*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 25, 2014, 07:37:07 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 27 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Stone, Steel, and Steam - Revised and Ready to Test  (Read 2173 times)
markgamemaker
Member

Posts: 7


WWW
« on: December 17, 2010, 08:07:28 AM »

Stone, Steel, and Steam is a tabletop RPG about cultures in collision.  It features eight unique human civilizations on two continents with technology levels ranging from Stone Age to early Industrial to photovoltaic schizotech.  They just discovered each other about forty years ago, and things are starting to get messy.  The players can engage the world as characters of any of the nations, from any walk of life but most often as soldiers, explorers, or traders directly affected by or personally shaping world events.

Here is the completed game manual, and the self-criticizing release announcement about it.  I've already got it lined up for some local playtesting; what I really need are critiques and copyedits of the text.  'I like how you handled/described x but I don't like this about y.  I think the way z is written is ambiguous, p is unnecessary, and q is something players need to know that's not written,' stuff like that.  I'd also be very interested to hear the results of other playtests based solely on the manual, that I've had no opportunity to skew.

The ideas that grew into this game began gestating in around 2000, I had scribbles and notes on paper in 2005, had things complete and cohesive enough to run rough playtests in late 2007, and it actually started coming together into an actual manual in 2009.

One one level this is 'just' a pencil-and-paper tabletop adventure game and it follows many common RPG conventions.  The interesting stuff, imo, is the setting, and theoretically I could have just developed it as a setting for OGL or some other generic mechanical engine, except that I have philosophical objections to how most other systems work and wanted to make a few statements by developing my own.  Not particularly revolutionary statements, but significant to me.

On another level, this game is or can be a tool to explore social and historical conflicts.  I tried to make these cultures ethnologically plausible.  Every quirk and feature is a response to a trauma or crisis in their history.  Ask, why did the Spanish have the technology to conquer the Amerindians instead of the other way around?  Then kick out the 'why' and ask, what if the Amerindians had the technology, how would this have played out?  Then kick out the Spanish and the Amerindians (or any thinly veiled analogue) so we don't have the personal feelings and political baggage attached, build several cultures from the ground up, plot out how they developed and why, and set the players loose in that world.  And you'll have crazy Brisco County, Jr.-style adventures, but you'll also raise questions about imperialism, colonialism, slavery, genocide, and other conflicts that can drive genuine character growth.  Maybe that's a little pretentious; I don't really expect everyone who plays this game to have their eyes opened to the tacit injustices of history, and it can certainly be done with other systems.

I'm a narrativist, I suppose, and my real objective has been to craft a setting that would be interesting to tell stories in, where guns and swords are both viable options, where magic is real but not overpowering, where things make sense and the way things are is a result of plausible cause-and-effect conflicts.  a game that's a little smarter and more serious than your average mass-market game, but not so artsy/esoteric/indie that it wouldn't also be appealing to a broad audience of gamers.  I don't care it it's ever commercially successful; I do care that it's solid and professional and complete and can be enjoyed by like-minded people.  It's a rough stone I've finally hacked out, and at this point I need help polishing it.
Logged

Stone, Steel, and Steam - Beta Testers Wanted!
johnthedm7000
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2010, 04:57:09 PM »

Firstly I've got to say how much I admire the fact that you've actually managed to put together your RPG (even if it is in beta format). I've been working on my own RPG for going on 8 months now and am not past the second draft of the mechanics. That being said, I have some questions and comments.

I was reading over your Magic (or Praxis) section and had a couple of comments. Firstly, the magic system doesn't seem as if it's really a part of the setting-it's not mentioned as affecting the relationships between nations, the makeup of religions, or the cultures of the various peoples that populate the game world. Even if magic is subtle and not believed in with any real frequency, if magic works (at least for some people) then it will have a measurable affect on the societies it appears in. Secondly, the effects that magic can create seem somewhat limited, even taking into account the flavor of magic that appears in your game.

Weather magic, shapeshifting (such as that attributed to Witches in the middle ages by way of an animal skin girdle),  hexes beyond the "wasting sickness" that your cursing seems to simulate, and blessings (such as protecting another against witchcraft, or blessing them with fertility, strength, or luck) are all (at least in my mind) appropriate as magical abilities in a world that has subtle and down-to-earth magic as a theme. But all of these are currently impossible with your current magical ruleset. I'd recommend that you expand the list of effects you can create with magic, or else give guidelines for players to create their own effects, giving difficulty examples for general types of magical tasks.

Example 1: Shapeshift. The practicioner can change their form to that of a Beast through the use of their Focus and a long ritual. This requires a Air+Praxis roll against a difficulty based on the power of the form.
                                  Weak Creature with few abilities (Mouse, Frog) Easy
                                  Weak Creature with many abilities (Crow, Dog) Moderate
                                  Strong Creature with few abilities (Large Dog, Poisonous Viper) Difficult
                                  Strong Creature with many abilities (Crocodile, Wolf, Bear) Very Difficult
While in the assumed form, your Fire and Earth scores are increased or decreased by the difference between your scores and those of the animal. This decrease only applies to physical actions. You may not communicate in the form of an animal (unless the animal in question could be trained to speak, in which case it requires an Air+Fire roll against moderate difficulty to speak a full paragraph) or use Praxis while shapeshifted. You gain all of the special abilities of the animal whose form you have assumed (such as flight for birds, incredible sensory abilities for dogs or wolves, faster speed for a horse). While in animal form, you may communicate basic concepts to other animals of your kind through body language and scent. Occasionally, the animal form might influence you to act in a certain way (such as making you stalk a deer while shapeshifted into the form of a wolf). This is resisted by Air+Water, and is of a difficulty based on the strength of the stimulus.

Example 2: Making new Praxis abilities.
Have the player describe what he or she would like to accomplish and determine what category of task it falls into. Then make a Fire+Praxis roll for physical effects, or an Air+Praxis roll for mental effects. Roll against a difficulty determined by Scope, modified by effect.

Scope:
Small (A single target, Touch Range, a few feet in area) Very Easy
Moderate (Up to 3 targets, range comparable to a thrown weapon, a few yards in area) Easy
Large: (Up to 5 targets, range comparable to a bow, tens of feet) Moderate
Huge: (Up to 10 targets, range comparable to a smoothbore gun, hundreds of feet in area) DIfficult
Epic: (Up to 20 targets, range comparable to a rifle, thousands of feet in area) Very Difficult

Effect:
Minor (A slight modification, amusing diversions easily accomplished by ledgermain or sleight of hand) +5
Lesser (A significant but still explainable modification, such as placing an odd but reasonable suggestion in someone's mind, or causing it to rain when there are already stormclouds in the sky) +10
Moderate (A significant effect that is hard to explain away as non-supernatural, such as getting rats to follow you away from a village and dance to your song, or having a lightining bolt strike randomly out of a cloudy but not stormy sky) +15
Major (A large effect that's nearly impossible to explain away, such as causing a normally healthy man to fall sick with a horrible disease, or causing your foe's weapon to weaken and rust) +20
Incredible (An obviously supernatural effect that's readily apparent to all as a function of Praxis. Changing your form, causing a healthy man to drop dead with a gaze, conjuring a spirit who takes bodily form, or suspending aging in a target) +25

Effect:

Logged
johnthedm7000
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2010, 07:45:47 PM »

Either of the above methods would contribute to expanding the versatility of your magic system and it's ability to mimic the wide variety of magical practices that go on in the real world (and it's obvious that you've taken a lot of your information from reinterpretations of various RL cultures, which is cool).

Regarding the fiction of your game, I'm curious as to why the less advanced societies who are stuck at a stone age, bronze age, or iron age level of technology which have had
Logged
johnthedm7000
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2010, 08:07:18 PM »

(I apologize for my previous post, my computer freaked out and I posted it before it was completed. Read this as a continuation of my previous post)

contact with more advanced societies with imperialist tendencies have not been absorbed into the empires of those imperialistic countries. As RL history will tell you, less technologically advanced peoples don't exist side by side with technologically advanced imperialist nations without the less advanced peoples eventually getting steamrolled, or using the technology of their attackers to fight back. If perhaps you provided reasons in the fiction why this had not taken place (such as terrain or climate that makes conquest difficult, powerful Praxis on the part of the less developed peoples, or due to the countries in question being distracted by other concerns), then this would be easier to swallow, but as it stands it hurts my suspension of disbelief. This is especially striking because other than that you've done a very good job of creating interesting societies from the ground up without resorting to cliches often found in RPG material.

Another question I have is why you chose to include an Idiom system that directly punishes characters for "evil" behavior and rewards them for "good" behavior in the form of Karma when you talk about exploring social and historical issues such as slavery, genocide, and imperialism, and driving deep character growth. While slavery, genocide, and imperialism are easy to call evil (and indeed I can't think of many things that fit the bill more closely), to leave it at that is over simplifying it. All of those horrible things that occurred in the real world, or that occurred in your RPG's setting were the result not of people who set out to do evil, but human beings who acted on very basic and primal drives and emotions. That's what's really scary about such events- that the people who perpetrate hem by and large aren't cackling megalomaniacs who kick puppies for fun, but people just like you and I. It seems counter intuitive (at least to me) for a game about exploring these issues in a systematic and deep way to have a system which offers external rewards for moral behavior and external punishments for immoral behavior.

Now the dichotomy between immoral and moral behavior is an interesting one, and I think it's something worth exploring but I would consider ways of making Karma provide rewards that aren't readily apparent in the game world, and also consider the possibility of combining the concept of Karma with something else to make a sort of "motivation system". For example, if you gave characters several "motivations" and they gained a different (but equal) reward based on whether they acted on that motivation morally, immorally, or neutrally then you free up players to easily explore characters of all moralities without worrying that they'll be punished for the system for playing an immoral character. Unless you've intended for one of the themes of the game to be something along the lines of "Those who are pure of heart will usually triumph over those who are corrupt" or something similarly idealistic, I would consider redesigning or scrapping Karma.

I don't mean to be overly harsh-I really do like your game's concept, setting, and the rules by and large and I'd love to discuss them and your reasons behind your mechanical decisions more in-depth.

Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2010, 11:29:59 AM »

Hi,

I'd like to cast in my support for John's question about the ethics of the game. You used the term "narrativist" to describe yourself ... I am not sure whether you are using this in the sense that I, its author, defined - to embed the action into a pressing, situational, and above all compelling question that taps right into human emotions, concerns, ethics, morality, or anything related to those terms. *

If you are indeed using the term as I've defined it, then John's question is a good one. But it's not just a matter of "alignment vs. no alignment," or "rules vs. no rules." Here are my thoughts about that.

1. The simplest way to deal with such questions in role-playing is to leave them entirely non-mechanical, as emergent social and creative feedback from playing. Given many people's experience with personality and morality mechanics, I can see why they might prefer that because historically such mechanics are highly strictural and punitive. However, just because this is simplest and just because it can work, doesn't mean it's necessarily the best way. In fact, in practice it has a way of running into social clashes.

2. A number of games include what might be called "morality mechanics" (here using morality in the broadest and most story-thematic sense) without dictating exactly what is good and exactly what is evil, and definitely not casting PCs or NPCs into those roles in a fixed way. My game Sorcerer is probably the one that's received the most discussion about such things, but see also Dogs in the Vineyard, My Life with Master, and Dust Devils.

In these games, human judgment at the table is called for - preferably right there in the moment, and preferably at the mercy of a given person, rather than some kind of consensus. The consequences can be severe but also permit "bouncing back" from them, most of the time. It's also worth pointing out that these are fully free-will games, in that nothing on a character puts limits on a character's behavior for good or ill.

What I'd like to know about is exactly how the Idiom rules work at the table, by examples of what's really happened. It may be that you are working with legacy mechanics (D&D alignment, or Storyteller System Humanity) that frankly don't function well except in highly limited, highly group-specific instances. Or it may be that you have hit upon parallel mechanics to those of Sorcerer and similar games, or something that is distinct from them but also consistently functional. It's hard to tell, from reading game text. Can you provide examples, from real play?

Best, Ron

* Narrativism doesn't merely mean "to tell a good story," as that can be accomplished in the context of many other, different creative goals for play.
Logged
markgamemaker
Member

Posts: 7


WWW
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2010, 12:02:44 PM »

First of all, thank you very much for your responses.  I've had a lot of trouble getting people I know to respond, and I welcome your hard-hitting insights.

Technology
Regarding the fiction of your game, I'm curious as to why the less advanced societies who are stuck at a stone age, bronze age, or iron age level of technology which have had contact with more advanced societies with imperialist tendencies have not been absorbed into the empires of those imperialistic countries. As RL history will tell you, less technologically advanced peoples don't exist side by side with technologically advanced imperialist nations without the less advanced peoples eventually getting steamrolled, or using the technology of their attackers to fight back. If perhaps you provided reasons in the fiction why this had not taken place (such as terrain or climate that makes conquest difficult, powerful Praxis on the part of the less developed peoples, or due to the countries in question being distracted by other concerns), then this would be easier to swallow, but as it stands it hurts my suspension of disbelief. This is especially striking because other than that you've done a very good job of creating interesting societies from the ground up without resorting to cliches often found in RPG material.
This I thought I covered in the text, and your question shows me that I did not explain it adequately.  So, note to self, fix that.  The differences in technology levels are largely a matter of geographic isolation and in some cases economic access.  You do see these kinds of technological gaps in RL, even today.  I imagine you're referring mostly to the gaps between Aralei, Retulia, and Elme/'Haraz?  The Aralean Empire is a cavalry-based power, and while they reign supreme in the savannah around the Inner Sea and they claim to rule areas far to the north and south, their ability to actually project power into the northern mountains and the southern swamps, jungles, and mountains is limited.  Plus they've been caught up in civil wars for a long time.  The peoples they conquered are now at the same technology level, and even though they're not ethnic Aralean, they're included in that cultural 'zone.'  So a lot of people did get steamrolled and assimilated and are now using the tools of their attackers, but they don't get their own unit precisely because they have ceased to be culturally and technologically distinct.

Retulia is not so much Bronze Age as it is early Iron Age, while Aralei is later Iron Age, and they have had quite a bit of interaction.  It's like the difference between Scotland and Italia c. 200 AD.  Given another few hundred years left to themselves, the Retulians might have caught up, and the Borderlands already have some more tech than the average Retulian (which I need to specify).

The Nehom have low tech for religious reasons and nobody has been able to steamroll them because they're badass Amish sand ninjas hiding in the desert with a strong tradition of Praxis.  You try to conquer them, they foresee you coming, they'll poison a well to kill all your horses and leave the rest of you to die of thirst or pick you off one by one in the night.  Marym is on the conquering trail, and so far the Nehom desert has acted as a sort of insulator, but it won't last.

Also, these are very broad strokes.  Sure, Araleans generally don't have guns, but you know that some have been captured or stolen or smuggled no matter how hard the Taksans try to prevent it.  Some Elmes may have Aralean steel tools and let's say a small number even understand how to make them, but they don't have the infrastructure to create them locally.

Magic
One of the core aesthetics of the game is that magic is invisible, really more like psionics or the Force.  People that don't believe in magic aren't crazy or stupid, it's just not measurable.  Weather magic, yes, and it was in consideration, I just hadn't figured out a good mechanic for it.  Shala does a rain dance, and then it rains, but you can't know that it wasn't going to rain anyway - that works for me.  Shapeshifting not so much.  Shala turns into a wolf and everyone says, holy crap! She just turned into a wolf!  The existence of magic is now indisputable - and that doesn't work for me.  Of course, you could use some of the mind-altering powers of Harmonize to make someone believe you/they had been shapeshifted, and there would be stories of it, but any kind of 'scientific' analysis of the event reveals it was 'just some dumb superstition' or 'mass hysteria.'  I like your idea of hexes/anti-hexes, and I also considered adding some kind of battle meditation.  I think I will add more 'spells,' not sure yet about a build-a-spell toolkit, but I'll consider it.

There is a spectrum of belief in and use of Praxis.  Most Taksans don't believe, which is partially their pragmatism, a reaction to the abuses of their Imperial period, and a conspiracy promoted by the Central Police.  Many Araleans believe, but think it's evil (which is a tidbit that didn't make it in to this draft, note to self).  Most Granarctians believe and think only priests should use it. Moy, Retulians, Elme, and 'Haraz all have their shamans and mystics.  Nehom and Marym are practically magocracies.  I should explicate all that, either in the country descriptions, or the Praxis chapter, or both.

Karma
Let me just say it's sometimes vastly intimidating posting on the Forge.  I feel like a primary school kid saying 'Yay! I like animals!' and I come to this convention where everyone's discussing mitochondrial RNA and Malthusian carrying capacities.  So, posting on zero sleep and trying to sound impressive because I explore Important Concepts, I probably sounded like more of an idiot than usual.  When I say we're going to be exploring issues of colonialism, et al., I don't mean we're necessarily going to be participating in committing atrocities.  I mean we're not dealing with a sanitized, heroic version of colonial (pseudo)history, nor are we dealing with a revisionist white guilt version.  One thing that's very important to me that I hope I conveyed in the text is that there are no good and bad nations, but there are good and bad people, there are going to be acts of heroism and generosity of spirit and villainy and brutality on both sides.  I'm not trying to be edgy, per se, but I reserve the right to be.

One, I sincerely believe that you sow what you reap.  Whether that's your slaves rising up in revolt or literally the universe knocking you on your ass is merely aesthetics.  It doesn't always happen right away, and you can be really horrible and get away with it for long periods of time, you might even outrun it for your entire mortal life, but it will catch up to you.  I feel that a cosmic moral law is a spiritual reality, and a realistic game will reflect that.  Of course, it doesn't need to be a mechanic.  I don't have a mechanic for falling damage, that doesn't mean I won't kill or injure a PC that jumps off a cliff.  Also, I like to encourage heroic play, but being doing what's 'right' usually isn't the most compelling strategy.  Why shouldn't we torture the prisoner for information?  Why should we help these suffering villagers who can't pay us.  A karmic balancer takes care of that.

Two, I see it as much a player mechanic as a character mechanic.  I run a very delicately balanced game.  I don't run a G-rated enchanted fantasy where nobody poops and nobody bleeds.  But I also don't run noir games full of degenerates and horror, and I think there's a lot of middle ground there to cover.  My players have different comfort levels for that, and I see one of my roles as gamemaster as a kind of social thermostat.  In my experience, when a game has no morality mechanic and I deliver some karmic retribution to remind a player that he's pushing the limits we've set, he'll usually take it as a personal attack.  You're making an in-game decision based on a meta-game value judgement, it's arbitrary and unfair, and players are highly sensitive to that.  If I have a rule that says, if you do x, you lose Karma, that's the rules talking, not the GM, so the player knows he brought this on himself.  But it's still my way of nudging a player to remind him of where the line for our group is, but it's a little more subtle and nuanced than a meteor strike, and it's an in-game resolution rather than taking him aside.

I explicitly left it up to the players and the GMs to decide what's going to be good and evil in their game.  I gave some general guidelines and left it at that.  Karmic backlash is not 'and then lightning strikes you' - it's a slight increase in probability of something bad happening to your character, or a decrease in probability in having something good happen, and it's a temporary condition.  Even if I were playing another game with no morality mechanic, I would tack this on.

My game experience has largely been with Star Wars, 2nd ed., Exalted 1st ed., and occasional dabbling in The Riddle of Steel and D&D 3.x/Pathfinder.  I've heard a lot about Dogs in the Vineyard but haven't read it, so I don't know too many cutting-edge alternate approaches to morality mechanics.  In Star Wars, morality only matters if you're Force-sensitive, and it's black-and-white.  My team felt that Exalted morality mechanics didn't make sense, so we largely ignored them.

I've got playtests with my own group coming up in January.  I'll post something in Actual Play to show it in action.
Logged

Stone, Steel, and Steam - Beta Testers Wanted!
Renee
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 693


WWW
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2010, 02:01:48 PM »

Hi there markgamemaker,

I just want to say, your last post was extremely productive for me, but probably not in the way you would expect.

You say

Quote
One, I sincerely believe that you sow what you reap.

That's interesting for me, because I don't believe that.  My personal, lived experience suggests that sometimes good people suffer, and no amount of sowing goodwill is ever enough to raise them up out of the muck.  And there are lucky people out there who never suffer...and don't deserve half of what they have.  Furthermore, I find the belief that "what comes around goes around" and "good things happen if you just work hard enough" to be firmly rooted in privilege, specifically white heterosexual cisgender able-bodied male privilege.

Now, I'm not here to argue privilege!  I do that enough elsewhere.  But my point is that your comments about karma and how they filter into your setting evoked a highly emotional response on my part.  We could have a conversation about this here...but if a game could capture that discussion and bring it forward, through the decisions and judgments of the players and their characters...that would be theme in the Narrativist sense.  And I think it's something your setting seems built for...with these different cultures in conflict, some with their education and wealth and privilege and the others who don't have those things and would be marginalized as a result.    

So, and this is just my take, if Karma is important to your game, and you actually are interested in producing something that evokes theme in the Narrativist sense (which you don't have to be), one fertile plot of ground to play in would be the space between "karma is real" and "karma isn't real" (and all the ideas those things call to mind, like justice, fairness, equality, happiness, etc.).  You've clearly answered the question for yourself, but what if other people have different answers?  I don't know you you would implement that mechanically, but it was the most powerful emotional thread I've picked up from my (admittedly brief) reading of your posts here.  At the very least, though, I think the discussion around the idea can elucidate some of Ron's points about how Narrativist games develop theme through play.

Best,
Renee

(edited to correct a typo and to add the last sentence)
« Last Edit: December 20, 2010, 02:07:54 PM by hardcoremoose » Logged
johnthedm7000
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2010, 05:11:10 PM »

Thank you for your detailed and well-reasoned post-I really appreciate your response.

Praxis
What you've said definitely makes sense, if you're looking only for magic that's explainable as circumstance (even if it's odd or unlikely circumstance). As someone whose done some study of RL occult systems and who has always been a big fan of RPG magic systems, I'd love to suggest additional effects for you to incorporate into your Praxis structure. Just off the top of my head:

Causing/Curing Infertility "I thought my wife was barren, but I guess we just needed to try some more"
Weather Magic "They say anyone who bothers that old crone gets a storm that ruins their crops, but I just say it's their fault for living up on a hill."
Blessings of various kinds "Oh my boy? There's no Praxis there, he's just got shoulders like an Ox! Just like his father." (Blessings of beauty, strength, luck, skill, and wealth are all good possibilities)
Weakening/Strengthening objects "By the prophetess! I thought this door would break by now!"
Hexes of all sorts, including story-oriented curses like "Fire will be as a traitorous dog to you." or "You will never find love until you return what you have stolen." where the effects can be shrugged off as coincidence (or not).
Minor alteration of chance "Son of a bitch. He must be using loaded dice!"
Ability to ignore things like heat, cold, or injuries for a short time "The Nehom warriors-they'll tell you what they endure is through magic. But it's just because they're tough as nails."

Karma
I definitely respect your beliefs about reciprocity, as I hold similar views on the subject. But I do think that hardcore moose made an excellent point when he said that the debate over whether or not "what goes around comes around" is an excellent theme to discuss through the avenue of an RPG. One thing to consider is having each character provide his vision of how the world works, and when things go the way they should according to his worldview the player is rewarded somehow. Now when things go against the character's world view-when the idealistic young Retulian who believes that "everything happens for a reason" gets mugged in a big city and then shanghai'ed onto a slave ship, then they have a decision to make. Do they stick with their beliefs and the morals that they hold dear, and sacrifice something else to keep their beliefs intact? Or do they change their belief system to fit the situation, and come away a different person, with different motivations?

Example: Zarai, a Nehom tribesman was cast out of his village for wishing to brazenly preach the Nehomese faith to outlanders, something that would endanger the Nehom who are held as apostates and heretics. He believes that "If you work hard, things will work out alright for you." he gains a bonus to tasks that exemplify this attitude, as this is what he believes in deeply. But after 6 months of ministering to the Araelian people, he's been beaten, kicked, cast away, and even once (he believes) hexed by a powerful Praxis user. He's faced with the decision to change his attitude, or suffer the consequences and "keep the faith". He decides to give up some measure of his brazen belief in his Prophetess-better to be subtle, and not rile up the city folk. He changes his dress, his mannerisms, and even starts using a pistol (something that would earn him exile or death amongst his own people), and changes his belief to "Blend in, and you won't get hurt."

You don't need to use that exact mechanic, but I think it might be something interesting to consider.
Logged
masqueradeball
Member

Posts: 346


WWW
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2010, 07:14:44 PM »

I don't disagree that the use of a Karma mechanic could be good for Story Now play but it seems that it's purpose here is a way to reinforce the social contract accepted or agreed to by theplay group. If your group thinks rape, for instance is too real or taboo, then there's a mechanical penalty for going there on fiction. It's a tried and true Sim mechanic that's been successfully used in both Marvel Super Heroes and Pendragon. The big difference here is that as far as I know the Karma awards are based on the player's real world moral systems, which even in very healthy groups could make play go south quickly. It seems wiser to tie the karma awards into explicit in game idea of morality, even if it's a single universal system, and not a culturally realitivistic one.
Logged

johnthedm7000
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2010, 08:58:40 PM »

I suppose really it depends on what Mark wants to accomplish-I gathered from his "mission statement" that the game is meant to have Narrativist elements, although the mechanics and the tone of the advice given in the game text gives the impression that this is also a game system with a strong Simulationist "spine". I definitely agree with masqueradeball though that tying Karma into real-world morality can get murky pretty quickly, unless of course the game is set up to handle heavy moral issues, and the "play" or "GM" section of the book has extensive advice for dealing with that sort of thing.

It can be done (I've been GM'ing a Mutants and Masterminds game for going on 5 or 6 years that handles real-life moral issues in a mature and sophisticated way, and with players that have a wide variety of religious and political opinions. I'm a Wiccan, one of the players is a devout Lutheran, one is a "Strong" Atheist, and the last is a moderate Muslim. Despite this, we've never really had a problem tackling tough social and moral issues in our games) but it's certainly not easy, and often times it requires either an unusually strong gaming group, or a section of the book specifically dedicated to making sure moral issues don't become a minefield for players.

On an unrelated note, I accidentally fell into the cliche gamer trap of assuming that there are "no women on the interwebz" and referred to hardcoremoose as a he. Hopefully I won't make any similar mistake again, as I've tried very hard not to fall victim to any other such cliches such as living in my mom's basement or consuming copious quantities of Mountain Dew and Cheetos.
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2010, 05:37:24 AM »

You guys are making my head hurt a little bit with certain uses of GNS terms. There's a lot of merit in the posts, but also a lot of fog and at least one serious misconception.

I don't want to derail the thread. Mark, let me know if you want a brutal, clear, no-holds-barred breakdown of Narrativism as it pertains to your game (what you've made available) and its practical application in terms of groups, people, real-life morality, and beliefs. I might be rather hard on some of the posts so far.

If you don't want that here, then I ask that we not focus on that issue in this development thread, and talk about something else of Mark's choice. In that case, if anyone's interested in the Narrativist stuff, then I suggest posting in Actual Play about any game experience and raising the issue of whether Narrativist play was going on, or why or why not.

Mark, let us know.

Best, Ron
Logged
Shimera9
Member

Posts: 48


WWW
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2010, 09:32:00 AM »

I still need to read through the docs, but here are few points that caught my attention from what you've posted here.

Quote
any kind of 'scientific' analysis of the event reveals it was 'just some dumb superstition' or 'mass hysteria.'
I take it from your examples that this means magic use can be easily attributed to other causes.  A scientific analysis could reveal their presence through statistical analysis, though we've seen in our own world how debated those numbers are.  Basically, if something has a repeatable mechanical effect then there's a good chance it can be analyzed by scientific methods.  That being said some people do treat "science" as a belief system rather than a methodology, which leads to certain biases.

I've found a good way to handle subtle magic is to treat is as largely probabilistic.  By that I mean that most of the actual effects should involve altering the odds of a given event.  Rules-wise, this can often be handled well by a "reroll" or other second chance mechanic.  That actually gives you a fairly easy way to handle a variety of effects.  For example: weather control -> reroll chance of rain, mind control -> reroll persuasion attempt, and so on.

This approach does make magic most effective when things start with a 50/50 chance.  Below that, it's still effective but the increase in probability is less (ex 50%->75% vs 20%->36%).  Above that, the chances are high enough that that an extra boost is less notable (ex. 80% -> 96%).

As for the Karma issue, you have established that in the game world spiritual forces have a definite (if subtle) effect.  As such, you can justify that as an actual part of the game world metaphysics or cosmic law.  However, you should probably define exactly what that law is.  It looks like you've already got "you reap what you sow" as a basis.

Have you considered using "like attracts like"?  Within the mind the "nearness" of something is usually related to how similar it is to what you're currently experiencing.  In other word, it takes less time to "travel" to another idea if you're already thinking of something similar.  If the same applies to spiritual/magical reality, then it makes since that related forces should exist in close proximity.  Extend this out one more step and you have actions attracting spiritual forces related to those actions.  In short, if you inflict pain on others you may attract spirits or forces associated with that pain.  Since those forces can manipulate events, it's not much of a stretch to see how attracting those forces could increase the chance of such events occurring around or to you.  By the same token, beneficent acts could attract forces that benefit those around them.

There are a few interesting implications to trying karma to same forces the enable magic.  First off, if those forces are probabilistic, that means people can evade the backlash.  The changes of evading all of it becoming increasingly small as time goes on.  However, in a large enough population you'll have enough people who "cheat fate" to lay the seeds of doubt.  By making punishment or reward less certain you encourage a certain amount of risk taking and raise in world debates over whether they exist at all.  This does also mean that the characters can never be sure when karma will strike, if it does.

The second interesting point is that those attracted forces might in turn be manipulated by magic.  This actually has some similarity to real world beliefs.  After all, ritual cleansing is a practice in many culture, particularly around dangerous things like death or combat.  It could example, a warrior's cleansing rituals might help ward of any spirits of death that were attracted during a battle.  This does mean evil doers might surround themselves with  charms and the like to keep those consequences at bay.  However, such charms could wear out with use and need to be renewed.  At that point all it takes is a bad batch or attracting too many forces to overcome those defenses.  It also means that those who acknowledge they're doing wrong may seem particularly superstitious, which is an interesting touch.
Logged

Interested in a rambling collection of game ideas? Check out my blog at http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/.
markgamemaker
Member

Posts: 7


WWW
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2010, 02:55:51 AM »

I think I read an earlier (and, from what I'm hearing, by now antiquated) version of GNS Theory and assimilated it into my way of thinking about gaming from an end user perspective before I even seriously considered design.  Either I didn't get it at all to begin with, or I did but my brain's definition of the terms and this community's definition of the terms have drifted apart.  Forget what I said about being a Narrativist; I don't know what I am in your book at this point.  That doesn't mean there's no merit to discussing what this game is or can be in terms of the current theory.  I'll write more about that later - I have to catch a plane and will be offline for the next week.

Karma is intended to be a player mechanic, both enforcement of the social contract and a melodrama tool, so it wasn't ever meant to be an issue of whether or not the characters believe in Karma.  However, this discussion is taking an interesting turn and I'll read more throughly, consider, and continue this discussion on that score when I return.

Thanks again, everyone.

You guys are making my head hurt a little bit with certain uses of GNS terms. There's a lot of merit in the posts, but also a lot of fog and at least one serious misconception.

I don't want to derail the thread. Mark, let me know if you want a brutal, clear, no-holds-barred breakdown of Narrativism as it pertains to your game (what you've made available) and its practical application in terms of groups, people, real-life morality, and beliefs. I might be rather hard on some of the posts so far.

If you don't want that here, then I ask that we not focus on that issue in this development thread, and talk about something else of Mark's choice. In that case, if anyone's interested in the Narrativist stuff, then I suggest posting in Actual Play about any game experience and raising the issue of whether Narrativist play was going on, or why or why not.

Mark, let us know.

Best, Ron
Logged

Stone, Steel, and Steam - Beta Testers Wanted!
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!