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Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 20, 2005, 10:05:07 AM
Hello,

The holidays did a great axe-job on our role-playing routine. However, over the last month or two, we've managed to get in four sessions of Nine Worlds, and it's clear that all of us are committed to keep it running. This is a great game.

You can find some pre-publication dialogues or concerns of mine and others in 9 Worlds: Hubris/Arete question (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8517) and Is there enough choice in the Choice? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12609), as well as my post-publication thread Nine Worlds epiphany (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12667).

Getting started
For those of you who don't know, Nine Worlds presents a detailed setting. In most RPGs, similar content of genre, look & feel, a few crucial historical events to know about, key and powerful NPCs, and other stuff would set up a publishing schedule of about twenty splatbooks. I think Matt managed to present it in an amazingly concise, digestible form which prompts curiosity and creativity rather than a sense of "Oh God, I have to memorize this." But, case closed, to play this game, everyone has to put in a bit of time and discussion to understanding the setting, and knowing that everyone else does too.

Our group is accustomed to this anyway, and in our collective realization that this is a strong-setting game, we set to with a will - to discover that the Nine Worlds book is absolutely outstanding in communicating the setting without wasting any time. I'm given to understand that some people are finding it too dense, but I suggest that this comment is a stand-in for a more substantive concern, which I'll get to later.

All of us are pretty good with basic Greek mythology, so I suggested that we take a minute to consider some of the minor or one-appearance characters scattered throughout the myths, the ones that you figure must have stories of their own or details that got lost or bowdlerized along the way. I've always liked Argus, the watchman over the Golden Fleece, for instance. A few minutes' reference to Tod's and Julie's handy bookshelf blew our minds - did you know that Medusa had a son? I didn't. We found lots of stuff like that. We got pretty excited about milking the potential in these characters and similar than from the uber-Olympian "Apollo's scheme" level, at least at this point. So people made up characters whose Muses touched on this kind of material.

Maura is playing Manto, a sharpie Mercurian trader woman, whose starting Muses (if I recall correctly) were
- find Professor Tiresias, who disappeared while researching the new Plague
- "Get my fucking Fleece back, you no-good shyster, Medea is already on my ass" [quoted from Jason]
- get business re-recognized by powers-that-be on Mercury (business was evaporated in a recent shift in Mercurian conditions)

I can't remember the starting values (sum to 9) or the exact phrasing, but my phrasing does reflect Maura's.

Tod is playing Gelons, sort of naval-academy veteran guy of the Lost Armada, which is very Tod - he's into Hornblower and Master & Commander and all that sort of thing. His Muses were
- Find Nereus
- Destroy Proteus, who betrayed Poseidon (and might be the same as Nereus)
- [can't quite remember] Establish alliance between Atlantis and the Lost Armada

(All of these characters are pretty similar to the elven player-characters these same three players made up for Burning Wheel, by the way.)

Julie is playing Chione, a Martian black-ops Free Sparta chick, very black-leather and hidden-dagger. Her starting Muses were
- avenge Medusa's death, holding Athena responsible, in the name of her relative, Chrysaor (son of Medusa)
- kill Cephus, an Ares Legion officer, to establish credit with the New Spartans
- be recognized by Ares himself as a great war-leader

Given Julie's character, as well as various posts in the Nine Worlds forum including my own, it appears that the "martian black-ops chick" is a viable meme. That makes three people who independently arrived at the concept given first-contact with the rules. So Matt, take note. You might consider such a character for a promotional illustration, or for an example at the website, or something similar.

Is that all?
No! I have lots and lots to post about what happened, but the post-progress keeps getting longer. I thought I'd get the thread started and focus, at this point, on prepping for playing this game.

I think the key points are:

1. Make sure everyone's involved with the book at the outset, especially the illustrations and the fairly basic game-specific history

2. Establish the "Kirby Krackle" of the look & feel, much in the sense of his New Gods

3. Dive into Greek mythology looking for fun bits; it's important to do this yourself rather than page through the book (you'll find Zeus and other big guns there)

4. Point out that Muses get resolved during play, sometimes pretty quickly, so make up fun ones with lots of Color in them

All comments welcome! Don't wait for my next post; let's talk about setup for strong-setting Narrativist play.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Jason L Blair on January 20, 2005, 10:23:02 AM
Ron,

I know one of Matt's biggest troubles post-release was people "not getting" the game. They either couldn't visual the structure and reality of the world or couldn't think of what to do with it. I think actually _reading_ the book helps some of the people but that presents the first hurdle: How did you sell the game to your group (so they would later read the book or sit down long enough to hear you tell its tale)? Or, due to history or whatnot, was that a non-issue?

Aside, this set-up seems pretty solid.

I'm curious as to whether the "strong setting" aspect ever became an impediment to your players but I'll wait for play session posts on that.

Also, "black-ops chick" is _every_ gamer's character choice after "bad ass sorcerer barbarian." ;)


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Mike Holmes on January 20, 2005, 02:14:44 PM
OK, "Strong-setting" narrativism makes me think (no surprise) Hero Quest. HQ links characters strongly to the setting by making their primary abilities those links. You get a rating in where you're from, for example.

Now, I know that Nine Worlds has a premise link to the setting in terms of the character's relation to the overall "grand illusion." But does the game link players in any way to specific elements of the setting. Sure, they can take muses that are from the setting, of course. But do they have to?

Is there something else that creats this sort of link? Or is the premise simply different from HQ, and the link intended not to neccessarily focus on the setting in this sort of minutia?

Mike


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 20, 2005, 03:04:55 PM
Hi Mike,

Nine Worlds is a lot like HeroQuest in this way. Part of it is the large-scale reward system (the Valor/Pride thing) which I will discuss in a future post. Part of it is taking Muses which are relevant.

But really, I think that the Muses are very strong in this regard. Hypothetically, one could make Muses which have no Premise-qualities relative to the setting, but that would be really, really hard. Someone would have to work at that, and turtle up big-time during play to keep them that way. It'd be like playing HeroQuest in which all your keywords were irrelevant to setting-based conflict - possible, barely, but hardly conceivable.

Also, you might be thinking of Nine Worlds more in line with Matt's early drafts. There is no more Grand Illusion. Play is not about being "awakened from your mundane life." One planet, Earth, labors under the rationalist delusions promulgated by the Illuminati, but the game as a whole now takes a whole different tack. I'll talk more about this later too. The Premise isn't about truth vs. the veil; it's about godhood, power, and morality (as I say, very HeroQuest).

Jason, I'm 100% convinced that the setting is not an impediment. I think that the game demands a very different relationship of "GM" to "stuff in play," and that the text isn't quite clear about that, so that a reader starts feeling funny if he's not ready for it. It's so clear that "normal GMing" won't work, that I can understand why a reader will get nervous, and not know what to do with these setting features, which are very colorful. So if this reader complains, he'll complain about the setting.

But in comparison to, say, Fading Suns or Vampire, the Nine Worlds setting is very brief and very focused, and frankly, quite easy to relate to "what to do" in play once you get a handle on what decisions the GM routinely has to consider.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Maura Byrne on January 20, 2005, 04:00:54 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

Now, I know that Nine Worlds has a premise link to the setting in terms of the character's relation to the overall "grand illusion." But does the game link players in any way to specific elements of the setting. Sure, they can take muses that are from the setting, of course. But do they have to?


I suppose you don't have to, but why wouldn't you?  I'm the person playing Manto in this game, and of my three original Muses, two were related to the fact that I was on Mercury, and that any reorganization that Hermes decides to impose on the planet can cause businesses, warehouses, assets, homes, etc. to disappear.  My first Muse is actually to convince the Powers-That-Be on Mercury to not cause my business to disappear again.  That's kind of my "Now I'm a Demigod" muse, I think.  I hadn't thought about it that way, but I think that's what it is.  That will probably be the last muse to get resolved.

Ron was the one to suggest the Golden Fleece angle, and since I decided to start with my business having disappeared again, it would make sense that I'd have to do a little asset recovery.  It turns out that I'm not dealing with Original Jason, but rather a pale descendant named Jason.  That hasn't stopped Original Jason from getting involved, though.  I got, um, a rather serious talking-to  by both Original Jason and Pale Descendant on different occasions , which led to two new Muses, as soon as I could afford them.  They were:  1. Bring young Jason down a peg; and 2. Make Old Jason my little helper.  (And by "little helper," I mean "little dancing monkey.")  So I have a good number of Muses stewing right now, and as it turns out I think I am bringing them in a lot like I did to beef up my rolls in HQ (or HW, as it was known when I played it). I drew on tons of things in HQ to better my chances, and here I'm beefing up Muses and drawing on them in almost every conflict.  

I'm also the player who hasn't changed any of my starting stats yet.  No ups, no downs, no locks, no lock-breaks.  Any tricks I win in a conflict get pumped into new Muses or to beef up the ones I have.  So when I resolved the Golden Fleece Muse, and resolved the "Bring young Jason down a peg" Muse at the same time, I had each ramped up to six or seven.  Also, since I was working on these pretty single-mindedly, they each had a good share of Arete victories and Hubris victories that got put in Valor and Pride last session.   So, since I'm not using my tricks to change stats but instead to increase the value of my Muses, this means that if I can bring in one of my Muses I have a pretty big hand, and if I bring in two Muses then I have a monster hand.  I've tried to prolong conflicts to see if I can, say, knock someone's stat down and then lock it in the next round, but my Stasis draws have been pretty ineffectual in that regard.

Now that I think about it, I think I'm playing a weasel.  It hadn't occurred to me, but I'd have to be an ethically-challenged person to be a merchant on Mercury, where I decided that you were either an honest merchant or a con-artist, depending on the last reorganization.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it just... occurred.  I've done nothing so far in this game but promise things and then not deliver them.  And I'm going to continue this in the future, if my luck holds.

And my business deal with Tiresias is to start a "truth merchant" business.  I'm probably the wrongest person for that job.  But it's a niche that hasn't been exploited.


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 20, 2005, 09:07:13 PM
System stuff

This game is absolutely brilliant. Why? Because there is nothing to it whatsoever except for three nested reward systems. In order, from most short-term to most long-term.

TRICKS - associated with winning conflicts (or rather, rounds within conflicts), authority over final-events in narration, and whether to continue a given conflict; as well as rights to diddle with characters' scores (one's own and others). Tricks are basically "little wins" derived from card-draws and card-plays in the thick of conflict. They exist in the short-term, with a couple of slightly longer-term applications. But Tricks also can be converted into ...

MUSES - associated with resolving longer-term character goals, regardless of exactly how they're resolved. You build up Muses through Tricks, and their values add to the size of your hand during draws.

And various aspects of Muses, when they're resolved, get converted into ...

VALOR/PRIDE - associated with commitment and achievement at the metaphysical level of the setting, and spent to increase scores either directly or through adding "sidekick" entities to one's character. Ultimately, these changes nigh-inevitably result in the character either (a) becoming a god's Champion or (b) challenging a god and replacing him or her as a Usurper. This is all bound up with fundamental aspects of the setting, and with why player-characters ("Archons") exist in the first place.

Absolutely everything about the rules in Nine Worlds is some feature of these three reward systems in action. To play the game is to manage Tricks, Muses, and (soon) Valor/Pride. To do so, one's character gets pumped about goals and one's narrations add and subtract items to (or out) of the group's shared attention; i.e. story gets made. The reward system is therefore squeaky-Narrativist, as it's all about what themes get appreciated and highlighted, at three separate and nested time-scales. A fair amount of card-strategy and a fair amount of serious commitment to the setting are both involved as powerful, supportive practices.

You can also work the reward systems backwards, as a metagame mechanic, burning valuable resources you've worked hard to get, for shorter-term gain. For instance, you can spend (burn) Muse points for extra Tricks, if you've won a narration and didn't happen to get enough Tricks out of it. And you can also spend Valor or Pride to establish Trumps, which seems like a great thing to do until you understand that you'd rather have saved them for longer-term improvement.

In our game, the best way to see all this stuff in action is to look at the Muses and what's happened with them.

Maura's stuff turned out to be the most unified, and she skillfully invented new Muses that reinforced at least two of her existing ones, to generate enormous draws and very tightly-paced, highly-consequential conflicts. Maura loves riffing on Bangs and exploiting their unforeseen consequences, very much in the way a lead singer or guitarist might take the bass-player's sudden "pop" or pedal-note as a lead in to a bravura solo. She did this all the time in HeroQuest (then Hero Wars) by combining outrageously-different abilities as in-the-moment viable augmentations.

Tod's stuff was almost all based on his interest in the naval-battles and sea-god concepts, especially since the three of us couldn't remember the relationships among Nereus, Proteus, and the Old Man of the Sea, and were delighted to discover that all the Greek scholars were just as confused. Ah-ha! Mystery! We had lots of fun establishing this sort of thing as an in-game relevant issue for his character, and his Muses got all wrapped up in it. He also added a romantic Muse-twist for his graduate student, Stacey.

Julie's stuff was the oddball combination, very deliberately on her part. Clearly cementing her membership with the Free Spartans isn't going to endear her to Ares, for example, and the personal-vengeance thing is offbeat from both of those. So Julie keeps finding only one Muse firing at a time, and even making new Muses was only giving her two-at-a-time. It makes her character less effective in the short term, conflict for conflict, than Manto, but it also makes for a more dramatic, conflicted, and adversely-challenged character.

Everyone has resolved at least a couple of Muses by this point, which means they are now discovering the nuances of the high-level reward system - and facing really painful decisions about whether to burn Valor or Pride for Trump, now that the NPCs are starting to do it.

I have tons more yet to post! I haven't even explained the murder and sex yet.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 20, 2005, 09:27:21 PM
Keep on posting! This is great stuff, I'm almost starting to understand the game now. Would help if I was in Helsinki, where my dozen Nine Worlds are, so I could read it. I've just read the playtest document, and that left a rather lukewarm impression.


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Mike Holmes on January 21, 2005, 06:28:08 AM
I guess my point is that one could take as muses simply characters who weren't particularly associated with any part of the setting. Like something to do with tracking down some traveling merchant. I'm not talking about turtling up, but about "missing" the setting and just creating stuff ancilary to it with the muses.

I mean in HQ, you have to take a homeland keyword, which means that the relationships derived from it relate to that homeland. Making a link to the setting inescapable. Now, I know that there's no reason not to have your muses be set strongly in the setting, but in other games where people get to create NPCs, with players who haven't played games like HQ or understand how neat it is to be linked to the setting, will the statements of the muses be particularly likely to be linked to the setting?

I haven't read my copy closely enough yet, but is there something now in the text on muses that states that a player should link them to the setting? It seems that you guys used a lot of actual mythology, which is what created many of the setting links...is that suggested in the text, or did you come up with that on your own?

BTW, I was refering to Arete and Hubris in regards to the "illusion" stuff. But I take it that the context of these things has changed substantially? Or is it still about supporting the order of the universe or changing it to your norms?

That said, the Valor/Pride thing, from what you've said Ron, does seem to connect the player to the setting in the same way that Hero Quest does with heroquests. Making it about changing the world.

What I'm seeing overall seems somewhat different, however, in that I'm seeing far more incentive to change things, than to try to protect things, which is often the case in Hero Quest. That is, in HQ your choice is in part, old or new. It seems in Nine Worlds that the choice is more which new you want to support. Would that seem accurate to you?

Mike


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Matt Snyder on January 21, 2005, 06:39:22 AM
Just to chime in here with a couple quick points (work's a bitch, again!).

First, I'm with Eero. This GREAT stuff. Pretty much required reading for anyone at all interested in Nine Worlds. Ron and his crew have blown me away with the little I already know about their sessions. Can't wait to hear more.

Second, to Mike's query:

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I haven't read my copy closely enough yet, but is there something now in the text on muses that states that a player should link them to the setting? It seems that you guys used a lot of actual mythology, which is what created many of the setting links...is that suggested in the text, or did you come up with that on your own?


Yes, it's there. It's a suggestion, not a rule or a requirement. But then, it's in a section telling you "hot to make a good Muse." Here's a quote from the text:

Quote
This game encourages players to be creative and ambitious in writing Muses. Players should not shy away from Muses that involve powerful immortals and other cosmic goals. Players should create “built-in” conflict with their well-crafted Muses. These help create situations that require players to make powerful decisions and exciting, dramatic stories.

Muses that involve relationships with mortal or immortal characters are optimal. The more players involve family, friends, fellow Archons, allies like the Eternals, and enemies like the Titans, the more likely the Muse will help create rewarding drama in play. Similarly, Muses that involve the events and places of the diverse Nine Worlds help make the game an exciting, drama-rich exploration. For more information on the game’s universe and events, see Cosmology starting on page 30.


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: jrs on January 21, 2005, 07:13:08 AM
In response to Mike's question about our use of mythology in muse creation,  as Matt pointed out it is suggested by the rules.  But, it is also simply our nature due to our play history (we did the same thing when we played Fulminata) and our environment (3 walls in the room where we usually game contain bookshelves--the section on religion and mythology is about 5 ft from where I sit).

I'm enjoying Nine Worlds and I love the greek mythology setting.  However, I am struggling with one aspect of the system; I have this thing about cards as a resolution mechanic in that I want them to retain some of the qualities of actually card games.  During play, Ron usually sets up conflicts so that all of us are playing our hands about the same time even though the conflicts themselves are not unified.  Ron plays with several decks and lays out hands for each conflict.  My problem is that I see his cards before I've decided how to use mine.  This really throws me and doesn't fit my idea of card play.  This isn't a problem with dice but for me it's a problem when the cards represent a temporary randomly generated resource.  If I can tell that Ron will win the hand, do I still play as if to win giving him tricks or do I cut my losses and deliberately play a low hand.  This is my dilemma, and I can't tell if it's a personal issue I have, I'm missing something in the rules, or it's just the way we're playing.  

Julie


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 21, 2005, 07:22:48 AM
Hello,

Couple of responses so far

Mike: I really recommend taking a full new look at the game. The book I got at GenCon is a full thematic and procedural shift from anything Matt presented before that, and his demoing at GenCon didn't bring out these new strengths of the game. And yes, the ultimate conflict is about according with the world as the gods want/see it vs. shaping it to your will, but none of that has anything to do with any kind of "illusion."

Maura: you know, I think you're playing a weasel too. It's interesting to see the difference between your Hero Wars character, who had a lot of integrity and grief built into her back-story, and this one - both reinforced by similar play-techniques on your part. Maybe that's why I enjoyed Medea's appearance in the latest episode; she's the ultimate non-weasel character in Greek myth. Oh, and I was also hoping that you and Julie would take some steps to get your characters into direct interaction, especially following our shared insight about that during our Mountain Witch game.

Julie: I'm looking forward to Matt's response to your question, because it stumps me too. Perhaps some kind of free-and-clear phase where everyone shows their hands, then everyone can revise their hands, until we're all done?

But I also think that I haven't yet made clear how I'm running multiple conflicts at once. That's planned for the next post, and maybe that has to get fully explained before your question gets understood enough to be answered ...

Everyone gets what Muses are, right?

Muses are a very streamlined and effective version of Keys (The Shadow of Yesterday), Spiritual Attributes (The Riddle of Steel), Goals (HeroQuest (an often-overlooked portion of this game)), and Destiny (Sorcerer & Sword). You state a concrete goal. You accumulate points in it by getting Tricks and farming them there instead of using them for short-term gain. Those points add to the number of cards you draw in conflicts involving the Muse; multiple Muses are allowed in a conflict.

You keep track of all the conflicts you win in which a given Muse was utilized, per Muse. You also keep track of whether the victories were Hubris or Arete based.
This is the only tricky record-keeping in the game.

When a Muse is resolved in any way shape or form, farm the victories from Hubris conflicts into Pride, and the victories from Arete conflicts into Valor, on a 1:1 basis. This is moving into the highest-scale reward system.

So making Muses, using Muses, and resolving Muses is the heart of the three-tier reward system of the game. Or to put it slightly differently, getting your character into trouble, committing to various outcomes during instances of that trouble, and in doing so, establishing the character's "cred" in spiritual setting terms, on either or both sides of the greater-scale conflicts.

A couple of useful threads about Tricks, Muses, and conflicts:
Nine Worlds (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12510)
[9W] Problems with certain actions (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=13598)

A key System detail

In one of the threads I referenced in the first post, I talk about one of the key realizations for playing this game at all, the one linchpin of resolution that feeds into the importance of Muses in a way which might be missed.

Quick review: when a conflict gets going, everyone involved draws a hand of cards. Then everyone plays a set of cards from that hand, all of a single suit. From this and some scores on the sheets, everyone now has a Fate value. We now know who's won and who's lost the conflict (or rather, what they wanted out of the conflict). Narration proceeds from lowest to highest Fate score, with each person constrained (a) by knowing who's won and who's lost, and (b) by knowing that there's more narration to come, if you're not the final one.

Here's the point: The final narrator decides whether to end the current conflict. The final narrator by definition had the best Fate score, and has by definition also won his or her way in that set of draws. He or she has a very important choice:

1. Finish the conflict, have it be over, with his or her character effectively getting their way. If the player has any Tricks to use, then he or she usually pumps them into Muses, as most other forms of Trick-using are limited to the conflict and are cancelled when it's over (exception: Stasis). Also, you get to chalk up either an Arete or a Hubris victory with the Muses you currently have in action for this conflict.

OR

2. Decide to continue the conflict with another draw all 'round. This converts their current wonderful Fate score into a temporary advantage rather than a conflict-clincher. It also ensures that everyone's cards used so far are out of their decks; everyone is drawing with reduced decks now. It also permits tweaking one's own or anyone else's scores with Tricks; this will only last for the given conflict in most cases, but that's what the person is setting up.

And no, the answer is not always "Duh, of course I quit while I'm ahead." People have these things to consider:

a) can I do a useful thing with Tricks, and keep the conflict going, especially if I can lock someone up? i.e. angling for a one-two punch
b) is this actually a useful, meaningful time to win this conflict? (this is very much like the decisions in Pool dice-pool usage, which people who haven't played the Pool are always, meaninglessly, trying to strategize when they talk about playing it)
c) am I better off closing now and using all the Tricks to beef up my Muses?

Now!! This is another big part of this set of decisions. All narrators, but especially the final one, has a hell of a lot of power to resolve Muses than is immediately apparent. Again and again, I've seen people extend conflicts into new draws even when they win them, because they are less interested in winning this one little skirmish than they are in angling for more Tricks, later, relative to their Muses currently in play, in order to build those Muses up. It's an excellent example of being willing to see your character hosed.

And finally, the net effect across many scenes is this: pacing is no longer a single participant's problem, but instead is 100% effectively managed by the cumulative effect of person-to-person narration of whoever wins the conflicts, or rather which narrators decide to end the conflicts.

"Wow," one of us said along the way, "This is Metal Opera meets HeroQuest!"

Little glitches in our heads

We did encounter a few rules-understanding glitches, but ironed out them out over the first couple of sessions.

1. One's cards do get "used up" during a conflict, so one's deck is shrinking as a conflict is taken into multiple draws - this is key because people with massive Muses in action are also more vulnerable to running out of cards - they burn out if they're too fired up, you see, very Greek.

2. Between conflicts, however, cards used/discarded during the previous conflict may either get re-shuffled to restore the full deck or be left where they are, keeping the reduced deck, as the player decides.

3. During a final narration, Tricks only come from the cards chosen for play from the participants' given hand, not from the whole hands.

One more glitch cropped up in the last session, however. Matt, help!

A conflict is occurring. One character spends Valor, Pride, or Force to call a suit as Trump. This character ends up winning the conflict with the highest Fate score in the Trump suit (and will certainly be using the Tricks). However, his or her Fate value is less than the Fate value of a character who played another suit.

The rules are explicit that a player does not have to follow suit in a Trump situation, but can play another suit. However, he or she is guaranteed to lose the conflict. But what if his or her Fate score is higher than the winning character's?

Who gets final narration in this case? How is order determined if not by strict Fate score?

Murder and sex in the next big post, I promise.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Matt Snyder on January 21, 2005, 07:27:22 AM
Quote from: jrs
My problem is that I see his cards before I've decided how to use mine.  This really throws me and doesn't fit my idea of card play.  This isn't a problem with dice but for me it's a problem when the cards represent a temporary randomly generated resource.  If I can tell that Ron will win the hand, do I still play as if to win giving him tricks or do I cut my losses and deliberately play a low hand.  This is my dilemma, and I can't tell if it's a personal issue I have, I'm missing something in the rules, or it's just the way we're playing.  

Julie


Hello Julie!

I may be misunderstanding the set-up. Why does Ron reveal his cards before you? Ideally, it's a simultaneous play. You pick your cards, Ron picks his, everyone else picks theirs. Then, everyone reveals their choices.

I hope Ron will explain a bit more about these "multiple conflict" issues, perhaps with an example. I ask because the conflits may not have to be unrelated at all. So long as players declare relevant opponents, then the conflicts are related, if distantly so. They matter because the PLAYERS matter to one another.

(Then, it's up to the players. They might ask themselves "Do I have enough Muse power to involve myself with the other players' opponents, even if I'm not 'there'? If not, maybe I'm stretching myself too thin." Better yet, if the player has a Muse meaningfully tied to another player or that player's opponents, he should be involved! Maybe the Muse will be resolved!)

The book is not sufficiently clear about declaring opponents, I'm sorry to say. The Player's Kit (http://www.chimera.info/nineworlds/NineWorldsPlayersKit.pdf) download I should help clarify this.


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: jrs on January 21, 2005, 07:33:01 AM
Quote from: Matt Snyder
Ideally, it's a simultaneous play. You pick your cards, Ron picks his, everyone else picks theirs. Then, everyone reveals their choices.

Hm.  What you describe is more in line with how I think of card play.  It is not how we are playing though.  I'll let Ron describe the multiple conflicts set-ups in our game.

I'll come back later when I have a little more time.

Julie


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Matt Snyder on January 21, 2005, 07:56:47 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
A conflict is occurring. One character spends Valor, Pride, or Force to call a suit as Trump. This character ends up winning the conflict with the highest Fate score in the Trump suit (and will certainly be using the Tricks). However, his or her Fate value is less than the Fate value of a character who played another suit.

The rules are explicit that a player does not have to follow suit in a Trump situation, but can play another suit. However, he or she is guaranteed to lose the conflict. But what if his or her Fate score is higher than the winning character's?

Who gets final narration in this case? How is order determined if not by strict Fate score?


Ah, excellent question. I do not think the text covers this, but as you might guess, Trump still wins.

How to handle it? Organize the narrations of the non-trump Fates first. They go in order from lowest to highest for Narration. Then, once all non-trump victors (if any -- it's possible depending on a variety of opponents), organize all TRUMP Fates from lowest to highest.

Trump beats non-Trump in every possible way. Trump victors get first dibs on capturing Tricks, they narrate "last" and so on.

Ron, you've rightly pointed out, and dealt very well with some inadaquacies. I'm strongly considering a revised version of the game to cover these and other excellent questions and criticisms.

That said, I'm extremely excited to hear such great stuff about the game. I knew it was there, it was punchy, and I'm so glad to hear some actual play feedback about it.

Bring on the sex and murder!


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: joshua neff on January 22, 2005, 07:01:27 AM
This is a half-on-topic/half-off-topic question, for the mythology buffs: what are some good sources for Greek mythology? I'd like to read more, both for Nine Worlds and HeroQuest. Is Edith Hamilton still considered a good source? It's been a while since I was a big Greek mythology buff...back in middle school.


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: jrs on January 23, 2005, 05:28:37 PM
I'm partial to the book that was used in my college intro course:  Classical mythology / Mark P.O. Morford, Robert J. Lenardon.

And Greek plays.  Especially the Oresteia.

Julie


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: joshua neff on January 23, 2005, 06:26:52 PM
Excellent. Thanks, Julie.


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Matt Snyder on January 23, 2005, 07:26:11 PM
I'll second Julie's nomination. I used the same text (likely a different edition) as a reference even while writing Nine Worlds. It's a good general reference.

I also can't say enough good things Robert Fagles' translations of The Illiad and the Odyssey. If you're interested in reading either epic, read Fagles.

For handy-dandy online references, check out Encyclopedia Mythica (aka www.pantheon.org (http://www.pantheon.org)


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 23, 2005, 09:26:43 PM
Hello,

First things first

Most of the time, we play just as you described, Matt. We all draw, we all choose our desired cards, and we all show what we've chosen. Only a couple of times have I shown my cards and then, through the coincidence of seating or the confusion of the moment in handling a ton of NPCs at once (see below), has a player been able then to choose their cards. This issue is a bit of a minor detour compared to the stuff I really want to discuss.

Draws and conflicts

Matt, you once told me that you initially designed Nine Worlds to suit your friends who love colorful setting and Special Kewl player-characters who get all enmeshed in complex conspiracies. They liked teaming up, travelling around, getting sent on missions, and so on - very Shadowrun play, very Mage. However, our group is apparently disinclined toward such play at the moment; possibly because we did it so thoroughly in HeroQuest years ago and recently in Metal Opera.

I think the current design would work very well for the original purpose, as the big headaches for the GM in such play are "how can I get the players to involve their characters," "how can I describe outcomes so that everyone stays jazzed," and "how can I pace resolutions and crises."

My situation, however, requires utilizing the system's strengths from a different angle. To make it possible, I'm using my typical Flashpoint Technique to keep play organized. I learned how to do this mainly from Sorcerer. Let's see if I can describe it with an example:

- Manto is stealing the Golden Fleece from its owner in Iran, on Terra. Helping her is Arthur Argus. The opposition is a guy named Chrysaor, more or less in absentia.
- Gelons is rescuing Nereus from a trap in the Aethersea, with the help of Stacey, the Atlantean captain. The opposition is a bunch of monsters, acting as a unit.
- Chione is attempting to exfiltrate herself from enemy territory in the hinterlands of Mars. Her opposition is Tityos, the Titan running the occupational forces who control the area.

Everyone draws. Each player has a hand in front of them. I have a hand each for Chrysaor, for the monsters, and for Tityos, as well as for Stacey, the captain, and for Arthur. Actually, the players are drawing for their helping NPCs, but that's just logistics - I'm playing them. How many hands is that? Nine, on the table. We have just enough decks of cards handy to make this possible.

So after a flurry of drawing and cries of pain as people contemplate their hands, nine Fate scores get jotted down. We also now know who's won and who's lost; let's say, just for example, that in the Terra scene, Manto has the highest Fate score; in the Aethersea scene the monsters have the highest Fate score; and in the Mars scene that Tityos has the highest Fate score. The various NPCs on the player-characters' sides have scores scattered all through the various winners' and losers' values.

Narration is no big deal. We just go in order from lowest to highest all around the table, letting "switch-scene perspective" be driven by the order. Whenever anyone narrates the final say in a given conflict, they also let us know whether the conflict will continue into a new draw or not. That decision only applies to the conflict they're specifically in and does not affect the other conflicts.

For instance, let's say that Maura is happy with ripping off the Fleece successfully and says so, finishing up on my narrations for Arthur and Chrysaor by ending the conflict. Whereas I, playing Tityos, am very much looking forward to doing terrible things to Julie's character, so I rack all the Tricks he gains into his Muse "Punish Chione in detail," and call for another draw.

Very, very easy - straight out of Sorcerer, straight out of Dust Devils, straight out of HeroQuest extended contests, all of which favor this approach of multi-scene, simultaneous-climax play. In Nine Worlds, narration of each failure/success obviously provides neat opportunities for the next narration to tie scenes' details into one another. Especially since Nine Worlds, more so than HeroQuest, encourages adding connections and further adversity via narration. Hence we learn that a peace activist on Mars provides funds through a credit line based on the Golden Fleece, even as our hero on Terra discovers that the actual Fleece is nigh-worthless. That's the kind of stuff that usually get fed to players via the GM's pre-planned storyline ("boy, won't they be surprised when I tell them ..."), but in Nine Worlds, occurs through anyone's enjoyable input, GM included as just another narrator.

Not surprisingly, after everyone had had a chance to see everyone else's character deal with a crisis or two, their narrations began to create links across one another's situations. Now a number of their new Muses are starting to look suspiciously cross-purposed. They haven't yet found themselves in adverse circumstances with one another, but I'm sure they will. For example, when playing Sorcerer with this same group, Tod's and Julie's characters' paths crossed only once in about four or five sessions of play.

Note that this is not a rules-tweak in the slightest. We are applying every single rule exactly as written and leaving nothing out. The technique is actually a matter of applying the rules about order, success, and narration to multiple scenes at once - "uber-applying" the rules, if you will, as opposed to changing them, and definitely as opposed to confining the system to one locale at at time. So really what you get is one scene with multiple conflicts and locales.

What happened in play

It's colorful, paced exactly how we want it when we want it, and full of action. For us, the Numero Uno priority for the Color in the game is blending modern stuff and pop-psychedelic imagery with Greek mythology details. For example, I described Professor Tiresias as a bald man with a huge white waterfall of a beard, a tweed jacket with patches on it, and a booming voice. Maura then chimed in: "And his nails are perfect." Get it?

Similarly, Arthur Argus looks like a rumpled ex-field agent from the CIA, chafing behind his desk role - middle-aged white guy with thinning blond hair, nondescript suit, very alert. I gave him a peacock-pattern tie. Get it?

I could go on and on: Hades' Men in Black, the WWI-style aethership for the Atlanteans (contrasting with the etherial and arty one from Delphi University), Hades itself (a great big boring motel, room after room after room). We throw in this sort of stuff constantly.

I started play with a fairly blatant attempt on my part to put them all into the same vicinity, which turned out to be the University of Delphi - but as it turned out, no one was interested in teaming up (which is not a big deal) and they scattered all over the place via their narrations. Furthermore, I had a notion about a powerful female NPC, not a goddess but near to it, and as it turned out, during the first scene, and given all the various characters' reasons for doing what they were doing, it just made more sense for the character to be Athena rather than anyone else. So that put a little too much gun into the first session and I got really sick of always getting the final narration. But I got Athena's ass out of there eventually and things got more group-ish.

Over the last four-plus sessions ...

Manto didn't get much luck with her hunt for Professor Tiresias, as the scamp got away from her. She went to Earth to deal with Jason (Terra was more fun than I thought) got hijacked to by the real Jason (who'd sent the Men in Black after her), finally teamed up with Arthur to steal the Fleece, when she'd figured out that a whole ton of financial card-castles across the Nine Worlds depended on it. It turns out to be all linked up with an NPC who's important to Chione, Chrysaor. I also had a lot of fun with Medea when she finally showed up, one eye squinting, the other bulging. Definitely my favorite whacko of all myth/literature, and in our Nine Worlds, I played her a bit like Ron Post, if that means anything to you.

Chione briefly encountered Athena and decided to hold off on the "vengeance for Medusa" story, as I think I surprised Julie by having Athena be very reasonable - why yes, you do have a claim on the Aegis, don't you? Well, if you attack me, I'll just kill you, and where's the justice in that? Here, work up a court case with precedents, and we'll do it all proper. H'm, said Julie. I need to beef up for that. So she switched attention to her other Muses, went to Mars, got wrapped up in the assassination of an ex-lover, got into a very nasty a feud with a Titan, and most recently, ended up as a putative peacenik at a talk show. I was finally able to bring in the female character I'd originally made up: Phoebe, a very deceptive "pacifist" Titan, who ended the last session by devouring Chione whole ...

[Here's all the murder and most of the sex - Chione totally cold-bloodedly screwed her assassination target, a perfectly nice guy, then cut his throat. And Tityos, the Titan, turns out to have loved the guy, and now hates Chione dreadfully ... but now has a crush on Phoebe ... I've decided that as long as Tityos is alive, he will always have a Muse romantically involving him with the worst possible candidate available, from Chione's perspective.]

Gelons got into a big tiff with Professor Tiresias who's clearly up to no good, got a grant with Athena's help to investigate the Nereus/Proteus connection, got  lost in the Aethersea, fought Proteus, and ended up finally rescuing Nereus to discover that everyone was right to wonder how all these shapeshifting minor sea-gods are connected, but that it's Nereus and Glaucus who are the same guy. Now everyone's back at the University, and Gelons seems to be distracted from his recent high & mighty goals by inappropriately pursuing his graduate student's nubile bod ...

But the real fun thing is the Fleece, based off Maura's Muse. Via tons of enthusiastic narrations (punctuated by responses like "You bastard!"), it has become the linchpin of everyone's story: Chione's ancestor Chrysaor, in whose behalf she's prosecuting Athena, is the fellow who's managed its finances over the last century; it's the basis for Gelon's university grant. Now, Manto and Arthur did get the Fleece, which as we all suspected by this point, is a nigh-worthless bunch of tatters and cut-apart packets.

Next up: my criticisms and concerns.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: jrs on January 24, 2005, 09:31:36 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Here's all the murder and most of the sex - Chione totally cold-bloodedly screwed her assassination target, a perfectly nice guy, then cut his throat.

Oh, I don't know, the screwing itself wasn't particulary cold-blooded.  Slitting his throat over breakfast, now that was heartless.

And yep, we are all jazzing on the golden fleece bit.  We even came up with the golden fleece credit card and advertising line--Have you been fleeced today?

Julie


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 26, 2005, 07:54:18 AM
Hello,

The Nine Worlds text does a good job of explaining the potential scope for narration - which is to say, quite a lot. Much more than Sorcerer or HeroQuest narration, and similar to games like Primetime Adventures and the more liberal interpretations of The Pool. If you're narrating, even if it's for a character who's lost his or her conflict, feel free to bring in a sudden interloper, such as an Atlantean ship that just happens to show up. That doesn't mean they get any cards in the current conflict, but they're now in the narration and in the game. When a new conflict comes up, and if they're around, then look out - they've got cards too.

In other words, new NPCs show up all over the place. If there's one, single thing that Nine Worlds GM has to be good at, it's whipping up numbers for them and understanding how those numbers are going to play a role from that point on. Unfortunately, the text doesn't discuss this issue.

NPCs - some difficult design and text issues

Here are some of the questions that simply have to be answered by the GM during play. Even if there's no fixed answer in terms of rules, it's still necessary to know that they must be answered, and to be ready as you go. Matt - I specifically do not want your answers to them. I've arrived at answers of my own. What matters is that if the GM does not know that these are the key questions, he or she will flounder like a, like a ... well, like a flounder. What I'd like to know from you is how would you phrase the text explaining that dealing with these questions, during play, equals "how to GM" Nine Worlds.

1. New NPCs - what Power, what Force, and what Urges? Or do they get Arete/Hubris like player-characters (i.e. are they Archons?) Why or why not? Whichever, how much gun are they?

Should one go by the starting PC rules? What about when that makes no sense? Which elements make NPCs more or less powerful anyway?

And even more importantly, what about about their scores over time? Player-characters' effectiveness waxes and wanes alarmingly fast. More on this later.

2. Someone introduces some friendly NPCs, who are enmeshed in the current conflicts and whose cards are often operating on the player-character's side. How to keep them from being free Talismans?

3. There are top-flight NPCs listed, like Zeus and Apollo and so on ... but they raise two questions.

a) What about when they're dealing with Archons (player-characters) who have monstrous Muses, and a few points of Valor and Pride? We're talking upwards of 25-card draws in some cases, with Trumps available. Poor old Zeus gets kicked in the crotch. Bad? Good? What? Bug? Feature?

b) What about mid-level guys? One of Chione's starting Muses mentions Chrysaor, son of Medusa - does it make sense to give him scores midway between (e.g.) Apollo and a player-character? Why or why not? (This is a repeat of question #1, but becomes tricky with Zeus or Hades sitting there as a scale-indicator)

4. What about locales and objects which get scores of their own, like planets? Should conflicts in the Aethersea automatically include the sea itself as a participant in the conflict? How tough is it? Let's say a scene occurs on some small planetoid - does the planetoid get scores? What are they? (This is also just a repeat of question #1, but it adds the nuance of deciding whether an object or locale does or does not get scores at all)

The basic solution

Here's what to do: to play NPCs' Muses just as actively as the characters, including farming points into Trick manipulation, Muse increase and decrease (and resolutions), and Force increase and decrease (and spending).

This instantly solves the how-much problem, because you can set the scale of Power and Force and Urges along a continuum that puts starting PCs about halfway, and Zeus at the top. But then set some Muses, and you're good to go. If the NPC has some clout in the Nine Worlds, then pop on a couple of Force points too. After that, then play their Muses by the rules, and farm points around the reward system just as players are doing with their player-characters. Believe me, "balance" (relative effectiveness) takes care of itself from that point on.

(It also solves the insta-Talisman problem, because the GM is always free to have the friendly NPC come up with conflicts too, later - in fact, Tod beat me to it a couple of sessions ago by problematizing his character's relationship to his loyal grad student, via making a new Muse about her. Which led to me making a new Muse for her, and we're off to the conflict-races.)

Does it take attention and record-keeping. You bet it does. But remember that the Nine Worlds GM doesn't have to worry about most scene-framing, which is arising through player narration and suggestion all the time. And he or she sure as hell doesn't have to worry about making sure "things turn out as they should." As in Sorcerer, that is happening, baby, way out of anyone's single control. So the GM has time for the record-keeping and point-mongering.

Why is this so hard for people? Leaving aside the text's total silence about it, let's look at the psychological and procedural barriers people bring to it.

Most RPGs' character design can be understood in terms of foundational values, which you use all the time and are relatively fixed, vs. secondary and tertiary aspects that frankly don't mean much in terms of effectiveness. (This is not the same as what many games call "primary" and "derived" attributes. Most "derived" scores in most games are actually the primary values as I'm describing here.)

So when a GM brings in a quickly-made-up NPC, he or she typically just sets the baseline values (hit points, armor class, THAC0, damage, go!) and lets the details (movement, etc) just get winged later.

Nine Worlds is different - none of the numbers are secondary, because the three-tier reward cycle in motion is the character. You can't just set Power and Urges and "go," you gotta consider that Muses, Force (Valor/Pride) are in action too. So in order to "make an NPC" and utilize the character in play, you have to put these features into dynamic motion for NPCs as for PCs.

If you don't, then you are playing the ultimately-futile "balance game" and trying to make things hard or easy according to the needs of the moment - which is fine if you can railroad all the substantive aspects of play, but impossible in Nine Worlds.

And all that brings in the related issue, which frankly is murky in the text, of whether to have a deck of cards for every NPC. If you don't, the probabilities go all funky, really badly. So now that brings in a physical-stuff concern, which is to say, a deck, discards, and current hand to worry about for each character in a conflict. Given the multiple-locale conflicts we do, that sometimes means nine or ten active decks at a time.

But I don't get it

Apparently Matt has had to deal with any number of people whining at him about how they "don't get it." Although my reactive sympathies are with him ("Then fuck off, and thanks for the money"), my better nature as fellow publisher takes over, and I think I've managed to figure out what's up - and how to solve it.

The typical "I'm good at GMing skills" include the following: scene framing control, narration control, and IIEE control - all of which add up to being able to make the story "go right" no matter what players say or what their system-outcomes are. However, Nine Worlds renders scene framing, narration, and IIEE easy and painless ... and out of any one person's total control. There isn't any "skill" required to ensure any of them, because they are ensured through simply playing.

So the Nine Worlds GM has to be good at all that stuff I've been writing about: cool Color, playing NPCs' Muses and point-dynamics with gusto, and narrating new conflicts and resolving existing ones just like another player ... but also all those decisions about new NPCs, which believe me, are constant when playing this game.

No wonder people "don't get it." Their entire notion of what to do, and how to do it well, is obsolete in this game. Remember when The Pool appeared, and lots of people threw up their hands in horror at the very idea of letting a player narrate anything? Nine Worlds is a much more sophisticated Pool ... and a far more dangerous one, from that perspective.

Matt, you gotta decide which of the answers to all of the above questions are solid and fixed - then put'em in as rules. And then make sure the other ones, which can be customized to GM and group preferences, get articulated and raised as DIY issues in the text.

Whew! This concludes all my notes that led into starting this thread. Comments, questions, whatever? "Ask me about my game," says the button I'm metaphorically pinning on my shirt.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Judd on January 26, 2005, 08:21:56 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards


No wonder people "don't get it." Their entire notion of what to do, and how to do it well, is obsolete in this game. Remember when The Pool appeared, and lots of people threw up their hands in horror at the very idea of letting a player narrate anything? Nine Worlds is a much more sophisticated Pool ... and a far more dangerous one, from that perspective.


This reminds me of when I played Prime Time Adventures and my buddy who was running it had a really hard time just letting go and allowing someone else to gain narrative control.

"But I don't know what will happen.  Any pre-made plot will have to be thrown out the window!"

"Yup."

It is a scary notion for a DM who has been doing his thang at the table behind his screen for decades.  I will always have a special place in my heart for Dust Devils for relaxing my grip on the game and forcing me to realize that my finest GMing happened when I eased the grip and the players stepped up to the table as full participants.

Ron, what advice to you offer GM's who have been gaming in traditional GM-centered narration games and make a move to a game like PTA, NIne Worlds or Dust Devils?

I would think bangs are the way to go, a gaggle of events that the PC's have to react to and move the story forward without any thoughts as to where exactly they will go.  The games become much more about the journey, rather than trying to force feed a destination.


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 26, 2005, 09:14:15 AM
Hiya,

Quote
Ron, what advice to you offer GM's who have been gaming in traditional GM-centered narration games and make a move to a game like PTA, NIne Worlds or Dust Devils?


You're asking me? Judd, remember, I'm the one who says "Do it or don't, and if someone whines at me that they 'can't,' or 'that'll never work,' then they can lie there and writhe in agony." And I might even put an illustrative boot in the ribs, before moving on.

No, no, don't ask me for that advice. I wrote a whole series of books that are predicated on the person who wants to meet me halfway, and that's as generous as my nasty li'l self can be, to the tune of $65. You want to talk to Jesse Burneko, to Ralph Mazza, to Vincent Baker, to the Matts (Snyder and Wilson), to Mike Holmes, and to Clinton - all the nice people.

Or, uh, perhaps it's worth considering that you might be one of the prime authorities on this matter. I oughtta be asking you.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Judd on January 26, 2005, 09:33:23 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
You're asking me? Judd, remember, I'm the one who says "Do it or don't, and if someone whines at me that they 'can't,' or 'that'll never work,' then they can lie there and writhe in agony." And I might even put an illustrative boot in the ribs, before moving on.


Aye man, its your thread.  :)

I wasn't meaning to ask you as someone who just climbed a mountain would ask a guru sitting serenly on the mountain-top but as a gamer reading a thread.  Thassall.


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Roger on January 26, 2005, 09:55:52 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Comments, questions, whatever? "Ask me about my game," says the button I'm metaphorically pinning on my shirt.


I'm not terribly familiar with 9W, but I'll do my best:

*  "Make sure everyone's involved with the book at the outset, especially the illustrations " -- I find this kind of intriguing, insofar as that I've always been kinda take-it-or-leave-it when it comes to illustrations in game manuals.  Could you expand on this?

* "One's cards do get "used up" during a conflict, so one's deck is shrinking as a conflict is taken into multiple draws"  A couple questions on the mechanics of this.  First off, does card counting become a viable sort of strategy?  My experience with Bridge, limited as it is, seems to suggest that card counting is the game.

Furthermore, as a GM, is it particularly hard to run half a dozen NPCs at once and keep track of what's happening on the trick resolution side of things?

ObMyth: Ares was once a dancer.


Cheers,
Roger


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 26, 2005, 10:19:30 AM
Hi Roger,

Quote
* "Make sure everyone's involved with the book at the outset, especially the illustrations " -- I find this kind of intriguing, insofar as that I've always been kinda take-it-or-leave-it when it comes to illustrations in game manuals. Could you expand on this?


Coulda sworn some illos were available to view on-line, but now I can't find them.

For me, the pop-hip, even razzle-dazzle context for all the mythology is central to the game. As one of the threads I cited makes clear, without that, I wouldn't even begin to be able to play it. It's not New Age, it's Pop Art, which makes all the difference for me.

So the illustrations, which are rather ornate and full of really great imagery that combines classical stuff with Kirby-style action, just hammer the point home. It looks like that! worked very well for me in terms of reading the text, and very well for our group in terms of talking about it. Most especially, the aethership, the Furies killing a hero, Chiron on the back cover, and a really nice shot of the Chimera as part of a larger picture.

It helps me a lot, in play, to imagine that all of our action is being illustrated by the game artist, as if he were a comics creator hovering right there in the room where we play, and as if we were sort of Muses for him. This was a valuable imaginative technique back when I was playing Champions (especially since some of the players were professional comics illustrators and authors), and it's recently made a comeback for me in the Nine Worlds experience.

Quote
* "One's cards do get "used up" during a conflict, so one's deck is shrinking as a conflict is taken into multiple draws" A couple questions on the mechanics of this. First off, does card counting become a viable sort of strategy? My experience with Bridge, limited as it is, seems to suggest that card counting is the game.


Yes and double-yes. However, frankly, I've been lame about really exploiting this as a participant. One of my goals for our future sessions is to enjoy conflicts in which everyone is firing multiple-Muses, and therefore card-management will become more important. I think so far, Tod is the player who's managed to get the most value out of thinking in these terms, and certainly since his Muses bulked up, he's been doing very well in pretty crazy conflicts (Stacey got turned into a mudpuppy at one point by Proteus, for example).

Quote
Furthermore, as a GM, is it particularly hard to run half a dozen NPCs at once and keep track of what's happening on the trick resolution side of things?


Not too terrible, but it's definitely the primary cognitive challenge of play in this game. The good news is that there aren't any secrets once the cards are shown, so you can spread'em all over the place and have the players help keep track, just like in Sorcerer with lots of NPCs.

Quote
ObMyth: Ares was once a dancer.


Ooohh! Julie, take note. Gotta have a big masked ball scene, some day, don't you think?

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Matt Snyder on January 26, 2005, 01:10:20 PM
Ron has done a superb job identifying both the strengths and weakness of Nine Worlds as a game and especially as a text.

I'm going to, foolishly, attempt to address his points in this post. I'm sure I'll miss something. THat's what the thread's for ...

Quote
Matt, you once told me that you initially designed Nine Worlds to suit your friends who love colorful setting and Special Kewl player-characters who get all enmeshed in complex conspiracies. They liked teaming up, travelling around, getting sent on missions, and so on - very Shadowrun play, very Mage. However, our group is apparently disinclined toward such play at the moment; possibly because we did it so thoroughly in HeroQuest years ago and recently in Metal Opera.


This is not an accident, Ron. I did say that when I started out. But, this game became nothing at all that would suit my friends particularly well. It became the game *I* wanted it to be, despite early inspiration from them. So, yeah, bring on the "disjointed" group. I all but say so in the text, and definitely say so in the text that player vs. player conflict is a great way to go.

Wonderfully, your post has illustrated why the "disjointed" (which is a misnomer) group makes things even more interesting when they enter conflicts from all over the place. There is inevitable crossover that ties the players together. Because, you know, they're playing together, which is all that really matters. To hell with your Archons. It's about YOU.

What I want to know about your game

Ron, you guys have deliberately settled in on a "medium" level of immortal involvement. That's cool -- you need not ever leave the scale of Medea and Jason to have a blast. But, you hint -- barely so -- at a more epic engagment. There's Ares' involvment, certainly, but also Mercury. He seems to me to be a key player in this conflict, especially if 1) the fleece has become currency of any kind and 2) Manto's aims to get recognized again as a player in the market. Yes? Crank up that Mercury! He's such a meddler and a playboy. (grin)

Ultimately, my question is a selfish one: Do you think I've properly termed the premise as your specific game has revealed? Is your premise a specific variation on mine, or do you think you've addressed something else?

(Oh, and any hints of ambitions toward championship or usurpation of a primarch? That's just my curiosity and I doubt you know that yet.)

Also, Ron, do you have any Archon NPCs? That is, are you controlling any characters, allies or enemies, with Arete and Hubris? Or, do all your puppets have only Power? If you DO have such characters, is it different for you? Are you addressing premise in any way or any different way? If you do not have such characters, why not?

Criticisms

Like I said, Ron's critique is spot on. His four questions? Yeah, pay extra special attention to those, Nine Worlds fans. That's exactly where the rubber meets the road, and where your friend and humble narrator falls flat. That's where your creative challenges lie, especially as a game master. As the text currently stands, that's where a lot of people will get hung up.

So, Ron, you said I need to examine how the text will guide others through those four questions? You're right.

My boss likes to use a metaphor at my work. He calls our job "building the airplane in the air." That's a fitting metaphor for me designing Nine Worlds. I believed I had something new enough and different enough that it was worth doing, worth challenging gamers. But, I suffer in that I had to "unlearn" myself. I'm not much different from anyone else. I've got my gamer tendencies. I'm happily self-evaluating my hobby, and I found something I wanted to change. I did it, but my "self-training" on how to design such a thing shows.

I will work to remedy this problem. I will be putting out a revised version of Nine Worlds. It MUST answer your questions, among other things, Ron. It will be available via PDF initially. All people who have purchased and downloaded the current PDF will easily be able to download the new edition. All people who can verify they purchased the print edition will also have access. Then, I will likely use Lulu to produce a new print edition for con season.

To "preview" -- the answer, as Ron has basically figured out, lies in Muses. Everything in the game should be eligible for Muses. They quickly become the great equalizer. (Pride and Valor -- or Force -- are the other equalizer, though Ron previously shared with me his groups' general reluctance to use 'em as trump. That's why Zeus and Kronos have such high Force values in the book. They can trump you 'til doomsday, which might actually happen.) In the current text, it's an afterthought that non-player characters and objects like planets can have Muses. But, it should not be an afterthought. These things need Muses. All of 'em. And, better yet, as Ron points out, they should earn Muses on the fly as players interact with the world.

On "Getting it"

Let me say that some of the relatively small amount of "I dont' get it" feedback I've received doesn't even get that far. The hang-ups begin for some square one with the entire conflict resolution system. People -- even those who love the never-ending intricacies of so-called "crunchy" systems -- find the conflict resolution system too complicated or time consuming or oblique or somethign similar. My reply is simple: Folks, that's all there is. You're complaining that the game unloads EVERYTHING it does in one fell swoop. Once you "get it" there's nothing left to get. It's quite economical that way. Get over that hump, and you're equipped with an incredible resource system for blasting rewards around the table like its the Fourth of July!)

Then there's the other camp: Those who aren't particularly hung up by the system, per se. But, they are hung up on what this game is about. They may be dazzled by pictures of aetherships and the promise of magic like in Mage. But, some don't seem able to see what's going on in the game. In short, what its premise is. I shrug a lot, because I all but spell it out as much as possible throughout the book.

This is a game about power, and especially about creative power. It's a "subversive" game in our hobby, because "getting it" is all about recognizing that we are ALL creative people, and that the guy over there we call the GM isn't as fucking brilliant as we all say he is, over and over again. He's just one of us. He's just another player, and I'm going to shove his "plotline" down his craw with my Archon's ass-kicking Arete. And he's going to like it!


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Matt Snyder on January 26, 2005, 01:18:23 PM
Roger & Ron,

Click on the link below to view the illustration in Nine Worlds:

Nine Worlds illustrations (http://www.chimera.info/nineworlds/art_samples.html)


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 26, 2005, 01:24:25 PM
Hi Matt!

I'm time-constrained, but will answer briefly - more later.

Quote
Ron, you guys have deliberately settled in on a "medium" level of immortal involvement. That's cool -- you need not ever leave the scale of Medea and Jason to have a blast. But, you hint -- barely so -- at a more epic engagment. There's Ares' involvment, certainly, but also Mercury. He seems to me to be a key player in this conflict, especially if 1) the fleece has become currency of any kind and 2) Manto's aims to get recognized again as a player in the market. Yes? Crank up that Mercury! He's such a meddler and a playboy. (grin)


Yeah. Hades, Mercury, Ares, Athena, and others are sort of one-step-away from the conflict at present. Athena's closest; she's interacted directly with all three characters, although briefly. I'm not waiting until the player-characters are "strong enough" before introducing the heavies, but letting the trouble they're causing become "important enough." I figure the big ol' gods have stuff to do, and that the current shenanigans haven't interrupted any banquets or board meetings yet.

The Fleece theft changes that, though, you betcha.

Quote
Ultimately, my question is a selfish one: Do you think I've properly termed the premise as your specific game has revealed? Is your premise a specific variation on mine, or do you think you've addressed something else?


Um, not sure I get it. I didn't find a specific interpretation-statement of our game's Premise in your post. As it happens, I'm pretty sure that all of the characters and their interactions are really pumping Prometheus' dialogue in your opening game fiction.

Quote
(Oh, and any hints of ambitions toward championship or usurpation of a primarch? That's just my curiosity and I doubt you know that yet.)


Hints, yes. Tod is pretty much hinting that he wants to become a mondo-sea-god. Julie's choices often gravitate toward Arete. But just as the game might suggest, which way will wait upon the moment. To operate on that scale, at all, regardless of which way? Oh yes. These players are determined to see that happen.

Quote
Also, Ron, do you have any Archon NPCs? That is, are you controlling any characters, allies or enemies, with Arete and Hubris? Or, do all your puppets have only Power? If you DO have such characters, is it different for you? Are you addressing premise in any way or any different way? If you do not have such characters, why not?


I decided to have some Archon NPCs, and kind of waffled a little about who was and who wasn't in the first session. As it's turned out, though, Medea is an Archon and no other NPC is. Prof Tiresias almost got to be one and I reluctantly decided not, eventually. Still dunno whether that was wise or not.

My thinking is that Archon-ness in the game is a little vague, especially since the game is now so different from its original Matrix-ish "normal earth guy discovers he's living in a cool comic book and has powerz" context. I'm still mulling over how to deal with Archons as a setting feature. I mean, do the player-characters in the game know they're Archons? Do they care? We might have to discuss that as a group.

As for whether Medea is Premise-relevant, the answer is of course Yes. You could feel the players shift around and breathe differently when she entered a scene (the dragons helped). When I mentioned that she was using Hubris, rather than Power, the general response was an affirmative, impatient, get-on-with-it grunt.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Nine Worlds] Pop-Greek sci-fantasy, plus murder and sex
Post by: jrs on January 26, 2005, 01:44:05 PM
By passing all the good stuff between Ron and Matt, I'll comment on this:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Quote
ObMyth: Ares was once a dancer.

Ooohh! Julie, take note. Gotta have a big masked ball scene, some day, don't you think?

Damn, do not start me conflating Ares and Shiva in this game!

Julie