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Author Topic: [Trollbabe] Goal questions  (Read 1205 times)
James_Nostack
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Posts: 726


« on: December 04, 2010, 09:37:27 PM »

More questions from some actual play of Trollbabe's Print Edition.

(1) Can either side say, at the outset of a Conflict, "Hell, dude, there's no Conflict here!  I give you whatever it is you want."  It's a fairly common feature among the "Trollbabe family" of RPG's, but I don't see a Total Surrender rule explicitly in the text.

(2) If a player's stated Goal cannot be accomplished, due to events in the backstory of which she is presently unaware, what happens mechanically? 

For example: "Goal: I cast a magic spell so that her husband will stop cheating on her with the woman in the next village."  "Uh.... the husband was eaten by Trolls.  The wife just thinks he ran off with the girl over yonder." 

For extra example: "Goal: in this social conflict I want this guy to spill his guts about what's going on."  "Well - first of all, I might have done most of that anyway, but you've just demanded we resort to the dice instead.  (See question #1.)  But also, while this guy can talk about all kinds of stuff, he's under a magical curse of silence on this one particular topic which I don't think you can lift by a purely Social conflict type.  So, uh, do you want to do Magic instead?"  (This example would probably have been Social + Magic under the PDF version of the rules, but it looks like the print version doesn't have "combo action types" anymore.)

(3)  What limit, if any, exists on the player's Director-stance power to set Goals?  "Goal: I catch the ninjas who have been spying on me."  "Uh.... what ninjas?  Oh, um, yeah, those ninjas.  Good eye!  (scribbles some notes)."  My assumption is that this is within the player's authority - it doesn't contradict the GM's prep, whereas question #2 flouts something that's already been established even if the player doesn't know it yet.  But that's a little bit weasely; I'm not sure there's a true bright-line distinction here.

(4) So, a Trollbabe is in a Conflict with some NPC's.  The Trollbabe has a Goal, which will either succeed or fail (and is in fact immune to any lasting change for the duration of the Conflict.)  But do the NPC's have an generic equivalent of Goals or some other sense of agency?  What happens if the player's stated Goal is orthogonal to the expressed intentions of the NPC's?

For example (I haven't thought this one through very carefully, maybe it's not a good example): "You see some humans trying to kill this one troll."  "Fuck them!  Fighting Conflict!  Goal: I ain't getting captured."  "What?  Who said anything about you getting captured?"  "I did.  Director stance, motherfucker!"  "...Okay, cool.  Set the pace and grab some dice."  But who says what about the humans trying to kill the old troll? 

(This may not be a great example of what I'm trying to get across - I reserve the right to take another crack at it.)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2010, 06:27:31 PM »

Hi James,

This post's text has an impatient tone, which although genuine, is not intended to shut down conversation.

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(1) Can either side say, at the outset of a Conflict, "Hell, dude, there's no Conflict here!  I give you whatever it is you want."  It's a fairly common feature among the "Trollbabe family" of RPG's, but I don't see a Total Surrender rule explicitly in the text.

Absolutely not. Saying "Conflict" means the dice come out. The only way to concede is upon losing a roll.

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(2) If a player's stated Goal cannot be accomplished, due to events in the backstory of which she is presently unaware, what happens mechanically? 

For example: "Goal: I cast a magic spell so that her husband will stop cheating on her with the woman in the next village."  "Uh.... the husband was eaten by Trolls.  The wife just thinks he ran off with the girl over yonder." 

Your example already enters the realm of mis-used rules. In Trollbabe, there is no out-of-fiction discussion of the back-story. l will try to address your example which does not involve the GM trying to solve the problem and fucking it up.

For example: "Goal: I cast a magic spell so that her husband will stop cheating on her with the woman in the next village." I'm the GM.

1. We establish the Type. I assume that you or I say it's Magic.

2. We move into Fair & Clear. This is the part which matters most to your question. What exactly does the trollbabe do? Do you mention locating the husband as part of the spell? Does she just talk into the air? Also, I am talking during Fair & Clear as well. I should not pre-narrate the outcome, but I can provide necessary information that follows upon a player statement, which is impossible to demonstrate via this format. My current thinking is that bringing in the fact that trolls are involved may well occur. For purposes of our example, however, I will say that you say the most bone-headed thing possible, that the trollbabe just sits there for a while and casts the spell into the ether more-or-less exactly as you stated.

3. We roll. You succeed. Fine! The spell was cast. I narrate. I say, "It works!" And that's all I have to do. That's the easiest way for me. If I want to enjoy the fact that the spell was cast with no target, then I can think of about 1000 narrations that would indicate such a thing. But I see no reason for this to pose any kind of problem unless I can see that it logically must pose a problem, like the troll shaman, if there is one, being already sensitive about the adventure's Stakes and magical nosiness. But if there is no obvious bear-trap awaiting the spell, then I don't see your issue.

3'. We roll. You fail and cancel out at the first roll. Fine! You narrate it failing. How is this a problem? I can also provide post-roll play which provides context for the failure based on the spell doing whatever I think a no-target spell, or perhaps an inadvertently troll-targeted spell, would do.


I'm not sure my answer really helps you. I think it should be read in the context of my next answer, because you may be missing a key point about the player's authority.

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For extra example: "Goal: in this social conflict I want this guy to spill his guts about what's going on."  "Well - first of all, I might have done most of that anyway, but you've just demanded we resort to the dice instead.  (See question #1.)  But also, while this guy can talk about all kinds of stuff, he's under a magical curse of silence on this one particular topic which I don't think you can lift by a purely Social conflict type.  So, uh, do you want to do Magic instead?"  (This example would probably have been Social + Magic under the PDF version of the rules, but it looks like the print version doesn't have "combo action types" anymore.)

Cripes, James, you make things really hard for yourself. In all your examples, the GM needs to be taken out back and paddled with a frat paddle with holes in it. No game of Trollbabe should include responses like the one this example GM delivered. Quit spilling back-story via table-talk! Just freaking run the Conflict and narrate according to what the dice and stated actions do!

In this case, let's say I'm the GM again. My proper response is (and only is!) "OK!" Where you get the idea that Social conflict cannot overcome magical circumstances, I have no idea.

Also, and related, remember that the GM narrates successes. So that means you can show the magic being overcome. And also, if the trollbabe fails (and hence the player narrates), I can follow up with further narration showing the breaking of the magic.

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(3)  What limit, if any, exists on the player's Director-stance power to set Goals?  "Goal: I catch the ninjas who have been spying on me."  "Uh.... what ninjas?  Oh, um, yeah, those ninjas.  Good eye!  (scribbles some notes)."  My assumption is that this is within the player's authority - it doesn't contradict the GM's prep, whereas question #2 flouts something that's already been established even if the player doesn't know it yet.  But that's a little bit weasely; I'm not sure there's a true bright-line distinction here.

The rule is "no new information." There is absolutely no way for a player to inject ninjas into the story. The "bandits" example presumes some prior information that bandits exist, and the Director Stance pertains only to the fact that the GM had not at that moment planned on having them bushwhack her.

The player has no back-story authority - none. Some situational authority, yes, but only working with what's known. It seems to me through these three threads that you have really not processed that point.

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(4) So, a Trollbabe is in a Conflict with some NPC's.  The Trollbabe has a Goal, which will either succeed or fail (and is in fact immune to any lasting change for the duration of the Conflict.)  But do the NPC's have an generic equivalent of Goals or some other sense of agency?  What happens if the player's stated Goal is orthogonal to the expressed intentions of the NPC's?

I provided an extensive example to illustrate this very point, about the trollbabe fighting the guy with the axe. You should read that section carefully, especially my phrasing which was chosen very carefully to cover all possible angles of this issue.

The main answer to your question is that "Goal" is a rules term, and it only applies to trollbabes. NPCs do have in-fiction intentions, but their outcomes are subject only to narrators' input and are in no way, ever, determined by the dice. The dice pertain only to the trollbabe's Goal.

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For example (I haven't thought this one through very carefully, maybe it's not a good example): "You see some humans trying to kill this one troll."  "Fuck them!  Fighting Conflict!  Goal: I ain't getting captured."  "What?  Who said anything about you getting captured?"  "I did.  Director stance, motherfucker!"  "...Okay, cool.  Set the pace and grab some dice."  But who says what about the humans trying to kill the old troll?


Wincing ... your whole player-vs.-GM exchange in that example does not match what happens in real play due to the power of the Fair & Clear phase. I will set that aside to stay on track for your original question. The example is actually pretty good for that purpose.

This is easy as pie. The troll will die. Even if the player loses and narrates, since the Goal has nothing to do with the troll, and since narrations only pertain to the Goal, then the attack on the troll is divorced from the roll. You might as well consider it to be the same as the clouds drifting over the scene where the trollbabe tries not to get captured.

Why, incidentally, did I not say, "It's whatever the GM wants, including the troll defending itself successfully?" Because that's not consistent with what the GM already said. I'm basing "the troll will die" specifically on the phrasing you provided, that the humans are trying to kill the troll, period.

Best, Ron
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