[Air Patrol] Ronnies feedback

Started by Ron Edwards, February 15, 2011, 06:22:37 PM

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Thanks for the comments, Ron. As always, they're very helpful. I think most of the system is getting nailed down pretty well and you've given me a lot to think about in terms of the social/setting side of things. Oh, and thanks for the link to the R.U.R. script. I first read about R.U.R. back in the 80s, I think, or maybe the 90s, while reading a lot of Asimov. Fond memories. I love Asimov's writings. The only part I'm having trouble with still is the investigation part (and the whisperer/denouement parts that rely on having the investigation angle nailed down first). Well, and making sure the game is something my target audience (as typified by my friends) would enjoy. I plan to talk to them later to look into differences between how I play a game and how they do.

I'll try to keep this short so I can stick to the meat of what's troubling me. And un-repetitive, but that's probably an aspect of my short term memory issues, as well as other less stable areas of my mental functioning, so we'll see how that goes.

Quote from: Ron Edwards on February 28, 2011, 08:43:25 PM
Hi Patrick,

1. It's great to see you considering the crimes. I suggest that you focus on the social aspect of the crimes, i.e., what actual harm they do, and against whom. It's useful to consider that law enforcement is at least as much about preserving the institutions of power as about stopping or preventing harm to ordinary citizens. I don't bring that up to be all edgy but rather to provide the kind of range that makes any cop drama more than Boy Scout propaganda (rather, if it isn't merely such propaganda).

Regarding technological crimes, I urge that you avoid circular logic: "New technologies are dangerous, they're dangerous because they're new technologies." Conceiving of the real danger is a big deal because it validates the fictional presence of the Air Patrol in the first place.

Certainly. Thanks for pushing me to think about it. Not sure I would have given it as much depth otherwise.

Responding to the next part out of order so I can leave the part I'm having problems with to the end.

Quote from: Ron Edwards on February 28, 2011, 08:43:25 PM
Quote6) ...

Or maybe there are no modifiers, you use the one set of difficulties currently used for unopposed rolls. The difficulty to hit someone then depends on the situation they're in, but if it's lower than the level they have in the skill they're defending with, they can use that skill level instead. If they want to boost their skill level with risk dice defensively, they can, at the risk of complications cropping up as normal.

With that last paragraph, I think you got your system!

Yeah, I've settled on that idea. I like its simplicity.

Quote from: Ron Edwards on February 28, 2011, 08:43:25 PM
7. Don't let me mess you up about your own game! Complications can stay negative. I still suggest they should arrive on a 6. My rationale is simple: getting what you want, but with complications (as long as they don't undercut the success) is a lot of fun.

Best, Ron

Hm, I can see that. It may require re-tooling how strong a complication is, since each die will have a 33% chance to add a complication level, rather than 17%, but I think that's a minor thing to do.

Now the spot I'm spinning my wheels at.

Quote from: Ron Edwards on February 28, 2011, 08:43:25 PM
2. I'm going to extract your own words from the investigation section to show that you've already reached a conclusion, and that all you have to do is slough off the expectations and habits of highly-ingrained but essentially stupid play.

Quote... I want to have the players do what I believe is the most fun, which is the dramatic scenes, whether it's action or interaction with other characters.
... There are clues, you find them, you do something with the information. It seems to me that what's important is what happens next.
... I guess I want to set it up to get people to those interesting scenes during the investigation, culminating in one or more confrontations with the villain(s) later on.
... Basically, I don't mind skipping over the boring parts of the investigation, as long as the players get to have fun playing the dramatic parts.

See what I mean? You've totally answered the question. So my question as I read through all this was, why is he repeating this over and over? It's like stomping around in sticky mud. I think it's because this is so unfamiliar even though you totally recognize the truth when you see it, the expectations and habits are still all over your shoes and pants. You're engaged in the uncomfortable but ultimately productive process of scraping it off.

QuoteOne problem I have with investigation in general is when the GM is not giving out enough clues or the players just can't put them together and the game stalls. I thought about having investigation scenes potentially give bennies as a reward and allow a player who is stuck spend a benny to get a clue from the GM, possibly suggesting the type of clue ('Do I find anything out about where X is hiding?), but I'm not sure if that's the right way to handle it.

And that bit is the mud not on your pants, but the whole swamp that's doing its very best to drag you back in. All that kind of talk is based on the idea that the events of the investigation (the clue-finding and the clue-content) actually move the events of play forward, i.e., that the players are investigating and actually finding things, which if they didn't, would make play stop. As I said in my post above, no, they're not doing any such thing; all that is an illusion thinly covering the crashing boring reality. In much traditional play, we fuck around in what my friend Terry calls the Panama Canal model, where you investigate and investigate in the Atlantic Ocean until the GM decides it's time to shepherd you through the Canal into the Pacific, where the planned ending or next clue is.

If that's the way one was trained, considering play that starts in the Atlantic is a little bit scary. It's creates the sensation of saying, "But but, what do we do?" and conjures up images of beginning and ending with one fight scene, and that's it. I think that's your headache.

It's certainly part of it. Winnowing things down to just playing through the conclusion is definitely not where I want to go.

Quote from: Ron Edwards on February 28, 2011, 08:43:25 PM
And going by what you said four times, I know very well how to cure it. The answer is, the way to handle it is not to fuck around with "if they get enough to move forward," at all. There will be "enough," because moving forward will be a given feature of play. I am not saying to pretend the investigation is real, either. Instead, just as you said yourself, and therefore I'll piece together your own words: We play the dramatic scenes during and at the culmination of the investigation, when the players announce what their characters are doing in response to the information, whether action or interaction with other characters, where the fun is.

4. What I'm thinking of, is a situation in which the characters are indeed launched on an investigation and they will indeed find the bad guys. But the trouble is, if they don't investigate well, then the confrontation will be stunningly unsuccessful. I'm thinking in terms of relevant knowledge and the choices and actions the players can make on their own.

- finding not only the direct perpetrator, but the associates and networks which benefit from his crimes
- the abilities, back-story, and intentions underlying the crime

So it's definitely not whether you can find him; we'll take that as given. The question is what you'll do when you find him, and whether you have a fighting chance to bring him in. And that does depend greatly on what you do at dramatic steps during the investigation itself.

This is pretty much where I'm stuck. To paraphrase, and probably batter, an old phrase, you've done a great job of leading horsie-me to water. The problem is I still can't figure out how to drink. Since I started lurking here a year ago, I've seen a lot of cool stuff. Lots of things that wowed me. Some that seemed like they should have been obvious to me before I saw them here. The problem is I'm not very good at originating things. If I see something, I can see why it's good and how I can use it, but until I actually see it, I can't easily conceive of it. Pretty much everything in Air Police is just a version of something I saw elsewhere or an idea I got from someone using a term I hadn't heard. Denouement is a more player-controlled version of the final confrontation ideas from Leverage. Risk dice came to me after someone in some post somewhere mentioned taking risks. Sorry, probably sounding mopey. Just wanted to set up a basis for understanding why I'm having a problem, since I haven't really done a 'Hi everyone, this is me' post so people can get to know me. My mental disconnect is making this part like trying to hold onto fog for me.

Back at the beginning, you mentioned:
QuoteThe positive options include what I just mentioned, opening up the process so that we can all enjoy the genre during a pro forma non-consequential investigation sequence that will happen no matter what; or possibly a very different approach in which how the investigation goes (i.e. well or badly) really matters, a lot, in consequences to the setting, to various NPCs, and to the characters. I'll leave aside the really freaky options like InSpectres in which the back-story is not pre-set by a GM at all but rather constructed through player input as play goes along, which I don't think would fit Air Patrol very well.

I want the game to be as interesting as I can make it, but someone has to be in charge of coming up with the details of whatever crime the PCs are looking into. Probably due to my inexperience, I can only see a few options:

1) The GM comes up with the events the Air Police will be looking into. The GM passes on the details of the crime either before play starts, during play, or both. My players like playing that way, but you've made good points as to why that isn't really investigation, and why you don't like it.
2) The Players come up with the events the Air Police will be looking into (or are looking into, if done during the session). As mentioned above, InSpectres has a way of doing this, but it doesn't seem likely to fit this particular game. I haven't gotten a copy of InSpectres. Is it GM-less, or does the GM still have something to do, just not detailing events? Sorry, that's only tangential to the discussion.
3) Something else. There must be something, but I haven't any idea what. I'm not entirely certain I have the experience to figure that part out.

I had an idea that maybe the players suggest the scenes they want to roleplay, and the results of those scenes lead to later scenes, and eventually to encounters with goons and henchfolks and villains, but that still means either the players have to make up the the details of the crime that leads their characters to the next scene, or the GM must. It doesn't really solve anything. The only option I can see that doesn't involve the players playing their characters following leads is to remove investigation entirely and just have the Air Police as a rapid response team that comes in and fights the bad guys once the NPCs have figured out what's up. As mentioned before, though, that's not really where I wanted to go.

Sorry. Repeating myself again. It takes an act of will to stop sometimes. I think this game may have me beat. I'll work on the pdf tonight after I wake up and see what comes to me.

Thanks again for all the help so far. I really did learn a lot in the attempt and it has me thinking differently than before, at least in some ways.



Well, I spent a week or so trying to beat the game into better shape, but I'm not sure it's working. Every time I try to make it work better, I just find more bits that don't work the way I want them to. Thanks for all the help, though, it gave me a lot to think about. I may show Air Patrol around a bit, see if I can generate any ideas, but for now I just can't find a way to make investigation into something better than the way many games already do it, but stick with the style of play I want it to have.

Thanks muchly to everyone who took a look at it or offered suggestions.

There's an updated file on my site, below, and should be one on 1km1kt soon (under Air Patrol, rather than Air Patrol RPG), in case anyone wants to see what changes I did make. Mostly minor things.

Ron Edwards

Hey Pat,

I certainly didn't want to shut you down! And don't be too chagrined; the circular logic of the RPG investigative scenario has swallowed better men than you or me.

Now here's the thing: I have some ideas of my own for your design so far. I think they'd be a lot of fun. But the trouble is, this is your game and the Ronnies are not intended to be anything but service to you. My question is whether you would mind turning it over to me for a little while, let me do some serious messing with it, and then I'd turn it back to you ... strictly as a matter of food for thought, not a matter of me designing onto your stuff. My hope is that I can help bust open the hassles for you, show you how to drink through an example, maybe get you jump-started on solutions.

Let me know if that's OK.

Best, Ron


Oh, it was entirely me who shut me down.  The investigation thing is a difficulty, but then some things about the damage system got up and smacked me in the face too.

I know you're busy and I don't want to take up a lot of your time, but I'd like to see your ideas for Air Patrol. The best moments I've had here are when I read some concept that breaks the pattern my thinking is in and makes me look at things in a new way. I wouldn't want to use the ideas directly, but rather see what they made me think of, myself. I think I'm also going to go back to basics and think about what it is I want the game to do.

Thanks muchly,

David Berg

Hi Pat,

It looks to me like the GM passing on details of crimes only becomes a problem if it's followed by lame investigations.  If the scenes that follow the crime details are about the dramatic stuff you want, then you might be all good.  Just to demonstrate:

Every crime scene contains an NPC who's involved in the situation and could be a help or hindrance.  If you win the NPC over, they give you resources that you can use in your final battle against the badguy.  If you piss the NPC off, they'll give those resources to the badguy instead, to use against you.

Resolve the NPC's cooperation by whatever means suit your dramatic taste.  Fight him.  Trick him.  Do something morally gray.  Have a cathartic hug-fest.  (The GM designs the NPCs with wants and strengths and weaknesses that make them conducive to these sorts of things.  It can be complex and emergent, or as simple as "Tough Freddy will only respect those who can best him in fair combat".)

As for the crime scene itself, it's just an opportunity to show off the big badguy via his works, and provide an arrow pointing to the next fun scene where the next fun NPC awaits.

I can't tell whether you actually want to do something like that, but maybe a look at which parts appeal to you vs which ones don't could be useful.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


Hi David,

Yeah I definitely want the focus on the fun, dramatic stuff. I just have to figure out how to make it work. Having the players set a goal for a scene may be one element. There's still the problem of failure in the scene stalling the game if the success of the scene was important. Something for me to think about tonight at work.

I'm also doing a bit of thinking on ways to make fighting more dramatic and less about calculating damage.

Thanks for the suggestion.