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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: Andrew Morris on December 26, 2005, 06:39:42 PM



Title: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Andrew Morris on December 26, 2005, 06:39:42 PM
For The Great Art, a good deal of the focus is on social and political conflicts. Currently, I didn't have anything written in about status or respect as a resource, but after I thought about it, I realized it would probably be a good addition to the game, so I'm toying around with the following idea.

1) The players each get five "respect points" that they can allocate in whatever distribution they like among as many characters as they'd like. You give respect points if you (the player) believe the character is worthy of respect or fear.

2) The characters' total respect points are classified into ten ranks, giving them a Respect of 1-10.

3) Each game, you confirm your distribution of respect points, or shift them around as you see fit.

Respect has two functions in the game. First, it allows you to gauge another character's political strength. While the Respect ranking (1-10) is public knowledge, research will let you find out the exact number (or close to it) so you can judge if your peers have more or less support than you do, or see if a well-Respected character might be losing support, etc. Second, Respect gives you a mechanical bonus in political conflicts.

I'm happy to hear any feedback, but what I'm looking for is what sort of in-game charcater action and out-of-game player interaction you think this will encourage.


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Adam Cerling on December 26, 2005, 10:09:49 PM
Andrew,

My main question is this: What kind of play do you want this system to encourage? I don't know whether any of the following observations will be useful, because I'm not sure what you're aiming for.

From the perspective of pushing the boundaries of this system:

  • Is it a problem if a friend and I collude to just give one another all our Respect?
  • Is it a problem if I never give Respect to a player whom I just don't care for, regardless whether my PC "should" respect or fear him?

From the perspective of being an ordinary player:

  • You describe Respect Points as "respect or fear." If my PC fears someone, I will want to undermine them politically. Yet by the description of Respect Points, I should be giving them points (I fear them). Am I getting mixed signals?
  • As a player, do I know where my Respect comes from? Do I know that (for example) all ten points come from Joe and Bob, or do I have to wonder? If I have to wonder, should other players feel free to lie if I ask them "Hey, are you in on my Respect total right now?"
  • Does this make the strong stronger and the weak weaker? If I'm a charismatic person who wins a lot of Respect Points through roleplaying, odds are I don't need a mechanical bonus to my political conflicts, because I'm a charismatic person who wins a lot of small-r respect through roleplaying.
  • If everyone does unto others as others do unto them -- that is, if I give Respect only to those who give an equal amount back to me -- then everyone hovers around 5 Respect. As I think about that, though, it seems an unlikely outcome -- people who don't care about being political themselves will always be happy to give away Respect for nonpolitical gains.

From the perspective of being an organizer:

  • Suppose you have 20 people in your LARP. How will you do the bookkeeping? It sounds like you have two tasks: first, track all the changes people make to their Respect distributions, and second, classify the results into ten ranks.
  • This is the third game in a row Johnny hasn't attended, with no explanation. What happens to the Respect Points he has invested in Sue and Phil?
  • This spawns nice Relationship Maps.

I ask too many questions! Feel free to cherry-pick the most interesting. The rest are just food for thought.


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: dindenver on December 26, 2005, 10:28:38 PM
Hi!
  I think your system represents Trust more than Respect. If you want to represent Factional Respect, than you need to assign respect points for each faction. I'd guess you gain respect from members of that faction based on their rank. Then you could spend faction to get people to aggree with you and regain it by proving your opinion was right...


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Andrew Morris on December 27, 2005, 04:36:35 AM
My main question is this: What kind of play do you want this system to encourage?

Lots of PC-PC competition.

]Is it a problem if a friend and I collude to just give one another all our Respect?

Nope. you can even give your respect points to yourself, if you want to.

Is it a problem if I never give Respect to a player whom I just don't care for, regardless whether my PC "should" respect or fear him?

Can't imagine so, since if your out-of-game relationship is going to color your in-game relationship, then that's what your character "should" do. If you think Bob is a jerk, and you don't want to have anything to do with his character, well then, your character is not going to work with Bob's character, and that's all there is to it.

You describe Respect Points as "respect or fear." If my PC fears someone, I will want to undermine them politically. Yet by the description of Respect Points, I should be giving them points (I fear them). Am I getting mixed signals?

Yeah, "respect or fear" is probably a bad way of putting it. Basically, respect points should be given based on how likely you think it is that the character would be able to get your character to do something, by whatever means. So, you'd give respect points for a character yours was loyal to, or one who your character would obey out of fear, or anything else.

As a player, do I know where my Respect comes from? Do I know that (for example) all ten points come from Joe and Bob, or do I have to wonder? If I have to wonder, should other players feel free to lie if I ask them "Hey, are you in on my Respect total right now?"

No, you don't know where your Respect comes from. Since respect points don't exist in the game world, you'd have to ask the player, not the character. And, of course, the player can tell you the truth, tell a lie, or tell you to go get bent.

Does this make the strong stronger and the weak weaker? If I'm a charismatic person who wins a lot of Respect Points through roleplaying, odds are I don't need a mechanical bonus to my political conflicts, because I'm a charismatic person who wins a lot of small-r respect through roleplaying.

Interesting question. I think it's somewhat like asking whether having loads of tactical options in D&D gives players with strong tactical ability even more of an advantage over players who don't. If you're not good at making tactical decisions, D&D is probably not the game for you. Same for The Great Art and social skills. It might be something of a moot point, however, since the mechanical advantage element seems a bit clunky and not in keeping with the rest of the rules, so I might drop it entirely, leaving only the element of Respect as a warning indicator. One of the important aspects of the game is careful planning and (in-game) research, so there's a few ways Respect could encourage that (tracking down where the support comes from, what the exact level is, etc.) that I still haven't fully explored.

If everyone does unto others as others do unto them -- that is, if I give Respect only to those who give an equal amount back to me -- then everyone hovers around 5 Respect. As I think about that, though, it seems an unlikely outcome -- people who don't care about being political themselves will always be happy to give away Respect for nonpolitical gains.

I can't imagine this would happen, but even if it does, then you have a bunch of characters with equal Respect, since no one has really garnered enough to stand out.

Suppose you have 20 people in your LARP. How will you do the bookkeeping? It sounds like you have two tasks: first, track all the changes people make to their Respect distributions, and second, classify the results into ten ranks.

Online form.

This is the third game in a row Johnny hasn't attended, with no explanation. What happens to the Respect Points he has invested in Sue and Phil?

The online form will cull old respect points.

This spawns nice Relationship Maps.

Cool. I hadn't even considered that.


Dave, I'm not sure what you mean. Can you elaborate?


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Graham W on December 27, 2005, 05:11:05 AM
Hi Andrew,

To answer your question about interactions...

If I was playing this game, I'd suck up to as many people as possible, in the hope they'd give me their Respect. And I'd be nice to people's faces and then backstab them in private.

And I'd make as many alliances as possible: in essence, I'd try to make deals, so that people would give me their respect in return for mine.

So I think that's the sort of in-character behaviour these rules will encourage: alliances forming and breaking, backstabbing, gossip and disingenuous "friendships". Which sounds fun to me.

By the way, there's part of me that wants an equal number of "Disrespect" points, so that I can sully someone's reputation without them knowing. That would be fascinating. I'd love to arrive at a game knowing that someone had Disrespected me, but not knowing who.

Can I ask: if I can give my Respect points to myself, why would I ever want to give them to someone else?

Graham


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: TonyLB on December 27, 2005, 06:05:40 AM
If I was playing this game, I'd suck up to as many people as possible, in the hope they'd give me their Respect. And I'd be nice to people's faces and then backstab them in private.

And I'd make as many alliances as possible: in essence, I'd try to make deals, so that people would give me their respect in return for mine.

Do you think that would work?  'cuz I certainly wouldn't give my respect to somebody sucking up and offering deals.  I'd give my Respect points to the character ... okay, to the player who was going his own way, doing important things and not looking for Respect for them.

Andrew, do players face in-game choices about whether to act according to the respect that they hold for someone, or not?  Because I think those are cool moments in stories and games ... "Yes, I should obey the king's orders and have you boiled in oil ... but you saved me, and all of the fifth regiment, from those ogres.  You deserve honor, not death.  Here is the secret door out of the castle.  When next we meet it will be as enemies, but for now, go safely and swiftly, my good friend!"

I see the "adjust respect at the end of each game" as pretty limiting.  It seems to me that players should be adjusting their respect for each other on a constant basis, for faster, more effective feedback.  But I'm probably just not seeing the intent:  what does the slower cycle of changes do for you?


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: dindenver on December 27, 2005, 08:43:23 AM
Hi!
  OK, here's an example:
Faction: Cabal
Grand Wizard: 5
Cell Leader: 3
Member: 1

Faction: Magi
ArchMagi: 5
Master Magus: 3
Magus: 1

  So, at the beginning of the campaign, each player elects to respect each player or not. And they either get all of the respect or none. Players can give Respect to more than one player.

Magi
Arch Magus: Bob
Master Magus: Fred
Magus: Eric
Magus: Tom

  At the beginning of the campaign each player votes. Bob votes for himself obviously, but no one else does because they think Fred should be Arch Magus. Fred gets votes from all players and Eric gets votes from Bob and Eric and Tom gets votes from Fred and Tom, Totals:
Bob - 5
Fred - 10
Eric - 6
Tom - 4

  Then, during play, there is a disoute over whether or not to confront the Cabal directly or indirectly. Players bid on the decision poker style (call/raise/etc...). The winner decides the course of action if it is deemed successful, they win the pot. Everyone who bid against splits the pot if the course of action is not successful. Use Rank as a tie breaker if the pot does not divide evenly.
  Something LIKE that is what I was thinking. This is obviously not fully developed, but you get the idea...


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Andrew Morris on December 27, 2005, 10:13:35 AM
Graham-

Yes, false civility covering up treachery is highly encouraged.


Tony-

As I'm currently thinking of it, no, Respect doesn't have an in-game relationship effect as you describe. Its main function is to serve as a warning sign to show how politically dangerous a character is.

Adjusting respect at the end of each game is meant to cut down on logistics. One of my primary design concerns for The Great Art is that none of the rules interfere with getting up from the table and running it as a LARP. Coordinating respect points from 20-100 people on the fly gives me nightmares just thinking about it.


Dave-

I'm still not sure I'm understanding you completely. Are you saying players would have more/less respect to distribute based on the position of their character?


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Adam Cerling on December 27, 2005, 11:14:53 AM
Andrew --

You know Mind's Eye Theater Vampire, correct? This mechanic shares many similarities with Status Traits.

I hear that the MET Status Trait mechanics work fine for some player groups, but I haven't observed it. In the groups I've observed, Status is kind of superfluous. In video-game terms, it's a mini-game. It may be very interesting to the people who play it, but if you're good at the mini-game your only reward is becoming mechanically better at the mini-game. Many people just say "screw it, this doesn't matter" and put their energy elsewhere.

In order to make it desirable to play this mini-game, I think you have to tie it to greater rewards. Imagine the wheeling and dealing that would occur if people's nightly XP were tied to their Respect rankings! On a lesser tack, perhaps a good Respect ranking gains you certain powers over Situation that others don't get -- like the effect of high Influence in MET, Respected people might be better at twisting the machinery of civilization to their own ends.

You say you'll manage the bookkeeping with online forms. Will those forms be available somehow to other groups who run your game? That's a trail yet to be blazed...


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Andrew Morris on December 27, 2005, 12:18:49 PM
You say you'll manage the bookkeeping with online forms. Will those forms be available somehow to other groups who run your game? That's a trail yet to be blazed...

The plan is to have a central website that not only coordinates these things for each playgroup, but also provides a forum for in- and out-of-character communication. Individual games can get recognized or approved so that characters in one TT or LARP can go to any other approved game.


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: dindenver on December 27, 2005, 01:43:33 PM
Hi!
  Yeah, initially, that is how it works, by the character's starting rank in the organization:
Bob - 5 (Bob's 5 cuz he is ArchMagi)
Fred - 10 (Bob's 5, Fred's 3, and eric and tom for 1 each)
Eric - 6 (Bob's 5 and his 1)
Tom - 4 (Fred's 3 and his 1)
  After that inital starting point, points are made and lost through leadership and success. So, in this campaign, there will always be 25 points or Respect, they will move based on wagers and succeses.

Example 1:
  Fred realizes that the group has more respect for him than Bob, so he calls for a new election. Fred realizes that he might lose so he recommends against it. Fred commits 1 respect, Bob calls, Eric calls and Tom folds.Fred raises 4, Bob calls and Eric does too. Fred raises 1, Bob and Eric fold. So there is 16 Respect in the pot. If Fred wins, he gets it all, if he loses, Eric and Bob get 8 each.
  They vote and Fred gets 2 votes, and Bob gets two votes. Since Bob is the current Archmagi, he casts the tie breaker and naturally votes for himself. Bob wins and the Respoect is divded among the opposition. Tom doesn;t get any Respect ecause he never wagered any. If there was an odd number, Bob would get it as he is the ArchMagi.
Bob - 8 (Bob's 5 cuz he is ArchMagi minus 5 from the wager plus 8 from wager)
Fred - 4 (Bob's 5, Fred's 3, and eric and tom for 1 each minus 6 from wager)
Eric - 9 (Bob's 5 and his 1 minus 5 from the wager plus 8 from wager)
Tom - 4 (Fred's 3 and his 1 no change never wagered anything)

Example 2
  Now that Bob has secured his place in the Magi, he recommends befreinding the Cabal in order to secure themselves from the Cult of the Cthulu. Fred knows some of the players from the Cabal and know they are backstabbing turkeys, so he recommends against it.
  Fred wagers 1 Respect, Eric Calls, Tom Calls and Bob raises 5. Fred folds so there is 6 Respect on the line. So the Magi will unite with the Cabal against the CoC.
  Later when the CoC attacks them, The Cabal comes to the MAgi's aid and Bob collects the 6 Respect.
Bob - 9 (Bob's 5 cuz he is ArchMagi minus 5 from the wager plus 8 from wager minus 5 from second wager, plus 6 from second wager)
Fred - 3 (Bob's 5, Fred's 3, and eric and tom for 1 each minus 6 from wager minus 1 from second wager)
Eric - 9 (Bob's 5 and his 1 minus 5 from the wager plus 8 from wager)
Tom - 4 (Fred's 3 and his 1 no change never wagered anything)
  We can see from this example, Bob could have fared better if he had slowly raised on Fred to coaxe more Respect out of him...
  I dunno, just an idea, seems like bookkeeping wouldn't be too bad, explaining the rules would be easy and it only benefits people that have both a tactical sense, interpersonal skills and are politically savvy.
  Good luck with your game,


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Andrew Morris on December 27, 2005, 02:32:59 PM
Okay, gotcha Dave. I was thinking about something like this, and I still might do so, but I'm just starting to look at the idea right now.


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: dindenver on December 27, 2005, 02:43:37 PM
Hi!
  Cool, good luck man, like I said, the original system seems to correspond more to Trust than Respect. And those two do not always walk hand in hand through the halls of human affairs, lol
  Sounds like you have a cool background in mind, will be interesting to see it evolve...


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Ramidel on December 27, 2005, 09:33:13 PM
Nope. you can even give your respect points to yourself, if you want to.

So why would anyone give their respect to anyone else?


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Andrew Morris on December 27, 2005, 10:17:19 PM
So why would anyone give their respect to anyone else?

There's no reason why the couldn't, or wouldn't, or shouldn't. The overall Respect structure is prone to rapid destabilization. If everyone gives their points just to their own characters, then no one (effectively) has Respect. Until, of course, someone manages to get points from even one other person and they shoot to the top of the Respect pile. Then someone will get a few allies to give him points, and he'll leap-frog to the top. And so on until you've got charismatic leaders and organized cabals.

Of course, the motivation to do this would be some sort of mechanical reward for Respect, which I'm heading away from, so maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to note that respect points can only be given to other players' characters.


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Josh Roby on December 28, 2005, 01:33:46 AM
Andrew, you've got to make people's respect rating affect the game in some mechanical way, or else respect is absolutely meaningless, and you'll be going to all this trouble of coding databases and stuff for some pretty filligree that everybody ignores.  If it doesn't do something it's dead weight and should be culled.

I'd also suggest that you need to provide an incentive for assigning Respect points -- perhaps a mechanical bonus whenever you support someone who you've invested with Respect -- so that there is a good reason to spend them on people.  Is there some other reward system in place that players can promise to use in would-be supporters favor (you give me Respect, I'll make you Seneschal)?  If this is a game about personal power plays, what does it advantage me to give points to you?


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: dindenver on December 28, 2005, 10:04:25 AM
Hi!
  I agree, you need to figure out:
1) What effect, in game terms, dies Respect have?
2) What incentive do players have to give Resoect toi another player?
3) What incentive do players have to keep their respect?
4) How do players regain their respect?
5) How does TRespect work IRL?
6) Do you want it to simulate that or something else?
  It sounds like you have pretty good answers to most of these, but I thikn you have to work out some other details.
  Good luck man, it should be pretty cool when you are done!


Title: Re: [The Great Art] Self-regulating Social Status Mechanics
Post by: Andrew Morris on December 28, 2005, 02:41:34 PM
I agree that respect must have a mechanical function or it is useless. No argument there. I don't, however, think that function must be a mechanical advantage. One of the big things in game is the power of research. Having something like respect would allow you to use research to find out more about other characters.