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Author Topic: [Legends of Lanasia] Conflict Flow  (Read 2477 times)
dindenver
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« on: December 14, 2010, 08:41:03 AM »

Here is what I have so far:

Conflict Flow
1) Agree that there is a conflict
2) Players declare their Stakes (what are they fighting for?)
3) Judge declares the Stakes for NPCs
4) Judge declares Scope (if they win, how long will the Stakes last?)
5) Judge sets Target Numbers for all Characters
6) Judge selects Action Types
7) Player(s) select Action Type(s)
8) Players narrate the action so far
9) Roll the dice
10) Assign one die to Drive and one to Caution
11) based on the Action Type selected, add the appropriate Aspects to Drive and Caution
12) If you have any applicable Special Abilities, Talents or other Mofifiers (such as spending Luck), add those now.
13) Compare your Drive +  Aspect + Modifiers to the other Character's Caution + Aspect + Modifiers. If your total is higher, score progress equal to the differennce.
14) Compare your Caution + Aspect + Modifiers to the other Character's Drive +  Aspect + Modifiers. If your total is higher, the other character scores no progress. Otherwise, they score progress equal to the differennce.
15) All characters total their progress across all rounds of this Conflict, if that total is higher than their Target Number, they win their Stakes.
16) If no one has won their Stakes, any character can surrender abandoning their Stakes. If only one character remains, they get their Stakes. Otherwise, continue from step 6.
17) if more than one character wins their Stakes, see if it is possible for both players to achieve their goals. Otherwise, use this tie-breaking rule:
a) The player with the highest overall Progress wins
b) in the case of a tie, the player with the highest Target Number Wins.
c) If still tied, the tied player with the Highest Talent Wins
d) If still tied, the tied player character wins over the Judge’s character.
e) If still tied, the Judge decides among the tied Player Characters

18) Assess Harm
a) Opponent’s Progress is higher than your lowest Aspect - Minus 1 to either Drive or Caution (Loser chooses) for the duration of your next conflict,
b) Opponent’s Progress is higher than your lowest Aspect - Minus 1 to both Drive and Caution for the duration of your next conflict,
c) Players that lost their Stakes can choose between learning a new skill, refreshing their Luck (and getting a new luck point if they are out of luck), gaining a new Destiny Point and gaining a new Friend.

19) Narrate the Action so far (including the manner in which the Stakes are won and lost).

  What do you think? Are there any weaknesses int he mechanics I am not seeing? Is there a flaw in my logic? Does this answer all the questions that need to be answered in order to resolve a conflict?
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Dave M
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2010, 09:48:21 AM »

Hi Dave,

Your presentation suffers from a bad case of Story Game Disease. That's my term, hotly resented by some, for designs which storyboard play rather than playing, resulting in extensive discussion at the table about what the conflict is about, as well as fully pre-narrating the possible outcomes for it.

In my experience and observation, this process is so aggravating, boring, and exhausting that it is even worse than the decades-old squabbling about whose character is where and who's in whose way in an ambush-combat situation while playing AD&D2. Yes: worse than that. It characterizes way, way too many recent game designs proudly designated "Story Games" by many people who've come to the independent design scene after 2005 or so, as well as by some who were in it earlier and should know better.*

Consider these minor visual revisions, which I think yield profound differences in play.

1. Instead of "Start," begin with "narrate actions and dialogue," with arrows pointing into itself. In other words, this is a cyclical loop of a single box, which is ongoing play. In many ways, your whole conflict-resolution scheme needs to occur inside it. My impression is that you already know this because your final step is another Start.

2. Replace "Player set Stakes" with "Recognize crisis of intent," meaning that someone has already narrated characters in imminent action, which carries risk, invites obvious opposition, or both.

3. Put another "Narrate action so far" with each Action Type statement, or perhaps one just before those statements.

Looking it over with these revisions, I'm hoping that you see that play doesn't stop during the process. As I see your posted scheme, and as I've explicitly observed when participating in playing similar designs, play does stop between the two "Starts." And it may seem seductively clear and fun the first time, but it turns aggravating, boring, and exhausting very quickly.

As another point, consider deeply whether the Judge needs to set Stakes at all. In some designs (HeroQuest), he does, at least in terms of what an NPC may be striving toward; in others (Trollbabe), he does not. Both work, but they work profoundly differently. Make sure you really want the one that you choose to use in your design.

Also, if by "Stakes," you mean "narrate exactly what happens if I win," then I suggest revising that definition for everyone.

Best, Ron

* And to rant further, Primetime Adventures as written does not suffer from this disease, nor does Polaris, nor does Dogs in the Vineyard. People frequently mis-read and mis-play these games based on contracting the disease on the internet.
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dindenver
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« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2010, 12:22:02 PM »

Ron,
  Thanks for taking the time to check this out.
  OK, so the gag is, I used a lot of short hand on the graphic.
  The text that follows is close to how the rules will be written.
  So, I have played a lot of Shadow of Yesterday and ditv and I have sort of made my own procedure for setting stakes. I have noticed that with certain players (the internet infected ones) stakes setting involved pre-playing the scene. So, what I do as an attempt to bypass this is to ask the question, "What are you fighting for?" (or why are you arguing, etc). I find that this is a decent verbiage to illicit proper stakes, but not pin the scene down to some sort of binary outcome.
  Yeah, if the box should be bigger, I would replace "Start" with "Players agree that there is a conflict" because I have seen players who enjoy particular conflict mechanics pick up the dice even when both parties really want the same outcome. This step is intended to make sure we aren't  rolling for nothing (and the chicks for free).
  Oh, and the start at the end is a copy and paste flub. It is supposed to say "End" the idea being that the characters aren't trapped in a perpetual conflict loop. but that conflicts happen and when they do, follow this procedure.
  I think that "Recognize crisis of intent" would be good verbiage for the "Start" box. Until that happens, there is no conflict.
  As to Set Stakes, maybe I will put, why is there a conflict? So that the answer will be more interesting than "I kill that guy" unless killing him is the most interesting option.
  As to Narrate the action so far, you are exactly right. In my mind it was there (I had to actually scroll down and make sure it wasn't already).
  Yeah, I think the Judge setting the opposing Stakes is important. It is the one chance for them to really explain what is in it for the Antagonist. I find that the having the losing Stakes be "nothing happens" or "the opposite of what you wanted to happen happens" gets boring pretty quick and it strips the Antagonists of any real story or flavor eventually.
  So, yeah to sum up, "Stakes"="Why are we doing this?" Not "What do I get if I win."

  Again, thanks for checking this out and let me know if my answers are at all illuminating.
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Dave M
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2010, 01:35:36 PM »

Hi Dave,

Your answer is a bit of a relief for me. What follows is a matter of refinement rather than revision.

My take on the right phrasing, at least in Trollbabe, The Shadow of Yesterday, Dogs, Dust Devils, and a number of related games, is, "What is he or she driving at?" In other words, staying fully within the fictional intention - or better, initiated intention - of the character.

Saying "why is there a conflict," as I see it, is not too useful, as it prompts abstract discussions and a lot of focus on how the story "should" go. Instead, given "what is he or she driving at," the next question rather intuitively becomes, "and why is that a problem?"

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2010, 03:22:50 PM »

Hey Dave,

I wonder about 'Agree there is a conflict'. I mean, the way that presents it, what if one person thinks there is a conflict, and another doesn't? They both continue on, thinking each other wrong? It kind of smacks of an insistant sim base to me, one that insists something about the spoken fiction/sound waves through the air exists. Rather than asking, after looking back at what we'd written so far, roughly what sort of fiction we would like to write next (well, speak aloud rather than write, but you get me)?

Then again I don't know if that's some kind of deal breaker to remove that, "it's there" reference. I mean, Ron is using "in imminent action, which carries risk, invites obvious opposition" and recognise crisis of intent, rather than simply talking about the imaginative reaction one has to the prior spoken fiction and pitching that reaction as something to further write/narrate about. Is there some sort of impetus in refering to it as existant that is necessary for the creative process here? It's just that to me were dealing not with existant things, but peoples psychological reactions to prior spoken fiction (note how I avoid using the term 'SIS' here) - and inevitably those reactions will be starkly different at some point (as much as we are not hive mind). The 'existant' phrasing in 'Agree there is a conflict' seems a risk with no benefit, by my current measure? Or is there a benefit I'm not seeing?

Note: I'm second guessing a 'your reading it wrong' responce. As I measure it, if the listener/reader reads it wrong, then both communicator and reader have failed, not just the reader. Which in essence is the problem I'm talking about here. I get that refering to something as existant which isn't can be a creative inspiration, but it has risks involved as well. Babel being one.
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dindenver
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« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2010, 08:44:14 PM »

Callan,
  I have always welcomed your input. You are great at getting me to better gel my ideas.

Quote
What if one person thinks there is a conflict, and another doesn't?
  Well, the person who thinks there is a conflict wins their imaginary conflict. I mean, this issue points to a bigger problem in play when it happens. But the point is, there is no conflict mechanic that will work and help evoke any sort of shared fiction if both sides want the same results.
  I think I understand you, but I have seen on more than one occasion where a conflict is well under way before both sides realize they want the same thing. I think for groups that are gelling, this is a "gimme." We don't have to dwell on this step. But, if this is a little wobbly, there is a reminder, right there in the book, to ask this question.

Quote
Is there some sort of impetus in refering to it as existant that is necessary for the creative process here? Or is there a benefit I'm not seeing?
  No, this one step is not about the creative process. This is more about efficiency. In other words, let's make sure we still have a similar understanding and then we can bust out the cool/fun conflict mechanics if it still makes sense.

Quote
Note: I'm second guessing a 'your reading it wrong' responce.
  Ah, OK. Well, my awesome response wasn't really about me saying "you are reading it wrong," it was more about me saying "In my haste to abbreviate it for web consumption, I wrote it wrong."
  Sorry about the confusion. In the final version, this will include a lot more words, and I may or may not include the diagram. I am still trying to decide (I will probably fix it and include it in the back as an appendix if I do keep it).

  Thanks for checking this thread out, I really do appreciate it.
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Dave M
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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2010, 09:02:17 PM »

*confused* I didn't mention both sides wanting the same result? One person at the table thinks theres a conflict, another doesn't.

You can have rules which designate a person and say if that person thinks there's a conflict, there is, regardless if no one else sees it (or you could have rules that say someone can do this, but have to spend an X token each time and they only have so many, which ends up more interesting, IMO).

Or you could have it that one guy can say he sees a conflict, but if another guy says he doesn't, that's it, it isn't there.

There are probably a few dozen ways of working on this. I just don't know which  'Agree that there is a conflict' refers to? It's a bit like writing a rule that says "If the real life food tastes bad, do X"...it begs the question, what happens if one guy at the table tastes it and says yuck, but another guy says yum? What is the procedure if one guy 'tastes' the prior spoken fiction and tastes a conflict, while the other guy doesn't? From some of my past history, what happens is some bitching, as each side, encouraged by the text itself to think their reaction is a global truth, both think that their 'there is a conflict'/'there isn't a conflict' reaction is the global truth and the other guys being bloody minded/stupid/malicious, etc. Certain wording can really stoke that 'how I see things is how things are' mindset. Indeed I think alot of authors stoke this mindset in their writing, because as they write they themselves are under the mindset that how they react to something is how things are. They think their perception of 'the SIS' is a real thing, not simply their own particular psychological reaction to prior spoken words.

Sorry to go on, but if such a mindset is present, then there will appear to be no problem. It'll instead feel to like "If there's a conflict, then there is, it's obvious - so I do not need to write any other rules and what is this guy going on about?". Which is to be deeply mired in the above mindset.

Assuming were past that problem, how is this handled? I gave two sketchy examples above - and there could be many more ways of doing it that could be invented. Each is based on there being a point in the procedure that says to someone 'Hey, if you choose, you can start a conflict now'. It's just a matter of which one do you want to use? I think that's the next step to take.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2010, 09:17:39 PM »

You're absolutely right, Callan. As far as I know, Trollbabe is the first game written to be absolutely explicit in its rules about this issue. One might interpret the bulk of rules-sets before that to include a tacit rule that the designated GM (by whatever title) plays that role, corresponding to your first stated option, but I have found that to be troublesome in practice. In practice, lacking such a rule, groups either find their own way through this, inventing their own techniques that are not only unstated but unacknowledged as even necessary in most rules-sets, or they don't, undergoing tedious debate or other forms of funky non-play to muddle through the Murk.

So all this is to agree in asking, Dave - for this game, what do you have in mind? It may be that your answer allows for certain editing of features in your flow chart ... for instance, in Trollbabe, since either player or GM can flatly state "conflict," and that person determines the Action Type, there is no back-and-forth Action Type choosing between the "sides."

Best, Ron
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dindenver
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« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2010, 09:24:59 PM »

Callan,
  I think I get what you are saying. And I am not claiming it is a transparent issue.
  But, what my answer was supposed to mean is this:
1) A player says, my character is walking down the street.
2) The GM says, "Their is a street thug barring your way, he says, 'You want to get past me, you gotta pay...' What do you do?"
3) So, looking at my cool, little, conflict diagram, the player has a choice, "yes there is a conflict." For whatever reason he is willing to fight to get past this thug. Or, the player can say, "You know what, you are right," and his character does a 180. No conflict. Of course the GM can still press the issue and force a conflict, but at this point, there probably is no conflict. The NPC wants to prevent anyone from passing and no one wants to get past them.
  But, we can't know that until we know the minds of both the GM and the player. The GM or the player can propose a conflict, but if there is no character that will resist them, there is no conflict, right? It depends on the fiction, is there a story element that is there to resist them? This may be obvious, or this may be on an edge case. The point of this step is simply to encourage players to communicate with each other, their understanding of the current, active story elements.

  Does that make sense? I know I have been very brief, so I am not sure if that brevity is negatively impacting comprehension.
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Dave M
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Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2010, 04:41:33 PM »

Hey Dave,

Man, this looks innoculous, but there are massive rip tides under the surface in what your describing. I'm not even sure I can chart them.

The best way I can describe it, Dave, is to say that your deeply mired, as I described before. You, as you say yourself, say this depends on the fiction, or fictional characters, or somehow how it depends on how 'we' know the minds of the GM or player (not as they know their own choices and just like, decide).

Let me put it this way - lets say whether there is a conflict depends on whether there are fairies living at the bottom of the garden of the house the games being hosted at.

Does this sound an absurd way to try and play a game? As in fairies are made up - you can look at a die and say whats on the top face, emperically. But faries are made up, you can't wander down into the garden and detect if any are present or not. What the fuck happens to the game as your all wandering in the garden?

I'm pretty sure you'd agree with me on all those assertions, probably even saying it's obvious.

The thing is, your trying to do the same thing here. Your trying to determine if a certain fiction 'exists' or not, to determine what to do next in the rules. Like if a rule says 'on a roll of a one, bring in a wandering monster' your trying to have a rule that says 'if a conflict exists, then do X...'. This is exactly the same as saying 'if fairies exist at the bottom of your garden, then do X...'. No, they are exactly the same as each other!

Anyway, that's the dreadful pill I offer. I'd talk about other options, but I think it best to wait to see how it sits, if at all, first.


Hi Ron,

Quote
One might interpret the bulk of rules-sets before that to include a tacit rule that the designated GM (by whatever title) plays that role, corresponding to your first stated option, but I have found that to be troublesome in practice.
Oh, my first option is incredibly blunt, I totally grant. In terms of A: clearly defining who decides what mechanical option is take, it's great, but in terms of B: Providing a shared author environment, it basically sucks (Read: It fails that shared author goal. Usually leads to lurking dictator behaviour/'good GM'ing'). You can see I try and water it down in the brackets idea, to start allowing room for other voices at the table. Anyway, atleast it gets A out of the way.

Quote
inventing their own techniques that are not only unstated but unacknowledged as even necessary in most rules-sets, or they don't, undergoing tedious debate or other forms of funky non-play to muddle through the Murk.
Even the unstated techniques make me think not of human communication and interaction, but of something like water washing against stone - either eroding or being brushed aside. The unstated and unacknowledged ones are the ones people are most insistant about / the make the biggest waves about...
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dindenver
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« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2010, 07:34:10 AM »

Callan,
  I really don't know what you are talking about. I feel like there is a misunderstanding between us, so let's see if I can help clarify.

  I do know that I have used this rule in actual play and that typically, it serves two positive purposes:
1) Checks understanding of the SIS (as I understand SIS)
2) Allows players to say, "Hey, wait, let's do a little more of this before we use the Conflict rules."

  I fully recognize that this is partially a feature of the way I play (I like to bust out the conflict mechanics of games I get excited about), but I don't think it would hurt to expose other players to this simple technique (just ask, "Is there a conflict?").

  Maybe it will help to clarify that in the context of the game I am designing, a Conflict occurs when Character A wants to accomplish X in this scene and Character B wants to accomplish Y in this scene and because of some sort of shared logic, they both can't occur (e.g., where X = Character B is dead and Y= Character B is alive. This is an extreme example, but I am trying to be as clear as I can be).
  Therefore, if X and Y are compatible (e.g., X= There are no witnesses to what is going on in the area behind character A and Y= Going away from the area behind character A), then there is no conflict.
But, not until the players tell us what X and Y equals, we don't know. So, why not ask them?

  Maybe you are trying to highlight some other issue, but I am not sure.
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Dave M
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Callan S.
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« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2010, 03:21:41 PM »

Dave, part of what I'm saying is that you have never, ever done #1 in your whole life. You can't understand something that doesn't exist. What's happening is that your having a psychological reaction to prior sound waves. That's all. That's not an understanding, that's just psychological reaction. But your attributing your psychological reaction as an existant thing.

This is a mechanism I see as physically working: Having a mechanism where the GM and the player have a real life button each, they may choose to press their button and if either real life button is pressed, then we hit the conflict rules (and you don't need a button, it could be a verbal indicator 'I want to go to conflict on this' - it just has to be a real life indicator).

I mean you practically seem to say that with
Quote
But, not until the players tell us what X and Y equals, we don't know. So, why not ask them?
But you don't need to ask them - just provide them with a RL physical button each, or some physical mechanism with some sort of system to it. If there's a conflict, that button will have been pressed. Heck, if you need everyone/'we' to see the conflict, everyone can have a physical button and only if everyone presses it, do you go to the conflict rules. There are many ways of doing this EXCEPT measuring/understanding something which doesn't exist to be measured/understood.

Anyway, that's what I'll wrap up on - your trying to have a rule based on measuring/understanding something that does not exist to be understood. You might say you've played that way for years and it worked, but it'll have been other processes that occured. Even if the process came down to people just saying they see a conflict just so they can get on with the show.
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dindenver
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« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2010, 03:50:47 PM »

Callan,
  Can you take a step back and tell me, exactly, what you are talking about?

  I am not trying to antagonize you or troll you, I really want to understand it.

  I really don't understand the distinction you are trying to make. Like how is it hitting a button better than answering a question? My guess is that that was meant as an example, but I am not that good at inferring info, so if you could just explain, plainly, what you mean, I would listen intently and try and understand something cool.

  I mean, yeah, you can't really know the minds of the other players at the table. But, you can ask them if they agree with you when you think you see a conflict, right? I mean, its a simple question and there is usually no real pressure to answer either way. If I design the game well, either answer will be fun, right?

  Basically, this step is here to avoid three pitfalls:
1) Meaningless conflict where no one cares about the outcome
2) Empty conflict where no one wants any outcome that is different from any other player/
3) Changing modes to the conflict mechanic when people were still exploring the previous mode

  All of which I have encountered in play. And both of which I am trying to solve with communication, rather than mechanics (other than the mechanic of asking the players to talk to each other).

  Maybe if you gave me a concrete alternative to wrap my arms around, I might understand where you are coming from.

  Sorry, I am sure this is getting tedious for you. But if you could lend me an intellectual leg up, I would greatly appreciate it.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2010, 05:27:57 PM »

Hi Dave,

I will provide my own view on the issue, without engaging in debate. I also suggest - as fellow poster, not moderator - that you and Callan not treat this as a debate and merely seek to lay down what you think, and be done.

I think that the Murk cannot be dispelled solely through some amazing textual rule which works for anyone, any time, whenever it is read. I do think that the text needs to address the issue, hence my post in support of Callan's point. Such text - as I see it - merely needs to be creatively honest, speaking to actual human interactions which can be encouraged, and calling out bullshit actions or willful ignorance of certain types if that's what the author wants to do.

The creative honesty needs to identify some person or some interaction which is to be relied upon, for recognizing conflict, or more colloquially, "when we go to the dice." I know that play can proceed fully functionally when a group does recognize and honor the person or process, because I've experienced it - or even more so, now expect to experience it or I simply don't play with that group. So rules can't magically impose such functionality, but they can say what it should look like for this particular game, and there are real behaviors out there which can be tagged as the way to go.

My call is also that there are many, many modes or styles of such functional Murk-less authority (if it's a person) or interaction. Some nailed-down, procedural forms are available as examples, as you know - I cite Trollbabe as the first text to do this and I think it's held up awfully well too. As I see it, I do not think unconstructed consensus-based approaches work well at all. Strangely, however, text which isn't too specific procedurally, but is specific as to the potential problem, finishing with "work out a solution for yourselves," without invoking consensus, seems to work pretty well. Perhaps it can simply be a matter of helping people admit that they are in, or might fall into, the Murk.

All of that is to say that I don't think there's any point to seeking a Golden Glow of Murk Dispelment, especially one which works like a spell thrown upon the game group from the perfectly-worded game book. In this, Dave, I'm pretty sure we agree based on what you've posted here. But some text which says, "The Murk is real, keep it at bay," and "Here's when," and maybe, "Here's exactly how," with the details of all two or three parts tuned to this particular game and the types of conflicts that show up in it ... that may not be magic text, but it's golden in its own way.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2010, 06:54:40 PM »

Hi Dave,

I'll put it this way. This (let's call it A)
Quote
But, you can ask them if they agree with you when you think you see a conflict, right? I mean, its a simple question and there is usually no real pressure to answer either way.

And this (let's call it B)
Quote
but if there is no character that will resist them, there is no conflict, right? It depends on the fiction, is there a story element that is there to resist them?

are vastly different from each other. I dunno, maybe you've got them tightly interwoven in how you think about the play so they appear to be one thing, but really they are two vastly different things.

Quote
Like how is it hitting a button better than answering a question?
As it was, with your B, how you wrote it and communicated what you meant to me, your not asking someone a question. By your own words your trying to ask the fiction a question. When the fiction doesn't exist to be asked.

With A, that works. But as I said, to me you seem to intermingle A & B even in the same post at times. As I measure it, one works, one doesn't - and the not working of B can stuff up the working of A.

Does that help explain my distinction you asked about? Even if the distiction doesn't make sense, you can alteast see I'm making one between A Vs B, even if they still seem the same to you. That distinction is what I'd like to contribute to the thread, at the very least. :)

Quote
other than the mechanic of asking the players to talk to each other
Just an extra note: As you'd have it, are they talking or just asking? To me, to talk would be, in the end, to persuade. Even here I'd mark another big distinction between talking and asking.
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