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Author Topic: [Legendary Lives] Three games to talk about  (Read 5617 times)
Trevis Martin
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« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2010, 08:58:03 PM »

This is a terribly interesting thread Ron, thanks for sharing it.  I went to the website, downloaded and read both Legendary Lives and Khaotic!

Quote
There was perhaps too much fun with the Sanity and madness rules, which are pretty devastating. Emil was basically stone crazy by the end of the session. The spirit guide rules are really cool.

I couldn't find anything for spirit guiding or Sanity aside from a chart in the lifepaths section of the game.  Maybe it's something not included in PDF he has posted that was in an earlier published edition of the game.  What are the spirit guide rules like?  What was it you liked about them?

Reading Khaotic, the color of the game really hit me in just the right spot. It's like a combo of Bliss Stage, Quantam Leap, Cyberpunk, and a few other things for good measure.  I notice that the author changed his method from the ART table/percentile to a 6 sider roll under where you roll your total Attribute + Skill and only add up ones twos and threes which then corrosponds to the success scale.  Since Khaotic! was the last game produced I don't know if he was just trying to streamline the Legendary Lives or just trying a variation for it's own sake.  Do you have an opinion on one vs the other given that you've used the Legendary Lives system?

-Trevis
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Trevis Martin
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« Reply #16 on: March 31, 2010, 09:00:32 PM »

Sorry didn't quite complete my thought there.  I mean it looks like he switched from a flat system to a curve between the two games even though he had made the flat mechanic work well in LL.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2010, 11:11:57 AM »

Hi Trevis!

The Sanity rules are included in the description of the skill Sanity, on page 136 of the PDF. I followed that text very specifically during the game with Tim, Tim, and Chris, including circumstances and modifiers for the rolls. My conclusion was that if you don't get Sanity through your race and Type, then bloody well use a free slot to buy it.

I didn't use those rules in our game at Forge Midwest. That was an oversight on my part, probably because I had been shaken from my "this will be a straight-up adventure" plans into the "whacked characters doing orthogonal whacked things" mode. Considering that Ben's character was a demonologist already, I should have called for a Sanity check when his vampire girlfriend showed up but given him a bonus. Plus Ctine should have had to make a check when the phantom snakes attacked her, or maybe when they all disappeared. I don't think Gootch encountered anything a veteran assassin wouldn't have seen all the time anyway, though.

The spirit guide rules aren't a special rules-set, but if you know the game and then read the Magic section for each of the character's magic skills, then cross-reference with the character's race and religion material, then there's a hell of a lot of second-order rules-application waiting to be discovered for any spell-using character.

In the case of the Gypsy character, the rules for the Spiritualist say the player rolls for many features of a developed NPC, including race and Type, and in fact, all those various detailed personality and lifepath features as well. This has potential for some wild contrasts, especially since the character and the guide are mandated to be very, very close emotionally and to be utterly devoted to one another. In Tim's case, his rather mild, victimized, and moony-eyed character had a bad-ass Entomolian Warrior for a spirit guide, which allowed me a metric ton of fun role-playing, and also allowed for the character's magic to butch up his otherwise feeble combat potential.

I pleasurably shudder to think of a spiritualist character who, through the luck of the dice, ends up with someone like Gootch for his spirit guide. If "guide" could even be considered an appropriate term, in that case.

I'd like to play Khaotic, one of these days. It seems to me to have a lot of potential for Cold War fallout thematic content, given the internationalism of the player-characters - I remember reading the mandate in Cold City for the characters to represent the various post-WWII power-player nationalities and saying, "Cool, this is like Khaotic." As far as the system goes, I'll reserve judgment until I see it in action, especially since now I know that a Williams game exhibits a lot of interconnectedness among its parts.

Best, Ron
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2010, 03:18:00 PM »

Ron,

Whew. That was my understanding of the whole "Ssseth" thing, too.

Now that I'm clear about how things actually went down, here are some observations.

Techniques

From my perspective, the story was a dark comedy of errors. I'll recall it here (in a very me-centric way!) because it illustrates certain GM techniques Ron was using. This is mostly stuff he lays out in the various Sorcerer books, but it might be helpful to someone to see how they're used in a non-abstract way.

I had rolled up a guy who a) was an assassin, b) valued love above all else, and c) had recently gotten back together with a former lover. So Ron frames a scene where I'm hanging out with my sweetie, and she mentions that her Serpentine master is cruel to her.  I figure this situation has a pretty obvious solution for this particular character. So I endeavor to murder this Asp guy.

Ron cuts to a scene with Willow, and she's having a conspiratorial conversation with her Serpentine boss guy. Wait, what did you say his name was? Asp? Oh! I see. Fun moment of character knowledge vs. player knowledge. This is going to be interesting.

I head off the the forest to gather some poison -- Legendary Lives has an absolutely wonderful list of semi-realistic poisons, all with interesting effects -- but I get a crappy roll, so I decide to move forward with good old-fashioned stabbing. There's a pretty amusing encounter with me using my charm power just a little too well on a Hob (see racial stereotypes, above) who helps me get into Asp's house.

I'm sneaking around in Asp's house looking for anybody, but I get a bad sneaking roll, so Ron declares I trip over what he describes as some kind of intricate model. I decide I better try to fix it, but roll a little low on my repair skill, so Ron decides that means I manage to put it back together... the wrong way.

There's another scene with Willow, where they're discussing how Asp in in possession of this war machine she's supposed to acquire. And I'm like, wait, would this war machine look anything like the "model" I tripped over? And Ron grins and says yes, it does. Oops!

Asp comes home, and is angry that his Hob let a brownie into the house. I flee to under his bed, and Asp follows like he's chasing a stray kitten. "Come here little brownie..." Then I decide to leap out and stab him. It's right about this point where I realize this was strategically about the dumbest thing for me to do, because by sword skill is a whopping 3, really terrible. Oh hell, I'll roll for it anyway.

I rolled a 100. This turned out to be, literally, "awesome." I'll break this down a little later. For now, we figure out this means Asp is killed instantly.

Then Ctine and Ra'ed show up to grab the war machine, and I'm acting all sweet and innocent. Ra'ed wants to do this ritual to bind a spirit into the war. It binds the last victim of a weapon, so Ra'ed asks his trusted brownie for his blade, which Gootch offers up. We roll to see if Ra'ed gets suspicious about the blood and all. Nope! He takes my lame alibi at face value. So he summons up the spirit of a Serpentine, which all the players realize is actually Asp, but Ra'ed and Ctine are completely oblivious to. Funny stuff. The captive spirit possesses the war machine, and starts wheeling it off to do destruction.

I had kind of been looking forward to developing the misanthropic buddy relationship between Ra'ed and Gootch. But this was just a con game, so I decide to go for a punchier ending. I check with Ben about dicking his character over. "What did I ever do to you?" Nothing of course, I just need a patsy. So Gootch emerges from the crime scene, finds the nearest Hob -- who turns out to be the same Hob from earlier -- and proceeds to make up a total lie about how I was just sneaking around trying to find a treat and witnessed some Nomad murdering the Serpentine!

Before the angry Serpentines catch up with Ra'ed, I stop by and ask him to spot me some cash. We make some rolls, and while Ra'ed is convinced the war machine will make him rich beyond measure, he's not going to give me any cash. So instead I convince him to let me run back to the tent and use his money to stock up on provisions. I steal all of this money, and use it to run away with my girlfriend. What a little bastard Gootch is!

Not portrayed in this game, but left for an implied epilogue, is Ctine bringing forth the war machine, willing to destroy the brownie village as collateral damage, but finding it doesn't work for some reason.

I sort of felt like the spirit of In A Wicked Age was watching over our game. The way the character interaction drove the game forward reminded me of that game for some reason. This was undoubtedly actually just Ron's mad GM skillz at work, but it probably speaks to something that IaWA does by design to create this sort of play.

Mechanics

As mentioned, the resolution system creates some interesting opportunities for the GM. There's a chart with skill levels running up to about 25, which are cross-referenced with a percentile roll to determine a category of success or failure. Somebody compared it to the old Marvel Superheroes RPG. This also makes having a character sheet, with this resolution table printed on it, more or less essential for smooth play.

In the situation above, my roll of 100 still resolved to the best success category, which is called "Awesome." How cool is that? I can actually say I "rolled an Awesome!" The wound system is also described in terms of these success categories, and after a little rules-reading, we determined an Awesome hit scratches out Awesome and all the lower categories. In this case it meant my foe was dead, even though he had the better-than-average defense list of "Passable, Good, Great, Superior, Awesome." (But not in all cases. Some superior monsters have unusual wound lists. Dragons are "Awesome, Awesome, Awesome, Awesome," meaning you actually have to land an awesome attack just to hurt them.)

There's a surprising variety of skills used for social situations, which pairs with the conflict system in really fun ways.

One interesting note is that the game explicitly assigns all dice-rolling to the player side. The GM doesn't roll dice when interacting with the conflict system, he just narrates the outcomes. While this is not as revolutionary a thing as the author seems to think it is, it is an excellent example of game design around a particular set of gamemastering skills.

There's still a little more handling time than I might like. There was one point where Ron got a little flustered trying to look up a particular rule. The starting number of spell points is kind of buried in the text. Having the searchable PDF on my netbook managed to smooth over a few bottlenecks.

Racism

This is about the only thing going on in Legendary Lives that would keep me from making a universally positive recommendation. Looking over the text, it's not quite as in-your-face as we make it sound, but you read between the lines and piece some things together, and it's clearly there. It's a little more directly based on real-world stereotypes than the standard Tolkien or Forgotten Realms type cliches. And in the right hands, there's clearly an opportunity here to tell some powerful stories about race and stereotypes. But I can't help but wonder if this had fallen into my adolescent, not-so-worldly hands years ago if I wouldn't have gotten some funny ideas.

It potentially makes for some uncomfortable situations. In my case, near the end of this game I seized on an opportunity to cover up my romantically-motivated murder. Then I thought through the racial analogies involved. I realized Gootch had framed his buddy as the perpetrator of a racial hate crime, just to cover up his own misdeeds, and thought about just how heinous that situation is when it occurs in the real world, and felt a little pang of nausea deep down inside. I've had a fair number of characters who do really bad, fucked-up things, and it mostly plays for entertainment, but this was genuinely disturbing.

Mostly though, there was a story a how a series of simple misunderstandings played into the context of the larger animosity between Nomads and Serpentines. Despite the comedy involved, it's possible to reflect on how this is like certain real-world cultural conflicts, how individuals acting on limited information are perceived as actors in a larger clash. To this extent, this game contained "the stuff" which makes a role-playing session seem worthwhile to me.

Pants

Ben's character was, for the bulk of this game, wearing either no pants or no shirt. I just wanted to share.
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Millsy
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Posts: 6


« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2010, 03:33:29 AM »

Cool thread - I've had Legendary Lives for years but never played or run it - and it made me dig it out again and look it over.

With reference to your earlier point about it building characters with lots of cool background but no in-built situation, have you seen Lost Souls? It kinda conveys the same thing - you randomly roll up your ghost/spirit/haunting and get lots of detail about your past life, how you died, why you came back, etc, but not a lot of information about what your options are now. If I recall correctly, even the sample adventure in the book required one specific character type of one of the players (these are randomly-rolled character types, remember), so they could solve the problem associated with their death.

At least with Legendary Lives you could always ignore the background and run a 'straight D&D' game while the GM gets up to speed with the characters backgrounds from lifepath - but I filed Lost Souls away in my youthful mind as a game that looked awesome but that would never work. What you've done with Legendary Lives makes it seem more playable - but it's taken a long time to get here, hasn't it? I can't imagine that, when LL was first published, there were that many GMs running it in the style you've described - it's like, whenever I played Cyberpunk in the mid-90s, you'd come up with all this awesome background, and then the GM would be like 'Right, you're all part of a special ops team, hunting Androids in the slums,' and you'd forget about all your background.

What I guess I'm asking about LL is, to what extend do you think that the interaction and depth of background were planned to impact on the game? Or were they just there to provide colour while you went to the dungeon and killed the dragon?

thanks,
Guy
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2010, 09:07:06 AM »

Hello!

Larry, that was definitely an aggravating moment about the Spell Points. Since I'd spent all my prepping for Forge Midwest on Justifiers/The Exchange, I hadn't done any thinking about Legendary Lives mechanics for months until we sat down. Especially since I'd run into the same snag about the exact same issue back when we played the game almost two years ago. As a public service: despite the text's use of the term Spell Cost in points, which is not in an of itself a problem once you understand it, the spell-using character in Legendary Lives does not have a pool or bank of "spell points." What the term means is a penalty to that particular magical skill roll which will not go away until the adventure is over. So you propose something to do with your (for instance) Conjure skill at (say) 14, and I as GM say, "That'll cost you 3 Spell Points," and if you choose to go ahead, after this roll at 14, your Conjure skill will be 11. They only go down; you don't get them back until the adventure is over.

At first, this might seem like a death spiral, and it sort is, except for a few details. First, you have at least two and perhaps as many as five magical skills, so racking a couple down isn't so bad even early in the adventure. First-prime, magic skills in Legendary Lives are very, very open-narration in terms of what the player proposes might happen - there are no spell lists, just the skills and whatever the player suggests might happen through their use, at that moment. Second, since all dice rolls in Legendary Lives arrive at a qualitative descriptor ("Mediocre," "Great"), the GM has a pretty good opportunity to make every spellcasting do something, and the basic rubric in this game is for the GM to use failed rolls to turn plot-corners anyway. And third, if you keep using a diminished magical skill, then your chance for Catastrophic results goes up, and hey, what's a little magical catastrophe among friends if (i) it makes neat story-things happen (see the previous point) and (ii) gets you checks to advance the skill? In the game with Chris and Tim and Tim, Chris found himself looking forward to later-stage play rather than dreading it because his character's magic would go all funny, and he'd get advancement checks.

I completely agree with you about the themes and issues of our game. Comedy and extravagantly colorful fantasy work best for me when they riff off something real, and I think we all entered into the real-stuff as a shared punchy-consequence context for whatever we did. Which is another vote in favor of the scary-extreme ethnic stereotyping, in this case.

I was looking forward to the long-term consequences of Gootch screwing up the plans for the machine, but as it turned out, and probably due to the one-shot context of play, events of the game turned faster, more important corners before that had a chance to develop.

Guy, that's a great post, full of stuff to talk about. This is exactly what I was aiming at back in my truncated Color-first character creation endeavor (which was interrupted by the birth of my third kid). To start: I've read both Lost Souls and Khaotic pretty carefully, but haven't played either. Only the authors can tell us for sure, but I think the basic idea is that the GM does in fact have his adventure, period, and the players "run through it," period, and all the life-history stuff is raw color for how you make them talk as they do it. ... Which still strikes me as a bit weird. The lifepath techniques in Legendary Lives, to my eyes, are just crying out to be used as central prep features for unpredictable-outcome scenarios, especially for long-term play. If I get a chance to talk with Joe and Kathleen Williams some day, I'm going to ask whether the texts display a tension between what they'd like to play vs. what they think gamers want to play or are capable of playing.

Regarding Lost Souls, I also find it the least compelling of the three, partly because the contrast between "we're a group, we have individualized powers, we run missions / have adventures" and "we are dead souls, active as ghosts" is an ongoing conundrum for me in role-playing games, to the extent that I simply jettison the former (I've discussed this regarding both Ghost Light and Wraith in the past). Which is weird because again, you'd think that the back-story for each character would be the real meat of any play concerning ghosts. The combination of cartoony and grim-dramatic doesn't gel for me as well as the cartoony + fantasy-rich does in Legendary Lives. In Khaotic, my mental jury is still in deliberation. The characters' back-stories are nicely nuanced, being full of conflict but allowing you a lot of room to round them out, but exactly how that relates to the two settings (either on-mission in the monster body or back-home in your real bodies) is utterly opaque. Especially in combination with this text from the game:

Quote
The first goal of a player is survival. Yes, your character can die during a mission, and a dead character is gone. You cannot play the deceased PC
ever again. There are other goals beyond mere survival. Every mission has its own objective. To “win” you must accomplish the goal of the particular mission. By doing this, you will gain skill points, which may be used to increase your characters’ abilities.

Khaotic is a team game. You and your friends must work together to solve the challenges presented by the referee. You’ll either win together, or lose together. The fun comes from interacting with the other PCs and the imaginary world of Xenos.

The referee’s goals are different from those of the players. It doesn’t matter if non-player characters die--there are always more where they came from. A referee’s objective is to stay one step ahead of the players, keeping the game running smoothly while making the mission as enjoyable as possible. The referee is not the players’ opponent.
... and in the next section:
Quote
Any action a player tries has a whole range of possible results, giving the referee greater flexibility in deciding what happens and making the game
always unpredictable and exciting.

... which may work for many GMs, but which I find nearly impossible to implement in terms of what I want from role-playing, and what the folks I tend to play with want. It worked really well for us in playing Tunnels & Trolls, but that game is unabashedly Gamist and the GM is goddamned well the players' opponent - which is a play-mode that is explicitly disavowed in the Williams games.

And to follow up in a different but relevant way, I also pulled out my old 1989 Cyberpunk rules (including all the first printing errata - yay!) to review those lifepaths. A few things occurred to me.

1. Most lifepath techniques build the character's skills, literally composing the character's life so far in a "build it as you go" fashion. Legendary Lives doesn't do that - the religion table roll and the five lifeline rolls are carried out independently of all the other details. Also, there isn't a special Draconian lifeline or Priest lifeline or whatever; everyone uses the same ones, which is also the case for the various individual features tables and the personality table.

2. Related to #1, instead of "living" the character's life to date sequentially roll by roll, you put the lifeline events in whatever order you'd like, shaping their details to other aspects of the established character as seems most coherent.

3. There's no rolling involved in terms of carrying on to another roll or in Traveller terms, "mustering out," or whether you do or don't get the benefits of that particular step.

I'm not saying the LL method is automatically better or worse than the method established by Traveller and utilized in many games since (Cyberpunk, Mutant Chronicles), but it is clearly a bit different when you consider all those. And strangely, I think that it works for Legendary Lives but - again, without playing so this is speculative - seems a little unwieldly or not-quite-fitting for both Lost Souls and Khaotic.

Best, Ron
edited to fix a link - RE
« Last Edit: April 05, 2010, 09:09:37 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Larry L.
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Posts: 639

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2010, 10:18:09 AM »

Oh yeah... I'd be interested in hearing Ben's or Willow's version of "what the story was" if they have a chance. I didn't completely put it all together, just caught some interesting parts.

Hi Guy,

I played a whole campaign of Lost Souls! I didn't even realize these games were related until I had the character sheet printed out, and then I was like, "I've played this game before!" Same resolution matrix, same big list of attribute-keyed skills.

In that game, situation did not spring from character as awesomely as it did with LL. I'm not sure if it's actually a difference in the games, or if this system just generally caters to a certain set of GM talents, and if you're the GM who has them, it works. Someone on RPG.net described Lost Souls as "the Beetlejuice RPG," which in hindsight seems like it would have been a helpful creative focus.
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Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #22 on: April 05, 2010, 03:34:02 PM »

Hi Ron

I wanted to get back to thank you for the detailed reply, but also to post about my bewilderment at the same comment that had Lance react.
I don't get your point about the skill rating not being relevant to one given roll when using a flat method. I have literally worked on that comment over the last days, tried to wrap my head around it, and... I just don't get it.
It's the craps example that confuses me since there you say that it makes sense to bet on a "7" when rolling 2d6, but not particularly when rolling 1d11+1. To me, that's because a "7" on 2d6 is roughly a 16.7% chance (and other sums are lower) whereas a "7" on a 1d11+1 is a 9.1% chance (and other results are equally probable).
But man, having a 75% rather than a 35% (with a flat & roll-under method) reads to me as to be same feature that makes you bet on a "7" in your craps example rather than a "2", because the chance for a "75 or under" is higher than a "35 or under" even for that single roll. The flatness or the bellness is relevant for how to calculate the probability of an event and other crunchy stuff like mean value and standard deviation, which one should take into account, but once you have the probability of a given event (the "7" in craps, the "75% or under" in the percentile example) then that's that.
A thought that just occurred to me is that Legendary Lives indeed uses a d%, but the result is mapped to a not-so-flat distribution in terms of what is really used ("Cata" to "Awesome"). This actually supports your idea that the way one generates randomness is heavily influenced by how it is factored into the resolution procedure.

Of course, in a game where a critical hit (which really is what you focused on) is only on a "00" on a percentile die, then skill rating is indeed irrelevant for determining critical hits, and it makes a lot of sense to me to point out such a fact given the history of systems where that really shapes combat. However, defining a critical hit to be a "12" on 2d6 could be just as problematic. The problem there seems to me in how the critical tables are evaluated. It's the disproportion of decapitating vs knocking off a few HP that makes combat resolution very unreliable.

So, am I making sense or is there a crucial fact I missed in your point?
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Regards,
Christoph
Paul T
Member

Posts: 383


« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2010, 09:23:11 AM »

Ron,

I wonder if you could expand a little on what you're pointing at here:

Especially in combination with this text from the game:

Quote
The first goal of a player is survival. Yes, your character can die during a mission, and a dead character is gone. You cannot play the deceased PC
ever again. There are other goals beyond mere survival. Every mission has its own objective. To “win” you must accomplish the goal of the particular mission. By doing this, you will gain skill points, which may be used to increase your characters’ abilities.

Khaotic is a team game. You and your friends must work together to solve the challenges presented by the referee. You’ll either win together, or lose together. The fun comes from interacting with the other PCs and the imaginary world of Xenos.

The referee’s goals are different from those of the players. It doesn’t matter if non-player characters die--there are always more where they came from. A referee’s objective is to stay one step ahead of the players, keeping the game running smoothly while making the mission as enjoyable as possible. The referee is not the players’ opponent.
... and in the next section:
Quote
Any action a player tries has a whole range of possible results, giving the referee greater flexibility in deciding what happens and making the game
always unpredictable and exciting.

... which may work for many GMs, but which I find nearly impossible to implement in terms of what I want from role-playing, and what the folks I tend to play with want. It worked really well for us in playing Tunnels & Trolls, but that game is unabashedly Gamist and the GM is goddamned well the players' opponent - which is a play-mode that is explicitly disavowed in the Williams games.

It seems like a little aside, which you turn to and quickly away from, that is a really important point.

What is the challenge, how is it implemented well by some, and why is it nearly impossible for you?

Best,


Paul
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2010, 09:06:45 AM »

For Christoph only

Think in terms of knowing that you might roll an 11 on 3d6. You are making this roll with a skill of 13, so if you get 13 or less, you succeed. Perhaps this is quite crucial at this moment of play, too. Anyway, although you might roll anything from 3 to 18, 13 or less has a special status (you want it), and 11 falls into that range. What I'm saying applies very well to 11, so let's focus on that. Handy utility: Statistical Tables for Dice Rolling.

For this one roll, you have lots of ways to get an 11. It's not 1/16 (6.25%) out of 16 possibilities. It's actually twice that because the three dice can come together to make an 11 in tons of different ways. Whatever you roll on one of the dice, the other two can come together to make an 11, and even that two-die consideration has many ways to do it too.

You have a higher chance to get that 11 than you do to get any one of the failing values. (In fact, at 14 or less, you have more chance of nailing that 11 than you do of getting all the failing values combined! So 14 is the "done" value for improving rolls for a 3d6 and under system.)

If you rolled a hypothetical 16-sided die marked 3 through 18, that would not be the case. Your chance of nailing that 11, or any successful value, is 6.25% and that's the same as nailing one of the failing values.

Now, this same point can be extended to almost all of the values under 13, with the only exception being an outcome of 3, although the "goodness" of each value does decrease as you go down the scale.

This point has literally nothing to do with the fact that when you compare 13 or less on 3d6 with ~84 or less on d100, you are indeed looking at the same chance to hit across the long-term history of rolling this skill for this character at this ability score. That is indubitably true. But my claim is that you will experience the consistent betterness of 13 or less, on 3d6, as opposed to 8 or less, meaning sooner and more reliably, than you will see it by shooting for 84 or less on d100, as opposed to ~26 or less on d100. Even though, yes indeed, 100 or 1000 or infinite rolls will show that the percentages are the same.

I will return to the actual point I tried to make earlier in the next post.

Best, Ron
edited to fix the link to the probabilities page
« Last Edit: April 07, 2010, 01:42:33 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2010, 09:07:30 AM »

Well, I'm starting all over, because I caused trouble in trying to talk about too many aspects of the numbers at once. I'm going to jump to the point I really wanted to make.

OK, let's talk about a flat method in terms of how you "go up." It might be during the course of play, advancing the skill or whatever, or we could be speaking more abstractly, running up the scale mentally, whichever. The units of "going up" are the same as percents, and the important thing is that whether each unit is 1% or 5% or any other %, when you "go up," you go up by that much. In old RuneQuest, when you went up from 20 to 25%, it's adding the same amount of the 1-100% spectrum as when you went up from 50 to 55%. (And even adding a slight random element, like in the old Stormbringer game when you rolled d10 to see how many % you go up, doesn't change this much.)

But now, in a curved method, the units of the readable values "contain" variable amounts of percentage. So if we're talking about 3d6, sum the total, try to roll some number or under; then when you go up from 8 to 9, it's not as much of a jump in your chances as going up from 9 to 10 is. Think of each advancement, point by point, as being different in terms of how much percentages it captured. At low values, you don't get very far which each improvement, but on the "slopes" of the curve, each readable-unit gained is a very great improvement in your character's chances. As veterans of Champions and GURPS well know, the sweet spot begins at 10 or less and proceeds through 13 or less. At 10, each bump up grabs a solid percentage, and at 13, you've "captured" the bulk of the hump in the bell curve. Various different dice combinations yield different "flatness" at the top of the curve, so some include a plateau effect there and some don't. 3d6 and 2d10 seem to be rather good for the top of the bell not being a plateau, so the sweet spot can be enjoyed throughout the upward and downward slopes; the latter method is especially well done in Pocket Universe.

Finally, the point! I'm really really not talking about the basic chance to hit in this thread. I'm talking much more about qualitative aspects of both extreme success and extreme failure. What I'm saying is that Legendary Lives' ART (Action Results Table, on page 152 of the Legendary Lives PDF) actually overcomes the lack of sweet spot that characterizes many flat methods. To understand this table, you should know that the column on the left is the character's score in say, Sword. (It says "Roll" at the top of that column, but that term is actually pointing to the right, at the boldfaced outcomes across the top.) So if you have 7 in Sword, your percentile range for Catastrophic result is 1-8%. But focus especially on the distinction between Passable and Poor, which is the default success/failure division in this game unless some particular target outcome is specified. See how radically it changes at the low and high ends of the spectrum, and how it plateaus in the middle? That's neat! Not only did he impose a different-percent-per-improvement curve onto a flat-method roll, he also chose a different pattern from what you get with (say) 3d6!

What I'm sayin' is that Legendary Lives presents a quite distinct relationship between dice method, extreme result values, and improvement/change in a skill. Not only does it tie into general character improvement, but also to the drop in ability associated with repeated use of the spell skills that I described above. As you drop in the ability through the course of a spell-heavy adventure, your chance for Catastrophe not only increases, it increases dramatically and differently per unit decrease in the skill.

Point for clarity: I am not talking about the or the best technique in terms of comparison among games. I'm talking about how this particular thing is suited well to the other aspects of what I call Exploration or the SIS (character concept, setting features, color, the immediate situation), for this particular game.

Best, Ron
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2010, 10:05:30 AM »

Larry,

Your AP account under "Techniques" is fascinating.  Reading it felt like watching someone draw a relationship map.  That's a stark contrast to my experiences with relationship maps, wherein they've been drawn pre-play, not during play.  I'm thinking mainly of Ganakagok and How We Came to Live Here.  In those games, it was fun to collaborate openly on proto-situation building.  In your LL game, it seems a very different sort of fun, watching to see how the GM is going to forge maximally juicy situations out of all the characters (aka connect the nodes on the map via relationships).

Ron,

Did you do most of this pre-play (in your head or on paper) or ad-libbed in response to the play you were seeing at the table?  The former strikes me as easy ("Okay, I'll make up an NPC, give one character a reason to work with him, and another character a reason to kill him") and the latter strikes me as pretty hard for someone not used to it ("Okay, in this scene, I'll take the breaking of the model from last scene, and impart it new significance by revealing that the model is a sought-after war machine!").

I'm not saying it doesn't sound doable, it just doesn't strike me as markedly easier than a lot of the traditional GM stuff that seems to burn a lot of folks out (tweaking adversity to sustain drama in missions, pressuring characters into cooperation, etc.).  Or does the sort of map-weaving from this LL game tend to occur primarily in the first few scenes, and then the GM gets to lay back and let the situations run themselves thereafter?

Anyone who played,

Did the situations and color of the scenes derive heavily from the book's setting material?  Was that material felt in anything more than the specifics of the characters?  From Ron's initial description of the game, I figured, "Hey, tons of inspirations for play, there!" which he seemed to disagree with me on.  But hearing now about sneaking into creepy dudes' houses and tripping over their war machines, I wonder if that was all you guys, and all the situations implied in the book went ignored. 

By "implied situations" I'm talking about stuff like where the V:tM book says "Clan Ventrue wants to control the vampires through manipulation and organization, while Clan Tremere believes their magic is vampires' key asset" and the GM goes, "Cool, we'll play a bunch of Tremeres undermining and supplanting Ventrue leadership."

Ps,
-Dave
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
Willow
Member

Posts: 224


« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2010, 05:23:54 PM »

Larry's plot summary is astoundingly accurate, I really have nothing to add.

I recall authoring the war-machine thing myself, though it turns out brownies have some sort of clockwork engineering.  Essentially, I wanted my character to get her hands on a WMD.
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Ron Edwards
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Posts: 17707


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« Reply #28 on: April 08, 2010, 08:51:02 AM »

Hi Dave,

I have to clarify my position on our dialogue. To me, the Legendary Lives character creation process does indeed seem chock-full of scenario prep material, stuff that I as GM would be practically obliged to incorporate into my preparation, or even use as the primary components. However, nothing in the pretty clear and extensive text about scenario prep and play in the book is consistent with that. Is that making more sense? I'm not talking about what I can do with such material; that's not hard. I'm talking about looking at (i) highly personal, quirky, probably neurotic, NPC-heavy character-centric conflicts, saying, "Whoo yes!", and then running into (ii) absolutely assumed/non-negotiable group/party team membership, linear adventure preparation, and instructions for how to utilize roll outcomes to ensure the story goes smoothly. Running into as in, a brick wall.

Quote
Did you do most of this pre-play (in your head or on paper) or ad-libbed in response to the play you were seeing at the table? The former strikes me as easy ("Okay, I'll make up an NPC, give one character a reason to work with him, and another character a reason to kill him") and the latter strikes me as pretty hard for someone not used to it ("Okay, in this scene, I'll take the breaking of the model from last scene, and impart it new significance by revealing that the model is a sought-after war machine!").

The distinction between the two isn't quite that sharp in this case, but essentially the answer is the former. Let's start simply with putting the characters onto the map. None of the characters had anything to do with the primary setting-based conflicts concerning the Seelie Court, so the Elfin Kingdom wasn't too important to consider. I wanted to stay pretty close to the Nomad lands, due to the Serpentine/Nomad conflict, and it so happens that Brownie Country is right next to that area. And there's a town in Brownie Country called Baye, "where the Circus Circuit meets" according to the book, and the final step in Ra'ed's lifeline was working for a circus. So it instantly fell into place, as if this town had been invented for the purpose of observing the shenanigans of these particular characters. That was all pre-play.

One of the features of character creation, and the only one I see which links that specific character to what is about to be presented by the GM, is a stated goal. I asked the players to provide very concrete, immediate goals, something their character was determined to do right now. Ra'ed's was to kill his undead girlfriend, Gootch's was to reunite with his lover, and Ctine's was to build a war-machine, as Willow described. The first two simply tightened up existing NPCs and issues from character creation, and the last introduced a new component into play. I already had the NPCs I needed. Easiest: Ra'ed's girlfriend (and former guy-friend), right there to be used in the back-story and in the goal. Slightly more needed: Brownies like being slaves, but not if they're mistreated, so Hootchie Koo had a ready-made problem for Gootch to consider, requiring only that I identify her owner. And the most needed (not much): there needs to be a Brownie war-machine for Ctine to find, and a Serpentine NPC to boss her around.

Some things did get teased or snapped into place during the course of play. I deliberately kept Ra'ed's former friend, the guy, on the shelf, not deciding to bring him in (as opposed to deciding not to). I made up the war-machine model in Asp's house right when Gootch sneaked in, but this wasn't about planning to have it broken or stolen or understood or anything like that - it was about what might be found in Asp's house, period. That's how I do it, stuffing a new scene or circumstance with things which reflect the various relationships and activities going on. What happens to them and what that might mean for future events is left to play without planning.

Quote
I'm not saying it doesn't sound doable, it just doesn't strike me as markedly easier than a lot of the traditional GM stuff that seems to burn a lot of folks out (tweaking adversity to sustain drama in missions, pressuring characters into cooperation, etc.). Or does the sort of map-weaving from this LL game tend to occur primarily in the first few scenes, and then the GM gets to lay back and let the situations run themselves thereafter?

You've answered your own question. This kind of GMing is stunningly easy by comparison, although your "lay back and let the situations run themselves" is missing the key components of scene framing and of playing NPCs as characters rather than covert plot-movers.

Quote
Did the situations and color of the scenes derive heavily from the book's setting material? Was that material felt in anything more than the specifics of the characters?

Heavily from the book! The location on the map, the town we were in, the various racial-cultural details of everyone, NPCs included. Like "Serpentine Alley," the street in the Brownie town where the Serpentines lived, and Asp's hob sidekick. I can't think of a single thing in our game that wasn't directly linked to setting material and/or the specific outcomes of character creation process. For example, Willow's war-machine was perfect, not only because of the Brownie clockwork-engineering, but because her secret Serpentine society was criminal, nationalist, and thievish, and that tied into how Ctine and Ra'ed both had a cultural stake in the Nomad town that she planned to destroy with it.

Modestly speaking, I think our group really seized upon and celebrated the game's canonical content.

Best, Ron

P.S. Paul, I owe you a reply. I'm working on it.
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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 639

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #29 on: April 08, 2010, 10:17:53 AM »

Dave,

I don't believe any of the players had even seen the book before we played. Therefore, all of the setting material was filtered through Ron for awesome. He had already taken the trouble to figure out, for instance, that the elves were really interesting, or that the insect men were actually kind of boring. He really nudged towards spellcasting types, because the magic system was interesting and worth checking out -- I believe "bad-ass" was the actual word he used.

The character generation was essentially random, and therefore didn't require any prior knowledge of the setting, with the tables pointing everyone the the necessary entries in the book, which were sufficiently evocative we could start cracking jokes about the obvious stereotypes they were invoking. One or several of the five life events generated for each character suggested an interesting way to incorporate into the budding story. (But not all the events! Some were, of course, overlooked for not seeming relevant. We didn't go to lengths to force these details into the game, of course. The process by which some creative avenues are ignored and are soon forgotten might be an interesting thing to observe in and of itself.)

I can't speak for Ron, but I did observe that he didn't break out, like, a secret GM playbook or a relationship map or anything.
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