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General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: Shimera9 on March 28, 2010, 11:09:36 PM



Title: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on March 28, 2010, 11:09:36 PM
I've been floating some ideas around about emergent character and figures I'd see if the folks here have seen any games that do this.

The original idea was posted up on rpg.net (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=489681) along with a longer example of play.  I've since started up a blog to sketch out these ideas (http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/).  Here's a summary from the blog.  The original thread was longer but it covered several different ideas.  Let me know if anyone wants to see the longer gameplay example.

Quote
In most game’s I’ve seen character are created in detail before play begins. What if we let the player determine character abilities on the fly? You’d probably want a resource to keep the player from choosing to excell at everything. The player would be given plenty of opportunities in play to determine what things are and aren’t important for that character. Here’s a sample scenario from the original thread at rpg.net:

J: “Alright, who wants to go first?”
C: “I’ll go. I think I’ve got a good idea on how I want to start.”
J: “Go ahead.”
C: “Alright, it’s in an old monastery. Stone halls, gargoyles on the roof and all that. Anyway, a couple of robed figures are walking down a hall. After they pass, another guy in robes slips out of a side passage to a nearby door. Bits of lightning dance from his fingers across the doors lock.”
M: “So that’s your guy?”
C: “Yep.”
J: “Is opening the door supposed to be a challenge?”
C: “Yeah, it sounds like a good first test for the character and I’d like to start building up some points.”
J: “Alright, it sounds like you’re adding a unique ability by picking the lock with magic. Are you ready to spend one of your edges to back that up?”
C: “Yeah, it’s a pretty cool ability and I like having him be a sneaky guy.”

Obviously this is harder to do with some systems than others. You’d need a set of guideline that allow quick trait creation on the fly. Anything that fine tunes the mechanics of how a trait works should either be added over time or during down time. It’s got it’s own challenges but the ability for characters to be defined by what happens has a definate appeal. It also ties in nicely to how characters seem to develop in fiction. Unless we get an info dump early on, most of what we learn about the character comes from what we see them do or how they interact with others.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Lance D. Allen on March 29, 2010, 03:21:03 AM
Shimera,

I know there are games that do this, and that people have talked about using hacks to add a small degree of this to more traditional games, particularly involving equipment. I've even worked on a game idea where you could theoretically do anything, but you'd have to face difficulties based on how feasible it was... And if you succeeded, you had the option of taking a trait/skill for doing that thing.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I think that others will be more helpful.

What's your intention with this thread? Are you looking for research material? Do you want to discuss the concept? Do you want to explore different methods for implementing this? If so, are you hacking an existing game, or are you designing a new one?


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on March 29, 2010, 06:39:51 AM
Right now I'm looking at it from a more research oriented angle.  I'm thinking of making a new game that uses this, so I wanted to see what games have already used the concept.  It's more a feeling out of the design space.

If the matching games cover what I want to do closely enough, there's less need for a new system and I may just change to adapting any related material to the target system.

If some mechanics match but others don't quite fit, I'll have a good idea of what aspects to play up to make the new game more distinctive.  I'll also have a solid set of research material.

I had more details on what I'm planning in the "what games do this?" post on rpg.net but I didn't get any solid leads, so I figured I'd cut down the number of criteria to a single feature and ask around here.  If you'd like more info on the intended game I can post it up here.

Once I've got a good feel on the design space, I do intended to ask about the mechanics.  Right now I'm thinking of a simple "you have x edges, each of which can be used to buy a basic trait".  I'm also thinking of allowing for extra edges when players face new types of challenges.  I can put out more details on the mechanics if you like.  I just wanted to leave the original post more open and relatively short.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Lance D. Allen on March 29, 2010, 07:37:54 AM
Here's another question, then... Have you begun work on the game?

If so, why not post what you've got? I've found posting actual systems is more likely to provoke "this reminds me of..." comments than simply asking for systems that do a certain thing.

Also, if the snippet you posted is something from the system you're actually working on, then it seems interesting, and I wouldn't mind hearing more.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: contracycle on March 29, 2010, 07:42:40 AM
This reminded me of something I had trouble putting my finger on.  But as I recall, the original Marvel SH game allowed you to permanently purchase a stunt once you had performed it.  This was quite significant in that the powers were fairly generic, and purchasing a stunt lowered its difficulty, meaning that as you did so your powers become more and more defined, and hence so did the characters particular modus operandi.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters -- Existing Games
Post by: epweissengruber on March 29, 2010, 11:23:38 AM
I have tried running HQ1 and 2 in an emergent fashion.

The rules allow for on-the fly character generation.

Since HQ abilities are simply prose tags with a rating attached it is easy to generate them on the fly.

I have found that characters are able to fill up the finite (10, IIRC) number of slots very cleverly.  But they do so in response to a particular situation, or even a single missions, which makes the long-term "openness" of the character questionable.

If you could come up with a way to link the concretizing of a character emerging out of instances of play feed back into the setting or other Color, you would be breaking ground that HQ didn't break.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on March 29, 2010, 12:46:14 PM
Here's another question, then... Have you begun work on the game?

Yes, though it's still very much in a "jumble of notes" stage.  If I go ahead with this it will be my first attempt to get from notes to a publishable form, so proceeding has been a bit rocky.

If so, why not post what you've got? I've found posting actual systems is more likely to provoke "this reminds me of..." comments than simply asking for systems that do a certain thing.

I'm on lunch break, so I've got limited time right now.  Here are the remaining points from the original rpg.net post.

* Dynamic Player Control - If a player doesn't have an active character in the scene they can still help describe what in the scene, add threats and challenges, and take control of new characters when they appear.

* Challenges - Players are rewarded for overcoming challenges. Ideally, these awards should be a resource that can be spent to make later challenges more manageable. For example, points could be spent to find an unusual item early on. Then during the boss battle extra points could be spent to reveal that item has a special power against that opponent.

* Threats - Danger can be added to any challenge. Doing so raises the risk of the challenge but can also raise the rewards for succeeding in both the threat and the challenge. Alternately if the threat is beaten, but the challenge fails, beating the threat can mitigate the cost of failing the challenge.

I'll put the full play example in the next post.

This reminded me of something I had trouble putting my finger on.  But as I recall, the original Marvel SH game allowed you to permanently purchase a stunt once you had performed it.

Cool, I'll see if I can hunt down more info on that.  It might work nicely as part of an advancement mechanic.  Right now the thing I like about the edges approach is it forces the player to decide on what's important for this character.

If you could come up with a way to link the concretizing of a character emerging out of instances of play feed back into the setting or other Color, you would be breaking ground that HQ didn't break.

Hmm, I've heard about that tag system before.  I guess this gives me a good excuse to hunt down more info on it.  It certainly sounds like a good lead for designing traits as you need to be able to lay them down faster and loose to make this work well.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Paul Czege on March 29, 2010, 01:45:26 PM
Hey man,

My experience is that a system might be structured for players defining their characters through play, but what players actually do is envision the character they want from the outset and then use the "define through play" mechanics to create the envisioned character.

This becomes apparent when a GM goes into the game expecting the players to define their characters in response to the antagonism he has planned, only to find the players defining characters that don't develop thematically when subjected to the planned antagonism.

See my actual play (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=8682.0) of the "define through play" game EPICS.

(And if you're doing research, you should read EPICS. You won't be disappointed.)

Paul


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on March 29, 2010, 06:17:44 PM
My experience is that a system might be structured for players defining their characters through play, but what players actually do is envision the character they want from the outset and then use the "define through play" mechanics to create the envisioned character.

I have no problem with that.  My interest in building character on the fly actually comes more from the player side.  Not having to detail every little skill before play starts seems pretty tempting.

What I may do with this game is use the quick creation this supports to make switching character or picking up any characters that interest the player relatively easy.  Granted, that opens up it's own complications, but it has some interesting possibilities.

See my actual play (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=8682.0) of the "define through play" game EPICS.

Thanks, I'll check out the example tonight.  You know, I think I actually have the game in my archives somewhere.  I'll have to dig that out.  I collect a lot more games than I ever get a chance to play.

Now as promised, here's the original full play example I was talking about:
Quote
J: "Alright, who wants to go first?"
C: "I'll go. I think I've got a good idea on how I want to start."
J: "Go ahead."
C: "Alright, it's in an old monastery. Stone halls, gargoyles on the roof and all that. Anyway, a couple of robed figures are walking down a hall. After they pass, another guy in robes slips out of a side passage to a nearby door. Bits of lightning dance from his fingers across the doors lock."
M: "So that's your guy?"
C: "Yep."
J: "Is opening the door supposed to be a challenge?"
C: "Yeah, it sounds like a good first test for the character and I'd like to start building up some points."
J: "Alright, it sounds like you're adding a unique ability by picking the lock with magic. Are you ready to spend one of your edges to back that up?"
C: "Yeah, it's a pretty cool ability and I like having him be a sneaky guy."
G: "Hold up. You've already said people go down this hall and what you're doing is pretty suspicious looking. I'm placing a threat on that challenge. If the threat goes off, you'll be spotted."
J: "Fair enough. C, are you going to split you attention to keep an eye on the threat?"
C: "Nah, I'll just focus on the lock and hope I can get in before it goes off."
J: "Alright, roll em."
*rolls*
C: "Yes! In on the first try!"
G: *shakes fist* "Next time gadget, next time!"
J: "Alright, you're in. What kind of room are we looking at?"
C: "Let's say it's the bedroom of one of the higher ups."
M: "So are you trying to catch the guy asleep?"
C: "No, I'm just looking for something."
J: "Did you want to cash in your success for that?"
C: "Not yet. Let's up the ante a bit. I want to search the room."
J: "Are you spending an edge on that?"
C: "Nah. I'll hold off for now. I can search without that edge right."
J: "Yep, you just don't get any modifiers."
C: "Alright, let's do this."
G: "If they hid something in the room, they might have laid traps too, I'm placing a threat on this. If it goes off, you sprung a trap."
C: "Heh, your throwing threats out left and right, aren't you. Alright, it'll make my reward that much better anyway."
*rolls*
C: "Excellent, looting time!"
G: "Not so fast, the trap went off, too."
C: "What kind of trap?"
M: "Ooh, I've got it. How about an animate statue, like one of those gargoyles?"
G: "That would work, but let's make it something smaller, like a little stone imp."
J: "Alright, so where does it come from?"
M: "Let's put it by the fireplace. It could be disguised as a poker holder."
J: "Sounds good. So just as Hoody McCloakington is poking around the fireplace, one of the poker holders starts moving. I assume it's going to swing its poker at him."
M: "Go for the knees!"
C: "I'm dodging that!"
J: "Go ahead. But you don't get any modifiers unless you spend an edge on that."
*rolls*
C: "Phew, just made it. I'm taking that thing down."
G: "How? It's made of stone and you don't have any weapons."
J: "You could spend an edge to pull one out of your robe."
C: "True, but I'm not sure I want to burn one just yet. The thing's small and this is a bedroom, right? With all the usual items."
J: "That sounds right."
C: "Alright, I'm going to grab the chamberpot and try to trap it under there."
J: "You can do that. The pot will be near the bed though, so the imp can act as you're moving over there."
G: "Like M said, go for the knees. Let's see if it can slow Hoody down."
C: "I already dodged away though, so I should be just out of range."
J: "Alright, let's make it a contest, speed vs speed. If the imp wins, it can spend its successes on an attack. If Hoody wins, he can spend his success on his chamberpot attack."
C: "One minute, I want to spend an edge on this."
J: "You already dodged without spending an edge, so you can't boost your dodging ability until the end of the adventure."
C: "But I should be able to boost how fast I can run, right? I'd like making him fast."
J: "Alright, go ahead and take the bonus then."
*rolls*
C: "Yes! That gives me points to spare. I'm trapping that thing."
G: "Rolling to dodge.."


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: SAW on March 29, 2010, 06:57:34 PM
Two questions..

1) How do you plan to control power-creep? Like.. if C just keeps making himself faster and faster, then how do you keep him under control in a situation where G and M are also present? Anything fast enough to catch C is going to stomp all over G and M, and anything balanced for G and M is going to be walked all around by C.

2) What benefit do the other players get from screwing each other? Do you think that that'll be a problem once they're actually together in a scenario? Or are they never meant to be on the same team?


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on March 30, 2010, 05:26:44 AM
1) I've actually be thinking about 2 mechanics that would help with that.  I'm not sure if I'll use both.

Paid Setbacks
I've been toying with granting character's resources for set backs (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=504921).  I'm calling the resource Tension in that thread.  So anything C outclasses is easy to beat but doesn't reward C much.  In contrast, if G or M are themselves outclassed they'd build up a lot of Tension whether they win or loss.

The idea is that rather than setting up a "Challenge Rating" style that tries to predict difficulty you'd be paying for actual difficulty as encountered in play.

Note that by itself Tension's uses are limited largely to escaping or turning around a single conflict.  Winning challenges is need to convert Tension into more lasting awards.

Range Capping
I may set if so maximum ability in a trait can only get so far ahead of minimum ability.

To go beyond that point you might use a general competence trait which would be available to all characters.  An example of this would be saying "skills range from +0 to +5.  To make a check, roll level bonus + skill bonus".  If I go this route I'll probably set it so there's one of these super traits per type on challenge.

Another way to expand things is provide off shoot traits that reduce specific obstacles.  For example, rather than scale up damage to get around an expected increase in toughness you could make an "armor piercing" trait available.  In this approach the player grows stronger less by having higher number and more by knowing the counters to the oppositon's special abilities.

2) If I use the tension system, the player's aren't really screwing each other over much by making things harder.  After all, harder challenges generate more resources which can be used to move things along.

I am thinking of providing an expendable resource award to players for stepping in an playing the opposing side.  However, I do want to balance that out so there's still a motive to "lurk".  What I may do is grant an award per side, divided among participating players.  To get the award, they might have to step into an antagonist role and sacrifice some ability to determine details.  That way the player would be choosing whether they want to stay free to tweak things now or earn an expendable tweak for use later.

Players are meant to able to play on the same team.  However, I am thinking of making it so that players can switch sides by changing characters.  For example, I might set it so while your main characters are off stage you'd be tempted to throw something in that makes things harder so you can later make things easier when your character comes back on stage.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: SAW on March 30, 2010, 07:37:39 AM
How do you determine at which point something is outclassed for your Tension mechanic?

Like, if C is super fast, his speed may outclass that of a giant, but the giant is going to probably have C bested in other categories.

I think you'll need a hard and fast rule to go by, as deciding arbitrarily might produce some issues at the table.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Lance D. Allen on March 30, 2010, 08:31:07 AM
Shimera,

First up: I say screw it if other games do some of the same stuff. You've got something interesting here.

Second up: Can I get your name, or do you prefer Shimera?

A couple things I see as assumptions: The characters have *some* abilities defined before play, such as speed, et al. I think this is a good thing. The character shouldn't necessarily be a complete blank slate. Some basics that can be added to and augmented give you something to hang the evolving concept on.

SAW: Some excellent questions.

I'm cutting this short, because I just realized it's time to run. I will be coming back to this thread later on, though.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on March 30, 2010, 09:38:09 PM
How do you determine at which point something is outclassed for your Tension mechanic?

Well, when a character is overpowered you'd expect them to fail more often than not.  I was thinking of paying out a little tension on failed rolls.  I'd probably restrict it to rolls where there's a cost to failure, even it's just an opportunity cost..  The greater the chance of failure the more often they'll get the payout in tension.  An interesting quirk about this is it would also auto-adjust for runs of bad or good luck.

First up: I say screw it if other games do some of the same stuff. You've got something interesting here.

I'm certainly getting that feeling.  I'm not about to drop the idea because a single component is already done elsewhere.  Still, I did want to know if another system handled this combo already.  I figured that would help me decide whether it's better to adapt an existing system or start a new one.  It's probably my programming background showing with the whole "don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to" mentality.  Right now it is looking like I've got a combo that stands out enough that I'm probably better off making it into it's own system.

On a related note, Epics does seem to cover the emergent character idea nicely, though I may be looking to play it even faster and looser than that.  Heck, I picked that up a while ago.  I might have even picked up the idea there and forgotten what the source was.  That's easy enough to do if you go collection crazy with gaming systems..

quote author=Lance D. Allen link=topic=29575.msg275219#msg275219 date=1269966667]
Second up: Can I get your name, or do you prefer Shimera?[/quote]

Sure, the name is David Cary.  I used to go by the name Shimeran on these boards, but I've been off the boards for a while.  Since then I've both forgotten the password and lost access to the original email address I used, so I had to make a new id.

quote author=Lance D. Allen link=topic=29575.msg275219#msg275219 date=1269966667]
A couple things I see as assumptions: The characters have *some* abilities defined before play, such as speed, et al. I think this is a good thing. The character shouldn't necessarily be a complete blank slate. Some basics that can be added to and augmented give you something to hang the evolving concept on.[/quote]

See I'm kind of coming at this from the other side.  I agree it's useful to have some things defined before play, but I'm not sure it's necessary.  For example, consider GMs who tend to improvisation over pre-planning.  The GM often has to make characters up an attach abilities to them on the fly.  With the right system support, shouldn't it be viable to do that with any character if desired?

I'm certainly not against laying out character details ahead of time.  In fact, I imagine players will come to play with a number of character ideas in various stages of development.  I'm simply aim to require as little as possible before starting play.

I'm also looking at breaking down some of the traditional PC and NPC divisions, though will still be ways to indicate special characters. As such being able to easily add characters that can potentially be used as either is a big plus.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Lance D. Allen on March 31, 2010, 02:36:01 PM
David,

Quote
See I'm kind of coming at this from the other side.  I agree it's useful to have some things defined before play, but I'm not sure it's necessary.  For example, consider GMs who tend to improvisation over pre-planning.  The GM often has to make characters up an attach abilities to them on the fly.  With the right system support, shouldn't it be viable to do that with any character if desired?

I'm certainly not against laying out character details ahead of time.  In fact, I imagine players will come to play with a number of character ideas in various stages of development.  I'm simply aim to require as little as possible before starting play.

This is an admirable goal, and I think you should definitely do it. As an example of how basics can be defined up front, but also on the fly, I recommend you look into Dogs in the Vineyards systems for creating NPCs. I don't necessarily think you should randomly roll anything (though it's certainly an option) but it shows how you can create a batch of numbers quickly, then when you need an NPC, grab one of the batches, and slap some traits onto the numbers. The primary difference in DitV between how NPCs and PCs are made is that the batch of numbers you get for PCs are drawn from one of four pre-determined groupings, and then traits are assigned before you begin play, and for NPCs you roll on a chart to determine numbers for nameless, faceless NPCs in groups of 6. Once play has begun and you find yourself in need of an NPC, you glance over your 6 NPCs, grab a likely looking batch of numbers, and slap a name and traits on it.

(for the above, when I say trait, I'm talking about the words that come before the colon, rather than the numerical value that comes after, like so... [Trait]: [Value] example: Strength: 5)

Quote
I'm also looking at breaking down some of the traditional PC and NPC divisions, though will still be ways to indicate special characters. As such being able to easily add characters that can potentially be used as either is a big plus.

Again, I applaud this. A streamlined system tends to be better utilized in play, in my experience. A game with too many different sub-systems invites problems.. So it's best to use a single general system, which variations or creative applications of the system for most things and using subsystems for only the most important things.

I don't have DitV handy, or I'd get a bit more specific. If you'd like, I'll dredge my memory and give you more details if this sounds like an idea you'd like to explore.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 01, 2010, 06:56:30 AM
Hmm, I've heard some interesting things about that game.  I may check that out this weekend.  I'll have more time to mull over things then.

Right now, I'm considering a kind of template system.  Something like "you have 1 mastered, 2 advanced, and 3 trained abilities".  I might set these templates into a level progression.  The first level in a given challenge type might give you 1 or 2 trained actions for that challenge.  The second level could add an advanced slot and so on.  The main appeal to this approach is speed.  You'd pick a level and then just fill in the blank slots as you go.  I also kind of like the idea of one signature ability in a given set.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 02, 2010, 06:20:29 AM
I've posted an intro to the game on my blog (http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/ (http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/)).  I'm reposted in here as I think this helps sum of the play style and feel I'm going for.  I'm also curious if there are any topics you folks would be particularly interested in hearing more about.
Quote
Game Intro.

The seeds for this system came from reflecting on the classic “save the world” style plot. Those stories start small with most impact limited to a personal or local level at best, but by the end of the arc the stakes have grown to include huge portions of the known world. This sort of increasing stakes seems to parallel the classic dramatic arc with it’s rising action, climax, and falling action.

I want the system to support this kind of arc. At present, I plan to do this by having later conflicts build off earlier on. That way the highest stake conflicts are the ones with the most connections to previous events and plotlines. Worked out fully this should create an “everything has lead up to this” feel in the peak conflict of an adventure or series.

To follow that dramatic arc, I want a system that plays fast and loose, with a more descriptive emphasis. I’m looking at things like emergent characters to speed up character creation and make them more flexible and adaptive. It also ties in nicely with the narrative feel of other elements as you don’t know about character traits until they’re brought up in play.

I’m also looking at techniques where all players can contribute to scenes and plots, as well a flexible approach to changing and controlling characters.

What’s Next?

Next post I’ll go over a specific part of the system and how I’m thinking off handling it. I’ve listed some possible topics below, so let me know if there are any in particular you’d like to see. Feel free to ask for topics not on the list as well.

Sample Topics:
  • How are scenes set up?
  • How do you create characters?
  • How do challenges work?
  • How do you link challenges to each other?

Also, If you’d like a name for the project let me know. I’m holding off on final naming until it’s fully fleshed out, but I can slap in a temporary name like Crescendo or Rising Action in the interrrim.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: SAW on April 02, 2010, 06:29:54 AM
I'm actually working on something very similar myself. Almost identical, really, in terms of what I'm aiming for.

I'd definitely be interested in how you plan on working your challenges and such.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Lance D. Allen on April 02, 2010, 12:42:48 PM
Your stated goals in your game intro are very similar to what I'm doing with Mage Blade. That begs the question: How do you intend to facilitate this?

There are two broad ways to do it: Procedurally and mechanically. By procedural, I mean you have specific advice in the book telling the GM what to do. This is the traditional way of assisting GMs in building story arcs, and works best for experienced GMs who are already pretty good at it. Your advice relies on their experience and guides them into using the remaining systems to best effect to create the type of story you're looking for. Mechanically, on the other hand, incorporates the scenario and arc generation into the actual rules of play. By playing the game by the rules, you are generating the scenarios that build into the arc. In your particular case, reincorporation of previously introduced elements into later elements would be a core part. This works with both more and less experienced GMs, but may tend to feel too restrictive to GMs who are used to creating the story for their players to explore.

Mage Blade handles the story arc almost entirely mechanically, though obviously there will be some best-practice procedures involved. At the moment, I don't see how the earlier discussed emergent character mechanics facilitates your stated goals. To be clear, I doubt they will get in the way either, but I don't necessarily think that what you've shown us so far will assist in making the type of experience you talk about in your quoted text.

As far as naming, on a whim I'd like to suggest "Mezzo" as a code name. Often the code name is somewhat nonsensical (Windows Vista was once code named "Longhorn"). I believe this is to keep the development team from getting attached to a name if the powers that be decide on another. "Mezzo" is also my way of suggesting that Crescendo may not be a bad one to keep on the ballot for final names.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: reaction on April 02, 2010, 03:04:06 PM
I think you really need to be talking to Mike about this sort of thing, since it very much reminds me of Universalis and Other Worlds, and the way he runs HQ. I don't really have much else to offer the discussion, other than research suggestions and the fact that it interests me.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 03, 2010, 07:43:07 AM
I'm actually working on something very similar myself. Almost identical, really, in terms of what I'm aiming for.
Your stated goals in your game intro are very similar to what I'm doing with Mage Blade.

I've got no problem with that.  I figure I'll lay out the mechanics I'm thinking of and see how close they match other systems at that point.  If the match is close enough I'll simply switch to doing and expansion, supplement, or collaboration.

I'd definitely be interested in how you plan on working your challenges and such.

I'll get that up later today.  It's actually one of the topics that still has a few rough edges, but it will lead in nicely to how I'm planning to interconnect challenges.

Mechanically, on the other hand, incorporates the scenario and arc generation into the actual rules of play. By playing the game by the rules, you are generating the scenarios that build into the arc.

Yep, that's the route I'm looking at.  I'd like to make that build part of the game.  Heck, I kind of like the idea of reaching that peak being a player objective so it feels like a win when they get there.

In your particular case, reincorporation of previously introduced elements into later element would be a core part. This works with both more and less experienced GMs, but may tend to feel too restrictive to GMs who are used to creating the story for their players to explore.

I'm actually planning on setting this up to support GM less play and shared narrative control.  I have been thinking about an option to let players buy into a story, letting one player take on more GM like abilities.  I might also allow for player roles which include GM style abilities, but both of those are intended as options.

I would like to build a certain amount of flexibility into the structure.  It would be great if it gets built into the base mechanics, but if not I can add it as an optional rule.  That way starting groups get the basic structure but they can dip into more advanced tricks as they get more comfortable with the system.

Mage Blade handles the story arc almost entirely mechanically, though obviously there will be some best-practice procedures involved.

It will be interesting to compare how they both handle this.  I'd originally been thinking of a point based resources, but I'm leaning toward a more associative approach now.

At the moment, I don't see how the earlier discussed emergent character mechanics facilitates your stated goals.

I'll admit the add little more to the dramatic arc than predefined characters do.  Emergent characters do have a strong ability to reveal traits on the fly that can add to the dramatic buildup, but predefined character can have potential plot hooks built in, so it's probably a wash.

Where emergent characters come in is the secondary goal, the game's playstyle.  In the third paragraph of the intro I mentioned wanting a certain fast and loose feel to play.  The whole "descriptive emphasis" bit was a way of saying I like the idea of it playing out like a story.  The ability to reveal new details on the fly will help add to that feel.

As far as naming, on a whim I'd like to suggest "Mezzo" as a code name.

Heh, I'm a bit rusty on musical terms so I checked this out.  "Mezzo" is indeed appropriate as I feel like the I'm stuck in the middle stage of development.  It's also a good as the middle of the arc would be right where things are coming to a head.

I think you really need to be talking to Mike about this sort of thing, since it very much reminds me of Universalis and Other Worlds, and the way he runs HQ.

I'd heard about Universalis and actually placed the order for it last night.  I'm less familiar with Other Worlds, though I should be able to hunt it down.  I assume HQ is Hero Quest.

I certainly wouldn't mind hearing from the creator, though I'd need to look in how to contact him.  If I can lure him to the forum that would work nicely.  If I'm going by email I'll probably wait until the details are more fleshed out.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 03, 2010, 04:19:31 PM
Sorry for the delay folks, part of my body have been rebelling so things are going to be a bit light today.  In all honesty, I'm still pinning down the detail on challenges.  Before I get into how challenges work, I want to touch on their role in the game.

As you may have noticed in the sample play, any player could add details to the world.  I'll get into the meat of that later, but I like every player being able to contribute to what's going on.  In short, this layer is more cooperative and focuses on setting the scene.

In contrast, challenges are more about pushing or blocking the goals of a given character or faction.  Challenge are meant to be how a side builds up power for their cause.  This is meant to be the competitive aspect of the system.

This give me a fairly good idea of what I want challenges to do.  They should provide the winners with the resources/tools to build up to the adventure's climax.  For the loosing side I'm leaning toward making it more of a delay or setback instead of a dead end.

Right now I'm thinking of luck and tactics are strong factors for success with trait levels being secondary to how those traits are applied.  It's likely the luck facotr will be less a determiner of whether you win and more how much it costs to win.  Thus if it's the peak encounter and the chips are down the heroes can still pull off bittersweet victory through a heroic sacrifice.

So there's some of what I'm looking at in soft term.  Mechanically I'm looking at these kind of tricks:

1) Awarding an escape clause or reversal resource if one side is taking a beating.  Can also be used to help less powerful party members get more out of participating.
2) Setting up a general system where successes build momentum based on how effectively the tools available are used.
3) Letting the losing bow out early and possibly be safer or push further at greater risk.
3) Setting the length of a challenge based on participation, so solo event with less lurker interest go fast where events that draw in everyone can last longer.

I know this is a kind of scattered presentation, but it should give you and idea of the kinds of things I'm trying to bring together.  I'm still working on fleshing the system out, but I like the feel of things in the sample play, so I may model things around that as long as it fits my other goals.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 04, 2010, 11:19:52 AM
Here's the rough structure I'm looking at for the challenge system:
  • Challenges start when a layer introduces a threat, obstacle, or opponent for a given character.
  • Other players may add additional elements to the challenge or increase the power of an existing element.
  • If all players support one side of challenge, that side automatically wins with no points awarded.  Player can abstain from supporting either side but if they do this automatic victory does not occur.  This mechanic lets the players "skip" potential challenges that lack interesting conflicts.
  • Once a challenge begins character actions are handled as follows:
    • All players interested in acting first declare their actions.
    • If more than one character is going for the first action, roll an action speed contest.  For actions with unknown speed, poll the players and use the median value.
    • Resolve the winning action as follows:
      • Another character can try interrupt the action.  The interrupting action must be a response to the triggering action such as defending the target.  Roll an action speed contest to interrupt.  If the action was already in one of there contests, it uses the roll from the last contest.  If the interrupter wins, resolve that action first.
      • Determine how effective the action shold be if done well.  This value should be provided for standard actions.  For improvised actions use the poll and median approach as mentioned for unknown action speeds.
      • Determine how skilled the character is at that action.  If the character has an appropriate trait that will set the skill level.  If trait use is opposed, use the poll and median approach to get the effective skill valuie.
      • Opposing player or characters may penalize either rating or skill at this point, but doing so gives the character "frustration".  These penalties can be based on things like revealed traits an invoking any wounds or penalties the acting character has.
      • Roll for how well the action was performed.  "Frustration" can be spent to force a reroll.
      • Combine the actions rating and roll to determine it's point value.
      • The character can choose to cash in any matching banked effects or wounds on the target to increase their action's point value.
      • If the value is high enough to defeat the target, the character's side gains "momentum" while the target gains frustration.  The target may drop out the challenge or push their luck.  If they push their luck they take a persistant wound or penalty and can not spend resources to escape their fate if they fail.  This push can normally only be done once per challenge.
      • If the value is lower but still significant, the character may gain a temporary advantage or inflict a penalty on the target.  This can be used to "bank" points toward a specific type of future action.
      • If the value is too low, the character simply accumulates "frustration".
    • If all everyon on a given side is defeated, the challenge ends.  Otherwise, go for another round of declaring actions.  characters who have already acted my submit another action, but they do so with a cummulative penalty.  This penalty fades when all particiapants have acted or if no one submits an action..
  • Once the challenge ends, characters on the winning side may convert their frustration to momentum.
  • Winners may spend momentum to make an change to the world, trade it in for a temporary advantage, or bank it to raise the stakes of a future challenge.
  • Losers can spend any remaining frustration to add a complication or try to escape their fate.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Lance D. Allen on April 04, 2010, 11:48:40 AM
A lot of stuff since my last post. I'm going to pull out things that I specifically want to address.
Quote
I've got no problem with that.  I figure I'll lay out the mechanics I'm thinking of and see how close they match other systems at that point.  If the match is close enough I'll simply switch to doing and expansion, supplement, or collaboration.

I can speak for myself and my games: The match isn't close enough. Nor should that really be a concern. Having similar overarching goals just means that we may end up being in competition someday.. Which is perfectly fine! There may be people who want the same goal, but for whom my game simply doesn't work on other levels, but for whom your game is perfect. The point of all this is to get games into the hands of people who will play them and enjoy them. Which isn't to say I'm against collaboration, but that's a whole other topic.

Quote
It will be interesting to compare how they both handle (mechanical story arc progression).  I'd originally been thinking of a point based resources, but I'm leaning toward a more associative approach now.

Here (http://"http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14357.0")'s an old post of mine talking about Mage Blade's Goal Metasystem. It's changed a little since then, based somewhat on that discussion, but the basics are still in place.

Quote
In contrast, challenges are more about pushing or blocking the goals of a given character or faction.  Challenge are meant to be how a side builds up power for their cause.  This is meant to be the competitive aspect of the system.

Did the example of play include a challenge? What constitutes a 'side' or a 'cause'?

Quote
Right now I'm thinking of luck and tactics are strong factors for success with trait levels being secondary to how those traits are applied.  It's likely the luck facotr will be less a determiner of whether you win and more how much it costs to win.  Thus if it's the peak encounter and the chips are down the heroes can still pull off bittersweet victory through a heroic sacrifice.

Look at Marshall Burns' Rustbelt (Beyond the Wire games, down in the publisher forums) for examples of how he does this same sort of thing. I think it works fairly well from AP reports and a very limited playtest I participated in.

Your last post: That is very dense, and seems complicated. Can you walk through it with an example? Perhaps it's not as complex as it seems, in play.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Mike Holmes on April 04, 2010, 05:21:48 PM
I remember this place...

Apologies, I haven't really read through the thread, so some of this may miss the mark. But I'll go with it anyhow.


Other Worlds is not yet available, pending Mark finishing it up. Close, however, that's sure.

One of the things about Other Worlds (which is more or less a game that works off of Hero Quest, BTW), that interests me, is what Matt's referring to. Essentially I often play it "from scratch." Meaning we start with no world, no characters, I just say something like:

Mike: Three figures come over a rise, and look down into a valley, where a fight has recently occurred. What does your character, the leftmost of the three, look like Matt?

And then Matt gives some description of the character, and we're off and running. EVERYTHING about the character is then determined in play. Not just the character, but the whole world of play, too.

Note that this is not the standard way to play Other Worlds necessarily. But the system does enable it. And that's my first point... not only is it possible to play this way functionally, but I do it a lot.


My second point would be this... while it's possible to make a system that works better this way, or worse, I think almost any system can be employed this way. Let's take D&D, just to have a curmudgeonly example. So Matt describes his character as a dwarf with a battle axe. OK, fine... probably a fighter. The rule usually is something like, "If you want to do something mechanically, you have to settle that mechanical point at that point."

So, OK, they narrate going down into the valley to investigate, and the GM decides to have them attacked by Zombies arising from the dead on the ground. Now the player has to decide... is the character a fighter, and does he get to roll on the fighter chart (or with fighter mods?). Or is he carrying that battle-axe for somebody else?

Essentially the moment the player describes something immutable mechanically - is he tall enough to merit a "Tall" trait? -  then that's when it becomes "spent." Essentially every decision from chargen is simply held in suspense until that point.

Now, all chargen systems seeking to limit characters appropriately, as long as you adhere to them, you never have an "overpowered" character.


What you CAN have is a character who is immensely "conveniently" powered. That is, suddenly the character may have precisely the right skills for the situation at hand.

Do nothing to limit this.

This is so much a good thing, I can't even describe. For one, it's precisely how character's abilities are established in fiction in most cases. We know they're good at X, beacuse they demonstrate how good they are. Further, it allows the player to discover in play exactly what it is that they want their character to be good at. Thirdly, it's one time... next time the conflict might be magical in nature, and the dwarven fighter is no longer conveniently able to deal with the situation.


There's so little to worry about here, that I wonder that folks do... until I recall that I did, too, at first.

Another concern I had was "niche protection," but, what I've found is that even having two characters who have very precisely the same abilities can be very different in other ways. This will be an issue largely to the extent to which the game is about the PCs being tools for the players to address player challenges. If that's not the purpose of PCs, then you won't have issues.

Universalis makes this all quite the non-issue, by making characters communally owned. It's only when you get to comparing PCs that any of this even remotely becomes an issue.

Mike


Title: Correcting post
Post by: epweissengruber on April 04, 2010, 05:45:36 PM
Let me rephrase that in English.

If you could come up with a way to link the concretizing of a character emerging out of instances of play feed back into the setting or other Color, you would be breaking ground that HQ didn't break.

Should read:

It would be good to link the characteristics arising out of session of play to the setting color.  A direct, rule-governed feedback of player decisions about character into the setting would be preferable to a "gee, I hope the GM makes use of this neat personality trait I gave myself" approach.  HQ didn't formalize that feedback process.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Mike Holmes on April 04, 2010, 06:26:30 PM
Heh, yeah, that's kinda Otherworlds in a nutshell.

Herr weissengruber knows of what he speaks.

Mike


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 04, 2010, 08:46:45 PM
Did the example of play include a challenge? What constitutes a 'side' or a 'cause'?

There are actually two challenges in there, the door and the animate statue.  I'll go into more detail on these in a little bit.

Sides include any scene elements with compatible purposes/goals.  Thus in the locked door example the lock and door make up one side.  Their combined purpose is to keep people out of the room, the character want to get in the room, so he's in opposition to that goal.

Look at Marshall Burns' Rustbelt (Beyond the Wire games, down in the publisher forums) for examples of how he does this same sort of thing.

I just read the AP example with the spider and the Push or Give things does seem to work nicely and matches with what I'm thinking.  With this game I expect players will Give on most of the build up challenges so they can fight another day, but may Push on the big conflicts where stakes are higher and the consequences more lasting.  Interestingly enough, I put a similar mechanic in the note writeup where characters can sacrifice their safety net to keep going.

Your last post: That is very dense, and seems complicated. Can you walk through it with an example? Perhaps it's not as complex as it seems, in play.

Heh, yeah that post is kind of a huge info dump.  I've been a bit crunched for time and I've been building up there ideas for a while, so they just kind of burst out there.  At it's core it shouldn't be to bad, but there are a good number of places where things can be tweeked.  I'll put up a step by step break down here over the next few posts.  It should also help me highlight potentially rough areas.

One of the things about Other Worlds (which is more or less a game that works off of Hero Quest, BTW), that interests me, is what Matt's referring to. Essentially I often play it "from scratch."

Yeah, that actually tends to fit how I tend to run games.  The entire world tends to created on the fly based on whatever seems to work at the time.  Creating character on the fly so far has been more a matter of "put down what ever you like.  I won't hold you to it until you use it in play."

My second point would be this... while it's possible to make a system that works better this way, or worse, I think almost any system can be employed this way.

True, though some systems are certainly better suited to it.  For example, the prestige classes in 3rd edition D&D have specialized requirements so it can be hard to get the character you want without planning quite a few level ahead.  That problem eases up if the DM allows for a certain amount of behind the scene editing, but it is an added hurtle to this approach.

This is so much a good thing, I can't even describe. For one, it's precisely how character's abilities are established in fiction in most cases. We know they're good at X, beacuse they demonstrate how good they are. Further, it allows the player to discover in play exactly what it is that they want their character to be good at. Thirdly, it's one time... next time the conflict might be magical in nature, and the dwarven fighter is no longer conveniently able to deal with the situation.

I agree on all counts.  Heck, I think I started with "character creation eats up a good chunk of time, why not just do this during play?" and decided it's correspondence to how things work in fiction is a good match for the feel I wanted.

There's so little to worry about here, that I wonder that folks do... until I recall that I did, too, at first.

Heh, this will be my first time pushing my scattered notes and ideas into a published format.  I'm going to worry about pretty much everything.

Universalis makes this all quite the non-issue, by making characters communally owned. It's only when you get to comparing PCs that any of this even remotely becomes an issue.

I'll have to check that out when my order gets in.  I am looking at something similar.  It will probably not quite fit communal ownership as I am thinking of letting players claim specific characters.  However, I do want players able to take over new character on the fly, even on a temporary basis.  Part of this comes from it being potentially boring to lose agency when you character is off scene, so this is one way for the player to keep participating.

It would be good to link the characteristics arising out of session of play to the setting color.  A direct, rule-governed feedback of player decisions about character into the setting would be preferable to a "gee, I hope the GM makes use of this neat personality trait I gave myself" approach.  HQ didn't formalize that feedback process.

Yeah, I'm working toward as a "pay per use" approach here, somewhat similar to how aspects work in FATE.  You can describe any number of details about you character, but to get mechanical effects you have to pay for them before use.  By the same token, wounds generate resources only when an opponent uses them against you in a challenge.

I was planning on starting the challenge example here, but this is running a bit long.  I'll start that off in the next post.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 05, 2010, 06:25:06 AM
Alright here's the first write up on setting up conflicts and determining the first action.  Next time I'll go into resolving those actions.

Quote
How do challenges start?

A challenge can start whenever a character comes into conflict with another element of the scene. That element can be another character, an obstacle, or a threat. The important thing is that the character and the other element have opposing goals or purposes. The character and their opponent make up the first two sides in the challenge.

Once those first two sides are set up, players may place additional characters or scene elements on either side, so long as the goals or purpose of the addition match those of their potential allies. If an element opposed all existing sides, it can be brought in as another side to the conflict. All such additions are optional. A conflict can easily be run with just one agent on each side.

Once sides are set, any player can ask to skip the challenge if they don’t find it interesting. To do this, the player simply states which side they want to win. If all players agree on this, that side wins but gets no special awards for doing so. If anyone votes for the opposing side or decides to hold out the challenge isn’t skipped and proceeds normally.

Who goes first?

The character whose action initiated the challenge normally goes first. However, any character who wants to act before that initial action resolves can try to interrupt it. To do this, roll the speed of the interrupting action vs that of the triggering action. The winning action is resolved first.

So set up is pretty much just picking out an opponent, but there are options to add opponents or skip a challenge if there's no player interest in the opposition.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 06, 2010, 10:44:46 AM
Here's a reworking of action resolution:
Quote
Resolving Actions

Start by declaring what you want the character to try doing. At that point, other player can state if they think the action should work especially well or poorly in this situation. This let the group reward especially appropriate actions and block ones that don’t fit. After this “reality check” the player can choose to drop their action and let the next action take place.

If the action was not dropped, other characters can try to interrupt the action as mentioned above. If the interrupt makes this action no longer viable, it can be dropped at this point.

If the action continues, determine the skill level for the action. If the character has an appropriate trait, it can be used to set the skill level. Otherwise, a player poll can be used to set the default skill level.

If another player thinks the acting player is trying to stretch a trait outside of its normal bounds they can call it out here. Use player polling to determine the penalty if any.

At this point other players can invoke any wounds or situational effect to penalize the action. Invoking a penalty makes the action more difficult or less effective, but gives frustration points to the acting player after the action resolves.

Once the terms are set, a skill check is made to determine how well the action is performed. Frustration points can be spent at this point to get rerolls. The result of this check provide a pool of effect points. If the players voted the action especially effective or less effective, this point yield will be adjusted accordingly. These points can be spent to:
  • Remove an opponent from the challenge. This can remove a minor character from play but usually just keep a major character from participating until the end of the challenge. This is a costly option, but can make victory easier. The target character can push to resist this, but requires a significant sacrifice or invocation of a special ability. If removing opponents is the stated goal for their side, this also counts as a push for victory attempt.
  • Push for victory. If the action could conceivably fulfill their side’s goals for the challenge, the character can spend points to try declaring victory. This is a costly option and becomes more costly for big challenges. Each character involved can block this effect once per challenge. If they do this, the acting player can still spend the points else where. Characters may be able to block an additional time, but doing so requires a sacrifice or invoking a special ability. Keep track of how many attempts are made as it can factor into the awards for the challenge
  • Wound. The player can add a detail to the target that can be invoked later to penalize their actions.
  • Impede: The player can declare a future action they want to prevent. If the target attempts this, that action will be penalized based on the points spent.
  • Set up: The player can specify a future action they want to support. Points are then “banked” and can be regained by the next character to take that action.
  • Frustration: If the total is too low to achieve the action’s goals, the player may convert effect points into frustration.

It basically boils down to "roll and spend the result on special effects", but there are several places where players can tweak things.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 07, 2010, 07:13:15 PM
Heh, sorry for the data flood, but I figured I'd wrap the break down up.  Let me know if you want me stepping through an example.  I think with some minor mods I can build the escalation into the challenge system itself.  I may want to build in a turn around point through where beating it makes resolving remaining challenges easier ("falling action").

Concluding Challenges

A challenge ends when either a Push for Victory attempt succeeds or all opponents have been taken out of the challenge. The side who did the push or still has members in the challenge wins.

Winners gain a points based on the number of push for victory attempts it took to win the challenge. Additionally individual character may convert their remaining frustration points into these award points. These points can be spent to purchase:
  • Boon: This award give a character a temporary edge. The more uses a boon has, the more it costs.
  • Bank: Banked points are set aside and can not be spent until the a later challenge is won.
  • Lead: The player can add a piece of information to the game that sets up a future challenge. Points invested in the lead can be used to increase the scale and stakes of the future challenge.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Lance D. Allen on April 11, 2010, 02:21:01 PM
Just one question for now, as I digest the rest:

How does one block? You mention that characters can block a Push for Victory, but nothing is mentioned about the mechanism for this.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: MacLeod on April 12, 2010, 02:45:05 PM
I'm really liking this emergent characters approach. Thank you for enlightening me. =)

Formatting for the final text...
I would keep the particulars in a sidebar or indented. The mainstays that actually reveal the mechanics should be listed via obvious bullet points. I found the text to be a little difficult to digest initially and I had to reread it to shape the information into something recognizable to my mind's eye. =) I know I'm likely jumping the gun here but it is something to think about.

The only particular thing that sticks out as very strange is the Frustration related details. I think it is because that aspect has to be abstracted so very much to cover all of the different meanings it could have based on the Challenge being taken on. Perhaps a better word? Such as Setback. Maybe I'm inflating the importance of syllables, I dunno. =P
  • Boon: This award give a character a temporary edge. The more uses a boon has, the more it costs.
  • Bank: Banked points are set aside and can not be spent until the a later challenge is won.
  • Lead: The player can add a piece of information to the game that sets up a future challenge. Points invested in the lead can be used to increase the scale and stakes of the future challenge.
This part of the system won't be used for permanent edges?

Quote from: Lance
How does one block? You mention that characters can block a Push for Victory, but nothing is mentioned about the mechanism for this.
I am also interested in this information. =)


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 12, 2010, 08:57:27 PM
How does one block? You mention that characters can block a Push for Victory, but nothing is mentioned about the mechanism for this.

I'm still working out the details of this, especially as pushing for victory is a new feature.  The original idea is I wasn't sure I wanted every enemy being beaten by a single push.  In that case, the character would need to come of with one action that would keep their opponents goals out reach.  The block would basically be an interrupting action, but I was leaning on make it a guaranteed success when first used.

Past that "you're not doing that" interrupts may be possible, but they wouldn't get that guarantee.  However, I may build in a sacrifice mechanic similar to the push or give thing mentioned earlier.

Reading back over this I think I might actually like to make it more player based than character based.  Basically each player could step in an once per challenge and say "I'm not ready for this to end yet" through declaring a block.  They'd then get to narrate why the challenge isn't won yet.  Most likely this would be a desperate action by an opposed character, but acts of fate are also possible.

I'm also debating on if I should try to further consolidate victory conditions.  The thing is, should all challenges require defeating every enemy?  I'm inclined to say no.  After all, let's say the party is trying to escape a locked room with a localized hazard such as enemies restricted to that area.  The party can win as soon as the locked door is defeated and everyone exits, regardless of what they did to the remaining hazards in that room.  So right now I'm debating between making "defeat all opposition" (not necessarily kill or injury, just get them to yield) and "push a winning action" the primary focus.  I can make them both strong options for winning, but leaving it split like that might be unnecessary complexity.

I'm really liking this emergent characters approach. Thank you for enlightening me. =)

I am fond of that approach.  Without it I'm prone to spending way too much time fiddling with character details, so shortcuts that just let me play are tempting.  The site for EPICS does have a very nice write up on what I like about this approach.

Formatting for the final text...
I would keep the particulars in a sidebar or indented. The mainstays that actually reveal the mechanics should be listed via obvious bullet points. I found the text to be a little difficult to digest initially and I had to reread it to shape the information into something recognizable to my mind's eye.

I've actually been thinking of using them in a Q&A type format.  For example, I could follow the main body of text with something like:

What if I think another player is trying to overuse a trait?
Use of the trait can be challenge.  If this happens, use player polling to determine what value the target roll can use.

The only particular thing that sticks out as very strange is the Frustration related details. I think it is because that aspect has to be abstracted so very much to cover all of the different meanings it could have based on the Challenge being taken on. Perhaps a better word? Such as Setback. Maybe I'm inflating the importance of syllables, I dunno. =P

I do plan on renaming this.  It was originally labelled Tension and I'm toying with Ire.  I admit I don't plan on using frustration in the final release as it could be too easy to associate with player frustration.  The points are in fact about setbacks, but the term "setback" seems more like discrete events rather than a fluid resource generate by those events.

This part of the system won't be used for permanent edges?

What I'm thinking here is any advantage you get in a challenge isn't meant to last beyond the end of the adventure by default.  However, you can spend downtime resources to make these advantages last.  The idea is rather than accumulating things like xp to spontaneous develop new traits, character development focuses on either making adventure awards persistent or altering a trait that's revealed in.  However as that's a between adventure mechanic I hadn't gotten into it yet.


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Lance D. Allen on April 13, 2010, 07:59:33 AM
Another quick question, to keep the ball rolling: What does player polling look like in a play instance of your game?

Also...
Quote
I do plan on renaming this. ...Tension...Ire...frustration...setbacks...

Determination?


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 14, 2010, 03:57:30 AM
Another quick question, to keep the ball rolling: What does player polling look like in a play instance of your game?

Right now I've got two approaches, though I may just drop one of these or fold it into the other one.

If the poll topic forces on a quantity or scaled value such as "how far can I throw this" you can ask each player to suggest a value and take the median.  That comes down removing the top and bottom values until you have one or two left.  Chance will probably be used as a tie breaker.

For topics that don't fit along a scale, I'm leaning toward giving each option it's own roll and letting players boost those rolls.  I'm thinking of giving players without character in the scene a free boost and letting all players spend influence to boost the odds.  The winning roll is what happens.  Ties can call for a mixed outcome or reroll.  This element may end up somewhat similar to universalis, though resources will probably be a more optional part of the system.

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I do plan on renaming this. ...Tension...Ire...frustration...setbacks...

Determination?

Possibly.  I basically need shorthand for "the build up from facing setbacks and obstacles that helps you push past or go around those obstacles".

Actually now that I think about it, that resource could be useful in linking challenges.  I'd originally just intended it as a way of countering overly difficult challenges.  However, if I let it carry over it might help the underdog side pull of a reversal in a later conflict.  That might actually create an interesting dynamic where you want you side to win, but if you start pushing down a given side too far it can backlash on you.  Definitely something to think about..


Title: Re: Emergent Characters
Post by: Shimera9 on April 23, 2010, 01:48:05 AM
I just wanted to give folks a quick update.  I've finished reading Universalis and it's certainly given me some things to mull over.

One of those point is how to set up a system of shared narrative control without having that system overpower the other game elements.  In particular it seems that players can just narrate themselves to victory if there are no limiting mechanics in place.

In Universalis, this limit seems to come in the form of resistance from other players, which is promoted by player linked resource awards for winning conflicts (and no resource penalty for losing).  The players are encouraged to put their game elements in opposition so they have the resources to create more of these elements.

I'm looking more toward not charging for adding details.  Instead the system would only charge when you try to get a mechanical effect out of those details.  That can make adding details faster, but it does make resource pools less of a limiting factor on narration.

My original way of handling this was by limiting what added details could change.  The idea being that only through challenges does the players generate the narrative power needed to advance a character's goals.  Actually wording that and figuring when it applies seems a bit tricky though.