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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: Jonathan Walton on December 16, 2004, 07:54:44 AM



Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 16, 2004, 07:54:44 AM
Okay, so design post I had going has slipped off the front page, so, according to Forge etiquette, I'm creating a new thread.  The last thread was here:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13549

Thanks to Tobias, Sydney, Dan, Eero, Thomas, and Nate for help the last time around, and additional thanks to the IRC people who helped me sort out a few more things (Ben, Shreyas, etc. etc.).

Vesperteen is a game about teenagers, sin, and monsters.

I originally had characaters rated in stats called Sins, based on the Seven Deadlies (Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth, Wrath), but, in conversation with Thomas, I admitted that these aren't really Sins in the theological or even practical sense.  The Seven Deadlies aren't really Sins.  They're character traits or tendencies that lead one into Sin.  Being lustful isn't a Sin.  Sleeping with 12-year-old kids (when you're 16 or so) probably is.

So, thought: what were formerly called Sins are called, collectively, "Forbidden Knowledge" or something like that.  So you have Knowledge of Lust and Knowledge of Pride and what not.  These are like esoteric secrets, dark knowledge of the evil of the world, and knowing more of a particular type of Forbidden Knowledge makes you better in the associated character trait: Cool, Buff, Rich, Hot, Smart, Slick, Bold.  This lets you do stuff better.

So how do you gain more knowledge?  You gain knowledge by being taught.  See, that makes logical sense now.  There is a process wherein people with greater Forbidden Knowledge teach a Lesson to those with less knowledge.  This Lesson can be initiated by either side and involves some mechanics that I haven't quite nailed down yet.  More on that later.

So normally, you have standard task resolution, where you roll a dice pool based on one of your traits (Cool, Buff, etc.), plus the amount of a resource called Self that you want to spend, and compare it to another dice pool (GM or another player).  It's not a very progressive resolution system, but we can tie it into other stuff later and maybe tweak it more.

So, say you roll your dice and the result doesn't come out the way you want.  You don't impress the boy you like, the bully punches you in the face, whatever.  Or maybe you succeed, but lots of your Self dice come up really low, meaning you're going to lose confidence from the encounter.  Not good.  This is where Sin comes in.  If you are willing to up the ante in the situation, if you are willing to hurt other people to get what you want, you can call on the power of Sin and re-roll a certain number of dice, trying to get a better roll than you currently have.  Both players have this option, continuing to up the ante and re-roll to try to get a more perfect score. (Another possibility: you can re-roll Knowledge dice but not Self dice.  However, having higher Knowledge dice pushes your Self dice down the row and makes it less likely that you'll lose Self).

I'm trying to figure out just how this "upping the ante" is going to work, since I want to make it distinct from Vincent's work on Dogs in the Vineyard, seeing as how high school is different from the West.  First thought, the player decides on what they're going to do to make sure they succeed (depends on the situation, obviously) and then then the group throws out ideas about potentially bad consequences, with the GM picking an appropriate one.  Obviously, more re-rolls means the consequences get worse and worse (or more and more).

I feel an example coming on:

-----------

John  Pride/Smart 3, Gluttony/Buff 2, Self 8
Jill  Pride/Smart 2, Lust/Hot 4, Self 6

John is trying to convince Jill to go out with him, because she's really hot and he thinks she'll look good as arm candy (he's full of Pride, right?).  First off, he tries to impress her with feats of strength and his rippling musculature before asking her (Gluttony/Buff).  She tries to counter by turning up her nose at his crude, unintelligent antics (Pride/Smart).

John adds in 3 points of Self, rolling 2d6 + 3d6 (different color dice).
Jill adds in 4 points of Self, rolling 2d6 + 4d6.

Self Dice are in Black, and are always ranked before Sin dice of the same #.

43321 -- John
643221 -- Jill

So, comparing the above, Jill wins by 4 dice (6421), destroys 2 of Johns points of Self (John: 43), and loses no Self herself (32 are both ties).  Note that Jills 1 is not blocked by anything, so it counts as a winning die.

John's player is none too happy with this.  He wants to re-roll all of his Sin dice, since they're on the bottom.  Since he's using Buff, he needs to commit some act of Gluttony in order to re-roll.  He decides that John will outdrink everyone in the party with his incredible alcohol consumption powers and then victoriously ask Jill again, "Come on, really.  Will you go to the movies with me?"

The players next suggest bad things that could happen to John: he could puke on his best friend's girlfriend, he could pass out on Jill's lap after she answers him, his parents could show up at the party looking for him (and find him drunk out of his mind).  The GM nods at all of these and might even suggest some ideas.

Finally, before John re-rolls, the GM decides that John's younger sister should show up at the party, coming to take him home.

John re-rolls his Sin dice: 461.  The comparison now looks like:

64431 -- John
643221 -- Jill

Now the result is tied with John at 2 dice (43) and Jill also at 2 dice (21), and Jill loses two points of Self (32) while John loses none.  But, since it's a draw, neither side gets what they want.  Jill doesn't agree to go out with John, but she hasn't completely rejected him either.

Next, John's sister shows up at the party, complicating matters.

And it's Jill's turn to decide whether she wants to re-roll or not...

-----------

Okay, there you go.  You wouldn't necessarily choose to roll all your dice, it just happened to work that way in this example, given the dice I rolled.  You'd just pick the lower ones that you weren't satisfied with.

Problems:

1. There doesn't seem to be a high enough cost for re-rolls, just looking at it right now.  I mean, maybe that's good.  Maybe the players should be lulled into thinking, "Aw, they won't come up with something THAT bad will they."  And then the other players totally destroy them.  I like that the re-roll involves input from all the other players.  That's good and will lead to vengeance, where people suggest horrible things to do to each other's characters out of revenge for the bad things suggested by others.  Shades of Polaris here, I suppose, but Polaris rocks, so that's cool.

2. I want players to be able to switch the conflict from one Trait to another, at some sort of cost.  So maybe Jill could switch from being too Smart for John to being too Hot for John.  Pulling in extra dice or starting a whole new conflict or something.  Suggestions on how this might work?  Also what should the cost be for such a maneuver?

3. You should probably be able to spend more Self if you want at various points, becoming more invested in the conflict.  Maybe you can't re-roll spent Self, but you can always roll more Self and try to push the lower dice out of danger?  Would that work?  The problem would be that you could spend more and more Self to ensure a win on the lower side of things, if you could get more dice than your opponent (since lower, unblocked dice count as wins).  Help!

Maybe once you help me get that sorted out, we can find a decent mechanic for Lessons.  First, though, let's see if we can get a conflict-resolution mechanic that makes sense.

Almost there!


Title: Re: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on December 16, 2004, 08:45:46 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton
...say you roll your dice and the result doesn't come out the way you want..... If you are willing to up the ante in the situation, if you are willing to hurt other people to get what you want, you can call on the power of Sin and re-roll....I like that the re-roll involves input from all the other players.  That's good and will lead to vengeance, where people suggest horrible things to do to each other's characters out of revenge for the bad things suggested by others.


Not a hugely substantive comment, but I'll make it anyway:

What reall appeals to me about the system you've outlined is that it uses the real dynamics among the real people playing the game to drive the fictional dynamics among the imaginary characters in the game. The character's in-game temptation to do evil is mirrored by the player's temptation to use a nasty and dangerous game mechanic {EDIT: interesting discussion of using temptation this way in this old thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11363&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15); the uncontrollable consequences of doing evil in-game are created in reality by the unpredictable inventiveness of the other players.

Although I think "revenge" as an inter-player dynamic is probably less healthy -- and less likely -- than one-upmanship: "Oh yeah, you thought that last thing was so horrible? Well how about this?" And everybody laughs or gasps or whatever. I'm told Kill Puppies for Satan produces a lot of this, where the distance between player and character allows people to screw their own and each other's PCs over in brutally inventive ways. This distance may be harder to achieve in Vesperteen, especially if people are playing transparent versions either of themselves or of the people they hated in high school and want to get back at now, but then again it could be pretty frickin' cathartic.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: TonyLB on December 16, 2004, 09:00:20 AM
Just a word-smithing thing:  I'd recommend "Forbidden Teachings" rather than "Forbidden Knowledge."  It seems more in keeping with your idea that the information is neither independent nor passive... it was taught to you, in a way that altered you, and now it forces others to teach it in turn.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Emily Care on December 16, 2004, 09:12:05 AM
Quote
I'm trying to figure out just how this "upping the ante" is going to work, since I want to make it distinct from Vincent's work on Dogs in the Vineyard, seeing as how high school is different from the West. First thought, the player decides on what they're going to do to make sure they succeed (depends on the situation, obviously) and then then the group throws out ideas about potentially bad consequences, with the GM picking an appropriate one. Obviously, more re-rolls means the consequences get worse and worse (or more and more).

Sounds pretty distinct to me. Since you're asking people to dive into forbidden knowledge to get the re-rolls, it's more like puppies or bti than dogs in that respect.  And since it's the group/GM picking the consequences, not the player herself, it's really different.  

I love the idea of the group one-upping eachother to come up with bad juju to pay back players who push the edge.   In the best possible of ways.

best,
Em


Title: Re: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 16, 2004, 10:11:03 AM
Good to see Vespertine progressing! Always when you start these threads I get a sinful lust to grab the game and run, and make my own version that'd have everything exactly like I want. Painful.

As a general note, I advice: don't fear the medieval! A part of the charm in the concept is exactly that these teens are buffeted by a world that's fundamentally wrong to modern sensibilities. Don't bother hiding the mortal sins or making them somehow optional or anything like that. Revel in the incongruency and conflict between modern ideals and the medieval. Sure, hiding your head in the sand and waiting for sin to go away is a winning strategy in the great game, but will the modern world give you that option? Not likely!

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

So, thought: what were formerly called Sins are called, collectively, "Forbidden Knowledge" or something like that.  So you have Knowledge of Lust and Knowledge of Pride and what not.  These are like esoteric secrets, dark knowledge of the evil of the world, and knowing more of a particular type of Forbidden Knowledge makes you better in the associated character trait: Cool, Buff, Rich, Hot, Smart, Slick, Bold.  This lets you do stuff better.


We have different design minds, because to me this is just semantics. I simply don't worry about the exact terminology before getting the stuff done.

Anyways, this is one way to do it. Separating the quality of sin from the attributes brings in a new theme, though, and it's one I don't personally care for: if the attributes are not about sin, then they are unilaterally a good thing, and in that case a significant part of character worth will come from how much abilities they have. Compare with a system where the attributes are the sins, and they are themselves the thing that lets you do things: in that case you can have low skills or high, and what really matters is your sense of self, and that only in the context of your own value system (a good christian position is that self is not important, because you're not sinning anyway, so don't need it to control the sin).

So, I like it better if the prideful geek character has an inbuilt theme about the pride/smarts thing: can he make the distinction and separate his gifts from the pride that unavoidably attachs to it? Your separate attributes lose this thing which is very near to the heart of Vespertine IMO.

Quote

So how do you gain more knowledge?  You gain knowledge by being taught.  See, that makes logical sense now.  There is a process wherein people with greater Forbidden Knowledge teach a Lesson to those with less knowledge.  This Lesson can be initiated by either side and involves some mechanics that I haven't quite nailed down yet.  More on that later.


About this, read carefully what I wrote in the last thread. Handling this with cooperative color mechanics (the yang of roleplaying) is the way to go. And let it be a powerful mechanic, to rival the conflict system in play control.

Quote

So normally, you have standard task resolution, where you roll a dice pool based on one of your traits (Cool, Buff, etc.), plus the amount of a resource called Self that you want to spend, and compare it to another dice pool (GM or another player).  It's not a very progressive resolution system, but we can tie it into other stuff later and maybe tweak it more.


I personally don't get excited about this particular resolution, mainly because it feels a little too abstract. No better ideas this moment, though, until you count the notion that die mechanic should only be chosen after you've absolutely decided all the inbuilt themes you're gonna have. While those are still up in the air, it's hard to say what will be important and what not, and thus whether the dice mechanic will be good.

Quote

So, say you roll your dice and the result doesn't come out the way you want.  You don't impress the boy you like, the bully punches you in the face, whatever.  Or maybe you succeed, but lots of your Self dice come up really low, meaning you're going to lose confidence from the encounter.


See, this doesn't even make sense anymore with the attributes separated. How is my self-confidence going to erode if my skills are so high? I'm hot, buff and smart, and I win the conflict, and I'm still losing self-confidence? Whatever for?

Quote

Not good.  This is where Sin comes in.  If you are willing to up the ante in the situation, if you are willing to hurt other people to get what you want, you can call on the power of Sin and re-roll a certain number of dice, trying to get a better roll than you currently have.  Both players have this option, continuing to up the ante and re-roll to try to get a more perfect score. (Another possibility: you can re-roll Knowledge dice but not Self dice.  However, having higher Knowledge dice pushes your Self dice down the row and makes it less likely that you'll lose Self).


Individual, fixed rituals are the way to go here. Every sin has defined stake progressions with stuff like "blame another" or "hit somebody" in them, getting worse the higher the stages get. Perhaps three stages, if the conflict always starts at the bottom, or perhaps more if the starting stage is defined otherwise.

Now, that means that you cannot use the reroll in all situations, which is a good thing. Actually, make the progressions really archaic and stuffily christian, so that there's plenty of situations where you don't dare or cannot raise. Then, bring in spells: these are what higher adepts of sin and especially monsters can teach you. What is the Enochian mark you learned from the aliens? Why, it's just an alternative Pride reroll of level three! Make the mark of Enoch, and you don't have to lie (the normal raise of that level in that sin)...

Quote

I'm trying to figure out just how this "upping the ante" is going to work, since I want to make it distinct from Vincent's work on Dogs in the Vineyard, seeing as how high school is different from the West.  First thought, the player decides on what they're going to do to make sure they succeed (depends on the situation, obviously) and then then the group throws out ideas about potentially bad consequences, with the GM picking an appropriate one.  Obviously, more re-rolls means the consequences get worse and worse (or more and more).


As for the concequences, these could be fixed too, at least if you want reflexive puzzling in the manner of Humble Mythologies ;)

Group creation of consequences is fine, but it's not particularly systemic in itself. That's what should be happening anyway, the players suggesting cool stuff and the GM choosing. That's freeform in practice.

Quote

1. There doesn't seem to be a high enough cost for re-rolls, just looking at it right now.  I mean, maybe that's good.  Maybe the players should be lulled into thinking, "Aw, they won't come up with something THAT bad will they."  And then the other players totally destroy them.  I like that the re-roll involves input from all the other players.  That's good and will lead to vengeance, where people suggest horrible things to do to each other's characters out of revenge for the bad things suggested by others.  Shades of Polaris here, I suppose, but Polaris rocks, so that's cool.


Increase the cost of rerolls by including defined hazards:
- If you roll one six with a sin-rerolled die, somebody is repulsed by your sinning. Might be later, when they hear about it. But somebody knows, somebody maybe sorta important to you.
- If you roll two sixes, there's lasting consequences, just exactly the things that are why you shouldn't sin in the first place: You get STD (lust), get injured (wrath), that kind of thing. Even if you used the sin for something completely different, it still happens. Don't have to get in bed to get STD, Jesus knows what's in your mind.
- If you roll three sixes, you monsterize as per the sin in question. Temporarily.

How's that for consequences?

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2. I want players to be able to switch the conflict from one Trait to another, at some sort of cost.  So maybe Jill could switch from being too Smart for John to being too Hot for John.  Pulling in extra dice or starting a whole new conflict or something.  Suggestions on how this might work?  Also what should the cost be for such a maneuver?


No need for a cost if the consequences are potentially severe enough. Just count all sin-dice together when determining the above consequences. Activate two sins and it's even more likely that you monsterize, this time for both sins (becoming Abomination, as I explained long ago ;) Activate three, roll the sixes, and POOF... So just let the player roll more sin dice if he wants to.

In any case it's enough to demand narration of action that activates the sin in question. Like in DiV: change action type, roll more dice.

Quote

3. You should probably be able to spend more Self if you want at various points, becoming more invested in the conflict.  Maybe you can't re-roll spent Self, but you can always roll more Self and try to push the lower dice out of danger?  Would that work?  The problem would be that you could spend more and more Self to ensure a win on the lower side of things, if you could get more dice than your opponent (since lower, unblocked dice count as wins).  Help!


The relationship of sin to self is doubtful in this model to begin with. I however don't see any problem in allowing adding one self die more instead of a sin reroll or adding another sin. Make those three equal opportunities. Remember, the conflict ends if you don't pick one, and the other player gets a change to pick one, too, so picking self is safe, but it might be that it won't get you the win, in which case the other can just opt to end the conflict in his turn.

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Maybe once you help me get that sorted out, we can find a decent mechanic for Lessons.  First, though, let's see if we can get a conflict-resolution mechanic that makes sense.


Lessons will be interesting. Just think out of the box, you can do it (remember the penguin pirates!). I've been seeing a kind of a dogmatism in your Vespertine work lately, you should really play it some to get it out of your system.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 16, 2004, 10:21:18 PM
Thanks for the comments, folks.  I seem to nail down at least one critical mechanic per design thread here.  Last thread it was the relationship mechanics and so far I'm really digging the group-brainstormed consequences for re-rolls.

Quote
I've been seeing a kind of a dogmatism in your Vespertine work lately, you should really play it some to get it out of your system.


See, this really got me thinking.  What is it about this game that's making it so hard for me to get a handle on?  What's making me come up with such uninteresting resolution mechanics?  Is it that I'm trying too much to make the system sort of resemble Little Fears, which is where the whole idea came from in the first place?  Honesly, I'm beginning to think the box that I've put myself into is really the dice.  I don't really dig dice mechanics. I never have.  And unlike Vincent and Shreyas and a bunch of other people, I find it really hard to write dice mechanics that I can get excited about.  So what if I throw them out the window right now, focus on just the abstract concepts, and then reinsert a dice mechanic later, if I even decide I need it.

So let's say that instead of dice pools we just have stats that get compared, like in Amber.  John has Gluttony 2, Jill has Pride 3.  If John bids Gluttony, he's not going to win.  But what if, unlike Amber, there were systematic ways for you to raise your standing, but the question would be "at what cost?"  Throw in points of Self, but, if you lose, you lose some self-esteem.  Throw in other types of Sin, but then you have to narrate their way into play in a damaging fashion (or maybe the group can come up with a consequence).  Or, in a fashion similar to what Eero was getting at, I think, you can committ Sins in order to temporarily raise your stat.

Here's an out-of-the-box thought:

So you can raise your stat 1 for every point of Self you invest or every consequence that you accept from another player.  The consequences are written on index cards and passed to you blind; you don't know what they are before you accept them.  Then, after you accept the help of the dark forces of Sin, you look at your cards and have to accomplish those consequences in either this scene (or maybe the next one?), otherwise, you turn into a monster temporarily, wrecking havoc until your friends (assuming you have some) can bring you under control.  The game, then would provide guidelines for writing consequences.  If you're trying to raise from Guttony 4 your consequences should be worse than some guy who's got Gluttony 1 and is trying to get more attention.  Consequences that you can't accomplish yourself (like your parents or sister showing up), would be passed to the GM and s/he would bring them into play.

(Credit to Shreyas for helping me stumble on this idea).

This makes the game a mixture of "Truth or Dare" and a pact with the devil.  There's an agreement you have made to do bad things or have bad things happen to you, and if you end the scene with cards in your hand, all hell breaks loose.  This might require specific rules for scene framing, if having the scene end becomes such a critical part of play, but we might be able to make that work.  Another option might be that if you accept all possible consequences and still lose, you become a monster.

In this model, there could only be as many consequences as there are other players, and you've only got a limited pool of Self to spend, so bidding wouldn't keep going on forever, though each raise would be another part of the extended conflict.

There's got to be an easy Lesson mechanic that comes out of this model too.  Maybe you could collect cards (consequences) of a particular Sin and have to have a certain number before you could raise to the next level.  Then, once you had the right number, you'd find yourself a Teacher, who would instruct you in the ways of such a Sin (and maybe they would gain Self from the Lesson equal to the number of cards that you gave them).  Still unsure about the Lesson process, but at least I don't feel trapped in traditional mechanics anymore.

Thoughts?


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 16, 2004, 11:09:01 PM
More stuff, after chatting with Shreyas and Josh over IRC:

So, all of this ties very well into the relationship mechanics from last time.  Remember that you can invest Self in people in order to create relationships with them.  You lose the Self you invest in others if you don't come to their aid when they are threatened (or otherwise let them down badly).  However, by investing in them you hope that they invest in you and likewise come to your aid when you need it.  Clique relationships are based on your Sin stats, not on Self.  So Gluttony 3 would give you the equivilent of a Self 3 relationship with all Jocks, but it's totally superficial, not a real relationship.  There will probably be a systematic difference between these.

Now, as far as consequences go, "kick a dog" is not nearly as interesting as "kicking the principle's dog in front of the whole school," and the relationship mechanic gives us a way to ensure that this kind of thing happens.  Just some examples (not a real system yet):

1 - Do something bad.
2 - Do something bad to someone else's friends.
3 - Do something bad to your best friend's friends.
4 - Do something bad to your own friends.
5 - Do something unforgivable to your own friends.
6 - Do something beyond the pale to the person you have the most Self invested in.

In this way, friends are additionally valuable because you might have to burn them for extra social power.  In fact, some of the higher levels of evilness might only be possible if you have friends, so you have people that you can destroy on your way to the top.  However, burning your friends definitely means that you lose all the Self you invested in them, so we needed a way for you to gain Self that was equally interesting and unpleasant.

So I thought of the Final Fantasy method of gaining experience, where you wonder around beating up minor, defenseless monsters for the little bit of experience that they give you.  Similarly, you could pick fights with defenseless underclassmen, invest some Self in the outcome, and then gain Self if you win (since I think you should gain Self equal to the Self you invested in a victorious conflict).  Of course, it's always possible that the underclassman has a powerful senior brother, or is well connected, or has higher stats than you would suspect, or is willing to accept whatever consequences he needs to in order to show you up.

How do ya like them apples?


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: inky on December 16, 2004, 11:55:21 PM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton
However, burning your friends definitely means that you lose all the Self you invested in them, so we needed a way for you to gain Self that was equally interesting and unpleasant.

So I thought of the Final Fantasy method of gaining experience, where you wonder around beating up minor, defenseless monsters for the little bit of experience that they give you.  Similarly, you could pick fights with defenseless underclassmen, invest some Self in the outcome, and then gain Self if you win (since I think you should gain Self equal to the Self you invested in a victorious conflict).  Of course, it's always possible that


I don't understand what Self means in this case -- is it self-confidence? Or self-awareness? Or maturity? I'm having trouble thinking of a definition that applies for both winning at fights and having a meaningful relationship with people.

I think you're making a mistaken deduction about the design here. Yes, people need to have a way to raise their Sin level that requires sacrificing something and doing something unpleasant, but I don't think it necessarily follows from that they should have a way to get Self so they can make friendships so they can burn the friendships. It would work just as well for them to have some other ways to raise Sins that don't require burning friendships. Like luring somebody else into Sin ought to be worth something towards increasing your own Sin level, and defeating somebody better at you in a Sin ought to work too (how do you do that if you're not as good as they are? Find a way to cheat.)

The switch to diceless seems like a good move for you, but it's too bad you lose out on the gambling effect of "ok, I'll spend a point to make this roll -- nuts, I failed -- ok, I don't want to waste the point I spent, so I'll spend another one ..." One way to keep this would be to shuffle in a couple blank cards, but maybe that ruins the whole mechanic.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: LordSmerf on December 17, 2004, 09:51:37 AM
Jonathan,

I just finished reviewing the logs from the IRC discussion last night...  Here's my contribution: Burning friends (preemtively) means that you don't suffer the consequences of having them burned for you.  Just like in real high school life!

If you ditch your friends before they become a liability then you lose nothing (or at least less).  So perhaps you can burn a friend defensively to gain part of your Self back...?

Even if not, the simultaneous increas in Forbidden Teachings will raise your apperent Self rating with all the other members of that clique...  Which may balance everything out in the end.

Thomas


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 20, 2004, 07:20:50 AM
Dan, it looks like the Self mechanics are the next thing that's going to get a major overhaul, because (as you and Eero both pointed out) right now they don't make that much sense as a unified mechanic.  It struck me yesterday that what are is, more or less, a version of Nobilis' Bonds mechanic given increased narrative potency.  You invest Self in things that you care about and then, when they are threatened, you have to defend them or risk losing Self.  So what does investing Self do for you?

Here's an odd idea that struck me recently: what if Self only aids you when things you've invested Self in come to your aid?  For example, if you invest Self in your Dad and he comes to help you against the bullies, you get your invested Self in a bonus when confronting the bullies with your Dad.  In Vesperteen, bringing along a baseball bat isn't going to help you in a fight, since all fights are based on force of personality and not what kind of weapons you have.  However, if it's your mother's baseball bat from when she played shortstop on the Parson County High Varsity team (defying those who said that girls weren't good enough to do that), you get all the Self you have invested in it when you ram it through the vampire's heart.  However, if someone steals your mom's bat, you have to try to get it back or lose that Self.

Characters in Vesperteen, then, would become much more than a collection of Sins.  They're also a collection of relationships that describe the things they care about.  Things that they have to protect or lose little bits of themself, but things that also strengthen them and give them courage.  Wow, this is sounding like high school wuxia now.  Everything I write ends up being wuxia! :)

Smerf, I'm not quite sure I agree with your reasoning.  If Self is just your investment in other people and things, I don't see how burning you friends (or burning your mom's prize bat) would allow you to keep that Self.  I think you just have to write it off as the price paid for power.

Losing Self?  That's when you are unable to protect the things you care about.  Your enemies go after you by destroying the things you've invested Self in.  All Self has to be invested in something, it doesn't just sit around.  Your sense of Self is based on your ability to stand up for what you believe in against the evils of the world.  If someone manages to kick you ass and break mom's bat in two, you lose Self.  If you have Self invested in your appearance or abilities, and someone shows you up or makes you fail, you lose the invested Self.  People with low Self, with few attachments, few things to be passionate about, are like shells.  Like someone (Ben? Tony?) said, they work at your local indie video store and rent movies to people sexier and more successful than they are.  Or, if you break someone, if you destroy their last point of Self, they might just give into Sin and become a monster forever.

Gaining Self?  You gain Self when you triumph in a conflict due to the things you care about.  If your dad helps you beat up the bullies, if your drive mom's bat through the vampire's undead heart and it turns to ash, you gain a point of Self, which you must immediately invest in something else (preferrably something related to the conflict that just took place).

How that?


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 21, 2004, 07:53:22 AM
Note to self: don't ever try to get help on a design project during the holiday season.  Well, in the absence of comments (which I hope it due to Christmas and such, and not because I've headed off in an uninteresting direction), I'm just going to keep throwing my ideas down and trying to address some of the concerns brought up above.

So, Self is starting to look more like Sin: every point of Sin is something bad you did, some rule or social norm that you broke during a Lesson, and every point of Self is something or someone that you care about, something that supports you, but also a potential weakness to be exploited.

But Sin was originally supposed to act like Self in situations where cliques are involved.  You can always count on your fellow Goths or fellow Jocks or whatever to get your back.  In fact, that's part of the reason cliques exist at all, for mutual defense.  The question, then, is WHY cliques defend each other?  If something bad happens to an individual, does it affect the entire clique in some way, the way Self investments involve your friends in your problems?  How do we make Sin connect you to people in unhealthy-but-mutually-dependant ways?  And when does the cloque decide (like it will inevitably do sometimes) that your problems aren't their problems, leaving you all on your own?  Can people work to destroy your ties to your clique, isolating you the way they can by going after your friends?

Well, since cliques don't really care about you (except for a few members of the group who might actually share Self investments), I think they shoudl help you as long as they still want something from you.  As long as you're useful to the clique, you're protected.  How are you useful?  Well, they might want you for your connections with other people or cliques.  They might want you as their agent to be used in one of the ongoing struggles.  They might want you so you can teach them Lessons in Sins that they are ignorant in.

Are these just Self investments?  Would members of the clique invest Self in, say, a particular plot that they needed your help to complete, and then be forced to come to your aid or give up on the plot?  Maybe someone has Self invested in Get Revenge on Jimmy Jenkins and you're their current MO or something.  But Sin should also tie a group together, right?  I mean, you keep pushing each other to higher and higher levels of Sin, working up the clique hierarchy until you command the roost.  In this way, you Sin level is also a rank in the clique.  Those with 6's in a particular Sin rule their factions like Kings and Queens, just one step removed from the monsters themselves.  So maybe, while Self investments are egalitarian and mutual, the ties of Sin are necessarily hierarchical.

Here's a thought: what if joining a clique means investing Self in the clique itself, its ideals and what it represents.  Then, once you join a clique, you're a member of the Sin-based hierarchy.  And then, if you try to defy the hierarchy and take out members of the clique who rank above you, they can draw on their clique-based Self investment to use against you, since the hierarchy of the clique backs their side.  So the investment in the hierarchy is then the only thing that really makes sure the hierarchy works.  And only truly worthy up-and-comers are able to take out/replace those above them, since those in power have an advantage.  Also, with the required Self investment, all members of a clique are thereby required to support everything that the clique stands for.

This also opens the door for group-creation that might challange established cliques, just by drawing people together and getting them to invest in a particular ideal or course of action.  There would be the big cliques centered around specific Sins, or possibly hybrid groups based on multiple Sins, depending on their nature of your high school.  Maybe you want to distingish the hardcore rap boyz from the metalheads, making the boyz Greed/Wrath nuts while the metalheads are more Sloth/Wrath.  

This would let you customize things a bit, and also allow for cliques to rise and fall as people began taking out their members or assaulting people's investment in the hierarchy.  You kidnap a bunch of one clique's members, drag them into the woods under the protection of your monsters, and dare their fellows to do anything about it.  You make people feel like the clique isn't able to protect them, and they'll leave to look for people who do have the power to look after them.

Wow.  I'm really liking that.  Self investment is everything, even forming the foundation of the twisted clique relationships.  Now we just have to make sure that this doesn't overshadow Sin as the major player in the field.  Maybe the bonuses from Self investments should be capped at 3, so you can only ever get a +3 in a conflict, meaning that getting higher levels of Sin will still let you win out, assuming you have some friends on your side.

Well, that's a fair bit for now.  Maybe tomorrow I'll try tackling Lessons or the rules for constructing consequences.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: TonyLB on December 21, 2004, 08:09:28 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton
If something bad happens to an individual, does it affect the entire clique in some way, the way Self investments involve your friends in your problems?  How do we make Sin connect you to people in unhealthy-but-mutually-dependant ways?

Perhaps a person higher in the Sin-hierarchy can foist off the unpleasant rules-effects of their actions on another person.  So that, instead of Heather (just to pick a name, completely at random) losing some of her Self when she is at risk of being humiliated in public, she humiliates someone in her clique instead, preserving her own skin.

Quite possibly, the amount of damage that a person can do is equal to the Sin of the target.  So high-sin people have an incentive to draw other players more fully into the clique, giving them the high level of Sin required to sustain massive abuse... but they don't want them to rise too far, because then they would become a threat.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: LordSmerf on December 21, 2004, 10:16:57 AM
First off, I don't like the idea of capping Self bonuses.  I really, really like the idea that you can have a massively powerful tool that is also a huge liability.  Sure you can invest 9 or 10 Self in your Girlfriend, but if someone manages to break you up it's going to hurt.

With that in mind you probable need to codify rules that govern increase and decrease in Self investments.  You probably don't want let people just raise Self investments however they want, but you do want them to be able to raise them.  As to decreasing Self investments, it does happen in real life, but it may not be necessary to have a set of rules governing that.  Perhaps you can reduce Self investment by any amount at any time, but it's just as if you lost a tie of that size.  So if you wanted to go from 9 Self in your girlfriend to 5 Self, you would lose 4 Self, just as if you had lost a 4 Self investment.

I really like Tony's idea that Sin can be used to mitigate Self loss in some way.  I'm not sure exactly what that should look like, but the ability to deflect attacks onto other people is really cool.

I also think that the Sins should be very broadly applicable.  That is, you should be able to use that 3 in Lust as a bonus even if you don't have an appropriate Self relationship for a given situation.  Sin should almost always be useful.

One other interesting idea: You can not have Self invested greater than your current store of Self.  So if you lose a big relationship and your Self crashes, you should also have to lower all other Self investments so that none are higher than your new current Self.  Therefore a person with only 1 Self left can not have any Self investments greater than 1.

Further thoughts: Vesperteen may be a good candidate for a "win condition".  My guess is that at some level of Self you are essentially unassailable, a mature adult in high school so to speak.  it may be a ridiculous number like 100, or it may be something like 15, we probably won't know until we get more stuff down in terms of mechanics.  Anyway, that's something to consider.

Thomas


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: inky on December 21, 2004, 11:38:58 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton

Here's a thought: what if joining a clique means investing Self in the clique itself, its ideals and what it represents.  Then, once you join a clique, you're a member of the Sin-based hierarchy.  And then, if you try to defy the hierarchy and take out members of the clique who rank above you, they can draw on their clique-based Self investment to use against you, since the hierarchy of the clique backs their side.  So the investment in the hierarchy is then the only thing that really makes sure the hierarchy works.


Yeah, I agree this pretty much makes the game right here. You don't say this explicitly, but it seems to me that the leader of the clique (and there's only one) should be able to use the invested Self however they want at any time. So usually what they do is keep some for themselves and hand out some to other people in the clique to keep them in line (which, right, is the reason to be in a clique, besides wanting lessons). I would guess that cliques have some way to increase their Self pool by exemplifying their sin somehow as a group (I dunno, science fair, or cheerleading practice, or whatever) but presumably this has to involve being nasty to someone too.

Then, right, clique warfare consists of trying to get people to leave a particular clique, which makes them burn their connection to the clique, which (I guess) removes the original point of Self they had to invest to join the clique in the first place. You can do that either by sabotaging the clique's operations or otherwise making the leader look ineffective, so the people figure they can get a better deal elsewhere, or you can harass the people individually, either by attacking them directly or by attacking the things they've made Self-connections to.

(Incidentally, your mention of Nobilis bonds earlier reminds me that you might want to look at the Nettle Rite stuff wrt attacking people's Self-connections.)


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 21, 2004, 07:15:02 PM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Note to self: don't ever try to get help on a design project during the holiday season.  Well, in the absence of comments (which I hope it due to Christmas and such, and not because I've headed off in an uninteresting direction), I'm just going to keep throwing my ideas down and trying to address some of the concerns brought up above.


Well, actually, it's a combination of "I'm not really interested in that direction" and "Jonathan seems to be doing well on his own".

The whole idea of investing self and the explicit social web involved changes the precepts of the design in even more fundamental ways, and I kinda liked the simplicity of what you had, say, two threads back. This direction draws the game much more into the realm of relationship maps and the resulting bang-driven blood opera, a schtick pretty well covered by games from Sorcerer to Fastlane. That drives over the subtle protagonist-centered color I like the most in the game: not only the dynamic idea of changing allegiances, but the idea that sin and clique allegiances are what defines the identity of the teenager. In my experience a bang-driven game will be more about succeeding or failing in a set plot goal, and any possible psychological points are there mainly to control this plot. I was looking forward to a game more about the exploration of color instead of situation, to tell the truth. Ethics and social structures more as medieval set-pieces to consider than tools to use to get the girl.

But anyway, that's just one viewpoint. I've pretty much covered my opinions in my posts in the last two threads, so read those with care to see where I'd be going with this.

On the positive side, what you currently have seems to support an emergent system of vicious backstabbing/powerplay, and works pretty well to generally model a kind of social environment. Should serve well in quantifying specific social scenarios.

Also, take a look at Fastlane for an example of very simple clique rules. A clique in that game is simply a pool of favours-on credit: a member of a clique owes it to other members to do favors when needed, but also has to do favors back when needed. The degree of participation in the clique controls the size of the favors moved. Thus a clique in that game is just a generalization of the usual one-on-one economy of favors.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: GaryTP on December 21, 2004, 07:32:05 PM
Jonathan,

You ever play Diplomacy? Your resolution could work a lot like that.

You said:
So, say you roll your dice and the result doesn't come out the way you want. You don't impress the boy you like, the bully punches you in the face, whatever. Or maybe you succeed, but lots of your Self dice come up really low, meaning you're going to lose confidence from the encounter. Not good. This is where Sin comes in. If you are willing to up the ante in the situation, if you are willing to hurt other people to get what you want, you can call on the power of Sin and re-roll a certain number of dice, trying to get a better roll than you currently have. Both players have this option, continuing to up the ante and re-roll to try to get a more perfect score.

---

If your scores were "points you had available" to act, and you simultaneously devoted points to the action, then you could resolve it in a diceless fashion. "Sin" could be the one attribute that can be spent "after the fact". As in, your upping the ante. Who wants to sin more... What's it worth to ya...

Just a thought.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 22, 2004, 12:37:30 AM
Good thoughts, folks.

Quote from: TonyLB
Perhaps a person higher in the Sin-hierarchy can foist off the unpleasant rules-effects of their actions on another person.


Nice.  Not sure quite how that might work though.  Let me post the Lessons stuff that I developed a bit last night and see if we can figure out a way to work that in.  As it is, Consequences may be a critical part of the school of hard knocks, the experiences you have as part of the process of gaining sin.  But hold that thought...

Quote from: Smerf
1. I don't like the idea of capping Self bonuses.
2. rules that govern increase and decrease in Self investments.
3. I also think that the Sins should be very broadly applicable...
4. Self crashes
5. Vesperteen may be a good candidate for a "win condition".


1. I think I'm beginning to agree with you.

2. Maybe.  I think Self investments should follow the rules of drama, but it's hard to know how to get people to do that.  I'll think about this.

3. Me too.  That's why Sloth also serves as "Slick," so you can use it to do a whole host of things that are only related to Sloth in a very abstract sense.  Maybe I need to stop saying that those abilities are "associations" of the Sin.  Maybe I just need to go ahead and say that they ARE the Sin.  So your sheet might say something like "Sloth (Slick): 4" or whatever.

4. Okay, Self crashes are a cool idea, where losing a lot of Self in a short period causes severe repercussions in your life, but that might be a cool way to handle Monsterizing.  The extreme stress of being cut off from your sources of support causes you to go monster until people can restrain you.  But I was thinking, now, that you don't have a pool of univested Self.  All your Self has to be invested in something else.  But I could rethink this.  What do others think?  What would be the point of keeping some uninvested Self?  What would that represent?  Your own self-esteem, the part of you that didn't require reinforcement from others.

As a side note, I was thinking recently that the reason adults are so effective at taking down monsters is because they have a huge Self investment in the Status Quo, a big part of which is the phrase "I don't believe in monsters."  So your English professor draws on his Self investment in the Status Quo when forcing the Vampire to finish his calculus test.  Sorta Mage-like, in that way, I guess, but I'm already stealing tropes from a whole bunch of games, so there's no real reason to stop.  

5. The win condition you're talking about might just be growing up. The way you become an adult, as per the description above, is to start investing Self in the Status Quo, which would give you great monster-fighting powers, but cut you off from your peers and the world of your youth.  There should probably be some requirements for investing in the Status Quo, maybe based on a set of general Self-investment guidelines like you recommeded above.  I can see cliques like the Young Democrats and Young Republicans and Student Council and Future Business Leaders of America being the first to invest in the Status Quo.

Quote from: inky
1. One leader of a clique.
2. They should be able to use the invested Self however they want.
3. I would guess that cliques have some way to increase their Self pool by exemplifying their sin somehow as a group


1. Of course.  Though they could be disposed by a formal (or semi-formal) challenge.

2. Interesting.  I think they should have some special powers as clique leader, but I don't know about drawing on the invested Self.  I was thinking that they would gain the bonus of invested Self (and they would, presumably, have a lot of Self invested in the clique) whenever they draw on their leader status, and could use this to intimidate their underlings into doing what they wanted and generally ruling the school (I'm definitely imagining the cliques from Volcano High School [badass Korean movie] now, with the Weight-Lifting Team and the Girls' Kendo Team and having Team Captains who command legions of followers and such).

3. This idea I like, but I don't see how it fits into the system yet.  Another thought to hold onto...

Quote from: Eero
Well, actually, it's a combination of "I'm not really interested in that direction" and "Jonathan seems to be doing well on his own".


I'm sorry about the former, but I don't know what I can do about it.  In the end, we can only design the games that we want to design, and not those that other people want to play (well, at least if I'm following through on the ideals of creator-owned games).  You've been one of the biggest sources of real assistance and encouragement in the process up until this point, and it's unfortunte if the design ends up heading in a direction that you're not as excited about.

Honestly, I don't think joining cliques is going to dominate the game in the way you seem to think it is.  This is just me following your advice of developing interesting subsystems.  I hope that, once the entire game is assembled, that people will be given a variety of system-supported play styles that they could explore.  If you want to delve into the clique hierarchies, you can.  If not, you just form a support network among a group of fairly independent friends and do your own thing.  I never joined a real clique in high school and there's nothing forcing Vesperteen PCs to go that route.  It's just one of the most obvious paths to power.  There are plenty of others too.  The major established cliques do not monopolize knowledge of Sin like they'd like to believe they do.

Quote from: Gary
You ever play Diplomacy? Your resolution could work a lot like that.


That's like asking, "Do I eat rice?"  Diplomacy is probably my favorite board game of all time (though it does have to compete with Go).  The resolution style you propose seems much closer to the diceless one used in the recent Marvel Universe game, though, with a few more opportunities to negotiate and raise states.  A nice thought, but I'm kinda on a roll with what I have now, so I'm not sure about going back through and gutting the system all over again.  Maybe if I hit another bump in the road, I could reconsider and fiddle with that sort of a design.

----

And, finally, here's some basic thoughts on Lessons, from late last night:

Antediluvian Requirements for Increasing Sin
(showing my Continuum influences)

1. You must have Consequences accepted for raising that particular Sin that are at least equal to the rank (or twice the rank? three times?) that you are seeking.  For example, if you had Lust 2 and wanted Lust 3, you would have to have a stack of Lust Consequences cards that was at least 3 (6? 9?) high.  This means you have to have been in a conlfict where you chose Lust as your method of assault, and over-extended yourself, going deeper into Lust.

2.  Find a willing Teacher.  You can only teach levels of a Sin that are less than your current one.  So people with Wrath 1 cannot teach someone else Wrath 1.  You have to have Wrath 2 or higher to teach Wrath 1.  This means that only the King/Queen of Wrath can teach Wrath 5 and that only a Werewolf or Demon can teach Wrath 6 (Good luck finding a willing teacher among the Wolves and the Damned!  They'll probably just eat you, unless you can prove your worthiness...).

3. Accomplish a deed that your Teacher chooses, proving the strength of your Envy (or whatever Sin it is).  This is always something that is a crime against the great Status Quo.  The severity of the crime is suggested by the level of Sin that you're trying to gain, but the Teacher you've found has an awful lot of leeway, especially as far as picking something WORSE than would ordinarily be required.  After you've done the deed, they can also choose to find it unacceptable for the slightest reasons.  And most deeds require some form of proof.  If you don't like it, find another Teacher.  Monsters are especially fickle, often forcing mortals to be their slaves for a couple of years, accomplishing a wide variety of demeaning and terrible deeds, before teaching a ranks 5 or 6.

4. And then there's the actual Lesson.  This is the only part that I'm stumped about.  There's all this build up, so something big has to go down here.  Maybe the Teacher takes you aside and gives you a personal Lesson, but I guess public Lessons could happen to, especially if you were learning from a person high up in a clique hierarchy.  How should this work?  Maybe they get you to invest Self in something, an idea, a person, whatever fits the Lesson, and then they destroy it right in front of you, an obvious sign of their superiority and a lesson in the cruelty of the world.

Maybe we should go the Eero-suggested route and let each Sin have it's own antediluvian regulations for how Lessons should be carried out.  They could be heavily ritualized things, and each of the major established cliques would be the keepers of these rituals (well, along with the Monsters, but you don't want to have more dealings with them than you have to; though the Monsters would have given the cliques the rituals in the first place).  There would be some independent parties and groups who knew the secret rituals, stolen away by toppled Kings and Queens or those that broke off on their own.

Anyway, there's a lot of stuff there.  Have at it.  I'll be off working on guidelines for consequences...


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 22, 2004, 04:21:06 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton

Quote from: Eero
Well, actually, it's a combination of "I'm not really interested in that direction" and "Jonathan seems to be doing well on his own".


I'm sorry about the former, but I don't know what I can do about it.  In the end, we can only design the games that we want to design, and not those that other people want to play (well, at least if I'm following through on the ideals of creator-owned games).  You've been one of the biggest sources of real assistance and encouragement in the process up until this point, and it's unfortunte if the design ends up heading in a direction that you're not as excited about.


Heh, no reason to get miffed about it, stuff happens. The only way to get the game you want is to design it yourself, and Vespertine is your game, not mine. So no reason to "do anything about it".

Then again, I'm probably posting less about the project as my understanding of it's goals and priorities lessens, so no need to wonder about that. Doesn't mean that I'm sulking, just means I have nothing more to say.

Quote

4. And then there's the actual Lesson.  This is the only part that I'm stumped about.  There's all this build up, so something big has to go down here.  Maybe the Teacher takes you aside and gives you a personal Lesson, but I guess public Lessons could happen to, especially if you were learning from a person high up in a clique hierarchy.  How should this work?  Maybe they get you to invest Self in something, an idea, a person, whatever fits the Lesson, and then they destroy it right in front of you, an obvious sign of their superiority and a lesson in the cruelty of the world.


Well, my opinion is that you've overextended somewhat on the whole production - if getting sin is that difficult, who would bother? The extraneous step seems to be number three; I don't see what it brings to the game, apart from a weird hampering of the Lesson stuff. As far as I'm concerned, doing sinful stuff is learning sin, so why have two different steps? By having that you give me an odd disconnection about the whole lesson thing: apparently a sin lesson is something else than doing the sin, which would mean some ritualistic thing in the broad sense (everything that's not doing is ritual, so this is ritual). A weird viewpoint on what the sins are, like they're some kind of alien viewpoints impressed through a most arduous process.

Furthermore, I fail to see the motivation for step three, if it's optional. It seems more sensible to me if sins are something one wants to teach and spread. It's lonely to be the only sinner, and teaching grants authority. Going even further, I don't even think that a teacher is such a great requirement. I could see having it as an optional part of the lessons, especially at lower levels.

By contrast, I distinctly remember writing a long while ago about a much simpler lesson plan: have the lessons be color scenes initiated by either participant and exploring everyday teenage life (shopping for greed, hanging out for sloth, making out for lust, dissing others for envy and so on, the grand metaphor of teenager life, the whole point of the game). Roll dice for how "staining" the lesson is based on the willingness of the participants, their sin levels and what they're actually doing. Degree of success is compared to the current sin levels of the participants, so it's possible to gain sin or not, even if you're supposed to be the teacher. Much simpler, and achieves the requirements IMO.

Overall, I'm thinking that you are overdesigning. Did I mention that already? Go out and play this before it gets out of hand!


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: LordSmerf on December 22, 2004, 10:11:48 AM
A couple of notes.

It was my understanding that you didn't actually lose Self through investment.  I thought that investment represented a risk of loss.  So if you have 9 Self then you can invest 9 Self in anything, but if any one of those things were lost then you would lose 9 Self.  This prompted my suggestion that Self loss could cascade your investments down.

Additionally, I'm with Eero on this one: Lessons should not be nearly so complex.  While I think the idea of terrible and abusive teachers is pretty cool, I think it's important that you can learn Lessons simply by doing.  I would take a look at The Burning Wheel for a good way to handle this one.  Everytime you attempt to use something to accomplish stuff, take not of the difficulty of the task.  Once you have attempted enough things of enough difficulty compared to your current ability (this is on a non-linear scale) then you advance.

So, my read on this is that you should take your really cool stack of Consequences and use that to allow people to advance their Sin simply by commiting Sins.  Those two ideas are far more interesting to me than some sort of invested pool of points.  Risk is cool, self teaching that is handled by self-assigned "evil" tasks is cool.

Like Eero, I am a bit confused about what exactly this is all supposed to look like.  I'm having trouble seeing exactly how your system works, other than the fact that there are cards involved somewhere.

Thomas


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 22, 2004, 09:11:37 PM
Quote from: LordSmerf
It was my understanding that you didn't actually lose Self through investment.  I thought that investment represented a risk of loss.  So if you have 9 Self then you can invest 9 Self in anything, but if any one of those things were lost then you would lose 9 Self.  This prompted my suggestion that Self loss could cascade your investments down.


We're on different wavelengths here.  In my mind, it works like this:

Bob has 9 Self, as follows...
2 Self in his abusive single-parent mom,
2 Self in his football coach,
1 Self in the homecoming game vs. Central Academy,
1 Self in his best friend Paul,
1 Self in his secret love for the head cheerleader,
1 Self in the Football Jocks clique,
1 Self in a neighborhood gang of boys that he's a part of.

Then, a Self crash would occur if he lost a whole bunch of Self in a single session, by people taking out the things he cares about.  Say his team loses the big game because he misses a critical fieldgoal (-1 Self for the homecoming game), his coach yells at him for a hour (-1 Self for the coach), the Football Jocks refuse to talk to him anymore (-1 Self for the clique ditching him), the head cheerleader starts dating the quarterback and he misses the chance to do anything about it (-1 Self for his secret love of her), and his mom gets a new boyfriend and doesn't have as much time for him (-1 Self).  That's more than half his Self (he's now at 4, from 9), so he turns into a monster based on his highest Sin (a Zombie, if he's a typical high-Gluttony jock) and begins terrorizing those that have hurt him, maybe hungering for the brains of the quarterback and his mom's new boyfriend.

I'm pondering simplifying the process of gaining Sin, but I really like the Teacher aspect and having to go to the monsters to gain the highest levels.  I'll get back to you guys on that...


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 22, 2004, 11:02:48 PM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton

I'm pondering simplifying the process of gaining Sin, but I really like the Teacher aspect and having to go to the monsters to gain the highest levels.  I'll get back to you guys on that...


But you can have those without complexity. Consider an example utilizing a  stand-in die mechanic: die pools are rolled to gain successes. Lesson dice are garnered from
- Teacher's sin: each point one die
- Action: 1-6 for the actual action of the Lesson scene
Each participant rolls separately, and the "teacher" is simply anybody else participating in the scene, even if they have a lower rating in the sin. Successes are compared to your own current sin rating, and if higher, up you go.

The result of this is that you can in theory learn high levels of sin alone, but only in theory, as the die pool only gives about 50% (say) successes per die. Likewise, this way it's possible in theory to learn more sin from just teaching sin to another. Also, you learn best by hanging out with those who have more sin than you. And the worse the things you do, the likelier it is to get sin. Result: an extremely simple mechanic supporting everything we want here.

The problem of your late notions is that you're handling sin as a kewl power instead of a near-unavoidable part of teenage life. The original impact of the Vespertine idea is in the impossible contrast of the medieval morality system with teenager life, especially when it makes sense on a moral level. This idea is diluted by having sin be something unnatural from beyond, gained through a formal system of teacher-student relationships.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 30, 2004, 12:20:27 AM
Okay, not off the page yet, so I'm going to keep chugging along, trying to bang this into something that's playtestable, so come January we can really get rolling.  Let me see if I can turn my coffee shop notes into something articulate:

So I was thinking about clique creation, and thinking that each clique should have to choose one or two Sins as its virtues of choice, and that you could never invest more Self in a clique's hierarchy than the amount of their associated Sin that you have.  So, that way, the King of the Jocks, with Gluttony 6, would have 6 points invested in the clique which he could bring to bear on any matters involving it (which is a hell of a lot of points).  This also leads me to wonder if all Self investments should be capped by Sin, but I tend to think not, as that would complicate things.  This also limits the ability of low-Sin people to become really involved with cliques, which means they're really only a part of the game at higher levels of Sin, just like the Fraternities in Continuum.

And then I was thinking about this Status Quo thing that most adults have a huge investment in.  And I was doing some Mage-like pondering and thinking "hey, isn't the Status Quo just a big clique for adults?"  "Sure is."  "Then what Sin is the cardinal virtue of the Status Quo?"  And the obvious answer was Maturity, but then Maturity isn't one of the Seven Deadlies.  But, you know what?  Maybe it should be.  So right now I'm pondering adding Maturity as another Sin (Maturity makes you more "adult," in the same way Envy makes you more cool).  This brings in the possibility of adults (or, at least, some adutls) just being monsters.  They turned into monsters by indulging too much in the Sin of Maturity.  And that idea just seems really declicious to me.  So your teachers and parents and police officers and child molestors or whatever are all just monsters, as alien from the teenage mindset as werewolves and vampires.

So the only non-monsters in the world are children (ala Little Fears) and teenagers (ala Vesperteen) and the few people who manage to have a healthy adulthood (the "cool" old people who aren't just agents of The Man).  Speaking of The Man, you know how all the Sins in Little Fears each have a demonic overload who looks over them?  Well, maybe the Lord of Maturity is really just The Man himself.  His agents are the school principles, military recruitors, drug control officers, bible tumpers, and other similar forces in the world.

And I was thinking about writing consequences, and wondering if something as simple as this would work (where the number is just the level of Sin that you pushed yourself to):

1-2: an inconvenience
3-4: a serious problem
5-6: a nightmare
6+: hell

And I was thinking about pushing Sins in conflicts, and coming up with a set of general guidelines, such as:

Envy falsifies.
Gluttony disgusts.
Greed impoverishes.
Lust sullies.
Pride isolates.
Sloth calcifies.
Wrath destroys.
Maturity debases.

And then having a general chart, ala Nobilis, though I'm not sure what that might look like.  I tried creating one for each specific Sin, but the only one I could do easily was Wrath:

1 - outburst
2 - destruction
3 - violence
4 - injury
5 - cruelty
6 - murder

But you could try to generalize from here, as in:

1 - yell a lot
2 - break something someone cares about
3 - hurt someone's feelings/body
4 - injure someone's feelings/body
5 - cruelly injure someone's feelings/body
6 - totally destroy someone's psyche/body

But that still doesn't look all that appetizing to me.

Still I was also thinking that you could increase things still further by sacrificing Self investments.  So if you have a 3 Self investment in your girlfriend and you totally destroy that relationship in the process of winning a conflict, you gain +3 to whatever you're doing, in addition to any crimes of passion that you commit.  This would let you sacrifice the things you care about for temporary gains, which I think should be an important aspect of the game.

And then I was thinking about the attraction of Maturity and selling out to the adults (and the adult monsters), and thinking that maybe Maturity (out of all the Sins) would actually give you real world benefits for choosing to resolve conflicts that way, by debasing yourself before the power of The Man.  For example, if someone is giving you a hard time and you go to the principle about it, you gain some sort of benefits or status from the adult world.  Like maybe you get good grades or get a nice letter written home to your parents or something.

And I'm thinking of dropping all the Sin requirements except the first one, just gaining enough consequences to equal the amount of Sin that you want to have.  This way you can gain Sin quickly by trying hard, but it will also be something inevitable, unless you just want to keep getting squished under the boots of people who are willing to do shitty things to you.  I think the teacher-student thing and the "do something bad for me" parts might still be retained though, but as part of a kind of arcane magic system, where certain rituals are passed down from the monsters to the cliques and they can use them to basically take Director Stance and make major changes to the narrative environment (like bring someone back from the dead, change events that have already happened, or set up opportune situations).  Of course, the adults have their own evil magic, based on Maturity (hello, Technocracy!).

And those are my thoughts recently, which move this thing a few steps closer to being playable.  Thoughts?


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 30, 2004, 01:52:20 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton

And those are my thoughts recently, which move this thing a few steps closer to being playable.  Thoughts?


Well, yeah. I'm coming up as a horrible naysayer, but just disregard to taste. Or, if you feel that negative vibes are unhelpful at this stage, tell me to shut up.

Check out my last post, last chapter for my essential opinion on the sin of Maturity. IMO this theme has been pretter represented by the lack of self (joining the grey masses, etc.) rather than a specific sin, because that leaves the adulthood as an essentially unknown step: you can't know which parts of the stuff they're selling are real and which are lies, you have to make your own selections to grow into some kind of adult. In contrast, the idea of Sin of Maturity represents moral absolutism, which guarantees the players a mechanically safe and "correct" solution into growing up: if you get Maturity, you're doing "bad" growing, if you don't you do "good" growing. Not very deep. Compare with the earlier conception, where a central question of the game was: What part does sin have in my adulthood? The ambivalency recedes further and further with these classifications of moral condition.

The stuff you're pondering is good per se, but it's slanted heavily towards modern occult action adventure. You do see that you just defined the whole adult world as just another splat? If that kind of traditional characterization-based stuff is the goal, then go to it.

As for consequences, you don't need that much of those. I find the idea of controlling consequence intensity problematic, because of the central narrativistic idea that the significance of the event is defined by the player. How about this:

The numeric value of the consequence defines how many points of invested Self are put to risk in a follow-up conflict/something. The narrator picks the points, and can choose any combination that can be justified. So a two-point consequence can be about one two-point investment, or divided between two one-pointers, or might be just a part of a larger one. Define "put to risk" to taste, whatever is the appropriate mechanical conclusion. Could be that the character might lose those points or something, don't know.

Sins in conflicts: you don't necessarily need an objective set of guidelines as long as you require the next act to be worse than the previous one. That way the ambient situation gets to affect how easy it is to gain power from sin: it's easier to push it in a civilized, adult situation where even relatively minor things (say, showing up with an irokese perm) can be scandalous, than in some twisted tribal cannibalistic monster party. That's appropriate, I'd say, because the ambient sin level will be more or less the same to all participants of one conflict anyway.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 30, 2004, 02:13:48 AM
Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
Well, yeah. I'm coming up as a horrible naysayer, but just disregard to taste. Or, if you feel that negative vibes are unhelpful at this stage, tell me to shut up.


I winced when you started out that way, but the comments you made afterwards are actually really constructive and helpful (even more so that some of your recent criticism, actually).  Keep it coming.  I won't necessarily do what you suggest, but I obviously respect what you have to say.

Quote
Compare with the earlier conception, where a central question of the game was: What part does sin have in my adulthood? The ambivalency recedes further and further with these classifications of moral condition.


I guess I'm struggling with how to keep the moral ambivilency with systematic and setting elegance.  I like having (at least) some adults be systematically defined as "monsters" even if they don't turn into giant, hairy beasts.  I like the simplicity of having adults be another splat, but you're right that it destroys much of the thematic potency.  I'll keep thinking about this.

Quote
The numeric value of the consequence defines how many points of invested Self are put to risk in a follow-up conflict/something.


Hmm, that's not a bad idea, actually, but not quite something usable yet.  I like the idea of getting points in this conflict for increasing the difficult of the follow-up conflict afterwards.  That works real well.  I don't think it ties especially well into the Self mechanics (at least as I'm conceiving of them right now), but that gets into a lot of the scene framing stuff that I've been struggling with of late.

What if you can accept points of consequences in order to raise your current Stat, which must then be spent in various ways once the conflict is over, or even during the conflict.  Maybe you spend points to create bad situations for your character or those they care about, or, if you have a position in a clique, you can funnel your consequences to your minions or something (as was suggested earlier).  Or you could get rid of points of consquences by burning relationships, for example: letting your younger brother take the rap for something you did.  

Quote
Sins in conflicts: you don't necessarily need an objective set of guidelines as long as you require the next act to be worse than the previous one.


You know, I think you may be right.  Maybe I just need to write an example conflict maybe (or even stage one in IRC) and try to apply some appropriate mechanics as we go along, based on what makes sense for the players to be doing.  It should be a fencing match of crimes, where you escalate and manuver to different Sins and attack your opponent's attachments, all in an effort to win.  If I can capture that without structuring everything too much, it'll do the whole system a world of good.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 30, 2004, 03:35:26 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton

I guess I'm struggling with how to keep the moral ambivilency with systematic and setting elegance.  I like having (at least) some adults be systematically defined as "monsters" even if they don't turn into giant, hairy beasts.  I like the simplicity of having adults be another splat, but you're right that it destroys much of the thematic potency.  I'll keep thinking about this.


Keep the step from youth to adulthood systemically undefined and mysterious, especially as concerns becoming a monster adult. Self clearly has something to do with it, as well as your other choices, but there need not be clear statistical way to become a something or other adult. That's for the sequel game Seeking Rede to define ;)

Then just name a suitable sin for each adult monster. Lust for the paedophilic rapist, Envy for the cubicle rat, Gluttony for the redneck savage and so on. Handle the adult monsters exactly like the corresponding actual monster rules-wise. The only difference being the degree of sublimation, really: the adult version is perhaps even more awful, as it contains the essence in a human form. But like all adults, it has lost the sense of purpose and self: while the vampire is aware of the hierarchies of sin and the world of monsters, the adult cut of the same monster (social climber with a heart of ice, essentially) is inexorably tied to human society, and is essentially blind to it's own purpose and meaning.

This way you can have two monster "archetypes" for each sin quite nicely.


Title: [Vesperteen] Creeping to the Finish Line
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 30, 2004, 10:47:58 PM
Nice solution, Eero.

Also, just talked with Shreyas and he helped me nail a solution to the consequences + scene framing issue.

You build up consequences points during conflicts by overextending yourself and these, in turn, are given to the other players, who spend them to make your life miserable and frame follow-up conflicts.  Not sure how this'll happen yet, but I like the idea.