[Agon] - So-so'ing our way around the Island of Lycophon

Started by Darcy Burgess, January 03, 2010, 02:25:34 AM

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No, that's not what I'm doing.

Darcy's original analysis is clear and plausible: Agon's rules didn't give his group the occasion to create and share vivid enough imaginary details, so their game felt flat.

I don't think there's any reason to second-guess his group and its play history, in the face of such a straightforward observation. I think it'd be great if we could move past the second-guessing and talk about the observation instead. I want to hear Darcy's thoughts about rules designed to support move vivid, and more shared, in-fiction details.


Darcy Burgess


(Aside: no, I haven't played Beast Hunters)

(Aside: After my little play, Vincent paraphrased what I was trying to say exactly right.)

Ok, so a set of rules that support more vivid, more shared in-fiction details you ask?  Hells, yes, I've got an example.

When we're resolving a conflict in Black Cadillacs, it goes like this: the Troopers (PCs) have an overarching goal for the conflict.  We break the resolution down into little chunks called Gos.  Each Go resolves a bit of action that will either move the Troopers closer or further from achieving their goal.  That's just the context for the rules that I want to talk about.

After the roll, the winner (Player or GM) of the Go decides whether to apply mechanical currency or to narrate the outcome of the roll.  The loser does whichever the winner doesn't.  The mechanical currency comes in three flavours: Horror, Valour and Hubris, and its assignment occurs before narration.

When narration occurs, it's constrained by three things: the declaration of intent for the Go, success or failure on the die roll, and the flavour of the currency assigned.

The currency doesn't simply serve to constrain narration; the values of the currency effect the Troopers' ability to win Gos.

So, what we end up with is a pretty good feedback loop -- we're constantly examining the levels of the currency because that's where efficacy comes from.  We make choices about currency assignement becasue they affect the new currency levels, and therefore future efficacy. Those choices end up impacting everyone's understanding of what's happening in the SIS through the narration rules.

Additionally, because this all (usually) occurs at a fairly fine scale (resolving "I shoot him in the face" as opposed to "I win the battle" during a Go), the sharing of new details tends to happen in manageable chunks.  I find that the magnitude of the stuff that's left unshared is quite fine, so that the SIS is pretty complete.

I have some things to say about the balance between sharing during Intent and sharing during Effect (IIEE), because I think different designs feed the SIS more or less in those stages of resolution.  All of this is just focusing on the proper care and feeding of the SIS during resolution!  Obviously, it happens at other times, too.

Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.

Filip Luszczyk


QuoteDarcy's original analysis is clear and plausible: Agon's rules didn't give his group the occasion to create and share vivid enough imaginary details, so their game felt flat.

Yes, that's why I think actual design intent vs. group expectations would prove a much more fruitful angle for the problem's analysis. I find the assumption that the game should provide a very particular sort of vividness in the first place fundamentally flawed and it doesn't seem to me that the ruleset itself is at fault here. It feels nearly like blaming the design of Chess that gameplay doesn't naturally produce an engaging narrative, I'd say.

RPL's account seems particularly relevant to the issue, showcasing how games of similar sort don't fall flat when approached with compatible expectations.

Either way, since there doesn't seem to be much solid common ground for the discussion (e.g. me having no actual play experience with Black Cadillacs and Darcy having no actual play experience with Beast Hunters), and Darcy doesn't seem interested in that sort of analysis, there's probably nothing more to say for me regarding the problem at hand.

Callan S.

Hi Vincent,

You've read me all wrong. If there was a game who's support of a potentially vivid SIS was 10 out of 10, and a group's inclination to render a vivid SIS was 2 out of 10, then it remains 2 out of 10 even though the game is amazingly supportive. It doesn't matter how supportive the game is, if people aren't inclined to use it. Or as Ron put it, you literally cannot design a game which makes  a person participate. Horse to water and all that, blah blah.

So even if a game like agon is 2 out of 10 for potentially supporting a vivid SIS, it may be the players are only inclined toward a 2 out of 10 level themselves. That's why I'm asking Darcy if the other players match his rating - cause it sounds like his own inclination is higher than a 2.

Perhaps they aren't. Perhaps their play is capped at 2 because of the games design and they are inclined to something higher - I totally grant that could be possible. That's why I'm asking.

Hi Darcy,

Your answer scares the crap out of me! You seem to be putting inclination to enrich the SIS as so much the prerequisite your putting it ahead of consent itself. Like you say both examples are the same - as in, the persons consent being present in one is meaningless and the only important thing is how much in each the SIS is enriched (that's how your measuring their similarity - ie zero enrichment in both).

I'm almost thinking if someone was sleeping near the gaming table and talking in their sleep and it was actually enriching of the SIS, that'd be the key thing for you, even though he has no inclination to play. Though listening to a sleep talker probably sounds humourous and puts off my scaryness point, but oh well.

Darcy Burgess

Hey Callan,

I'll try rephrasing again, as we're obviously at loggerheads.

Content can happen in any artistic medium; content is key!

However, without a SIS, we're not roleplaying, we're engaging in another kind of art.

That's all that my play was trying to say.  This is also the fundamental sticking point between me and Filip, I think.  My expectations of "roleplaying" are just that: collaborative art that involves a SIS.  That's it - but that's a pretty broad definition.  Once you dive in, and start talking about a particular game or type of game, you have to add on to that definition.

In other words, I don't see anything to analyze with regards to expectations.  Me and my friends (and almost assuredly you and yours) are mature and intelligent enough to discriminate between roleplaying, creative writing and music.  Second guessing whether or not we're actually expecting to role-play strikes me as so much hand-wringing.

Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.

Darcy Burgess

Hi Callan,

I totally misread your post, transposing "content" where you wrote "consent".

You're reading too much into the play.  All I was trying to say was that if you don't want to engage in the SIS, you don't want to role-play.  Consent was the furthest thing from my mind. 

Apologies for the piss-poor illustration.  It's obfuscated the point of this discussion.
Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.

Filip Luszczyk


QuoteSecond guessing whether or not we're actually expecting to role-play strikes me as so much hand-wringing.

It seems you are misreading my posts as well.

It's obvious that you were expecting to role-play (specifically, I find Callan's points regarding inclination spot on). Your assertion about your friends' expectations might or might not be accurate, but based on the data you are willing to provide it seems less than obvious.

What is completely not obvious and what I'm trying to figure out since the beginning of this discussion, however, is whether you were also expecting the gaming experience intended for this particular game by design (i.e. in the "feature not a bug" sense). "I love Agon," you proclaim, but it isn't clear what you love the game for specifically. It isn't obvious whether you love the game as is (excluding the challenge setup issue mentioned in your opening post), your love is limited to specific (and perhaps peripheral) aspects of it, or maybe you love what you'd want the game to actually be, but isn't. Plainly speaking, I suspect the game fell flat because it wasn't the game you actually wanted to play that night, and it wouldn't go worse with, say, Arkham Horror (oh, and I still recommend trying out Beast Hunters, if only for the comparison of fundamentally different "gamist" experiences).

The sort of gaming experience in question might or might not be what you term a "role-playing game", might or might not rely on your idiosyncratic understanding of role-playing, and might or might not involve mature enough approach to art* (whatever you see as art, as that's yet another vague territory). Perhaps discriminating between roleplaying, creative writing, music and tactical games and moving on from that point would prove more fruitful than considering the game in terms of activities it might essentially not be intended to support.

Well, overall, based on the last few posts, I no longer expect to be able to help with what you want in this thread, and likewise, there doesn't seem to be anything of value to learn for me here. I just wanted to clarify my point.

* Mature content, beware. The satire might prove difficult to understand for individuals representing certain outlooks.

Callan S.

Hi Darcy,

Returning to my first question - when you say there is an absence of SIS, is there an absence of it, or is it just in measure to your own values that there is an absence? For example, in a game where you'd say there is an SIS, there's probably someone in the world that would say you had no SIS at all and you weren't roleplaying.

QuoteSecond guessing whether or not we're actually expecting to role-play strikes me as so much hand-wringing.
If your taking it that them wanting to roleplay means they want to reach the exact level of SIS you need to say there was a SIS, you may be wrong. Their idea of what qualifies as an SIS may be different to your idea of what qualifies. Or perhaps it's the same. But asking on the matter isn't hand wrangling because you may differ with the rest of the group, or with individual members of the group.

I think a hurdle in this discussion is that your treating your own standards on what is or isn't an SIS as if it's not your own standard but a global standard. And your taking it that if someone says they want to roleplay, they are agreeing to this global standard - when they aren't, the only standard there is your own particular one.

The other players may have differing standards on what constitutes an SIS. Or maybe their standards match or roughly match your own. I wanted to ask about that uncertain element.

Darcy Burgess

Hey Callan,

Of course my expectations differ with other peoples'.  I'd take that as rote, and so should everyone else vis-a-vis their own expectations and those of others.

My assessment of my group's relative expectations, flawed and coloured by my own preconceptions and biases as it is, led me to believe that there was something to discuss here.  I'm not looking to waste anyone's time in this thread -- trust me that I thought that there was something of substance to discuss here, not merely another internet thread that amounts to "oh, theyz dontz play wellz 2gthr, suxxor"

So yeah, Glenn, Glenn, Jason and I had different expectations of how vivid the SIS would be.  Unless you want to find them in realspace and ask them, could we please take it as given that the difference is manageable enough that we can discuss the meat of the question?

Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.


Darcy: yeah!

My working theory is that people most reliably say what they're imagining when someone else at the table needs them to. (It's not a complicated theory.) So in my own designs I've been trying to make sure that whenever your character starts to move, someone else at the table needs to know about it - not just for general "everybody should know about it" reasons, which aren't reliable, but in order to make their own concrete gameplay decisions.

I've been focusing on initiation and execution as the key moments for sharing, though; I've thought very little about intent and effect. Say more about those?


Nathan P.

Hey Darcy,

I'm had some similar experiences with Agon, and developed a couple of techniques for (essentially) cutting off combats once it becomes clear that (a) by the math, someone is going to win eventually but (b) there is no enrichment, to either the fiction or the in-game reward system, by pursuing the current conflict to it's inevitable conclusion. Would it be helpful to you to talk about that kind of stuff in this thread?
Nathan P.
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Callan S.

In my own experience what I'm imagining scales, depending on how much I'm inclined to imagine. It's like when they show indiana jones flying on a plane (just before the pilot jumps out) Vs showing indiana jones traveling via red dots on a map. The former is higher detail and update to the SIS, the latter is less.