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Author Topic: Working Through It  (Read 1922 times)
masqueradeball
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« on: December 28, 2010, 03:43:31 AM »

In ruminating on how to make Chanbara fiction work in an RPG I came up with the idea that the GM would determine some aspect of the character that would be challenged... their honor, their skill as a swordsman or whatever, and then try and plan a scenario (in advance) that would make as hard as possible for the character not to fail. An important point here is that once the obstacles were planned, they would be totally fixed, so no ad libbing as a GM, which would allow a creative player to circumvent the problems or come up with some creative solution to solve it. Also, each character would be challenged in a different way, so that by pooling their resources they would be able to address challenges that were designed to block only a single character.

Question: Does this sound like it would work? Would a game that has the GM design a scenario thats meant to defeat your character seem to overwhelming or aggressive? What kind of limits would have to be set on the GM to ensure that the challenges were not boringly overwhelming?

CA note: This is not meant to be a gamist design. By thwarting the characters in a specific aspect of themselves, play is suppose to force the characters to grow in order to overcome the challenges that are thrown against them.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2010, 12:51:21 PM »

Hi Nolan,

I think I get what you're saying, and I think that it will work very well, without intimidation or anything else, as long as the players really do know that the GM cannot change up on them. If the GM comes to the table with X, then the player can try Y, Z, or 7, and it's still always against X. The GM cannot shift X to become "anti-Y," for instance.

The next question becomes, what's the systemic implementation of my "Y" vs. your "X," and your summary makes me very interested in what that might be.

One thing, though, this phrasing ...

Quote
... try and plan a scenario (in advance) that would make as hard as possible for the character not to fail.

... is weird to read. Is it accurate to re-phrase, "... try and plan a scenario (in advance) that is as hard as possible for the hero to succeed"?

Best, Ron
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Ar Kayon
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2010, 07:37:31 PM »

Masqueradeball,
I'm not able to form an opinion yet.  Can you give us an example of how this may manifest in-game?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2010, 11:09:34 PM »

Hi,

I'm not sure how growing (in terms of character) makes someone overcome anything? Transgressing their own principles, like (for a clumsy example) a vegetarian needing to eat meat to get past an obstacle, that I can see. Do you mean something like that? The only way I can see character growth itself overcome X is if the GM does indeed change X, after sufficient growth has been shown.
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2010, 03:15:04 AM »

Ron, yes, your rephrasing means essentially the same thing.

Okay, basically the format that I was thinking of is that the characters would be the best in a certain aspect of pop-culture samurai-dom, so, one character might be the best at sword fighting. When that character is challenged in that skill, the GM would build, for instance, a situation in which the character must fight someone he cannot hope to defeat. The GM would do his best to make sure that the character would not be able to avoid that fight and would try to plan for contingencies so that the character couldn't use any special tactics or abilities to overcome his opponent. Now, all these road blocks the GM is putting in place to guide them towards this losing fight are based on who the character IS at the start of the planning and at the beginning of the session/chapter whatever in which this conflict will occur. Now, for the character to succeed, his player will have to convince the table that the his character has changed significantly in some way, that he has become a better swords man or that he has thrown off the shackles of honor and will do something so dirty that the GM didn't plan for it, etc... I'm trying to think of a good example from fiction, but I'm drawing a blank...

One of the core elements of this "growth" or "change" or whatever you call it would how the character interacts with other characters... so that the ninja might be the one who allows the samurai to break past his code of honor to set a deadly trap for the swords man.

Cleverness would come in in that the players would be looking for constructive ways to overcome the GM's challenge with out needing to "harm" their character. In the above example, the most immediate resolution (can't really call it a solution) would be to lose the fight and try not to killed, taking any consequent injuries and loss of face, while taking the aid of the ninja would make the character less honorable which might make them more vulnerable to temptation, etc... but it would perfectly within the players rights, and would actually be awarded in a sense, for the player to think of a way to use his character's existing abilities/state of being to overcome the challenge.

Does that make sense?

Callan, I'm not sure if that answered your question. It might just be semantics... I would see the samurai changes his code of honor as a form of "growth" others might call it a transgression, either way, the point would be too see characters change in play in ways that would hopefully challenge the players to think about the consequences of those changes in a meaningful way.
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dindenver
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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2010, 03:14:22 PM »

Nolan,
  I think this idea has merit.
  The only thing that concerns me is what resources does the GM have to set these obstacles? I mean, theoretically, if they have an unlimited authority to create these encounters, then they could come up with a situation that has no resolution. Imagine that the challenge is for a master duelist. So, the GM creates a group of ronin that each has a sword talent equal to the duelist, but they specialize in group tactics. Further, the encounter is an ambush in an alley with half of the ronin blocking off each end of the alley. And what the ronin really want is to avenge their fallen master.
  So, the PC can't talk their way out, they can't sneak out, the can't fight out, they can't bribe their way out and they can't bring back the ronin's master.

  There may be a way out of this that I am not seeing, but it seems pretty water tight to me. The point of the example though is that without some kind of currency to balance the encounter, the GM may paint themselves into a corner.

  Or, do you have a plan for this and I am jumping the gun?

  Also, I had an idea for a chambara-style game as well. One were each move required the escalation of the stakes (the idea being, that is why some samurai back off from a stare-down, they can't handle the escalated stakes), but it is still in a very rough form of an idea...

  Good luck with your game, I am eager to see more!
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Dave M
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Ar Kayon
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2010, 07:04:56 PM »

I love this idea.  It appears as if the game is inherent in the role-playing, not the numbers.  And the fact that you'll lose unless you make for a fantastic drama makes it all the more interesting.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2010, 07:33:21 PM »

Nolan,

"ALL IS TRANSGRESSION!", screams a stark figure on the summit of a charred hill, bloody sword held aloft to a black, indifferent sky.

Ahem. Growth/transgression, potatoe, potatoh. :)

With what you describe, it makes sense to me in that it's not what physical actions the samurai is doing, it's instead the way of living he lived before, and how he changes that way of living when it just cannot physically intermesh with the current circumstance. Actually I should say IF he changes - what's dreadfully interesting (atleast to me) is a character who would rather die than change. I think that's valid and would be a "Whoa, cool!" moment if it happened at the table. Or if they change, it's cool!

I don't know if it's too soon to get to Daves question, as right now you might be mulling over the in the moment potential and enjoying riffing off that. But looking to the larger picture, if you wish to - sometimes a character is so interesting that if he dies in five minutes, it seems to be missing out on so much character development. That's not to say a design can't just do that, but I think it's a choice of the designer whether a character can die at any old time, or if there is some mechanism (like say fate points) to extend the examination of character. Neither is a better or worse option in some objective sense. But you do have to choose, I think.

But anyway, going back to the way of life before, I don't think this is just about blocking a really good swordsman. Being a really good swordsman is 'way of life' neutral - a saint or a mass butchering barbarian could both be really good swordsmen. Despite the number of roleplay books that have emphasised massive skill lists, skill has nothing to do with character, as far as I measure it.

Now, inclination to use a sword to solve all your problems? That's different. But that's not about skill. It's more like a way of life, or whatever you might like to call it.

I don't think it's just about blocking an ability. Indeed I had a friend who said as GM he wanted to block player abilities to see what they do and I said, where's the play in that? It's blocked. That's it.

I think it's about targeting a characters way of life, and blocking that. Then seeing how he will change his ways, perhaps ways he's held dear for years. Or perhaps he will stick to his ways to the death. He'd rather die than let the universe change him. Cool stuff.
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2010, 08:33:49 PM »

Yes Callan, your 100% right about the way of life point... if the samurai's wasn't compelled by his whole world view to use his sword and win, then losing a sword fight, or being a bad swords man, has no drama to it. The only abilities that would be threatened would be those that are tied to some perceived value in the character or that could be used to protect or undermine those values. Challenging a characters abilities in this way is meant to be a challenge of their responses, how they usually do things.

Dindenver,
This has been, to me, the biggest single problem with GM designed scenarios there is. If the GM is not constrained some how in how much force he can use against the player characters than it just seems... unfair. I want this to be a GM-full game, but I want to challenge the traditional notions of GM supremacy. I imagine that the GM would have some kind of point pool to draw from with which to build obstacles, and like Ron said, these would be 100% fixed or close to 100% fixed once the actual play began, and deviating from the pre-prepped situation would be, in effect cheating.

As far as force-point type mechanics, I like the idea of these existing for both the GM and the players, but I wouldn't want them to work in a traditional manner. In the past I thought the best way to implement this type of mechanic would be to have a pre-listed set of "random" genre appropriate occurrences that any one at the table could spend points to invoke. This way both the GM and the rest of the players can do something when they see no good solution the situation at hand.

So, going off your ronin in an ally death trap, the samurai player could spend a fate point or whatever, draw a card and maybe a wandering monk would show up or a natural disaster would rock the city. These kinds of events happen all the time in certain forms of fiction and I think they would be fun as long as the resource was rare enough that the craziness wouldn't take all the oomph out of the drama that play is directed towards. My big problem here is handing authority to these plot elements to any player who has a significant stake in the action at hand. If the monk is controlled by the GM he either has to play against himself (use the monk to help the samurai) or try and make any random element work against the samurai. If the samurai is the one controlling it, then the fate points loose some of their uniqueness and become JUST another player resource. The ideal option would be to have the most disinterested player dictate what the random element does or does not do, with mechanics attached so that his inserted influence wouldn't overpower the influence of the players involved, but in free-formy group play that idea that there will be someone at the table who doesn't care is problematic at best.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2010, 01:24:13 AM »

? Atleast in how I mentioned fate points, it's not a player resource, it's simply an excuse to say 'Hey, you would have died, BUT...(and this can only happen X times)'. You can't fire a fate point early to get out of one of these situations. Only when either you've changed the way you live or have stuck to your guns and are about to die, does the fate point kick in. They are just there so we can torture examine a character for a longer period of time than normal 'causality' would let us. I don't think they just become another player resource, unless you really have drifted right over into gamism town. If your not trying to sneak up on mode, that shouldn't be a problem. But maybe you mean something else by fate points?
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dindenver
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« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2010, 07:28:05 AM »

Nolan,
  This sounds great. Keep us posted, ok?
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2010, 08:59:20 AM »

Nolan, a reminder about the new forum requirement: for further posting about this Chanbara idea, make sure there's a source document we can link to.

Best, Ron
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masqueradeball
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« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2010, 02:29:09 AM »

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10738325/Chabara%20v%200.1.pdf

This is as far as I could get with how thought out this design is. I ran into a lot of problems with Chargen, which derailed a focused presentation of the scenario generation rules. Tell me if there are any problems with the link.

Callan, I'm not sure what you meant about your Fate Point comment... it sounds like your talking about creating some kind of buffer against character death/story dealth.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2010, 03:14:15 PM »

Yeah, might have been a different subject than the one you were talking about, Nolan. Similar names tripped me up! :)
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