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Title: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 03, 2010, 08:09:26 AM
I hate compromises.

I immediately started to hate compromises the first and the last time I played Burning Empires. We've spent 40 minutes or so playing out DoW. Then, we consulted the manual for the outcome. And the manual said, basically: it's a compromise, you all have to agree on the outcome yourself. And it gave us some vague guidelines to do so. And we've spent another half an hour negotiating the compromise.

First, over half an hour of in-game, in-character debate. Next, over half an hour of out of game, out of character debate to decide the outcome of the former.

WTF? If we're supposed to just agree what happens between us like, you know, consenting adults*, then why do we reach for the dice in the first place?

I mean, sure, that DoW was sort of fun in a board-gamey way. The problem is, how long was the manual, 600 pages? It's all crunchy as hell, we spend 40 minutes on a heavily tactical mini-game, and how does it all affect the game at large? Disproportionately, at least. All we learn is that now we have to agree on the outcome ourselves.

What if we can only agree to disagree? After all, we resort to the rules specifically to resolve our conflict of interests. The rules, however, refer us back to our social agreement. Bullshit, I say.

Case two, Mouse Guard.

The difference between Burning Empires and Mouse Guard is that while the former offers very vague guidelines for compromises, the latter offers pretty concrete guidelines. Basically, depending on the degree of compromise, there are several options to choose: follow-ups, partial goals, twists or conditions of varying severity. Cool, I think, I can work with that.

The problem is, we still have to agree, as a group, on any given compromise. It's right there in the rules. Like it wasn't enough that we've all agreed to play by those rules in the first place. We have to reaffirm our agreement every single conflict. Incidentally, this is pretty much the only part of the game that requires such reaffirmations. Everything else is nicely board-gamey: options, options, options. At any other point it's generally clear who makes a choice and the rest of the group just deals with it. Incidentally, play proceeds smoothly that way.

Compromises? No. They barely ever go smoothly.

The typical scenario when I play as a player: the game gives me a compromise, so I scan the list of options for a given degree of compromise, I pick whichever I find good, and I propose it to the group - and the group sometimes buys it, but often counter-proposals follow, and often the GM is like uh, oh, maybe, but no. It goes like that for several minutes before we finally settle on the outcome.

Last weekend, I've run a game of Mouse Guard myself. So, the party kills the snake, but I get to choose a compromise. I scan my list of options, and the manual tells me I can Injure them. Great! You're Injured! One player, however, points out we all have to agree on the compromise as a group, and the group is like uh, oh, maybe, but no. Uh, you guys just fought a fucking dragon-thing, and barely won, leaving it for death, but you don't find injury an appropriate consequence? Oh, ok, another option, then...

So, a long-term twist it is, the snake, once it recovers, will swear revenge and follow the party. Cool, I'm satisfied with the outcome. What I'm not satisfied is the process of getting there.

If it was a single versus test insted of a full-blown tactical conflict, the manual would just give me the choice to apply condition or twist, and the group would have to deal with that. None uh, oh, maybe, but no.

Case three, IAWA.

Back when it was still Art, Grace & Guts, I've read the manual on the wiki and I was like, negotiation? No, that's plain dumb. It will never work. We're going to argue forever.

However, the (arguably) complete version of the manual came out, I played the game, it all worked fine. In IAWA, if we can't agree on the proposed outcome, somebody just defaults to damage. There's never uh, oh, maybe, but no. Damage it is, and we move on.

Slick.

I feel that compromises in Burning Something and Mouse Guard lack this crucial factor. There is no default outcome. There is no Stick. The system breaks when it's difficult for the players to reconcile their interests. Which is, like, every second conflict?

But other than that, I find Mouse Guard working very well.

I'm currently looking for a way to implement the Stick in Mouse Guard. It's tricky. Conditions seem like the most obvious way to go, but there are only five of those and they can't accumulate. Consequently, it could produce situations when defaulting to conditions would not be possible.

*) Actually, since when it's common for consenting adults to agree on anything just like that? The entire history of the world seems to deny the reliability of this notion, lol.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 03, 2010, 08:36:38 AM
Hi Filip,

Would you like to discuss the issue of having to agree on something versus having the rules say (who says) what happens? In that case, I could add my experience and opinion, which you may find quite controversial. Or would you rather stick with the question about Mouse Guard? I'm afraid I don't have anything to contribute to that.

- Frank


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 03, 2010, 09:09:11 AM
I'm fine with both, as long as we avoid stepping into the trad wilderness.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: jburneko on March 03, 2010, 12:08:50 PM
Filip,

I'm running BE right now.  Our DoW take about 20 minutes and our compromise process takes about 5.  When I run In A Wicked Age... negotiation takes about 2 minutes and almost no ever has to Exhaust or Injure.  I'm not entirely sure our group is magical.

Are you sticking solely to conflicts being between the fictional characters?  Or are you somehow trying to use this mechanics to reconcile player-to-player real world disagreements?  The details of our DoW usually make it really obvious what a fair compromise in the fiction looks like.

Like I remember having a Psychic Duel where I was trying to mind control one the PCs into allowing the character to join the ranks of the Inquisition.  I won but she scored a compromise and said, "Okay but he has to start at the bottom like any new novice would."  Done and Done.  Made total sense, no discussion.

Could you give an exact example of DoW that look a particularly long time?  In particular can you remember what each side was asking for specifically?  One or two details about what was said during the actually volleys would be helpful as well.

Jesse


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Luke on March 03, 2010, 01:43:47 PM
I'd also like to point out that page 115 gives the GM power to enforce compromises on intransigent players.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 03, 2010, 03:07:58 PM
Great post Filip, I agree and nice observation/identification of the default outcome procedure!!

Yeah, when the game handballs it to the group, yet it doesn't cover an outcome that can occur in that group, it's a pretty broken procedure. I was reading through escape from tentacle city and that had solid procedure, with only one spot where you decide if an items pimped bonus applies, as a group. I knew that was a break point but couldn't quite articulate why - you've described it today in terms of there being no default outcome!

And I don't mean to lay into escape from tentacle city - I'm using it because traditional games have hundreds of break points and you can't see the forest for the trees. EFTC has a solid frame with just one single break point where it throws it to the group with no default result, so it's easier to describe.

Quote
*) Actually, since when it's common for consenting adults to agree on anything just like that? The entire history of the world seems to deny the reliability of this notion, lol.
Perhaps it's another nerd phalacy, that we pretend that we all think the same way and never argue?


Also I think some people revel in the idea that they are forced to agree in some way, or the game stalls because there is no default. They see it as a feature. I don't know why.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Judd on March 03, 2010, 03:40:40 PM
It is interesting because it is so counter to my own DoW experiences.

In my experience, each party states their intent and the compromise ends up being a delightful surprise, something more than we thought was going to happen when we first started the DoW.

What occurs when the group is disagreeing on the compromise?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: greyorm on March 03, 2010, 05:03:10 PM
Quote
*) Actually, since when it's common for consenting adults to agree on anything just like that? The entire history of the world seems to deny the reliability of this notion, lol.
I suggest it depends on the group and the personalities involved. I could cite some studies about conflict resolution and personality types, esp. as they relate to history and government, but as I foresee a very good possibility of someone throwing a fit, I'll just say it may not work for your group because of the mix of people in your group.

Here's the thing: clearly it works and goes smoothly for other groups; I suggest the solution then is to figure out what WOULD work for your group rather than poo-pooing the notion itself as inherently broken. (I think such a dismissal, in fact, may be equivalent to arguing that "Gamism is broken and impossible" because your group is not Gamist oriented -- and therefore can't see how it would work because your starting play-procedure assumptions are erroneous -- or is suffering some sort of dysfunction that doesn't allow it to be functional.)

So I think we're looking at: why does it work in those other groups? Why doesn't that work in yours? What stop-gap measure is necessary for it to be functional in your group?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 03, 2010, 05:30:09 PM
Jesse,

Quote
When I run In A Wicked Age... negotiation takes about 2 minutes and almost no ever has to Exhaust or Injure.

Likewise. I rarely ever see anyone defaulting in IAWA. That's the beauty of the rule. And that's the point!

If one fails to come up with anything appealing enough, however, there's no buts.

Quote
Are you sticking solely to conflicts being between the fictional characters?  Or are you somehow trying to use this mechanics to reconcile player-to-player real world disagreements?

Yes? No? Both? Depends what sort of disagreements you mean, specifically?

Of course we were resolving conflicts between the fictional characters. However, what's "conflict between the fictional characters", actually? Fictional characters don't get into conflicts on their own, they can't even want anything on their own. Before the fictional character wants anything, real people need to establish that as a fictional fact, right?

Of course we were resolving real world disagreements. There were five real people playing a real game. Each of us had a real investment into the game, each of us had real strategic goals within the context of the game, each of us was establishing fictional stuff for real reasons. Sometimes immediate goals and reasons aligned, sometimes not. Either way, it's all necessarily between real players before we even start talking what the characters want. Players play the game, not the characters.

In that last Mouse Guard game I've run, for instance, was it between the mice and the snake? We, the real players, we were following the real manual to establish what happens. The mice had nothing to say regarding their injury, and likewise, the snake had nothing to say. Real players, motivated by their real interests, invoked a real rule to deny the real change of game variables that inform further processing of fictional content.

Now, in the context of those fictional events, was Injury appropriate? I guess so. Was that other compromise I came up with after the player's objection to Injury appropriate? Obviously. Fiction is not problematic in this case, the real world process is. It allows for some real strategic wriggling when I'm not very comfortable with it, i.e. after actual in-fiction actions have already taken place and have already been accounted for by the game mechanics. Oh, sure, the manual says the GM has the right to enforce his decision when no consensus can be reached, but in this gray area, who am I to say the player's objection was not valid? Perhaps as a player I'd object the same way myself, given some wriggle room in that particular situation, who knows? If so, I probably wouldn't be pleased to hear uh, oh, maybe, but no. After all, fiction is a flexible beast. Injury was not the only possible appropriate consequence in those circumstances, so why would I not want to wriggle for a compromise that would align with my interests better?

Nothing crucial to the overall point of the game is compromised with all that wriggling, and yet, something doesn't feel quite right about it.

Quote
Could you give an exact example of DoW that look a particularly long time?  In particular can you remember what each side was asking for specifically?  One or two details about what was said during the actually volleys would be helpful as well.

Unfortunately, no. In that particular conflict my character was only helping, I think? My memories are rather blurry. Pretty much everything relevant that I remember from that game is already in the first post.

That game took place over a year ago and I left it after that session, due to the general lack of setting buy-in and frustration with various mechanical issues. The group continued the campaign for the next six months or so, but I believe they houseruled that part later (setting several partial stakes for each side up front, or something like that). None of the players I've talked with afterwards had fully positive feelings about the system.

Note that our GM was quite experienced in running BE - he completed two or three campaigns before. Oddly, it seems his previous players were rather passive (emerging from a trad play culture characterized by the "GM as entertainer" and "GM as god" approaches), and largely went with the flow.

Also, note that it was the same GM who ran Mouse Guard for us, and there was another player from that BE campaign in the game. We went strictly by the book, or at least tried to. Re-reading the manual last week I noticed we missed some tangential rules the first time (nothing big or relevant to compromises, though). The campaign was the exact opposite of that BE game, i.e. fun as opposed to frustrating.

Before anyone asks, I also have a hard time recalling any specific instance of establishing compromises from that campaign clearly. Perhaps something will pop up soon? For now it all blurs, as none of those thirteen sessions was particularly distinctive. What I recall is that compromises were one of the few things that didn't go as smoothly as they should, and I recall some general uh, oh, maybe, but no. Keep in mind I don't want to say any single person was at fault - each of us contributed his share of buts.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 03, 2010, 06:18:27 PM
Uh, I had to deal with a little flood obstacle in the middle of answering to Jesse, and it's already getting late here, so I'll consider the remaining posts tomorrow. Perhaps the above post provides enough data to answer some of your questions, though?

I notice many of you comment on that final consensus disclaimer. To clarify: note that I'm not saying agreement is not possible, ever. What I want to say is that it's not necessarily a default state, dependend on various unpredictable and unstable conditions, shifting moment to moment. Not a very good factor to rely on. I specifically find handwaving the possiblity of disagreement fairly problematic when it comes to practical execution.

(Also, I sort of anticipated "consenting adults" arguments cropping up, as they tend to in discussions related to social level stuff. I find those instant discussion stoppers.)

It might also be worth noting that while there was about 50% overlap between BE and MG groups in question, none of those players participated in my current MG game (yet). Overall, I guess frustration with related break points and player behaviors plagues my gaming history since the very beginning, regardless of group.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 05, 2010, 09:13:05 AM
Callan,

The problem I see is that as a group seems to be a massive mental shortcut, generally. All the group this, group that talk builds an impression the group is some sort of hive mind. The group, however, is composed of individuals, obviously. In practice, there is no as a group, there's always some potentially complex process involved that goes on between those individuals. Procedures referring to the group as a hive mind often leave a necessary part of the process out, or at least aren't explicit about it, assuming the group will supplement that part with a compatible component. It's certainly easier than designing instructions that would guide the individuals involved through that gap. It's not reliable, however, no more than leaving wide gaps in the rules for the individual GM to bridge, trusting that given a range of possibilities that also include wrong choices, GMs will reliably choose the way the designer intended.

Judd,

Quote
In my experience, each party states their intent and the compromise ends up being a delightful surprise, something more than we thought was going to happen when we first started the DoW.

I don't get the surprise part. It seems like a disconnect to me. Between the intent and the compromise, there's this elaborate and crunchy process of resolution. Sometimes, it produces a hopefully unambiguous outcome (i.e. one of the parties gets the stated intent). Often, it results in a compromise, and here, you do something that creates a surprise. How does the surprise tie to the preceeding mini-game? It's probably informed by some narrative cues produced throughout that part, but it seems disconnected from the mini-game itself. It's like, you go through the elaborate mini-game to produce a few narrative cues, and then you apply an entirely separate, social-level process to transform those cues into some surprising outcome.

It doesn't seem to me the surprise emerges directly from the mini-game. It seems more like a quick Tarot draw could do equally well. It seems to undermine the point of the mini-game, however fun it might be in its own board-gamey right.

Quote
What occurs when the group is disagreeing on the compromise?

When we disagree on the outcome, there's some uh, oh, maybe, but no, and somebody proposes another outcome, until one is accepted (i.e. until no one objects anymore). However, there's this uncomfortable feeling that some of us get robbed from the outcome they earned through the mini-game.

Raven,

Quote
What stop-gap measure is necessary for it to be functional in your group?

I don't think it's a matter of it being functional, but rather of it being functionally fun. Hey, we will always reach some agreement eventually, only having to reach an agreement as a separate process is not fun. It feels out of the game.

So, Dogs. The resolution in Dogs is all about reaching an agreement. In theory, we could roll the dice and manipulate them to apply narrative pressure forever. In practice, at some point, the process makes you not want to object anymore. You look at current game variables, both mechanical and fictional, and that's it, you give. It's fun. It's all in the game.

Quote
So I think we're looking at: why does it work in those other groups? Why doesn't that work in yours?

Now, I can imagine groups where it would work. The problem is, I imagine a group composed of individuals that consistently proved problematic in my groups so far.

The people I'm thinking about, and I'm going to make quite a bit of generalizations here, tend to expose little investment in the game and consequently don't seem to have a particularly strong agenda. They are often in the game primarily for social reasons, or "just to have fun" (just as opposed to what, I cannot grasp). Sometimes they stress stuff like "Story", "atmosphere" or "acting", but in practice, they seem to feel better as passive spectators than active players. It's the type that avoids reading manuals, but seems to enjoy reading fluff. They tend to be trained in what a friend recently described very accurately as GM-telling.

They don't bring much to the game, other than their amenable participation. Often, they will let a more active player take control and effectively play instead of them, while they contribute a bit of humor here or some acting there. They never employ the variety of tactical options in D&D, and they never make a strong Raise in Dogs. Oh, and they never run games on their own.

So, yeah, I notice groups composed mostly of individuals that more or less fit that general profile tend to reach agreement on a purely social level more smoothly. They also frustrate me to no end, and I tend to avoid playing with them. Over an extended period, it never works.

I guess there might be groups where it would work that don't fit that profile. What are the factors that make that possible? And, more importantly, how come we're attracted to the same designs, then?

Either way, somehow, I'm not coming across such players. I'm starting to wonder if it might be some strictly cultural thing.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 05, 2010, 10:52:06 AM
Hey Filip,

I feel I either have a lot to say about this topic, or nothing at all. I am partially hampered by the fact that I don’t know Burning Empires, or Mouse Guard. I can’t really figure out how you guys play. From what you’ve written so far, my mind is painting a picture of play disconnected from the fiction, where goals are pursued by mechanical means and the mechanic applications do not really mean anything in the fiction. Where everybody only wants to push through his own ideas, where there is no shared understanding of the fictional situation and how it evolves ‘naturally’, no esthetic like-mindedness that makes you go, ‘Wow, cool!’ when someone else describes a fictional event or circumstance, or delivers an in-character line.

I don’t really feel I understand what you get out of this sort of play. To my mind, if you cannot buy into something that your fellow player brings up for a compromise, then why should you buy into the same thing just because the rules said the buck stopped with that player? How is that any better? I don’t like these ‘buck stops here’ type of rules because they take away the need to sell your fellow players on your ideas. But I don’t know if any of this is of any help to you, because we seem to have very, very different concepts of role-playing.

Probably I’m not taking the discussion down a constructive lane, so I’ll back off for now. If anybody’s interested, you might check out my thread [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27574.0), in which a very similar discussion came up between Callan and me.

Cheers, Frank


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Judd on March 05, 2010, 11:04:15 AM
Filip,

You talk about the ambiguous outcomes as if they are bad things and to me, they are what makes DoW fun.  That fun comes out of the context of the Duel itself and the fiction that drove the game to that point.

I am not sure how to respond to the idea that the surprise, generated from an ambiguous outcome, is disconnected from the DoW mini-game.  It is the mini-game's outcome that created the ambiguity with Beliefs driving the DoW, the compromise is linked to the character.  It is not a tarot draw anymore than an unconscious character whose hit points have been dropped to 0 is a tarot draw.

I'm not sure where the disconnect is here.

Judd


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 05, 2010, 03:22:36 PM
The problem I see is that as a group seems to be a massive mental shortcut, generally. All the group this, group that talk builds an impression the group is some sort of hive mind. The group, however, is composed of individuals, obviously. In practice, there is no as a group, there's always some potentially complex process involved that goes on between those individuals. Procedures referring to the group as a hive mind often leave a necessary part of the process out, or at least aren't explicit about it, assuming the group will supplement that part with a compatible component. It's certainly easier than designing instructions that would guide the individuals involved through that gap. It's not reliable, however, no more than leaving wide gaps in the rules for the individual GM to bridge, trusting that given a range of possibilities that also include wrong choices, GMs will reliably choose the way the designer intended.
I just totally agree - and that's because the physical evidence points exactly this way. There is no 'the group'.

But the thing is, as individuals, people can shut off their own sense of individual actions "Your all individuals!" *Crowd repeats "Were all individuals!"* and then one guy says "I'm not" which is just awesome individuality even if the guy denies it and that is piss funny!

So what do we do here when individual behaviour is to deny their individual positions, denying whatever physical evidence you can bring to bear, and their individual action is to say it's 'the group' that does things?


Frank,

You seem to read it as a binary - either there is 100% faithfulness to whatever fiction has been said and pretty much understood at the table, or everyones absolutely ignoring it and just pressing mechanical buttons?

When Ron throws bangs into his games, I'm pretty sure he's not being 100% faithful to how the fiction would have turned out. Indeed, that's what he's avoiding - just letting the fiction turn out as it will, as if his nar agenda will be supported without any human intervention. But he's not being 100% unfaithful and simply pressing a mechanical bang button, either.


Judd,

It's not ambiguous if you've been instructed to come to an unambiguous conclusion with your fellow players?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Judd on March 05, 2010, 03:24:35 PM
Judd,

It's not ambiguous if you've been instructed to come to an unambiguous conclusion with your fellow players?

Ya lost me.

What?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: greyorm on March 05, 2010, 03:29:50 PM
 
Either way, somehow, I'm not coming across such players. I'm starting to wonder if it might be some strictly cultural thing.

Is writing cooperative (or round-robin) fiction a thing restricted by culture?
Does your culture not have troupes of improv actors?

That's the sort of activity we're talking about here, and such activity isn't something rare, special, or unusual, especially among creatives! So I really don't know what to say about your belief that the only groups that can compromise quickly or while having mutual fun are composed of passive, non-involved individuals? That's pretty much the opposite my experience and perceptions.

So there is this cooperative/mutualist mindset necessary for easy/successful resolution compromise-based mechanics, and I don't know if as a result of their gaming history or just their place/time in life or what, but it sounds to me like you have a bunch of argumentative players who don't what to behave like in a mutual creative enterprise, or who are afraid of creative mutualism (you mentioned there is a concern they are getting the short end of the stick in compromises) perhaps because they've been burned in the past?

Can you tell us more about these players: are they high-school or college-age kids? Are they argumentative outside of gaming (for example, is ordering pizzas a twenty-minute affair) or otherwise have strong individualist tendencies? What other games do they play regularly and have they played? Have they mentioned or have you seen a lot of dysfunction in their past groups or past games?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: JoyWriter on March 05, 2010, 04:35:42 PM
Fillip, I wonder does an new set of criteria come out when you're asked about compromise? I mean do you and other people in your group suddenly get more picky because someone is asking your opinion? I've seen that happen before in very different contexts; offer certain people a choice and they'll leap on it, and hold you there for hours, but if you suggest one option out of say 10, (with a bit of undecidedness but without explicitly mentioning it's up to them) they will quickly agree to one of those ten!


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Ben Lehman on March 05, 2010, 06:33:11 PM
I don't think it's cultural. Filip's experience basically mirrors mine (well, not specifically wrt Burning _, but in that games that require a group compromise and group consensus are hard and frustrating to play.) The development process for both Polaris and Bliss Stage involved eliminating most or all instances of group compromise from play.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 05, 2010, 06:35:00 PM
Raven, from the account they seem to work fine and have fun/uninterupted fun if there is a default mechanism. The addition of the default mechanism makes the shoe fit their collective foot, so to speak. But you keep seeming to want to delve into some problem or thing with the group, as if rather than having a default added or involved, it's the group that should fix itself? Like instead of adding this small bit of mechanics, which seems to work well for them, actually they should change themselves to fit the game? To me this seems to be making the foot fit the shoe, as if it's the foots fault or job or role to be the right size for the shoe?

Also I'm not sure actors are a great example of people who aren't into following other peoples scripts. I know improv can make a scene hilarious or nifty, but it can do so while not changing some greater script in the least.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: greyorm on March 06, 2010, 01:36:00 AM
Callan, I've turned back to the group because Filip's response to my procedural questions appeared to indicate he thought it was a group thing, too (hence his statements about it being cultural, the dismissal of my questions along the lines of "making the shoe fit the foot"). So I'm trying to figure out why the group responds like this to compromise situations in order to suggest or help spur solutions that will work for them. And now I must ask you: why do you want to completely divorce group dynamics from the solution?

Re: the "actors" bit, please note exactly what the context of that was, what it was a response to, before you start jumping all over whether actors do this or actors do that, or Hollywood sucks and so therefore acting is bad thing to bring up, etc: it was an example for a response to the idea that "creatives can't engage in mutualism/they can but its cultural" and the intent of the example should be pretty clear given the other example of cooperative fiction writing.

(Note: I'm talking about improv theater, not an actor who improvs a line in a play -- even though that is also a good example as it requires compromise between writer and actor: "Ok, this is going to happen, but I'm going to say it this way, instead." or "So I have to leave, but I'm going to exit to the right instead of the left, and knock over the flower vase.")


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Brendan Day on March 06, 2010, 09:05:03 AM
Improv is a good example, because the actors never have an opportunity to negotiate.  They're trying to reach a consensus on stage, but they have to do so in scene, and they want to avoid compromises at all costs.  If the snake is threatening the mouse, there is no time to debate whether the mouse should survive, and backing down from the conflict would just kill the scene.

The closest I've come to that in an rpg is IAWA.  Let's say the oracles are "a humble field mouse, burdened with a great treasure" and "an impetuous queen, transformed for a time into a hideous serpent".  Tthe snake doesn't try to catch the mouse; it devours the mouse whole.  The mouse responds by leaping out of its jaws at the last moment, and either getting away or having its tail chewed off.  If the mouse loses the conflict, it is injured or exhausted unless it offers some other concession.  That's the only place where the experience stops feeling like improv, because the actors sudden run off stage, and for a few minutes the audience can hear them whispering frantically behind the curtain.  They finally come back onstage and the mouse brushes itself off, thankful that it escaped with its skin, only to discover that the snake swallowed the magical ring it had been wearing on its tail.  Or the snake announces that it has a toothache, and will happily let the mouse go if only it would extract the tooth.  The audience doesn't care any more, because they sense that this isn't really improv.  The actors cheated.

When I play an rpg, I feel like I'm out there on stage if there are rules constraining my actions.  The rules take the place of the audience.  If the rules disappear and I'm just supposed to negotiate the outcome, then it feels like I've stepped off stage.  It's a relief to be out of the spotlight, but it's also kind of disappointing.



Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: contracycle on March 06, 2010, 10:22:15 AM
I don't see any realy similarity to or relationship between improv and RP.  I think they are very different beasts; we would never need any of these tomes of rules if we could and did just make stuff up.  Whats more, improv works to different goals; all it has to do is amuse an audience, the actors do not have a stake in the ouctome, and their toes don't get stepped on if something they set up gets used for a different effect.  I don't think there are many RP groups that work much at all like acting improv, and a rules set built for that kind of dynamic is then a really unusual and special.

Compromise, as has been acidly remarked, is the art of insuring the other party doesn't get what they want.  Note that this says nothing about getting what you want; the effect is entirely negative.  That may be a rather cynical view but I think it strikes at a truth, which is that compromises tend to be watered down versions of any given proposition.  In same cases that's a virtue - although, not in as many as our conventional wisdom likes to claim.  But it seems to me that in RP this poses the danger of turning a Really Cool Idea into just another, run of the mill, crappy idea.  Certainly a case could be made for it being preferable to hand authority over cleanly and have one person author something than to mediate it through what everyone else is willing to accept.

Anyway, these sorts of group compromise "rules" look very odd to me, sort of a bizarre reincarnation, or perhaps reanimation, of the Golden Rule.  System, after all, is there to establish the IS, but in this case it seems to be throwing the duties of system back on to the players, leaving them without any system with which to work.  That seems exceedingly strange and self-defeating to me.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Judd on March 06, 2010, 11:17:26 AM
I don't see compromise as the art of not giving someone what they want.  I see it as the art of giving what they want with a twist, with a problem and/or a complication.

  • The elf arguing for the human's life saves the human but only if he takes responsibility for their entire rebellious village.

  • The dwarf arguing with the dragon will get the axe but only if they bring all of their future oath-breakers to the dragon for banishment.

    • The mice save the ship from the kestrel but one of the captain's children is taken.

    In my experience, it takes what the players want and complicates it, making it even more interesting.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: contracycle on March 06, 2010, 11:28:18 AM
Well, I acknowledged that the reference I was drawing on was cynical, but I do have a cautionary tale to tell in regards making things "more interesting".  I did quite a lot of that sort of thing, and eventually the players rebelled and complained that I was sabotaging their efforts, and they wanted to have a plan actually succeed for once.  Obviously, it's not that you should never subvert someone elses proposals, but I was doing it too consistently.  Having this sort of thing as a fundamental part of the resolution seems in danger of producing a similarly dissatisfying effect.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Judd on March 06, 2010, 11:31:20 AM
That is like a group complaining because they lost hit points in a battle.  If their arguments lost Body of Argument, they have to compromise.

This sounds much more like a case of going to Duels of Wits when it was not necessary but I wasn't there.

Could we offer more at the table AP examples?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Luke on March 06, 2010, 11:34:22 AM
So this theorizin' sure is interesting, but I was wondering since this is the AP forum, if anyone has concrete examples of unsatisfactory compromises from their games. Anyone?

A campaign or two ago, my group got so heated up about a high-stakes argument, it took us another 30 minutes of wrangling to find the appropriate compromise. We had the words of the argument ringing our ears. Everyone knew what was at stake. And the mechanics told us the necessary scale of the concessions. But both sides refused to be generous. We had to toss out some bad ideas and let them die -- let tempers cool and vindicitiveness fade -- before a reasonable option presented itself. It was an intense moment at the table, but ultimately productive.

-Luke


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: contracycle on March 06, 2010, 12:56:14 PM
The point at hand is not that the comprimises ultimately arrived at are unsatisfying, but that the need to break out of formal system and compromise in the first place is itself undesirable to some.

Paka: my point was not about the legitimacy of doing it, but of the desirability of doing it.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: greyorm on March 06, 2010, 12:59:09 PM
Jumping Jesus F. Christ on a pogo stick. I give up; context is lost art.

It really doesn't matter what improv is or whether it is a good example or not, because the point is: do people make mutual creative decisions even if they don't get exactly what they want without taking twenty fucking minutes to do so? Can some of them even do it in a snap without needing to discuss it long-form debate-style? Yes. They do. All the time. In many different creative fields.

Hence the question is then: why can't Filip's group?

Filip, any ideas? Can you run us through any specific compromise situations that were un-fun?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Luke on March 06, 2010, 01:30:43 PM
The point at hand is not that the comprimises ultimately arrived at are unsatisfying, but that the need to break out of formal system and compromise in the first place is itself undesirable to some.

Well, if you're referring to my designs, the formality of the procedure for compromise is the same as the formality for the baseline resolution procedure -- build context, state what you want from the context, operate the game mechanism, negotiate between all parties to ensure the result suits the context.

So, since the formalism doesn't seem to be the issue, I'm curious about what's going on in the actual gameplay.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 06, 2010, 03:49:24 PM
And now I must ask you: why do you want to completely divorce group dynamics from the solution?
Why as in justify why? *shrug*
But as to my reasons, they just seem to fall into the usual human norms. Indeed it's pointless playing with people who think exactly the same as you - you want people to disagree and push for other directions, using whatever legit means they have to do that. Art from adversity.

But that's slipping off my point, which is they fall into the usual human norms. Or atleast my standards of normal, from observing life. So I forget about group dynamics being a solution since I don't see any error in falling into the normal human range. I mean, if compromising in a moment is so common - why aren't people compromising instantly in this thread? No ones here just to make a smooth running forge thread. Nor are people roleplaying just to make smooth roleplaying...well, maybe with simulationism, I dunno - sim seems to take roleplay itself as both the means to an end and the end sought.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 06, 2010, 04:43:27 PM
First things first.

I've run Mouse Guard again yesterday. This time, the player who previously pointed out we have to agree was absent. One of the players present had no previous experience with Mouse Guard (or anything with similar compromise rules), and he haven't read the manual. The other player had very little experience with other games (a few D&D sessions), and my previous Mouse Guard session was her first (she seems to quickly learn rules through play, though).

We had three conflicts, all of which ended with a compromise. The one time I lost with a compromise, nobody objected to my proposal. Here's what happened the two times they lost with a compromise: I've read their options and gave some examples where explanations were needed. They promptly went with those. So, effectively, those were my contributions.

It was uncomfortable for me. I felt as if I was robbing them of what they mechanically earned in the conflict mini-game. I never feel comfortable when an inexperienced player just takes my suggestion instead of trying to come up with something of their own along those lines. Here, I was particularly afraid they might develop an impression that it's actually always the GM's job to decide.

Now, the thread was developing quite rapidly. At the moment, I'm busy re-reading and re-thinking some possibly relevant APs, and it will take some time composing my responses to some of you. So, I'll start with some shorter answers, leaving the rest of the thread for later.

Callan,

Heh, it's only after I've checked your blog that it struck me we're more like nodding to each other rather than discussing the thing :)

Quote
So what do we do here when individual behaviour is to deny their individual positions, denying whatever physical evidence you can bring to bear, and their individual action is to say it's 'the group' that does things?

Here's what I do. I roll my eyes. Got a better suggestion, I'm sure?

Ben,

This is very interesting.

I've run three campaign of Bliss Stage so far, and most of the persons in question were in at least one of those. The game works remarkably well for us, in general.

Polaris seems like it should work for me, procedurally, but I've only played it a few times and with only one of those particular players, so I lack reliable data. The game clearly isn't very good as a one shot, and the only campaign attempted so far fizzled. Every now and then we consider giving Polaris a shot, but there's always something more immediately appealing to play. It doesn't help that while I like the system, I don't really like what the game is about.

Luke,

Quote
A campaign or two ago, my group got so heated up about a high-stakes argument, it took us another 30 minutes of wrangling to find the appropriate compromise. We had the words of the argument ringing our ears. Everyone knew what was at stake. And the mechanics told us the necessary scale of the concessions. But both sides refused to be generous. We had to toss out some bad ideas and let them die -- let tempers cool and vindicitiveness fade -- before a reasonable option presented itself. It was an intense moment at the table, but ultimately productive.

This. Productive or not, what you seem to describe is something I don't want in my gaming. I can only see it as a failure of the game. Like a video game crashing and returning to the operating system. Or like suddenly going into the debugging console. It feels out of game.

Quote
Well, if you're referring to my designs, the formality of the procedure for compromise is the same as the formality for the baseline resolution procedure -- build context, state what you want from the context, operate the game mechanism, negotiate between all parties to ensure the result suits the context.

Is it possible... and stop me if I'm sounding crazy... that you didn't do it right?

In Mouse Guard specifically, I don't see how it's the same. Perhaps it's coded into other rules in a way that makes it invisible, I don't know. You lost me with that "negotiate" part. I don't see this in any other resolution procedure in this game. Frankly, that's why I find most of those other procedures strong.

I'm sure your mechanics tell you and your players the necessary scale of compromises*. Perhaps in this case the manual doesn't formalize what's going on at your table adequately, however?

I keep thinking how our Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard GM, who's big on podcasts, once noted that there's plenty of actual play recordings available, but none by your group. "I wonder how Luke actually plays this" was a recurring saying at our table. While the procedure in Mouse Guard seems generally clear, the examples provided often seem to only illustrate random bits of it. Other than those, though, we have no way to compare our actual play discourse with yours.

Well, in Mouse Guard's manual there's no example of a compromise at all. I don't know about BE (and I don't have the manual). I'm currently reading BW in preparation for our upcoming Jihad campaign, and while there are some examples, they're very sketchy and focus on fiction rather than what's actually going on between the people at the table. This manual doesn't even explain the scale, it just provides a pretty vague scale. It instructs the players to agree on fiction stuff, when they are likely not to have the same sense of "very minor", "legitimate" and "major" categories. Quantifying fiction is hard!


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: greyorm on March 06, 2010, 05:00:45 PM
Callan, you're still putting anyone who can and does do this regularly into some weird/other/abnormal category. That's asinine. And pointless. Because Filip doesn't need someone defending his group as normal and labeling everyone else into the abnormal corner; what he needs is a solution, not repeated insistence that his group is just fine, or isn't fine, or other defenses of or attacks against.

I'm going to repeat myself in paraphrase from earlier: "Other folks can do this, and do so regularly; why can they and how can we use that to help Filip make it work, and better our game texts to account for the issue?"

Note: this is not a sneering, derisive statement of "Well, others can, so why can't you?" that needs righteous defenders of normalcy to leap into action and pat everyone on the head to tell them they're OK and alright and don't worry. It's just cold, hard fact and examination: "This bunch of people can. This bunch of people can't. Why? And how do we use that?" That is all I am saying.

Only a couple of people have come close to examining that. Everyone else has spun off into the atmosphere.

And I think Filip gets to the heart of this question, or perhaps rephrases it, in his post just above: "Perhaps in this case the manual doesn't formalize what's going on at your table adequately, however?"


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Luke on March 06, 2010, 05:53:40 PM
Filip,

Page 90, Passed Tests. "Describe your success or let the GM embellish." Right there, you're negotiating the results in the fiction. Pages 91-92, Conditions of Success. This is the basic building block of negotiated compromise -- you get what you want, but...

These basic exercises are expanded upon in the conflict compromises.

Negotiation is the very heart of a roleplaying game system. Not in a "I roll my Negotiations skill" sense, but in terms of people at the table are jockeying for position at the table, using the system to tell them who has authority over what when.


BWR, BE and MG have been around the block enough, been played so far outside of my group, that this isn't a case of the missing text. People who have never played with me, never even met me, manage these rules just fine. Based on what you said about you presenting options to players and having the players accept the options without discussion, it seems like there's something going on in your group dynamic that is making accepting compromises difficult.

And what you view as a failure of the game, I view as a strength. The players use the game to pound out a space in which very intense, very difficult decisions can be made. The inspiration for these decisions comes from the iterative conflict mechanic, but the nature of the decisions springs straight from the gut. This is vital to my designs. The game can only do much. I want my games to create the space in which you have to make the meaningful decision about the direction of the story before we dive back into the nitty gritty. It's very hard to do in the design of a roleplaying game, I admit.

And if you don't like the mechanics for Mouse Guard and Burning Empires, forget Burning Wheel. It's the loosest of the bunch. There's very little guidance, if any, on how to structure a compelling adventure, let alone on how to come to a compromise.

If you have questions about the rules, you should post over on burningwheel.org

Good luck!


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 06, 2010, 07:54:17 PM
Luke,

Quote
Page 90, Passed Tests. "Describe your success or let the GM embellish." Right there, you're negotiating the results in the fiction. Pages 91-92, Conditions of Success. This is the basic building block of negotiated compromise -- you get what you want, but...

I still don't see this. I don't see how this is the same as conflict compromises. I see a very concrete procedure that gives the player a choice between two options. The same goes for the "twist or condition" rule. Options. Buttons. There's no moment to moment group agreement necessary here. We've all agreed to play this here game. The game has these here buttons, pushing them does this and that. At any point it's generally clear who can push which button.

With compromises... there is a button, but there is only a single button and there are two or three or four or more players reaching for it simultaneously. Also, there's this special player who is given a hammer and instructed to smash the button should too many reach at once. Incidentally, the hammer guy is the target here, but in the end, he is the only one who has real say in how the button is used. Well, how is that even a compromise at this point?

I don't see how this is the same.

Quote
And if you don't like the mechanics for Mouse Guard and Burning Empires, forget Burning Wheel. It's the loosest of the bunch. There's very little guidance, if any, on how to structure a compelling adventure, let alone on how to come to a compromise.

Luke, read closely, please. I like Mouse Guard. There are only three things I don't like in Mouse Guard, compromises being one of those, and the only one that poses actual problems in play. In contrast, there are perhaps three things I like in many other games on my shelf.

Burning Empires... never again. However, whether Burning Wheel proves playable enough for my purposes, I'll decide after our Jihad campaign. Note that I purchased BW with hacking in mind, so in this case, I only really need it for spare parts. Specifically, my plan is to run Fading Suns later this year. Initially, Mouse Guard hack seemed like a good idea, but that's a lot of work. When Jihad was proposed, it occurred to me BW already has a lot of the detailed content I need, so it might be easier to just substitute what I don't like with its Mouse Guard equivalents, and to patch subsystems as needed. For now, I need that Jihad campaign to assess actual compatibility.

Also, to be clear. I don't really expect you to be helpful here. I have little trust in you as the designer. Here, my trust ends at the product. All being said, Mouse Guard's manual is very solid, and it proves sufficient in most other respects. If it's not already there, well, if you couldn't put it there in the first place, then I doubt you can help me now.

Raven,

Your posts are next in the queue and I guess I'll try to answer tomorrow.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Luke on March 06, 2010, 08:29:21 PM
Filip,
I know you're Polish, so I'll let the snark pass.

I admit, I've clearly failed to make the procedure clear to you. But I ask you to reassess your position -- reexamine your habits at the gaming table. The design is functional, clear and important. Why didn't your players step up and offer a compromise of their choosing? And when they failed to hold forth, why didn't you stop and encourage them to utilize their power?

Bad analogies in second languages don't help the matter either.

The whole point of the conflict mechanics in BE/MG/BWR is to build consensus around a specific issue. The mechanics recognize, however, that consensus is unlikely to happen. Thus, the system works to build a context and then stops at a certain juncture and says, "Now you come to an agreement based on these parameters that you've created." Sometimes the result is obvious -- one side wins outright. Other times, the result is nuanced and must be carefully instructed lest the game fiction be disrupted.

It's the same procedure as fundamental roleplaying. The GM says, "You go down this path." You say, "No, we go down another." You discuss a bit and decide which action makes the most sense in the context of the game.

Which builds into rolling dice to overcome obstacles: Later you say, "I do this thing like this!" You roll the dice and do not get the number of successes needed. The GM says, "No, instead you do this thing." You say, "But my guy would never do that." The GM says, "You're right. You do this other thing instead." You agree that that's acceptable and move on.

This is how Mouse Guard is played. There is constant negotiation and compromise. It's easy to overlook this aspect of the smaller, sharper rolls since they happen so quickly and the stakes aren't usually so high.



Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: ThoughtBubble on March 06, 2010, 10:34:06 PM
This thread sort of mirrors some of my experiences in this last year. My play group exploded last summer. We ended up in a set of groupings I'd call the color focused people, and the procedure focused people.

The procedure people follow the rules. They bring strong ideas about playing the game by following the rules in the book. They're the ones who poke around in power-combinations, read through the books multiple times, love grid based games and tracking status. Aside from me, they're also the only people who've ever run campaigns. Their characters have rock solid abilities and fit in party niches. Their characters also tend to have few in game issues and mostly "go with the plot", doing what's necessary to stick with the party/greater objectives. These are the guys I'd play 4E or Mouse Guard with. Though Mouse Guard has some caveats.

The colorists aren't really so concerned with the rules and trust me to help them with that. They bring a larger sense of the game world with them and create bits of it as time progresses. They tend to have stronger character concepts and build on them as the games progress. These are the guys who draw their characters, and form attachments to NPCs. They're the ones who the plot ends up building out of the bits and pieces they hand me in game. These are the guys I'd play In A Wicked Age or Burning Wheel with. Though Burning wheel has some caveats too. What is it with your games Luke?

I'll leave our poor situational player alone for now, and not talk about our bi-polar player who jumps between procedure and color. : )

But what I found is that our color people are pretty good at negotiating, while our procedure people aren't. Why? There's no damn procedure for my procedure people to follow, while the color people look at what happened before and pick out something that "feels" right.

Filip, my guess is that you're pretty strongly procedural too. As such, you don't have as much fun when you need to rely on color and "what's reasonable" to make a decision. This thread seems to be asking about the lack of hard rules to deal with the situations that come up. If I'm wrong, ignore me from here.

This comes back to the beginning of the thread and about the fight with the snake. It might be reasonable to get an injured status after fighting a snake, it might not be. It's pretty dependent on the color and description of the moves that happened during the combat. So, other than feeling bad for your suffering, we can't really offer anything worthwhile to help you. The negotiation issues all depend on what the color of the game was at the time, and this is a detail that we haven't heard about at all. Can you tell us a little more about the color in the situation with the snake or another unsatisfactory negotiation? Let me know if you'd like an example of the sort of thing I mean by color.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 07, 2010, 12:21:13 AM
Callan, you're still putting anyone who can and does do this regularly into some weird/other/abnormal category. That's asinine. And pointless. Because Filip doesn't need someone defending his group as normal and labeling everyone else into the abnormal corner; what he needs is a solution, not repeated insistence that his group is just fine, or isn't fine, or other defenses of or attacks against.
I don't know about the defending stuff, but he has a solution - the mechanical default. You seem to want to use a different solution, one involving group dynamic fixing or suchlike. I'm speaking in cold hard facts as much as you said you are - I don't think I'm playing defender or labeler any more than you are when I say they appear to fall into the scope of normal human behaviour, so a group dynamics fix isn't needed or applicable.


Filip,
Quote
Here's what I do. I roll my eyes. Got a better suggestion, I'm sure?
Oh crap! No!

Anyway, yeah, I'm really just agreeing here. I might move toward just sending PM's of support if I feel it's warrented, since that's my only back up plan!


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 07, 2010, 06:39:19 AM
Luke,

When I say I have little trust in you as designer, I mean it. There is no snark here (heh, you haven't seen real Polish snark yet, apparently). There are reasons I'm discussing it here and not on BW forums. We read your forum. We even discussed some threads in our group. We know how dicussions tend to progress there, especially when someone points out an obvious flaw in the design. Also, I've read your posts in other places, I can see some patterns. Frankly, I've been hoping to avoid your participation in this thread. For once, I'd like to discuss a game without the designer's post-release involvement. It's a big book, it can stand on it's own.

So, I linked your posts to our BE GM*, and he dismissed your points. We both see the disconnect between what you say and what's in the game. Your words plain don't align with how we've witnessed your mechanics to work at the table. If those were your design goals, sorry, you failed. But the game does work that way and it does constistently produce fun play, regardless. If you want to convince me your game is not fun, you are going to have a hard time with that!

Now, I understand you had your reasons for doing thigns the way they are done. You wouldn't be the first designer out there who includes a flaw in the desing consciously. A flaw is a flaw, still.

I don't want to say your participation in this thread is completely unwelcome, but I don't find it particularly productive as well. It's rather obvious your designer ego is at stake, and it blurs the actual issue.

*) Oh, and it turns out you have actually played a game with our BE GM when you visited Poland. Unfortunately, that sample doesn't make things more clear at all.

Bubble

(What's your name?)

Quote
Filip, my guess is that you're pretty strongly procedural too. As such, you don't have as much fun when you need to rely on color and "what's reasonable" to make a decision. This thread seems to be asking about the lack of hard rules to deal with the situations that come up. If I'm wrong, ignore me from here.

I find your characterization of the two types somewhat off. For instance, I don't think your point about "going with the plot" is connected with the procedural inclination. Also, I find it strange how you make strong concepts and NPC attachments exclusive to "colorists".

Other than that, however, your guess is quite accurate.

Note that I've found 4e fun in combat, but lacking in most other areas, while 3.x proved consistently fun all across the (heh) board. 2e was... a mess. Mouse Guard proved consistently fun, other than the compromise thing. IAWA proved consistently fun. BE proved frustrating in many ways, but some of the people I'm successfully gaming with found it less frustrating.

Quote
This comes back to the beginning of the thread and about the fight with the snake. It might be reasonable to get an injured status after fighting a snake, it might not be. It's pretty dependent on the color and description of the moves that happened during the combat. So, other than feeling bad for your suffering, we can't really offer anything worthwhile to help you. The negotiation issues all depend on what the color of the game was at the time, and this is a detail that we haven't heard about at all. Can you tell us a little more about the color in the situation with the snake or another unsatisfactory negotiation? Let me know if you'd like an example of the sort of thing I mean by color.

Color was adequate.

During the fight, the mice were abused by the snake in all sorts of ways. They were smashed with its coils, smacked with its rattle and, most imoportantly, both mice wound up in its mouth at some point. Injury was clearly an adequate consequence.

However, Injury was not the only adequate consequence. Luke,

When I say I have little trust in you as designer, I mean it. There is no snark here (heh, you haven't seen real Polish snark yet, apparently). There are reasons I'm discussing it here and not on BW forums. We read your forum. We even discussed some threads in our group. We know how dicussions tend to progress there, especially when someone points out an obvious flaw in the design. Also, I've read your posts in other places, I can see some patterns. Frankly, I've been hoping to avoid your participation in this thread. For once, I'd like to discuss a game without the designer's post-release involvement. It's a big book, it can stand on it's own.

So, I linked your posts to our BE GM*, and he dismissed your points. We both see the disconnect between what you say and what's in the game. Your words plain don't align with how we've witnessed your mechanics to work at the table. If those were your design goals, sorry, you failed. But the game does work that way and it does constistently produce fun play, regardless. If you want to convince me your game is not fun, you are going to have a hard time with that!

Now, I understand you had your reasons for doing thigns the way they are done. You wouldn't be the first designer out there who includes a flaw in the desing intentionally. A flaw is a flaw, still.

I don't want to say your participation in this thread is unwelcome, but I don't find it particularly productive. It's rather obvious your designer ego is at stake, and it blurs the actual issue.

*) Oh, and it turns out you have actually played a game with our BE GM when you visited Poland. Still, it doesn't make things more clear at all.

Bubble

(What's your name?)

Quote
Filip, my guess is that you're pretty strongly procedural too. As such, you don't have as much fun when you need to rely on color and "what's reasonable" to make a decision. This thread seems to be asking about the lack of hard rules to deal with the situations that come up. If I'm wrong, ignore me from here.

I find your characterization of the two types somewhat off. For instance, I don't think your point about "going with the plot" is connected with the procedural inclination. Also, I find it strange how you make strong concepts and NPC attachments exclusive to "colorists".

Other than that, however, your guess is quite accurate.

Note that I've found 4e fun in combat, but lacking in most other areas, while 3.5 proved consistently fun all across the (heh) board. Mouse Guard proved consistently fun, other than the compromise thing. IAWA proved consistently fun. BE proved frustrating in many ways to me, but some of the people I'm successfully and regularly gaming with found it less frustrating (which is still frustrating, but they seem better at gritting their teeth).

Quote
This comes back to the beginning of the thread and about the fight with the snake. It might be reasonable to get an injured status after fighting a snake, it might not be. It's pretty dependent on the color and description of the moves that happened during the combat. So, other than feeling bad for your suffering, we can't really offer anything worthwhile to help you. The negotiation issues all depend on what the color of the game was at the time, and this is a detail that we haven't heard about at all. Can you tell us a little more about the color in the situation with the snake or another unsatisfactory negotiation? Let me know if you'd like an example of the sort of thing I mean by color.

Color was adequate.

During the fight, the mice were abused by the snake in all sorts of ways. They were smashed with its coils, smacked with its rattle and, most importantly, both mice wound up in its mouth at some point. Injury was clearly an adequate consequence.

However, Injury was not the only adequate consequence. Still, I've said it upthread, and it's worth reapeating. Fiction is a flexible beast.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 07, 2010, 06:48:03 AM
Oops! I didn't notice the text got pasted twice. I curse the lack of the edit function.

The last line got cut off in the first copy and it's easy to miss that, so I'll repeat it just in case:

Quote
However, Injury was not the only adequate consequence. Still, I've said it upthread, and it's worth reapeating. Fiction is a flexible beast.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: CedricP on March 07, 2010, 07:39:25 AM
From reading the original post. Filip dont want to discuss about if compromises are a flaw or not, he already made is mind on the subject.
He asked for a hack for mouse guard to remove compromises or to find a more specific way to aply conditions without having negotiate.

Why simply removing compromises or negotiation was not a option for your group? You could simply say that you alway fully win your stakes/intentions when you win a conflict with DoW, Fight, etc... even when you win with only one remaining point of disposition? So if you loose the fight even by only one point, one the mouse get eaten by the snake, this is more radical but maybe more interesting for you. And if you win by only one point, you win wihout compromise. Maybe players could exanges conditions for check marks for the player turn.

(For my part, I have no problems with compromises in the burning games, we quickly agree on them and often they drive the fiction in interesting directions.)   


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Moreno R. on March 07, 2010, 07:42:08 AM
Filip, I think that a compromise is ALWAYS reached following procedures. They can be more formal (as in "written on the game manual") or informal (as in "Paul is always the first one to suggest something because the other players are used to following his input") but groups usually don't change their habit every time they play is there is not a reason to do so.

So, I think that the difference in not in the "kind of players", as thoughtBubble suggested before, but in the kind of procedure used.

IAWA give a sort of formal procedure to do this ("suggest something good to the other guy or he will hit you with the stick"), other games don't. In the latter case, if the group has already a functional procedure to quickly reach an agreement, not only the procedure is faster, but it "feels" as a prosecution of the game, without having to step out of it, while if there isn't such a procedure, the game hangs.

I did thought of this reading your posts, because the impression I got is (correct me if I misunderstood your post) that in your group, the procedure is something like "the GM propose a compromise. People say no, they want to hear another possible compromise. This continue until the GM finds a compromise everyone agree to". If this is the case, I think it's natural that the game hangs for a lot of time: I, too, in this case, would like to "hear every choice on the menu" from the GM. It's like a waiter at the restaurant listing every dessert: you want to hear everything on the list, you don't want to choose the first one, in case there is something better later.

This is another procedure that, in my experience, work much better: one player suggest a compromise. The other (than can be the GM or not) can agree, or can suggest another one. If both agree at this point, or reach quickly an agreement, good, if not, the GM choose. The GM is not the first one to talk, he is the last. There is no "menu", the players are invited to suggest ONE compromise they like. There is no "list of choices"

You can try this procedure or another one you like more, but to solve your problem, in my opinion , you need a formal procedure to reach an agreement in your group, one that don't encourage players to hear the whole list of compromises on the Menu.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: CedricP on March 07, 2010, 07:49:50 AM
(well naturally in my exemple, eating a mouse could be a boring intent for the GM to choose for the snake)


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 07, 2010, 08:04:58 AM
Cedric

Quote
Why simply removing compromises or negotiation was not a option for your group?

We did consider it a few times.

It won't work. It breaks the mini-game itself. It shifts the tactical balance of various options. As it stands, even with a strong starting disposition it's still important to protect your points. You want to win with as little points lost as possible. That way, Attack + Attack + Attack is a potentially strong, but very risky tactic. Sometimes, you want to Defend. Your opponent knows it, so sometimes he wants to Feint. Because you know he will, you try to predict his Feint and time your Attack accordingly. And so on, and so on. This is how it works. (http://www.sirlin.net/articles/yomi-layer-3-knowing-the-mind-of-the-opponent.html) It's not possible to remove compromises without sacrificing tactical tension or entirely reworking the mini-game.

Besides, I have no problems with mixed outcomes. Mixed outcomes are good. It's how the outcome is disconnected from the mini-game that I don't like. The mini-game is solid, but it only tells us whether the outcome is mixed or not. We can't just proceed with that, however, we need to know how is the outcome mixed. This is something that we are forced to establish out of game.

It's like, if it was a video game, every now and then the game would stop and require us to manually edit the save data in order to proceed. But it doesn't even tell us its syntax!


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Luke on March 07, 2010, 08:43:29 AM
Hi Filip,

I entreat you once again to shift from your defensive stance and examine your own behaviors at the table. Why can't you compromise? What is that you are doing (or not doing) that elicits the hate?

However, the last word is yours, sir. The thread is yours.
-Luke


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 07, 2010, 09:07:47 AM
Moreno,

Quote
So, I think that the difference in not in the "kind of players", as thoughtBubble suggested before, but in the kind of procedure used.

Yes. I believe that's what my opening post is about.

Quote
I did thought of this reading your posts, because the impression I got is (correct me if I misunderstood your post) that in your group, the procedure is something like "the GM propose a compromise. People say no, they want to hear another possible compromise. This continue until the GM finds a compromise everyone agree to". If this is the case, I think it's natural that the game hangs for a lot of time: I, too, in this case, would like to "hear every choice on the menu" from the GM. It's like a waiter at the restaurant listing every dessert: you want to hear everything on the list, you don't want to choose the first one, in case there is something better later.

Aha, two corrections.

First, "the group". This seems to come up in many posts in this thread, despite my clarification earlier. Apparently, there's an impression I'm talking about several games with the same group, while I'm talking about several games with varying player overlap. "Group" applies only in the "extended group" sense. We are talking about a pool of players here. We play various games in different combinations. Not all people are in every game. I'll go into more details on this environment in my response to Raven once I finally manage to get down to it.

Second, the way you interpreted it applies only to how it worked in the game I've run last Friday. It was a game with inexperienced players. Of course they couldn't choose and needed the menu - they didn't know their options in the first place. What bothers me is how they went with my (creative) suggestions rather than trying to produce something (creative) of their own, and it bothers me how the game as it is could teach them to do so as a habit. In IAWA, I'd just suggest that they default to damage if they don't have any better idea. It's a perfectly valid outcome that doesn't elicit much creative input. I only have to ask what form the damage takes, and it's generally easy to come up with that. Also, I'd make it clear that if they don't like my ideas, they can always default to damage. Sooner or later, creative ideas become a neccesity, but before that point, most players already pick it up on their own. In IAWA, it certainly helps that there are usually several complete cycles of resolution per hour, as opposed to Mouse Guard, which rarely has more than two or three conflicts per session, and uses entirely different, simple and clear test procedures for everything else.

That's with players new to the game.

With more experienced people it goes like this:

1. Somebody, generally the losing player, proposes a compromise.
2. If nobody objects, it stays.
3. Otherwise, there's some uh, oh, maybe, but no. It's this awkward moment when everyone in the game knows the other person really wants this outcome, but they are not fine with that and have to dismiss it. (Note that if it was in Dogs, somebody would just veto at this point, stating what's wrong, with no uh, oh, maybe.)
4. Then, somebody proposes a different compromise. Go to 2.

Oh, there are also rare cases when we look at our goals and consider the progress of the, and no adequate idea comes up to anybody. Conditions are generally easy to apply in those situations. It works fine, at least when it's the GM's victory. When the party wins, Conditions are usually the least beneficial option on the list. They have a significant impact on play when applied to player characters, but usually no real impact when applied to NPCs.

Quote
You can try this procedure or another one you like more, but to solve your problem, in my opinion , you need a formal procedure to reach an agreement in your group, one that don't encourage players to hear the whole list of compromises on the Menu.

Yes.

Only, I'm not convinced the menu is an obstruction in general. It's only so with novice players. Personally, I like having a menu.

I'm not sure if I like the idea about limiting the process to two proposals, especially if the GM's proposal still has more weight at all times. I had a similar formal procedure in one of my projects, but it was GM-less, and it was an entirely different game. Also, in that game, no situations that would require us to reconcile our interests that way occurred in playtesting, so the procedure was never used in practice.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: CedricP on March 07, 2010, 09:28:19 AM
Filip, but do you experience the same problem when you fail a skill roll? On a failed skill roll, complications are also applied. Do you also have a hard time negotiating for them? Do it also feel disconnected? Choosing between a twist or a condition and choosing how the intent succeed or fail can also lead here to compromises or negotiation.

In BW, from what I remember, there is even fewer guideline for failed rolls, a failed roll can be interpreted in a lot of ways. As for DoW, as a group it is often for us a occasion to be creative and we are looking for compromises. When we are negotiating the attitude in my group is to try to help the other side to come out with a interesting solution instead of blocking options. For us the loosing side make suggestions, but the winning side have final say. But I think we dint really made it "official". Sometime also the situation just suggest by itself the compromise. We dont really see a big difference between having to negotiate a failed skill roll and a mini game result. Except that in the mini game, we have a degree of compromise to take account off.

For the mini games, have you played TSOY and used Bringing down the pain? It also serve to zoom in on a conflict. But in Bringing down the pain, the dices give you harm results clearly related to a task or intent. Harm is maybe similar to conditions? Maybe you will prefer this kind of zoom in.    


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 07, 2010, 09:40:56 AM
Cedric,

No, I don't experience the same problem with failed rolls. I've already posted about that upthread, in my exchange with Luke, I believe? I don't quite see any process of negotiation occurring with failed rolls. The GM has limited options, but those options are his alone. Once the GM picks from the menu, the group can only deal with the outcome as a fact, no buts.

Now, please. No more posts in this thread until I respond to Raven, Judd and Frank. The exchange with Luke was distracting and until I answer those previous questions, this is likely a dead end.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 07, 2010, 09:45:35 AM
Oh, and yes, I did play TSoY. While I liked some ideas in TSoY, I didn't like it in play for various reasons, largely due to its general vagueness. The problem I'm describing in this thread, however - I don't think I had this particular problem in TSoY.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 07, 2010, 11:52:21 AM
Raven,

Here's what makes me think there might be a strong cultural factor. Note that I'm not convinced it is an actual factor, I'm only considering the possibility. It's also fairly possible this is a dead end, given that all evidence is anectodal and without an extended academic research, it's all wild guessing.

So, I keep noticing how there's this disconnect between Callan and many people at the Forge, and it seems deeper than the typical degree of disagreement in similar discussions. On the other hand, I think I generally follow Callan's posts relatively well and often just nod.

Callan is Australian, right? Often, in the threads I read here or at rpg.net only about half of the posters appears to be American or British. In this thread alone: I'm Polish, Frank is German, Moreno is Italian, perhaps other nationalities are present as well. I have this impression that Americans in particular tend to be oblivious regarding that. Technically it's "your turf", so you don't have to automatically assume other posters might be based in different countries. I'm thinking of some baffling situations like the one in this thread. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=29054.0) For "us" foreigners, it's the norm.

Now, the hobby emerged in America. Other countries derived their gaming and design traditions from American games. However, especially in the pre-internet era, those were relatively closed enclaves. Generally, the movement of ideas was rather one sided. Other countries were continually adopting American ideas, but it seems the reverse was true pretty much only with United Kingdom. There are exceptions, like for instance The Riddle of Steel was influenced by a Polish design, and itself, it influenced Dogs in the Vineyard, which in turn is a significant influence in my current gaming environment. However, historically, those are exceptions, and generally, while ideas circulate, it's mostly ideas on paper, there isn't much direct contact through actual play.

So, I notice that American culture routinely forces consensus in ways Polish culture doesn't. I don't know about Australia, but Callan's posts in this thread suggest to me that it might be a bit closer to Poland in this respect.

While I have some vague understanding of major differences between Polish and American culture, and between Polish and British culture as well, I know next to nothing about Australia. The country rarely appears in the news, even. For me, Australia is this desert island on the other side of the globe, were wild kangaroo packs hunt herds of platypuses. You get the idea. Most of you probably possess about the same amount of knowledge about my country. Even between Europeans, there are likely to be various misconceptions and biases. The point is, I don't know a thing about Callan's cultural environment, not to mention his immediate gaming environment specifically. And yet, it seems that in that gaming enclave on the opposite side of the globe, at least in Callan's specific immediate environment, the general attitude regarding many matters might be surprisingly compatible with that of my immediate environment, in my gaming enclave. However, it doesn't seem compatible with the mindset prevalent in the geographical core of the hobby.

That's why I think culture might be a significant factor here. It might be a matter of national culture, or gaming culture specifically, or a mix of both. Culture is a fairly complex web of relations, obviously.

I'm thinking that perhaps, the procedural makeup of some games reflects and relies on some strictly cultural attitudes. Hence, some people object to the idea it should be formalized, it's so deeply integrated.

For instance, I experienced many more difficulties trying to run a Japanese system. There are some social-level things that strike me as very distinctive in some Japanese games I've seen. Like, the text explicitly insisting that the game should not be used to hurt other players. Or the passage that instructs the group to collectively clean up the host's place afterwards. Trying to apply the system in play effectively was hard - much harder than with many English trad games I've tried, even. It felt as if large chunks of the procedure were absent. Obviously, there are things coded into the Japanese social environment that didn't find its way into the text.

I notice how Polish mainstream design tradition is different from mainstream American tradition it builds upon. Polish gaming traditions started developing relatively late in comparison with other European countries. As far as games are concerned, Poland is generally about 10-15 years behind. Design wise, it's still late 90s here. However, there seems to be even greater emphasis on things like setting fluff, insanely detailed scenarios, or GM's power, the mechanical part of the design typically neglected.

My immediate gaming environment is different in that we largely (and violently, some would say) reject those traditions. The only Polish games we play are those designed among us, and those are strongly influenced by designs developed by Forge-related authors. Other games that are played regularly in our community mostly include relatively new titles, with a very strong presence of indie stuff.

These designs apparently provide fun gameplay to us, in general. So, how come there is often this sense of disconnect when visiting foreign communities?

Like in this case, I keep encountering players who fit the general profile I outlined upthread. It seems many players here and in related communities don't fit that profile, but there doesn't seem to be much compatibility with us either.

So, I think there might be something cultural about the game at the core of this disconnect. Like, the shoe fits pretty well, but we wear it on the wrong leg.

But then, there are people like Callan and Ben, who say their experiences roughly match mine.

Aaand now to your specific questions...


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Noclue on March 07, 2010, 02:55:36 PM
Odd how tense this thread has gotten. Our group has always found compromises after DoW's fun. They excercise our narrative abilities in interesting and surprising ways because both sides are trying to come up with a compromise that fits the mechanical resolution and makes the story better. They often take 10 seconds when the compromise is obvious and organic. If we're not all feeling it, we go back and forth for a couple of minutes until we all like what we hear. Nobody has ever tried to renege on their loss or block the other side. We all start brainstorming an interesting plot twist.

If I was in a group that took 30 minutes of arguing to come to an agreement about a DoW compromise I would no longer be in a group.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 07, 2010, 03:38:09 PM
Raven,

Quote
Is writing cooperative (or round-robin) fiction a thing restricted by culture?
Does your culture not have troupes of improv actors?

These questions are very interesting. Very interesting.

The answer is: no. There are no such things in my culture!

More specifically: they are not present in Polish culture at large. They might be present as fringe activities. It doesn't seem even close to how popularized they appear to be in American culture.

Cooperative writing? I think I recall reading a few Polish short stories that included more than a single author. For all practical purposes, as far as the reader is concerned, no impact whatsoever. It could have been a work by a single author just as well. Currently, the closest thing that seems to be present in Polish culture is PBF (and less formal role-playing forums), but that's a novelty, and it's a fringe internet activity.

I don't know about any troupes of improv actors. One of the people I regularly game with is a part-time actor, but it's not improv. What he does is a fringe activity. Improv? If there are any improv troupes, that's a fringe of the fringe.

Improv is even more obscure than cooperative writing. Myself, I learned about improv either here at the Forge or reading some related site. Also, some years back a friend linked some youtube episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway to me, going on and on how those actors do improvised scenes according to some rules. Personally, I don't find the show particularly interesting. What I find interesting is that later I've seen links to this show posted on some gaming forums. It's a novelty.

The closest thing to improv that was present in my culture while I was being brought up was educational role-playing. It seems that back when I was in primary school, it was still a relative novelty.

So, no, I don't think these two things are present in my culture. I think they are slowly entering into my country's culture, though.

(Notice this: there doesn't seem to be common awareness of improv, and at the same time, there's a very strong emphasis on insanely detailed scenarios, with the GM, who is always right, as an entertainer. Comparisons to traditional theatre are quite a common way of explaining rpgs to people.)

Quote
So there is this cooperative/mutualist mindset necessary for easy/successful resolution compromise-based mechanics, and I don't know if as a result of their gaming history or just their place/time in life or what, but it sounds to me like you have a bunch of argumentative players who don't what to behave like in a mutual creative enterprise, or who are afraid of creative mutualism (you mentioned there is a concern they are getting the short end of the stick in compromises) perhaps because they've been burned in the past?

I don't know, I can't think of a single gamer I know who wasn't severly burned by something in their past. Here, for instance, it seems like half of the people in the thread have ashes floating through their veins. Gaming seems to be quite a burning-prone hobby, it would seem.

Note that I've been gaming with some of those people for quite a few years now, more or less regularly, and we play together specifically because when we play together, things tend to work out. Gaming with them proves consistently fun, baring ruleset issues. It doesn't work like that with people rooted in that more mainstream tradition, especially when they fit that general no-no profile. Gaming with those is a certain way to invite frustration to the table, even before we touch any rules.

The short end of the stick? Yes, I have a concern my players get the short end. I've been playing with too many people who, if I pulled the stick strongly enough, were left with nothing in their hands, and that's no game. And yes, there's also the utterly egoistical concern that I might be the one to get the short end or nothing at all, if I the ruleset allows people to pull too strongly.

Only, you know, now I'm not perfectly sure that I want certain sorts of agreement from them, in certain moments of play. I do recall some mood-heavy games where the harmony was essential, and we worked hard to ascertain it (and it was painfully obvious when someone wasn't in harmony with the rest). But in most games we play, it feels to me that perfect agreement on the basic resolution level would strip the gameplay of, I don't know, tension, or perhaps solidity? I feel that gaping holes in the procedure like this one impoverish gameplay in some way. Or the other way around: the more complete the procedure, the more rich the gameplay feels, in comparison to various procedurally loose, impoverished games I played in the past.

Quote
Can you tell us more about these players: are they high-school or college-age kids?

We're in the 24-31 age range, mostly. The majority is 28-31. Note that this is the upper age range for active gamers in this country. It not very common to see people past 30 active in the hobby here. Typically, people drop out after college.

There are some newcomers in the 18-21 range in our community. In BE and MG games discussed here, the 18 years old girl in my current game was the only person in this range. I did play IAWA with quite a few gamers in this range.

I find it interesting how rarely I'm gaming with people exactly my age. Other than the first few years, people I played with were typically 2-5 years older than me, or 2-5 years younger. In recent years, things tend towards the extreme ends of the scale. Newcomers to our community tend to be either close to 30 or 18-21.

Those older either integrate smoothly and stay for years or get turned off immediately. Like, there was this 31 years old guy in my Exalted Hack game last summer who left after the first session, because "it was sort of fun, but it wasn't real role-playing" (he complained that there was too much dice rolling and not enough acting, but at the same time, he complained that combats were being resolved in just a few rolls; I still can't quite wrap my mind around his logic).

Now, with those 18-21 years old newcomers, they come and go, but I have this impression that overall, they more often tend towards "amenable participation". Well, I'm sure the difference in experience is at fault here partially, as it's a bit overwhelming for them; we can talk about games and gaming for hours, they have little of their own to add.

Also, there's this very noticable generation gap between us and people born around or after 1989. Outside gaming, it's hard to find common language, often. For instance, most of us consume a lot of imported media, and very little Polish media. I think we generally agree that there is very little valuable Polish media available. In our childhood, the West was the synonym of quality and prosperity for us; it was this magical land of Coca-Cola, Disney, Bonanza and Miami Vice. Even in mid-nineties, our childhood TV heroes still included MacGyver, The A-Team and David Hasselhoff. Cheap stuff, but it was magical. Now, I consume cheap Western (well, and Japanese) media routinely, but if I reach for something Polish, it must be very good. Those post-89 newcomers? In their childhood, the West was already here. Only, it was even cheaper, our little local imitation of the West. For us, acquiring Western popular culture was always a big deal, and it was connected with a certain sense of attainment. These days, internet is a blessing. For the post-89 generation, there was never any effort involved in acquiring popular culture, there were always some local substitutes available. When they go on the internet, they generally stick to Polish sites, there's no desire of the West that we developed early in our lives. I'd bet most of them wouldn't even recognize David Hasselhoff!

However, while for us things like improv are something relatively fringe, for the post-1989 generation it's a novelty that gradually leaks into the mainstream.

So, I think there's something post-colonial going on with those of us closer to 30. Also, I think that in my immediate gaming environment, with these particular people, this is rather strong in comparison to the gaming mainstream. Outside gaming, it might be the primary social glue, even.

Quote
Are they argumentative outside of gaming (for example, is ordering pizzas a twenty-minute affair) or otherwise have strong individualist tendencies?

Strong individualist tendencies? Yeah, probably, for most.

I wouldn't characterize us as particularly argumentative in our interactions. However, overall, most of us have rather low tolerance for shit.

Quote
What other games do they play regularly and have they played?

Most major trad titles, most or many major indie titles. Most of us got burned with major Polish titles particularly bad.

Games that we've been regularly returning to throughout the last few years include Dogs, IAWA, PTA, Bliss Stage, d20 stuff in general, some locally designed stuff. For our BE/MG GM, add BE and MG to the list. For a few, add Savage Worlds. A few dozens of indie titles have been tried out but didn't see much replay afterwards. Some of the players try out new mainstream releases occassionally, but no replay so far. Overall, plenty of variety here, and we have a relatively rapid games turnover rate.

Quote
Have they mentioned or have you seen a lot of dysfunction in their past groups or past games?

It's like that question about being burned. The only gamers I know who don't have their war stories are some newcomers. With other newcomers, they emerge from a sea of teenage dysfunction. Most players in those BE and MG games in question have been gaming for about 10-15 years, it's enough time to squeeze all sorts of dysfunction out of it.

Quote
Filip, any ideas? Can you run us through any specific compromise situations that were un-fun?

Yes! Something concrete from that older MG campaign has finally popped up.

We wanted to re-visit and interrogate a bartender who, previously, sold us to agents from another city. We wanted the bartender to spill everything about those agents, he wanted to prove the Guard is oppressive or something like that, I believe. We played some good cop, bad cop. We lost with a compromise. I suggested a twist: we don't learn anything significant, but only because a dagger thrown from an unknown direction kills the bartender, and we're left with a body on the floor. Seemed adequate to the situation and pretty cinematic. I recall being very enthusiasthic about that outcome. The rest of the group was like, uh, oh, maybe, but no. Then, a few other suggestions were made, before we reached the final outcome, but I had no other ideas. I was at best neutral about those ideas and I felt sort of dissapointed. I don't even recall that final compromise now. However, I'm perfectly sure it didn't affect the campaign at large, that deal with the bartender never came up again, and we didn't engage those agents in later missions.

I gave some fresh examples upthread.

Now, this was draining. Thankfully, I have much less to say to Judd and Frank.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Jeff B on March 07, 2010, 10:16:55 PM
Filip,

I was really interested to read your discussion of culturalism.  Thank you for opening up on that subject.  My opinion is that, indeed, a lot of internet activity such as this has an American bias ('our turf', as you said).  Furthermore, a huge number of Americans would never even consider that improv acting, or perhaps stand-up comedy, is not practiced everywhere in the world.

Your comments about the Japanese game should be a clear signal to anyone that there are, indeed, serious differences in social norms in different parts of the world.

One thing in particular I want to mention, in case you are not aware of it:  In America, gamers are outsiders.  Tabletop adult gaming of any kind is considered a little bit unusual by a huge number of Americans, and roleplayers specifically have always been the minority.  They are poorly understood by others, and many social conservatives here feel RPG is actually a very bad activity and should be avoided.  So the "average" social dynamic at the gaming table is already skewed -- there is no such thing as six "average Americans" sitting down for an RPG session.  Furthermore, we're talking about *alternative* RPG, as in independent developers.  So now we're even *further* out toward the fringe.  The mainstream D&D players in American might never have heard of Dogs in the Vineyard, or Mouse Guard, or any of the independent designs here.

I think it would be awesome some time to play in a game run by someone from another country/language/culture, or just in a group of such people.   The closest example I can give is that one time in my life I played in the dungeon of a black (African-American) dungeon master.  it was fascinating to me, because his whole sense of magic and atmosphere was very different from anything I'd ever seen.  So I'm sure when a foreign country is involved, there would likewise be more surprises and new perspectives that would prove very interesting for me.

Jeff


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 08, 2010, 12:35:21 PM
Jeff,

Ouch. Your response comes across as distinctively American to me, in tone. Like, in that TMW thread I linked. Of course there are serious differences in social norms in different parts of the world! How come this even needs to be "clearly signaled"? It seems to me that in different parts of the world, this is generally taken as a given. Heh, how come so many Americans, with their often stressed diversity, find that obvious fact somehow surprising?

Anyway. Here, I'm specifically wondering how those differences affect procedures in gaming texts. How much of that is coded into the text, how much is left as unstated assumptions and, most importantly, how much of that is the requirement when it comes to applying the procedure as intended.

Can you think of some examples of American games clearly targetted at different social environments in America, for comparison purposes? For instance, a game text intended for members of those outsider communities you describe, and another text written with the mainstream in mind? Does the procedure differ when it comes to social-level assumptions? Does the procedure rely on certain social factors that are specific exclusively to the outsider culture or exclusively to the mainstream culture? Or, I know there are some Christian games out there, can anyone identify such procedural factors in texts intended specifically for members of Christian communities? Does the procedure seem to showcase a culturally dependent mindset?

As for the "awesomeness" of international gaming, I did play some games with foreigners. Guess what? There were no interesting surprises or new perspectives. Aside from some linguistic issues, there was no noticeable difference in those games, at least no difference that I wouldn't encounter before with Polish gamers. However, those games were nearly exclusively one-shot, low payoff games. I can't dismiss the possibility that some interesting observations on the matter would come up over the course of a longer, high investment campaign.

All in all, I guess the thread could use splitting at this point.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Jeff B on March 08, 2010, 01:03:44 PM
Filip,

My apologies if there was anything "ouch" about my post.  It wasn't intended.  My comments were directed at those who seemed to think such differences were unimportant.  Sorry if it came across wrong.

Regarding your question:  The only audience-targeting I have seen in games is appealing to one or other subset of gamers, usually based on its genre (gothic, fantasy, satire, sci-fi, and so forth).  Not sure I understand your question.  You're asking if a text exists that divides itself between two or more intended audiences, re. the procedures of a single game?  No, I don't think I've ever seen one.  There is simply no such thing as "mainstream" roleplaying in America.  The entire RPG audience, whether traditional or alternative, is outside of mainstream interests.

regarding 'international gaming':  You're speaking in a contradiction, on the one saying Americans lack cultural insight and on the other hand saying the international community has no cultural insight to offer Americans.  If culture makes a difference, then there is necessarily something to be gained in exposure to other cultures through gaming.  If you say that there are no surprises, nothing new to be found, then your theory that culture is somehow affecting gameplay is invalid.  You seem to be arguing against yourself.

Jeff



Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 08, 2010, 01:23:07 PM
Jeff,

It didn't come across wrong as much as amusing. Never mind that.

Your observation regarding mainstream seems to be inconsistent with multiple threads I've read on this and related forums. I'm not asking for a text that divides itself between anything. I'm asking for the comparison of procedures tied to social level in different texts written with different audiences in mind. Like, for instance, a comparison of those in a fantasy game targeted at obsessive basement-dwelling nerds and a fantasy game targeted at young members of a conservative Christian community.

For instance, I believe Bliss Stage might have been written with American anime fandom in mind. I also believe playing the game with representative members of Polish anime fandom would likely result in an instant crash. No actual play data to back that up, though.

Regarding "international gaming" I'm only saying that my limited experiences so far, under those particular conditions, didn't provide any useful observations on the matter. However, a single session wasn't enough for me to notice the procedural issue with compromises in Mouse Guard. For that, I needed multiple instances of play. I think that if the theory is valid, gathering sufficient data to prove that would require a longer period of gaming with the same people, possibly across multiple groups.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 08, 2010, 01:23:37 PM
Frank,

Quote
Probably I’m not taking the discussion down a constructive lane, so I’ll back off for now. If anybody’s interested, you might check out my thread [Liquid] Well, I just rolled the dice for show, in which a very similar discussion came up between Callan and me.

I'm not sure about that. I'm not sure whether it's potentially constructive or not.

The way you interpret my account is perplexing. It seems like what you label as "role-playing" might be an entirely different activity that just can't be discussed in the same categories productively. I find it a stumbling block in many discussions. Note: I don't think "we have very, very different concepts of role-playing". The way you say it, it sounds as if we had very, very different concepts of the same thing. I believe this might not be the case. I believe it might not be the same thing in the first place. We can't have even remotely the same concept of it, consequently. If anything, we might have very, very different concepts of "game".

And yet, at the same time, those entirely different activities are clearly rooted in the same product base. How come?

I recognize your AP. I've read your account back when you posted it. I've been in games exactly like that, it's perfectly clear to me. I wouldn't exactly describe the experience as fun. In those games, the experience always felt severly impoverished. So, back when you posted that AP, I've read it and never returned to it again. It's only now that I've read the entire thread.

What strikes me is the PTA problem described there. Every now and then, I see people posting about it. I don't recognize that problem at all! I've been in five games of PTA, and I've never encountered it. Even in games that didn't work, that particular problem was never present!

Or so it seems. That problem appears impossible to me. Here's why.

In PTA games I played, an average session lasted 3-4 hours. Sometimes longer. Four hours is a pretty adequate average session time in PTA, I believe?

If the problem applies, I don't see how an average session could last for longer than 30-40 minutes. Perhaps if people taaalk veeery slooowly? PTA has minimal mechanics. If people don't play with fictional detail, what are they playing with, then? What fills up the rest of that terribly dysfunctional session time?

Or, if the problem applies, and it's my PTA that suffers from the lack of fictional detail, then how long would an average functional session last? Ten hours?

So, I don't know what the problem is all about. I don't know this problem.

Only, whenever you say "fictional detail", I don't really know what you mean. I recognize the words, I know their meaning. But I don't know what's in your head when you say that! Perhaps your "fictional detail" is something entirely different than my "fictional detail"? Consequently, perhaps you'd characterize my actual play discourse as lacking in fictional detail, and vice versa?

Those PTA games I've played. The first one fizzled after the pilot episode. The other player just couldn't wrap his head around the very basics of the system, like scene requests. It was like that in everything we tried to play with the guy, so we didn't play long together. The second time, it fizzled after the pilot episode again. This time, not enough buy-in; we applied the prep procedure, we also applied plenty of advice from the forums, and we came up with a mediocre show regardless. The third time, I've run the game, and we completed the series. It was as fiction rich as our games those days used to get. Fiction-wise, it was awesome! Only, gameplay felt impoverished. There's an actual play report (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=24187.0) from that game.

Now, the fourth and the fifth time, technically it was no longer PTA. It was our PTA Hack. Only very basic rules remained, like scene structure, Fanmail and resolution mechanics. We got rid of the Producer. We revised and expanded prep procedure greatly. Most importantly, we formalized lots of the procedurally vague stuff, e.g. stakes negotiation. I'm sure our written procedure included plenty of mental shortcuts and deeply integrated assumptions, but for our purposes, that was sufficient. The effect? Our overall investment was much stronger. Story was much stronger. Fiction was much stronger, too. But first and foremost, gameplay was much stronger, and it no longer felt so impoverished.

And you know what? Trying to discuss those changes outside my immediate gaming environment, I've been accused of those things that you complain about. And it made no sense whatsoever. Apparently, our formalization of the stakes setting process should have broken the game and made it un-fun for us (because of something Ron said about stakes once, on some fancy forum). It was supposed to diminish fictional detail, or something like that, while the effect we witnessed in play was exactly the opposite: our focus on detail became much stronger. As I see it, PTA played by the book sucks; we fixed the game.

Quote
I don’t really feel I understand what you get out of this sort of play.

Here's what I get out of this sort of play.

Out of Burning Empires, I get frustration. I get nothing at all out of it. That's why I left the game, played some 4e and Capes instead. When I'm not getting anything out of the game, and it doesn't seem I can get anything worth the trouble, I don't play the game. I move on. However, the rest of that group was apparently getting something out of that game, enough to grit their teeth and stay in the campaign for six months despite their frustration with all sorts of stuff. I don't really understand what that was.

Out of Mouse Guard, I consistently get a strong sense of tension and accomplishment. At some point around the fifth or sixth session, I also started getting the sense of powerful dramatic resolutions, somewhat similar to watching a good movie. There was also some sense of the in-game reality solidifying, a bit like what I used to get playing ADOM, but I wouldn't return to the game fot this alone.

Out of those games that were like your Liquid example, I was getting very little, if anything. For instance, I recall this convention game of Crystalicum run by a relatively accomplished rpg scenario writer, perhaps five or six years ago. It was exactly like that session you describe in your AP. The game felt so bland that for me, the only way not to leave the table was to entertain myself with some forced acting and humor. The guy was totally ruining my fun since the very beginning. However, it seems the reverse was not true. After the session I was praised for my excellent role-playing (read: acting). It was baffling. I wouldn't exactly characterize talking in a funny voice and applying the single mannerism I came up with to every encountered situation as fun. More like "funny". Gameplay itself felt severly impoverished, though, or rather non-existent.

Actually, I wouldn't characterize that experience as "game" in the first place. It felt like some sort of storytelling/acting exercise.

By the way, I've run a game for that GM once. Perhaps an hour into the session, it fizzled. The scene screamed "social conflict" to me, so I invoked the resolution procedure. When I asked the guy what he wants to get out of the scene, his answer was: "Uh, I just want to throw some entertaining one-liners". A few minutes later he suddenly found some real-life excuse to politely retreat from the game. We never played together again.

So, see, I feel that I understand what sort of gaming you describe, even though I don't feel I understand what you get out of it. However, I'm not convinced that you understand the sort of gaming that I'm describing, never mind what I get out of it.

Here's my AP from Yuuyake Koyake. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26926.0) It's longish and relatively detailed, as it happens to be with most my reports, so it might be hard to stomach. However, it describes a mood heavy game played with some of those BE/MG players. Probably something relatively close to that Liquid AP of yours. It also describes my frustration with the impoverished gameplay. Too bad the only poster who responded seemed to be focusing on tangentials.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2010, 04:50:50 PM
I don't think it's different cultures in different countries, except perhaps in how some are more insulated from others cultural trends. I think it's cultures within the roleplay hobby, what gets passed onto new people when they are introduced.

I think some people find the really oomphy part of play is when they come to a point of compromise and the game stops absolutely until they do. And they love this crunch moment, do or die and that everyone must come together to get it working, or something like that. Having a 'default' would remove what they game for entirely. Them honing their group dynamics to work out a compromise consistently IS play, for them. That's where the game of it is, for them. Them trying to work on group dynamics fixing is like someone else trying to help you with your chess strategies. The strategy of play is all centered in group dynamics management.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 08, 2010, 09:37:51 PM
Callan,

I don't know. I don't quite see how this sort of social crunch aligns with the mechanical crunch for those people. In games like BE or MG specifically, there's quite an excessive amount of the latter. It feels strikingly illusory. It sounds like very basic and sketchy procedures would do. Why have so elaborate procedures for everything else?

Judd,

Quote
You talk about the ambiguous outcomes as if they are bad things and to me, they are what makes DoW fun.

It's not about outcomes. Outcomes are fine. Those outcome examples you enumerate later in the thread - we had outcomes like that in various games, with various methods of resolution.

It's about the process of getting there. My problem is all about that moment between knowing the mechanical result of the mini-game and knowing the final outcome. It's like a grain of sand in the cogs of an otherwise well-working machine.

Quote
That is like a group complaining because they lost hit points in a battle.  If their arguments lost Body of Argument, they have to compromise.

I don't think it's similar.

For instance, this is what happens (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering---final/conditions---final#TOC-Dead) when you've lost hit points in battle. It's a very concrete, immediate and well defined effect. If you lose hit points in battle, you have to deal with it. No buts.

A few weeks ago, in preparation for that upcoming Jihad campaign, I've tested BW's fight rules with a friend. Before that, I've been afraid those rules might prove needlessly complex, like stuff I've seen in BE. As it turns out, the rules were very fun. I definitely like them more than those abstract conflicts in Mouse Guard. I like it how the scripting and resolution was so very graphical. After one or two volleys, looking at the script alone was enough to know what was going on, and on a pretty detailed level. Combatants move around, trying to position optimally for their weapons, adjust their stances, there's some pushing and disarming and hitting the opponent with the hilt. All sorts of fighty things can happen. There's a pretty slick procedure for figuring out where you hit your opponent. We are instructed how to check whether the blow gets deflected by armor, how badly it harms the combatant and how it affects his morale.

It's all very playable, and it's all in the game. Options and immediate outcomes to deal with. No buts.

This is what happens when you lose hit points in a battle.

With compromises, there's this out of game moment when I have to come up with some numbers and tell you how many hit points you should deduct from your total. Also, the scale is vague and how we fought doesn't translate to hit points loss, it only inspires us in our assessment. For me 5 hit points sounds adequate, but for you, it's way too much. "Now come on, you've been stabbed five times, that should be just about right! Why do you think being stabbed consecutively in the same body part shouldn't count?"


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Daniel B on March 08, 2010, 09:39:24 PM
I know I'm not a smart guy, so 85% of this thread has gone WAY over my head. However, I have a tiny suggestion.. maybe you'll find it useful.

Filip, this issue is so much larger than RPGs. Getting a bunch of vastly different people with vastly different opinions to reach an agreement is plain human psychology. I know you posted the thread here because you're interested in solutions as they relate to RPGs, but I find getting to the heart of the issue gives me a much clearer perspective. Doing your own research on the subject online or at a library might spark some inspiration on what you can do with Mouse Guard. I'm planning to do precisely the same thing, incorporating leadership skill-training and team-building structures into the GM's guide for my own game, so that the guy running the show will be subtly nudged towards running a better show, more often.

That said, this is not an attempt to shut the thread down. As much trouble as I'm having following it, it is interesting.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 08, 2010, 10:01:42 PM
I don't know. I don't quite see how this sort of social crunch aligns with the mechanical crunch for those people. In games like BE or MG specifically, there's quite an excessive amount of the latter. It feels strikingly illusory. It sounds like very basic and sketchy procedures would do. Why have so elaborate procedures for everything else?
Because those rules, and whether they are followed, and how much, and how the wording is interpreted, and how much we follow what rules Jack wants now cause we followed what rules Jill wanted before...it is the actual chips, points and currency of the social dynamics game. The needlessly baroque rules allow there to be more social dynamics currency.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Noclue on March 08, 2010, 11:01:00 PM
Yes! Something concrete from that older MG campaign has finally popped up.

We wanted to re-visit and interrogate a bartender who, previously, sold us to agents from another city. We wanted the bartender to spill everything about those agents, he wanted to prove the Guard is oppressive or something like that, I believe. We played some good cop, bad cop. We lost with a compromise. I suggested a twist: we don't learn anything significant, but only because a dagger thrown from an unknown direction kills the bartender, and we're left with a body on the floor. Seemed adequate to the situation and pretty cinematic. I recall being very enthusiasthic about that outcome. The rest of the group was like, uh, oh, maybe, but no. Then, a few other suggestions were made, before we reached the final outcome, but I had no other ideas. I was at best neutral about those ideas and I felt sort of dissapointed. I don't even recall that final compromise now. However, I'm perfectly sure it didn't affect the campaign at large, that deal with the bartender never came up again, and we didn't engage those agents in later missions.

Hi Filip. I just wanted to focus for a sec on something concrete in the form of your example. Perhaps your group was not up for the twist because it wasn't actually a compromise. They don't get the info. That's cool, but the twist feels like a dead end. The knife thrown wasn't a compromise unless it represents a new avenue for investigation. If you had said something like "You don't get the info because he's killed by knife from somewhere. A very distinctive knife inscribed with the blacksmith's symbol." Perhaps they would have went for it. They didn't get what they were after, but they did get something.

Also, if they lost, then the bartender had to get what he wanted. Did he, in fact, prove that the Guard was oppressive?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 09, 2010, 05:28:43 AM
Filip,

Let me start by saying that in my last post, I purposefully exaggerated and simplified to get my point across. I wasn’t there, I don’t know the games you played, so I’m really in no position to judge.

Let me continue by clarifying my personal experience with PtA. It's an aside, but since you asked. “Story workshopping”, the way I have experienced it, is really quite fast, slowing down only for a few dialogues. These guys progress the story very quickly, but on the other hand, they also discuss it a lot out-of-character, bring up alternatives, weigh the choices and possible impact on conflicts, development of protagonists, and so forth. Everything is up for grabs and/or arguments, so that’s where the time and attention goes. Still, you’ll find that a lot has happened, in the fiction, after three hours of play. The scenes were focused on outcomes and maybe dialogue, with a few punchy images mingled in between, but not much else in the sense of imaginary context. I don’t know if any of this parallels your games, it was just an association that came up.

A PtA session that suites my preferences, on the other hand, would dedicate much more time to actually establishing the scenes—who’s there, what does it look like, sound like, feel like—and much less to this whole “story workshop” where the group discusses how things could or should go on. It would still last the same amount of real-world time, but in the fiction, probably less scenes would happen, with less plot development. (It would still be fast in comparison to traditional games.) A “fictional detail”, to me, would be for example: “There is snow on the roofs and icicles on the windows.” Or: “She is wearing an elaborate red gown, sexy in a classy way.” Or: “He is standing by the door. You are standing in the corner.” Or: “The massive gurgle of a Corvette V8.” Or: “I am trembling with shame and anger.” My initial thought was that a lack of such details might make it hard for your group to find something that feels “right” as a compromise. This may or may not be the case, probably not, see my last paragraph.

Last, I would like to make some general observations of this discussion. I know how the Forge can be a bitch sometimes. Believe me I know. Story Games is ten times worse. I know what Ron said about stakes. I’m not sure how it applies or doesn’t apply to your PtA hack, but it’s almost a given that someone can be expected to jump in with some misinterpretation of what Ron said, and make some strange accusations of you playing the game “wrong”, when actually the fact that it works for you guys is proof that it can’t be wrong for you—if it really works.

I also see how, in this thread, you are not reacting well to criticism and people questioning your assumptions. Criticism and the questioning of assumptions are vital to productive discourse and are expected at the Forge. Your defensiveness is understandable, but it is also inappropriate and frankly, doesn’t make me much inclined to continue this discussion. The way you dismiss games and designers because you were frustrated by those games, or claim you “fixed” a game, may not be meant nearly as pretentious as it comes across to me, and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. However, I would ask you to consider that you are provoking the reaction which you already expected—sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The cultural thing seems to be a red herring to me, but that discussion would lead too far. I actually flinched a bit at Jeff’s comment myself, but again, found your reaction rather inappropriate. I’m fourth generation German, so I don’t have much connection to my Polish heritage, but do you really think this same thread couldn’t have been started by an American gamer? I doubt it.

Concerning your issue with Burning Empires, Mouse Guard, and PtA as written, I think it has to be noted that many (not all!) games from the Forge share an underlying assumption that the group is dedicated to a cooperative approach to a shared creative endeavor on the grounds of a shared or at least compatible understanding of esthetic preferences. If this dedication is not there in your group, then these games don’t work for you. It’s as simple as that.

-   Frank


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: JoyWriter on March 11, 2010, 06:52:49 AM
I don't know. I don't quite see how this sort of social crunch aligns with the mechanical crunch for those people. In games like BE or MG specifically, there's quite an excessive amount of the latter. It feels strikingly illusory. It sounds like very basic and sketchy procedures would do. Why have so elaborate procedures for everything else?

I don't quite fit Callan's model, but for me the fact that the system puts you on the spot and says "you have to compromise" is pretty amazing. Why? Because people often just brush over the problem of making a workable compromise; I win/you win/let's forget about it etc.

It's like chess forces you not to merely say "I win", but to engage with the other persons strategy, absorb it, and defeat it.

Now there might be a problem in how the game text actually refers to compromise, because it should say "you have to compromise" to everyone playing, and it could probably do with some kind of strategy guide to stop it being too daunting at first.

"GM offers ideas that you keep vetoing" is not compromise, it's deadlock. What the rules should say is "none of you will get what you want, unless you suddenly find a way to shift it all slightly to make it work together, and then you'll probably get little more than half what you wanted". The rules should set the conditions and expectations at the start of a piece of negotiation so that everyone commits to getting something partial.

In other words, in this case, the rules don't make peace between you, they lock you in a room until you sort it out. (It reminds me of the conclusion of this african conflict, but I can't remember where it was)

Now that's not great if you expect the "resolution mechanic" to resolve your conflicts all by itself, and if you're wedded to the old "cops and robbers" metaphor of rpg rules. That's why the point in the rules that says you have to compromise is so important; during a battle of wits you'll probably be getting more and more hyped, investing more and more in victory for your character, and then suddenly you have to make peace with that person you were competing with. That's quite a tone shift, and it needs to be flagged up as such, it's the equivalent of dropping of a cliff in terms of it's support for un-empathic thinking. Maybe that's intentional, with it acting as an encouragement to shift your tactics, and do the compromise more on your own terms? I don't know the game that well.

It seems to me that you should get everyone used to the idea "you've all lost unless you can pull a way out of it", so instead of preferences expanding when the potential of negotiation is opened, it is clear that that negotiation is occurring within a very limited scope.

Now why would anyone put that into a game? Why would they force you to make that kind of grudging decision? It's often not that cinematic, not that dramatically satisfying, but it is a part of life that doesn't get transmitted very easily through passive media; it's not cinematic because cinema finds it really hard to do! It's a whole region of creative exploration that interactive forms of entertainment/art have a unique power to touch well, because it's all about the feeling of interacting with someone different from you. Why else? Because it's like a death condition in a fighting game, it's another way to loose, and loosing heightens drama (again I'm not sure that this is emphasised or done well in your game). There is a familiar fear among political types of the dead compromise text, which is all waffle and no satisfaction, and many people feel so much energy in things like the copenhagen talks because they want that time to be the time that it doesn't happen. Why (thirdly)? Because sometimes you can do that last minute save, where the compromise is maybe even better than the first two options, or at least as good.

Does that help? Show why someone might want to put compromise into the game as a specific element, rather than just as a hole? In that case the rules should be setting up that next section of the game, and it might just be that they don't do that very well for you; it's not clear how the two game-play modules link up properly.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 11, 2010, 04:13:45 PM
Josh, to me that's like saying if were all behind a car pushing, cars are about being together and working together and the car is totally working if everyones behind it, together, pushing (and one guy at the steering wheel, I guess).

I'd grant a game author might want to deliberately put in the features you list. But in all the RPG's you've played, did they always deliberately put them in? Really? Or did they just screw up and this is not an intended element of the activity? And the games broken down as much as the stopped car (even if you can all push the game along)?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: JoyWriter on March 12, 2010, 04:24:15 AM
But in all the RPG's you've played, did they always deliberately put them in?

God, no! But they could do. Just like a car breaking down can be made into a fun toboggan-like game, providing you put better handles on the back of the car.

It's not that it must be this way, that it always is this way, but it can be this way. It's a whole set of fun that people can try to support, even though in other contexts it'd be terrible.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 12, 2010, 02:52:14 PM
Yes, but from my perspective there's an error going on, shown in how it goes from 'it can be made into a fun game' into 'It is a whole set of fun that people can try to support' all too easily. Not to mention how the last sentence to me implies that if there isn't any fun, it's not because the game isn't a set of fun, it's because people aren't supporting it (ie, it gets punted to the group dynamic level rather than accepting it's the mechanics that have failed, not the group) - when actually the game just isn't fun.

The mutation from treating something as 'can be made fun' to 'is fun/has always been fun' is something I've seen repeated through almost all roleplay/gamer culture. I'd support the notion it can be made fun, except it always seems to mutate all too rapidly into 'it IS a set of fun, already' or suchlike. It mutated in your own post in the space of three sentences.

It's terrible in this context too, not just other contexts.

In terms of why I've stuck around despite traditional RPG's, is that I've pretty much treated 99% of trad sessions as playtests, trying to fish out the good components that are there, or that get spontaniously invented at the table. I haven't stuck around because there is a whole set of fun that already exists and that people just need to support it. For whatever worth my own account is.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: JoyWriter on March 12, 2010, 04:24:13 PM
Yes, but from my perspective there's an error going on, shown in how it goes from 'it can be made into a fun game' into 'It is a whole set of fun that people can try to support' all too easily.
I'm using the word "it" to refer to two different things in that last post (the car that becomes a game, and then the potential), the implication you expect is not one I'm pushing!

Just because something crap can be made good, doesn't mean I blame someone for not doing it. It's a skill, and anyway, the "support" I was referring to was from the game designer, setting up the rules structure so it brings out the best of that dynamic, obstructs some of the worst of it, contextualises it appropriately and helps people get on board. Isn't "rules support" part of forge-speak?

Making the best the default and slapping people if they don't hit it first time is not what I do, I try to expect little but encourage much. And I'd rather be good (and learning) at an easier task than floundering with a hard one, so I love it when the game's designer puts help in or breaks a problem up in a good way, so I can get a grip on it and move up in skill while enjoying myself.

In short, I'm with you man, just trying to show something cool.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on March 14, 2010, 06:26:25 PM
Callan,

Quote
Because those rules, and whether they are followed, and how much, and how the wording is interpreted, and how much we follow what rules Jack wants now cause we followed what rules Jill wanted before...it is the actual chips, points and currency of the social dynamics game. The needlessly baroque rules allow there to be more social dynamics currency.

Oh.

It still feels out of game for me, though. That social game, it's something we do with entire games, before we agree to play one in the first place. It's an inconvenient necessity, a prerequisite to get any gaming at all. While I'm aware that a substantial portion of gamers play for primarily social reasons, the game itself providing a mere pretext to gather and engage in their social games, packaging this sort of experience under the guise of a ruleset doesn't seem quite right to me.

Actually, this might be the source of that sense of disconnect I often get, like there were two (or possibly more) entirely different and fundamentally incompatible categories of activities, rather than just modes of play, rooted in the same product base.

I think a lot of my dissatisfaction with games in general stemmed from how upon closer examination it often turned out those products weren't exactly what the cover seemed to promise, even though various bits and pieces were perfectly fine on their own. Like, for instance, if one examines the rules of a traditional game thoroughly enough, only the GM remains. Normally, before commiting to a system, I try to identify rules that effectively grant a single player complete or near complete control over the game. Looks like I should be equally careful about rules that push too much crucial stuff to group consensus.

James,

Quote
Hi Filip. I just wanted to focus for a sec on something concrete in the form of your example. Perhaps your group was not up for the twist because it wasn't actually a compromise. They don't get the info. That's cool, but the twist feels like a dead end. The knife thrown wasn't a compromise unless it represents a new avenue for investigation. If you had said something like "You don't get the info because he's killed by knife from somewhere. A very distinctive knife inscribed with the blacksmith's symbol." Perhaps they would have went for it. They didn't get what they were after, but they did get something.

Also, if they lost, then the bartender had to get what he wanted. Did he, in fact, prove that the Guard was oppressive?

Note that interrogating the bartender was the last thing we did that session. That compromise would have confirmed the agents were still somewhere near, active and dangerous, prompting further investigation in the next mission. None of the other options suggested represented a better avenue for investigation, anyway. As for the bartender's goal, of course he would get what he wanted. We'd be found with his dead body on the floor, all evidence pointing at us.

But that's not the point. Fiction is flexible, it can accomodate all sorts of outcomes, it could progress from that point like from any other. The point is, the rules asked me to come up with a twist, so I came up with something adequate enough that I felt really enthusiastic about. However, the same rules allowed others to dismiss it just like that. I guess I'd rather have it as part of my stakes in that conflict and lose it. At least I'd know what I fight for up front. What happened intrinsically wasn't better than the GM nodding wisely, pretending to look at my roll, and making shit up on the spot in a traditional game. Funny how not so very long ago, I've seen Burning Stuff praised for how those games protect players from various trad GM tricks with open stakes, let it ride, advancement and all.

Frank,

Quote
A “fictional detail”, to me, would be for example: “There is snow on the roofs and icicles on the windows.” Or: “She is wearing an elaborate red gown, sexy in a classy way.” Or: “He is standing by the door. You are standing in the corner.” Or: “The massive gurgle of a Corvette V8.” Or: “I am trembling with shame and anger.” My initial thought was that a lack of such details might make it hard for your group to find something that feels “right” as a compromise.

Well, we have plenty enough of details like that in our games. Unless in actual play you make those much more wordy - I've seen people calling it poor narration when the GM didn't describe falling snow for thirty minutes straight. Either way, it's still a matter of how much detail makes enough detail and how much constitutes a lack of it. I don't feel such details are particularly crucial to our outcomes in general; adding to the mood is more like it. I'm not even sure how some of those example details could affect resolution meaningfully, though that's rather hard to envision without considering it in terms of a specific system.

Quote
I also see how, in this thread, you are not reacting well to criticism and people questioning your assumptions. Criticism and the questioning of assumptions are vital to productive discourse and are expected at the Forge. Your defensiveness is understandable, but it is also inappropriate and frankly, doesn’t make me much inclined to continue this discussion. The way you dismiss games and designers because you were frustrated by those games, or claim you “fixed” a game, may not be meant nearly as pretentious as it comes across to me, and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Heh, in this thread, I see many people going defensive and not reacting well to criticism or questioning their assumptions. Now, while I found some things in yours or Raven's posts somewhat irritating, I've also found them productive. Those made me think about various more or less related stuff, at the very least, even though so far, the discussion is largely reinforcing my initial opinions. However, when it comes to approaching the thread from the angle of dealing with a complaining customer or the like, I can only dismiss those posts as completely unproductive. Now, no benefit of the doubt is needed: if something I say comes across as too pretensious or anything to you, I suggest not engaging in the discussion at all might prove better for both of us. Please consider for a moment how some of those posts here might be coming across to me (hint: pretensious sounds like quite an accurate word).


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 14, 2010, 08:43:43 PM
Filip, I'm just nodding with you through your post, is all I can say! That it doesn't feel quite right - I agree! Particularly the 'only the GM remains' - rather poetic way to describe it too! I had a long, long thread on story games once where I tried to explain that rule zero nukes all other rules and makes them effectively moot/non existant. No one seemed to accept it because they'd say only a jerk GM would do that - again, it gets punted to the social dynamic level to handle how mechanically, only the GM remains.

Also what I'm trying to describe with the rules as social currency - that's trying to put it in a constructive, somewhat functional model of play. I could just describe it as utter cluelessness (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=29359.msg274373#msg274373) (see Ron's responce to me), because it's close to that and pretty much develops from it, if it develops at all.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Noclue on March 14, 2010, 09:58:18 PM
What happened intrinsically wasn't better than the GM nodding wisely, pretending to look at my roll, and making shit up on the spot in a traditional game. Funny how not so very long ago, I've seen Burning Stuff praised for how those games protect players from various trad GM tricks with open stakes, let it ride, advancement and all.

I think if having to come to an agreement with all the other players feels the same to you as a GM making up an arbitrary outcome and applying it to you, than you are correct BW and BE are not going to be satisfying. In another game, you might have had the ability to declare that your twist happened through fiat or through applying a mechanic, but in the game you were playing consensus was required from the people at the table. The mechanics for DoWs get you to "who wins" and "who loses," and "who has to compromise," but then they demand that the players decide how that compromise is translated into the fiction that you're all creating. For my part, I value the room that the rules allow for creative collaboration regarding compromises, even though I know that not every offer I put forward will be accepted. It's the reason that, much as I love the Fight! mechanics in BW, I find a good DoW much more engaging. What you see as a grain of sand, I see as the heart of the game and the reason I enjoy it.


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Callan S. on March 14, 2010, 11:57:21 PM
How do you mean the rules allow room for creative collaboration on compromise, James? You already have that when you don't use written rules at all all, don't you?


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on March 15, 2010, 09:07:23 AM
However, when it comes to approaching the thread from the angle of dealing with a complaining customer or the like, I can only dismiss those posts as completely unproductive. Now, no benefit of the doubt is needed: if something I say comes across as too pretensious or anything to you, I suggest not engaging in the discussion at all might prove better for both of us.

What the fuck? I warned you, twice. You asked for my fucking opinion. Thanks for wasting my time. You are not my fucking customer, my job is not to make you satisfied. So you hate compromises, you prefer to always have your way, is it that? /thread

/nerdrage


Title: Re: I hate compromises
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 15, 2010, 10:17:03 AM
Ah, and right when I'd already decided it was time to bring in the moderation.

Where to start. First, Frank - that post was nonsense, and beneath you. The internet is full of people who lose their shit just because they think someone called them names.

Second, Filip, your emotions have been triggered too often in this thread and you let them rule your responses too much. The topic has been strong enough that I've respected the discussion, but I think an emotions-reasons-emotions cycle is started, so I'm stopping it.

The topic is still available for discussion. However, this particular thread is now closed, and if you want to discuss something substantive based on it, then start a new thread with a link back to this one.

Best, Ron