[Trollbabe] "Aestethic" Magic

Started by Aetius, May 26, 2011, 11:34:47 AM

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Hi to all.

Recently, on GenteCheGioca, we are discussing about magic and its uses in Trollbabe, and I've decidede to come to the origin, to clarify some of my doubts ^^

In Trollbabe I can declare a conflit being "Combat", "Social" or "Magic". All have their limitations and quirks, but, as I've always intended and played it, there's a little elasticity, expecially in colour.

I can, for example, say: I draw my sword, grinning. Conflict, Social. The Goal is to make them run, scared to death. It can appear thath my trollbabe is ready to fight, but what I want, as a player, is to change the active behaviour on my opponents. I can be eager to broke a neck or two to obtain this, but it isn't a "Combatt" conflict. The sword, the combactive stance are all means thought an ending that's full in the Social Conflict realm.

Can I use "magic effects" in the same guise? What is the difference between: I draw my sword. Conflict, Combat. Goal: I kill him and I summon my flaming sword of fire. Conflict, Combat. Goal: I kill him or, for that matter, I transform myself in a dragon. Conflct, Combat. Goal: I kill him?

Is a magic effect in the fair and clear reason sufficent to vincolate that conflict in the "Magic" area?
Are "special magical effects" mean to be introduced in a conflict even without the need to use a reroll? Can my trollbabe fight, in a Combat conflict, sorrounded by an halo of fire without "a remembered spell" and a reroll just as she can wave around her sword without using "a carried object"?

Same thing with the Social Conflicts, obviously.
When my trollbabe is trying to impress and dismay someone with a magical display of lights and fires, can I still call a Social Conflict?
Ciao, I'm Ezio and I'm Italian.
And I'm sorry for my bad English, I'll keep studying ;-)

Moreno R.

Ezio, remember that you CAN change somebody's behavior or hurt someone with a magic conflict. Magic conflicts can have any kind of goal for the trollbabe.  The difference between hurting someone with a fighting conflict and a magic conflict is not the goal, it's how you go to hurt him.

This is different from the difference between a fighting and a social conflict, that is about the Goal, and not about the way you go at the Goal.

Said that, I am waiting for Ron's answer, too.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)


Moreno, of course ^^

With Magic I can do pratically everything... given time and a non-action scene.
My doubt is specifically in the magic used as colour (or leverage) in another type of conflict.

My absolute first conflict with a trollbabe was to submit a bunch of paesants. I described my trollbabe shining with power, with her hair clouded on her head and with a sort of reverbering pope-voice. It was obviously magic and it was a Social Conflict.

It can be done?

Where is the difference between a sword of steel and a summoned sword of fire in the fair and clear phase of a Combat Conflict?
Where is the difference between a fiery glaze and a halo of sparks in a Social Conflict?
The sword of fire and the halo of sparks are legal declarations? Can I use them without the reroll item in the F&C phase?

Or the simple fact that I'm using magic instead of mundane items pull those conflicts in the "Magic Conflict" realm? I'm starting to belive that this is the correct answer, and that the rule is here to guide and educate the flavour of magic in the "setting" (and I'm using the word in the loosiest meaning possible), as the only difference between a sword of steel and one of fire is colour, but I'm far from wrapping my head around it.
Ciao, I'm Ezio and I'm Italian.
And I'm sorry for my bad English, I'll keep studying ;-)

Ron Edwards

Hi everyone,

I've been following the thread at Gente Che Gioca via Google Translate, although I haven't quite figured out how to sign on and still keep translating yet, in order to participate.

I'll answer these questions over the next couple of days. You probably won't be surprised to learn that I think everyone is making the problem harder than it really is.

Best, Ron


Quote from: Ron Edwards on May 26, 2011, 07:55:58 PM
You probably won't be surprised to learn that I think everyone is making the problem harder than it really is.

Not at all :-P

Thank you Ron, if you need help for a better translationjust ask us ^^
As far as I know you ARE signed to Gentechegioca (Moreno made quite a fuss about it :-P), you just need to log in... by the way, if you have difficulties ask to me or Moreno, via PM  here at the forge or personal mail.

See you soon.
Ciao, I'm Ezio and I'm Italian.
And I'm sorry for my bad English, I'll keep studying ;-)

Ron Edwards

Hi everyone,

My technical problem with the Gente Che Gioca forum is that I can use Google Translate to read anything on it as long as I'm not signed in. But if I'm signed in, the page turns back into Italian and trying to use Google Translate on it at that point means that it kicks me back to the Index page, not signed in. This means that I might read while not signed in, then work up replies, and then sign in and post them, but I'm sure there must be a better way.

I am also unsatisfied with parallel conversations between the Forge and GCG. It seems wrong to me that a few people can scurry from a complex conversation there over to here, engage and enlist me through a necessarily limited summary of the issue, and then take whatever I say back there as a kind of Pronouncement of Mass Destruction to use in that conversation. The implied notion that some few people are "close to Ron" and others are not is especially obnoxious, and I can tell from some threads at GCG that resentment about it is already understandably rising. I know that people posting here have not necessarily intended for this effect to occur, but I think the negative side of the result is nearly unavoidable. That's one of the reasons I'd like to become active at GCG itself in the first place, because the community and audience there should be respected.

So this particular thread is the last time I'll answer a GCG question here, or at least, when the question is already the subject of a complex thread there. Individual questions from Italians (or anyone else) are perfectly all right here from now on, but if it has to do with some thread of that kind, please let me know and I'll participate at GCG.

I'll post this at GCG as well and we can continue the discussion there.

Magic and Conflicts, part 1: the rules

The single concept which makes the entire four pages at GCG a hundred times easier is this: conflicts in Trollbabe are not fixed into a relationship with the fiction prior to any single instant of play. You cannot say, "She magically flies through the air," and look it up on a page in the rules and find a table which lists all the fictional magical things which require the conflict mechanics. Instead, conflicts are called when someone says they apply. Always. Period.

There are some obvious reasons why this point hasn't been properly applied in the CGC discussion and some subtle reasons. One obvious reason is what Moreno referred to at one point, "Are you playing GURPS or Trollbabe?" To say that Trollbabe operates differently from a game in which every action and effect is effectively pre-played by the mechanics, rendering the people speaking effectively mouthpieces for those mechanics, is true - but it's not sufficient. A more subtle and more important reason - i.e. a way to understand my point - is that the rule says, "someone" - not the GM, for instance. That is crucial. It means, among other things, that what makes a conflict in Trollbabe is not "judged by the GM" in the way such things are judged in, say, Primetime Adventures or Dogs in the Vineyard. Both of those games are a bit retrograde for this variable compared to their "parent," Trollbabe, although they too, unlike GURPS, allow certain things to occur without going to direct mechanics, under certain circumstances.

I will try to clarify. We'll start with the easiest case: the player states something the trollbabe does and says, "Conflict!" All done. It's a conflict. We figure out her goal and the Action Type, and go into fair-and-clear.

Now for the more interesting case. The player states something the trollbabe does and happens not to say "Conflict!" This does not necessarily mean the player does not think it is a conflict - maybe he or she does, and hasn't said it yet, or doesn't feel the need to say it because the conflict seems obvious. Or maybe, alternatively, the player does in fact intend it as Color and didn't have the mechanics of conflict in mind for play at that moment. Or maybe, in the heat of the moment, that particular level of abstraction isn't on the player's mind at all.

As you know, the GM is now perfectly legally permitted to say "Conflict!" in which case, it's exactly the same thing as the easy case except that the GM chooses the Action Type and sets the Pace.

All of the above works perfectly in reverse for a situation in which the GM states the actions of an NPC and might or might not happen to say "Conflict!" Just switch "player" and "GM" in the above three paragraphs and consider it to be three more paragraphs in this discussion.

With all that in mind, I hope you can see my point: a stated action in Trollbabe must get through a filter composed of two people's views on whether that action carries with it an inherent conflict to be addressed by the mechanics. It doesn't matter which one states the action. It doesn't matter which one says "Conflict!" The hard, fast, concrete, never to be ignored rule is that when someone does say it, it is.

And here's a key factor in that rule: it is never negotiated. You never, ever!, ever!!, ever!!! discuss this as an issue in play. The rule does not require agreement. It is in fact built to ignore, bypass, and obviate any need to arrive at agreement. It is not a consensual rule. That is why I do not support the idea that this issue is a dial to be "set" in the sense of pre-play discussion or during-play discussion. You do not "set" the dial in a deliberate way. You find out as you go along.

So a lot of that GCG conversation is completely beside the point. "I say she does X! Would that be a conflict?" The only answer is to ask, in play, do you say it is when you say that? And if you don't, does the other person say it is? Because if so, then it is. There is no other possible answer. "Would that be" is an inadmissible concept when discussing the conflcts in Trollbabe.

Magic and Conflicts, part 2: social creativity

i) All of the above means re-evaluating the entire context of how you talk when playing this game. In older RPGs, when you say X, it's effectively assumed that mechanics X must be applied. Since a lot of the time that led to problems in terms of Creative Agenda, people found a number of ways to violate that idea, most of them deceptive, passive-aggressive, or both. Trollbabe does something different; it simply uses a different idea. The idea is that whenever you provide input into the fiction, you have to be prepared for the other person to make it a conflict, if you haven't done so yourself. If you can't accept that, and want to have 100% control over whether you will go to dice or not (by being the table's rules-expert or by being the GM of a traditional game, for instance), then this isn't the game for you.

As a more general point, I wonder whether a great deal of talking about RPGs is really an exercise in generating a complete and thorough model of what play will produce, before you play. This kind of talk - or what I think I see, anyway - is a symptom of not having any confidence that the entire activity will actually be fun. It's a way to know exactly what the game will do before you commit to it. However, it's also counter-productive for the kinds of games I write. There are a lot of indie games available for which this kind of talk is well-suited, although I frankly dislike these games intensely and consider them intellectually and emotionally trivial. My games are built to prompt emergent properties of play which simply cannot be anticipated. You will not be able to know "how Trollbabe will go" by working out exactly what will happen if you say X, or if you say Y, or if you say Z, prior to play.

ii) If I were a gamer, which I am, then I would read everything in part 1 and the first thing I'd say would be, "That means if no one says it is, then it isn't a conflict! Wow! I could play Trollbabe and never go to the dice!" However, that is actually the one thing not to do. It's why I made all those diagrams in the section about scenes. Given the opening of the scene, the people at the table must make the characters do things, say things, and move around. This must be occurring long before anyone starts talking about conflicts.

Let's take a look at what that is like for the people playing trollbabes. It means that if at any time, someone thinks his or her trollbabe wouldn't like something or would be disadvantaged by something or wants to overcome or change something, that person shouts out "Conflict!" Let me ask you now: if you are playing your trollbabe, and you have gone through the whole process (hair, horns, et cetera), and if you are in fact engaging with a scene by having the trollbabe move through space and talk with people and do things ... then do you think you could stand to have her accept everything she wouldn't like, tolerate every disadvantage, and pass up on overcoming or changing things? This woman? Do that all that way through an adventure?

Let's also look at what that is like for GMs, who don't have the visceral and imaginative fire of a conceived trollbabe in their mind - instead, the GM has the Stakes. That means one or more NPCs, probably more than one, who wants those Stakes and what is more, wants them the way they want them. In the same way I challenged the player above, I will now say that you are the GM, and I challenge you: if the trollbabe does anything assertive, will that very act upset the calculations and desires of one or more NPCs? Do you think you could say "no" to that question throughout a series of scenes, all the way until the end of fhe adventure. (Small but useful side point: This is especially useful for the GM because, although he or she cannot introduce new information, he or she can in fact use information that is unknown to the player.)

Both of these are directly related to magic because (i) doing it is very, very assertive; and (ii) someone in a location who can do magic is very, very noticeable and relevant to anyone interested in the Stakes.

Magic and Conflicts, part 3: aesthetics

If I were more oriented toward anime and 1990s gaming-fantasy than toward underground comix and Norse sagas, which I'm not, I would also say, "So my Trollbabe can shoot fire from her magic tiara! She can turn 50 meters tall! She can have magic lasers rotating on her head! She can turn into a hippogriff and a Japanese ogre!" None of this is true. And I claim that the rules say it isn't true.

Again, this isn't about setting a dial. You have a very limited, very specific text which provides exactly what everyone at the table may treat as known information. This is the opening piece about trollbabes and the setting material, including the map. Simply treat that as "known information" and use it. Going outside of those parameters is "new information" and the player has no authority to do this. Also, in the section about magical content and monsters for the GM to use when preparing an adventure, the rules are more restrictive than you may realize. The GM is not allowed to create extravagant monsters and magic all over the place as pure Color.

In conclusion

I hope you can see that parts 1-3 above are intended to reinforce one another. 3 supports 2 because the genre enhances and specifies that kinds of conflicts that people will intrinsically spot (and create) in situations. 2 supports 3 because the role-played interactions and the narrated outcomes of conflicts make the setting and genre more vivid and specific for that group. And 2 and 3 together reinforce 1 because one person's every statement becomes a window of opportunity for the other person, and 2 and 3 together create what statements are most likely to do so.

I hope this was a helpful post. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best, Ron