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Author Topic: various questions after second session  (Read 5906 times)
Rob Alexander
Member

Posts: 76


« on: June 07, 2007, 10:44:00 AM »

Hi all,

I just ran a second session of TSOY after the one described here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=24038.0. Glad to say it seemed to go a lot better this time, despite having only me and two players.

We actually used BDTP twice this time (compared to not at all last time). I was a bit confused about how best to do it with three or more characters at once, but we ended up doing something not unlike Eero's rules (and we'll adopt those explicitly in any future games). 

A few issues came up:

1) One thing that confused us was how restrictive intent in BDtP is meant to be. For example, if my intent is "have this bastard begging for mercy" then it would seem reasonable that "try to knock his weapon out of his hand" is an acceptable action within that intent. However, the Secret of Disarm states:

Quote
Your character can disarm an opponent, without changing intentions

which implies that this would normally require a change of intent. Can anyone clarify?

2) How to people feel about the use of Sway, Intimidate etc against PCs? I'm keen on the idea in general but I'm concerned that, especially when coming from an NPC, this could be seen to be deprotagonizing because their decisions about how to act are being taken away from them. I know that there's controversy about this is DitV, and there's the "No mind control" rule in Sorcerer too. How do people handle this in their TSOY play?

3) One of the players, when looking over the list of secrets, said "there's quite a combat bias here". I think he's attracted to the non-combat options (e.g. using the Sway and Orate abilities) and feels that they're a bit sidelined in the rules as written (e.g. we have Disarm, Mighty Blow, Signature Weapon etc, but only three secrets that are social in nature (Animal Speech, Contacts, Inner Meaning).

I did point out that we can create our own secrets, even in the middle of the game, and the other player did take "Secret of Clinching the Deal" later (bonus die when using Sway to finalise a business deal). Similarly, you could have a variant of Mighty Blow such as Killer Argument or Cutting Insult.

Anyone got any interesting ideas for social secrets?

4) The same player also commented that we seemed to be relying heavily on Sway, Resist and combat abilities to the exclusion of all others. I'm inclined to agree with him there (although there was a bit of Stealth, Deceit and Etiquette in the session too). Any idea how we can combat this and get a bit more breadth of use?

5) Amoux's player is still finding it hard to hit his keys. He now has Self, Power, and Bloodline (Royal House of Maldor). Could anyone give us any advice on how to hit these effectively in play?

Overall, we're getting the hand of the system well now, although we're still getting confused at times by bonus dice and such. I've realised that TSOY isn't that simple a system - although the basic resolution mechanic is straightforward, there a large number of nuances (e.g. BDtP, stringing actions together), and when you bring in all the more complicated secrets (such as the rules for Zu and poison) there's a lot there and it's quite intricate.

I'm still pleased with the system, though, and there are good odds we'll play again in the future.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2007, 10:53:34 AM »

Rob,

I always never know how to answer this stuff (and usually sit back and watch Eero answer better than I would have) because the answer is invariably, "That's up to your group." This is an important part of TSOY: your group is intended to make decisions about how you will interpret the rules. For example, I might allow your disarm action as part of BDTP - maybe - without changing intention. But there's plenty of circumstances in which I wouldn't, that that Secret is useful. (Plus, that Secret is useful because all sorts of stuff is a weapon in all sorts of situations, so you can always remove weapons without changing intentions.)

Same with social skills vs PCs. I use this all the time, but I know people who don't, and that's fine.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 2591


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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2007, 01:32:12 PM »

1) One thing that confused us was how restrictive intent in BDtP is meant to be. For example, if my intent is "have this bastard begging for mercy" then it would seem reasonable that "try to knock his weapon out of his hand" is an acceptable action within that intent. However, the Secret of Disarm states:

Quote
Your character can disarm an opponent, without changing intentions

which implies that this would normally require a change of intent. Can anyone clarify?

The text of the Secret is confused, that's all. You're right in your interpretation. You might wish to interpret that bit of text in the Secret as saying that "it is acceptable to have an Intent to disarm somebody, which would duplicate the effects of this Secret when successful"; I wouldn't bother with that, though, as it's much simpler to just keep all intents in conflict non-mechanical by default. If somebody wanted to give his intent a mechanical punch when it succeeded, he could always get a Secret that does stuff with an Ability check.

Quote
2) How to people feel about the use of Sway, Intimidate etc against PCs? I'm keen on the idea in general but I'm concerned that, especially when coming from an NPC, this could be seen to be deprotagonizing because their decisions about how to act are being taken away from them. I know that there's controversy about this is DitV, and there's the "No mind control" rule in Sorcerer too. How do people handle this in their TSOY play?

I use the full array myself, and not just in TSOY. My philosophy is that the player does not have a pregorative to decide that his character, say, loves character X. Rather, whether the character loves, and what that love means in practice, is very much found out via the application of the conflict resolution system. Is the love strong enough to stand the tempting advances of the witch? Is the character so bound by the love that he forsakes his country? We find these things out in conflict.

The player's pregorative as regards his character is to state the long-term intent of the character. This intent does not always bear fruit, even in matters of the heart, as the character might be taken by a flight of fancy which he will have to justify to himself and others later on. And that's just the way I like it. I just played a most compelling game of The Mountain Witch a couple of weeks ago, wherein the game very much prospered exactly because character action was a matter of conflict; I could not imagine how a roleplaying game could grab the issues of honor, self-control and justice in such a powerful manner if characters were black boxes where only one player gets to see and control the struggle within.

But, that's me. For your concerns, I direct you to check out the resource odds the system of TSOY provides for players. There is one important factum in the system, you see: player characters win, if they want to. They win by buying bonus dice, using gift dice, going into BDTP... if you're a player character, you can win, and the only question is how much you pay to do it. This is very much intentional, because it is exactly this property that allows the players to judge difficult and compelling situations in the game in the first place. If characters couldn't win, they couldn't affect things either. If they could win for free, the choices would for the most part be easy. But when the player gets to decide moment-to-moment, is this victory worth it to me, that's when the game starts to shine!

The above point leads into practical advice: don't give your NPCs absolute mind control powers. Give them Abilities according to the guidelines, and you'll be fine. Player characters can still beat them if they feel strong enough about the situation. Another point of advice: do not go into conflicts that feel like mind control. If it is unbelievable that the merchant might give a place on his ship to a vagabond begging for mercy, then don't make a conflict out of it. Characters can't fly to the moon with a conflict, unless they have a Secret that says they can, so why should they be able to convince anybody of anything they want? No reason at all, just accept conflicts that are reasonable.

Quote
3) One of the players, when looking over the list of secrets, said "there's quite a combat bias here". I think he's attracted to the non-combat options (e.g. using the Sway and Orate abilities) and feels that they're a bit sidelined in the rules as written (e.g. we have Disarm, Mighty Blow, Signature Weapon etc, but only three secrets that are social in nature (Animal Speech, Contacts, Inner Meaning).

That is correct. So create your own. The stuff in the book mirrors Clinton's own game, I imagine.

Quote
Anyone got any interesting ideas for social secrets?

Some stuff that's appeared on the forum and comes to mind:
Secret of the Henchman - the character gains a NPC follower the player plays most of the time.
Secret of the Commander - the character gains bonus dice for having unnamed NPCs under his leadership in a conflict.
Secret of Moody Rhetoric - the character may impose the Key of Despair on another character with a successful Ability check.
Secret of Stinging Insult - the character may, once per scene, cause Harm with a normal resisted social Ability check.
Secret of Veiled Intention - the character's intent in conflict is hidden, and is only revealed if he wins.
Secret of Burning Lust - the character may impose a penalty dice pool on another character with a successful Seduction check.

Quote
4) The same player also commented that we seemed to be relying heavily on Sway, Resist and combat abilities to the exclusion of all others. I'm inclined to agree with him there (although there was a bit of Stealth, Deceit and Etiquette in the session too). Any idea how we can combat this and get a bit more breadth of use?

No need to combat it, it's a feature of the system. The rules favour characters who are defined by the abilities they bring to conflicts, and it is typical for the game that any given character will only ever use three or four Abilities to succeed in any situation. That's what creates the character in the minds of the audience: this is the character who always gets angry at negotiations, this is the one that gets by in life with seduction, this is the one who is at loss in court and just understands violence. And so on.

Even a very experienced character won't have a full "rpg-like" list of skills and abilities. Anything above a dozen is nigh-impossible to happen in real play. That's just the way it is. The interesting point is that nothing is preventing players from holding themselves to a different standard and rolling a lot of Unskilled Ability checks; if that's your potato, run with it.

Quote
5) Amoux's player is still finding it hard to hit his keys. He now has Self, Power, and Bloodline (Royal House of Maldor). Could anyone give us any advice on how to hit these effectively in play?

Unfortunately, I don't feel like I have enough time to read the session description itself at this time. I'm a tad busy at the moment. Anybody else?

And yeah, I know it's weak. Perhaps I'll have time to look at the session details later in the week.
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Rob Alexander
Member

Posts: 76


« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2007, 12:43:29 AM »

Unfortunately, I don't feel like I have enough time to read the session description itself at this time. I'm a tad busy at the moment. Anybody else?

Eero - alas, there's no session description to read - the link in my post is to the previous session. I may post one if I find the time (tho I do find it hard to know what's relevant when composing such posts).

Thanks for your advice, I'm mulling it over now.

(and Clinton, too - great to see what your intention's are/were as creator - makes it much easier to interpret the book itself)
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shadowcourt
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2007, 09:25:46 AM »

Rob,

I'll strongly second Eero's suggestion about things which should and shouldn't be conflicts-- eerily enough, we call it the "You can't get there from here" scenario in our TSOY games, and the example of flying to the moon is the one we always use. Did that come from the forums originally? Is it just because the moon is so prominent in TSOY, or what? I don't know. Spooky. But fun.

In terms of hitting Keys, I confess I'm confused as to why players are having trouble hitting them, unless we're talking about players who are just very passive around the table. Is the lack of Key payoff a result of a player who is recalcitrant to take bold actions, or one who keeps taking actions that have nothing to do with his Keys? If its the latter, its time to take out that Key list, run some Buyoff scenes immediately, and pick some new Keys. If its the former, I suspect it has less to do with the system than the player him/herself, but let me pose a few ideas which might help all the same...

Self: This one needs some set up, I always feel, so there may be onus on you to create situations wherein the Key can activate. I know not everyone agrees with that stance, and thinks players should be the primary motivator around the table, but I'm not on that bus. I mean, why are you sitting there if you aren't contributing as much as they are? A character who chooses the Key of Self is asking to be put in interesting situations wherein he turns inward rather than outward. You do that player a disservice by never putting him in that situation, as much as if the character had the Key of Bloodlust and never met a person who opposed their intentions, or had the Key of Pacifism and you only let them play in the smurfiest setting possible, where no one ever hurt anyone else or tried for violent conflict.

Power: As long as there are interesting social politics going on, this Key should never be hard to hit. Any contest wherein you trick another into doing what you want should hit this Key, as should showing yourself more impressive than an opponent, whether thats in a battle of wits in a courtly scenario or a duel to the death in a back alley. Players with the Key of Power need to be ready to achieve greatness by climbing a mountain of bodies to get to it, and that's fun. Make sure, as Storyguide, that you're providing said bodies, and offering challenge to the player.

Bloodline: Okay, I'm going to assume that, at the very least, you've created Storyguide characters who the elf in question is related to who are running about and doing things. Simply enough: put them in some sort of trouble. Even better, if you can: put them in a situation where they serve as an obstacle for another player's Keys, so that there's a collision course between this elf and another player. That tends to be a rich source of Key payoff, because (at least from my experience) players can be quite inventive and cut-throat in their opposition of each other's goals, especially when there's narrative importance to both players' Keys.

I also am a real sucker for the "Key vs Key" scene, wherein dramatic tension is provided by presenting the player with an interesting situation where either Key could pay off, but it'd be unlikely for both of them to. These sorts of choices can be fun dramatic moments which define characters, and they're also win-win, so they lead to warm fuzzy feelings around the table. In some cases, they even become Buyoff scenes, as a player goes for a follow-up to that scene which immediately changes what the character in question is all about. Some obvious ones from the Keys you have set up above:
* One or more family members get in trouble in a public place, and call out for anyone to assist them. No one does,but the elf player is in the crowd. Hit the Key of Self for ignoring them, or hit the Key of Bloodline for helping them? Exciting follow-up if the player does help, and the family members want to know who this strange elf is and why s/he helped them?
* A family member ends up becoming a rival or problem in the character's personal ascension towards their goals. Crush the annoyance (fulfilling Power), or spare them, or even help them (playing to Boodline).
* A powerful noble offers the elf great riches, station, or what-have-you if he will devote himself as an advisor and counselor to his spoiled brat of a child. Accept the job, and have all sorts of potential access to nobility, and provide all sorts of opportunities for the Key of Power, or refuse it because its a nuissance and will eat up so much time, and hit the Key of Self.
* The elf and a family member are dangling from a cliff together, and the rope they're hanging on to is breaking under their combined weight. Ditch the descendant in a brutal betrayal as he tumbles to his death (hitting the Key of Self big time, and maybe Power depending on how twisted you are), or make the supreme sacrifice and take the plunge yourself (hitting Bloodline, maybe even buying off Self if the player asks for it).


And, because I love crunch so so much, and because you asked for it, here's some social Secrets to add to your meditations. Note that some of these use house rules (a Gossip ability, for instance, and a rule called "Let it Ride" imported from Burning Wheel, I believe), but they should be fairly self-explanatory.

Warning: this is the "season to taste" section of this post. Not all Secrets suit all play styles. Your mileage may vary. Let's all be good little Near Goblins here, and remember that your shoes only taste good in my soup, but my brother is only interested in eating anything made of copper.

Secret of the Ally<Secret of Audience<Secret of Discreet Inquiry
You are talented at making polite inquiries about delicate subjects without arousing suspicion. When you try to find out information by convincing someone to tell you more, or examining their lies (essentially making either a Gossip or Discern Truth Ability check), you can spend 1 Reason to force your opponent to defend passively, using Will rather than their Deceit. If you roll higher than their Will check, the opponent reveals information to you but does not realize he has divulged anything of value. Cost: 1 Reason

Secret of the Emotional Bond
You have a link to another person, either a Player Character or an NPC run by the GM. For some reason, you are always able to find this person through an instinctive link to them, and you can tell when they are in pain or danger, receiving flashes of emotional insight. In most cases, this Secret manifests in family members, lovers, life-long friends, or beings who share a spiritual kinship or who experienced a singular mystical or traumatic event together.

Secret of False Identity<Secret of Improbable Disguise
You have a wide array of useful and convincing disguises, either on your person or hidden in useful nearby places. These disguises are impressive, and allow you to pass more easily as your subject; when you use them, you add a bonus die to all Deceit or Stealth Ability checks to appear as the person you have disguised yourself as. Cost: 2 Instinct.

Secret of Inspiration [essentially the Secret of Blessing redone for a more social game]
Your words are an inspiration to others, filling them with a passion for any course of action you advise. When you spend 1 Soul, you can make an Orate Ability check to provide bonus dice to your allies, creating a pool equal to the SL of your check which any ally can use to accomplish your stated goal. Cost: 1 Soul.

Secret of the Local Hero
You are celebrated in your community for championing the weak, helping the needy, or some other action of generosity, bravery, or wisdom. You receive minor favors for free in the community, and you add a bonus die to Sway and Orate checks with people who live there. However, you are also known as a leader of the people, and may be targeted by rivals who would hold your position, or forces who threaten the community. You take a penalty die on Stealth and Deceit Ability checks in your community, as everyone knows you, or thinks they do.

Secret of One Thousand Kisses<Secret of Watchful Eyes<Secret of Double Speech
Ammenite courtly culture prizes innuendo, back-handed compliments, and insults too subtle for the offended party to notice. You have a talent for such subtle speech. You can make a Conspiracy or Deceit check to convince one person you said one thing, while actually conveying an entirely different message to another. The person you are attempting to mask your message from must make an appropriate Ability check at a higher rating than your own to understand the message, or else he misses it, and believes what you wish. As long as you achieve SL 1 or higher, the intended recipient still understands the message.

Secret of the Propogandist
You can control what the popular party line is in an area in which you live, either through the spread of gossip or through official decrees and announcements. When you make an appropriate ability check (typically Orate), you can spend 2 Reason and 1 Instinct to enforce this statement on others as the popular belief. Unnamed characters believe the story you spread by default, unless they are convinced otherwise by named characters. Named characters can resist propoganda passively (with a Will check) or actively (with another ability check). Cost: 2 Reason, 1 Instinct.

Regards,

-shadowcourt (aka josh)
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