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Author Topic: Full defense debate (split)  (Read 3028 times)
jburneko
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« on: April 26, 2012, 10:52:10 AM »

A Note For Erik: What I'm about to say will likely muddy the waters a bit.  Feel free to ignore everything in this post for purposes of "how it works".  If you feel this off topic I can move it to another thread.

Frankly, I've never liked how full defense works as Ron describes above.  It creates a weird exception case to the flow of the mechanic and in one instance it contradicts the Sorcerer core rule book.  (I can't site a page number because I don't have the book on me but there is a place where it states that people taking only defensive actions do not roll).

Part I: The Problems

Let me break that out a bit.  First it creates an asymmetrical resolution process where if the defensive action goes first then it's treated as a raw comparison as if it were a basic opposed roll.  But if the defensive action goes later then it's treated like a complex action with the whole abort option.  On top of that it's silly abort option because what does it mean if you roll just the one die and "keep" your action?  In other words, it's really just a re-roll not an actual choice.

Example:

Alice and Bob are shooting at Carl.  Carl wants to pick up a small metal table and use it as shield.  Okay.  We roll.  

Case 1:

If Carl goes first then it's assumed he just picks up the table and blocks both incoming bullets.  We basically just ignore the normal procedure.  Even stranger we're comparing Carl's ONE roll against TWO other rolls.  This is the only case in the game I can think of where ONE roll acts as opposition to many rolls.

Case 2:

Alice goes first then Carl then Bob.  This is extra weird.  If Carl defends with just one die against Alice does he then automatically not get shot by Bob because he kept his action?  So we have one action resolved like a complex sequence and another action resolved like a basic one.

Case 3:

Carl goes last.  The notion of Carl "keeping his action" has lost all meaning. So he's basically just re-rolling defenses.

Another bit of weirdness is something I think of as "action stuttering".  This happens when you basically lose your ability to narrate a possible defensive course of action because you made it your action, rather than trying to do something else and only resorting to that action if you need to.

Example:

Case 1:

Alice: I shoot Bob.
Bob: I stab Alice!

Alice goes first!  

Bob: "I abort and defend!"
GM: "What does your defense look like?"

Bob: "Oh!  I pick up that small metal table and block her bullets!"

Case 2: (Action Stuttering)

Alice: I shoot Bob!
Bob: I pick up that small metal table and block her bullets!

Alice goes first!

Bob: "Crap.  I'll abort and defend."
GM: "What does your defense look like?"
Bob: "Uh... um.... I pick up that small metal table and block her bullets?" (The action "stuttered")
GM: "Hmmm... Well, we just determined you can't do that... so... do something else."

See, the action flows smoothly in Case 1 but gets all weird in Case 2.

Part II Solutions

As you can see from my examples above the problems can be resolved with a bit of concentration and creativity but I personally find them cognitively disruptive because of their lack of uniformity and narrative dissonance.  So there's generally two solutions I use.  Consider these "house rules" if you will.

Solution 1.

Go with what the text says where defensive actions are not rolled.  You only roll non-defensive actions.  Then when your purely defending target gets attacked he rolls in two dice on the FIRST defense meaning it's more likely that he can snowball victories into any further defenses.

Example:

Alice and Bob are shooting Carl.  Carl is grabbing a small metal table to deflect their bullets.  ONLY Alice and Bob roll.  Now it doesn't really matter which one goes first.  Carl rolls against the first one with two dice and then depending on the outcome may be in a better or worse position to defend against the second one.  In any event Carl rolls twice once against Alice and once against Bob.

Solution 2.

If you like the fictional positioning element of deciding whether Carl made it to his table or not (and I admit that's a pretty cool piece of fictional information) then treat his going for the table as an action period.  Don't do the weird thing where if it goes sooner it somehow automatically trumps the other rolls just because it's a defensive action.

Example:

Alice and Bob are shooting Carl.  Carl is grabbing a small metal table to deflect their bullets.

Case 1:

Carl goes first!  Sweet.  The GM rolls just 1 die.  Carl succeeds with 4 victories (or whatever)!  Okay now he snowballs THAT into his defensive roll against Alice or Bob and if that succeeds he snowballs that into the defense roll against whichever one comes second.  So you see, we resolve Carls action and then every subsequent action just as we would in any other complex conflict without any strange exceptions.

Case 2:

Carl goes last!  Bummer.  Well now the "abort to defend" still has meaning.  How badly does Carl want that table and its possible victories for the NEXT round.  Because we resolve the table grab as its own thing against just 1 die, it still matters and means something.

Yeah, so there are my thoughts on Full Defense action and the confusion is causes.

Jesse

[edited to change thread title - RE]
Also, might as well put this here: The first few posts in this thread were split from Back to Basics: Relationship of Commitment to Initial Intent and Defections


« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 12:27:36 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
greyorm
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« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2012, 03:12:27 PM »

Frankly, I've never liked how full defense works as Ron describes above.  It creates a weird exception case to the flow of the mechanic and in one instance it contradicts the Sorcerer core rule book.  (I can't site a page number because I don't have the book on me but there is a place where it states that people taking only defensive actions do not roll).

Page 103, under the heading Combat, bullet point #3: "Everyone who's doing something proactive (not just defending) rolls at once."

Page 105, mid-page: "This part of the round brings in the characters who were only defending...At this point they roll dice in response to others' proactive rolls."

Page 112, bottom above the example: "If all the character's actions in one round are completely defensive, add a two-dice bonus to his or her roll."

From the text in the book, I never would have guessed at doing it the way Ron runs it in the above example, which indicates a different handling procedure. I think we've had the proactive/defense when-to-roll discussion before on the forums and am assuming the above is "the proper way" for the forthcoming edition.

I can see why it might be important to determine whether the character's chosen defensive action is successful -- it may affect the narrative elements and later options in the scene! ("You aren't able to reach the table!" or "The table explodes into junk under the gunfire!") -- but I agree that there is a bit of cognitive weirdness involved in processing it that way.

I like Solution #2, Jesse, but I think it's still off. Since Alice and Bob are still shooting at Carl BEFORE he gets to resolve his action (grabbing the table to defend himself), once their actions are resolved there's nothing to defend himself from with the Full Defense roll + 2 dice...because the attacks have already been resolved. He succeeds, but won't get any successes from the action. At best the table might provide some bonus dice next round (improvised cover), but it won't do him any good in terms of bonus dice rolling-over from grabbing the table.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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greyorm
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« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2012, 03:14:19 PM »

and am assuming the above is "the proper way"

By which I mean, "Ron's explanation above", not "what I quoted from the text".
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jburneko
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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2012, 04:10:43 PM »

Thanks Raven,

p. 103 is what I was thinking of.  I didn't even know about p. 105 which just reinforces it.

Jesse
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2012, 09:11:26 AM »

He might actually still want to grab the table because odds are, when re-rolling with two dice less, he might suffer more victories against him. It doesn't seem so counter-intuitive to me. So Carl is moving towards the table when he realizes he won't make it there before Alice shoots him. So he looks at his options, represented by the dice on the table.

If his dice are quite good but just not good enough for Alice, he may still pull through. Alice will get moderate success against him and Bob won't hit him at all. He might be worse off with the re-roll. Plus, he might get bonus dice rolled over for next turn.

If his dice are crap and he'll get shoot badly by Alice and Bob before he reaches the table, he might abort and just drop flat to the ground.

The example might be a bit confusing because in reality shooting happens so fast that you cannot really react to it. Try the example again with clubbing and see if it feels better.

Although I admit Raven's quote sounds like a different rule entirely.

- Frank
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2012, 09:55:31 AM »

1. The original rule was as written in the book, that full defenders merely sat there throughout the round and rolled their dice in response to incoming attacks. The problem with that in practice is that in narration, it doesn't differ from "I do nothing." Anyone is free to play it as written, as Raven has carefully cited, but I'm saying it's merely OK and not as good as what later play revealed.

2. In practice (again), I found that once you narrated the actual activity of full defense as part of going into a round (and such narration turned out to be required, so others could state their actions in full knowledge of the situation), then doing it the way I've described here is more imaginatively engaged, more fun, and more mechanically advantageous especially against the first-and-worst attack coming in, if you're not the highest vs. all your attackers.

3. The mechanical difference is that in the book's way, you always get your two-dice bonus against all the attackers (plus). But if you fail against the first, you're basically screwed throughout the round from the get-go (minus). The way I'm talking about doing it, you get the same two-dice bonus (plus), but if it fails against the first or more of the attacks, you get a Hail Mary additional defense per each and every attack, granted, without the bonus, but a fine thing nevertheless.

4. There is no stutter. Jesse, I don't know where you're getting the idea that the narration for the abort-to-defense action is simply a repeat of the originally-stated full defense action. By definition, it can't be the same thing. It may be that previous games' mechanics' implication that the defense option is some kind of passive lumpish action has carried over into a Sorcerer discussion. Or it may be that someone pulled this on you when you were trying to GM and therefore you've never recovered from the frustration involved, but I decree at this time, that whoever did this (if that's the case) was full of shit.

Best, Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2012, 12:02:22 PM »

Ron,

The Stuttering Thing is more a social creativity fatigue thing.  It's easy to think, "I'll stab her and if that doesn't work I'll grab something as a shield."  It's harder, cognitively, to imagine two different forms of the same action once you're emotionally invested in one of them.  I've literally seen exhaustion and frustration pass across some players faces and sometimes end up with cries of "It doesn't matter!  I'm dodging or blocking the bullets SOMEHOW!"  But you're right in that, that's a social thing and not necessarily a problem with the rules.  But it is an "ease of use" issue.

I also think the Full Defense case is an example of something with I ALWAYS struggle with in Sorcerer where I'm not quite sure if in a complex action is considered resolved IN FULL once it has happened or if it is still somewhat in motion until the whole round is done.  This happens when people announce actions which could negate each other just based on fictional positioning alone.

Alice: I drop low and sweep Bob's feet out from under him.
Bob: I leap forward and full body tackle Alice so that she is pinned.

We roll.  Bob goes first.  Alice decides to keep her action and roll just one die.  She fails.  What does it mean that Alice "kept her action"?  It's pretty hard to "drop low and sweep kick his legs" when you've been full body tackled and pinned on the floor.  I've always waffle between two versions of what to do.

Version 1: Bobs action is resolved in full and it sucks to be Alice.  She gambled on the 1 die, lost and fictional positioning says her action is no longer valid even though she "kept her action."

Version 2: Bob's action isn't 100% resolved.  We know he's got the upper hand, we know he's going to tackle her but there's still a chance Alice's sweep kick might knock him off balance too.  So Bob defends against Alice's kept roll (likely rolling in his victories from his action) and if Alice succeeds then they BOTH end on the floor in sprawling tussle rather than Alice being fully pinned.

If it really is Version 1 then that jives more with Ron's description of Full Defense.  If four guys are shooting at me and my action is to dive out the window and I go first and that's considered to be resolved in full then yeah, I just dove out the window.  There's nothing left to shoot at.  If it's more like version 2 then that's more like Solution 2 above where we still roll to see if anybody manages to hit my ass as I'm diving out.

A REALLY common example that comes up A LOT in my games is this one:

Alice I shoot Bob.  Bob I take the gun away from Alice.  We roll.  Bob goes first.  Alice keeps her action rolls one die and fails.

Version 1: Bob has the gun.  Sucks to be Alice she can't shoot even though she "kept her action."

Version 2: Bob is going to get the gun but we still resolves to see if Alice shoots him in the tussle for it.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2012, 12:24:30 PM »

I play by version 2 for nearly everything I can think of or remember. Another way to look at it is, "It's not over until it's over," with time being just fluid enough to modify a given pair of orthogonal actions as "part one doesn't finish happening until part two gets its oar in," no matter how those two are ordered in terms of the other actions that may be going on.

In other words, the mechanical fact that Alice retained her action means that in the fiction, Bob's attack could not possibly achieve its full and finished state that Bob undoubtedly really wanted to do.

Total Victory can tip the scales a bit in terms of narration, as we've discussed. It depends very greatly upon what's been narrated until that point.

I don't see how the Full Defense roll is more like version 1. Since it's been designated as a defensive roll, merely rolled pre-emptively and ordered as such because it's very proactive (by definition), than by beating the incoming attacks, they're over. It's a lot like inserting an oppositional subroutine into the usual orthogonal situation, and if it fails, then its user can switch back into the ordinary orthogonal schema. But if it succeeds, then the attackers have no such option.

I hope that addresses your point. I always have to do a lot of guessing to figure out your questions about this mechanic.

Best, Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2012, 12:52:14 PM »

Ron, yup, that was clear regarding the proactive but conflicting actions.  But this here:

"It's a lot like inserting an oppositional subroutine into the usual orthogonal situation, and if it fails, then its user can switch back into the ordinary orthogonal schema."

This is the part that bothers me.  I prefer that we are in one mode or the other.  Not embedding one.  And I think that's because when people start declaring action it can be difficult to gauge the line between Full Defense that simply wins if it goes first vs. an action that's worthy of still going through the motions.

Alice is shooting me.

"I jump out the window."
"I pick up this tray and block the bullets."
"I grab the gun out of Alice's hand."
"I fall prone."
"I knock over the table and dive behind it."
"I pick up this tray and parry Alice's hand aside."
"I grab Carl and use him as a shield."

These are all "defensive actions" against being shot by Alice.  But which ones are "Oppositional" and thus succeed simply by going sooner and which ones are "Orthogonal" and thus deserve to be resolved normally.  The line is frustratingly murky.

Jesse
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greyorm
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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2012, 01:05:08 AM »

In other words, the mechanical fact that Alice retained her action means that in the fiction, Bob's attack could not possibly achieve its full and finished state that Bob undoubtedly really wanted to do.

I've always played version 1: if someone gets the drop on you, then they get the drop on you, so if you kept an action that can't happen now...well, sucks to be you. Maybe alot. Doesn't mean I can't clearly see the point of version 2, though, which has a very nice narrative quality to it and isn't quite so brutal.

Ron, query. This:
Quote
The problem with that in practice is that in narration, it doesn't differ from "I do nothing."

The mechanical difference is that in the book's way, you always get your two-dice bonus against all the attackers (plus). But if you fail against the first, you're basically screwed throughout the round from the get-go (minus). The way I'm talking about doing it, you get the same two-dice bonus (plus), but if it fails against the first or more of the attacks, you get a Hail Mary additional defense per each and every attack, granted, without the bonus, but a fine thing nevertheless.

Is not parsing for me. For the first bit, my brain is saying "yes it does differ" because you're still stating an action, you're just rolling for it later. Very different from "I just stand here." Could you clarify what you mean by this?

However, the bigger disconnect for me is the second bit. I am confused how you're "basically screwed" the book way if you fail, but get a Hail Mary for every attack with the new way. Here's my confusion, specifically:

Situation 1, book method: I'm being shot at. I defend myself with full Stamina and 2 bonus dice, and fail. Next time I defend myself, I get to roll full Stamina for defense just like always. Not sure how this means I'm "screwed"? At least any more than I would be from failing any defensive roll the first time around and taking penalties. (I get that not getting to abort that defense roll to gain another is a sort of "being screwed" because normally you can abort your action, whatever it may be, to defend.)

Situation 2, new method: I'm being shot at. I defend myself with full Stamina and 2 bonus dice, and it isn't enough to succeed. I abort to defend with full Stamina. Succeed or fail, next time I defend myself, I get to roll full Stamina for defense, like always. How do I get a Hail Mary "per each and every attack" from this?

In Situation 2 I can see you get one extra roll in a round if you fail the very first defense roll (your action), but not how you'd get one each and every time thereafter. (I'm wondering if you meant "every round" rather than "every attack".)
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2012, 07:07:55 AM »

Sorry about my disappearance, guys. I got hammered with a bunch of other obligations. I'll be back swinging, because I haven't given up, that's for sure.

Best, Ron
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