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Author Topic: [Solar System] Rules question: Pool refreshment  (Read 8673 times)
JMendes
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« on: July 21, 2009, 01:58:16 AM »

Ahey, :)

Ok, so, we've had a couple of actual sessions of The West, already, beyond the setting creation and character creation, and we've already hit a couple of snags...

One such snag is that it's not so easy to interpret the words in pages 24 and 25 regarding Pool refreshment...

Quote
Characters refresh their Pools by relaxing and letting their guard downh, simply enuogh. Drama-wise, this is an opportunity for a slow point in the action, as a suitable refreshment scene is not about struggle or action at all.

Quote
  • The refreshing character has his guard down, so the refreshment scene is a tacit permission to mess with the character's fate in unexpected ways.

(What's with the italics around "guard down", anyway? :) )

Our questions:

A slow point in the action and not about struggle at all seems to indicate that pool refreshment scenes should not have conflict in them. Is that what's intended? Is that to be extended to mean that dice should not be rolled at all?

Tacit permission to mess with the character seems to indicate that the Story Guide is more or less free to impose the results of interaction with certain NPCs that are "out to get" the refreshing character. How far do you envision that going?

Also, me and Rogerio, one of the players in the group, we seem to have in our heads, from having read it somewhere, no doubt, that, should there be any actual conflicts, the refreshing character having his guard down means the refreshing character is going to lose those conflicts. However, we can't seem to find it in the book itself. Was that from a forum thread, maybe?

Cheers,
J.
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Joćo Mendes
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2009, 04:56:30 AM »

The way I play it, there can be conflicts in refreshment scenes, but they are low-key and do not concern nor threaten the matter of refreshment. As for having your guard down, it basically means relaxing your expectations over what the Story Guide can do to your character in framing scenes. While normally we wouldn't use a scene frame that started with something like "you did this stupid thing because I say so and need it for this scene to work, and now we have this interesting scene", after a refreshment that is allowable: the Story Guide can use this opportunity to introduce moments of human weakness, which might not happen so easily when the player is in charge. This is not so important for all groups, but for some it's absolutely essential that they have a rule in the game that clearly says that now is a moment when the character is actually, factually relaxed and willing to bend with the circumstances. Those are the moments when Samson lets his hair be cut, for example - utterly stupid and utterly human. Not all players need the Story Guide to come in and impose these sorts of events, but for many it is easier to have another player tell them how the circumstances the character isn't momentarily controlling lead the story on.

This doesn't mean that the Story Guide is out to get the characters, by the way, and the players should therefore try to avoid refreshments or make interesting developments difficult. Of course it does not, considering that the purpose of the game is not to win something or overcome everything the SG throws at you, emerging from the struggle a lone victor in a dead world. Rather, the players should go into the refreshment scenes in an accepting, open mood: that's what their characters are doing, because refreshment means relaxing and allowing the world to renew you. This is simply not possible for a character who is not willing to let go.
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JMendes
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« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2009, 06:53:34 AM »

Ahey, :)

Thanks, that was pretty much on the ball. :)

One thing:

The way I play it, there can be conflicts in refreshment scenes, but they are low-key

Specifically, would you allow the character to actively pursue a conflict that, say, hits a Key? I'm thinking yes, but I want to make sure I understand what you mean by "low-key". (And yes, I understand that that's two independent uses of the word "key"... :) )

Cheers,
J.
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Joćo Mendes
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Ralek
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« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2009, 10:29:38 AM »

Eero,

What do you think of this interpretation of the rules on an actual scene:

A character walks into the saloon looking to refresh instinct by getting drunk with whoever else is there. The character is known to be completely broke, so the bartender asks how he will be planning on paying for said drinks. After a failed attempt (no actual roll was made) at trying to get some credit going, the SG introduces a new character, a gambler who wants something from the character and who volunteers to pay for some drinks over a few rounds of poker.

The SG determines that the gambler wants something out of that character and the character will wake up with a debt of some kind to the gambler. Alternatively, the character may attempt (which may actually turn out to be a conflict as the character is a known alcoholic, with the key to go along with it) to stay sober for the poker game. Staying sober would ruin the attempt at pool refreshment for social drinking but will allow the character the opportunity to play out the poker game. If he gets drunk he will automatically lose the game and end up with the debt. The actual poker playing also does not constitute a pool refreshment opportunity because the moment something else other than pure enjoyment is at stake the conditions for pool refreshement are no longer met.
In addition, the player controlling the drunk wants his character to act all friendly with the intent of having the gambler actually like him. Whatever happens with the poker game and whether or not the drunk ends up in debt, a Savoir Faire roll could be made to determine whether or not the gambler ends up liking the drunk, with appropriate consequences for a failed roll (for example, the drunk thinking the gambler actually likes him, but the gambler really just wanting to take advantage of him).

The way we play TSoY, the above would be a perfectly good example of a somewhat complex pool refreshment scene. In Solar System, the pool refreshment rules are pretty much clouded in murk and left open for interpretation. In your own Solar System play would the above fit with your pool refreshment rules and if not, why?

-- Rogerio
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2009, 10:55:02 AM »

Yeah, sounds like fine Pool Refreshment to me, Ralek. The basic idea with Pool Refreshments is that they are not clearly codified in the rules as definite, absolute rights held by individual characters, to be pinged mechanically whenever the player feels like it as if they were a right; players have many rights, but they do not hold the right to play a scene and claim it as refreshment based on objective criteria derived from the events of the scene devoid of their emotional impact. Rather, these scenes hold a specific dramatic role of empty beat, intermission and change of direction in the unfolding narrative, which is why they have to be negotiated to some degree. You might consider it a Story Guide privilege to allow Pool Refreshment at appropriate times, but it's a privilege wielded carefully and loosely, with an open mind towards negotiating the events with the player. (This is due to how a large point of the player's role is to advocate for his character by making his choices; no reason to take that away at refreshment when we don't have to.) And the player always holds the option of steeling up and refusing the refresh on the grounds the Story Guide is proposing; if no agreement on the nature of the scene can be reached, then there is no refresh and the game continues.

An example of a Pool refreshment scene in a recent TSoY game was when a prince of Maldor, sent to police a far-off province for his father, wanted a refresh and I gave him one by describing a scene: his character woke up in the early morning to somebody playing a whistle outside his chambers, by the community well. This was a Story Guide offer in response to the player wanting a refresh scene: I was offering this musician, which the character recognized as a woman he'd saved from bandits a while back, as a refreshment partner. The player accepted and we played through the scene, which the player directed towards hitting the instict-based refresh conditions. The woman wanted him to help her find a job in the castle staff, which he agreed to do (without SG coersion; were it a seduction scene or something like that I might have insisted that he buckle under in the heat of the moment, but it wasn't), and there was an Ability check when she healed some Harm from him with her wise advice on how to treat with the commoners clamoring for his attention. I think there was some Key scoring in there somewhere as well.

The requirement for a refreshment scene is that the scene fulfills the refreshment scene's purpose, which is to entail the character into mutual, free interaction with other people for the sake of refreshment and nothing else. As long as this happens in the scene, many other things can happen as well. I only give the refreshed Pool at the end of the scene, though - and not the least because as long as the scene is going, the players can often undermine the refreshment purpose and make the interaction end badly in a way that disallows the refreshment.
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JMendes
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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2009, 09:39:33 PM »

Hoy, :)

Ah, coolness. That description feels  rather close to how we play Pool refreshment in TSoY. For some reason, my brain got all twisted up with the wording in the Solar System and went to a much harder line than I needed to.~:)

Worse yet, as Rogerio aptly pointed out in post-game discussion, some of the limitations I imposed on the characters in a couple of refreshment scenes were actually kind of deprotagonizing for the PCs involved.

One specific example: the character my wife plays is Tornado Belle, the female cowboy (I could say cowgirl but, in my mind, that conjures up images of women in pretty dresses serving up lemonade). She wanted to refresh Vigor and there was a rodeo in town so I suggested she participate, an idea that everyone at the table felt was very fitting. However, once there, I had an NPC from a rival ranch get on her nerves and she wanted to score better in the rodeo than he did. I ruled that she could either refresh the Pool or roll Cowboy(V) against the guy to see who placed better, but not both. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but now, I'm left wondering if it was.

Thanks for your continued input, by the way, in this thread and the other one. :) They're both turning out to be enlightening conversations.

Cheers,
J.
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Joćo Mendes
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2009, 03:23:16 AM »

Yeah, it doesn't seem natural to me to disallow conflicts over matters that are on the table as the specific matter of refreshment. So if you're allowing a character to refresh by participating in a competition, but still want to make a conflict out of it (instead of just glossing over the results, for example), then it seems to me that the frivolous conflict is the way refreshment goes down in this instance. The important thing is that the character still considers it a refreshment, something done for play; if she's taking it seriously, then it's no longer a refreshment. For that reason I'd probably draw the line on extended conflict: if you're taking it seriously enough to extend it, I'm not so sure how we could consider it a refreshing situation anymore. The same goes for conflicts that are serious enough to warrant Harm in the stakes.
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JMendes
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« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2009, 12:04:43 PM »

Ahey, :)

draw the line on extended conflict: [or] conflicts that are serious enough to warrant Harm in the stakes.

That's the line. Makes sense. :)

Cheers,
J.
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Joćo Mendes
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Ralek
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« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2009, 01:00:53 PM »

Ahey, :)

draw the line on extended conflict: [or] conflicts that are serious enough to warrant Harm in the stakes.

That's the line. Makes sense. :)


Erm... there's really no need to take Eero's statement as a mechanical restriction on pool refreshment. I do believe Eero's statement was meant as a matter of example on how to quantify what is low-key. It seems unnecessary to turn that statement into a hard rule stating that conflicts over the matter of refreshement cannot be extended or have Harm in the stakes. Sure, in almost all situations, extending or putting high stakes in those conflicts is inappropriate, but not because it violates a hard and fast rule that you can't, but because it already goes against the underlying structure of pool refreshement. All you need is a good understanding of what such underlying structure is:

 - Pool refreshment is an opportunity for a slow point in the action, as a suitable refreshement scene is not about action or struggle at all.
This means pool refreshment has its place drama-wise and there are points in the narrative where trying to refresh pool would be inappropriate. If the characters just had an intense horseback chase of the villain and finally managed to corner said villain in the farmhouse and are about to barge in and confront him, stopping everything, lighting a fire and telling a few stories before barging in in an attempt to refresh pool is innapropriate. This is not to say that cliffhanger style, low action points in between two high action intense scenes is a bad in and of itself, just that are moments in the narrative where pool refreshment is inappropriate.

 - Pool refreshment scenes can have conflict in them as long as the matter of refreshment is not threatned and those conflicts are "low-key".
If the matter of refreshment is the conflict itself it is probably innapropriate. If something is at stake other than the act of refreshment itself you either conflict or refresh. This is a matter of what the character is concerned with and can be hard to determine. A few characters playing poker to enjoy themselves is a suitable refreshment scene, but if one of these characters wants something out of this game, like he wants to win over the horse of one of the other characters, he is threatning the matter of refreshment and he either conflicts or refreshes. Additionally, this conflict requires the permission of the owner of the horse. If the owner of the horse doesn't want to conflict and wants to refresh instead, you're not forcing the conflict down his throat, because if he's just playing as a matter of enjoyment he is not going to put such stakes on such poker game. This is not to say that such conflict would be forbidden. You could try to convince that character (a conflict that falls outside the matter of refreshment) to play the game for high stakes instead and should you manage to convince him, those two characters would no longer be playing for the purpose of pool refreshment. That doesn't invalidate that other characters not involved in this but that are also playing can still refresh their pools as long as these conflicts are considered "low-key". If instead of playing for the horse, you were playing for the one of the lost twelve stones of the Khaleans and possesion of those stones as been a major part of the narrative, this conflict would no longer be considered "low-key" and therefore as a whole, the scene would be innappropriate for pool refreshement. Just as if the young dashing sheriff walking in the saloon and is about to confront the evil outlaw, eyes locking and what not, two characters sitting at a table having a few drinks is an inappropriate pool refresment effort. Contrast that with the young dashing sheriff starting a bar brawl with a nameless drunken tool and despite mechanically, the procedures being very similar, those two characters having a few drinks would, in this new context, be an appropritate pool refreshment effort.

 - Pool refreshment scenes should consider two specific narrative motiffs: The character has his guard down and it is a good opportunity to introduce new story elements
During refreshment scenes, characters end up doing foolish things. This is a chance to shake up the character's story in unexpected ways. If you went out partying all night doing hard drugs, you may end up waking up in a strange bed, next to a strange person in a strange part of town. And someone might storm through the door and demand to know what you are doing in his wife's bed. Or, you may be escorting the governor's daughter to the grand ball and in the middle of the dance, in a more heated moment, the two end up locking lips even though you are married and the daughter is engaged to someone else. These events may be used as ways to bring new thematic material to the table where it was lacking, not as ways to direct character behaviour in forced or deprotagonizing ways. You want to know what the character will do in a certain situation, not what the character did. These events should also be negotiated and not forced down, but attention should be made to the motivation behind the negotiation. You shouldn't turn down an event suggestion because it was so unexpected or deviant from what you imagined your character to be. You may want to turn down an event suggestion because the thematic material it presents is something you as a player have no interested in exploring - ie... I don't want to explore issues dealing with infidelity and forbidden love, lets find something else.
Should also be noted that shaking up the character's story in every pool refreshement scene is probably a bad idea. It should be looked up as an opportunity to do so, not as a mandatory structural element to pool refreshement scenes. You should take into account whether or not the character's story actually needs to be shaken up.

This is my understanding of what the underlying structure of pool refreshment is. I wrote it more as a tool to help me understand and verbalize its concepts and not so much as a way of telling anyone what it should be. Feel free to discuss and tell if any of the concepts clash in any way with your own.

-- Rogerio
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