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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 48 - most online ever: 843 (October 22, 2020, 11:18:00 PM)
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Author Topic: [The Pool] Update: essay available  (Read 14795 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: December 02, 2010, 07:10:17 AM »

Hi,

Here's a follow-up to [The Pool] Ghosts, guns, and bodies. I finally completed the essay I mentioned in that thread, which is intended to restore recognition and interest in The Pool. It can be found at The latest at the Adept Press site; the link to the game is available there too.

Best, Ron
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2010, 08:43:45 AM »

Hi Ron, nice job!

Quote
A single example should provide the model for dealing with the issue in any circumstances. A playercharacter is questioning an NPC about something important, it’s judged to be a dice-worthy conflict, and the player succeeds in the roll. He says, “He tells me what he knows!”

Here it is: the player does not get to make up what the guy knows. Instead, the GM tells the player what the guy knows, for the player to use. Again, the player has no authority over back-story. The dice do not suddenly make a player into a co-author at that level.

This was something I struggled with in my first session of The Pool, because the GM back then had the notion that it was basically the whole deal about The Pool that players would make up the back-story as they went along. I think the text of The Pool is a bit problematic here, probably because James was intent on showing how The Pool was counter to habitual “the GM is always right” practice. The MoV example is a bit ambiguous but it should be noted that the player only establishes the existence of the living book, not any information gathered from it about back-story.

The text does state that, in an MoV, you should ask the GM questions if you need to, which I find affirmative of your interpretation above. I do think the scope of how much players can “mess” with the GM’s back-story is also something to experiment with, and arrive at a customary play-style for each individual group.

This also applies to “how often you roll”. I have played very delightful games of The Pool in which players very rarely reached for the dice. The ability to call for a conflict at any time worked like a safety net to a freeform-ish game. This is actually something I find The Pool to excel at.

On the question of Gift Dice and Trait Dice, I’m not sure you are referring to the current version of the text, which reads:

Quote
When you roll, the GM will provide 1-3 GM dice to add to the throw. If you can show an obvious connection between your intention and one of your character’s Traits, you can add Bonus dice to your roll if that Trait has a Bonus.

- Frank
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2010, 08:48:31 AM »

Still reading. Love what I'm seeing so far. Page 11 starts in the middle of a sentence so I think there are words missing there.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Chris_Chinn
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2010, 10:35:03 AM »

Hi Ron,

Under the part where you talk about not getting arty with the conflicts, is that your feelings just for the Pool or does that extend to other games? 

I've been playing a lot of PTA and stuff like "fist fights to impress others" actually have worked great for stakes - though I'm curious if that's a side benefit of PTA's genre support or something unidentified my game group is doing.

Chris
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2010, 10:54:08 AM »

Hi everyone, thanks for checking it out and for the kind comments!

Frank, my call about the frequency of rolling is based on my point of finding how much the mechanics can contribute to powerful play. I definitely do not want to say that the game is "played wrong" with little or no rolling. In fact, my first diagram is partly meant to illustrate that the players will still able to add to the Character Story in those circumstances. However, that also means that the routines afforded by the dice, and the very fruitful sub-routine of the Pool mechanic itself, won't be providing what they uniquely offer, which is what my essay is mainly about.

Adam, my copy shows this sentence crossing the boundary between pages 10 and 11:

Quote
What does winning vs. losing actually mean? It’s all about the player-character’s goal of the moment, under fire, and whether it succeeds or fails in rather definite terms.

Is that the part you're talking about?

Chris, that point is specifically for The Pool. Since it lacks orienting features such as PTA's Issues or Dust Devils' Devil, or even Sorcerer's Humanity, or the particular combinations of Color found in Dogs in the Vineyard and Trollbabe, the system doesn't handle the fancy-schmancy conflict concepts very well.

Also, as a side point, I have observed some horrible borkings of identifying the conflict at hand in PTA play especially. I talked about this in some detail in [PTA] Players wanting their PCs to fail?, in my Taffy the Lich Slayer example, regarding how content gets parsed before and after the roll; and in [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene? regarding making up weird shit to have conflicts about for no actual reason. So even though I agree that these systems can handle such things, I am convinced that people should start playing them with more literal notions of conflict, before branching into the "gee I hope he likes me" conflicts in fight scenes.

Best, Ron
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Chris_Chinn
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2010, 12:46:55 PM »

Hi Ron,

Quote
So even though I agree that these systems can handle such things, I am convinced that people should start playing them with more literal notions of conflict, before branching into the "gee I hope he likes me" conflicts in fight scenes.

That makes perfect sense.  This seems like a case where I'll need to do some more play and reflection and maybe do some writing on what those lines look like for folks wanting to get into more complicated stakes and narration without getting widgey and stupid.   As it stands, we're finding occasional patches of rough-ness and I suspect this essay will be good reading for my PTA group to talk about.

Chris
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2010, 01:18:03 PM »

Huh. I went back to look at pages 10-11 again, and they're fine. Either there was an Adobe blip, or I misread the comma on the last line of page 10 as a period, or I'm insane. All is good. Nothing to see here.

I haven't played The Pool, unfortunately. It sounds like I need to. It sounds like Verge owes a lot to The Pool, and the latter might give me what I need to solve some of my design issues. Really, Verge play is similar in a lot of ways to Pool play. Players do stuff up to the "Oh yeah?" moment, roll dice, and then modify their record of their characters as a result if they win. Except in Verge, the record of their characters is a giant relationship map that everyone shares.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
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Roger
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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2010, 02:09:53 PM »

Some of these things might seem excessively pedantic, but that's not my intention.  I'm merely trying to hew close to the original text.


Traits: They are derived from the Character Story, but are not underlined parts of the Character Story.

This is significant insofar as that while one might edit the Character Story to go from "love" to “used to love but now hates...”, such modification is not, as far as I can tell, allowed on Traits -- they are strictly accretive.

"When to roll" revisited: This entire section has me at a bit of a loss -- I'm can't find anything like it in the original text.  The relevant passage seems to be:  "Anyone can call for a die roll whenever a conflict is apparent or when someone wants to introduce a new conflict. Just broadly state your intention and roll."  I've probably just missed something obvious.


In the main, though, I really enjoyed this and it definitely makes me want to run out and play some Pool immediately, which makes it a success.



Cheers,
Roger
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2010, 09:26:03 AM »

Hi Roger,

I think we're talking about version issues. I'm relieved that the currently-available one follows the original text. I was trying to cope with a version which may be an artifact, in which the text goes:

Quote
There are two instances in which dice are rolled: when something is about to affect your character (a sword to the neck, a kiss on the cheek), and when you see an opportunity to enhance the game with a Monologue of Victory (see below). The first instance is called an Action Roll and the second is a Trait Roll. Action Rolls deal with situations usually introduced by the GM that will affect your character while Trait Rolls deal with interesting ways in which you can use your character’s Traits to enhance the game.

With any luck, this phrasing is indeed a design artifact only available on my hard drive, and we only have to deal with the original version, which I think is better phrased and structured.

Best, Ron

Whoops, forgot & editing this in: My comments about modifying the Character Story was only supposed to apply to the Story, not to Traits. I'll review the essay to make sure I'm not saying something I didn't intend.
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David Shockley
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« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2010, 04:22:58 PM »

Clicking on 'The latest' gives me a 404 error.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2010, 05:06:57 PM »

Thanks! I spent some time today re-organizing my website and didn't follow up here. The new link is Other Essays; it's at the bottom.
Best, Ron
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Paolo D.
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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2010, 07:00:15 AM »

Hi Ron! :-)

I read your essay about The Pool, and I enjoyed it a lot. Especially where you try to "fill the gaps" in the procedures... Now I really want to play the game again ;-)

A question, maybe a dumb one... How much of this essay does apply to The Questing Beast too? Here in Italy, we still play often TQB, so I'm very interested about it.

And another question: do you think that your essay could qualify as a "guide" about The Pool for newbie indie gamers?

Thanks! Hope to see you soon! (at the next INC, I hope ;-)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2010, 08:24:45 AM »

Hi Paolo,

After InterNosCon, where I observed people playing The Questing Beast, I decided to re-read the rules. I was quite shocked. I think that they are extremely inferior to The Pool and arguably, bad.

I should clarify what I think is good. The dice mechanics are different from those of The Pool and have some fun, different effects during play. The instructions for constructing the group's unique Arthurian setting are excellent, at the very top of the range for explaining how to use a customizable, thematic game - much better than my efforts along those lines for the core book of Sorcerer, for instance.

The problem is found in the instructions about how to talk and how to roll dice. They are all about stating the outcomes of the rolls, in detail, before the dice are rolled. They are practically a textbook for the problems I've been describing across many independent RPG designs, draining all the drama and inspiration right out of the place they belong.

I will be a little bit harsh here and point out that James was not an experienced user of his own systems. My reading of this part of TQB is that neither he, nor the people closest to him, had any reason to think that people could really play The Pool. Perhaps in writing TQB, with all best intentions, he was writing his "how to play" instructions to make sure the rules could not be applied in unpredicted ways. My view is that this was a fear-response, unfortunately kicking the riskiest (and best) part of play into a pre-roll "negotiation phase."

My apologies to James in advance for psychologizing him, and I do not claim to be correct regarding that; these are all speculations, which I tried to emphasize with my phrasing in the above paragraph.

I stress that without this feature, I think TQB is one of the finest games around. I have had incredible fun with it - but although I was using the QB dice mechanics, I was not following those particular rules about describing the action.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2010, 08:29:46 AM »

I forgot to answer your last question. I hope my essay is potentially helpful to anyone who'd like to play The Pool, regardless of their experience with independent RPGs, or with any RPGs. I'm sure there are people who don't need the essay at all, too, but I hope they enjoy reading it.

Best, Ron
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Paolo D.
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« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2011, 06:00:33 AM »

Ron,

thanks a lot for the extensive answer. :-) Very interesting:

Just a clarification about this:

The problem is found in the instructions about how to talk and how to roll dice. They are all about stating the outcomes of the rolls, in detail, before the dice are rolled. They are practically a textbook for the problems I've been describing across many independent RPG designs, draining all the drama and inspiration right out of the place they belong.

Which procedure are you exactly talking about? Maybe all the "Intent" thing (page 20 and below)?
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