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Author Topic: Gamism vs Simulated Gamism  (Read 4192 times)
Cliff H
Member

Posts: 49


« on: February 16, 2011, 05:40:57 AM »

After many scheduling snafus, I finally am heading out to game again tonight with my die hard crew of 7th Sea players who claim to want to live on the knife edge continually. In the scheduling discussion, I threw out the idea we'll be trying tonight where character death is decided in part by character decision, instead of it being all rules or all my call. Clearly we've not tried it yet, but I did find the only reply via emal to be quite telling.

"Finally! I get to play a swashbuckling game again!"

When I thought about it, this player had been plying pretty reservedly, while the others were hog wild berserkers. He clearly took the treat of death seriously, never once asked to be spared, but tried very hard not to get into potentially lethal situations. Now that he can choose not to die for failing a stunt, he's relieved.

I'll update how it works once someone actually has to make that decision.
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Chris_Chinn
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Posts: 280


« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2011, 08:01:18 AM »

Hi Cliff,

That often can be a tricky ground to navigate, especially since gamer culture very much has trained a lot of folks to not really say what they want or put it into clear terms.  Another part of the problem is that most rpgs have rules for death, but not really any formal rules for lesser loss-conditions that would make losses something players could endure regularly without losing everything.

Chris
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stefoid
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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2011, 03:12:22 PM »

Good luck!
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jburneko
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Posts: 1429


« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2011, 03:28:25 PM »

What version of 7th Sea are you playing?  I played quite a bit of the game back in the day and my recollection is that the mechanics can only Knockout a character.  Death has to be a conscious and deliberate act undertaken by a character after they've been Knocked out.

Jesse
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Cliff H
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2011, 05:25:59 AM »

What version of 7th Sea are you playing?  I played quite a bit of the game back in the day and my recollection is that the mechanics can only Knockout a character.  Death has to be a conscious and deliberate act undertaken by a character after they've been Knocked out.

We're playing by the book, with a slight change to raise mechanics to lessen the math involved and reduce the drive to tally up high rolls even when unecessary. By and large, you're spot on about death, except there's a rule in there that lets you get up after being knocked out. If you take another dramatic wound, then you die.

The agreement I'd put on the table at the beginning of the game was that I'd never take that deliberate action to kill a downed character. I'd do all kinds of other things to them, up to taking eyes and hands, but not their lives. Unless, that is, I pronounced a scene one of grave danger. If I said those words, I'd go for the throat. The reaction from our most aggressive player was that they should be in grave danger all the time, and he very much disliked that rule, and wanted it removed.

So, yesterday, I put forth a system suggessed by Callan, in which whenever a character fell, I'd choose a card in secret live or die. The player, after my choice but before knowing what it was, would slap a token on the table, live or die. If we both agreed on die, the character died. If one of us chose live, regardless of who, the character lived. If the players wanted to be in grave danger all the time, they could slap the death token down every time.

I broke this out yesterday, pssed out the tokens, and the grave danger all the time playerfell twice in the span of a 3 hour session. Both times I made my choice and aske him to do the same. Once I chose live, once I chose die. His response both times? "I hid the death token so that it can't even accidentally fall on the table."

Looks like walking that knife edge of constant danger is not what he wants at all. Now that that's out in the open, I'm going to let that sit for a day, and then try re-opening the "what do you want from the game" dialog that got us "all grave danger all the time" and see ifwe git different results with this most recent illumination.

Thanks again for the tips everyone! I think this i the most aware we've been as a group in a long time.
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Cliff H
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2011, 05:44:06 AM »

To tack a question onto the end of this finding, the results of this experiment obviously show that my "always in risk of death" player has no interest in even entertaining the thought of character death, and yet he's the most aggressive one at the table (to NPCs, not fellow players). He'll fight anything anytime, never once take a defensive action, and if he's alone that's all the better. So he wants to be pure offense without a single consideration to self-preservation, but he doesn't want to die, at all.

I'm thinking at this point that a good game match for him would be one that relegates defense to passive, establish and forget defense mechanics, like armor in D&D. Yeah, I know since 3e there's been some active defense options, but even the most tactical players in my circle have never, ever used them. Is there anything else out there that has something like this? Or, even better yet, does anyone have experience meeting this style of play to deliver a satisfactory experience in general?
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2011, 09:50:58 AM »

Well..... this does remind me somewhat of games past, but I'm not sure the match is a good one.  I've done a lot of "fake danger" stuff; special effects that don't really exist mechanically.  Like in seventh sea terms, maybe have a cannon ball pass through the hull, missing everyone by a whisker and showering them in splinters.  This external to and on top of the normal functioning of the system.  As I say, special effects, the appearance of danger without making it tangible.  It certainly can serve to up the pitch and tempo without actually introducing any new levels of danger, but I'm not convinced that this is really the point at issue.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2011, 06:27:48 PM »

Wow, what a clear cut result! No fuzzy mollases like ambiguity about what's going on! Good on you for trying this, Cliff!

I dunno, but perhaps this will be alot easier on you as you wont be trying to provide him with gamism then, as it turns out, obviously getting negative feedback from him for doing so because that's not what he wants (and then racking your brain on how to deliver the gamism, etc).

He's got some 'My character defeats all' passion going on, you just play the backstage stage hands who set up the structure to facilitate the playing out of that passion.
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Cliff H
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2011, 03:29:47 PM »

So after letting the results of my experiment simmer for a little bit, I had a much more in depth conversation with one of my players. No theory, but a lot of "what are you looking for?" kind of stuff. What came out was that this person, the biggest proponent of all grave danger all the time, doesn't particularly like high lethality games. In fact, he'd prefer to never die. However, he staunchly believes two things that lead him to his stated attitude:

1) There are certain things that belong solely in the GM's hands no matter what. Matters of life and death, for PC and NPC alike, are among those things. They should be decision made in secrets ("behind the shiled" was his term) and handed down. It's what a GM's authority exists for, so he says.

2) Rules that allow for easy character survival are fine, even preferred. But death rules, whatever they are, should be played, not circumnavigated. If you forever fudge rolls and rules so that the PCs never die, all sense of risk evaporates from the game and it becomes boring. So if you don't want to run a high mortality game, don't use high mortality rules, but once you pick a set of them, use them and don't cheat them.

I played with a GM in college who refused to kill his PCs, but he'd massacre them just short of death and come up with terribly lame reasons why we didn't die. Sometimes the bad guys would just give up on the verge of victory. More often we'd wake up in a mysterious clinic beholden to yet someone else. So I see where my player's coming from (he was in that campaign suffering along with me). Still, I'm not sure any of that reflects what he really wants from a game on a fundamental level. He just doesn't want death cheats turned into a tool to dick him continually, which is what they were in games past. It is, however, the most powerful opinion he's expressed on gaming preference to date, and I've noticed that a lot of his (and others') attitudes are a lot of that "should" stuff that you get from game books everywhere.

You know, an unexpected side effect of this is an increasing sense of annoyance I experience when confronted with what a GM should be doing. Not only does it feel more and more limiting as I read other designs, but it also feels a little cheap given that I'm always the GM. I'm supposed to be the one to decide if your character dies, not you.. I'm the one who's supposed to control things while giving you complete freedom. Why? Because. I'm *really* looking forward to transitioning my gorup to something else as an experiment in broadening our collective horizons.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2011, 08:25:14 AM »

Hi Cliff,

I saw this comedy film once and it had this bit where a guy is ostensibly being dominated by a dominatrix. But then the dominatrix does a certain thing and he suddenly snaps around and says no, your doing it wrong, in no uncertain terms. Really he was dominating the scenario. It was kinda funny - must have seen that over a decade ago...

I'd say with #1, it's much the same. He's not suggesting all that to you, he's telling you. It's a really awkward he's in charge but your in charge but only as much as he decides, in precise terms, because he's in charge. I mean, is he saying he likes this or is he saying this is how it should be (like he just walked out from behind a bush with a stone tablet in hand, this written on it)?

In other words it's a massive source of that 'should' stuff your talking about.

I'm not sure you can appease him. Because with #1, it's not like something he just likes - because with something you like, you can compromise on that. No, with #1 this must absolutely be the case. You can't even just pitch it to him and say 'Well okay, tell me how to run the game, moment to moment' because he'll say 'oh, your the GM - your in charge of that!'.
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stefoid
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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2011, 06:44:05 PM »

After some thought, I dont think the PC death thing should be an issue, except maybe if you are playing with a fully sim priority where you want to model exactly what would happen.

If you want to be playing a gamist game where the challenge and significant player decisions revolve around strategy and tactics?  In those types of games, its the thrill of design, strategy and execution that is fun.   You dont really need the threat of the character to die in that situation, merely winning/not winning is enough.

If you want to play a narrativist style game, think of movies and books --  in movies/books the 'PCs' dont die, right?  They get into mortal danger, they get knocked out, they get into cliffhangers, they get injured to some extent or another, but we the audience know that despite being hit with an atomic bomb on the top of the head, somehow the protagonist(s) are going to survive and the movie is going to continue, unless of course its one of those movies where the hero dies in the last 10 minutes.

But if its done well enough, we suspend our disbelief and we get stressed in a good way about the 'danger'.  why is that?   Partly because the spectacle I suppose.  but mostly because in situations where the lives of the PCs are threatened, theres usually a lot of other stuff at stake besides the danger to the PC.  Its the context of the danger that gives it drama, not the fact that the life of the PC is being pretend-threatened.

So you want to play in such a way that the players care about their character enough to worry that maybe, the character wont achieve whatever goal it is that he is willing to put himself in mortal danger for.

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stefoid
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« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2011, 06:52:14 PM »

However, he staunchly believes two things that lead him to his stated attitude:

1) There are certain things that belong solely in the GM's hands no matter what. Matters of life and death, for PC and NPC alike, are among those things. They should be decision made in secrets ("behind the shiled" was his term) and handed down. It's what a GM's authority exists for, so he says.

2) Rules that allow for easy character survival are fine, even preferred. But death rules, whatever they are, should be played, not circumnavigated. If you forever fudge rolls and rules so that the PCs never die, all sense of risk evaporates from the game and it becomes boring. So if you don't want to run a high mortality game, don't use high mortality rules, but once you pick a set of them, use them and don't cheat them.

So I pretty much think this player has a sim priority - he wants to know what really would happen, and as the GM you are the impartial physics of the world, so you tell him.

My own game, for instance,  is aimed at a dramatic resolution style, so it doesnt have a character-death mechanic.  Heres what I wrote about that:

If it worries you that mechanically, a honking big axe does the same amount of harm as a knife for example, then use the narrative to show why this is so.  This game doesn’t have a mechanic to determine character death – contests continue until a character is out of the contest.  For an unimportant NPC, that may mean that he was split in two by an axe blow, or had his throat slit with a dagger.   Either way, he’s dead.  For an important NPC or PC, it will probably mean he has been battered and bloodied by glancing, half-parried axe blows, or taken several shallow knife wounds.  Either way, he’s out of the contest -- cinematic resolution style.  Its about what the character can do, not the equipment.  Use play descriptions to back this up.  A play might consist of one murderous axe swing, or a sequence of lightning fast knife slashes.  It doesn’t have to be blow by blow.
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2011, 02:06:52 PM »

Hi Cliff,

I've been faced with similar situations.  Here's how I look at 'em:

The players want their choices to matter.  Specifically, they want to make some relevant choices in situations of danger, where it's at least easy to imagine or pretend that death is on the line.

The players also don't want to be losing characters all the time.  Maybe they're attached to the ones they have; maybe making new ones takes too long.

My general solution is to use a system that makes death extremely unlikely (1 in 36 to 1 in 1000), but makes more acceptable consequences quite likely.  Loss of gear, levels, looks, connections, abilities, friends, favorite color, etc.  So, my decisions still determine my fate in terms of some stuff I care about; live or die just isn't one of them.

Hope this helps,
-David
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
Cliff H
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2011, 05:47:25 AM »

My general solution is to use a system that makes death extremely unlikely (1 in 36 to 1 in 1000), but makes more acceptable consequences quite likely.  Loss of gear, levels, looks, connections, abilities, friends, favorite color, etc.  So, my decisions still determine my fate in terms of some stuff I care about; live or die just isn't one of them.

How did this work for you? My mind mmediately flashes to D&D for a game that does this. Death isn't exactly unlikely, but once you hit a certain level it becomes something that's not likely permanent. At that point, things like equipment and level loss become the hard hitting challenges you face; death is surmountable through a number of means. It actually got to a point where an editor at Dragon asked me to rewrite a submission because it was too hard on gear and too easy on lives. He said people would rather die and start with a new character than suffer level loss or, especially, loss of gear.

I'll admit, I'm genuinely confused at this point. Said player states the risk of death should be something real, but he is always the first to start a fight, always pushes the odds, and never, ever takes a defensive action. He drops a lot, but doesn't want to die. Nor, however, does he want to take cover or dodge in a gunfight. I have a strong suspicion that this is a case of someone not actually knowing what he wants, and thus not articulating it. Has anyone out there found an effective method to get people who define themselves as "just players" to think a little deper about the hobby and what they're looking to get out of it? I've avoided theory talk with everyone so far, and the experiment that tops this thread was quite revealing (to everyone at the table). Anyone got an effective step 2 you've tried for yourself?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2011, 03:47:21 PM »

Cliff, I think your trying to figure out how it works out. But it doesn't necessarily. You may simply have found a mild form of madness. To define that, it's having two compeating desires (one is 'real death' on the cards, the other is that character death is unacceptable (shown by his hiding the death chip) that can't both be forfilled, yet he's still gunning to have both of them. Before anyone gets their panties in a knot, I'm suggesting this as a possibility only and out of concern for Cliff - if you approach something as if it works when it's madness, your likely to catch it yourself as well, I estimate (and even if I'm wrong on that, I still act out of concern...by crom, I hate giving disclaimers...)

Anyway, I'd agree it's someone not knowing what they want, in the sense of not having given up one of two conflicting desires, when only one can be had.  But that's not even a game talk thing - the capacity to identify conflicting desires then choose which desire is effectively 'put down' - well, it's not a skill taught in school, let's say. Ie, it's not common.
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