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Author Topic: [IAWA] How Old-School Is It?  (Read 2655 times)
Supplanter
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« on: November 28, 2009, 12:20:25 PM »

Quote
"No one rolls any dice."

 - In a Wicked Age

I had a funny thought this week sparked by the final session of our current campaign and something I read somewhere in Retroland. (Grognardia? The ODD proboards site? Somewhere.)

Toward the climax of the chapter, the GM and I got into a cool bit of freeplay which was all about his NPC (childless woman tending altar) getting her best interest at the expense of my PC's (prophet raving about self-flagellation etc - wanting to convert entire valley to self-flagellation etc), her best interest being to get me to marry her and give up this self-mortification thing. All while a possibly apocalyptic storm closes in on the luck-magician.

Her pitch was really good, and Toth Seren (my prophet) recognized that her altar-tending constituted amazing self-discipline and self-denial, so we were pretty much happy to roll with the outcome. I sort of felt obligated to involve the dice system by egging the tempter-demon PC into inflaming my passions, sealing the deal, but in retrospect that was extraneous activity. In Dogs terms it was a conflict you want to lose. In IAWA terms it was maybe not worth having.

Now, I am cool with getting major fiction-changing stuff done via freeplay. And it was a useful lesson in just how broad the scope is for meaningful freeplay in IAWA. Particularly since it's the best way to have "nice things" (accord, fellowship, reconciliation) happen. It's maybe a sneaky part of the game that there is considerable scope for tenderness and friendship - you just can't instantiate friendship and tenderness in the fiction by (mechanical) conquest at the table. (Imagine!) You can stab someone in the face, but you can't stab them into liking you. That's not the same as saying you can't get them to like you.

Now, yeah, that's already pretty "OSR" as the Old-School Renaissance characterizes itself. But the other OSR angle is from the thing I read, which rang true in my memory. It was basically, "OD&D (and other early versions) weren't about 'killing things and taking their stuff' because the last thing you wanted to do was get in combat, especially at low levels. The game was about trying to figure out a way to beat the monsters or get the treasure or map the level while avoiding as much danger as possible."

Now, IAWA isn't deadly like early, low-level D&D. And there are reasons to want to engage the dice system at least enough to get onto the Owe list. But where IAWA dicing does, I think, resemble retro-D&D dicing is that conflicts are very, very chancy. I don't think anyone can enter into face-stabbing in IAWA with much certainty about how it's going to turn out. It took me a very long time to internalize this, but it does seem that if you really want something in IAWA, you have an incentive to either end-run the dice or stack the odds in your favor first. Allies are great for the latter, but you can't beat someone into allying with you.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on the above? From certain viewpoints it reads like a criticism - "system letting you down!" but I don't see it that way at all. (I had this argument with someone else in our play group.) As an adherent of the Lumpidoodly Principoodly I think it's just system being itself. And as far as vivifying swords and sorcery, I think it's great: it's congruent with a world in which it's very easy to hurt someone else (or try to) and much harder to accord with them.

Best,


Jim
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2009, 10:16:38 AM »

I'm for it, of course. I'm flattered to be called OSR.

Here are my thoughts:

System as such = the group's interactions.

A game's rules constrain or moderate the group's interactions.

For places in system design where the group's natural, instinctive, native interactions will serve, there's no reason to constrain or moderate them, thus no need for rules.

So: in the Wicked Age, for my character to talk yours into doing something, I have to have my character say things that legitimately convince yours to do it, and since you're the sole owner of the inside of your character's head, you're the final judge whether I've done that. That's my system design spec. In context of the rest of the system, "I say what my character says" and "you say what your character does" are all the rules that design goal calls for.

-Vincent
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2009, 07:41:38 PM »

I recall you praising the OSR (on Anyway?) sometime within the last year. I'm favorable but conflicted about aspects of it. But then hell, that's how I feel about the Forge! ;)

In this case I was interested in how the chanciness of "combat" is OSR-y. But while we're on the subject of LP System and IAWA, I would love your perspective on something that came up in our final session. We had the wielder of luck magics pursued by a storm. We had me, his friend the prophet all for mortifying the flesh and self-flagellation. And my prophet, Toth Seren, pretty much instantly declared that the storm had the potential to destroy the very Age. Cause, you know, he's a bit of a pessimist.

I'd have been happy enough if Toth Seren were Chicken Little OR Cassandra. And I had no authority to settle the storm's apocalyptic nature in the fiction, as I understand it. We did NOT set the nature of the storm in, as it were, stone during setup. Didn't fill out an NPC sheet for it. (I realize we could have.)

So, at that point, it's the GM's call, right? Does he have absolute authority to decide whether the storm threatens all of existence? Once he does that, does he also get to decide what will stop it? Nobody's particular strength is "Wrestling Apocalyptic Storms." If the wielder of luck magics wants to kick the storm's ass, then if he has specified luck magic as "far-reaching" should the GM then create the storm as an NPC on the fly?

The way we did it in the event was, the altar-tender's player suggested that if the altar-tender and I married (her best interest) it would stave off the apocalypse, everyone was pretty happy with this as the condition and I was pretty happy with marrying the altar-tender. GM had the final word on whether this worked or not. I was perfectly happy with how it went, and I'd like the game less if we had to fully specify all "important things" before beginning play.

But let's take the hard case where you've got four people and one would rather the storm NOT be apocalyptic and another would rather that prophet and altar-tender hooking up NOT be the answer to the storm. Are they out of luck because it's the GM's call, or what?

Best,


Jim
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2009, 10:10:52 AM »

GM's sole call, yes. The thing for the GM to do if somebody's fighting against the storm is to stat the storm up as an NPC and roll dice on its behalf, exactly.

Now, even if the GM decides that the storm is an apocalyptic age-ender, ending the age isn't the GM's call. Particularly, the GM doesn't have authority to sweep the owe list clean. The players whose characters are still on the owe list have a lot of power over what the end of the age looks like and means.

-Vincent
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Supplanter
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2009, 06:07:18 PM »

Now, even if the GM decides that the storm is an apocalyptic age-ender, ending the age isn't the GM's call. Particularly, the GM doesn't have authority to sweep the owe list clean. The players whose characters are still on the owe list have a lot of power over what the end of the age looks like and means.

Ooh, how? I'm only sort of seeing it.

In principle, if the age ends, the GM can still satisfy the owe-list because of the fluidity of gametime. This chapter the Age ends. Next chapter, Toth Seren is at the top of the owe list. Okay, GM says, "As to when this takes place, I'm thinking before the end of the age, when Toth Seren and all his kind were obliterated." Time-of-chapter is always GM's call, right? Or even: in the New Age, when Toth Seren now exists in a transformed version.

But, hm. Is this a corollary of the rule that says you can't negotiate consequences for characters not party to a conflict? That seemed plausible to me when I first thought of it. But, what if all the PCs fight the storm and lose together? That's damned unlikely mechanically, so what if two PCs join the storm against the other two PCs, and the anti-storm side loses. Let's just really go all the way: the anti-storm side loses and refuses to negotiate; so the pro-storm side injures them, kicks their ass again and knocks them out of the chapter. At this point, everyone on the winning side favors apocalypse. As an identity, so do all PCs left in the chapter. What about now?

Note: I'm perfectly okay with an explicit rule that the GM can't do anything that major without the consensus of the people on the Owe List, I'm just trying to figure out how clearly this arises from the existing rules. I can be slow to grasp the implications of things.

Thanks,


Jim
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2009, 10:05:04 AM »

Quote
Time-of-chapter is always GM's call, right?

Nope! That one's a shared call.

It follows from the rules about returning characters. I'm Toth Seren's player, let's say, and the session after the apocalyptic storm we make our oracle draw and at character creation I say "okay, this is Toth Seren as an old man, 20 years older than last session."

The GM's a full and active participant in chapter setup, so yes, as GM you'll have enormous say what things are like 20 years after the last session. You can say that this is the New Age, and Toth Seren has to make his way as a surviving relic, for instance. You just can't now say that everyone from the old age is gone and forgotten.

(In the Flat Earth, Tanith Lee did this kind of thing all the time. "Then there followed an age of innocence, for without Wickedness, there was no wickedness...")

-Vincent
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2009, 05:33:43 PM »

Quote
Time-of-chapter is always GM's call, right?

Nope! That one's a shared call.

Gah. I get it now. On a reread of the rules, the "you" on the right side of the first From One Chapter to the Next . . . page is collective, then. We got it in our heads that the GM controlled time flow. That's an aspect of the game I do like better as a shared call, I think. I also think I'd give primacy to the top of the Owe List when consensus is elusive.

(In the Flat Earth, Tanith Lee did this kind of thing all the time. "Then there followed an age of innocence, for without Wickedness, there was no wickedness...")

Some day I will find these things. The books seem to be OP, they don't make used bookstores like they used to (literally) and internet-ordering keeps falling foul of ADD or whatever.

Thanks,


Jim
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Unqualified Offerings - Looking Sideways at Your World
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