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Inactive Forums => My Life With Master Playtest => Topic started by: Mike Holmes on August 28, 2002, 09:43:36 AM

Title: Character Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof)
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 28, 2002, 09:43:36 AM
I started my character in our playtest with 2 Self Loathing, and 1 Weariness in a game where Reason was one lower than Fear. What did this mean? That I was unable to make Love rolls withought the help of the bonus dice. As is the case for many characters at the start n many R/F situations. I sorta thought that the need to use the bonus dice would increase through play, but the opposite occcurs. I shoulda seen it coming. But when you start you have limited effectiveness, making the bonus dice indispensible. And when you get more dice you can risk not using the bonus dice and get away with it. This seems counter to drama.

Part of the problem is that the stakes of the rolls never changes. In fact, you are always likely to lose something (or gain bad things, rather) on any roll. Which means that there are none that the player doesn't have to worry about. They are all important. And as such you always want a decent chance to succeed. As it stands you don't have that often at the start.

This all needs to change, I think. Either the player should have a greater chance at things, or some rolls should not automatically have negative repercussions. Or suchlike. I don't have a solution at present, but I'd like to throw this open to the other players to discuss whether or not they agree that there is a problem, and, if so, what kinds of solutions they might envision.


Title: Character Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof)
Post by: Paul Czege on August 28, 2002, 12:27:30 PM
Hey Mike,

For that game, Fear was 3 and Reason was 2. So for your very first attempt to get you some Love, you would have rolled Reason 2 minus Self-Loathing 2, so 0 dice, vs.  Fear 3 minus Reason 2, 1 dice rolled by the target. I don't recall if I gave out an Intimacy/Desperation/Sincerity die or not, but let's say I didn't. With a zero or negative pool, you're considered to have rolled a 0. It doesn't matter what I roll for the target of your affection, you get the Love point. You've succeeded. Though you do get a point of Self-Loathing.

I'm not seeing a problem. If you're concerned about resisting the Master, all you need to worry about is getting your Love to be greater than your Weariness. If you're interested in being the one at whose hands the Master suffers an untimely demise, all you need to worry about is getting Love to be greater than Fear plus your Weariness. Even if the GM doesn't give out any dice the whole game for Intimacy/Sincerity/Desperation, all you need to do is bide your time, act on your Connections, and try not to lose too many fights.

Of course, Self-Loathing drives the odds of resisting and killing the Master down for you. Especially since an aggressive GM is going to try hard to put you in the position of doing violent acts that will raise your Self-Loathing at a rate that exceeds your increasing Love. But there are rules for Minions aiding each other that mitigate this somewhat, and the rules for Innocents as well, although they haven't been playtested.

And there are the Intimacy/Desperation/Sincerity dice. I think it's a mistake to refer to them as "bonus dice," because it gives the wrong impression, although it's hard not to think of them as bonus dice, since they were so obviously inspired by the bonus dice mechanic in The Pool. It's significant because thinking about them as "bonus dice" makes them feel to a player like a problem with the game, that their success doesn't depend on their actual resources, but on a nebulous "bonus" they may or may not earn. But the way I see things, it's inevitable the Master is going to meet death at the hands of a Minion, given enough time, even if the GM doesn't give out a single Intimacy/Desperation/Sincerity die the whole game. Even a Master that successfully manages to get some of his Minions' Connections killed, depriving them of some Love, is just prolonging the inevitable. Players will invent new Connections, distribute their earning of Love strategically across them, perhaps work together, and bring down the Master.

I was pretty loose and free with the Intimacy/Desperation/Sincerity dice during our playtest. I'm thinking I'll allocate them somewhat more conservatively during the multi-session playtest that our group starts next Monday. The game will be paced slower than our playtest as a result, but intentionally so, and will perhaps be characterized by a somewhat higher degree of exploration of character. I won't, for instance, begin the game by having the Master command one of the Minons to kill a Connection of another Minion as I did in our playtest. But characters will still be progressing as threats to the Master. The Intimacy/Desperation/Sincerity dice will become more common as the game goes on and the characters struggle with more pronounced conflicts. And I don't think the players will get to the point where they're comfortable ignoring the Intimacy/Desperation/Sincerity dice, because someone will kill the Master, probably using an Intimacy/Desperation/Sincerity die, before that happens. I think the significance of the Intimacy/Desperation/Sincerity dice will increase in parallel to drama, as they should.

Still, I think it was a mistake to set Fear and Reason so low for the playtest. I did so, because I wanted a Master who could be eliminated in a few hours of play. The simple solution for future demos is to set Fear and Reason higher, and to create "advanced" characters with a couple of Love and a couple of additional points in Self-Loathing and Weariness. Had I done that, you would not have been in the position of rolling 0 dice when you acted on your first Connection. Essentially, for one-shots, Connections will not all start out unrequited.


Title: Character Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof)
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 28, 2002, 01:46:29 PM
First as to your point about the Connections roll: yes, you always get the Love. So it's really not a Love roll, or a connection roll. It's a resist Self-Loathing roll. The point is that the character who fails to resist Self-Loathing can never get to the point where he can resist Self Loathing unless he uses the I/D/S dice. He must use them, or never improve relative to that task.

In other words the player has only two options. Use the dice, right off the bat, and consistently, or resign himself to a predestined result at the end (like the rut Josh's character got into). Not much of a choice. You have to take the one rout (using the dice) to have more than one choice later as to how to play. I think I'll go that way evey time. I'd feel remiss letting my character autofail his save, when there was an option available. I'm not worried about not being able to off the bloody Master, I'm worried about having achoice of how to get ther in play.

So, OK, they're not bonus dice. But they do make it so that the effect is a result of the character's particular sort of action rather than any effectiveness that they might possess. Given the situation I describe.

There are no rolls that are, mechanically speaking, any less important than any others. In fact, given that the first ones can have a huge effect on the character's ability to affect things, mechanically they are more important. Later when I have some effectiveness in surplus, I can gamble with it if I like. But not early on, unless I want to jump on that predestination train (there is in fact a point of no return which I thnk Josh got close to or may have passed where even the sincerity die cannot save him; Self Loathing > Love+8).

Certainly you as the GM can try to incentivize the players to do it more later via drama, but my point is that mechanically the game does the opposite. So what you have is a constant near-requirement to use the "bonus" dice. Mechanically at first, and dramatically later. If that's a design goal, that they be attempted every time, then that's one thing. But it would seem to make for a stilted game to me. There is never any disincentive to try with the exception that a player like me might find that it makes the game seem forced. That I'm developing my character's actions soley in response to the mechanics. As opposed to trying to develop a theme.

You indicate that you would, in a longer game simply not give out the dice as much. But given that they are heavily desired, this means that players will just try that much harder for them. Making things seem even more over-the-top than they would be otherwise. Not less. There will just be moments where players make some attempts that are less spectacular that don't get rewarded. Which is, again, dissapointing as a player. And leads to potential Player/GM friction as the player disagrees with the GM over which attempts were subjectively good enough to merit the dice.

Further, denying characters just means that they will develop more Self-Loathing. It's not written out well, yet, but as we played it, decalration seemed to follow the following pattern: Decide to make a connection, describing it, and going for one of the three dice. Then the GM either gives it to you, or he doesn't. If he does, you have your shot. If not, you just autofail and gain that point of Self-Loathing. This order means that as a player I am sorta loathe to even try connections. I know that I have a chance if the GM gives me the dice, but none if he does not. Meaning that, all other things being equal, and not knowing if my performance will suck or not, Ihave less than a fifty percent chance to succeed. Which again is a formula designed to spiral the character right into predestination territory.

Your idea of starting players out with some Love to start would work. If you can just get the players over that zero dice hump, you may see more varied play. The question is how do you assign that to players? Do you have a scheme for it?

I've said this before, but the size of the Reason/Fear is not nearly as relevant to the question of lenght of play as is the absolute difference between the numbers. The difference is the player's penalty to their ability to resist gaining Self-Loathing. It will apply to everyone of those rolls throughout the game. The larger the difference, the harder each roll will be, and the more Self-Loathing will be in the game, and the longer it will take to get to a point where endgame is possible. The size of the stats has only an additive effect, whereas the difference is multiplicative.


Title: Character Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof)
Post by: Paul Czege on August 28, 2002, 02:35:18 PM

There's a lot of compelling stuff in your argument. You're right, I'd like to somehow compensate for the near-requirement of bonus dice in the early-game. I'd like for them to be almost not a factor for the player until after a few scenes. What do you think of the idea that a player rolls a minimum of one die in any conflict?


Title: Character Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof)
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 29, 2002, 09:03:40 AM
Quote from: Paul Czege

There's a lot of compelling stuff in your argument. You're right, I'd like to somehow compensate for the near-requirement of bonus dice in the early-game. I'd like for them to be almost not a factor for the player until after a few scenes. What do you think of the idea that a player rolls a minimum of one die in any conflict?l

Actually, that's not half bad. Simple, and means that a player always has a shot. Sort of a bute force solution, but I'd probably shut up if it made it in. :-)