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Author Topic: [Pitfighter] SBP: is there anything better to roll for than success?  (Read 10929 times)
contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #60 on: December 13, 2011, 10:40:47 AM »

I don't really see that.  I don't see anything about this case that is different to the general case.  Ideally I'd like t make things as explicit as possible, as with the flowchart things I proposed.  That may not strictly be system in the sense of dice and numbers, but it is formal and overt.
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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."
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #61 on: December 13, 2011, 02:38:09 PM »

Crap, dude, you lost me.  I'm still trying to talk about this:

What I wish to flag up is that recent discussion has shifted into a framework that essentially sets the system that governs character actions and concerns at right angles to the concerns that govern plot, to stop them coming into conflict.  What I'm getting at is that I think for some purposes at least, they do need to coincide.  Frex, I may be that I need and want the players to worry about things like whether high ground gives them an advantage, because the plot is going to put them in a position where the high ground makes a plot point work.  If the system is directing them away from that as a concern, and towards things like how stylishly they perform or how things impact their psychological state, then the significance of the high ground factor won't carry over, and the (my) goal of a sort of experiential simulation will be defeated.

Here's my thought:

1) The only character concern that I'm potentially cordoning off from plot in this thread is "do I succeed or fail?"  Every other sort of concern, like "how does my attempt or success or failure make me a better samurai" is still very much on the table to be highlighted.

2) For experiential simulation, it may be important for my character to problem-solve, that is, to attempt to align the odds of success/failure in their favor through whatever means are appropriate.

3) If the group has any method to agree on which such means are appropriate (rather than, e.g., getting stuck arguing about whether high ground "would really matter here"), then the group's goals, if not the designer's, are in good shape. 

4) If the designer takes the position of, "I am a combat guru and I wish to teach you all my knowledge and insights!" then setting and advice text (and links to articles) are fine for that.  If the group cares, that shared knowledge becomes part of their basis for determining what happens*; if they don't care, then it doesn't.  In the context of a game that is both Story Before and Participationist, I don't see any value in mandating that certain factors must be dealt with by characters specifically in order to align the odds of success/failure in their favor.

Like you, I enjoy picking times and places different from our own, and roleplaying through, "What's it like operating in these situations?" 

Sometimes that's not about problem-solving at all -- in that case, I think the methods I've been exploring in this thread are perfectly supportive.  If you disagree, I'd like to hear what you're seeing.

Sometimes it is about problem-solving: "Now that I'm using a rapier, does high ground matter?  Ah, the book says it does, so now that's part of my tools and constraints for beating this challenge!"  When I'm in the mood to do that, I don't think I'd wanna play SBP.  Would you?


*And every game that looks to the fiction above and beyond the mechanics for "what could happen here?" needs such a group rationale, regardless of how many mechanical options exist.  Right?  A "+2 for high ground" rule still doesn't tell you whether that applies when fighting a giant on a staircase or whatever.


Ideally I'd like to make things as explicit as possible, as with the flowchart things I proposed.
If you wanna draw that, I'd love to see it.  If not here, then hopefully in the upcoming SBP GM-System thread.
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #62 on: December 13, 2011, 04:33:26 PM »

Quote
Sometimes it is about problem-solving: "Now that I'm using a rapier, does high ground matter?  Ah, the book says it does, so now that's part of my tools and constraints for beating this challenge!"  When I'm in the mood to do that, I don't think I'd wanna play SBP.  Would you?

I think this is where we are diverging.  Essentially, yes I would.

So one thing about learning-through-playing is that I know I kearn things like maps much better if I play a game on them than if I just read about them. Engaging with the game teaches you those facts as if they were true.  Now say instead I want to do a game that simulates, for example, the Battle of Hastings, in some sense.  The prevailing view of the battle is that the Saxons lost it when part of their force broke ranks and chased routing* Normans down the hill they were defending.  In order to have the learning-from-play effect, it is vitally important that players, on either side, recognise the significance of that event when it happens.  Even if the event is predetermined, it has to be among the things the players are concerned about - it has to be present as a relevant factor in the system.  Otherwise, it's just a story - not an experience.

More generally, I don't really want to move away from determinations of success wholesale.  I probably only need to have an influence on success for a minority of playing time.  In the escaping truck scenario, the only thing I need to control is the escape of the truck - I wouldn't really want to eliminate success determination of the "can I grind this goon's face into the tyres" variety, in true Indiana Jones stylee.

For me, the question "what is it like operating under these circumstances" only comes to life when it involves problem solving.  Otherwise its just tourism.  You have to be working at the coalface in order to really appreciate the constraints and be able to internalise them, rather than just observe them and think "isn't that interesting".
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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."
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #63 on: December 13, 2011, 07:47:03 PM »

Hmm.  Yeah, fair enough.  "Problem solving" was too broad a term for what I had in mind.  I was thinking primarily of physics-based problem solving.  I guess you could call "do I really want to try this, given how it will impact my Honor?" problem solving too, and in that case, I agree with you about making the simulation come to life.

With that Hastings example, let me see if I read you right:

Coming into the game, the players may not value the importance of keeping or breaking ranks.  Or, even if they do get it intellectually, they won't have any experience of how it plays out.  Setting info in a book may alert them to the value, but it's never going to give them the experience.

So, as GM, having plotted a major event of the Saxons breaking ranks, you want that event to hit the players with maximum impact, speaking not just to what they've read, but also to what they've been through.  Accordingly, you want to be sure that, before your big plotted event, the players have definitely experienced in play that breaking ranks matters.  You don't want to leave it to chance.

Correct?

If so, I agree that simulation-oriented mechanics are one way to go, but in SBP, I think we also have other good options...
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #64 on: December 14, 2011, 02:20:05 AM »

Yes that's it.  Things might get a bit fuzzier when the thing being demonstrated is not physical, but it has to be made real, it has to be a fucntional concern.  I'm open to ways that might be achieved, but I don't think it likely that it can be done without addressing it in success/failure terms.
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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
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #65 on: December 15, 2011, 02:26:58 PM »

I think it depends on my vision as GM, and which of the following it covers:

1) The fictional reality in general.

If I, as GM, had a general vision for what life in the time of the Battle of Hastings was like, and it covered various factors, and I wanted to invite my players to experience that world, and let "which factors come up when, and how they're experienced" occur organically, then I'd want simulation mechanics. 

I'd expect that the players would look at their sheets and see the bonus for holding ranks, along with the bonuses for all sorts of other situations, and file it away for reference to use when such situations came up.

2) Certain factors in the fictional reality.

But if I had a specific vision for which factors I wanted the players to experience, then I might appreciate mechanics, sure, but I'd also be putting some thought into creating situations in play where those specific factors would apply.

So the players do wind up in a formation fight.  At that point, that part of the character sheet will be referenced, the mechanics will be employed, and the simulated dynamic will be experienced and remembered in some unspecified fashion.

3) Certain factors and sequences in the fictional reality.

And if I had a plan for a progression or timeline of when the players need to experience those factors, now I'm obviously devoting a fair amount of attention to this in play.  I'm taking responsibility for saying, "Here, now, you're in this situation," and then I watch for the mechanics to teach you what I want you to learn right now.

At this stage, the benefit of (a) having the Hold Formation bonus filed away in player memory, and (b) having mechanics resolve things the way I want them resolved, is starting to become pretty marginal.  It pales in comparison to the work I'm already doing, and doesn't save me much more work.  Is saying, "And then, because you held formation, you defeat them!" any harder or less effective than waiting for the dice to say that same thing? 

The only task required of me as GM is to verbalize the lesson I've already put in the work to support.  I know what it is, I know when I want it to hit.  I can just say it. 

If the players are used to looking to mechanics for what matters, then maybe this doesn't stick with them; but if they're used to looking to me, then I think it does.  (Though perhaps some formal action could help, like me saying, "Write that down in the Notes section of your sheet.")

4) Certain factors, sequences, and character experiences in the fictional reality, plus player experiences.

Finally, if, as GM, I had a plan for not just which factors would arise and when, but also how they would be experienced, then I'm the whole show, and the mechanics aren't helping me one bit.  I'm involved in responsively crafting the right moments, working with the players instant by instant to steer their attention and cultivate the right emotions.  I raise my voice at the right times, dwell on the right details, address responses that weren't what I expected, and make sure "breaking ranks equals disaster" is etched in the players' brains in a truly striking fashion.

This, I think, is one of the appeals of SBP.  "When the Saxons break ranks to chase the Normans, I want it to hit the players, like, 'Oh god, no!'" and then you go out and play and use your own skills to make it happen.

Final notes:

That's my take.  It's based in part on my experience that relying on mechanics for these purposes has its downsides.  Neither "look it up on the table" nor "ask the GM" is perfect or hopeless; it all depends on what the participants can and wish to contribute themselves.

I should probably clarify here that my position in this thread is not that SBP shouldn't use mechanics to resolve success/failure.  It's simply that it doesn't have to, and that it would be good to have some grasp of the alternatives.
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #66 on: December 16, 2011, 03:04:45 AM »

Quote
Is saying, "And then, because you held formation, you defeat them!" any harder or less effective than waiting for the dice to say that same thing?

I would say "yes, it is less effective".  For much the same reason that science teachers like to have you dissect a frog or explode some chemicals; the personal, hands on experience is more "sticky" than just another set of words.


Quote
Finally, if, as GM, I had a plan for not just which factors would arise and when, but also how they would be experienced, then I'm the whole show, and the mechanics aren't helping me one bit.

But they may be helping the players. The GM's is not the only relevant perspective.

Quote
I should probably clarify here that my position in this thread is not that SBP shouldn't use mechanics to resolve success/failure.  It's simply that it doesn't have to, and that it would be good to have some grasp of the alternatives.

That's fine, and I'm not disagreeing as such.

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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
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #67 on: December 16, 2011, 12:30:40 PM »

Er, my comment on "not helping the GM" was about "not helping the GM create an experience for the players".  I'm very much thinking about the players' perspective here.

I'm with you on learning through hands-on experience.  I've just found that, in RPGs, the experience of a really goal-oriented player-GM back-and-forth teaches me better than enacting knowledge I have from a character sheet.  It's like the sheet is an algebra textbook, and using rules in play is like taking a multiple-choice algebra test, while solving and getting feedback just through the fiction and the GM's words is more like doing a complex word problem, where you need to apply your powers of understanding to several steps, discovering new things along the way.  I dunno, I guess some players probably hate word problems.  I like 'em.  And clearly some textbooks are better than others.
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #68 on: December 17, 2011, 01:47:14 AM »

I've begun a new thread to address these excellent ideas:

My own experience, though, is that the resolution system - of the existing types anyway - steadily lose significance, to the npoint that I start to discard them.  I mean sure, it's moderately useful to know if this PC and pick this lock or whatever, but really it's either information I want them to know - cf. wandering clue type things - or it isn't, in which case I'm not going to let them anyway.

I've more or less come to the conclusion that this sort of resolution just doesn't matter very much.  Almost everything that is really significant is happening outside the action resolution system, and occurring in the GM's control of scene setting, pacing, information access and so on.  That's what the real system is - GM fiat.  By default, because it's not formally regulated by any specific techniques.  Therefore I think it is correct to approach this from the angle of trying to systemetise what the GM is doing, and setting conventional resolution aside - or at least, not being trapped within it.  System is bigger than resolution, and it is that larger system we need to construct.

About systematizing GM fiat, here’s some food for thought: A rule saying, “GM, you cannot do this right now” would probably make it a different game entirely. A rule saying “GM, you can do anything but then…”, on the other hand, now that’s an idea with potential.
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Mael
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Posts: 18


« Reply #69 on: April 05, 2012, 06:32:30 AM »

Hi David and everyone,

I’ll try to answer the original question (“is there anything better to roll for that success”) based on my own experiences in play.

Personally, I never liked to roll “for success”.
It is probably due to my late discovering of the hobby, and the fact that I started with the White Wolf’s games and was trapped in “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast”.
So, I always tried to roll for story, and was mostly not satisfied by the result. Even when Resolution was not about fight, it still had this strange taste of success and failure. Maybe that is an effect of “Fortune-at-the-end” : once you’ve announced your action, you can’t go back on what you said, and avoid your character making a fool of himself.

I think that Resolution is one of the most powerful tools, because when it’s used, the player acts - that should not be a mechanical process. Thus I have the feeling that the question of what we should roll for is really related to the CA.

(note : I’m keeping the “roll” term, but I’m talking about all kind of resolution here)
- “Story now” : “roll” when there is opportunity for story creation.
- “Step on up” : “roll” when there is a challenge, or an opportunity to step on up.
- “The right to dream” : not sure about that one … maybe one could “roll” for causality (sounds like what many systems already do, or try to) ? Or, more interesting, “roll” when there is an opportunity to Explore Character, Setting, or Situation ?

Anyway, in my opinion, Resolution should only be used when :
- the result of the task or conflict is not already defined (at least two meaningful choices, sometimes choice is totally open)
- the people around the table care about that result

As an example, when I was playing Exalted, each combat turn started with a look at our character sheets, then a long and fastidious search on the tables to recalculate the attack, defense, what powers were available, which ones can be used during the same turn, and so on ...
The 3 other regular players were really not enjoying so many Points of Contact, so the GM frequently had to tell a player how many dozens of dice it was supposed to roll (in fact, the GM almost totally created those players PCs) ? more work for him, no fun for anybody, “The Fruitless Full” in a sense.
What we were all really waiting for was the descriptions, all the cool effects promised by the game, sound and light all over the place, and obviously the story, with great revelations and terrific NPCs - but we never had to roll for these things to happen.

The method of resolution could also vary depending on the importance given to the action by the players and the GM. For example, Heroquest provides three ways to deal with an action :
- no interesting consequences for failure : no roll
- a failure can be interesting : simple roll
- the action is really important and calls for “suspense” : extended roll

I think that time and space also need some consideration.
For example, in many systems based on task resolution, the range of actions a character can do is limited by both (“you can’t hit that guy right now because he’s too far, you have to run two full turns under fire so you can get him in range”).
An interesting way to consider this is when the roll can affect how much time it takes to complete one task (I think that at least Shadowrun had this feature).

That remembers me that Exalted provided an interesting system to deal with initiative and “action turns” :
- a circle is at the center of the table
- all involved PC and NPC “roll for initiative” (in this context, it represents the reaction speed), that determines the order of first action
- each put one token on the circle following that order
- then we parse the circle : everyone declare and plays his action when its turn comes, and then move its token according to the length of the action taken (based on the book’s many tables)

That’s a pretty heavy system, but considering “causality” only, it seemed more satisfying to me than many others, especially when more than one action per turn is allowed.
What is also interesting with Exalted is that the minimum amount of time (“tick”) can vary according to the type of conflict the PCs are in (combat, social, …).
That being said, the system is really heavy, and involves far too many Points of Contact for me.

Anyway, one important thing when it comes to Resolution is that the players should always know exactly what elements of the setting or the situation are out of their range - they have acknowledged that the Story is already partly written, but that does not grant any insight about what to do, and especially what not to.
About that, contracycle mentioned the “threat token” system from 3:16, and that seems indeed a good idea. I also think that this should be related to reward system (to encourage players to go to the “right” direction), and to the GM role as well (it could be seen as overt Force).

Mael.
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