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General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: Bert on February 11, 2009, 04:51:01 PM



Title: making armour tell stories
Post by: Bert on February 11, 2009, 04:51:01 PM
I’m mucking around on an action/consequence system for my current project. Consequences are managed using a sort of omni-pseudo-hit-point system (?!?) called Agency Points. Agency Points reflect how big a role you have in the ongoing story, how hard it is for you to be taken out of it, and how easily you can influence the way the story evolves.

Consequences involve losing Agency Points. If a character suffers a consequence and doesn’t have enough Agency Points to negate it, they no longer have control of their role in the story. They become pawns of the GM - in any other system they would die, and in this one they might die too unless somebody has a better idea and some Agency Points to bring into play.

While Agency goes way beyond combat, I’m currently working on how armour influences combat or simply damage related consequences. My system is coarse grained and rules lite (maybe…) and I’ve never seen armour treated well in such games - and I don’t equate ‘well’ with ‘realism’. I’ve been thinking a lot about the way armour is treated in movies and books.

How many Storm Troopers were saved by their funky armour in Star Wars? How many of the English in Braveheart were protected by their naff brigandine or unconvincing plate? They may as well have been wearing cheap fake props! Har-de-har.

Of course, these guys had no part in the story (they were fodder) or it was the right time in the story for them to die, or both, regardless of how much metal or plastic they might have covering their fragile, overacting frames. In other words, their Agency Points were 0 from the get go.

In my system the protection provided by armour is limited by your Agency Points. Where you have sufficient agency, Armour Points replace Agency Points. This allows armour work the way it does in books and movies. A typical Storm Trooper or soldier in Longshanks army would also have 0 Agency Points, so armour offers them no protection – its not story critical for it to do so. One scratch and they’re jud. Meanwhile a characer with a good number of agency points might be cut down, but turn out to be fine after all.

To the chase. Here is a sketch outline of my armour rules, based on everything from Lethal Weapon to the Lord of the Rings, and put to good use:

Rules for what armour does:

1)   It lets you know who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. On top of that, it makes the big-boss bad guys look evil and scary and the heroes look good and glorious.

In game terms: Villains with Agency Points get to scare lesser foes with their black, spiky, skull festooned harnesses. Heroes with Agency Points get to awe lesser foes with their shiny attire, possibly blinding them with glints of sunlight.

2)   It allows you to use the ‘feel the danger’ device, bouncing things like arrows off characters without lasting consequences, just to show how much danger they are in.

In game terms: Casual attacks from lesser foes, particularly missile fire, will have no effect on armoured foes with sufficient Agency Points.

3)   It allows you to use the ‘its not as bad as it looks’ device where an apparently mauled character gets up, brushes themselves off and is back to their good old selves in no time. The most extreme for of this is best called the ‘OMG he’s dead’ device, where a character appears to be dead but is in fact only stunned or unconscious. This works particularly well with concealed armour.

In game terms: Characters with sufficient Agency Points lose Armour Points instead when countering a consequence. While they may appear to have been cut down, losing all of their Armour Points, their Agency remains intact (or partly so?) and they can be restored to normal with a cup of tea and a band aid.

Am I mad or am I onto something? Any comments or leads towards similar systems would be much appreciated.

One day I will learn to write short posts.

Bert


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Callan S. on February 11, 2009, 06:14:14 PM
Hi Bert,

If you wear armour, your more important to the story? Take it off and your less important?

Basically your granting players an ability to control how important their character is to the story. Not that that's bad, but if you don't realise your coding that in, it can be a shock latter *puts a red sticker on it :) *.

Also the way they control that isn't pure authorship on their part - to be more important at the grand ball, they'd have to walk in in full plate. Some situations will provide negative feedback simply for deciding to author.

Or that's how I see it. I'm not actually sure what 'important to the story' means except how likely they will survive to the end of the campaign.


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: greyorm on February 11, 2009, 08:12:34 PM
Callan, I think Bert is saying Agency, and the associated Armor Points, are divorced physically from whatever armor you happen to be wearing. A guy with just a kilt and Agency still has Armor Points and can take the hits. Whereas a guy with Stormtrooper armor and no Agency doesn't have that benefit and can be taken down with a well-aimed blaster bolt.

Though I may be wrong about that, and have a feeling there are some rule issues that haven't been clarified yet. It may be that you only have Armor Points when wearing armor.

But regardless, I'm pretty sure that while Agency affects armor points it is still a completely different thing than armor (you still have Agency, even without armor).


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Bert on February 12, 2009, 02:09:01 PM
Hi Callan,

There's a lot of confusion here, which is definitely my bad. Chrono is definitely on the right tack.

If you wear armour, your more important to the story? Take it off and your less important?

The answer to both questions is no; quite the opposite in fact. How important you are to the story (your Agency score) influences how much protection (or Armour Points) armour will provide you with.

In short, Armour will not provide any more protection than your Agency score. A suit of full plate (Armour Points 4) will do nothing for a goon with an Agency of 0, but will provide its full value to heroes and villains with an Agency of 4 or more.

Un-armoured characters lose Agency Points, which start off equal to their Agency score, when they suffer physical trauma. Armoured characters lose Agency Points until they are equal to their Armour Points. Then they lose Armour Points instead. If their Armour Points are reduced to 0, they are subject to the ‘it’s not as bad as it looks’ device. They still have Agency and a place in the story, but they’re out for the count.

I very much realise that I’m providing players with the ability to control how important they are to the story. That’s the whole point of Agency.

The wearing armour to the ball example is a blast.

“Goodness Gracious Lady Asquith, they intend to make us dance the quickstep. We must stand out if we are to attract the attention of the Duke.”

“Don’t worry Lord Quimby, I’m wearing my heaviest plate harness with jousting reinforcements. We’ll dance everyone else off the floor - the Duke is sure to demand a private audience!”

Hnyuk. But no, I’m not that mad.

At its most fundamental level a characters ‘importance to the story’ is how likely they are to survive to the end of a campaign or session. If you’re dead, your story is over. To reflect this, Agency can function as a damage buffer, transforming potentially lethal consequences into superficial ones.

Agency has a wide range of other functions. It influences how many dice you can use to enhance character performance. It can be sacrificed to seize creative control of the game, taking over as GM for a number of turns (literally turns of a sand timer). My notion of ‘importance to the story’ is much broader than long term survival, but long term survival is pretty fundamental.

Thanks for the comments. They forced me to think about explaining this idea better. Does it make sense now?

Bert


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Callan S. on February 12, 2009, 03:13:51 PM
I think your trying to say agency is in control of whether armour applies. As I understand you, it is not - after four agency points, the whole armour applies. Another way of saying this is that after four points of agency, agency no longer controls armour use. At that point it's up to player control - and if armour blocks attacks like agency does/makes you important to story like agency does, this then in turn means players are in charge of how much they block attacks/how important they are to the story.

As a side effect, at the ball they will have to make themselves temporarily less important to the story (read: more at risk of death) or stand out like sore thumbs.

I think I get what you intended, that agency is supposed to control armour and really it's only agency that controls how important you are to the story. But currently, after 4 points of agency, armour also controls how important you are to the story - and it's a player choice whether to don it.

The thing is with rule structures/flowcharts is even if you think it does one thing, someone might be able to work it in another way entirely. I'm trying to show how I could work it, and whether that fits your original intention.


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: David C on February 12, 2009, 03:20:54 PM
Agency Rating -5 to +5
Armor Rating 0 to +5

storm trooper = -5 +5 (Stormtrooper armor) = 0
han solo = +5


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Bert on February 12, 2009, 04:12:25 PM
Hi Callan,

Oh, bittersweet partial explanatory success!

I think your trying to say agency is in control of whether armour applies.

Yup - and to what degree. Armour 2, Agency 4, Armour Points 2. Armour 4, Agency 3, Armour Points 3. And so on...

As I understand you, it is not - after four agency points, the whole armour applies. Another way of saying this is that after four points of agency, agency no longer controls armour use.

Eh? See above - I think. If you had Plate 4, Agency 8, Armour Points 4, the whole armour would apply after the loss of 4 Agency Points. Maybe you're mixing up Agency (a permanent score) and Agency Points (the associated resource)?

At that point it's up to player control - and if armour blocks attacks like agency does/makes you important to story like agency does, this then in turn means players are in charge of how much they block attacks/how important they are to the story.

Yes(ish) and no(ish). Armour doesn't increase the number of points you can loose before you're down and out. It just means when you're down and out you're not dead. You're still out of the action for the rest of the conflict, but you get to come back with some Agency Points remaining - equal to your original Armour Points score, because you lose Armour Points instead of Agency Points. In effect, wearing armour stops you from becoming of no importance to the story, as would be the case for a corpse.

As a side effect, at the ball they will have to make themselves temporarily less important to the story (read: more at risk of death) or stand out like sore thumbs.

Man, you are hung up on those balls. Who would wear armour to a ball? Who would let somebody into a ball wearing armour? Maybe armoured balls are something I should look into. You are sort of right, but they'd only be at more risk of death by not wearing armour if the ball carried a high risk of armed conflict.

"You are cordially invited to Lady Cussington's ball. Be warned - competition for dancing partners will be fierce. Please wear a breastplate and a broadsword. Taffetta is strictly forbidden."

I think I get what you intended, that agency is supposed to control armour and really it's only agency that controls how important you are to the story. But currently, after 4 points of agency, armour also controls how important you are to the story - and it's a player choice whether to don it.

Yay(ish)! Again, see my explanation before the digression on balls.

The thing is with rule structures/flowcharts is even if you think it does one thing, someone might be able to work it in another way entirely. I'm trying to show how I could work it, and whether that fits your original intention.

I take your point wholeheartedly. There are some sneaky players out there. I'm not sure if armour could be exploited in the decidely unsportsmanlike manner you describe. That was certainly not my original intention. Food for thought though!

Bert


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Vulpinoid on February 12, 2009, 08:03:44 PM
Why not simply split agency points and armour into two completely different categories?

I'll clarify what I mean.

Agency points become the currency, armour becomes one of many ways to spends that currency to affect the scene.

For example, you could have a number of filters that are used to prevent damage [Armour, Prestige, Evasive Skill, Allies, etc.]

The agency points are spent to reduce the damage, but the filters reflect how that damage is reduced in the context of the game world. If your character doesn't have access to that filter, they can't affect the storyline in this way.

When using armour, a character absorbs the damage to them by shifting it to their armour. The armour gets damaged but the character can walk away. This would work on the battlefield, but wouldn't work in a ball where armour is not permitted.

When using prestige, a character prevents the chance of damage by making the attacker think of the repercussions of the action. This would work in the ballroom situation or in court, where an attacker might lose face if they deal a deadly blow to their victim. If the attacker doesn't care about such things then they may be able to inflict the damage but sacrifice an equal number of their own agency points in exchange. "I don't care if I lose prestige in the eyes f the court, I'm still going to attack that son-of-a-kobold".

When using evasive skill to prevent damage, the victim will need to describe how this works in the scene. If they are in a crowd, then the evasive action might cause someone else to get injured; if they are in a narrow alleyway or dungeon corridor, they might not even be able to dodge out of the way.

When using allies, the character simply sacrifices some of their sidekicks to avoid damage to themselves.

There are plenty of other ways that the agency points could be spent to prevent damage, but it's the filters that give it a context within the story.

A character's score in a filter determines the maximum number of agency points that may be used to affect the storyline in a given way.

High agency, low armour; may only allow a character to prevent a single damage attempt by a small amount, but the character could use the remaining agency point to prevent further incoming damage attempts from other sources.

Low Agency, high filter; this may reflect that the armour has great potential, but the character simply doesn't have the influence within the story to take the full advantage of the equipment they possess.

High agency, high filter; may allow a character to completely overcome damage from a wide variety of sources.

It's quite a bit different to the other suggestions that have been offered in the thread, but I just thought I'd throw in a new perspective.

Just some ideas...

V


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Callan S. on February 12, 2009, 08:14:09 PM
Quote
Armour doesn't increase the number of points you can loose before you're down and out. It just means when you're down and out you're not dead. You're still out of the action for the rest of the conflict, but you get to come back with some Agency Points remaining - equal to your original Armour Points score, because you lose Armour Points instead of Agency Points.
What would be the difference between having 8 agency and having 5 agency and 3 armour (5 agency unlocks the full 3 armour, right?)? Apart from being down and out at zero before, as I understand it, being brought back to 3 agency at the end of the battle or at some point?

Apart from the down and out hiccup, they're identical. Having 8 agency/importance to the story is the same as having 5 but wearing 3 armour (except for the hiccup). Assuming the player has a fair bit of agency (they aren't storm troopers, right), even unlocking one point of an armours potential racks you up effectively one point of agency, except for the down and out bump. It's a ramification I'm trying illustrate - that armour is effectively another source of agency.

And with the ball, please don't go into hur hur mode. If a GM is using a ball, presumably there will be some potential threat to agency there, otherwise it's it's all just a bunch of talking about twirling gowns and why is the GM doing that. Of course I mean a ball with assasins or something nasty that potentially can happen and its a bit tiresome to point that out. But the player from my example who, on the battle field is a peer to the 8 agency character, now either drops to 5 or stands out like a sore thumb, in what will be surely more than a ball where gowns twirl.

Quote
I'm not sure if armour could be exploited in the decidely unsportsmanlike manner you describe.
If the author wont take responsiblity for the ramifications of his work, I myself don't really think it's the player who should be called unsportsmanlike.


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Bert on February 13, 2009, 12:30:54 AM

What would be the difference between having 8 agency and having 5 agency and 3 armour (5 agency unlocks the full 3 armour, right?)? Apart from being down and out at zero before, as I understand it, being brought back to 3 agency at the end of the battle or at some point?

Apart from the down and out hiccup, they're identical. Having 8 agency/importance to the story is the same as having 5 but wearing 3 armour (except for the hiccup).

A character with 8 agency is harder to take out of the game than a character with  5 agency. If both characters have 3 points of Armour they're still going to be able to take 8 and 5 points respectively. Armour is not added to Agency. This seems to be your fundamental misconception. The way I see it, armour in an out-of-context situation will be about as much use as it would be in any other system.

Assuming the player has a fair bit of agency (they aren't storm troopers, right), even unlocking one point of an armours potential racks you up effectively one point of agency, except for the down and out bump. It's a ramification I'm trying illustrate - that armour is effectively another source of agency.

Right assumption re: players have plenty of agency, but again - you seem to be assuming that armour is added to agency. Armour isn't a source of agency within a scene. I suppose you might view it as a source of agency over the long term. If armoured, you lose a fight and are roused in the next scene with Agency Points equal to your armour's protection value. Does that count as a source of agency? You are now easier to out of the story until your Agency Points refresh.

And with the ball, please don't go into hur hur mode. If a GM is using a ball, presumably there will be some potential threat to agency there, otherwise it's it's all just a bunch of talking about twirling gowns and why is the GM doing that. Of course I mean a ball with assasins or something nasty that potentially can happen and its a bit tiresome to point that out. But the player from my example who, on the battle field is a peer to the 8 agency character, now either drops to 5 or stands out like a sore thumb, in what will be surely more than a ball where gowns twirl.

The ball example geniunely tickled me, but if you want to keep it deadly serious I can go there. I would only use a ball if there was potential for social conflict and social loss or gain. Danger of death isn't the be all and end all of gaming satisfaction is it? The character with 5 agency and 3 armour is not the peer of a character with 8 agency - armour and agency do not add.

Quote
I'm not sure if armour could be exploited in the decidely unsportsmanlike manner you describe.

Humour! I don't think it can be exploited in an unsportsmanlike manner, because armour and destiny dont add.

If the author wont take responsiblity for the ramifications of his work, I myself don't really think it's the player who should be called unsportsmanlike.

Ouch. Personal. But again, I think this dig is based on the assumption that agency and armour add together. I'm going to have to do some serious work explaining this in the rules if its really that hard to understand. I do take responsibility for my work. Its mine. A key part of that responsibility is making sure I can communicate it effective and not be misinterpreted. If I wasn't serious, I wouldn't have replied to this particular post. However, I will be using humour in my game text.

Thanks again,

Bert



Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Bert on February 13, 2009, 12:05:22 PM
Agency Rating -5 to +5
Armor Rating 0 to +5

storm trooper = -5 +5 (Stormtrooper armor) = 0
han solo = +5

Hi Dave,

You most definitely have the gist of it! I was beginning to think I had turned into an explanatory cretin. However, adding causes no end of problems. See my previous posts to Callan!

Bert

Bert


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Bert on February 13, 2009, 12:24:43 PM
Hi Vulpinoid,

Just some ideas...

That's a rather understated 'some'. You've got it bang on the nail and taken the idea of Agency well into the next stage of development. I think I was boxing Agency into combat corner, and this has just given me some really solid ideas about how I can get it out again. Agency was starting to feel like a hit points you could spend on other things, which is most definitely not what I intended.

Thanks for your ideas and advice!

Bert


Title: Re: making armour tell stories
Post by: Bert on February 16, 2009, 12:37:45 PM
On the back of vulpiniods suggestions and some serious poking, here's how the agency mechanic is looking at present. It now includes all potential protective factors, from armour to a big ego. These are limited to factors that protect you from the consequences of failure rather than failure itself - those factors are incorporated into your ability score. Does the description below make sense?

START

Agency

All characters have an Agency Rating, which reflects how much control their player has over the way character failure is managed during play. The greater a characters Agency Rating, the harder it is to take them out of a scene or indeed the entire game.

All characters start with a number of Agency Points equal to their Agency Rating. When a character experiences failure in an extended challenge or contest, the player can either accept the consequences of failure, or burn Agency Points to reduce the severity of the consequence. If the player is able to burn a number of Agency Points equal to the shortfall in their Ability Score, they can transform a major consequence into a minor one and get a second shot at the challenge or contest.

If your character survives an encounter in which they lose Agency Points, their Agency Points will regenerate at a rate dependent on the nature of the consequence, such as 1 point per hour, day or week. So long as you have Agency Points, you are the only person permitted to describe what happens to your character within the confines of the rules.

Agency Filters

Anything that protects a character from the consequences of failure has a Filter Rating. Filters allow you to freeze a number of Agency Points equal to their Rating instead of burning them. While freezing and burning have pretty much the same effect within a scene, frozen Agency Points are not lost. They simply cease to be part of your active Agency Point total until they are thawed. If a Filter has a higher Rating than your current Agency Points, the surplus is useless to you. You can only freeze Agency Points that you actually have. Frozen agency points still provide the player with ultimate creative control of their character, but they may not be burnt.

Tangible and Intangible Filters

Tangible filters are associated with objects with protective functions, having Filter Ratings based on mundane qualities, such as Plate Armour (Injury, FR 4), Climbing Rope (Falls, FR 3), Winter Clothes (Exposure, FR 2) etc.

Intangible filters are associated with psychosocial factors that shield you from certain consequences. Examples include confidence, honour, reputation, composure and influence. Intangible Filter Ratings are initially based on Ability Scores and vary from character to character.

Filter Recovery

Filters are classed as sacrificial, degradable or enduring.

Sacrificial filters do not refresh, so when you have used a Filter to freeze a number of Agency Points equal to the Filter Rating the filter is destroyed. Shields function in this way.

Degradable filters refresh at the start of the next scene. However, if they are used to freeze a number of Agency Points equal to their Filter Rating in a single scene, their rating drops by 1 permanently. The majority of intangible and tangible filters are degradable.

Enduring filters refresh at the start of the next scene and do not decline, no matter how frequently they are used. Winter clothes to protect from exposure function in this way.

FINISH

That may be the end of this thread unless anyone has anything to add...

Thanks to everyone for their contributions!

Bert