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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Christoffer Lernö on October 14, 2002, 02:20:44 AM



Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 14, 2002, 02:20:44 AM
I checked out Peregrin's Wayfarer's Song (http://www.geocities.com/mythopoetic_games/Mythopoetic.html) yesterday. He has some really nice stuff in there. However, as I was going though the material I felt more and intimidated by it as the rules seemed to pile up.

But it wasn't the mechanics that actually were piling up. The mechanics seemed good and simple enough. What was piling up were the magic effects and their rules.

I bring it up because it's not just a problem here, but for me building Ygg as well, and I think for any game where the source material for the things your character can do (I'm not talking about setting) reaches a certain level.

I think we can say the typical example would be a skill list. The skill resolution might be harmless enough, but if we go for completeness we end up with maybe 30 pages of decriptions of thing people actually already know about or could make up themselves. The solution to this particular problem can be said to have one of it's simplest solutions in free descriptors.

However, this is only the most obvious area, the problem of wayfarer's song (and maybe of Ygg too) lies elsewhere in a place much harder to reduce in this manner: the magic system.

Unlike skills where you can say "Ok, I'm good at jumping" and everyone knows pretty much what you mean, magic powers is a difficulty because we have no reference. In addition they are tied to the setting in what might be non obvious ways. Is it any strange that magic system tend to be the most complex parts of a system?

So anyway, what happens? Well usually we think of effects, codify them in some manner (lists or components) and off we go.

But what if we have 2 magic systems? Well usually we think of effects and so on twice and make two different systems.

What if we have 3? What if we have 10? Wayfarer's song has several, so in an attempt to cover them all some corners are cut in characterisation I suppose, and some common ground between them are established. But the fact still remains that you have many different unique mechanics.

Is it a wonder that many games don't fully explain their magic until you buy their sourcebook on the subject (hello Shadowrun)?


Writing my horror game The Evil (http://www.8ung.at/ygg/evil/theevil.pdf) (or actually editing it) I gut struck by how I could do about a million different versions of magic and monsters and summoning and it was all contained in those 6 (now 7) pages.

If you check the game the answer why is obvious: there is no magic nor monsters the GM doesn't come up with and effects of it is simply decided on by the GM, never formalized.

Kinda obvious right? Everything in that game was simply "told" in the style of Donjon or something, but without any contested right. The GM decided it all.

Now let me go back to Wayfarer's Song (http://www.geocities.com/mythopoetic_games/Mythopoetic.html). In the first book you have this listing of animals and their abilities because they are partly sentient. Here's a quote

Quote from: Wayfarer's Song Book 1 - Setting
Foxes
Foxes, though clever, tricky and cunning, seldom learn much of a talent for words. They are more capable of repeating things they have heard, or speaking in riddles than saying anything of any real sense, and no fox anywhere worth his salt, ever gave anyone a straight answer.
One of the chief reasons for trying to make sense of a fox is their capacity for rumour, and their love of enchantment. They often go wandering in elvish realms and a part of that elvish magic has worked into the fox's blood, making the whole race seem mysterious, and on the border of the limits of mortal knowledge.


It's excellent isn't it? Now do you need any rules to support the above stuff? Do I need to know what range of intelligence foxes have? Or how high their magic ability is? Or what spells they have even?

Heck no!

Compare the above to this part taken from the rules:
Quote
Lay of the Unelfed

I know a tenth, if I see hag-riders
Stream across the sky.
I can cause them to wander,
Away from their proper forms,
Away from their proper minds.

Allows you to try and swamp a spirit with magical energy and disrupt its physical form. For a spirit of least enchantment test your willpower at –1. Lesser: -2. Greater: -3. Grander –4. High –5. If you pass the spirit dissipates, temporarily turning into a phantom entity unable to do you harm, or be harmed for an hour.


Isn't the sudden intrusion of numbers very jarring?

I'm reminded about something Walt wrote in an old ygg thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1926&start=15):
Quote from: wfreitag
For example, the system could give free-form attributes to parts of the setting ("The Old Forest is Semi- Sentient, Pathless, and Energy-Sapping") and rules exceptions occurring there would each have to tie into an attribute, perhaps with a die pool roll to determine a cost for the exception, paid for out of a limited currency whose starting value would represent the overall "wonderfulness" of that place


The attributes here, given to the description of the Old Forest, they could be pluggable into the system couldn't it? Let's remind ourselves of Hero Wars which has the "write 100 words" to make a character which is in the same vein but of course that is applied to the nowadays "solved" problem of skills.

So what am I suggesting really? Well that the same approach could be made to construct an entire magic system. Instead of having a ruleset explaining how the magic works, you'd have text explaining how the magic works in the world. And instead of having spell effects listed, you'd have an explanation how it would appear devoid of actual numbers.

Now if you'd have approached me with this idea I would have said: Oooh. Bad idea. That's because most source material which doesn't have explicit rules tend to be rambling excuses for the designers to try out their writing skills.

BUT what if it was actually made to be rule material, and what if we made some rules on how to interpret rule material without numbers? If we look at "Pathless" in the "Old Forest" description, I think most of us already have a pretty good idea of how it works right? Same with Semi-sentient and Energy-sapping. Of course we could code HOW energy sapping it is, but then we go into rule creating hell again.

I don't really want to present a system here, I need to think more before I do that. But some observations beyond what I already outlined above would be:

* Use FUDGE like levels to differentiate between different powers. For example "Energy-sapping" might be nice and all, but we might want to compare it to a spell which is "Energy-sapping" or some similar description. How do we do it without saying it's "Energy-sapping level 1" (which would make us think of creating descriptions for what energy-sapping level 1 means and how it compares to level 2)? Well saying that one thing is Slowly Energy-sapping and the other is just Energy-sapping we get a good feel of the approximate magnitude, don't we? There is no need to really get in to how much slower "Slowly" means, because that's up to the story.

* We need to realize that what we have here are descriptions, even of magic that we could bend according to the needs of the story. Maybe in one story Energy-sapping needs to be "this way" and in another story or campaign you want to do it a little different. Without the mechanics butting in that is a breeze. Notice how it also corresponds to the way books are written... new interpretations of powers appear as they need to for the story, they're not something predetermined and then bound to by contract for the rest of one's life.

* Despite all of this, these effects have to feel well determined, so that the GM and players still have a solid direction. "What can be done?" should be answered, it's just that the answers are not particular bonuses but a range of abilities. Notice how for example "Pathless" can be translated into many different ways in a system. Maybe penalties to orientation rolls. Or the environment actually changes. Or the characters might be teleported. What we are doing is simply focusing on the outcome and feeling rather than mechanics.

Finally one thing. All games are already doing this (yes you read me right). By having rules written and explained we already use words to communicate how they work. The level of abstraction varies though. For example a game might describe the effect of me falling over, but there are no combat result or skill result which would require me to use this effect. So if we only communicate using the mechanics there are actually mechanics we cannot reach unless we bridge it by "fudging the rules" or thinking about "what happens" rather than only clinging to what the rules explicitly say.

In a spell description you might have a description of how a ball of fire explodes, but it says nothing about using it to destroy inanimate things say blowing open a blocked cave entrance. If it can or cannot has to be interpreted from its description in the end.

It's already here - everywhere. Even in gamist and sim games.


Title: Re: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: damion on October 14, 2002, 06:26:57 AM
Good point, although I'm not sure what you'd do about it.  
You seem to be suggesting a system to basicly create the needed rules out of descriptions as needed.
The problem here is the GM has to create the rules from descritions on demand, as players may want to know about something,  because the actualy rules are what they use to relate to the world.  To take your forest example: If players are considering going there they would like to know if 'Energy Sapping' means there is a penalty to all actions, or their characthers will just feel depressed while there(penalty to resist fear).  In charachter this translates into knowing the place weakens you by draining your soul(case A) or is just forboding.  Obviously this is more of a problem in sim or gamist games.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 14, 2002, 06:41:55 AM
Quote from: damion
The problem here is the GM has to create the rules from descritions on demand, as players may want to know about something, because the actualy rules are what they use to relate to the world.

If I understand you right James, this is your main complaint about it?
Well, I go back to my horror RPG which is totally unashamed about being an illusionist game. In that game, it doesn't matter what's written down, all that ever matters is the GM's own judgement.
In most games, the situation isn't as obvious, but there is a whole lot of interpretations going on even in more mechanic controlled game. They take the form of house-rules, GM modifications to the setting as well as group-specific rule interpretations. So in a sense there is already an interpreting process going on.

How's that relevant you might ask? Well I mean there is already an process of "GM creating rules" in happening in most games.
Your objection I think is that this will not create consistent data, but within the same parameter's, that is the same gaming group and same GM it would be the same as establishing a game world and interpretations of more mechanically defined rules. It means that the GM has more leeway in using abilities but I see that as an asset rather than a difficulty.

As for the situation of "players want to know about the world", when would that be? Their own powers will be defined by themselves together with the GM, that is through consensus. If we are playing an illusionist game there is not really anything the players need to know about the world except what is given to them through their adventures. They don't need to know that "Energy-sapping" means "being tired" rather than "being sad" because this keyword is only a GM help to describe what happens when they enter the forest. Just because the GM is free to interpret will not mean it will be inconsistent. Hopefully anyway.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 14, 2002, 09:05:11 AM
Lot's of magic systems work like this already. To different extents. See games like Ars Magica (Imporv magic), Hero Wars, Story Engine, etc.

Even magic in Hero System kinda works this way. Let's look at that system. I decide that I need to have a spell that looks like this:

Quote
Deathlight: A magical seal in the form of an eye appears in the palm of the mage. From this seal a fascinating light radiates which draws attention. Any person looking at it will stand hypnotised. If not pushed away they will remain standing there looking into the light until their mind is permanently destroyed.


What I do is determine what "powers" are behind this spell. In this case, Mind Control, and Transform. I consider how powerful I think that the spell is, and from the description I decide to go big. Let's call it a 15d6 Mind Control attack (should be able to get anyone who's not superhuman to stand still while bad things are happening around them), linked to a 1d6 Transform (defined as Being into Mindless Being). The Transform should be cumulative (or perhaps gradual effect of a larger Transform if it takes a realy long time). Anyhow, the spell obviously has the advantage Constant, and area effect (Cone? Sphere?), limitation Gestures (-1/2, constant). Probably some other things as well, but I'm not going to get too technical. Call it about 225 Active Points, and quite a bit of Real Points (probably more limitations than I'm aware of, however).

Anyway, with what I have here, I can tell you exactly how to adjudicate the spell in one of the more complex combat Sim RPGs out there.

Now, you may not want this much complexity. But it shows how this sort of thing worksin such a system. You take the description, and determine the effect from it. I can make any spell, and any type of magic you can imagine using Hero System. For how this works in a different style system, in Hero Wars, the chracter would get this spell as part of his religion, or as part of a grimoire for certain types of magic users. In any case, it would end up just being covered by one number. Might be Deathlight 19, or something. In any case, that number and the description is all I need in Hero Wars (in addition to the rest of the stats, of course) to mechanically resolve the use of such a spell.

In Story Engine, I'd just use my Death Magic 2 trait, or something. All works just fine. You have the description, and from that you determine the mechanics. Simple.

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Demonspahn on October 14, 2002, 01:00:19 PM
What sort of feel are you going for with magic in your game?  I mean do you envision ancient wizards poring over spellbooks?  If so, these comments might not apply.  

What if magic was fairly random, all based on a roll, with the GM deciding the actual effect, higher the better?  Let's use d6 for the example.  

A spell user casts a "polymorph" spell to transform someone into a lizard.  The caster rolls 1d6

1.  The target develops a lisp.
2.  As #1, and the target's skin turns green, eyes become slitted.
3.  As #2, and the target is covered with scales
4.  As #3, and the target shrinks to 1/2 his size.
5.  As #4 but the target becomes a lizard, but retains human int.
6.  As #5, and the target eventually begins to think like a lizard.


Novice spellcasters get no bonus to the roll.  Experienced spellcasters might be able to add a +1 to the roll.  Veteran spellcasters a +2.  Ancient wizards a +3.

A more random system like this would allow you to define the base spell using description alone.  The effects would be decided by the GM based off the roll + modifiers, a 5 being a complete success, a 6 (or higher)  being an exceptional success.  
 
In play this means that a beginning PC mage and an NPC arch mage both have a chance to get the maximum effect out of a spell.   In order to level the playing field, you might want to limit certain spells by caster experience.   Say, only veteran spellcasters have access to certain spells, ancient ones access to more, etc.  

This might not be what you had in mind, though.  It might be too random.  

Pete


Title: Re: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Andrew Martin on October 14, 2002, 01:55:16 PM
Quote from: Pale Fire
...what if it was actually made to be rule material, and what if we made some rules on how to interpret rule material without numbers?

If we look at "Pathless" in the "Old Forest" description, I think most of us already have a pretty good idea of how it works right? Same with Semi-sentient and Energy-sapping. Of course we could code HOW energy sapping it is, but then we go into rule creating hell again.

I don't really want to present a system here, I need to think more before I do that. But some observations beyond what I already outlined above would be:

* Use FUDGE like levels to differentiate between different powers. For example "Energy-sapping" might be nice and all, but we might want to compare it to a spell which is "Energy-sapping" or some similar description. How do we do it without saying it's "Energy-sapping level 1" (which would make us think of creating descriptions for what energy-sapping level 1 means and how it compares to level 2)? Well saying that one thing is Slowly Energy-sapping and the other is just Energy-sapping we get a good feel of the approximate magnitude, don't we? There is no need to really get in to how much slower "Slowly" means, because that's up to the story.

* We need to realize that what we have here are descriptions, even of magic that we could bend according to the needs of the story. Maybe in one story Energy-sapping needs to be "this way" and in another story or campaign you want to do it a little different. Without the mechanics butting in that is a breeze. Notice how it also corresponds to the way books are written... new interpretations of powers appear as they need to for the story, they're not something predetermined and then bound to by contract for the rest of one's life.

* Despite all of this, these effects have to feel well determined, so that the GM and players still have a solid direction. "What can be done?" should be answered, it's just that the answers are not particular bonuses but a range of abilities. Notice how for example "Pathless" can be translated into many different ways in a system. Maybe penalties to orientation rolls. Or the environment actually changes. Or the characters might be teleported. What we are doing is simply focusing on the outcome and feeling rather than mechanics.

Finally one thing. All games are already doing this (yes you read me right). By having rules written and explained we already use words to communicate how they work. The level of abstraction varies though. For example a game might describe the effect of me falling over, but there are no combat result or skill result which would require me to use this effect. So if we only communicate using the mechanics there are actually mechanics we cannot reach unless we bridge it by "fudging the rules" or thinking about "what happens" rather than only clinging to what the rules explicitly say.

In a spell description you might have a description of how a ball of fire explodes, but it says nothing about using it to destroy inanimate things say blowing open a blocked cave entrance. If it can or cannot has to be interpreted from its description in the end.

It's already here - everywhere. Even in gamist and sim games.


That's what I've been working towards with my Accord system, which was inspired by Sergio's The Travels of Mendes Pinto (on RPG.net). I think it could allow the production of RPGs based solely on written description, and be able to use historical or fictional sources directly in the game.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 14, 2002, 04:56:42 PM
Let's take it from the top...
I have only looked at Ars Magica, and if I remember right it used a combination of power words. I don't know how Hero Wars' magic works so I can't say anything abou that, nor have I played Story Engine.

However you bring up Hero, so I think I understand what you try to say Mike. Basically it's "you have a text then you translate it into mechanics and use it"

This is actually not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting is having text which is used directly, no interfacing it into the mechanics needed.

Let's look at the "Pathless" thing again. In the envisioned system there is no ability or spell called "Pathless". Let's say now someone writes down the keyword "Pathless". It's not defined yet, not until it's invoked by the GM with a good explanation of how that would be the effect.
If you go with the Hero system you translate it into effects and modifiers after which the keyword is "frozen" as an ability.
But the "pathless" I'm suggesting is never defined within the mechanics with bonuses or the like.

Maybe an example would be better: Entering the pathless forest, the GM might rule that they can't find any paths, regardless of how they mark their way those markings mysteriously disappear.
Another way could let people keep markings, but the forest is confusing you, so if you don't pay attention you will keep wandering back and around.
Yet another way would be that the trees themselves move so that paths appear and disappear.

All those are possible for the forest. In fact combinations are ok. The GM is only limited in the word itself. The GM can't use this power to create monsters or kill characters (other than out of starvation). The limits are clear, but the specific implementation is open.

On the HW homepage there is a sample of the first 3 chapters of the book. In an example a character has the "Sack of Black Winds, in which the Four Collapsing Words have been trapped since the War of the Straw Giants". At game start it's not clear what this is. Later this happens:

Quote
Rick's character description includes the sentence, "Kallai owns the Sack of Black Winds, in which the Four Collapsing Words have been trapped since the War of the Straw Giants."

Rick has no idea what the Sack of Black Winds or the Four Collapsing Words do, nor does he know anything about the War of the Straw Giants; he's just using them because they sound cool.

Kathy, his narrator, approves the character, and play begins. Kallai and the other characters have gone on a heroquest, traveling back into the Storm Age to the scene of a great siege. Rick suggests to Kathy that the Four Collapsing Words are used to bring walls down, and that, if released from the Sack, they might bring down the battlements of the fortress they are besieging. Kathy agrees that this is entertaining, and a reasonable interpretation of a previously ambiguous reference, so she allows Rick an action roll to attempt to knock the walls down.

Later, Rick may find another, quite different circumstance in which Collapsing Words might be appropriate, and convince Kathy to use it. Thus, through the use of evocative language, he gets two abilities for the price of one, in exchange for which he helps to create the magical atmosphere of Glorantha for the rest of the group.

The point here is that there is never any need (in this description of HW anyways) to quantify the extent of the power of the sack. Nor limit it to specifics. To actually try to put in mechanics how the sack can be used (what range? how many rounds of preparation? what are of effect?) just detracts from it. Let the story make that up.

I'm not sure if it's clear what I mean.

Finally: Andrew, in a sense it's like Accord although with some differences. The biggest is that I want to keep a standard resolution system and some hard mechanics, but to plug this into the less defined areas. Look at combat: the combat roll is well defined. But if we look at the "falling prone" we have a sort of this "descriptive mechanic" already at work, because I don't describe what happens if someone falls. The modifier to apply to attack rolls only cover the general state of advantage or disadvantage, it's not added together from modifiers created by in-mechanics positions such as "standing up", "back turned to attacker". The GM is instead supposed to categorize the whole situation as "advantageous" or "extremely advantageous". The mechanics takes it from there.

For Ygg and I'm certain for other systems as well, it's interesting how we can use these lose descriptors to create a way to deal with those areas which usually become chock-full of exceptions to already established rules.

Accord has everything already built in and it forms the core of the system. What I'm interested in, is there some other solution to it? Some solution that would mesh better with more traditional mechanics?


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Andrew Martin on October 14, 2002, 11:38:20 PM
Quote from: Pale Fire
Accord has everything already built in and it forms the core of the system. What I'm interested in, is there some other solution to it? Some solution that would mesh better with more traditional mechanics?


At the moment, I don't think there is a solution that links with traditional mechanics. I'll be happy to be proven wrong. It's because I think that most traditional mechanics promote an absolute scale, one truth world view. Descriptor based systems like Accord, Fudge (default with no "customisation" by GM), TToMP, and Matrix Games (which are closely related, see http://www.io.com/~hamster/ ), have relative scales, multiple truth world views.

One way that could work, perhaps, is to collect a series of mechanics that work with relative scales, along with advice on how to interpret description and to use these to resolve different situations in different genres and to return appropriate descriptors/description.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 15, 2002, 05:26:58 AM
I think I do see what you mean. But I totally disagree.

You state that somehow by associating mechanics with a word or something that you "freeze" that term into place. But that's nonsensical. Look on any Hero System board at a thread about how to make a certain spell, and you'll see that any five GMs will come up with five diferent ways to cover the spell mechanically. And it all depends on the description. Further, even if I have the same mechanics for a spell, that does not mean that I have to describe it the same way. Different incarnations can have different "Special Effects". Further, if I want the single spell in question to have more than one "Special Effect" I abuy it with the advantage "Variable Special Effect" and I can change the exact description of the effect each time I cast it. And yet further, if I want to have a many powers all related to some term then I can create an "Elemental Control" of that term, allowing me potentially great lattitude in designing powers to fit the description. And if I want to have any power related to the term designed at the moment that the spell is cast, then I can take a related "Variable Power Pool".

So, there is no reason that such a term need be "frozen" in any way. You have options available that range from very specific in the current magical application to completely open. Again, I'm not advocating anything like Hero System per se. Just that you have a system in the background supporting play.

Anyhow, you further make an error with your HW assessment (you really ought to read the rules). Yes, you can start with undefined equipment. But as soon as it becomes defined in play in its use, guess what? That equipment gets stats. Usually in the form of a mechanic called Edges, but through other means as well. But again, just because you find a Wand of the Pathless Forrest with particular powers in one case, doesn't mean that the Pathless Spell has to be defined similarly at all. The argument just doesn't hold up. In fact in Hero Wars, the nature of the item can change over time.

What you're advocating, it seems to me, is just narrating freely through magic. You say stuff like,
Quote
The GM is only limited in the word itself. The GM can't use this power to create monsters or kill characters (other than out of starvation). The limits are clear, but the specific implementation is open.

But the limits in this case are anything but clear. Mechanically, I have no idea what I can do. Is it likely that this spell is powerful enough to affect a forest such that the characters will get so badly lost that they will starve? Or will they just get hungry wandering around, but then find their way out? How long will they be lost? Why can't Pathless imply monsters? What if I think it should? How does this systemless part of the game affect the part with a system?

You have decided to have a system for at least part of your game. To make another part systemless will void the reason for having system in the other part. System provides players with a sense of arbitrary (non-GM) resolution. In this magic system, you will lose that completely. I'm not against freeform play, but I think mixing is a big mistake. I didn't even like the Ars Magica Improv system's subjectivity. This would just be worse.

Do you think system is neccessary for this game? If so, have a system that can be used to resolve everything (even if only generically). If not, then just chuck all those rules you've been working on and play that way.

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 15, 2002, 09:51:58 AM
Like I said in the other thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=37237#37237) the extent of the power has to be regulated somehow, I don't dismiss that. Think instead of my proposal as having "Variable Special effect" added some kind of basic ability which only has two parameters: How powerful it is and what kind of "alignment" it has (using the later in a very loose sense)

For example we have Pathlessness. This is our variable special effect. It's a way to challenge the characters. The extent of how much this can challenge the characters depend on it's power. Here we can have a number or use FUDGE style descriptors such as Harmless, Powerful, Legendary.

The second parameter is what it's intentions are in stopping the characters: beneficial (this is just such a magical place that people are drawn in here and rest and get healed, the pathlessness keeps them there to prevent them from leaving before they are fully healed), evil (tries to kill the characters, so it confuses them so it can trick them into traps and stuff), dangerous (just leads the characters into walking around and maybe run into good things, maybe very bad things, maybe things that are both like a magical fountain guarded by a wyrm).

This limits the effect of the pathlessness.

There's still some stuff hanging in the air, but if we at least define these two and add rules to them we're not completely lost anymore.

We could apply it to spells too. Evil spells try to kill, dangerous spells could harm or maybe not, good spells are only used for positive, life enhancing things. The spells would also have a rating which would explain how much impact their effect could have. A spell that could raze a city is so powerful it has to be Legendary, which something which summons a magical sword doesn't affect so much so it might be something around "slighly useful" or whatever that level is called.

Beyond those parameters and the actual name of the power itself (which is maybe one or two words) there is nothing to decide the effects. It's just something the GM makes up.

(Incidentally, freezing might have been a bad word.. I simply meant that from having a fuzzy concept it becomes well defined in terms of system. A little like going from liquid to frozen form for a substance)


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 15, 2002, 10:43:49 AM
Quote from: Pale Fire
Here we can have a number or use FUDGE style descriptors such as Harmless, Powerful, Legendary.
What do I roll to see if my woodsman can find his way out of a Powerful Pathless forest? A Harmless one? If you give me those guidelines, then maybe we're OK. But as it stands I just have to guess, which is no guideline at all.

Quote
The second parameter is what it's intentions are in stopping the characters:
How about instead of this, you just right out the intent in clear language. And then give us some rules for how to adjudicate it's use.

Quote
This limits the effect of the pathlessness.
I don't see how. It gives the GM vague guidelines. Which to me is worse than nothing. I'd rather just make it up on the spot.

Hero Wars gets a little vague this way, but I always know what to roll against.

Quote
A spell that could raze a city is so powerful it has to be Legendary, which something which summons a magical sword doesn't affect so much so it might be something around "slighly useful" or whatever that level is called.
Why not just enumerate the effects of the spell? In game terms. (Legendary Spell of Dangerous City Blasting - 30d6 EB, Explosive w increased radius x 10, etc, or for HW, Legendary Spell of Dangerous City Blasting 18M4).

Quote
(Incidentally, freezing might have been a bad word.. I simply meant that from having a fuzzy concept it becomes well defined in terms of system. A little like going from liquid to frozen form for a substance)
That's exactly what I thought you meant. And then I showed you how that's exactly not how it happens in Hero System. With a Variable Power Pool I could change the entire way the spell works mechanically every single phase in theory. There are still mechanics, but you can change them all you like. And they are still limited by a single power rating. Which actually is two less than you're using above.

Ex. This turn I use my Pathless Forrest VPP of 100 points to be a wide radius Change Environment made to make pathfinding more difficult. Then next round, I change it to 20d6 Mental Illusions to lead the players to a particular part of the forrest. Then next round, I use it as a 10d6 Entange representing the forrest actually grabbing the PCs. I don't change it to a 6.5d6 Hand Killing Attack (to have the trees rip the characters to shreds) because, looking at the description of the forrest (or spell, or whatever), I see that it would not do that. Thus I interperet the description any way I like, but in the end I know how to resolve the effects mechanically.

For your game, how about the spell just creates a static difficulty rating that any contest based on defeating it has to roll against? Or somesuch? That becomes your "difficulty". But I'd only do this for spells. As for the Forrest as an entity, I always just call it a character, and rate the forrest appropriately.

Just how I see it.

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 15, 2002, 11:01:28 AM
Darn I should be sleeping now, but I just wanna clear this up first (yea right).

What you're complaining about Mike, is exactly what I want to find. A way to untangle the descriptors into actual mechanics in a fairly simple and straightforward way. If we had a more general system would could actually make it into a difficulty roll which the players roll against with their level or something. It would capture the essence of what I'm trying to do. However we want to flesh it out a little, don't we?

Let's go ratings, since that probably will let you see a little more what I have. We have a Pathless, Semi-sentient, Energy-draining Old Forest, Alignment Dangerous at a Legend rating 3 (Slightly intimidating)

That means that the energy drain can at the most have a Legend of 3 (I guess we have to invent a kind of scale which everything rolls against). For a Legend 3 attack an average Legend 3 character might have 50% chance of success. Or whatever.

So if it uses entangle, then an average character would have a 50% chance. However, all characters have slightly different skills and stats, so this figure would vary. For example weaker characters would have more difficulty with the entangle than stronger ones and so on.

However in general this is just a challenge roll which the forest can make. If the forest would try to kill a character, then it would have the capabilities of a Legend 3 character or monster in terms of average killing ability. The alignment decides if the forest actually tries to kill anyone or not.

Back to the spells, our Legend 3 spell could take out a Legend 3 character  on average 50% of the time if it's attacking someone. When it comes to say healing spells, figuring out what Legend 3 means gets a little more tricky.

But if this could work somehow...

I'm not really arguing with you Mike, in fact what I'm looking for is a solution, not saying I have one. The above is something that might eventually go towards one, but I'm not sure.

Somehow there has to be a language to quantify effects, without getting into the expressions of it. C. Edwards (I think) called it a "self-contained generic system". For Champions you actually have to go down and make the calculations for how much you can get for the point pool. In Ygg I can't afford that much rules. Something easy, a rule of thumb which works "well enough" has to suffice.

A suggestion would be something along the lines of the above. How DOES HW work with the items by the way. Any links I could check out or something if you don't feel like explaining? (It might get long I mean)


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 15, 2002, 11:24:31 AM
The rating you want would seem to me to be effectively an opposing skill. Or a static skill check difficulty rating. Depending ohn how you see it.

This is how it works in HW, simply. You roll against the rating, and it produces X amount of game effect. Just like any skill, or relationship, or whatever. Actually, Magic is slightly more complicated. But looking at a game like Story Engine, magic is rated just like everything else, and has the exact same simple mechanical effect. Did I succeed in my goal for the scene, or did my opposition?

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Walt Freitag on October 15, 2002, 12:37:03 PM
Let's see if I can help see the forest through the trees here, so to speak...

I went back to the thread where I originally suggested the forest example, to see if there was some useful context there that this discussion has gotten away from. Two things stand out:

1. The thread was about how mechanism could help (or at least, not hinder) the creation of a sense of wonder in play. Simulationist issues were assumed to be set aside for that purpose.

2. The paragraph the quote was taken from began with a very important sentence:

Quote
What I'm imagining, in a vague way so far, is a system of metagame rules akin to a complete narrativist game system that is executed in secret and entirely by the gamemaster.


Now, I did fully intend for there to be hard numbers accompanying the description of the Old Forest. These numbers would ultimately be compared against player stats using the resolution mechanisms of the game. For example, a player might roll for a navigation skill vs. the forest's "pathless" quality, with the usual range of possible results: success, failure, concessions, situational advantages or setbacks to one side or the other.

I didn't specify how the numbers would relate to the descriptors. What I had in mind at the time was not individual effectiveness ratings for each descriptor, but a single overall pool of power that the forest would expend with use. This makes the power number relate directly to how important in the story the forest is, rather than how "powerful" it is in the sense of specific capabilities. With a small to moderate pool, the forest could harass the player-characters in minor ways for a while, or attempt to cause them one or two harmful setbacks, but in either case its power would then be expended and the story would move on. (Which doesn't mean the forest is now drained of whatever magical qualities it originally had. It only means that it's time for the story to move on. In other words, the power is an entirely metagame quality.)

It's also quite conceivable to have specific stats for the forest's descriptors that would be used in rolls against the player-characters. As Mike said, characters throughout the game could just as easily work that way too.

In either case, clearly, there's a lot of GM interpretation involved. Which brings me to the key point:

Yes, there's always GM interpretation involved in the process of turning descriptions into actions that are within the game's mechanical framework. But that's not always a good thing. For example, when a systems suddenly offers the GM a wide latitude for interpretation, in the midst of otherwise strictly causal resolution rules, the result can be drift or worse. Say a player-character uses a summoning spell. The game mechanics of the spell specifies in great detail exactly the stats of the creature summoned, but leaves it entirely up to the GM to interpret and role-play the much more important factor of how the summoned creature reacts and behaves. The summoned being could be extremely helpful, or could be uncooperative to the point of being a liability, so in essence the GM is left to decide on an arbitrary basis whether the spell, in the end, was effective or ineffective for the purpose for which it was cast. Expectations are on the line and can easily get trampled on. For example, a GM with gamist priorities, who generally feels hampered in his ability to challenge the players by a mainly impartial simulationist cause and effects rules system, might seize on such an open-ended interpreted situation as a golden opportunity to hose the player every time.

The key question is not, what interpretive decisions with what constraints is the GM making, but rather, on what basis is the GM making those decisions? As in, what's the GM prioritizing? This is important because you need different types and degrees of constraints and guidelines for different priorities.

I described the possible "wonderment" mechanism as I did, as an illusionistic metagame mechanism used by the GM, because I saw the prioritization of creating wonderment as Narrativist -- more specifically, as vanilla Narrativist. Vanilla Narrativism is currently understood primarily in terms of drift. Systematizing functional vanilla Narrativism, I believe, would require the GM to be using different rules than the players because it appears the GM has different priorities than the players.

So, is the key here simulation or story? That is, do you want the flexibility of choose-any-descriptor mechanisms because it allows more freedom for player exploration, or you do you want it because it allows more story-context-sensitive decision making? If it's the latter, causal constraints become secondary to metagame concerns and you could end up happily with a coherenly Narrativist system. If it's the former, you do need a procedure for turning the descriptors into mechanical descriptions during play. It only the GM is ever responsible for doing this, then that procedure could involve a lot of interpretation and translation on the fly. But what ultimately comes out of the GM's mouth must be perceived by the players as objective in-game-world information that they can base their own decisions on. That could perhaps facilitiate play within the gray area between sim exploration of setting/situation with high genre-convention expectations, and vanilla Narrativism.

- Walt


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Walt Freitag on October 15, 2002, 01:52:31 PM
Oops, cross-posted. I'm talking about what would be useful to achieve, but Christoffer is asking how exactly to achieve it.

I'm a big fan of extra input variables in a resolution mechanism, when they're there for a good reason. With open descriptors, the complication always seems to revolve around how well the descriptor fits what the character is trying to do. So here's what the input variables should be (let's assume an all-opposed system):

- The descriptor level
- The degree of fit between the descriptor and the task being attempted
- The opposing descriptor level
- The degree of fit between the opposing descriptor and the task being attempted

The descriptor levels are the familiar stats. The unfamiliar elements are the degrees of fit. Degree of fit represents how well and how specifically the skill or attribute being applied fits the task to which it is being applied. There should be, I believe, no more than three or four discrete levels of degree of fit.

All these variables will boil down to one (chance of success) or two (center and variance of the outcome distribution) degrees of freedom in the end. But applying them separately creates at least the illusion, if not the reality, of a more careful and objective analysis of the situation. (This is something that others often seem to disagree with. The prevailing attitude seems to be, if you're making judgment calls, it's better to make one big one instead of a lot of little ones. In rebuttal, I can point out that the entire statistical science of risk assessment is based on doing exactly the opposite.)

Interestingly, Christoffer's already proposed a resolution roll mechanism that has an extra variable that represents a combination of increase in difficulty and increase in the variance of the outcome... exactly what one would want in cases of lesser degree of fit.

So, here's a possible mechanism: roll a d12 for each descriptor level on both sides. Interpret each d12 as a hit or non-hit based on the degree of fit for that side, as follows:

degree of fit "exact": 3+ hits
degree of fit "good": 5+ hits
degree of fit "partial": 7+ hits
degree of fit "poor": 9+ hits

The side with the most hits succeeds.

Example: I have "Friends with Birds 3" and I'm in a forest that's "Trackless 4." I attempt to call a European Swallow (the migratory variety) to come to me to aid me with its navigational senses.

"Friends with Birds" is a pretty good fit to attempting to summon a particular bird, but it's not perfect (it's not a "summon birds" skill). So my degree of fit is "good." I roll 3 dice, getting 4, 5, 11. The 5 and 11 give me 2 hits. The forest's "trackless" quality opposes my attempt. My summoning could fail to reach any friendly birds, or they could fail to find their way to me to answer the summons, due to the tracklessness. However, birds don't have to rely on paths or landmarks to find their way. So the degree of fit on the forest's side is only "partial." The opposing roll is 4 dice, but only rolls of 7+ are hits. The roll is 2, 5, 6, 11. Only one hit. So a European Swallow arrives in answer to my call.

I can certainly foresee arguments about degrees of fit. (Having only three degrees of fit might be preferable.) But the silver lining is that a disagreement about a degree of fit need not be destructive to play, since it must be discussed in purely situational terms. "How can my jumping skill not be a 'perfect' fit for this jump?" "Because you're trying to jump 20 feet straight down without injury; that's more falling than jumping." "Yeah, but part of all kinds of jumping is knowing how to land properly." "That's right, 'part of,' so I'm ruling it's a 'partial' fit."

Degree of fit should work just as well for descriptor-based magic. If the magic descriptor is "demon fire" and someone wants to use it to send a message to someone ten miles away using flying letters of demonic fire, you don't have to argue about whether or not it's possible. Just give it a fit of 'poor' because it's so dissimilar to the way demonic fire usually behaves, and resolve in the usual way.

- Walt


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 15, 2002, 11:42:18 PM
Very interesting Walt. I have to think about things a little more before I give an in-depth reply to it all. One quick thing I can answer straight away though:

Quote from: wfreitag
So, is the key here simulation or story? That is, do you want the flexibility of choose-any-descriptor mechanisms because it allows more freedom for player exploration, or you do you want it because it allows more story-context-sensitive decision making? If it's the latter, causal constraints become secondary to metagame concerns and you could end up happily with a coherenly Narrativist system.

Good question. I got this idea while editing my horror rpg which definately a narrativist system in the sense that the GM makes decisions solely on what would further the feeling of horror for the players, which isn't what I usually think of when talking about narrativism. I actually thought of that system as an Exploration of Character for the players. "How does it feel to be scared, how does it feel to be a person experiencing horrifying things?"
The GM's task is to fuel this exploration of character by providing a good horrifying story. As far as the GM is concerned, his/her priority is to provide a good story (sim is thrown out the window). On the other hand the players try to pretend everything is real and is happening in order to explore the characters deep in Actor stance.

The stances are different but functionally supporting each other.

Am I going out on a limb if I suggest that functional illusionism is actually a type of play where the players and GM have different priorities that are mutually reinforcing in the manner described above: the GM uses narrativist priorities while the players play using simulationist priorities.

In that case the sim style rules become a guideline for the GM how to bridge his narrativist decisions to the player's viewpoint. The GM uses the sim mechanics to see what is possible to breaking the illusion for the players?

In that case we should really make rules where the GM and the players use different rules. Incidentally, did not even old D&D have that to begin with?

Are we onto something here?


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 16, 2002, 06:57:41 AM
You're analysis of your horror game belies a misunderstanding of the difference between Sim and Narrativism. I think that the game is definitely Sim. The only "Narrativist" thing about your game is that you encourage the players to do "Stupid stuff" and to "get in trouble". But even that's really Sim driftable easily to "Vanilla Narrativism".

Why is it Sim? Because it attempts to create something like a splatty horror film. It's simulating that. A Narrativist game will have mechanics that encourage addressing some Narrativist premise. Your horror game has none of that. What it's likely to produce is players making decisions for the characters that seem to make sense for the characters but at most use Author stance to ensure that the charcter gets into trouble.

Sim exploration of Situation.

I still get the feeling that you are of the opinion that detail is somehow an important part of Simulationism. It isn't necessarily.

Yes, in Illusionism, there is something specific going on, and no, this is not a new revelation. This comes from another source of confusion. Narrativism is defined by the players creating story through their actions. No amount of GM creation of story is Narrativism. Illusionism does not allow players to create story, and as such is Sim. By the definitions of that term.

Seeing as you want Illusionism (assuming that you actually do), the obvious answer to Walt's question is that you must want these mechanics as we've discussed to allow for more in depth exploration of character, setting, and I think most importantly, color. The claim all along has been that by reducing the mechanical elements to a minimum that you can keep that "wonderous" feel better. This is very much color.

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 16, 2002, 07:21:45 AM
Hi there,

I agree with Mike, with the minor proviso that Narrativist play includes both GM and players as story-creators (often in different capacities); the point is that the story is neither retro-fitted after the actual play, nor pre-planned prior to play.

Best,
Ron


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 16, 2002, 09:38:27 AM
Ok, disappointed now (that I didn't add anything new I mean) ;)

However, I'm not 100% sure you understand me Mike, partly because you argue against me saying my game is Narrativist which I never say.

What I said was: "I actually thought of that system as an Exploration of Character for the players."" and "the GM uses narrativist priorities while the players play using simulationist priorities"

There is no question about the players. They are play sim.

However I feel the GM's view here is radically different from the players'.

How can we separate say CoC from my horror RPG? In one we have the same mechanics regulating both players and GM controlled entities whereas in the other the GM is explicitly free from them.

I realize that narrativism isn't the right word since narrativism is "producing theme in play" and "the key to Narrativist Premises is that they are moral or ethical questions that engage the players’ interest" I can't say that's supposed to happen in my horror rpg.

What IS supposed to happen though, is that the GM uses the freedom from mechanics to drive a story where details are shaped around player input. Despite the illusionist techniques in play, there is never an attempt to rob the players of their ability to affect the story. However, their inpact is not necessarily a direct one.

We've been over this before with examples of how the players are empowered to control the story without them knowing it.

From what I experienced playing the proto-versions of "The Evil" (or to put it differently, the horror adventures I ran in the same style using stripped versions of other rpgs) the actual outcome of the story is almost exclusively player driven.

For example, I ran the exact same adventure twice with different groups. Second running I tried to borrow some stuff from the first run, but most of it ended up being completely different, including ending, how the monsters acted, how to defeat them and so on.

This is of course mainly due to the improvised play that The Evil takes as standard. Is maybe this what you mean by drift towards vanilla narrativism?

Because despite the fact that almost nothing is decided from the start, there is a seedling of story (decided by the GM) from the start which then is explored. However this exploration IS creating story and setting as it goes along... this is a little like narrativism. On the other hand, the players are not aware of this and keep making sim decisions.

How do we classify this play?


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 16, 2002, 10:06:53 AM
I'm afraid we're getting a little side tracked here. So I'd like to move a part of Walt's text here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=37404#37404). This thread keep going back to ygg stuff (probably my fault), so let's move all discussion there instead. I'll stop posting on this thread and move further replies of mine (if they aren't general) to the above mentioned thread instead.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 16, 2002, 10:53:31 AM
Quote from: Pale Fire
However, I'm not 100% sure you understand me Mike, partly because you argue against me saying my game is Narrativist which I never say.

What I said was: "I actually thought of that system as an Exploration of Character for the players."" and "the GM uses narrativist priorities while the players play using simulationist priorities"

There is no question about the players. They are play sim.
Equivocating again. Fine. The GM makes the story. Therefore, Sim. If the players are not making Narrativist decisions, then the play is Sim. Almost evry Sim GM is trying to create a "Story" that is precisely why it's Sim and not Narrativist. Because the players are not making these things happen.

The only "Narrativist Priority" for a GM is to avoid making all the story himself so that the players can do it.

Quote
However I feel the GM's view here is radically different from the players'.
Yes. So what? The GMs view is always different from the players. In every mode in every game.

Quote
How can we separate say CoC from my horror RPG? In one we have the same mechanics regulating both players and GM controlled entities whereas in the other the GM is explicitly free from them.
That's great. Doesn't mean a thing GNS wise. In neither of these games do players ever have the power to alter the plot. Not Narrativism.

Quote
What IS supposed to happen though, is that the GM uses the freedom from mechanics to drive a story where details are shaped around player input. Despite the illusionist techniques in play, there is never an attempt to rob the players of their ability to affect the story. However, their inpact is not necessarily a direct one.
Impossible Thing Before Breakfast. Either the GM makes the story in a particular instance or the players do. Can't both.

Quote
From what I experienced playing the proto-versions of "The Evil" (or to put it differently, the horror adventures I ran in the same style using stripped versions of other rpgs) the actual outcome of the story is almost exclusively player driven.
Strange. All the text in "Evil" seems to be about how to manipulate the plot so that all the characters end up dead. And such. Sure, perhaps you drift from that in play, but again, at best the system would be "vanilla narrativist" after the drift.

Quote
For example, I ran the exact same adventure twice with different groups. Second running I tried to borrow some stuff from the first run, but most of it ended up being completely different, including ending, how the monsters acted, how to defeat them and so on.
Anecdotal evidence. How many others running your system had the same things happen? What was it about the system that made it work this way? That you didn't have to roll dice? That seems to me to make things more arbitrarily the GMs decision, not less. Meaning more GM control, meaning less player ability to alter things.

Again, your rules do not support this. Long ago we discovered the fact that "no-system" or "system-lite" does not equal Narrativism. No correllatioon at all.

Quote
This is of course mainly due to the improvised play that The Evil takes as standard. Is maybe this what you mean by drift towards vanilla narrativism?
What improvised play? And, to the extent that the GM allows players to make plot decisions on their own, then yes, this is Narrativist drift. The rules do not make any provisions for this.

Quote
Because despite the fact that almost nothing is decided from the start, there is a seedling of story (decided by the GM) from the start which then is explored. However this exploration IS creating story and setting as it goes along... this is a little like narrativism. On the other hand, the players are not aware of this and keep making sim decisions.

How do we classify this play?
Sim, Sim, and more Sim.

As long as the players are not involvedin creating the plot, and addressing a Narrativist premise, it's not Narrativism. No matter how much of a story is created by the GM. The amount of plot created pre-play is not important at all. The only thing that matters is whether or not the players are actually making Narrativist decisions.

OTOH, who cares? Simulationism is a good thing in my book. The question is only how to make mechanics that suport what you want. Do you want players to address some Narrativist Premise through their use of magic? If so whqat is it? Or do you wnat them to explore the color of the world through it. I think you want the latter. But who knows?

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Walt Freitag on October 16, 2002, 11:59:25 AM
Quote
How do we classify this play?


How indeed? Y'know, that was basically the question I posed in my very first Forge post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1575) and it still remains unclear. (Warning: that post, though the question it raises is valid, contains many newbie errors and false assumptions along the way.)

Here's what I've come to believe so far about this style of play:

- It's a functional technique.

- It's not all that uncommon, though it's so little acknowledged in general discussion that many of its practitioners believe it to be their own unique invention.

- It's usually arrived at through drift.

- It places high demands on the abilities of the GM, but how much of this is because of the drift factor and how much is inherent in the technique is not clear, since no system I'm aware of has ever been deliberately designed to be played this way.

- The concept of illusionism is not helpful in characterizing this play. For two reasons.

- 1. Illusionism is usually assumed to involve pre-planned story lines. Since whether or not that assumption is inherent in the definition of illusionism has never been resolved, calling this technique illusionism tends to lead some people to a fallacious conclusion. ("Because this style uses illusion, it's illusionism; because it's illusionism, there must be a pre-planned story hidden somewhere even if you don't want to admit it.")

- 2. Illusionism focuses attention on the element of successful deception, which is a red herring here. This play no more requires deception of players about the technique being used than successful ventriloquism requires the audience to truly believe it's the dummy talking.

- The GMs decision-making priorities are not the same as the players'. Whether the GMs' priorities are in fact Narrativist or not, they are different enough from the player's priorities that the GM can be said either to be playing by an entirely different system, or to have abandoned system and be making free-form decisions. In either case, the GM invokes the ostensible system (the one the players are using) retroactively to encode and communicate decsions already made through those alternative means.

- The GM's decision-making does not prioritize in-game-world causality. In-game-world causality is a secondary or supporting priority, which is usually, like the rules system itself, invoked retroactively to justify decisions already made based on other priorities.

- The GM's decision-making prioritizes abstract qualities of the story outcome. (Stanadard disclaimer: "story outcome" doesn't mean the end of the story, it means the entire story that is the outcome of play.) These abstract qualities may include player-character protagonization; classic dramatic structure of rising action, climax, and denoument (also called Freitag's Triangle, no relation to me); dramatic (as opposed to causal) continuity, e.g. causing foreshadowing to "pay off"; metaphor; mood (including horror, poignancy, wonderment); comedy; tragedy; and (as one possible desired quality among many) theme. Fang's terminology groups many of these ideas together as a part of the general concept of "genre expectations," while I've used the term "authorial artifice" to describe them collectively.

- Arguing about whether or not the GM's priorities are Narrativist or Simulationist, based on the previous two points, is an enormous waste of time.

- What is important is to recognize that the vast majority of rules systems or rules styles normally considered to facilitate Simulationist decision-making are useless to the GM in facilitating effective decision-making within this technique.

- Some other type of rule system may be of more help for facilitating GM decision-making within this technique. Such rule systems may or may not resemble straight Narrativist systems. Since as I said before, no system has ever been designed on purpose for this technique, it's hard to say. On the face of it, in general, mechanics usually associated with straight Narrativism appear to be much closer to being suitable.

- Walt


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 16, 2002, 12:08:21 PM
Hello,

Actually, I think Illusionism is a useful term here. I also think people have become awfully narrow in their understanding of the term, mainly through usage and assumptions, and despite at least one very explicit post I made about it on one of the "illusionism bitch session" threads.

1) In Illusionist play, story may either be retroactively pieced together by the GM from the events in a recently-played session or be front-loaded by the GM. The former is the original meaning proposed by Paul Elliott; the latter was added by me. I asked Paul whether he wanted to split the term into two, but received no answer (this was in the forums, though; maybe he never saw it; also, if I'm not mistaken, he has expressed a lack of interest in such topics in general).

2) In either case, an element of deception may be involved, in the sense that the players are under the impression that they are "creating" story, but it does not have to be. If everyone is fully complicit with the process in #1, then it's "participationism" as Mike called it; if few of the players even care (for instance being involved in hard-core Character or Setting Sim), then it's irrelevant.

In this sense, what Christoffer has proposed from the beginning is a game in which the actual rules begin where (as Walt rightly points out) quite a lot of play Drifts to. I think his design spec of prompting Color as a first priority is an excellent way to achieve this goal.

I agree with Walt's points regarding the sorts of systems etc that are most relevant to Christoffer's goals - very well stated.

Best,
Ron


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Walt Freitag on October 16, 2002, 12:40:21 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
In Illusionist play, story may either be retroactively pieced together by the GM from the events in a recently-played session or be front-loaded by the GM.


That's fine, but neither of these cases describes or applies to the technique I was talking about way-back-when or what I believe Christoffer is talking about now. Thus we have techniques in which illusion is used, but do not fall under the definition of illusionism. Which is fine, as long as people are aware of that.

- Walt


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 16, 2002, 01:31:50 PM
Quote from: wfreitag
That's fine, but neither of these cases describes or applies to the technique I was talking about way-back-when or what I believe Christoffer is talking about now.


Right. I agree. But this is a phrasological problem if you will. I think (not at all sure) that by the whole "retroactive" example, that Ron means the sort of play where the GM is tweaking in play to make the results into a Story. His claim has always been that this will only be seen as a story looking back on it. Or something. Frankly I've never understood it either.

Butr I would agree with you that Story can be created in play by the GM. Spontaneously. Very much as you describe it above. And I call this Illusionism. My definition is that the GM uses Illusion to give the players the "feeling" that they are creating story simply by playing out the actions of their characters, while in reality the course of events is being determined by the GM. This can mean pre-loaded, but does not have to.

Note the similarity in this definition to the idea of IntCon (Intuitive Continuity) as presented by GMS in Underworld. The difference, if there is one is that IntCon is very extemporaneous, and that the GM tries never to influence player decisions if he can avoid it, simply trying to manipulate other elements such as setting, etc, in such a way as story is created despite the fact that the players are not helping create it, particularly.

Example of Illusionism: Character decides to insult a merchant. The Illusionist GM wants the character to get information from the merchant, so he retroactively reassigns the merchant's attitude from gruff, to easily intimidated, an provides information.

Example of IntCon: Character decides to insult a merchant. The IntCon GM goes along with it, and has the gruff merchant start a fight with the player, or whatever seems "normal". Then he figures out soe way to turn that fight into a story by adding some interesting facts to the merchant's background, and makng them relevant to the character's story.

Illusionism would seem the more reliable method, but InCon can lead to greater creativity. IntCon would seem to be difficult, however, and might result in something a bit more disjointed than can be termed a story (and might look more like a series of interesting events).

Personally, I think of IntCon as a good way to play to get to a point where the layer starts responding in a Narrativist fashion more than anything.

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on October 16, 2002, 02:24:20 PM
This might be best as a seperate thread, but I'm not sure there's enough to it to be worth that.   So I'll just trust the moderators and post here.  I did a fair amount of thinking about these GM-story/player-story/illusion/retroactive issues at one point (when I was first on the Forge, and I think I tried to start a thread on "Player Illusionism" that didn't generate much interest).  Anyway, this discussion gets me to thinkin' again . . .   Let's see - here's the "definition" from Ron that Walt quotes:
Quote from: Ron Edwards
In Illusionist play, story may either be retroactively pieced together by the GM from the events in a recently-played session or be front-loaded by the GM.

Walt goes on to add that this does not describe the technique/style that he and (by his perception) Christopher are referring to.  The question that comes to me is - why not?  What is it that seperates that style from Illusionist Sim, but doesn't (or does it?) quite become Nar?

I'm not sure if this fits with Walt and/or Christopher's style, but here's my thought - the retroactive and/or front-loading of story (real, Premise-adressing Nar story) is NOT restricted just to the GM, it very much includes the players.  Powerfully, though I suppose there are standard GM/Player balance of power variations.  However - it's NOT Story Now.  It's (as described) retroactive and/or front loaded.  It's not quite Mike's Participationism, because the player's aren't just complicit with giving story power to the GM, they have real story power of their own - but not Now (in play).  This is not the Impossible Thing, because while the players do have real story power, the GM is the only one with story power in play.

Problems can certainly happen (often do, in my experience - I think one configuration of my group very much plays this way).  IMO, based on Forge experience and some "real" Nar play, these problems arise at least in part because without Story Now power, the players' retroactive/front-loaded story-desires/plans are easily derailed (deprotagonized, and etc.) by the GM, who does (as an inescapeble practicality) have Story Now power.  The Impossible Thing can rear its' head it that way- the GM CAN very easily (even unintentionally) turn this into plain-old Illusionist and/or Participationist Sim.  But he doesn't have to.

If the GM takes too much advantage of this "favored" position regarding story, players that aren't interested in Illusionism and are unwilling to be Participationist will walk.  This very much happened with one GM in my current play circle - he just wasn't willing/able to share this power as much as another GM managed.  The players have basically chosen the other guy because of this - a phenomena that, until this post, I didn't fully understand, as he's actually very/more talented in many GMing areas.

But in my experience it can work.  In Nar terms it's imperfect, even under this other GM - who sometimes does slip into more pure Nar, with Story Now power given to the players.  It seems especially likely to be succesful when there are clear Setting/Color cues that everyone is working with.  When folks were willing to do standard anime/mech/military-style play, my GM-story-power-centered guy was able to run succesful games that did not feel like pure Sim.  Which may be why Christopher sees such promise for this technique in a horror game.  Seems to me like that might be workable, even if this hypothetical grey area between Illusionist/Participationist Sim and Narrativism is in it's own way illusory.

Hoping that made sense and added something,

Gordon


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 17, 2002, 12:47:34 AM
The thread kinda wandered of on it's own, but I'm cool with that. Maybe it will tie in with the original questions in the end.

I'm 100% agreeing with Walt's description here and Ron is also right that I want a game where this play isn't due to drift but the facilitated mode of play.

The question is, what facilitates it?

To restate what people already has written, but looking at it from a little different perspective.

First "Who is responsible for the story?"

We can look at the story as actually being created in segments.

Initially the GM has a "set up" which is a very short piece of story.

As the players enter this story, their ideas of future development of the story covertly helps the GM shape the next story segment. (It's actually a continuous thing, but it is a little clearer if we pretend it is discrete). This influence both happens with their in character actions and suggestion as well as ooc stuff.

At the same time the decisions they do, in-character, within the particular segment limits what type of story segments can follow the one currently being played.

However, the GM can use illusionist techniques to nullify this latter effect and effectively choose what the next story segment should look like. Both methods are commonly mixed.

In addition we have dice which may effect the outcome of the in-game events. Again these effects can be cancelled by the GM through illusionism.

Finally the GM can use the dice as a tool to flesh out the next story segment (a really sucky example of using dice as tool in this manner would be D&D wandering monsters). It's entirely up to the GM to decide how much it's used.

So let us sum it up. We have:

* GM as creator of the original story segment

* Players as indirect co-creators of the upcoming story segments (with GM moderating their ideas) through ic and ooc ideas and actions.

* GM as main creator of the upcoming story segment

* Dice as a co-creator of upcoming story segment in its role as a GM story decision tool.

* Players as co-creators establishing the current story segment through the language of the mechanics.

* GM as co-creator establishing the current story segment through NPC and setting interaction with player characters mediated by the mechanics.

* GM as a moderator of the current story segment through illusionist techniques.

* The dice as co-creator of the current story segment through it's use in the mechanic for determining results of actions. It is regulated by the number of occasions mechanics requiring fortune is invoked.

* "Outcome" of the current story segment as a way to determine possible upcoming story segments

* GM as a moderator of the story segment selection through the use of illusionist techniques.


A few other observations:

The players are usually playing in character, under the illusion that all story decisions are made by the GM during pre-play story creation(that is, they operate under the assumption that the original story segment by the GM made is actually the the whole story).

Things making it hard for the GM tend to be games strongly resisting illusionist techniques. If there are no players helping the GM drive the story, or in other words they are "resisting it" waiting for the GM to create it, rather than taking actions themselves, the game is very hard to run.

Active players, really helps this type of play. Players willing to "explore" the situation will probably run into exactly the kind of situation they want to explore. If there is no such thing forthcoming from the players, the GM has to drag the adventure him/herself. It's very hard.

There is probably more to add but I should really get back to studying. What's interesting here is "how do we facilitate it?" The players are actually creating the story with the GM as a moderator and a fellow co-creator, but they are unaware that they have those privileges (and I think this is actually desireable, you'd get another type of play if they overtly drive the narrative). It all comes back to the GM who has a challenging work keeping everything up.

Interestingly I find this harder to run in say fantasy than horror, maybe that holds some clues. Maybe because it's easier to discard in-game-world causality. Here we incidentally have some ties to the "loose and wonderous" rules I'd like for Ygg. Ideally something like this would justify the retcon-ing (I assume you are familiar with that term) of dramatic effects as created by the GM.

The sooner you have to MOTIVATE your story as a GM, the harder it becomes to keep the play rolling. The more constrictons (system, continuity, established setting) you labour under, the harder it is to maintain the flow of the game.

Making sure that ad-hoc story elements can be later justified might possibly help. Defining that the GM and the player positions are unequal, even in terms of system might also assist somewhat but it's not guaranteed.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Walt Freitag on October 17, 2002, 12:04:55 PM
Heh. Christoffer, I'm sure you've been here long enough to know that prevailing Forge theory and terminology will take issue with your use of the words "creator" and "story" in your summary.

I've used the phrase "story outcome" to refer to the entire story that is the outcome of play, regardless of literary merit. This deliberately sets the bar as low as it can go. Absolutely every game and every instance of play within a game has a story outcome. Even if it's a game of tiddlywinks. In fact, the word "story" in the phrase is redundant. I might as well call it "outcome." (With the usual caution that "outcome" means the entire sequence of events resulting from play, not just the end state.)

The standard Forge usage of "story" is to refer to a story of literary merit. This doesn't map directly to outcome in any way. Even in focused Narrativist play in which creation of story is prioritized by all participants, it would be an error to equate the outcome with the story. In the vast majority of cases, the literary story is composed of a subset of the events making up the outcome. (There's a similar popular usage. For example sportscasters often say things like, "The score going into the fourth quarter is whatever to whatever, but so far the real story here is the amazing performance of Darrell Neverherdavum, coming off the bench, shaking off that bone-rattling hit in the second quarter, and coming back to make three touchdown passes in a six-minute period to get the Jackalopes back into the game.")

If you're talking about the dice being "co-creators" then what you're talking about being created is clearly outcome, not story in the Forge sense. The problem with focusing on outcome alone is clear in your summary: everything and everybody influences the outcome all the time, and that's equally true in any style of play. Saying that the players or the dice, for example, influence the outcome says nothing useful in distinguishing one style of play from another or illuminating where problems may occur or how play might be improved. If I were to claim that the GM or the players "prioritize the outcome" in their decision-making, it would just underscore how tautological the concept is.

What I believe is useful is thinking in terms of specific desired qualities of the outcome. Once we're talking about a recognizable quality, we can ask whether or not the outcome of a particular instance of play has it and if so, where did it come from. For example, if we want the outcome to resemble a conventional narrative, then we might wish it to have, among other qualities, the quality I referred to before as "dramatic continuity." Looking at my own (inCon, quasi-Illusionist, sometimes vanilla Narrativist) playing style, I can say yes, there was dramatic continuity there, and I can ask, where did it come from?

- From the GM? Definitely yes. In this style, maintaining dramatic continuity is one of my top priorities and one of my most demanding tasks as a GM.

- From the dice? Definitely no. Randomness is antithetical to dramatic continuity. (That doesn't mean that random mechanisms never contribute to the "outcome qualities" I'm talking about. Suspense and humor, for instance, can be facilitated with appropriate use of random mechanisms.)

- From the players? Definitely maybe. If the players are prioritizing exploration, then they are not prioritizing or even contributing to dramatic continuity.

But drift can and does occur. Players can make choices based on outcome expectations. If the basis of player choices becomes "doing what the GM expects in this circumstance," then it's drift in the direction of participationism. But the basis of player choices can also drift toward "doing the kinds of thing that the GM, while not specifically expecting, will be able to use to build the story" and that way leads toward vanilla Narrativism.

What's lacking is game mechanisms that help the GM create desired qualities of the outcome without railroading. There's no shortage of advice for GMs on what desired qualities of the outcome to strive for, but the GM is left entirely to his own devices to make it happen -- and all too often, handed a set of tools (e.g. random encounter charts) that hinder rather than promote its happening. Christoffer's horror game doesn't provide inappropriate tools but doesn't provide much help either. It presents a series of prescriptions for the desired outcome qualities for each stage of play. Which is better than saying, "here's a character stat and task resolution system, now go do a horror game" but essentially the same problem exists on a smaller scale within each of the prescribed stages. I'm sure I could run this with good results. I'm sure most people reading this could run it with good results. But I have an unpleasant suspicton that putting that game into the hands of the "average" GM would have results similar to handing a running chainsaw to a chimpanzee.

There's no proof that system can actually help with such things. But even the most simple steps in that direction have never been tried. Imagine, for example, an encounter chart whose entries include how the character encountered actually behaves. Further imagine organizing that chart based on the intended purpose of the encounter. "Increase suspense." "Complicate an objective." "Test player-character loyalties." "Raise the stakes of a current conflict." "Enhance an eerie mood." "Comic relief." "Cause or reveal a dramatic setback." And so forth. (Not a great list there, but it was thirty seconds' thought. Thirty minutes or thirty hours would certainly produce a more complete and workable set.)

I might be able to connect this back to the original thread topic concerning using open-ended subsystems within an overall conventional Sim system with Simulationist play. Open-ended skill or magic rules require either GM controlling oversight in which the GM must referee each effect, or player-owned protagonism that motivates players to enforce their own limits in order to make their characters and the outcome more interesting. For most of the Sim audience, the GM-referee option is the reality.

Then it becomes a question of what the GM's decision-making basis is. I mentioned before that there were two possibilities in any given instance for the GM's decision: in-game-world plausibility, or desired qualities of the outcome.

To belatedly answer Christoffer's question (in the More Story Please thread in Theory) of what I mean by that, the "fitness" mechanism I described before would be a way to do it based on in-game-world plausibility. The alternative outcome-based priority is just a way of saying that if the intended play style is that the GM should decide based on what the GM thinks should happen to have a desired effect on the outcome, then the system might as well explicitly grant the GM license to do so.

There are two issues involved in doing that. The lesser one is how the process is expected to appear to the players. Are the GM's outcome-based decisions made obvious or disguised as in-game-world factors? This is a matter of social contract and technique. I think, for example, that the "fitness" mechanism would be great for enacting illusionist GM decisions. Especially if the opposing forces were using the point-pool system (a total number of effectiveness points to be expended over the entire episode or encounter to act against the player-characters) rather than specific ability levels. These two mechanisms in combination would allow the GM to shift the odds severely in the direction of the desired outcome without it being too obvious.

The more important issue is can the system aid a GM in making such decisions well? This gets back to the idea of outcome-effect decision-making system tools I was talking about before, like the hypothetical encounter list organized by the intended effect of the encounter. Perhaps within such encounters, GMs are explicitly asked to make decisions based on promoting the encounter's stated effect (so it comes down to essentially a minor trick for keeping the GM focused on the main present priority). To get any more sophisticated than that, we'd be talking about, essentially, mechanical procedures for aiding in creation of desired outcome qualities. A tall order, but perhaps not impossible if expectations are not too high.

- Walt


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on October 17, 2002, 01:12:19 PM
Quote from: wfreitag
The more important issue is can the system aid a GM in making such decisions well? This gets back to the idea of outcome-effect decision-making system tools I was talking about before, like the hypothetical encounter list organized by the intended effect of the encounter. Perhaps within such encounters, GMs are explicitly asked to make decisions based on promoting the encounter's stated effect (so it comes down to essentially a minor trick for keeping the GM focused on the main present priority). To get any more sophisticated than that, we'd be talking about, essentially, mechanical procedures for aiding in creation of desired outcome qualities. A tall order, but perhaps not impossible if expectations are not too high.

This reminds me of one of the key insights I've gotten from discussing this stuff - a lot of what actually *matters* with RPGs (in terms of good/enjoyable play) is NOT directly addressed by most of the systems out there.  I'll ignore for the moment the "we like it that way" argument, though I can see where too much direct exposure of some of these issues might actually hurt the very experience it tries to help.  But - "mechanical procedures for AIDING [my emphasis] in creation of desired outcome qualities" is very exciting to me.  And I think that we need to start by making at least some of what really matters directly accessible to the participants during play - and frequently, what really matters is not (or not just) the attributes and skills of the character.

Thanks for the discussion, folks - it reawakened a few brain cells,

Gordon


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Bankuei on October 17, 2002, 03:27:47 PM
I think that's a great distinction you bring up Walt.  I understood that certain systems seemed to produce more of what I wanted, and others not, but never made the distinction between outcome and story.  

I'd say a significant portion of dissatisfied gaming comes about because people aren't making a distinction between the outcome and their desired outcome(or even being aware of what they would desire in that outcome).
I think one of the first steps towards that has been the idea of writing up how actual play should work(outcome) before designing system.

A prime example is bad D&D.  D&D is supposed to be about adventure, action, and fantasy.  Bad D&D is about checking for traps every 10 ft and getting stuck at a riddle puzzle no one can figure out.  While D&D can drift towards that high adventure, or to meticulous searching, few folks discern what aspects of play, what rules, and what goes into producing one outcome or another.  Instead it's simply reduced to "Good GM/Bad GM".

I'm also excited about this concept, I look forward to seeing to where it leads.

Chris


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 17, 2002, 10:14:26 PM
I'm gonna throw out a random idea I had just now reading Walt's text.

Imagine you have a system where you use keywords to compress mechanics info like I explain in this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=37574#37574).

Let's envision you have "Great Balls of Fire" as a shorthand description for a spell. You might also have a powerlevel, say 8.

If we crank it through some hypothetical mechanics generator for a D&D style game that might give us: "Shoots 8 fireballs doing 1d6 of damage each" or it might be "Shoots two big fireballs doing 4d6 damage each"

However it's not clear which version it actually is. Now deciding that the total damage should be 8d6 is dictated by the translating mechanics, but we have no guide on range, number of fireballs and so on.

Now what if... What if that "undecided" part was explicitly ruled to be entirely guided to increase outcome quality? Basically the GM is granted the license to rule details to increase outcome quality. There is already a part which is guided by the mechanics. For the rest the GM usually acts like a referee, Walt points out. What if the GM instead was supposed to act like a story creator in these cases.

"Pathless" has a maxium mechanical challenge maybe. But how it works is 100% based on increasing outcome quality.

Or to put it differently: effects are only determined when they actually affect the outcome. Basically I want to grant the GM to retcon behaviour that hasn't affected the story.

It might seem obvious, but Sim usually works differently. First the full behaviour is established, then (and only then) can the effect be allowed to enter into play.

Another way to phrase this is the common saying that "the players should have a chance to know what's happening". People here seem to be arguing that if you give the GM free hands to work outside of the rules he would proceed to kill the characters. Which conveniently forgets that the reason there is an adventure at all, is because GM put it there. This is thinking that the GM is something of a lawmaker and a judge. The players need to know how to adher to the law.

My view is that the GM should be thought of as the author of a book, and the players are both reading it and continuously offering suggestions to the GM on how it should continue. What reader would blame the author for not fully establishing the complete rules of the world (and then strictly adhering to it) instead of making story first and not telling "why" until the story demands it.
So "mechanics on demand" rather than a static prewritten mechanic that might not mesh well with the story. If this could be the default mode, then that get you a bit along the way.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 18, 2002, 06:09:57 AM
I think we're just going to have to disagree here.
Quote from: Pale Fire

It might seem obvious, but Sim usually works differently. First the full behaviour is established, then (and only then) can the effect be allowed to enter into play.
Some Sim works differently. But a game as Sim (Gamist, even) as Hero System, designed as Champions in 1980, has incorporated just this idea that the rules exist behind the description, and the GM adjudicates the rest. For example, in Champions it says that if the "special effect" (that is, the description of the effect, in narrative terms), would seem to have additional affects, then the GM should add them. So, if an attack is listed at doing 8d6 because of it's power level, and the special effect is "Great Balls of Fire" the GM is free to add dice of damage to a character who is doused in oil. Or anything else that he sees fit.

Quote
Another way to phrase this is the common saying that "the players should have a chance to know what's happening". People here seem to be arguing that if you give the GM free hands to work outside of the rules he would proceed to kill the characters. Which conveniently forgets that the reason there is an adventure at all, is because GM put it there. This is thinking that the GM is something of a lawmaker and a judge. The players need to know how to adher to the law.
Baloney. Nobody is saying that. If you want to leave leeway, we're all quite comfortable with that. We respect our players, and know that they will understand our judgment. But that does not mean that there is no advantage to having mechanics as far as one does. For example, by having some idea of the mechanics, a player can have some idea of the potency of his abilities. Which makes sense, as the character would probably know, and if the player does not, he cannot make reasonable decisions for the character.

There are other advantages as well, but I'd rather not get into that debate. The point is that all I have ever advocated is that you have some method that related to the rest of your mechanics. If you were to have some "power level" as you state above, that would probably be just fine. In fact, it's very much what I had indicated you did need. I've given you examples on two occasions that match this idea.

See, we agree with you about this sort of design. It would be very much like Hero Wars (a game of which I started last night). In that game, you have spells with a narrative description that are linked to a single stat that is rated just like every other stat in the game, but relates to the magic in question. So, one character has Sorcery 17. Which means that any spell that he casts that falls under this rating will have a game effect the same as any other level 17 skill or ability or relationship.

Yes, this works, and it works fine. I leave it to you to adapt this principle to your own game.

Quote
So "mechanics on demand" rather than a static prewritten mechanic that might not mesh well with the story. If this could be the default mode, then that get you a bit along the way.
This principle works for books, but not for RPGs. It leaves the player in the dark. When you finally do decide what the mechanics are in a particular situation, I gaurantee that some player at some point is going to be very disappointed. Worse, this breaks your Illusionism. At this point it becomes painfully obvious who has control of things. The reason to have arbitrary-appearing mechanics is so that when you do perform Illusions, they seem to be arbitrary, and thus the illusion is maintained. Reduce the apparent arbitrariness of the rules, and no Illusion is possible. You'll have Participationism instead. Which at that point begs the question, why not just go all-out with the make up mechanics on the spot for all resolution? What makes magic so different from a player's POV that they will want that sort of resolution to be by GM fiat, and all other resolution to be by an arbitrary system?

I'm not buying it.

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 18, 2002, 07:21:46 AM
Hmm.. Mike, about Hero, I'm not contesting that. However, if I remember Hero right there can be a lot of calculating before you can be sure that your points add upp right.

Ideally I'd have a Hero-system-ultra-light kind of thing. Something which produces differentiated mechanics but with practically no bookkeeping whatsoever nor with long lists of component effect. Something like that would help a lot.

I don't have it though.

It's kind of frustrating because I know what I'd like to achieve, but I have no clue as how to get there. Existing rules seem to offer very little in this direction as Walt points out.

I don't see Hero as actually promoting "made up on the fly effects" more than maybe in theory. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this one.

Something else. Later on you seem to contradict yourself. This might stem from a misunderstanding of what we're discussing (on my side, yours or both).

First you say:
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Baloney. Nobody is saying that. If you want to leave leeway, we're all quite comfortable with that. We respect our players, and know that they will understand our judgment.

when I'm talking about how people say that the players should have a chance of knowing what's happening and I find that problematic.

However, in the segment just after that, you seem to take the totally opposite stance:
Quote from: Mike Holmes
This principle works for books, but not for RPGs. It leaves the player in the dark. When you finally do decide what the mechanics are in a particular situation, I gaurantee that some player at some point is going to be very disappointed

What I'm talking about are the same approach, basically only having a guide "This NPC has the Power Of BOB which is a Legendary-Class power" and then allowing the GM to put off defining what the heck the Power of BOB is when the players find out, and not before that.

Or to put it differently, as long as something hasn't been established within the game it is not nailed down. And even if it's in the game, only the part that is defined is fixed.

This seems to be essentially what HeroWars does anyway. All I'm suggesting that you could be allowed to do the same thing in a game which doesn't explicitly give the same powers to the players. Allow cheerful retconning of the story by the GM. In fact encourage it. Maybe the players hear that the Wizard of Gobbly has the power of BOB. At this point there is no need for the GM to decide what the power does or what the mechanics is for it. Later they run into someone claiming that the power of BOB creates small slimy creatures that like to feed on virgin chickens. However this doesn't immediately establish that the power of BOB is that. Further on they encounter the Wizard and he uses the power of BOB to warp time & space and send them forward in time 100 years.
Is this the true power of BOB? It seems to be established that the power of BOB can warp spacetime, but what about the chickens? There hasn't been anything saying either is true. The GM can decide if it is later on. The GM can even decide that the time bending powers of the Wizard isn't that of BOB but that of an artifact wielded by said wizard. And so on and so on.

This isn't unlike what people already do. What I'd like is to have it supported in the rules (like it is in HeroWars).

This, of course is on the GM controlled end. What about the magic? Well what I was thinking was that there could be a player controlled retconning device to extend powers. However when a player chooses a power, it has to be frozen somewhat - unlike GM controlled powers.

From the player's POV everything should look sim. If there is a retconning system for the players it has to be motivated by the setting. However, unless we have a framework for the making a retconning magic, there is little need to create setting for it.

I'm really sorry I can't contribute more. Maybe we should simply pause this thread and I'll return to it when I have some ideas. Unless you others think you have ways this might be implemented in actual mechanics? I'm out of ideas. I can only keep on explaining what I'm aiming for, but that's mostly a waste of time to read for the people involved in this thread.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Kester Pelagius on October 18, 2002, 09:55:33 AM
Quote from: Pale Fire
I'm gonna throw out a random idea I had just now reading Walt's text.

Imagine you have a system where you use keywords to compress mechanics info like I explain in this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=37574#37574).

Let's envision you have "Great Balls of Fire" as a shorthand description for a spell. You might also have a powerlevel, say 8.



This sounds very familiar.

I think something like this has been done before, a template mechanic in which elements were used with a descriptor to provide effect.

If anyone out there is reading this has been gaming awhile do you remember what this game was?

(And I'm not thinking of that Mage to Mage combat system posted online a few years back either, I'm pretty sure.)

Sorry, Pale Fire, that's the best I can recollect about the system.

But it was formulaic.  You'd pick you element, or in D&D terms "sphere", and a descriptor which would then define the output effect.

Sort of like "Fire+ Blast" or "Water + Cold" or something like that, effects were invested in, I think, with something akin to Manna points??

That's all I can get out of my imp of memory.


Kind Regards.


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 18, 2002, 11:49:43 AM
Kester,

You may be thinking of Ars Magica or possibly even Chivalry & Sorcery (Acellerate Stone). The former more likely. With the latter all accellerate stone could do was, well, accellerate a stone.

Christoff,

I think we're in agreement on what you need. Of course Hero System is way, way, way too complicated for what you want. I keep repeatedly saying (and am now getting tired of doing so) that I am not advocating anything at all on the complexity of Hero System. Just that a system that is as complex as that can be used to do what you say if that is what one wants. For strange and unusual people like me, we actually like play to cease for half an hour while we work out the details of how the spell is going to work out this time. But this is obviously not what you're after. You want something much more like Hero Wars, I suspect. Which is great. Nifty. We all agree.

On the subject of my apparent contradiction, you misread me and Hero Wars. In that system, and in any system (I agree with you here), the GM will not let on the mechanical values associated with an item before the PC would have such knowledge. Why would he (with the exception of very open Narrativist games, perhaps)? And, in fact, I am of the opinion that in certain styles of play that perhaps he never should reveal that data. How's that for sounding contradictory? But what I advocate is that there be a system in place that the player is aware of by which the stats might be enumerated, and that the GM should either assign such a stat, or, if playing in an illusionist fashion, he should do his best to make it seem as though such a defined stat exists.

Because that's the nature of illusionism. The player, because he cannot be sure whether or not the GM is using illusion or not, has to assume that the GM is not, and thereby he can get that "arbitrary world" feel that we seek in illusionism. So the arbitrary system must exist. In Hero Wars, for example, sure the character may have no idea what his magic item does until its used, but when it is, it is assigned a mechanical value that does not change (unless in-game circumstance would cause it to). And from that set metric, to the extent that the player knows what it is (often through character efforts to determine the level of effect) the player can feel that he can rely on the results, and the arbitrary feel is maintained.

But keep in mind that this is HW that we're talking about. Playing that without Sim drift, we'd never find the GM hiding the scores from the player, as that would be counterproductive to effective player Author stance play. Further, the resolution system being as "light" as it is in terms of detail generated mechanically, the players already have decided to forgo much of the whole "arbitrary system" feel. They only have a single number or two in many cases to go on (though you'd be surprised how often that's plenty). As such they have already decided to trust the GM with the description of events more than in most Sim games.

The point being that if you want to promote Illusionist play, then you need to have the ability to enumerate things in a manner that is coherent with the rest of the system. A single number may not do it for Ygg, because this implies that the GM will be making up a lot of the data when magic is played. More than he would in other situations. Again, if the players ae going to be satisfied with a certain level of GM use of system in one circumstance, why would they feel it was OK to have another level of control in another? I don't think they will.

The main problem I see with extending your current system to cover magic in any simple way is that you hav too many sub-resolution systems. What this means is that players will expect the same number of sub-resolutions in the magic to cover the same things. But you might be able to come close.

I've tried repeatedly now to give you an idea of the sort of mechanics that one could use to make your system into the sort of system that I honestly think you're saying you want. I will try one more time:

NOTICE: this is supposed to only inspire you to figure out how to do this on your own. As written, it will not make sense with your system precisely. I only present it so that you may get an idea of what such a system may look like in general terms. If you come back and tell me that it will not work based on it's exact application to your game, I will never speak to you again.

What one could do in your circumstance would be to just map the magic system by the skill system. That is, currently you have a system whereby a player uses skills to acomplish things in game. If one were to just assign magical "skills", and define what those skills could do in terms of spell descriptions, then one could simply use the current skill system to resolve events. The GM would do what he does in any skill situation, he would look at the skill rating, and what the character was trying to do, assign difficulty (does the spell employed make sense in this circumstance; how tough is the target), and then the player rolls. If he succeeds, then somebody narrates how the spell worked in this circumstance. If the character fails, then somebody describes how that happened.

Is this clear?

This is very much how a system like Hero Wars works. No, I will not go into more detail about the exact workings of that system, or any other for that matter. If you want to know more, buy or play these systems. There are probably a number of free games that work like this, though I can't think of one off the top of my head. Actually, see Dunjon Krawl if it's still up. In any case, I also have no inclination to be a co-author on your game, and as such, I will not create this mechanic for you. You have to do whatever research you need to do to understand this concept (though it seems clear to me, here), and then you need to figure out how to apply the concept to your game.

Mike


Title: Having too much source material too full of rules
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on October 20, 2002, 06:35:14 AM
Hi Mike,

Quote
If you come back and tell me that it will not work based on it's exact application to your game, I will never speak to you again.

Haha, fair enough.

Anyway, it seems we're on the same page, actually we might have been for some time now. I have been thinking about this problem over and over again, but a good solution has escaped me so far which is (I think) why I have kept trying to reformulate my "requirements", I have been hoping to find some angle which I might have overlooked.

So for me discussing this is both a way for me to check that I haven't missed something (since writing things down tends to structure one's thought somewhat) and also to see if others see things I'm overlooking myself. I put it in theory because it might be applicable to other games, such as Peregrin's Wayfarer's song (but his PDF had it much of those problems cleaned up - although since he's already using free-to-chose descriptor type of skills he might benefit from looking at this thread as well, but I could be wrong).

Inevitably though, we slid over to discuss the particular application in Ygg. I tried to lift the discussion to a tread in Game Design but it didn't quite work :)

But I'm rambling (as usual)

To the point ->.

What you suggest Mike is actually very useful, because you're pointing at two old things that I didn't pay enough attention to. First is the analogy between descriptors and magic spells. The second that I might need more than a single value to create a full descriptor.

Before that I was thinking of say "Great Balls Of Fire 17", but that didn't say enough. If I let in more that one parameter (this might be applicable with the decriptors as well) there is suddenly a whole lot more you can do with it. I was thinking of more than one value for places and items, but that was pretty much because they were like simplified characters, not because I was thinking of attaching several variables to the actual effects.

Unfortunately I have no clever solution for it yet, but I'm thinking about it (actually it's in my dreams as well *sigh*). Maybe too much even.

It's not that I can't think of implementations, it's just that I can't think of implementations that does all I want it to do. Anyway, I know I'm not adding so much with this posting.

Just want to say that I appreciate you taking the effort Mike and that I hope I can return with something useful sooner rather than later.

P.S. Call me Christoffer or Chris (although the latter might create some confusion considering there are already a few active posters here right now with that name). Christoff is weirding me out. It can't be that much effort typing the last two letters can it ;P