, there is a feeling of far less freedom.

In this game, I felt a strong identification with my character--partially because something about the Trollbabe setup draws me to "play myself" rather than create a totally separate persona, as some other games do. From that headspace, failure is painful and unpleasant--that's what identifying with the character means. When Thora failed her roll to find Gantwood before the humans did, it was instantly "obvious" to me, from that stance, that she would be captured by them. I don't know why or how, but there was no feeling of "hmmm, how could this turn out?" It was just immediately there, irrevocable and inescapable. There was no detailed thought process--that outcome was instantly in my mind, and with no room for reconsideration.

In that headspace, I want to advocate for my character, as a "character player" and not as an author. It's almost as though failure instantly brings to mind the worst possible fear I would have for the character.

Has anyone else experienced this sort of thing? Am I even making sense?

In any case, I wonder whether, as Dave hints, there is a different skillset necessary to play a game like Trollbabe...



Ron Edwards

Hi Paul,

Couple of things - also, the timing is rough for me right now, so this post may not be as tuned as it should be.

1. Narrating incapacitation is more graded than how you described it. An injured trollbabe who fails the next roll in the Series fails her Goal, full stop. But now the question is who narrates it? Default = the GM. But if you want, you can push for one more roll, to win narration, and that's the one that results either in your narration or the GM's narration with your death-option veto.

2. I really don't know if I'm going to be able to convince you of this point. But I am claiming that narrating "from the heart," based on strong character identification, is exactly the right thing to do in Trollbabe - for you as player when she fails (and also for the GM as your ally when she succeeds, which is not the point here). When you felt that her being captured was just right, then that's your narration, period.

I'm saying that what you're calling authoring isn't authoring! It's ... I dunno what, ceasing to play and story-conferencing. It's going "H'mmm, what plot event shall I put in now?" It's pure poison for Trollbabe. What you're calling character-identification play, that's the authoring.

My point to James is that this frees him totally as the GM. He can't de-protagonize the character by running with the immediately-logical consequences of whatever you narrated. (This applies to all player-narrated loss narrations.) That relates to the larger point of not thinking ahead to future scenes when framing a current one - ever, ever, ever.

My point to you is that this frees you totally as the player. Always narrate right from the heart and in the moment. I think you may have read my post above that you should narrate your trollbabe's failures strategically to minimize failure. I was saying the opposite: narrate exactly how you think and feel it happens next, in that moment. If it's harsh, then that's OK, because that cannot "ruin the story."

Most specifically, it cannot delay or distract or deviate from the march of the Stakes from the initial conditions to one of the end-conditions. The GM merely keeps that march going, no matter what. I don't mean to instruct you in your reading, but it may be helpful to review my post about the Stakes earlier in the thread, now that this post's content is up.

Best, Ron

Callan S.

Heya Paul,
Quote from: Paul T on March 11, 2009, 11:53:11 PMWhen Thora failed her roll to find Gantwood before the humans did, it was instantly "obvious" to me, from that stance, that she would be captured by them. I don't know why or how, but there was no feeling of "hmmm, how could this turn out?" It was just immediately there, irrevocable and inescapable. There was no detailed thought process--that outcome was instantly in my mind, and with no room for reconsideration.
Did it feel like you were just following a rule in doing that?

I'm wondering if it just felt like a moment of rule following? And thus didn't feel like a moment of important story in the making. Just asking in case I'm not way off?

Paul T

Ah, great!

In that case, Ron, we're totally on the same page.

The problem, as I see it, was either a misinterpretation of the rules or simply a stroke of bad luck, or both. The way I had understood it at the time was that the combo of being incapacitated and rolling two Action Types at once meant you went straight to the very last box on the page.


That should answer your question as well: it's what Ron said. "Playing from the heart".

Trying to narrate something less "bad" for my character would have felt more like "rule following", and been less satisfying, less visceral. The way I did it, it felt very natural, not like a rule moment. It was all, "Oh, boy! This could go bad for my character!" (And, this fear of HOW it go really bad) Turning into: "And, a failure... that means the worst has materialized, oh no!"

Callan S.

Eh, I was way off. But I'm still really curious. I mean, by playing from the heart, you did co-author following events even if you felt deprotagonised. The trollbabe being unable to effect them is because of how you played the injury from the heart. You can see the ongoing effect playing from the heart had on the narrative (even though it wasn't planned of course)? Or am I asking annoying questions?

David Berg

Note: this post is meant as data, not an argument.

Wirresprocket seemed like a dick.  Gantwood seemed sympathetic.  Neither Thora nor Ingrid stood to lose much that they valued by simply trying to "save the day".  It was kind of the obvious right thing to do: help Gantwood, try to patch things up between humans and trolls (at least to the extent of clearing up misunderstandings), and maybe smack down Wirresprocket if he proved himself evil enough.

Without any meaningful moral judgments to make, I was most interested in, "What happens when our intentions ram into the rest of the fiction, as mediated by the resolution system?"  Do we save Gantwood or not?  And, more importantly (for me), what does that look like?  What color is imparted to the proceedings?

As for strongly identifying with my character, I love gettin' my actor stance on, but there was no emotional investment there.  So my choice was either to just describe what I thought would logically happen or what Ingrid would logically do (which seemed less fun), or to story-conference every decision (mostly in my head) and come up with "what would be a cool addition to the story" (which seemed more fun).  I chose the latter, liked it, and stuck with it.

Perhaps after extended play, building up things that Ingrid cared about, a scenario that threatened those would offer me "just play my character and go with my gut" options that I'd find meaningful.  For a one-shot, though, I didn't find that traction, and opted for the source of fun I've found at con games of PtA.  Maybe if I played "story-conferencing" style more often, I'd get sick of it, but right now I'm still lovin' it.

I feel like there are a million questions I could ask Ron about "what should have gone differently?", but most are pretty idle curiosity, so I'll at least wait.  James, have we gotten to the points you wanted to make in this thread, or have we tangented you to death?  I'm perfectly content to shut up for a while and hear your other thoughts on our game...
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Paul T

Just a quick reply to Callan:

I'm sorry, but I cannot understand at all what you are asking.

If it helps: I don't think I ever said that I felt deprotagonized. If I did, call me out on it, but I don't remember saying so (or feeling that way during the game).

If that doesn't answer your question, please ask again!

Callan S.

Sorry Paul, I don't know why I added that word to the conversation! Replace 'deprotagonised' with 'feelings of helplessness' in what I said. What do you think?

Paul T

Sorry, Callan, but that still doesn't help a whole lot. Are you asking "are you aware that, by narrating failure, you're contributing significantly to the story"?

If that's the question, then the answer is "yes". The problem, however, was two-fold:

1. Knowing how poor the odds were for my Trollbabe both I and the GM (James) felt some reluctance to engage the conflict mechanics at all. It felt in places that James was "going soft" on my character, which, while not the end of the world, was not optimal either. It's more fun to be able to push and push and see what happens, you know?

2. There was some confusion, perhaps, about the rules. In any case, my understanding was that after the first conflict, my failures would be narrated by the GM--at least most of the time.

I feel that the amount of ink spilled over this issue is really blowing it out of proportion, however. While it was present, it was just one incidental detail within a far larger play context.


When I've played the game, I really enjoy losing conflicts. I sometimes declare conflicts for my character and aim them at my weakest area just to get into more complications. Their a great way to acquire relationships too. I recall that even when I was Injured, it would take a failed reroll or two to get to the point where I risked having the GM narrate failure, so it always felt safe.

When I GMed the game, I see the same thing -- the game system makes Trollbabes very resilient and always gives the player the choice whether to risk giving up their narration rights on failure. I don't fear hitting the players hard because I've never seen that take them out of play.

I wonder if the way you interpreted the rules on series and rerolls might have been part of your reticence about conflicts.

- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com

Ron Edwards

Callan, I don't know if you're annoying Paul, but you're annoying me. You are apparently angling toward some kind of comment on the game experience, related to your ongoing investigation of "rules" and "fun," that you're not stating outright and isn't forthcoming. Furthermore, you don't know the game, and probably don't know that Trollbabe is the first RPG ever in which not one instant of play is played without an explicit rule in action. I think you're in the wrong forest barking up the wrong tree.

But what I think isn't authoritative. I don't claim to be right about either your goal or the possible results. What I'm asking is for you to spit out what you're driving at, instead of this Socrates trip of leading questions.

Best, Ron

Callan S.

I don't know, my intuition itched. Is that something everyone else spits out? Paul, your right - I was way off once and seem to be off again as soon as I read your last post, so two strikes and I'm out. Thanks for working on it with me.