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Independent Game Forums => glyphpress => Topic started by: Morte on February 19, 2008, 12:21:57 PM



Title: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 19, 2008, 12:21:57 PM
Hi, I've been reading through Shock 1.1 getting ready to play my first game on Sunday. There are a few things I'd like to clarify.

1.   Can more than one player address the same issue? It doesn’t say they can’t but there is only one space on the grid.

2.   Fallout for Failure on p37 says “if your protagonist is the character who just lost, give hir a new feature etc etc”. What does “lost” mean? Is it that they failed to achieve their intent, or that they failed and the antagonist succeeded, or something else?

3.   p38 “This Result Sucks” says “Start a new conflict with the same Intent as the Conflict you just lost, but without rerolling the audience’s remaining dice”. What’s the meaning of “remaining”? What are they “remaining” from? Are you talking about the same audience involvement as on p35, where whichever audience rolled highest could modify one *tagonist’s success with minutiae? If so does “without rerolling” imply that whoever won last time can also modify this time, and you don’t reroll to choose a different audience member? Or do the audience just not get involved at all when links are at stake?

4.   When/how do you “regain lost links”? P39 says “Later, if circumstances change immediately, you can regain a lost link”; would you do that by e.g. making it your intent in a conflict? E.g. you lose the “God is my strength link”, put “god owes me an explanation” in its place, then what? How do you “regain” after that?

Any help much appreciated.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on February 19, 2008, 01:58:57 PM
Hi, Morte,

OK, one at a time:

1: Yes, more than one Protag can address and Issue. Just write the other player's name in the same box.
2: That means that they lost their own Intent. If the Antagonist won, that's not the same thing.
3: Let's say there are four of us playing: you, me, Emily, and Eppy. I'm playing your Antagonist. We roll and Emily uses her Minutia die to make you lose. You risk a Feature to get to reroll and we do. Eppy can now use his Minutia die to affect the outcome, but Emily can't because she already used hers up.
4: Naw, it's much simpler than that. You always have two Links. When you risk one and lose it, it comes back as something new. Most of the time, it's an evolution of the previous one. "My children" becomes "my estranged children" for instance.

Cool?


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 19, 2008, 03:07:37 PM
1/2/4 are cool, thanks. As for 3, it means I've completely misunderstood the whole audience minutiae thing. Going back to try and make sense of it...


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on February 19, 2008, 03:11:01 PM
OK. Lemme know if you need further clarification.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 20, 2008, 10:05:17 AM
Now for the “playing the audience” thing... The rules are split, there are some on p35 under “If your *tagonist is not involved in this conflict” and a different set on p64 under “Playing the Audience”. They aren’t mutually exclusive, so I figure the union set of the two applies.

Let me work through this through with an example. Stop me when I go wrong.

Say the issues are “the rich have more options” and “fear of death”, and the shock is some new application of stem cells that could reverse ageing and many diseases. Minutiae have established that it’s illegal, half the country wants it and the other half think it’s the herald of the apocalypse, and the government who banned it are working on it in secret. The protagonist player has the story goal “overcome my fear of imminent death”, and the protagonist’s features include (a) being pretty broke and (b) an accelerated ageing disease that will shortly cripple and kill him. He has a link to a respectable campaign group who want to legalise the stem cell research.

Now he tries to break into a lab and steal some macguffin juice, there’s a conflict, and his intent is “I steal a vial of the cell rejuvenation serum and treat myself with it”. Rolls are made, his best d10 succeeds on praxis, and the antagonist’s highest d4 isn’t quite enough to stop that. So far, he’s sitting pretty.

Now p35/65 say the audience (Groucho, Chico, and Harpo) all roll d4s, let’s say they get 3/2/1. Groucho’s 3 is enough to make the protagonist fail if (and only if) it’s used as well as the antagonist’s highest d4. Groucho doesn’t have to get involved, but he wants to bring “the rich have more options” into this. So he shifts the protagonist’s d10 to the failing side of the fulcrum and creates some minutiae: “the serum must be injected directly into certain brain centres, after drilling holes in the skull, a process requiring delicate and expensive brain surgery”.

Now back on p35 it says this result will stand if either (a) nobody has any strong objections or (b) at least one person really likes it. Is that “one person” any one person at the table, or any person apart from the Groucho (who presumably likes it since he proposed it), or any other audience member, or something else?

Anyhow, assume it got past the boo/cheer test and Groucho made the protagonist fail.

The protagonist player really wanted to win that one, so he decides to go again risking a link. His new intent is “I steal a vial of the cell rejuvenation serum, and some research files I will sell to pay for the treatment. If the money-grabbing theft is discovered it will get me kicked out of the campaign group, because stealing for money will harm their image.” He rolls again, and again he beats the antagonist.

The audience d4s are still on the table. Groucho has used his, so it’s Chico’s turn with a 2. It happens his 2 is enough to make the protagonist fail again on this new set of praxis rolls. So he could do it again if the table allows, and maybe the protagonist would risk his other link, and then maybe Harpo would be interfering with the third set of Praxis rolls if a 1 were enough. But actually Chico’s happy to let the protagonist player get what he wants, so he changes nothing.

Is any of this right?


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on February 20, 2008, 10:45:26 AM
This is right in spirit, but there are some pitfalls:

1: Intents should never really say "and". That gets very confusing. "I inject myself with the serum" is your Intent. All the breaking in stuff we can find out about as we play stuff out, either before or after.

2: The Antagonist *must* use hir biggest d4. It's not an option. I'm not sure if you're sayng it is, but it's not.

3: Groucho is acting correctly. The boo/cheer test is the right way to think about it. The rules assume that you like what you said yourself. The rule is for getting others to buy in or at least trust that you can make the idea enjoyable.

4: When you risk a Link, the Intent is the same, but the relationship to that Link is also implicitly risked. You are correct that Groucho has already used his dice and Chico and Harpo's 1 and 2. Chico's decision is correct and legal.

Cool?


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 20, 2008, 11:30:45 AM
1: Intents should never really say "and". That gets very confusing. "I inject myself with the serum" is your Intent. All the breaking in stuff we can find out about as we play stuff out, either before or after.

So let's say the antagonist is "the government's desire to keep the research program secret". Our protagonist found out about the lab in a previous scene. The protagonist player describes sneaking up to the wire and cutting it, the antagonist talks about dogs, the protagonists throws poison meat, they spin a story (without mechanics intervening) for a while. Eventually the antagonist player decides that he's not just letting the protagonist player narrate his way to success, it's time to throw down. And at this point the protagonist player formally states his intent as "to inject the serum", which is the crucial thing he wants, and the antagonist states some intent too. That gets mechanically resolved with praxis and whatnot, and they can create whatever narrative they like that's consistent with the dice results and the stated intents. [And maybe the audience chip in with their d4(s).]

Is this how it all works?

Quote
2: The Antagonist *must* use hir biggest d4. It's not an option. I'm not sure if you're sayng it is, but it's not.

Yep, got that.

Quote
3: Groucho is acting correctly. The boo/cheer test is the right way to think about it. The rules assume that you like what you said yourself. The rule is for getting others to buy in or at least trust that you can make the idea enjoyable.

So if anybody else at the table strongly agrees with what the participating audience member used their dice to do, it stands? And that includes the *tagonist players (one of whom may benefit/suffer), it's not just a poll of the other audience members?

Quote
4: When you risk a Link, the Intent is the same, but the relationship to that Link is also implicitly risked.

So the protagonist player would leave the "which will" clause out of their stated intent. If it happens that they fail on the second attempt, they need change their link. So they might change it to "publicly disowned the campaign group" and narrate the business about stealing for money being bad PR.

Quote
Cool?

Getting there. :)


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on February 20, 2008, 06:13:58 PM
Quote
So let's say the antagonist is "the government's desire to keep the research program secret".

Nope, the Antagonist is the Government. What the Antag player wants is to actively prevent the Protagonist from meeting hir Story Goal — apparently to out the research program.

Antagonists are people and institutions of people.

Now, to your actual question 1: it sounds like once you've gotten to the point of cutting the wire, it's clear what your Intent is. Everything else can follow from what the dice say you have to do. So, uh, basically, yeah. Just, as soon as you're doing something that the Antagonist doesn't want, say what you want, and the Antag player will say what zie wants.

3: Correct.

4: Correct.

It sounds like you understand it, to me!


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 21, 2008, 04:30:33 AM
I think I'm about there.

I wrote myself a rules summary (http://www.joel-benford.co.uk/posts/ShockRulesSummary.zip) / quick reference to use at the game. It might be useful to other people.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 25, 2008, 03:57:03 PM
We played yesterday. This was our very first bash at one of these newfangled “story games”, after a couple of years of “PCs make skill checks to tackle adventure run by GM” style play in Traveller, Conspiracy X, 2300AD, Star Wars, There Is No Spoon, CoC and whatnot. And on the whole a good time was had, with some caveats. Everybody seems eager to work the kinks out and go again.

Although Shock isn’t GMd as such, I was the one who pitched it to the group and undertook to master the rules and bring some sample shocks/issues/etc. I gave everybody my quick reference rules before the game, when we got there I think two of the four players had some grasp of the system and I explained it for everybody else.

We started out to choose issues then shocks as per the book. An issue that sparked some real disagreement between players was “Freedom of Information”, and it seemed like a good idea to use something that would get people going. I’d brought “the use of foreign mercenaries”, e.g. the French Foreign Legion or British Brigade of Ghurkas. That morphed into “use of expendables”, which reminded somebody of penal units, which turned into a proto-shock “mind wiped penal units”, which got generalised to “conditioning to servitude”. The idea being that there is some sort of brainwashing which makes people obey orders, with anticipated minutiae that it gets used to turn convicts into soldiers.

So we had the issues “freedom of information” (because players were fired up about it) and “use of expendables” because it seemed interesting and relevant to the shock “conditioning to servitude”. We needed one more issue to obey the “everybody owns one shock or issue” rule, and eventually plucked “the needs of the many versus the needs of the few” off the candidates. That one got pretty much ignored in the game, even though two players were nominally addressing it. Looking back, I think we could have made more effort to get shocks and issues that could interact in interesting ways (e.g. my earlier stem cell example was calculated to function like that). And we shouldn’t have worried about the number, especially since the ownership thing was a bit of a bust in practice (more later).

Then we got into who owned/addressed which issues. I think most of us got the wrong idea, and plumped for owning the issue we really cared about when we should have been playing a protagonist who addressed it. [There was advice about that in the book, but I either forgot to repeat it or got trampled in the rush.] Certainly, a few hours later when it was all over, we all thought we should have done it differently.

Next, starting minutiae:
-   It’s Britain in 2015 or so.
-   The Labour Party is the only legal party. All army officers and police are party members.
-   Gordon Brown has assumed the position of Lord Protector, with a theocratic flavour.
-   Some senior officials have been secretly conditioned.
-   Europe is split over how to react to the totalitarian direction Britain is taking. The controversy will probably increase with Tony Blair’s inauguration as president of Europe.
-   Penal legions are an important part of warfare.
-   Sedition is a crime punishable by conditioning.
-   Members of Parliament and their associates have conditioned servants, this is not public knowledge.
-   More and more crimes are being reclassified as punishable by conditioning, to meet increasing demand for conditionees.
-   The government illegally interferes with reporting of the conditioning issue.
-   The conditioning program is run by the Department of Justice. That’s Department, not Ministry – there is only one ministry and that is the ministry of God.
-   The conditioning process is reversible, but this information is suppressed and the reversal process is the state’s most closely guarded secret.
-   Conditioning is painful/traumatic, but the world is told that it’s "nice and fluffy".
-   About 0.1% of conditionings fail, without the conditioner knowing.
 
Looking back, there’s a heck of a lot of minutiae about the government there. It caught the other players’ imagination (I don’t follow British politics) and exploded. It almost amounts to a second shock “one party state led by a Presbyterian socialist”, that kind of sneaked in without going on the grid. It got about as much talk time as the nominal shock while we were playing. I’m not sure whether this was a good or bad thing.


So now we had a setting we chose a protagonist each and picked features and links. We got a traditionalist army officer unhappy about commanding conditioned troops, a BBC reporter who wanted to reveal that conditioned troops are abused as cannon fodder, the head of security for the conditioning programme, and the Lord Protector Gordon Brown.

So, then we went for Praxis scales. Nobody had much idea about this, we pretty much picked a couple that sounded cool from my examples. We went for “Confrontation/Deception” and “Fight/Flight”. [I’d actually dreamed up these two as a pair, the scales I’d use to play Bladerunner.] The first seemed to work well, it was broadly applicable. The other didn’t seem relevant all that often for the *tagonists in this game. And ISTM they were both narrowed versions of “tough” vs “not tough”; in particular “fight” was redundant with “confrontation”. Next time we should go for scales that have less to do with each other.


We picked and fleshed out antagonists. That gave us:

Richard (addressing Needs of Many vs Few) playing 1st Lt Thomas Beckett, an army officer who is against conditioning but commands a company of the First West London Volunteers comprised mostly of conditioned penal troops. His story goal is “to die getting the truth out”. His links are “the army” and the respect of his father (a retired major). He’s opposed by his commanding officer, a hardliner who thinks the conditioned are expendable criminal scum, played by...

Marc (addressing Use of Expendables) playing Tim Drake, a BBC TV reporter embedded with the First West London Volunteers in Ulster. His story goal is “to get a true story about the penal legion out”. His links are his BBC editor Eddy, and a lover who works for CNN called Lisa. His antagonist is the censor at the BBC, played by...

Joel (addressing Freedom of Information) playing Gavin Curren who is the security chief of the conditioning programme. Joel’s story goal for his protagonist is “to join the other side”. Links are “the respect of his son who lectures in media studies” and “his support for the one party”. His antagonist is the Free Information Society, a network/media hacking coalition of free information activists played by...

Greg (addressing Needs of Many vs Few) playing – wait for it – Gordon Brown who is head of the one party government. His story goal is “to build a great Britain again”. Links are “religious morals” and “the backing of his party”. His antagonist is the United Liberty Party, a  non-violent group based in Ireland who work mostly by putting funds into the right hands, played by Richard (at the top).

I’m not sure whether Greg chose Gordon Brown before or after we got all that minutiae.

Looking at this with my regular GM/player hat on, it screams “power imbalance”. As Richard put it, we were “level 3, level 3, level 10, and level 20”. But I figured that shouldn’t matter much in a game like Shock where everybody gets the same number of features/dice and the same amount of screen time whatever their power in the setting. And so it turned out, pretty much. Perhaps my backroom boy felt a bit insignificant sat between the Prime Minister and the journalist who was getting stuff splashed all over the BBC and CNN. But it was no biggie; it worked about a thousand times better than it would have in any other game system I’ve used. And we can always make an effort to create equally dramatic (not powerful, dramatic) characters in future.

I think we mostly got the wrong idea about antagonists. We took the one-liner description from the protagonist player and then went into RPG-as-wargame “build and play the deadliest opponent I can manage” mode. Looking back, what was needed was “build the most useful tool for making the protagonist address the issue and story goal their player is interested in”. But Marc did very well running Richard’s antagonist, he simultaneously tortured him to make the game fun from minute to minute and brought his concerns front and centre to support the story side.

By the way, if the antagonist player is meant to try and bring the protagonist’s links into the story it would help to put a space for them on the antagonist sheet, so the antagonist player will actually know what they are.

Also, the antagonist is meant to have 13 credits but I can only find 12 tick boxes on the sheet. Am I missing something there?

Oh, and in the example on p5 in the margin it says Joshua spends three credits to roll 2d10+3d4 i.e. five dice, but on p34 it says the antagonist should check off 3 to 6 credits and roll that many dice. Something is wrong there.


Anyhow, that was game set up. Tomorrow I’ll try to post something about the game that ensued.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 26, 2008, 05:29:24 AM
We played, and generally got around the table and had a game and it was fun. At the end of the game all four protagonists had successfully resolved their story goals, but three died to get it done, and the non-violent protest movement based in Ireland had somehow made a nuclear missile strike on Edinburgh (despite not owning any nukes). But there were some major mechanical issues, and I’ve a strong suspicion that we were doing a couple of things completely wrong. So, I some questions I’d appreciate guidance on:

Is Antagonism (Always) Opposition?

We played on the understanding that the antagonist player’s job is to somehow provide opposition for the protagonist. I am beginning to suspect that this was a basic misconception, mostly because in story/roleplay terms the antagonist often had no practical means to oppose the protagonist. But we stretched definitions and credulity to find one.

We had a lot of trouble over the meaning of “not mutually exclusive” when it came to framing intents – does it mean that they must be possible in the same universe without violating the laws of physics, or does it also mean that a success for the antagonist doesn’t make a success for the protagonist irrelevant? We tended to use a very narrow rules-lawyerish definition of “mutually exclusive”, and frame antagonist’s intents which left the protagonist’s intent literally possible but meaningless. Looking back, it amounted to a way to use d10s to do the job of d4s. Richard noted towards the end of the game that hardly any d4s were getting used. Here are a couple of examples which may or may not have happened in the game (my memories are confused)...

A BBC journalist has as antagonist the BBC censor. The journo films a battle with conditioned troops being used as disposable cannon fodder. The public don’t know this happens, and he wants to let them. But he knows the censor won’t pass it. So he tries to sneak it under the radar – without saying the words “disposable cannon fodder”, he edits the pictures to give the lie to the report and let anybody who’s thinking about the report know. His intent is “to get the pictures out”.

Now the antagonist is bound by a couple of rules about framing his intent. Firstly it can’t be “I stop the protagonist” (that’s what the d4s are for). Secondly, the intents must not be mutually exclusive.

So the antagonist player could say something like “I go see the BBC Director General and get the protagonist fired for submitting this report”. That’s compatible in both senses I mentioned above: both results can literally happen, and the antagonist succeeding would not make it irrelevant that the protagonist succeeded. The antagonist player rolls d4s to stop the report going out and d10s to get the protagonist fired.

But what if the antagonist were to say “I alert the dirty tricks team and we run a quick smear campaign on the journalist”, then state the intent “to have the public discount the report”. This is not stopping the protagonist’s stated action, and it’s not mutually exclusive in a literal sense – it’s quite possible for the report to go out and then be ignored. But it’s an intent which stops the protagonist getting what they wanted from their actions, by using d10s instead of d4s. Although we did this sort of thing in the game yesterday, looking back I don’t think we should have.

After some more thought it seems we should be saying that the antagonist’s intent should not neutralise the protagonist’s, even if it is literally possible for them both to happen. If the antagonist player wants to stop the protagonist, they do it with d4s. The antagonist intent is there to stir things up, make things interesting, bring issues and links into play, and perhaps to set something up for the start of the next scene. It’s tangential to the protagonist’s intent, not opposed to it.

So say Gordon Brown stated some intent involving fortifying his heartland in Edinburgh and preparing for civil war. His antagonist (the peaceful opposition group) had no way to get involved in a concrete military action like that, they had no troops. So if the antagonist player wanted to stop Gordon Brown doing that, he should have rolled lots of d4s.  He shouldn’t have declared “we get our friends in the missile subs to nuke Edinburgh”, and then rolled d10s to make the action moot. [This was after two escalations, he started smaller than nukes. I’ll get to escalations later...]

So, to sum up:
a)   Did I take the wrong understanding to the game yesterday, and is my hindsight view more appropriate?
b)   How broad is “not mutually exclusive” when it comes to intents?


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 26, 2008, 07:28:04 AM
The Mexican Standoff and the Reel Around The Fountain

The antagonist player declares an intent, going first as they occasionally do. The protagonist player then declares an intent. “Hold on”, says somebody, “those two are mutually exclusive. One of you needs to change.” The two players stare at each other like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, both happy with their intents and neither in a hurry to change. Who will back down?

Protagonist declares, antagonist declares, protagonist hears and changes, antagonist hears and changes, protagonist hears and changes, antagonist hears and changes... When will it ever stop?

There don’t seem to be any useful rules about this stuff in the book. Hopefully the players can work it out reasonably, but what happens when they can’t (in this game with no GM)?
 
I think I’m going to propose a couple of house rules to the group, unless anybody has something better:

1.   The protagonist player chooses who declares first (default themselves). Whoever declares second is responsible for finding an intent that is not mutually exclusive.
2.   You can discuss your intent with other players before formally declaring it (“My intent is....”). The first player can change their formal intent after hearing the second’s, but the second may then change formal intent in response if they wish. Your second formal declaration is final.

And since we’re talking about breakdowns in consensual shared authority: When players are unable to agree whether some mechanical act is allowed, a randomly selected third party will become GM for a few seconds and rule on it.




Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 26, 2008, 10:22:41 AM
Escalation Woes

First up, I made a mistake by letting the audience dice throw a conflict into escalation – rereading the book, it should only be if a *tagonists’ initial d10/d4 pair hits the fulcrum. So we turned what should be roughly 20% escalation into more like 40%. And with a group of people who are prone to getting over the top in the first place (I will never forget Richard saying “I throw the moon at her” playing There Is No Spoon), this could got pretty wild. And when things got wild people tended to forget all the shock/issue stuff, so I feel it was counterproductive. One conflict got escalated three times, and on the third time the *tagonist players looked at each other and agreed to quietly ignore it and toll again.

Apart from correcting my mistake I’m wondering about suggesting to the group that a given conflict can only be escalated once. If you hit the praxis again, reroll the dice involved. But maybe we should try it the way the rules say first.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 27, 2008, 04:47:02 AM
On Ownership

The two times we had a clash of concepts between *tagonist players over how something works, in a context where it would affect resolution of a scene, one of the players involved was the owner. And so the owner ruled, and by definition it went the way they saw it. Everybody found this unsatisfying. In one case the benefactor said “what this game needs is a GM”.

However, this does seem like a consequence of our earlier mistake when everybody chose to own an issue they cared about, instead of playing a protagonist addressing that issue. If we’d gone the other way, the protagonists would usually have been tackling issues their players didn’t own. I think we should make an effort to assign ownership of elements so that we’re relatively unlikely to play/oppose a protagonist addressing them. Nonetheless, it’s tempting to move rulings out to a neutral third party if the owner has a vested interest in a ruling going one way.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 27, 2008, 04:52:57 AM
Tactical Minutiae Madness

You are a long time challenge gamer, a player of D&D and Traveller and Aberrant, a veteran survivor of player vs GM, and a handy min/maxer. When you play Paranoia, the universe covers its eyes in horror. Somebody presents you with a game called “Shock: Social Science Fiction” where you have to roll dice vs an equally wily opponent to narrate changes to the world. Or you can scribble a piece of “minutiae” describing the world on an index card any time you like, and it becomes truth. You want the journalist who’s on the run to get caught. Do you (a) state an intent “the meddlesome journalist is captured” and take your chances with the dice, or (b) write “the meddlesome journalist has been captured” on an index card and throw it on the pile? At times, I had the feeling that somebody was trying to get as close as they could to option (b), usually by establishing facts that would head off inconvenient other-tagonist intents before they could be stated.

What can we do about this? First, we can ask each other not to do it. That won’t always work. When it doesn’t we need rules about minutiae, or a GM-like authority.

And what is the scope of minutiae anyhow? Are they static (“Northern Ireland is under martial law”)? If so, must they have been true before the game started or can they be “this news just in” during the game? Can they also be dynamic events, e.g. “a power failure took down the surveillance system at the crucial moment”?

So, when I read the book and took my understanding of it to the game, did I miss/misunderstand any rules about minutiae?

P21: This is talking about preparation, before the first scene. “At any time, when someone has an idea about how the world works, they can write down a Minutia on a card and put it in the center of the table for everyone to use. As long as one person is excited about it or no one objects, it’s true.”
This indicates...
(a)   You can’t just write anything; at least one person has to strongly like it or nobody object. I assume that’s one OTHER person, enthusiasm for your own minutia doesn’t make it true.
(b)   Is says minutiae are setting, but since we haven’t got to the first scene yet it doesn’t really preclude them being events.

P36 on audience d4 minutiae: “Those dice change the final result of one side of the Conflict by narrating circumstance using or creating Minutiae to describe what’s happening to change the situation.” And on *tagonists who jumped the fulcrum because of an audience d4: “that Audience member says how circumstance intervened to prevent the *Tagonist from getting hir desired result.” Well “what’s happening to change” suggests that minutiae can be events in the setting.

P55 margin: Ben in the audience says “this 4 says a piece of ragged metal drifts by”. That’s an event in the setting, not setting description. Hah, at last I’m sure. So minutiae can be events then.

Well, I think that can be made to work. Between...
(a) asking players to do their conflict resolution with intents and dice instead of minutiae
(b) the need for the creator of minutiae to get at least one other player on board when there are objections
....I think we can get the tactical minutiae genie back in its box.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 27, 2008, 06:07:16 AM
Framing Final Conflicts

P31 “Intents cannot settle the Story Goals of a player unless one scene has already passed and the Antagonist player has decided that it is the proper stage of the story to do so”
P42 “there must be only one result that yields a positive result to the story goal”

I read this as implying that:

(a)   The antagonist player says it’s time for a conflict that resolves the story goal, because they’re low on credits or it just feels right. Before that happens, the protagonist player can’t state an intent resolving their story goal.

(b)   In a conflict that might resolve the story goal, one and only one player must declare an intent that positively resolves it. Question: does the rule against mutually exclusive intents imply that the other player may not state an intent that negatively resolves it?

(c)   If a player succeeds on an intent that resolves the story goal, the story ends.

(d)   If the intent(s) which resolve(s) the story goal could fail, leaving the story goal unresolved for now. Question: does the story end inconclusively now, or will there be another scene in the next rotation that tries to resolve it again (with the antagonist really low on credits)?

Am I on the right wavelength here?


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on February 27, 2008, 06:10:08 AM
Well, that's all the questions I had after the first session. The next game is due in just under two weeks.

If anybody can clarify all the things I asked about in the preceding posts, I'd be most grateful.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on March 09, 2008, 05:42:00 PM
Morte, I don't have time just now to read this thoroughly, but I'm really excited to do so soon.

I didn't want you to think I'd forgotten you!


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on March 11, 2008, 06:03:34 AM
Joshua, thanks for looking.

We played again on Sunday and managed to get the mechanics working a lot more smoothly. I’m not sure if we were playing as intended, but it was working quite well...

I’ll go over the mechanical stuff first, and then say a bit about the game.

I went through a list of “rules clarifications” of at the start of the session. These were things where I’d changed my conception of the rules after playing a session and re-reading the book.

1.   The antagonist player is playing the antagonist, an entity in the game world. They are not temporary GM with GM powers, they’re just a character. They can do things the antagonist could reasonably do: if they’re a peaceful civilian opposition group the player can’t say “the navy launch a nuclear missile at Edinburgh” out of nowhere.

2.   We should use a broader definition of “mutually exclusive” for intents. The intents should not only be literally possible in the same universe, but the antagonist’s intent should not make the protagonist’s success irrelevant. Or, “no using your d10s to do the job of d4s”.

3.   Anyone can propose minutiae, but if anyone objects then they only stand if at least one other player supports them. [I knew about this at the first session. I just, um, forgot it.]

4.   Minutiae can be events in the game world; they don’t have to be persistent setting details that were true before the session started.

5.   The antagonist player announces that it’s time to include intents that resolve story goals. Either player can state the actual resolving intent when the time comes. The protagonist player might suggest that it’s time, but the antagonist player decides.

6.   Escalation only happens if the *tagonist d10/d4 combination hits the fulcrum. Audience dice don’t kick off escalation if they move the result to the fulcrum (they have to move it past the fulcrum to come into play).

I proposed one house rule to tackle the “Mexican Standoff” I raised earlier, which was accepted: The protagonist player chooses who states their intent first. Whoever goes second is responsible for avoiding a mutually exclusive intent. So as protagonist player you can go first and have free rein, or you can wait to see what the antagonist player is doing before choosing your intent but accept possible limitations.

I expressed a wish: The audience shouldn’t use their minutiae d4 to change conflict outcomes just because they can (“I won my roll, now I can exercise my power!”), they should consider whether changing the outcome is actually a good thing.

Finally, I offered to act as a rules-bot and occasionally say “no that’s not allowed”. Never have I seen a group of gamers agree to anything so fast, except possibly that it was a good time to order lunch.


When the rubber met the road, I thought it all worked out pretty well.

-   Antagonist players stuck to things they could reasonably do, and we didn’t get silly stuff happening. We did graduate from nuking Edinburgh to nuking a whole planet from orbit, but this time it was a subverted warship that did it and it made perfectly good sense.

-   The broader definition of “mutually exclusive” made *tagonist players roll d4s, unlike the first session. Antagonist players mostly framed intent to create drama in the game world which would spotlight the issues, or to set things up for the following scene.

-   Minutiae went from being a frequent pain to a working game element. We rejected a few, maybe one in five to one in ten. The tactical minutiae vanished. I made a point of reading out every new minutia and getting everybody to say an explicit yes or no (last session people were just writing stuff and shoving it on the pile, to trip the unwary later).

-   There was far less escalation. It didn’t get to be a chore, more an occasional surprise.

-   The “who goes first” house rule for intents worked well.

-   Audience players showed some restraint with their d4s, and the stories seemed better for it.

-   I didn’t have much to do as rules-bot, but when I did I thought it was quite important. There was a moment when one protagonist player stated an intent that turned the whole setting on its head. It would have left the other three players saying “my story goal is now irrelevant.” I ruled it out, on the grounds that it somehow broke the rules about affecting protagonists that weren’t in the scene.

I’m still confused about intents that resolve story goals, as per the “Framing Final Conflicts” post above. I’d appreciate a precise clarification on that.


Incidentally what I think the Shock needs as a game book is a session transcript for a *tagonist player pair playing through a whole game according to the rules. That’s not a fictionalised version of the events in game, and not cherry-picking of key moments, but an example of what people actually say at the table when playing Shock as intended and how one thing leads to another. The margin text in the vacuumorph game is unfocussed (it’s physically scattered and flicking between multiple protagonists with weird names gets confusing).

I find the text and example in the book rather abstract, it says a lot about the game but it often leaves me wondering “so what do players actually say at the table to get this done?” I think I got a better idea of how to do the whole “roll for narration rights” style of gaming in Shock from reading PTA (which you mention as a mechanical progenitor).

Later I’ll post a bit about our game, and come at it from a “how to have a fun game” perspective rather than “what are the mechanics?”


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on March 12, 2008, 01:07:15 PM
OK, the session. I have a bunch of scribbles in a notebook here and I’m going to try to reconstruct the session start from them.

We started out throwing issues into the ring, and I think the first we got were “mental health”, “humanity’s right to survive” (possibly prompted by a recent Star Trek game where we investigated an extinct race and decided that they were so wet they deserved to be extinct), and “what will you pay to get what you want?” (hi there Mr Edwards). And we tried to think of a shock that would throw them into relief, and a setting grown from that shock which would make them hot topics, and we failed to do so in the two minutes or so we threw at it. [Here, I suspect, is the crux of what it takes to have a red hot Shock game; but more of that later...]

Since we were having a hard time getting the individually interesting elements to gel, I threw in a coherent set I’d prepared earlier, an emulation of “Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex”. I had issues “definition of the soul”, “employer/government intrusion into the personal sphere”, “abuse of position in politics”, and the shock was “cyberbrains for many and cyborg bodies for some”. It was generally seen as a workable set, but nobody except me was really hot for it.

Next Richard (who graduated in “War Studies” or something along those lines) suggested using Shock to play a historical game, where the shock could be something like machine guns or blitzkrieg warfare. I thought there might be mileage in that, but I really wanted to get Shock working as a science fiction game before taking it off road.

Next, back to square one. We got some stuff we liked, but couldn’t tie it into a game/setting concept. The issues were “solipsism” and “the individual vs the collective” and the proto-shock was “something like ‘choices of reality’”. Everybody was pretty interested in the issues and shock, but we failed to wrap them in a game setting.

So, some more stuff flew, and some of the issues I saw go past were “the right to interfere in other cultures”, “group action in an anarchy” and “corruption due to power”. Hang on, I thought, they’re all issues in Iain Banks Culture books. There’s a readymade combination that works, using issues we’re interested in. And the setting will be familiar to everybody, so we can just get into it. So I suggested that, and everybody seemed happy. We went with those issues, and the shock was written as “post-scarcity society”. Looking back, that’s only part of it – I should really have made it “The Culture” or have included extra shocks like “mixed parahuman/AI society” and “anarchy with cooperative elements”.

Mark and I were trading starship names, *tagonists were coming together, and I wrote down a few salient minutiae to nail down some key points in this setting we were all familiar with. Then I discovered that Greg and Richard hadn’t read any Banks books (I thought this was impossible for British gamers). Whilst Richard had heard a bit about The Culture, Greg was wondering what the hell we were talking about. So, we gave them a quick overview. And it seemed to me (I haven’t checked with him) that Greg basically didn’t believe this society could exist. He kept asking how it was governed, or implying that it couldn’t function without government, and his first protagonist concept directly contradicted some minutiae. I thought this cognitive dissonance probably constituted pay dirt, since it would engage him in the game, and I hid my smile as he made a new protagonist who was trying to institute a formal government in the setting. He ended up with an excellent character, and got right into the heart of the issues.

Here are the starting minutiae:

This is a far-future post-scarcity society in the style of Ian M Banks’s “The Culture”. It’s a decentralised semi-anarchy but groups within the setting cooperate towards common goals. Many of these efforts have become standing arrangements. The people outside the groups are generally OK with what they do, or they’d leave the society. The society may grant certain members authority and voluntarily submit to them, e.g. appointing an admiral to command a fleet.

The society comprises advanced parahumans (self-modifying with nanotech etc), drones of roughly the same capability, and enormously advanced AI minds.

There are other societies, friendly and not so friendly. Two persistent institutions are Contact (the diplomatic corps) and Special Circumstances (the sharp end of the intelligence community).

The society are interstellar do-gooders, they help/interfere with their less advanced neighbours. There is a fashion within Contact/SC for doing this with the minimum possible resources, to show off how clever you are, and that sometimes backfires.

There is mass media. There are influential commentators and bloggers.

Then we made protagonists (described later).

For Praxis we went with Observation/Intrusion and Matter/Information. They seemed like reasonable scales for the protagonists to choose on, and they didn’t have the redundancy that we saw as a problem in our first session.

Everybody chose antagonists. I think this second time around there was more effort to create “somebody who can nudge me (the player) towards my story goal” rather than “an enemy”. We were choosing them to set up cooperative storytelling, and that worked.

So, with no further ado, here’s the shape of the game:

Joel (me): playing the General Contact Unit (big starship) Nice Young Jewish Boy.
Issue: the right to interfere in other cultures.
Praxis: Observation/Intrusion 5 and Matter/Information 8.
Links: “the respect of my peers” and “belief in self-determination”.
Story Goal: To end the “game” attitude to C/SC operations and instil cautious professionalism.
Antagonist: The Optimal Engineering Club, a group of cowboy C/SC types who like to interfere in primitive societies without doing their homework, played by...

Richard: playing Chester D Wilmott III, an influential insider in the non-governmental adhocracy.
Issue: Corruption due to power.
Praxis: Observation/Intrusion 4 and Matter/Information 8.
Links: “faith in libertarianism” and “position in ‘government’”.
Story Goal: To defeat the corruption he believes exists in the system.
Antagonist: A much-loved libertarian politician, who has had 99% of his suggestions accepted by the society, played by...

Mark: playing the brain of the Command Offensive Unit (serious warship) Just Another Tuesday.
Issue: Corruption due to power.
Praxis: Observation/Intrusion 8 and Matter/Information 5.
Links: the ship’s human captain and its referring authority ‘zero’
Story Goal: To become corrupted by power.
Antagonist: A sentient virus infecting his mind and trying to take control, played by...

Greg: Sebastian Valmont, blogger, proponent of introducing formal constitutional government.
Issue: The necessity for group action in an anarchy.
Praxis: Observation/Intrusion 5 and Matter/Information 4
Links: popular with all two of his supporters, press rentaquote
Story Goal: To form a government.
Antagonist: The anarchists as a political class, played by Joel (at the top).


So, we played. I didn’t take notes, but here’s what I remember...

My turns: The Nice Young Jewish Boy abandoned its social call on the Wild Grrrl orbital (the relationship wasn’t going anywhere) and set out to monitor a primitive planet where the civil war was threatening to turn extinction-grade. It noted signs of interference, the sort of interference Special Circumstances get up to, only it wasn’t working too well and there was no official operation on record. Yes, the Optimal Engineering Club were mucking about again. So, it tried to get them brought to heel. It failed (damn dice), and they messed up the planet some more. Using the fallout from their fresh screw up, it tried again and eventually made it thanks to some link risking and a bit of help from the audience. The poor bastards on the planet suffered, but it should happen a lot less in future.

I can’t remember anything at all about Richard’s protagonist. I think I was too busy recovering from my turns when he came along; I had a hard time even playing audience.

I don’t remember Marc’s turns so well, he was diagonally across the table and I wasn’t involved in them. But AFAIR: The Just Another Tuesday was hanging around some planet, that had presumably done something to offend the Culture, and the viral voice in its head told it to nuke the place from orbit. A few dice later, it did. There was some sort of struggle for control aboard, which ended up with the ship as an enemy of its own crew. Pretty soon everybody else thought Just Another Tuesday was batshit (it got dubbed “Ruby Tuesday” for the blood on its hands); and the rest of the galaxy thought the Culture had turned into murdering loonies. Eventually the Tuesday fled a bloodhunt by a bunch of other ships. It was thoroughly corrupt and its story goal resolved.

Greg’s turns: Greg stated goals which steadily built up his blogger protagonist’s influence in the setting. It was all fairly low key PR stuff, but he worked in events from the crazy things going on around the other characters to flesh out his in-character arguments. So it came over as a logical drift of popular opinion in the setting. Then, all of a sudden, he stopped salami slicing and went for it. I figured at the speed he was going he’d go for a set of mandatory checks and balances next, or maybe some sort of electronic democracy, but he went for a full on government with a single appointed leader. What’s more he made the leader a charismatic figure from Marc’s story. And my six credits failed to stop him on the second attempt (link risking), so he got it. This worked rather well as a cap to the game – after all the shocking stuff that had gone on, there was a groundswell of public support for a constitutional volte face. It was rather neat that it came on the very last turn.


OK, that’s what happened. Tomorrow I’ll ruminate/pontificate a bit.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Morte on March 13, 2008, 06:00:43 AM
So, how to build a better session of Shock?

I think the key is to get a set of issues that interest the players, and to make them come up in play. You get them to come up in play by choosing a shock that somehow throws them into the light, and preferably undermines the players’ assumptions about them. And you build a setting around that shock. You want to end up with a setting where the issues can’t be approached the way they are in our world, so that players will have to examine them from the ground up.

The challenge in a tabletop game session is to do all of that in a coherent fashion, using finite creativity and time. You need every player to have a strong interest/opinion for at least one issue, you need a shock that throws new light on every single issue, and you need to grow a setting out of the shock. As we’ve played, it’s a matter of looking for synergies between shocks/issues and juggling until they snap together, then making like a science fiction writer to grow the results into a concrete setting. This is hard to do well. I suspect one gets better with practice, like playing in a band (groan).

Looking back, I think we gave up too easily during this part of the game. For example, our fourth effort with issues “solipsism” and “the individual vs the collective” and the proto-shock “choices of reality” had the makings of cracking science fiction. But we abandoned it inside a minute, when a setting didn’t just drop out of the sky. This was my fault; I was conscious that we were 90 minutes into the meet and hadn’t got anything to play yet. If I had the time again, I’d spend the half hour to make it work.

Actually time was no factor – once we started play I think we got through the story in an hour or so. This session went faster with the new mechanical clarity, and AFAIR we all resolved our story goals on scene three of a possible four or five (of which more later).

I have a few thoughts on how to make a better job of this:
-   Make sure there each player has an issue they really care about.
-   Make sure the game world will put all the issues in a new light.
-   Spend the time to do it right. It will pay off. Since set up is as interesting as play in this game, it’s not like it’s a chore to get the set up honed.
-   Don’t obsess about making the shocks + issues add up to exactly the number of players. Obsess about getting a set that fit together.
-   Having more than one shock doesn’t seem to be the end of the world either.

I had a few other ideas which were rejected one way or another, but they might be worth chewing over. One was that coherent issue/shock/setting combinations (ISSCs) tend to come from a single vision, so perhaps we might take turns to pre-make an ISSC and have everyone play it. We could also have a couple of games per session this way, by having somebody do half an hour of prep for each ISSC. That foundered on the grounds that (a) it’s not likely to include an issue that sparks for each player and (b) half the group think that choosing ISSCs at the table is the best part of the session and they don’t want to lose it.

Now I think it might be worth taking the ideas that proved popular but not immediately workable at a session, chew them over between games to get the outline of a gameable ISSC, and bring them back to the next session to try again. A bit of email pitching between sessions wouldn’t hurt, and it would also give people more time to think up good *tagonists.

One thing I would like to see in the book is an explanation of how the group put it all together in that vacuumorph game – what prompted the intuitive leap from issues to shock, and how did the setting grow out of that? How much did they discard before they settled on what they played?

-

Creating *tagonists is like a smaller version of ISSC creation. You need them to work as a combination that’s going to throw your issue into relief. Again, it’s worth spending time on this to get good characters. We pretty much came up with characters in the time it took to give one or two sentence descriptions of them. It would be better to spend a few minutes, and perhaps chew them over with the other players. It might help to have some idea about your protagonist while building the setting – I know I wrote minutiae into the setting to make mine a relevant character, and I would have chosen a different protagonist if those minutiae had been rejected.

And choose an antagonist who can really throw your protagonist a curve or two. If they are custom built to steer you to your story goal and nothing else, you’ll end up with a complicated form of short story writing instead of a game.

-

Ownership never came up in our second session. We never needed a ruling. It probably helped that we were in a predefined setting.

-

It was a short session; we got to the pub at noon and finished at 3:30 including lunch. We could have thrown in some new *tagonists and maybe a shock, then gone again in our setting as it now stood. I never thought to suggest it.

-

Setting Praxis fulcra is a biggie. It was often observed that the antagonist is rather unlikely to stop somebody who is working the powerful side of a 3/8 fulcrum. When that happened, antagonist players tended to just treat it as a lost cause and worry more about their own intent, using one d4 as a spoiler. There was considerable support for bringing the limits in to 4/7. It was also suggested that we might try to be a bit stricter about selecting praxis options to match our intent/narration, since there were some rather stretched tactical word associations going on.

-

We did a bit of gaming, as well as storytelling, and people had fun with it. Mark played to lose on a deliberately unimportant conflict, then risked a link and played to lose again, building up features for later (“strength through adversity”) and creating story for his protagonist. That was cool. I tried it a round or two later and it was working nicely until I accidentally resolved my story goal. I think a group will get better at doing this stuff and having fun with it as they play.

-

Speaking of resolving story goals, this is now my one big grey area with the game mechanics.

First, I’m not 100% sure what the rules are (see previous posts). In this session, with me not being clear on the rules, I just said the one thing I was sure of from the book: the antagonist player decides when it’s OK to resolve story goals. And by implication, the protagonist player can say “Is it OK for me to try to positively resolve my goal in this scene?” And they can say yes or no to that.

Second, I’m not sure whether the “no mutually exclusive intents” rule makes it impossible to have a climactic final conflict where everything is on the line, where the protagonist can play “to win, or lose it all”, i.e. whether you can have positive and negative resolutions in play in the same conflict.

Third, I’m not sure how to tell when it’s a good idea for the antagonist to put resolution on the table, and when it’s a good idea for them to say “no” if the protagonist player asks them to OK it.

In all four strands, the story ended with the protagonist player asking for permission to try to positively resolve their goal, and the antagonist player saying yes. Then the protagonist player threw dice and link risks at the conflict until they got what they wanted, while the antagonist was constrained to a relatively limp response by the “mutually exclusive” rule. Looking back, the game might have had more spice if the antagonist players had gone for the throat a bit and stated goals that negatively resolved the protagonist’s goal as soon as it was permitted and appropriate. That would certainly have got a few more d4s flowing... I think most of us pretty much forgot that it was an option for the antagonist to end the story.
 
-

All in all, the second session was more sensible than the first. It played more as a “let’s work together to build some stories” and less as “let’s have a fight with each other via a game where you roll for narration rights”. It created better science fiction – last time we nuked Edinburgh and it was silly, this time we nuked a whole planet but it made sense (and turned my stomach).

There’s no getting away from the fact that it was also a milder, perhaps blander game. I like it this way, I thought the last game was overblown and this one was more the tone I like, but I think some of the group like things overblown. I also think we can turn up the heat by choosing emotive issues, choosing and playing antagonists more effectively, and getting to the bottom of the story goal resolution rules.

-

By the way, a thing I particularly admire about Shock as a system is that it manages to keep everybody involved all the time. After we finished, Greg asked a few questions about what we wanted from an upcoming game he’s GMing (Three Musketeers using 7th Sea). One of the questions he asked was how do we feel about splitting the party? I said I’m OK with it provided I’m not sat around doing nothing for most of the game – I want it to be rare, or to have some way to get involved (OOC if necessary) when it happens. And Shock, which we’d just played, does that superbly.

-

OK, I’m out. My suggestions for Shock 2.0:

1.   Put a substantial transcript of play in the book, showing what the players actually say and do when the game is running as intended. Not fiction, not abstract/meta stuff, the nitty gritty. Include game set up and some examples of escalation and link risking. Or release it as an MP3.
2.   Split the book into a tight rules explanation, which tries really hard not to assume any prior knowledge of story games, then “how to have a fun game” advice. I don’t want to mine twenty pages to get at five pages of mechanics, and I want to understand the mechanics before I’m advised on how to make the most of them.
3.   Lose that vacuumorph fiction, it’s cool but it’s not clear. Cool is for your website, the book is for people who’ve already paid and want a practical teaching tool that explains how to play the game. Use well known sci-fi tropes that will be familiar to most readers in your examples, so that the only thing readers have to work to understand is the game mechanics.
4.   Include advice on choosing building from issues into a shock/setting that will make for good gaming.
5.   Beef up the advice on choosing praxis scales that will be mechanically and topically interesting in play.

Thanks Joshua, for the game which has been fun (if frustrating at times) and a big eye opener for me.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: newsalor on April 16, 2008, 02:56:13 AM
Escalation Woes

First up, I made a mistake by letting the audience dice throw a conflict into escalation – rereading the book, it should only be if a *tagonists’ initial d10/d4 pair hits the fulcrum. So we turned what should be roughly 20% escalation into more like 40%. And with a group of people who are prone to getting over the top in the first place (I will never forget Richard saying “I throw the moon at her” playing There Is No Spoon), this could got pretty wild. And when things got wild people tended to forget all the shock/issue stuff, so I feel it was counterproductive. One conflict got escalated three times, and on the third time the *tagonist players looked at each other and agreed to quietly ignore it and toll again.

Apart from correcting my mistake I’m wondering about suggesting to the group that a given conflict can only be escalated once. If you hit the praxis again, reroll the dice involved. But maybe we should try it the way the rules say first.

IMHO both the official Shock 1.1. escalation/fulcrum -rule and your addition are redundant.

You and your fellow players are supposed to make your choices based on what you think is cool. So if all your friends agree that escalation is massively fun and that they like those kinds of stories, then limiting their options won't make the game more fun for them.

The conflict resolutions have all kinds of nifty doodads attached, but essentially it's a kinda voting / bidding mechanism that's supposed to produce a compromise that rocks all of your boats. Trust the market! If you guys like certain kinds of outcomes, then I guess everyone will be placing their votes to ensure that you get the maximum enjoyment out of the game.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Nocker on October 04, 2008, 02:15:39 AM
Hello,
I'm new to the great Shock Universe. Excuse my under-average english, I'm french.

I read this thread all along, and found it really interesting. Particularly the questions Morte rose.
On the most part of them, I have my own opinion and I know what I would do if I organize a Shock game about them. Others seem either too abstract to me to have a clear view or I can't make my mind about them.

But for all of hir questions, I know I'd love hear about what thinks Joshua of them.

Joshua, you say in March 09 2008 that you didn't have the time to answer, but ever since, you haven't come up with our interrogations, so that Morte get to build hir own solutions, when it was possible.

Im' trying to ressurect that topic in the hope of getting answers to all interrogations I share with Morte and add some of my own.

If it helps, I'll give a résumé of each questions (but maybe some get lost in the process, so excuse me) :

My questions
a) In a scene, how many players can play their Protagonist ? Only one ? Any number ? And what if a conflict involves more than one *Tagonist ? The example shows Thorium and Phosphorus being in conflict together, but what if Father was also involved ?

b) If players come up with, say, 4 Issues, and the 4 Protagonists happens to adress only 2 of them (by pair), how to use - if they are to be use - the remaining Issues ? Do they have an impact ? If they don't, won't the players who own each one feel pulled aside ? Because, each player should own at least one Shock or Issue, but it's possible to have multiple Protagonists that adress one Issue.

c) What is the goal of having an Owner if everything must pass the Boo/Cheer test to be accepted ? And in a Boo/Cheer test for a Minutia, who get the priority between the players that don't want it, and the players that are enthusiastic about it ?

Go for Morte's questions

1) We want to know how far does the Intents need to be non-exclusive. Morte made hir own conclusion about that, but it's interesting to know your point of view. And further, I'd like to add : what if an Intent makes irrelevant a *Tagonist's previously won Intent, that is, an Intent zie won on a previous scene ?

2) For the priority of the declaration of the Intents, what is the rule ? Is the set of rules Morte came up with is satisfying (Protagonist decide who says first hir Intent, then the second has the responsability to state an Intent that is non-exclusive, and then each can change hir Intent once, after hearing the other's) ? What did you use, in your games ?

3) As stated Morte, the Story Goal resolution rules are a bit confusing. First, I can't understand what you mean on the page 42, saying "there must be only one result that yields a positive result to the Story Goal". Do this forbid a final conflict with both *Tagonists has an opposed Intent. For example "The robots destroy the tape, and make the truth hidden forever" versus "I put the tape in the player and reveal all the conspiration to the citizens" is possible ?

4) What happens if both *Tagonists fail their Intent in the final scene ? It seems that the Story Goal can't be accomplished, or will be very weakly accomplished. Is it re-played in the next scene ? Don't this artificially lengthen the story ?

5) To what extend a Minutia can be persistent ? Can it be a short event that change only the outcome of the current scene ? Can it be a thing that makes irrelevant a previously stated Minutia ? Can it be a thing that affects the Links of a *Tagonist, or hir Features ?

6) Corollary, are all declarations and explications of the Audience (particularly those who support a d4 or explain an escalation) necessarily Minutiae ? Or only the elements that explain the setting can be Minutiae ?

7) Do the d4 of the Audience can trigger an escalation, or is an escalation triggered only when a *Tagonist's d10 minus/plus the other's d4 equals the Fulcra ?

8) Why don't have less Issues (so that more Protagonist will adress each) and one or two more Shocks, will this make the game less interesting, or less structured ? Why this choice of numerous Issues and only one Shock ?

9) What are the criterias to decide when an Antagonist player should declare the final scene ? What do you think is the better moment for the resolution, in general ?


Thanks for all your answers, Joshua. Your game is fantastic !!!


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on October 04, 2008, 06:50:39 AM
Bonjour, Nocker. Let's see if we can get these straightened out.

Quote
My questions
a) In a scene, how many players can play their Protagonist ? Only one ? Any number ? And what if a conflict involves more than one *Tagonist ? The example shows Thorium and Phosphorus being in conflict together, but what if Father was also involved ?

Only one person plays each Protagonist. Sometimes, more than one person will play an Antagonist.

More than on *Tagonist can be in a scene, sure. Here's what you do: you do the same thing you usually do!

• If Phosphorus and Father are both played by me, I'm rolling dice for Father. Nothing meaningful is going to happen to Phosphorus; he's Minutia for me as Antagonist to play against Vincent playing Thorium.
• If Thorium is played by me and Father is played by Ben, then we roll dice and declare Praxis against whoever we're declaring it against. So if Father and Phosphorus are both opposing Thorium, everyone declares their Praxis, then you figure out who's succeeded and who's failed as normal. This part isn't in the rules and it should be considered experimental, as I've never seen it come up in play: you can declare a different Praxis for different opponents within the conflict. My only concern is the amount of stuff you have to keep in your head while dice are rolling and changing.

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b) If players come up with, say, 4 Issues, and the 4 Protagonists happens to adress only 2 of them (by pair), how to use - if they are to be use - the remaining Issues ? Do they have an impact ? If they don't, won't the players who own each one feel pulled aside ? Because, each player should own at least one Shock or Issue, but it's possible to have multiple Protagonists that adress one Issue.

They can still be used as Minutiæ. The players' authority remains. This definitely happens sometimes. I haven't noticed people getting upset about it. There's plenty to do in the game itself.

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c) What is the goal of having an Owner if everything must pass the Boo/Cheer test to be accepted ? And in a Boo/Cheer test for a Minutia, who get the priority between the players that don't want it, and the players that are enthusiastic about it ?

The "Boo/Cheer" rule doesn't apply to Owned things. Enthusiastic players always take priority. That's an important rule in Shock: actually, and is one of those "personal perspective leaking into design" things.

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1) We want to know how far does the Intents need to be non-exclusive. Morte made hir own conclusion about that, but it's interesting to know your point of view. And further, I'd like to add : what if an Intent makes irrelevant a *Tagonist's previously won Intent, that is, an Intent zie won on a previous scene ?

Intents can't contradict each other. They are orthogonal. If it's possible for them to both succeed, both fail, or for each to succeed while the other fails, it's cool. You can certainly fuck up someone else's success. The game's all about that.

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2) For the priority of the declaration of the Intents, what is the rule ? Is the set of rules Morte came up with is satisfying (Protagonist decide who says first hir Intent, then the second has the responsability to state an Intent that is non-exclusive, and then each can change hir Intent once, after hearing the other's) ? What did you use, in your games ?

You can't change your Intent once it's said. Protag goes first. On rare occasion, I've bent that rule because an Antag player couldn't keep it in his pants, but that's the rule. This puts the Protag at a disadvantage because the job of the Antag is to twist. It's to ask, "Do you want that enough if.... this is the consequence?"

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3) As stated Morte, the Story Goal resolution rules are a bit confusing. First, I can't understand what you mean on the page 42, saying "there must be only one result that yields a positive result to the Story Goal". Do this forbid a final conflict with both *Tagonists has an opposed Intent. For example "The robots destroy the tape, and make the truth hidden forever" versus "I put the tape in the player and reveal all the conspiration to the citizens" is possible ?

Of course. You can never have opposed Intents. The hairiness gets into play, though, when the Story Goal can be satisfied with either player. So, hypothetically:

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• Story Goal: To make my daughter, Absa, President of the station.
• Antoine's (the Protag's) intent: to gain the support of the AI.
• Aïyb's (the Antag's) intent: to rouse support of the people of the station against Absa.

This is fine as a normal set of Intents, but they only resolve the Story Goal in certain win/lose configurations. Like, if Antoine wins and Aïyb loses, obviously things went OK. What if Antoine wins and Aïyb wins, also? What if they both lose? The Story Goal has to be resolvable by only one Intent. It's really just a matter of stating it clearly. If it's not clear by the time everyone states Intents, make it clear whose dice are settling the matter before you roll. That's all.

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4) What happens if both *Tagonists fail their Intent in the final scene ? It seems that the Story Goal can't be accomplished, or will be very weakly accomplished. Is it re-played in the next scene ? Don't this artificially lengthen the story ?

Nope. No do-overs! That means that Intents were not stated strongly enough. Somehow, you got to this point without having the final choices mean anything. This is a question that will only come up hypothetically.

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5) To what extend a Minutia can be persistent ? Can it be a short event that change only the outcome of the current scene ? Can it be a thing that makes irrelevant a previously stated Minutia ? Can it be a thing that affects the Links of a *Tagonist, or hir Features ?

Minutiæ can be momentary, absolutely. "A micrometoroid goes through the windscreen!" It can make previous Minutiæ irrelevant but it can't make them untrue. Things change. Links and Features are Owned by the Protagonist, so they have to be OK with it.

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6) Corollary, are all declarations and explications of the Audience (particularly those who support a d4 or explain an escalation) necessarily Minutiae ? Or only the elements that explain the setting can be Minutiae ?

They are implicit Minutiæ, yes.

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7) Do the d4 of the Audience can trigger an escalation, or is an escalation triggered only when a *Tagonist's d10 minus/plus the other's d4 equals the Fulcra ?

The Audience is usually the reason Escalation happens.

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8) Why don't have less Issues (so that more Protagonist will adress each) and one or two more Shocks, will this make the game less interesting, or less structured ? Why this choice of numerous Issues and only one Shock ?

Lots of Shocks, if they haven't grown together organically, just make a Crazy Future Land with angels, superpowers, and star travel. However, if you grow them together from story to story, they fit thematically. If you were to very carefully choose a single Issue, then carefully choose Shocks that work well together, it should work fine. But too many of both makes a sort of idea salad, when what you want is more like carefully arranged sushi.

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9) What are the criterias to decide when an Antagonist player should declare the final scene ? What do you think is the better moment for the resolution, in general ?

The Antagonist has enough Credits to last three or, at most, four scenes. Sometimes, the ending of a particular Protagonist's story happens in scene 2. That's fine. The best moment for resolution is when it's very clear what the choice will be that the player will have to make: do I escape from the Apes, or will it have been Earth all along? Do I save the last ecology of Earth, or do I live to experience it?


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Nocker on October 05, 2008, 03:28:23 PM
Okay, all your answers are clear and satisfy me. All but one. Isn't it a pretty score ?

I definetly did't understand the first answer, on the number of *Tagonists in a scene and multi*Tagonist conflicts.
Also, I suspect I haven't made enough explicit the first part, because you seem to miss my point.

So :
First, imagine a table (G = gamer, P = Protag, A = Antag) : G1 is playing P1 and A3, G2 is playing P2 and A1, G3 is playing P3 and A2.

Must a scene place only one Protag at a time in the center of the story ? Are the others only Minutiae, or can they be also Protags ? If not, this means that the classic "PJ group" is totally impossible in a Shock game. No Protags can ally or confront in a scene ?

Secondly, you seem to have written an auxiliary rule that enables the multi-*Tagonists conflict. But I couldn't understand what do you meant with your Who Art in Heaven example. May you retry to explain me this modification ?


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on October 05, 2008, 03:50:00 PM
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Must a scene place only one Protag at a time in the center of the story ?

At the center, yes. Other characters can be there, of course.

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Are the others only Minutiae, or can they be also Protags ?

If there's a conflict between one Protag and another, that's OK. Note that it messes with the Antag's Credits and will tend to make the Protag get hosed by the end.

It's a game about alienation, you dig.

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If not, this means that the classic "PJ group" is totally impossible in a Shock game. No Protags can ally or confront in a scene ?

They can ally, of course. There are no restrictions in this regard on the actions of characters. The dice they get to add are the (very powerful, I might add) Minutia dice.

But if it's not their scene, by definition, they're not at the center of it.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Nocker on October 06, 2008, 02:28:54 AM
Oh my !

You clarified all that was obscured in my head. Now I can play with great pleasure at your game.

Thanks a lot, and again congratulation. Your game isn't only the best Social Science Fiction RPG, but the best Story-focused RPG.


Title: Re: [Shock]
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on October 06, 2008, 06:35:25 AM
Wow! Thanks!