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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Josh Roby on October 18, 2005, 12:56:14 PM



Title: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Josh Roby on October 18, 2005, 12:56:14 PM
This is the first among many questions I'll probably ask here.  I've read through the Resolution chapter and while it makes me grin and jump up and down, I'm kind of confused on whether the resolution mechanic addresses situations where the characters aren't being opposed by people (either NPCs or themselves).  I'm talking things like picking locks, navigating the route, fixing the broken wheel.  I mean, if I'm doing a "Plug the hole in the boat" conflict and I escalate to gunplay, I'll only be making more holes, not fewer!  My working hypothesis is that Dogs isn't about fixing wagon wheels so the mechanics don't address that, but I may be overlooking something.

Also, I'm sure this is an old one, but the Creating Characters chapter refers to the character sheet at the back of the book and there doesn't seem to be one back there...


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: lumpley on October 18, 2005, 01:03:24 PM
First, what you're looking for is Demonic Influence.

Second, you can download the character sheet here (http://www.lumpley.com/games/dogsources.html). Funnily, there's never been a character sheet in the back of the book; if I were a responsible person I'd go change that piece of text.

-Vincent


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: lumpley on October 18, 2005, 01:05:53 PM
Oh, maybe I should say something about escalating to gunfighting with the boat. Basically, sometimes you can't reasonably escalate - whether your opponent's the boat or your beloved old aunt, is shooting it or her really an option? No, not really.

That's life.

-Vincent


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: dunlaing on October 18, 2005, 02:34:50 PM
I get that there are situations where a character ought not to escalate for roleplaying reasons, and situations where it seems to stretch common sense for a character to escalate, but mechanically, isn't it both possible and unlikely to result in badness (like a dead Aunt)?

Convincing your dear old aunt to take out the garbage:
Quote from: Convincing your dear old aunt to take out the garbage
I've got only a 1 left. I pull out my revolver and shoot Aunt Claire in the foot. I roll my dice for gunplay and for my revolver and get 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 8. I raise with the two 1s for a 2. Mechanically, there's no way for the GM to take fallout on a raise of 2, so Aunt Claire won't be hurt. She might have to dance a bit to avoid the bullet at her feet, but who doesn't like the scene where the cowboy makes someone dance by shooting at their feet? On my next turn, I can switch back to talking actions to convince her, using the nice dice I rolled off of my shooting.

Plugging the hole in the boat:
Quote from: Plugging the hole in the boat
I'm not doing so well at plugging the hole in the boat. It's a funny shaped hole and I'm frustrated. "That there hole is shaped like the Devil his own self, and I mean to exorcise him," I shoot the hole with my trusty revolver, putting a halo above the devil hole. I rolls me some extra dice and raise the lowest two on this action, then switch back to more actions that might reasonably help me plug the hole in the boat.


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: xenopulse on October 18, 2005, 02:55:23 PM
... or you could just say yes to things like lockpicking and fixing shit when there's no obvious conflict involved.  The "say yes or roll the dice" rule is there for a reason.


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Vaxalon on October 19, 2005, 11:05:28 AM
On this topic, in a recent game, I had some PC's decide that it was a good idea to go tramping through the woods on an unfamiliar mountainside in the middle of the night.

I presented a conflict, relating to stumbling around in the dark.  When I put it up, it seemed unnecessarily cheesy and a little punitive, but I figured I'd learn something about whether doing things like that worked.

Demonic Influence was at 2d10, so there really wasn't much chance that the PC's would actually fail to make it down the mountain.  They had more than enough resources to beat it...  but they DID take fallout.

One of the PC's narrated his "take the blow" as stumbling into a briar patch.  I figured that warranted d8's and away we went...  and we had some of the best RP to be had in that town as one Dog tries to keep the other's body and soul together.


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: lumpley on October 19, 2005, 11:17:09 AM
That briar patch must've been fuckin' hardcore.

I like the idea. That's a dangerous world to play Dogs in. Cool.

-Vincent
and pardon my Saxon



Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Vaxalon on October 20, 2005, 05:46:12 AM
I narrated a broken tree branch, an unlucky stumble, a perforated femoral artery, and a blood-soaked Coat.

Yeah.  Hardcore.

So don't be afraid to pull out the dice once in a while, that's what I learned.


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 20, 2005, 05:57:26 AM
Hiya,

This reminds me of the questions I used to field about HeroQuest (then Hero Wars) and Sorcerer.

Basically, divide up everything the characters deal with into "people" and "furniture." The tricky part (to a gamer) is that sometimes things like "the door" or "the pit" or "the mountain" are people, and sometimes things like "the soldier" or "the messenger" or "the chambermaid" are furniture.

But once you have that distinction down, then it's easy: when a player-character has a conflict of interest with a person, then it's time for dice, or more properly, for resolution.

"We must get past this terrible mountain" is not a conflict ... unless the mountain is a person. Do we ever call it a person? Nope. But if it plays that role in our minds, then you're going to have great conflicts. If the conflict of interest with it can be thought of in human terms, as in "this mountain is a dreadful, ruthless place," then great! Or more subtly, if the mountain's features prompt what is called, in Primetime Adventures, character issues, then we're all good to. In play, you (we, I) should be asking the same questions of ourselves regarding the local lord in the local castle.

But if the mountain is furniture? Then it doesn't matter what you roll, how many times, or what risks to the character sheet's numbers it poses, applying the resolution procedures is horrible and boring for everyone. The same applies if we're talking about the local lord in the local castle - because he might be furniture, and if so, then I'd rather go wash the dishes or clean out the shower trap than spend one minute applying the resolution procedures to interacting with him.

If you're ever unsure about which might apply in a given situation during play, simply do a little Color for the relevant person or thing, and see what the other people at the table say. Their responses will tell you, straight-up, with no ambiguity.

All of which is to agree with many posts so far in this thread. I hope this construction serves as a practical guide.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Neal on October 20, 2005, 08:08:27 AM
Ron, that helps me quite a bit, and it gives me an idea.

I know Demonic Influence is helpful within a town, but what about between towns?  What about the thunderstorm that catches the Dogs out in the open?  Maybe I'll treat major elements of the scenery as NPCs, straight down the line.  I mean, if I'm going to throw an electrical storm at a group of players, why shouldn't it be treated as an opponent in every regard?  I can give it Stats, Traits, perhaps even Belongings.  I wonder if this would work.

Of course, not everything deserves that level of treatment, as you point out.  I don't like the idea that players can be stopped cold by every little bit of scenery, as often happens in the more rules-heavy RPGs.  Nothing is duller than watching a group of players trying unsuccessfully to get past the last locked door in a dungeon (unless, of course, it's being one of those players).  That's where "say yes or roll the dice" comes in.  Choose your battles and fire for effect, rather than forcing your players to fight the furniture just because it's there.  "Must... open... this... pickle jar!"


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 20, 2005, 08:55:09 AM
Hi Neal,

Quote
I mean, if I'm going to throw an electrical storm at a group of players, why shouldn't it be treated as an opponent in every regard?  I can give it Stats, Traits, perhaps even Belongings.  I wonder if this would work.

Yes, it works. If the storm is a character. If it either (a) has priorities of its own, like a gate of a beseiged city seems to have in some stories; or (b) brings up issues for characters, as with starvation or similar. That is why Demonic Influence exists in the game at all, to play this role and to assign it easy-to-use dice mechanics. I suppose you could round it out (and make it very dangerous) with traits if you'd like. Clearly that'd be the solution between towns.

But you cannot assign game-mechanics to a storm, hit your players with it, and just say, "See, see, it's a character, mechanically! This is therefore an engaging conflict!" Nope. This is a group activity. You find out whether the storm is a character by first presenting it as such, and then seeing whether they agree.

Very important point: the same goes for the "people" NPCs. If you figure that your hayseed, colorful farmer is a Person in your game, and expect some cool conflict to occur, but your players decide for whatever reason that he's furniture, you are in for a world of dysfunctional shit when you keep trying to force conflict, and to make it be fun. It won't be.

Advanced point on top of that: consider, in all the games you've participated in, how many of the player-characters have essentially been furniture? Scary, eh?

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Josh Roby on October 20, 2005, 09:15:17 AM
Ron, I use the same consideration, although I use drama terms (never having been involved in a play in my life).

Characters are active elements of the game, with stats and agendas.
Props are inactive elements of the game, which (at best) give a little die bonus to Characters using them or have no mechanical effect at all.


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: lumpley on October 20, 2005, 09:16:06 AM
Ha! This reminds me of one of the times I ran Tower Creek. The second wife is false-married to the deputy sherrif, right? So the Dogs are there telling the second wife what's what and what she's going to do about it, and I have the deputy jump up, like "wait a second, don't I have some say -"

You're right, Ron - the players looked at me like I'd given the chair an opinion.

-Vincent


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Neal on October 20, 2005, 09:30:38 AM
Yes, it works. If the storm is a character. If it either (a) has priorities of its own, like a gate of a beseiged city seems to have in some stories; or (b) brings up issues for characters, as with starvation or similar. That is why Demonic Influence exists in the game at all, to play this role and to assign it easy-to-use dice mechanics. I suppose you could round it out (and make it very dangerous) with traits if you'd like. Clearly that'd be the solution between towns.

Right, okay.  That makes sense.  So the storm that's been brewing in the sky, adding special effects to the last town, and is now coming down on the Dogs while they're racing for shelter -- that would be the storm to develop into character status, if and only if the players see the storm as an engaging and important story element prior to its mechanical transformation into a character.  If they say things like, "Damn, that storm's movin' in fast, boys.  Best haul ass, or it's gonna piss on us all night long," then I should feel justified in developing the storm into a full-fledged conflict, whatever mechanics I use.  But if I mention the storm in all its ominous glory, and the players say, "Yeah, okay, well, we're going to go see what's going on in Milledgeville," then I should let the storm remain a bit of colorful furniture and be done with it.

I may try some other things before I go the whole hog and generate Stats (et al) for the storm.  I'll at least wait until I've played the game a few times and seen how the outcomes shake loose as the dice multiply.  I may just decide to use Demonic Influence to represent the "mood" of the terrain or weather.  We'll see.  Anyway, thanks for the heads-up.

Advanced point on top of that: consider, in all the games you've participated in, how many of the player-characters have essentially been furniture? Scary, eh?

You ain't kidding.  I've had a few players whose place at the table could have been usurped by a particularly pungent wheel of cheese, and few would have suspected the swap.


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on October 20, 2005, 11:12:35 AM
I may try some other things before I go the whole hog and generate Stats (et al) for the storm.

Remember (and this I struggle with too) that you don't have to "generate stats" for anything: You have a handy list of prefabricated blank proto-NPCs, and writing in the appropriate words can turn the same proto-NPC into a person, natural phenomenon, or abstract state of mind, whichever you wish. (Capes is the one game I've seen that gleefully encourages this -- the rulebook includes sample characters like "Martial Law," "Natural Disaster," and something that amounts to the state of being "not from around here" -- but the principle can be applied in Dogs and elsewhere).


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: TonyLB on October 20, 2005, 11:28:35 AM
If they say things like, "Damn, that storm's movin' in fast, boys.  Best haul ass, or it's gonna piss on us all night long," then I should feel justified in developing the storm into a full-fledged conflict, whatever mechanics I use.  But if I mention the storm in all its ominous glory, and the players say, "Yeah, okay, well, we're going to go see what's going on in Milledgeville," then I should let the storm remain a bit of colorful furniture and be done with it.
Oh wow your phrasing on that is perfect.  Did you do that intentionally?  In your example of players who are engaged with the storm as an opponent in conflict, they anthropomorphize the storm.  "It's movin' in fast," "It's gonna piss on us."

I wonder if that's actually a reliable indicator of when something deserves seperate representation?  It's the subtle difference between "God, guys, if we keep doing stupid things we're going to get ourselves killed" and "Man, our own stupidity is going to kill us if we let it."


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Vaxalon on October 20, 2005, 11:36:51 AM

But you cannot assign game-mechanics to a storm, hit your players with it, and just say, "See, see, it's a character, mechanically! This is therefore an engaging conflict!" Nope. This is a group activity. You find out whether the storm is a character by first presenting it as such, and then seeing whether they agree.


I think this step needs to be explicit in the stakes-setting stage.  The players need to be empowered to say, basically, "Er, this conflict is pretty boring and meaningless, at least to me (us).  How about we skip it and go on?"

Perhaps the "Say yes or roll dice" instruction should be made clear to both GM and players?  Players should be able to say, "Yeah, fine, okay, we ride through an electrical storm.  We get wet, take shelter under a rock, see stuff get blasted by the lightning."

This nearly happened with a conflict I posed in the game with Silmenume and Ashera.  They came up to a bridge that was about to get washed out, and the observation came that if the bridge DID get washed out before the Dogs crossed it, what then?  They find another way around, big  deal.

We eventually resolved that bit by putting a man on the bridge who needed saving (or at least they thought so at the time) to engage the Dogs, but I could easily have said, "No, you're right, let's just say that you witness the bridge being washed out, and you have to hike two miles out of your way on old hunting trails to get to the town."


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Neal on October 20, 2005, 11:49:10 AM
Oh wow your phrasing on that is perfect.  Did you do that intentionally?  In your example of players who are engaged with the storm as an opponent in conflict, they anthropomorphize the storm.  "It's movin' in fast," "It's gonna piss on us."

Thanks, Tony.  No, actually, it wasn't premeditated.  I guess that corroborates your own theory, huh?  I think it also points out the need for GMs to listen acutely not only to what their players are saying, but also how they're saying it.

I wonder if that's actually a reliable indicator of when something deserves seperate representation?  It's the subtle difference between "God, guys, if we keep doing stupid things we're going to get ourselves killed" and "Man, our own stupidity is going to kill us if we let it."

I laughed when I read this because it made me imagine a group of players, having encountered their own Stupidity in a few past towns, running across "him" again.  What a cool recurring character!  "Damn your eyes, Our Own Stupidity!  Will we never be free of you?"  To which, of course, Our Own Stupidity replies, "Huh?  Um, nope."


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: IMAGinES on October 20, 2005, 08:45:06 PM
Of course, not everything deserves that level of treatment, as you point out. .... That's where "say yes or roll the dice" comes in.  Choose your battles and fire for effect, rather than forcing your players to fight the furniture just because it's there.  "Must... open... this... pickle jar!"

Firstly, I just want to say that I've read this post, and everything befor eit and since, and I'm in full agreement with it.

But Neal, I just have to say that I think you're throwing out the baby with the bathwater with that last comment. The Man Set Against The Pickle Jar is one of the great Conflicts of the Industrial Age. It engages Pride like nobody else. The implicit stakes of any conflict are very powerful: "Can I open this damn jar without looking like an utter wuss?" or, "Can I not hand the pickle jar over to the next person who'll just pop it open without straining?"

Plus, you have some very effective, emotive  and accessible Sees and Raises: "You feel your skin burn as you try to find purchase on the frustratingly smooth lid of the jar." "Right! I'm bringing in my Towel (2D6) and Raising seven! I've got the damned jar between my legs and both hands twisting the lid!" "I'll See your Seven and reverse the blow, plus three for ten: The dry towel not only removes what traction you had, but the jar slides out from between your legs and hits the floor." "DAMN IT! I'm escalating to Fighting: I pick the jar up, turn it over and slam the lid against the tabletop! T"

Yes. Er.

I apologise for this break in topic and will now return you to your scheduled thread.


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Neal on October 21, 2005, 05:07:59 AM
But Neal, I just have to say that I think you're throwing out the baby with the bathwater with that last comment. The Man Set Against The Pickle Jar is one of the great Conflicts of the Industrial Age. It engages Pride like nobody else. The implicit stakes of any conflict are very powerful: "Can I open this damn jar without looking like an utter wuss?" or, "Can I not hand the pickle jar over to the next person who'll just pop it open without straining?"

You know, I thought about something along those lines after I posted.  In every game I run, I like to toss in a bit of humor, especially in a horror game or a game with a high gross-out factor.  I guess that's why I'm a huge Joss Whedon fan, huh?  Anyway, I think it not only adds new colors to the palette, but it actually makes the horror more horrifying when it comes up between moments of easy-breathing laughter.  Horror games without a trace of humor just seem like they're reaching too far or straining too hard sometimes.  They seem myopic and half-finished, if not somehow juvenile, as though they'd misplaced some important piece of what it means to be human.

So yeah, I'll probably toss some stubborn furniture around for laughs once in a while.  But not just for laughs.  I can see, for example, a scene where Brother If-God-Hadst-Not-Loved-Thee-Thou-Wouldst-Not-Have-Been-Born ("Iggy" to his friends) comes home, hailed as a hero, and decides to pitch in around the old homestead, only to find the very farm itself resisting his simple efforts.  Pump handles, manure piles, runaway chickens, the cantankerous old buckboard -- they all conspire against him as though directed by the hand of the Adversary.  He's done all these mighty things, straightening out sinners, exorcising demons, gunning down road agents... and now he can't get the old well pump to cough up a bucketful of water?  He chooses to see it as a test of his Pride, a trial sent by the King of Life to make him a better person, so he perseveres.  In that sense, it's a real conflict, with the PC pitted against character-level opposition.  The conflict matters to the player, either as a test of Brother Iggy's humility, or as God's reminder that Iggy was not called to pump well-water and chase chickens, but to get out there and fix what's going wrong in the Vineyard.  The stubborn pump-handle really does take on the importance of a hated enemy or a recalcitrant sinner. 

But here we're back to Ron's insistence that the "furniture" must have some importance and meaning to the players prior to its employment as a "character."  The laughs to be had from a scene like this are (I think) pretty obvious, but it doesn't change the basic notion that the important things in a game are the things the players find important.


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: Neal on October 21, 2005, 05:23:55 AM
And yes, I know you were joking. :)


Title: Re: First Question -- Resolution Without People
Post by: IMAGinES on October 22, 2005, 03:38:07 PM
No worries, Neal! :-D I do appreciate you taking the joke and considering the merit of its matter. I was a little worried that other Forgites wouldn't be receptive to my brand of humour (i.e. probably too silly for my own good).