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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Temple on November 16, 2006, 03:19:08 PM



Title: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 16, 2006, 03:19:08 PM
I found this site soe time ago, and Im still soaking up all the stuff here. Some of it to my liking, other bits.. not so much. But hey! different strokes and all that.

One of the first things to strike my fancy was not directly related to the Forge or the community here: The Pool, by James V. West. The simplistic, narrativistic system intrigued me, and I wanted to see if I could use it for anything other than looking at it and going "thats som interesting game design right there.."

I still havent had a chance to playtest it, but I will in the foreseeable future.

I have aired my interests for the system on other fora, dedicated to specific games that I play regularly (Im originally a WoD player), with mixed reactions.

One of the biggest concerns people have for the system, and something that didnt strike me at all (I have mild dyscalculia, which is why I was looking for a simple, generic system in the first place), was that the probabilities were wonky. One person felt that the system was biased towards failiure, and that the huge punishments for failiure (loosing gambled dice) were not offset by the rewards for success (gaining a die or an MoV).

A link to the discussion in question. (http://forums.white-wolf.com/viewtopic.php?t=49345)

Am I right in that this doesnt really affect play, as long as all players agree on the creative agenda, or does its detractors have a serious and valid point? The person I am debating in the above thread (Zeev) has some strong points, but I still feel I am more right than wrong, and that the system is well thought out and does what it is designed to do.

Also, if this is the wrong forum for this type of thread, I would appreciate if I could be guided to the right one, or if the thread could be moved by a mod. I couldnt find a more appropriate place to post this. *shrug*


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 16, 2006, 03:53:36 PM
Hello, and welcome to the Forge.

You're right in that this post isn't quite in line with the forum functions here, but it's close. I've moved it to this forum so that you can describe some role-playing experiences of yours that give the foundation for your thoughts on The Pool. I recognize that's a bit of a stretch, or possibly an unfamiliar request. But the fact is, you're intrigued by the game, and some basis for that must exist back in your role-playing experiences at some point. If only through contrast, who knows.

So let us know about that - it doesn't have to be detailed or complicated, just say when, what system/rules were used, and what happened. Even just a paragraph or two. It's hard to explain why that will be useful for addressing your questions about The Pool, but it will be. We've seen that happen many, many times.

Anyway, you should also take a look at the Random Order Creations forum here in the Inactive Forums, which James West ran for a while. The Pool is no stranger to Forge members; many people here have played it, and modified it, and been influenced by it in their other game designs. I'm sure someone will post some links to some of the discussions of playing it as well, including such quantitative aspects as you are considering in your other debate.

Oh yes, as to that other debate - we can't get in-between anyone on that. No one here should say, "Hey Temple, you're right, here's why, go whack that guy Zeev with my big stick." Or anything like that. We can tell you what playing The Pool is like, and talk about various elements of its math, but I hope you can see that Zeev is just as welcome here as you, so I don't want the Forge to be some kind of weapon you'll use against him over there.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 16, 2006, 10:30:03 PM
Yeah, I was worried somebody might think that I was looking for innovative ways to pound Zeev.

Heh, the link to that discussion was added to give some insight into the problems Ive been made aware of with the Pool, not for the debate itself. While I understand that it might look like Im here to collect ammo, Im really not. What I want is some insight into the functions of The Pool from the people who use it the most. I thought I might find them here. That debate evolved rather quickly into something else entirely, and thats not really what Im here for.

As for the request for examples from play that have lead me to post this, Im a little unsure where to begin. Its really not that weird a request, but the problem is that Ive not yet playtested The Pool. While I could give some examples of other play situations where maths has been a problem for me, or where Ive found myself constrained by rules, but Im hard pressed to think of any at the moment.

What if I reformulate my question instad?
For example:

What are peoples experiences with The Pool? Has the low rate of success affected anyones play at all?


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 17, 2006, 07:47:33 AM
Hi there,

I'm gonna crack down a little, because I think you'll be surprised at the positive results.

Please post about any play-experience whatsoever that you have really done. It can be from ten years ago, it can be from yesterday. It can be any rules you ever used. It can be from a one-session game or a game which lasted many years. It doesn't matter, as long as you post about it, here, in this thread. I'll ask you a few questions about it.

With that as a comparison, I can tell you a lot about The Pool. But without that knowledge, I can't. Please trust me on this, and don't interpret it.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 17, 2006, 12:29:47 PM
Ok. I guess theres no harm in it, so Ill choose to trust you. This is going to be sort of stream of consciousness-ish.

Ive played mainly WoD games, enjoying the richness of the setting and the depth of personal drama. Well, I started out enjoying the black trenchcoats and katanas, but hey! I still think theyre sort of neat, when the mood strikes me.
These days, children and studies are seriously restricting my game time, and my regular players (my close friends that is) are not available. So I play only what I enjoy the most, and try to teach the hobby to new friends so we can enjoy it together. Its always interesting to see fresh gamers takes on roleplaying. They almost always end up surprising me, for better or worse.

My current group consists of a fairly close friend of mine, and two of her aquaintances, both of whom have some roleplaying experience.
The game I chose to play (since I am the one with all the books, and the only one who reads them outside character creation) is Wraith: The Oblivion. Strange choice? Maybe. It certainly can be a deep and involving game, and thats why I love it so much. The dual nature of Wraith characters, the intense roleplay it opens up for, the richnes of the setting is both cool to run and interesting to get to know. The more practical reason why I chose it is because it is one of those games that require almost no knowledge of the setting for the players. You make a character, preferably as detailed as you can manage, and then you die.
So I told them that Wraith was a game about ghosts, and told them that they could create whatever characters they desired, with the caveat that they al be connected in some way to an unspecified major university in New York who, for one reason or another, would choose to go on a guided tour of a local supposedly haunted manor house.
We ended up with Charlie, a professor of parapsychology (the player didnt specify much more than that; I suspect he isnt used to deep characters from the D&D games hes been in), a washed up artist named Theodore seeking inspiration for his next great work, and a workaholic student from a troubled home named Mina.

I had prepared some mood music beforehand (game soundtracks from the SIlent Hill games and American McGees Alice), and after the prelude-ish scene where they were guided around the mansion, being told about the history of the place by the guide and exeriencing some minor spooky stuff and ended with the players being killed by a falling chandeliere, I switched on the creepy music and started to explain the new world that slowly unfolded before them.

The whole session went very fluidly. After clawing their way through their Cauls (well, Mina clawed her way out and freed the others), the characters set about exploring the strange, dark and decaying world around them. Themusic helped set the mood, and when I described the bleak and rotting mansion that had been merely old and dusty before, you could see the fascination and horror in the players eyes; presumably mirroring what the charactes felt.

No dice were rolled in that first session, and I like it that way. They are a little unsire about the rules anyway, so keeping it dice-light at first is a good idea. And since I cope poorly with number-crunching in any case, Im kind of glad it didnt come up. I went with whatever ideas th eplayers came up with. Charlie, the professor, almost immediately put two and two together, and started experimenting a bit with his new state; which led me to the idea of giving them dots in whatever Arkanoi covered the feats they were trying to pull off (posessing people or objects, speking to the paramedics and police officers who were carrying away their bodies as they watched [great drama there by the way] and even levitation).

Since the other two players had made their characters beforehand, and designed each others Shadows, I took on the role of Charlies Shadowguide. I wasnt surprised that I was the only one to do any Shadowguiding that first session; the other two looked for opportunities, but none seemed to present themselves, or so they told me afterwards (my previous Wraith group didnt have this problem, throwing themselves into Shadowguiding with gleeful abandon, but I suspec this is because we were all very close friends).

The scenario I put them in, with the haunted mansion, is an old idea I ran to completion with my old Wraith group. I never run pre-planned scenarios, exactly. What I do is think of an idea, define the npcs and any relations between them, think up some ideas for a backstory and some future events that could be cool, and let the players add meat to the skeleton. I run with their ideas and suggestions, pick up their hints and wishes, and add my own flair and flavour to make it unexpected and unique to them. Sometimes I introduce new ideas they didnt expect or suggest, but I never railroad them or run them over with my plots.

Anywho, the session ended after they had met two of the ghosts who inhabit the Manor house; Major Hartwick, the houses original builder and owner, who died in the 1880s after his wife dissappeared (presumably running away after the Major killed her lover, a famous poet named Jack London who still hants the manors kitchen) and a mysterious little girl whom the major claims he has never heard of.

In future sessions, they will discover that the manor houses ghosts are being hainted themselves, by a mysterious masked figure in black who attacks both them and the house itself. This figure is the majors wife, Lillian Hartwick, come back to avenge her lovers murder. The young girl is the child of Lillian and Jack London, who was born after Lillian ran away and was raised by an oprhanage, now returned to find her long lost mother and father. Beyond this vague outline, and a few additional npcs with motivations of their own (an indian chief, a fighter pilot, a vampish jazz singer and a nervous priest), the actual plot is pretty much up to the players.

There, does that help any at all?


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: joepub on November 17, 2006, 04:15:52 PM
Hey "Temple".
Did you state your real name, or do you prefer to go by this handle? (Or is Temple your real name?)

The thing I found most useful in your post was this:
Quote
No dice were rolled in that first session, and I like it that way. They are a little unsire about the rules anyway, so keeping it dice-light at first is a good idea. And since I cope poorly with number-crunching in any case, Im kind of glad it didnt come up.

I don't have much to add in the way of The Pool, but want to ask you a few questions about this:

First of all, do you like it when the first session has little dice-rolling, or do you like it when ANY session has little dice-rolling? (ie, is this a tactic for establishing some character before getting caught up in mechanics, or is it an aversion to mechanics?)

Have you tried solely freeform gaming? Making it up, and either trusting GM Fiat or Consensus?
If not, what about freeform gaming doesn't appeal to you?
Actually... even if so, what about freeform gaming doesn't appeal to you, or is different than what you want in a mechanics-enforced game?

I have a few friends who have difficulty with, or aversion to, math. They don't think that adding, subtracting and calculating make for a fun hobby. Games which have tactile elements (chips, dice pools where the dice actually sit in a pile, coins, beads, boards with movement squares) are a lot easier and more fun for them, because they don't have to think in these difficult abstract modes.

Have you played (m)any games with a heavy tactile element? (this could be d&d with miniatures and a mat, Warhammer, Descent, games with a pool of dice, games with beads used to track damage, even games with lots of visuals.)

Is it dice and probability you like to avoid, or is it mechanics you like to avoid in general? Would a game that uses no probability or randomizers (karma-based games) be better suited to you?


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 17, 2006, 11:20:33 PM
Hey "Temple".
Did you state your real name, or do you prefer to go by this handle? (Or is Temple your real name?)

The thing I found most useful in your post was this:
Quote
No dice were rolled in that first session, and I like it that way. They are a little unsure about the rules anyway, so keeping it dice-light at first is a good idea. And since I cope poorly with number-crunching in any case, I'm kind of glad it didn't come up.

I don't have much to add in the way of The Pool, but want to ask you a few questions about this:

First of all, do you like it when the first session has little dice-rolling, or do you like it when ANY session has little dice-rolling? (IE, is this a tactic for establishing some character before getting caught up in mechanics, or is it an aversion to mechanics?)

Have you tried solely freeform gaming? Making it up, and either trusting GM Fiat or Consensus?
If not, what about freeform gaming doesn't appeal to you?
Actually... even if so, what about freeform gaming doesn't appeal to you, or is different than what you want in a mechanics-enforced game?

I have a few friends who have difficulty with, or aversion to, math. They don't think that adding, subtracting and calculating make for a fun hobby. Games which have tactile elements (chips, dice pools where the dice actually sit in a pile, coins, beads, boards with movement squares) are a lot easier and more fun for them, because they don't have to think in these difficult abstract modes.

Have you played (m)any games with a heavy tactile element? (this could be d&d with miniatures and a mat, Warhammer, Descent, games with a pool of dice, games with beads used to track damage, even games with lots of visuals.)

Is it dice and probability you like to avoid, or is it mechanics you like to avoid in general? Would a game that uses no probability or randomizers (karma-based games) be better suited to you?

Hi. No Temple is an internet handle Ive come to accept as my own. I do remember stating my real name when I registered, but maybe I hit a wrong button or something. Ill look into it.

Anywho, thanks for the reply!

Mechanics; I don't have an aversion to mechanics per se, but I tend to only roll dice when it is absolutely necessary (IE, when an action with an unclear outcome or a contest comes up). In part this is an aversion to maths, but general die-rolling isn't all that hard; simple addition and subtraction I'm OK with.
Mostly I was satisfied with it because a) it meant that we could focus more on roleplaying than die-rolling and b) because the players were new to the system and we got through the entire session without having to break the narrative flow to explain something.

About diceless systems and freeform; freeform roleplaying Ive never done, except as a kid playing make-believe. While I could definitely try it once or twice, I definitely think that having some form of support structure in the form of a conflict resolution system is a better way of playing. Ive never tried Karma-based systems, mostly because Ive not had the opportunity. But I like randomized elements. It lends some uncertainty to conflict resolution, and surprises are always good to jog the imagination.
That and I don't think my current players would be happy with just sitting around a table talking, with no dice or anything. I think they might feel uncomfortable without any buffers. Maybe I would as well, come to think of it.

Ive played some D&D with miniatures, but never took to it. I felt it made the game more a tactical wargame than a roleplaying game.


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Andrew Morris on November 18, 2006, 12:16:18 AM
Skjalg, I think Joe is talking about tactile elements, not tactical. For example, instead of marking off numbers to track your PC's health, you might have a colored band, and you move a marker from color to color to represent the damage. Or having piles of poker chips that you can "spend" to do certain things. Stuff like that.


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 18, 2006, 12:54:33 AM
Skjalg, I think Joe is talking about tactile elements, not tactical. For example, instead of marking off numbers to track your PC's health, you might have a colored band, and you move a marker from color to color to represent the damage. Or having piles of poker chips that you can "spend" to do certain things. Stuff like that.

I was working on the mention of D&D and Warhammer.


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 18, 2006, 02:20:22 PM
Hi Temple,

Sorry about my delay in replying, after you complied so nicely in your post. Great post, too.

Please feel free to include your real name in your posts, via your signature or just telling us. The register process at the Forge doesn't make it publicly available. The reason you're seeing Joe and I encourage it here is that internet handles tend to become personas, across many sites, that people like to develop or even hide behind. This can happen without the person really planning on it. On the average, I've observed that discussions are more honest and rewarding when people know one another's real names. By saying this, I am making no claims about you personally and your use of "Temple," but talking about the average effects across the internet (and here), and why you're getting what may seem to be a weird focus on that issue in this thread.

I'm quoting a couple of bits from your post but in reverse order; I'm pretty sure this doesn't interfere with the points you made.

Quote
The scenario I put them in, with the haunted mansion, is an old idea I ran to completion with my old Wraith group. I never run pre-planned scenarios, exactly. What I do is think of an idea, define the npcs and any relations between them, think up some ideas for a backstory and some future events that could be cool, and let the players add meat to the skeleton. I run with their ideas and suggestions, pick up their hints and wishes, and add my own flair and flavour to make it unexpected and unique to them. Sometimes I introduce new ideas they didnt expect or suggest, but I never railroad them or run them over with my plots.

Solid! This tells me a lot and lets me know that you are very well-prepared for the primary approach to play for which The Pool is best suited. I'm stating this up-front so you can see why I'm supporting your interest in the game and why I'd like to help you understand it better.

Quote
No dice were rolled in that first session, and I like it that way. They are a little unsire about the rules anyway, so keeping it dice-light at first is a good idea.

Your first task in playing The Pool is going to be learning to love the dice. It's possible, and this is why: because the most functional principles for using the dice in this game are:

1. When characters (NPC, PC, both, either) face any kind of conflict of interest, always roll the dice. No exceptions.

2. When characters (NPC, PC, both, either) do not face such a conflict of interest, never roll the dice, just proceed by mutual agreement of what happens.

With respect, I suggest that not only your role-playing history as you've described it, but also all the dialogue about role-playing in the context of that history, has been entirely at right-angles to this mode of play that I'm describing (it's called "conflict resolution" but never mind that now). I will even go so far as to say that your debate with Zeev is ... well, irrelevant, and probably would be best abandoned. If you're thinking of rolling dice as a function of succeeding at a task ("task resolution"), then The Pool is so off the radar screen from the get-go, that any discussion of it is guaranteed to mean little, or nothing.

The dice in The Pool do resolve the outcome of that conflict of interest. If you say "I seize the crown!" and he (NPC) says, "No, I do!" and you get a 1 ... why, you get the crown. But it's not the task that was resolved, it's the conflict of interest, and especially in The Pool, the designated narrator has huge, huge privileges of deciding just how it happens, if he or she chooses to exercise them.

I am 90% confident, given your description of the Wraith game, that you have always achieved conflict resolution in your games by avoiding the dice. Given the so-called Storyteller resolution system, bluntly, that makes sense - it is grossly unsuited to any such purpose (which incidentally is why I say "so-called"). Anyone actually interested in creating stories via conflict resolution during play is going to find that its dice-system is nothing but a source of distraction and annoyance.

But in using The Pool, I suggest that its dice-system - should you trust and embrace it - will be a wonderful and willing partner for you and everyone at the table for just those things that you have been achieving through fiat and dialogue. Not only that, you will find they add a "springboard" effect during play which I won't go into now.
I don't expect you to believe me at this point. But with that notion in mind, here's what I'd like to do in the next phase of dialogue in this thread - ask you a couple of questions about the Wraith game, and then show you how they might have been handled by using The Pool instead.

Q: Were there any conflicts among PCs about what to do or anything at all? I don't mean fights, I mean conflicts of interest that really had to go one way or another (i.e. a fight is such a conflict, but only one sort). Were there any such conflicts between PCs and Major Hartwick and the little girl? And finally, were there any investigations or whatever that you as GM said didn't work rather than allowed?

Q: If there weren't any such things in the session you described, then I ask that you do describe some scene or event in a related session, either with this group, or with the group that you ran the same set-up for previously.

And after that, we can get around to discussing the numbers, the percentages, and all that stuff.

Best, Ron

edited to fix some quoting formats


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 18, 2006, 03:12:45 PM
Thanks for the thorough reply Ron. Im really glad Im getting this kind of response, because it is helping me look deeper into the intentions behind The Pool, and see how it might affect play even without playtesting it.

About your questions, there was one episode that sort of matches your description:

I mentioned that I allowed the characters to learn Arkanoi (ghostly powers) by experimenting with their newfound state, either by acident (such as Mina trying to talk to a police officer, ending up finally getting a whisper through the Shroud to him while shouting in horrified frustration, and thus learning the first level of Embody) or by design (such as Charlie the professor, who intentionally attempted to slide his ghostly body into both an object and a person, thereby developing the first levels of the Inhabit and Puppetry Arkanoi).
Well, naturally the character most inclined to this type of experimentation was Charlie. As he learned more and more about his ghostly nature and its powers and limitations, he grew hungry for more knowledge (very in tune with his concept), and kept on experimenting.
At one point, during a scene in the library when the characters first met the Major, Charlie attempted to affect a book in the Skinlands, trying to move it around. At this point it dawned on me that while this type of experimentation was perfectly in character for Charlie, the player was trying to milk me for powers, seeing how far he could push it and how many powers he could develop.
Worried that he might steal the show from the other two players, I decided that Charlie just didnt have the capacity in him for Outrage (the Arkanos in question); Outrage requires a lot of internal anger, and Charlie was more of a calm, cool and reserved character in any case, so the justification was easy. I felt sort of bad about restricting his character like that, but I really wanted to keep the focus off the powers and on the characters themselves. As the player in questions only exposure to roleplaying before that was D&D, I suspected he was falling back on old habits.

Was that what you had in mind?


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 20, 2006, 07:45:30 AM
Hi there,

This is a good example of pure GM desires being applied as pure GM power over what happens in its entirety. It's a skill that serves a person well when (a) it's not at all clear when dice need to be brought into a not-dice-yet situation, and (b) some particular action on someone's part seems to be deviating away from what the GM wants to reinforce as the shared agenda of play.

(I'm using GM here only as a place-holder that suits this situation; in many cases, a non-GM could be doing the same thing via a number of social mechanisms. So for people reading this, let's not get all hung up on "proper GMing" and "my GM would never" and any of that stuff. Please focus on the authority, the interaction, and the techniques of application.)

I'm going to say something now that might seem entirely cuckoo to you. It is that this particular approach and technique is, in the long run, counter-productive. We can talk about why I say this later. Here, I said it may seem cuckoo because any veteran of White Wolf games (as well as its system-antecedents, Shadowrun and Champions mainly) knows that play can break down fast over both (a) and (b) above. So the decision to exert a kind of Unseen Hand over such things, bypassing the dice to deal with (a) and simultaneously demonstrating what will and will not work in-game as a signal to manage (b), plays out functionally in comparison.

This insight, or reaction, or technique, whatever, is part of the big diceless fad that started up around 1990, and it's at the heart of the roll/role dichotomy that seems so sensible upon first encounter, especially to folks with the play-history of the games I'm talking about.

But to understand and enjoy The Pool, you have to throw all of that out the window. Without debating about it, let's say that technique isn't satisfactory for many reasons, and we're backing all the way up to the fundamental notions about role-playing to arrive at an entirely different approach.

Let's say I was the GM for a group playing a highly-equivalent scenario, with all the same colorful and setting elements, using The Pool instead. The guy playing Charlie is pushing me a bit ... now, the system is a little different, because the players have the characters' abilities right there on their sheets. I know! This makes it the same. Let's say they all have "ghost powers" and don't really know how far those powers go in play, and furthermore, that you as GM are planning to have each one fine-tune his or her powers into individual subsets through use. That's a slight derivation of the Pool rules, but not a hard one to imagine.

Well, here's the guy playing Charlie, and let's say it's clear that he's figured out that if he does X, then it's likely that his "ghost powers" will include X. I'm not likin' this as GM ... I don't want any kind of power-struggle going on, and I'd prefer everyone to be soaking up and revelling in the powers they discover rather than trying to expand their scope by pushing me personally. So far, so good?

I'll tell ya, I have the same impulse you did - if he wants limits, I'll give him limits, right? "It doesn't work." "You can't do that." And so on ... the problem with this is that you really don't have authority to do this (no one ever does) and might have actually entered into a form of brinkmanship. You might even have touched off a competitive spark that wasn't there before, and the player will be motivated to find just how arbitrary you're prepared to be, and hence will push you again ... and again ... and again. Even if this doesn't happen, this kind of decision is often tiring, and you might find yourself controlling the story in exactly the way you said you didn't want (that is very important!).

So I'm going to back way up, like I said. And here's what I'd do as an experienced Pool GM: I'd say "that's a conflict," and I'd call for the player to roll. Basically, I'd be playing the world, i.e., the Skinlands' tendency not to want ghosts to exist. This may be considered a character in The Pool, if you can wrap your head around that. I figure all the characters have to deal with being ghosts, right? That's kind of a conflict-laden issue right there, so when they push it, and try to affect the world like people would, they gotta roll. Works for me.

Could he win? Sure! Then he gets to move small Skinlands items around. Could he keep winning? Maybe he'll become a pretty powerful ghost, right? But that's OK ... because now, the dice may trip him up sooner or later, and you as GM are willing to work with that character insofar as he gets as powerful as he will get.

See the difference? He's taking a risk with his actions, that gets established and resolved via the dice. You have a little say here in terms of how many Gift Dice he gets, which I presume will start high and decrease down to zero, perhaps with each attempt. So at that time he risks failing the conflict with each try ... and you know, in The Pool, failing a conflict isn't just a "stop" point - it's a resolved conflict, which you get to narrate. Think about that one for a minute.

The neat thing here is that the dice are acting as equal constraints on both of you. No matter what, succeed or failure, and whoever narrates, you will know whether this ghost can do that thing he tried to do, and the immediate consequences of the attempt are now available as a springboard for whatever scene you as GM will be offering next. No power struggle, no hassles, no disruption of play, and no need for you to exert a kind of uber-decision-making that can wear you out and destroy the story-in-action by calling you in as supreme ghost-author (no pun intended).

Does this make any sense?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 20, 2006, 08:34:44 AM
Yes, actually it does make sense. Perfect sense in fact.

Now, I dont want to open up another issue with the "White Wolf gamers play the games wrong" thing; in part because thats not what this thread is about (by a long shot), and in part because I know thats not what youre saying. My knee-jerk rection would be to protest, but I actually understand what youre saying, and even find myself agreeing to a certain extent that there are other and possibly better ways of letting the rules and the story interact than having one blatantly overrun the other.

I get what youre saying about the world becoming a characte (odd way of phrasing it, but I get it). Reading a lot of Dogs In The Vineyard actual play threads (Ive developed a keen interest in both Dogs and My Life With Master) helped me visualise this concept, by showing that conflict between the player and the environment can take the same form as conflict between a player and an NPC/other player. I actually think this is very good way of thinking about and resolving issues like this.

However:

Quote
But to understand and enjoy The Pool, you have to throw all of that out the window. Without debating about it, let's say that technique isn't satisfactory for many reasons, and we're backing all the way up to the fundamental notions about role-playing to arrive at an entirely different approach.

I had some problems with this statement, and what followed it. Not because I felt it was wrong, or because it undermined any perconcieved notions I might have on roleplaying, but because I didnt actually see what was so revolutionary and new about the example you provided me with. The example made perfect sense to me, while this paragraph of yours made me think I was going to have to struggle to wrap my mind around some alien concept or other.
Am I not understanding what you are saying?


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 20, 2006, 08:49:27 AM
Hi there,

I forgot to include my usual disclaimer that "you," in the post, isn't really you because I have no idea where you're actually coming from. So we both have to imagine a kind of intermediary "you" who doesn't understand either of us very well, and needs a lot of supportive help or who might harbor the least-helpful assumptions for whatever point might be at hand. When you, the real person, doesn't need that or is already one step ahead of the point, then all the support-text or you-text can be bypassed.

Does that work?

I also appreciate your suppressing the defensive response regarding the Storyteller system. It's not your problem, and it's not my problem, to protect them against criticism, and as you say, I'm not saying anything profoundly awful about it anyway. My points are all relative to your stated desires in play, and if what I say is reasonably accurate in that context, then we can work from there. (This paragraph is mainly directed to third-party readers.)

If so, then I think we're totally on the same page about my point so far, which is that what the dice are doing is simply not the same as "does he open the safe" and similar task-based dice issues in the Storyteller system. Now we can talk about numbers and probabilities.

Best, Ron

P.S. One request - you have probably noticed that usually some time passes between my posts. That's because I'm trying to cope with several threads, many Adept Press hassles including international travel, and publishing concerns, all in addition to my professional obligations of other sorts. So ... my request is that you hold off on posting right away, as (through no fault of your own) it's kind of stressful to get a bang-quick response every time I post. When I post to thing A, it's much easier to be able to concentrate on the other things for a while instead. So here at the Forge, please let the slower person set the pace of response.


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 20, 2006, 01:43:14 PM
Hi there,

I forgot to include my usual disclaimer that "you," in the post, isn't really you because I have no idea where you're actually coming from. So we both have to imagine a kind of intermediary "you" who doesn't understand either of us very well, and needs a lot of supportive help or who might harbor the least-helpful assumptions for whatever point might be at hand. When you, the real person, doesn't need that or is already one step ahead of the point, then all the support-text or you-text can be bypassed.

Does that work?

That works perfectly. I assumed you were referring to me personally, so thanks for clearing that up.

Quote
P.S. One request - you have probably noticed that usually some time passes between my posts. That's because I'm trying to cope with several threads, many Adept Press hassles including international travel, and publishing concerns, all in addition to my professional obligations of other sorts. So ... my request is that you hold off on posting right away, as (through no fault of your own) it's kind of stressful to get a bang-quick response every time I post. When I post to thing A, it's much easier to be able to concentrate on the other things for a while instead. So here at the Forge, please let the slower person set the pace of response.

Sure thing! Ill try to reply no more than once a day. [tounge i cheek]But.. You do know that nobody is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to reply to my posts quickly, right? [/tounge in cheek]


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 21, 2006, 05:19:39 AM
Hello,

Let's go all the way back to your original query then, about the numbers.

The issue is whether

Quote
the system was biased towards failiure, and that the huge punishments for failiure (loosing gambled dice) were not offset by the rewards for success (gaining a die or an MoV).

Well, in general I'm not even inclined to answer. The person hasn't played The Pool, it is possibly the single most likely system not to behave as one might expect at first reading, or any amount of reading in the absence of play. All my preliminary questions and points above are framed in order to show that what is being rolled about is totally different from what most role-players are use to. But since I'm taking this question in the spirit of you asking it, and in this case I really mean the real you, I'll see what I can do.

1. The system is generally biased toward success, assuming a couple of things which seem to be consistent from group to group. The first thing is that the GM tends to give out Gift Dice, and the second is that players reasonably gravitate toward conflicts which favor their characters' Traits. So with many rolls, there's often a few dice right there with their own intrinsic chance of showing at least one 1, without any gambling of Pool dice yet.

Side point - I've found that when I, as GM with this game, do not provide Gift dice, then the excitement level rises, mainly because I use 1-2 Gift dice as a default, and also because if something's not a conflict of interest among the characters, then we don't bother to roll. So a non-Gifted roll is quantitatively noteworthy, in the games I run.

2. If one is inclined to think specifically in terms of maximum chances for success for any given roll, then the correct tactic is to gamble all of one's Pool dice as well, maximally, with each roll (Mike Holmes pointed this out). If you start with a Pool of 4 or so dice, and gamble fully each time, then, in addition to the Gift dice, the system is actually heavily biased toward success.

Side point - the reason this tactic doesn't actually get applied as often as one might think is that not all conflicts are equal. Players reasonably and unpredictably judge when they want to reserve some or all of their Pool dice for later, relative to the conflict at hand. The decision-making about this is one of the great beauties of the game because it's not about maximizing the current microsecond of success.

Let me know if any of this makes sense.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Andrew Cooper on November 21, 2006, 06:45:37 AM
Ron,

You and Temple are having a really cool two way conversation going.  I've got a couple of Actual Play examples that tie in to what you are saying but I don't want to interrupt if you and he are still in one on one mode.  Should I wait for another day or two or is it okay with you if I post right now?



Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 21, 2006, 11:08:31 AM
@Ron

Thanks, thats a really neat way of looking at The Pool and success that would have never occured to me. Seeing as youve played The Pool and I havent, Im trusting you on the issue of The Pool behaving differently than one might think upon first read; your examples seem very accurate, and they make sense base don how I understand and interpret The Pool. Still, its a breath of fresh air that has really renewed my interest in this novel system.
Seeing how the system is geaered towards conflict resolution instead of task resolution is very cool, and has really made me think about other systems I know and use (like the WoD). Im finding that I have been very inconcisten in the past, alternating between conflict- and task-based resolution almost at random. Now that Im aware of this, I can begin to analyze and change the way I play.
This is a very good feeling, and part of why I decided to start posting on the Forge to begin with.


@Andrew

I dont know about Ron, but I dont have anything against seeing additional examples of The Pool at work. Thats what this thread is about after all, and further examples could serve to heighten my understanding of The Pool. Additionally, I dont think Im the first person with questions like this, and so this thread can serve another educational purpose. *shrug*


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Darren Hill on November 21, 2006, 11:43:00 AM
The Pool is one of my favouite systems. To add to Ron's comments about probability: you only need to be rolling 4 dice to have over 50% chance of success, but even if you're rolling 10 dice, you still have a reasonable chance of failure. There is a bias towards success.

However, there is another element to this. A lot of players are used to making rolls where each individual roll often decides very little, but the system is set up so that over a sequence of rolls, success is almost guaranteed. Take D&D, where the adventure guidelines indicate that the PCs should win nearly every fight, but the attrition over several encounters is what matters. Many GMs in many game systems set up routinely encounters which the players are expected to win, but it's playing through those encounters that provide the fun.
The Pool is very different to such systems - even if you bump the dice up to 10 and have only a 16% failure chance, the fact that that one roll will decide things one way or another can be nerve-wracking to many players, leading them to argue that the game is biased towards failure. Because for many players, any failure is unacceptable - or at least unfamiliar. Plus, their GMs might not be experienced in handling the 'failures' that the Pool will generate in interesting ways.

(I put 'failures' in quotes, because in The Pool, a failed roll is an opportunity - it's a good thing, not a bad thing.)


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 21, 2006, 12:55:18 PM
[snip] in The Pool, a failed roll is an opportunity - it's a good thing, not a bad thing.

This is what I feel is the beauty of narrativist systems in general and The Pool specifically. To me, this is a whole new way of looking at and understanding roleplaying, and I am thoroughly loving it!


Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Andrew Cooper on November 22, 2006, 09:43:08 AM
Skalg,

When I played The Pool with my group (all of whom are pretty serious D&D fans), here's what tended to happen.  When the game first started, they would roll and risk few or no dice.  If they won, they almost always took another die and let me narrate the outcomes.  As the game went on two things happened.  1.) The situation developed more and more and the players became more invested in it.  2.) The players saw that winning a Conflict really wasn't difficult but that they almost never got exactly what they wanted from the resolution when I narrated.  Thus, during the last half of the game my players tended to risk all but 1 or 2 of their pool of dice and then opted for MoV instead of more dice.  This tended to make them almost always win and they added cool stuff to the narration.  However, the one or two failures made for some pretty spectacular results too.  Losing 9 dice should be significant after all.

The key thing to remember about The Pool is that the dice don't really indicate anything about how powerful or skilled a character is or is not.  They indicate how important a given character is in determining the direction of the story at any given time.  This is a departure from most traditional games and requires and change in how the player thinks about his resources (dice).



Title: Re: The Pool; some concerns and question.
Post by: Temple on November 22, 2006, 02:36:29 PM
Skalg,

When I played The Pool with my group (all of whom are pretty serious D&D fans), here's what tended to happen.  When the game first started, they would roll and risk few or no dice.  If they won, they almost always took another die and let me narrate the outcomes.  As the game went on two things happened.  1.) The situation developed more and more and the players became more invested in it.  2.) The players saw that winning a Conflict really wasn't difficult but that they almost never got exactly what they wanted from the resolution when I narrated.  Thus, during the last half of the game my players tended to risk all but 1 or 2 of their pool of dice and then opted for MoV instead of more dice.  This tended to make them almost always win and they added cool stuff to the narration.  However, the one or two failures made for some pretty spectacular results too.  Losing 9 dice should be significant after all.

The key thing to remember about The Pool is that the dice don't really indicate anything about how powerful or skilled a character is or is not.  They indicate how important a given character is in determining the direction of the story at any given time.  This is a departure from most traditional games and requires and change in how the player thinks about his resources (dice).




Thanks for that reassuring insight Andrew. Its little tidbits like this that makes me so interested in The Pool. It seems the system reinforces the narrative wonderfully, encouraging participation in the story while at the same time regulating which players get to take centre stage. Im looking more and more forward to playing with it!