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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Cassidy on December 02, 2002, 11:35:03 AM



Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 02, 2002, 11:35:03 AM
For a long time I've been looking for a simple RPG system which focuses on role-play rather than rules play.

I'm a big fan of the Window and the style of play it encourages but have never been entirely happy with the whole Window ladder thing and bunches of different dice.

I've read the Pool, and liked what I read. I've never had the opportunity to play it though but I really like the whole concept of player initiated Monologues.

I've been fiddling with a simple resolution mechanic which takes a bit of each. It's just a seed of an idea, maybe not even that, and it may be one thats been touted already on this forum. If so, simply point me to the relavent thread and I'll be happy.

In brief...

Players have a small number of freeform non-specific traits that can be assigned to their characters, a bit like Amber's Warfare, Psyche, etc.

Each trait has a numeric value, corresponding to a level of ability,

1...Pitiful
2...Poor
3...Mediocre
4...Fair
5...Good
6...Excellent
7...Superb
8...Remarkable
9...Incredible
10+ Whatever

The Scale is a bit nebulous but any similarity to the Window Ladder is entirely intended.

Contests are fairly straightforward.

The GM determines the difficulty of contests/tasks when they arise based on his assessment of circumstance or, in the simplest instance, the traits of competing characters.

The GM deducts the PCs trait from the value of the opposing trait to arrive at a difficulty. Assume that the GM has a note of each characters notable traits so that this bit of math can be done without involving the players.

In any case, the trait vs trait or trait vs difficulty result denotes the difficulty of the contest from the players perspective.

+4....Incredibly Easy (5d6, take highest)
+3....Extremely Easy (4d6, take highest)
+2....Very Easy (3d6, take highest)
+1....Easy (2d6, take highest)
+0....50/50 (1d6)
-1.....Difficult (2d6, take lowest)
-2.....Very Difficult (3d6, take lowest)
-3.....Extremely Difficult (4d6, take lowest)
-4.....Incredibly Difficult (5d6, take lowest)

The GM describes the difficulty and the player rolls the appropriate dice and checks the result.

Contests which are described as "easy" mean that the player takes the highest result of any dice rolled. Contests that are described as "difficult" "hard" or "challenging" mean that the player takes the lowest result of any dice rolled.

"The lock is one you are very familiar with, roll 4 dice."
"He obviously has the edge on you, roll 3 dice."
"He's a wily Diplomat, convincing him will be a real challenge, roll 2 dice."

Degree of success is measured by the result that is rolled...

6....Total Success
5....Significant Success
4....Marginal Success
3....Marginal Failure
2....Significant Failure
1....Total Failure

Results are narrated as appropriate in the context of the scene with the degree of success acting as a cue.

Inspired by the Pool I'm thinking of using a special Trait called "Fate" to influence who gets to narrate the outcome of contested events.

A player can spend Fate before a roll is made to try and influence their chance of success and also grant them a monologue. Each point spent increases the trait that is being tested by one point. Regardless of the result of the contest any Fate that is spent in this way is considered lost but the player gets to narrate the outcome of the contest.

A player can regain Fate before a roll is made by decreasing the trait that is being tested. This lessens their chance of a successful outcome but replenishes their Fate trait. Again, if the player opts to do this then they get to narrate the outcome of the contest.

I'd probably impose a limit on the number of points of Fate that can be spent/regained in a contest.

Like I say, it's just a seed of an idea which isn't currently tied to any system although I'd certainly intend to use it in play sometime if I thought that it was workable.

Any comments appreciated.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 02, 2002, 02:16:31 PM
Looks a lot like bonus and penalty dice from Over the Edge. Seems pretty solid to me in general terms. The one protential problem with such a system is that, other than for a 50/50 roll, the most extreme results are the most likely to occur (on an "Easy" roll, the chance to get a Total succcess are 30%, which is almost the same as the chance to get either a 3 or a 4 put together). That may not concern you, however.

As for the "fate" thing, what more than one player spends? For example, their characters are competing. Highest bid? Can players bid back and forth? I assume that Fate is, from your description all spent before rolling?

Also, in such a case, which player rolls the dice? Or do they each roll (that might be cool).

Mike


Title: Re: Seed of an idea
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on December 02, 2002, 05:52:17 PM
Hi Cassidy

Maybe you can explain this to me. I'm playing devil's advocate here, so just stay with me. At first you said:
Quote
For a long time I've been looking for a simple RPG system which focuses on role-play rather than rules play.


And then you outlined your idea for rules, simple rules, but rules nevertheless. But the rules are just a simple task resolution system. Would you not be better served by a game with rules for roleplaying. I mean, just how different is the rules you have outlined here from most other RPGs in what they do and how they work? In other words, I still see rules play instead of role-play, as you had put it. Just trying to take a look from a different angle.


Title: Re: Seed of an idea
Post by: Andrew Martin on December 02, 2002, 06:28:15 PM
Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Hi Cassidy

Maybe you can explain this to me. I'm playing devil's advocate here, so just stay with me. At first you said:
Quote
For a long time I've been looking for a simple RPG system which focuses on role-play rather than rules play.


And then you outlined your idea for rules, simple rules, but rules nevertheless. But the rules are just a simple task resolution system. Would you not be better served by a game with rules for roleplaying. I mean, just how different is the rules you have outlined here from most other RPGs in what they do and how they work? In other words, I still see rules play instead of role-play, as you had put it. Just trying to take a look from a different angle.


I agree with Jack. The rules you've got so far look like any rules-light system, which seems to be at odds with your desired goal. I'd suggest having a look at Zac's Shadows game at: http://www.harlekin-maus.com/games/shadows/shadows.html, Xiombarg's Success at: http://www.io.com/~xiombarg/success.html, Sergio's column on RPG.net at: http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/ruleslaw27sep01.html, and my Accord system at: http://valley.150m.com/Accord/Conflict%20Resolution.html, for some different ideas on the subject of roleplaying versus rule-playing.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on December 02, 2002, 08:34:11 PM
Upon reflection, I may have come across a little harsh in my first post. Sorry about that.

But what I was getting at is, and I believe Andrew is too, that you want to focus on the roleplaying but what you have here is a system that supposedly "gets out of the way" of the roleplaying, but does not necessarily aide the roleplaying at all. I would instead encourage you to find rules that aide roleplaying instead of finding rules that get out of the way.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 03, 2002, 06:17:42 AM
Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Upon reflection, I may have come across a little harsh in my first post. Sorry about that.

But what I was getting at is, and I believe Andrew is too, that you want to focus on the roleplaying but what you have here is a system that supposedly "gets out of the way" of the roleplaying, but does not necessarily aide the roleplaying at all. I would instead encourage you to find rules that aide roleplaying instead of finding rules that get out of the way.


Thank you for the comments.

To more accurately state my goal....

I am looking for a "rules system" that employs a Fortune based mechanic and whose inner workings are essentially transparent to the players.

My goal is to limit the instances in actual play where "the system" or "the rules" interrupt the flow of the game. I also want to encourage players to concentrate on other facets of the game such as the setting, the characters, plots, etc which I want to be the role-playing foci of the game.

To elaborate a little further...

I would employ a Fortune in the Middle technique for resolution. Before I was aware of the Forge and hadn't even heard of FitM I was using FitM anyways.

Traits employed in a conflict should not need to be explicitly mentioned by the players and should often be implied given in-play circumstances and/or the players stated intent. I envisage a small number of generic non-specific traits (a bit like Amber) which can be employed in a variety of situations.

Numbers need only be mentioned by the GM as a means to tell players how many dice to roll, i.e. "Roll 2 dice". I'd perhaps want to toy with the idea of using verbal cues to allow the players to infer the number of dice to be rolled in any given conflict.

Players don't need to do any math. They don't add bonuses and their traits are never referred to in play by number. I do not want players to think of any aspect of the characters in 'numeric' terms at all.

I don't want a player thinking, "Ok, I've got 5 dice in Dex and 3 dice in Swordsmanship - thats 8 dice to roll, I'm pretty good with a sword."

I want the player to be thinking, "I'm a gifted swordsman." or whatever is in line with their original character concept.

I want the results of conflicts to be immediately visible. Again, no math. The die result gives idea of the relative degree of success or failure, i.e. Total/Significant/Marginal. This will provide a useful cue to GMs and Players in interpreting a variety of outcomes in a hopefully consistent fashion.

As I say, essentially a simple resolution mechanic that is largely transparent to the players themselves.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 03, 2002, 07:07:16 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Looks a lot like bonus and penalty dice from Over the Edge. Seems pretty solid to me in general terms. The one protential problem with such a system is that, other than for a 50/50 roll, the most extreme results are the most likely to occur (on an "Easy" roll, the chance to get a Total succcess are 30%, which is almost the same as the chance to get either a 3 or a 4 put together). That may not concern you, however.

As for the "fate" thing, what more than one player spends? For example, their characters are competing. Highest bid? Can players bid back and forth? I assume that Fate is, from your description all spent before rolling?

Also, in such a case, which player rolls the dice? Or do they each roll (that might be cool).

Mike


Thanks for the comments.

I did the math for the probabilities and they seem ok. The plus scale is just an inverted mirror image of the negative scale which makes perfect sense.

I had thought about 'bidding wars' between 2 competing players. I don't know if it would be better to have an open bid or secret written bids. I think 'secret' bids would be an excellent opportunity for players to try and bluff one another.

Irrespective of bids, the GM would eventually have a trait value for each player (modified by Fate if necessary)

i.e. Simple Duel.

Fidan is a Superb Duellist (7)
Gant is a Formidable Swordsman (6)

Fidan is the better in a fight. In fact, in game system terms he could be loosely described as a better swordsman than Gant.

I could describe to Fidan's player that Fidan has the definite edge over Gant and ask him to roll 2 dice. Fidan's player would roll the dice taking the high result and the GM would narrate the outcome. Fidan has a 75% chance of success, 25% chance of failure.

Alternatively I could describe to Gant's player that Gant is seemingly outmatched in this contest and ask him to roll 2 dice. Gant's player rolls the dice, takes the low result, GM narrates the outcome. Gant has a 25% chance of success, 75% chance of failure.

It really doesn't matter who rolls the dice since success or failure is always read in respect of which player is doing the rolling. Success for one is failure for the other and vice-versa.

Lets say Fidan secretly spends 1 Fate before the roll, but Gant spends 2. Their respective trait values for the contest are now the same. I'd toss a die to Gant (since he spent more Fate), tell him to roll, since Gant spent more Fate he gets to narrate the outcome.

I would encourage players to weave some inventive aspect of fate into their narrative to denote the influence of either good (or bad) luck affecting the outcome.

I need to give some thought to Player vs Player conflicts and also to multi-character conflicts in general.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Valamir on December 03, 2002, 07:30:28 AM
You will probably want to decide just how literal the words you choose to use are to be taken.  Are "duellist" and "swordsman" just different colorful ways of describing "fights with sword" or do they have particular meaning based on the words chosen.

For example, Findan may be a superb duellist, but what if they are not fighting a duel.  What if they are fighting a gang of thugs in a dark alley full of debris?  Would Gant's lesser skill in "swordsman" actually be more applicable here and thus gain an edge that might even things out.

Does "Duellist" imply a narrower specialty than "Swordsman".

If I'm on horseback armed with a broadsword can I use my "Duellist" skill at full ability, what about "Swordsman".

Conversely, if this is actually a formal duel with seconds and all the trimmings does the duellist get a special edge?

Or not.  But you probably will want to be clear in advance.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 03, 2002, 07:54:37 AM
Quote from: Valamir
You will probably want to decide just how literal the words you choose to use are to be taken.  Are "duellist" and "swordsman" just different colorful ways of describing "fights with sword" or do they have particular meaning based on the words chosen.

For example, Findan may be a superb duellist, but what if they are not fighting a duel.  What if they are fighting a gang of thugs in a dark alley full of debris?  Would Gant's lesser skill in "swordsman" actually be more applicable here and thus gain an edge that might even things out.

Does "Duellist" imply a narrower specialty than "Swordsman".

If I'm on horseback armed with a broadsword can I use my "Duellist" skill at full ability, what about "Swordsman".

Conversely, if this is actually a formal duel with seconds and all the trimmings does the duellist get a special edge?

Or not.  But you probably will want to be clear in advance.


Swordsman/Duelist are just descriptive terms to denote Fidan/Gant's prowess with hand held weapons.

They are simply generic non-specific traits (a bit like Amber) which can be employed in a variety of situations

"If I'm on horseback armed with a broadsword can I use my "Duellist" skill at full ability, what about "Swordsman"."

I would assume that as GM you would do whatever you deem best given the circumstances.

For simplicities sake I'd assume that if you can ride and can fight then you can fight from horseback. I'd probably give a ad-hoc bonus (+1) if fighting a grounded apponent.

If the player had made note of the fact that their character was an extremely adept horseman skilled in fighting from then I'd probably make that (+2).

Given the granularity of the resolution machanic I'd probably limit any ad-hoc bonus to no more than +2 or any ad-hoc penalty to no less than -2.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 03, 2002, 07:56:05 AM
Quote from: Cassidy
I did the math for the probabilities and they seem ok. The plus scale is just an inverted mirror image of the negative scale which makes perfect sense.
It's "balanced", yes. My only point is that the "Marginal" results are never more likely to be produced in play than any other result. That is very different from most systems, and might seem counterintuitive to some. There's no reason that it woudn't work, and it might even be a lot of fun getting mostly extreme results. I'm just trying to make sure that this is one of yor design goals. If so, then great.

Quote
I had thought about 'bidding wars' between 2 competing players. I don't know if it would be better to have an open bid or secret written bids. I think 'secret' bids would be an excellent opportunity for players to try and bluff one another.
Sounds fun to me. Co-opts one of the most commonly used methods from "diceless" systems, and applies it to a fortune based system. Cool.

Quote
It really doesn't matter who rolls the dice since success or failure is always read in respect of which player is doing the rolling. Success for one is failure for the other and vice-versa.
Sure. But who rolls? The first guy to grab the dice? Players are weird that way. Some will want to roll. Others would prefer someone else to roll. You need a simple way to determine who rolls. Otherwise people will be rolling off occasionally to see who rolls. You can avoid this extra step by saying that the originator of the conflict rolls, or the target, or the GM.

This is a "can't hurt to have it" sort of rule. If players want to roll off, or something, they will. But for those who like regimentation, the rule is there to make play go smoothly.

Quote
I need to give some thought to Player vs Player conflicts and also to multi-character conflicts in general.
Have you given any thought to allowing them both to roll? Let's say they both get successes. In a duel, that could mean that they both wound each other or something.

Also, your say that you want a "Mathless" system. But what you have, of course, is a system where you have to do math anyhow. You subtract one total from the other. And there is a translation going on. The player says, OK, Fair is 4, and Superb is 7, so 4-7 = -3 = extremely difficult.

Is this a level of math that you are comfortable with? Or would you still like to go for "mathless"?

Mike


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 03, 2002, 08:41:56 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
It's "balanced", yes. My only point is that the "Marginal" results are never more likely to be produced in play than any other result. That is very different from most systems, and might seem counterintuitive to some. There's no reason that it woudn't work, and it might even be a lot of fun getting mostly extreme results. I'm just trying to make sure that this is one of yor design goals. If so, then great.


You are exactly right. The way I look at it is that extreme results are most likely the more fun to narrate.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Sure. But who rolls? The first guy to grab the dice? Players are weird that way. Some will want to roll. Others would prefer someone else to roll. You need a simple way to determine who rolls. Otherwise people will be rolling off occasionally to see who rolls. You can avoid this extra step by saying that the originator of the conflict rolls, or the target, or the GM.


I'd be inclined to allow the player who instigates the conflict to roll. It seems more natural.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Also, your say that you want a "Mathless" system. But what you have, of course, is a system where you have to do math anyhow. You subtract one total from the other. And there is a translation going on. The player says, OK, Fair is 4, and Superb is 7, so 4-7 = -3 = extremely difficult.

Is this a level of math that you are comfortable with? Or would you still like to go for "mathless"?


The math involved in determining the 'difficulty' of a contest and how many dice to roll is down to the GM and is fairly basic.

From the players perspective there is no math involved other than keeping track of when they either spend or regain Fate.

Players wouldn't say "Fair is 4, Superb is 7 so 4-7 = -3 = extrememly difficult."

The GM would describe that the contest at hand as an extremely difficult one and tell the player to roll 4 dice. Since the contest has been framed as a 'difficult' one they know that they will be taking the lowest die rolled as the result.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 03, 2002, 08:54:24 AM
So you're saying that the GM does the math? That's specious. Players will figure out what their opponents' levels of ability are through observation, and they will do the math.

Not that I think this is a bad thing, but it'll happen. I personally see the whole "math trasparency" issue as a non-factor. I prefer numbers myself. How strong is "Fair"? How much can I lift with it? In GURPS, I multiply my ST by 20 to determine my max lift (and by other factors for other lifts). So, looking at an 11, I have a good idea what that means.

Andrew would take it further, and just say, "You're character can max lift 200 lbs." There's nothing there to get in the way of understanding what it means (though I'd argue you lose something mechanically).

The point is that just translating between words and numbers does not remove the math. It just hides it. If that's something you want, fine. It's just always seemed odd to me. I always note how stilted the use of the descriptors seem. "I'll try to solve the puzzle cube with my Fair intelligence". Doesn't come off any more naturalistic than saying, "Ill try to solve the puzzle cube with my eleven intelligence".

Just my take, tho. Some people seem to think it helps.

Mike


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 03, 2002, 10:13:49 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
So you're saying that the GM does the math? That's specious. Players will figure out what their opponents' levels of ability are through observation, and they will do the math.

Not that I think this is a bad thing, but it'll happen. I personally see the whole "math trasparency" issue as a non-factor. I prefer numbers myself. How strong is "Fair"? How much can I lift with it? In GURPS, I multiply my ST by 20 to determine my max lift (and by other factors for other lifts). So, looking at an 11, I have a good idea what that means.

Andrew would take it further, and just say, "You're character can max lift 200 lbs." There's nothing there to get in the way of understanding what it means (though I'd argue you lose something mechanically).

The point is that just translating between words and numbers does not remove the math. It just hides it. If that's something you want, fine. It's just always seemed odd to me. I always note how stilted the use of the descriptors seem. "I'll try to solve the puzzle cube with my Fair intelligence". Doesn't come off any more naturalistic than saying, "Ill try to solve the puzzle cube with my eleven intelligence".

Just my take, tho. Some people seem to think it helps.

Mike


I certainly buy what you are saying and personally I'd work to discourage the use of descriptors in actual play.

For the players they are there to add colour to their characters and aid them in envisioning their chosen role.

Taking your puzzle cube example, you know your character is fairly intelligent so why not just say, "I'll try and solve the puzzle." ? I, as GM already know that his is fairly intelligent, no need to state his level of intelligence is necessary. In game terms you'd know that your character is smarter than the average guy so maybe he can crack the puzzle.

In play, I'd summise that perhaps someone who is [/b]Reasonably intelligent (5) would have a 50/50 chance of solving the puzzle, I'd toss you a couple of dice, telling you that the puzzle looks pretty tricky and let you roll.

If say some other character happened to be a Renowned Professor of Mathematics (8) tried the puzzle then I'd toss him 4 dice and tell him that the puzzle seems fairly simplistic. In addition, the Renowned Professor could use that trait in a variety of ways to accomplish a number of inventive things.

Imagine your character (the fairly intelligent one) is trying to decipher a book containing some strange code which you're totally unfamiliar with. I may summise that even someone who is Very (7) Intelligent would struggle with deciphering the code. To you I'd say, "Looks totally unintelligible but you can try and give it a go.", toss you 4 dice and let you roll.

The Professor if confronted by the same code might assume that the code is beyond him but in character decides to pass it run it by one of his colleagues at the University where he lectures who he knows is adept at Crytography.

Regarding numbers. I'd envision that any translation between words and numbers would not be done by the players but by the GM. The players could conceivably write a brief character concept (sans numbers) from which the GM could extrapolate the abilities of pertinent traits.

Maybe thats a little idealistic, but I used a similar approach when I ran a couple of Window games and it seemed to work ok. In the Window though the players knew what die had been associated with what trait so thats a significant difference.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Walt Freitag on December 03, 2002, 12:15:11 PM
This is an elegant mechanism. Since you were interested in similar ideas discussed previously, I'll point out that it has a lot in common with the high-granularity variant of the "Symmetry" (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2509) mechanism I use for most of my role playing. Some of the similarities are:

- A variable number of dice rolled, with a result that's interpreted differently based on whether the chance of success is above or below 50%.

- The symmetrical quality itself, such that chance of failure if you roll equals chance of success if the opponent rolls, and vice versa.

- Centered on a 50% chance, and the residual chance of success or failure decays exponentially as one adds dice to move the odds away from 50%.

I gotta say, though, I like your mechanism better in many ways. Probably better overall, too, though I can't tell for sure until I've tried it out.

And I agree that the way you propose having the GM determine the number of dice during play, without mentioning the numbers or the descriptors out loud, can work. I've done this myself with high-granularity Symmetry. (The original low-granularity version, in which four points of difference have the same impact as one point in the high-granularity version, seems to fit better when the players are doing their own adding and subtracting and small modifiers can come into play.) It works because each die represents a doubling or halving of the task's relative difficulty to the character, so the on-the-fly assessments the GM is called only need ballpark accuracy. They're more convenient and even seem, to me at least, more natural. (Research has shown that in many cases, human senses and gut feelings are more oriented toward logarithmic scales than linear ones. That's why, for example, the decibel scale for perceived loudness of sound is logarithmic with respect to the actual energy of the sound.)

There's one issue you may want to consider in the numbers vs. descriptors issue. One thing Symmetry, and your system too I believe, is very good at accommodating is extreme old-school character advancement. Mechanically there's no difference between a character with a decoding skill of 5 attempting a decryption of difficulty 4, and a character with a decoding skill of 9 attempting a decryption of difficulty 8. In fact, there's no mechanical reason you couldn't go on to have a skill of 20 confronting difficulties also in the neighborhood of 20.

Tying the numbers to descriptors reduces this flexibility somewhat, because descriptors above "superb" tend to lose any clear sense of their relative meaning. That is, a "23 vs 20" situation remains easy to understand as numbers, while whatever descriptors you'd have to assign at that magnitude just get silly.

Using numbers alone without descriptors also helps at the low end of the advancement spectrum. If I have a skill of 3 and I routinely beat challenges of 1 and 2 (and sometimes even prevail over challenges of 3, 4, and 5) that arise, my character comes across as competent and I don't have to think of his skill as really just "mediocre" relative to some universal scale.

Of course, this is a non-issue if you don't want (as most designers here don't usually want) open-ended character advancement.

Best,
Walt


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 03, 2002, 02:43:37 PM
I still don't get it, sorry. What follows could constitute a rant. So be forewarned.

Sometimes in GURPS or whatever system, I do all the math myself in my head. What do my players do? They ask me how I got to that point. Why? Because they realize there is a math step, and they want to be able to do the calculations themselves. They are not satisfied with just not knowing. If the math is simple, like your game, they just automatically back-calculate (hmm, my skill is a four, and the diff is easy...the opponent must be a three).

Anyhow, the point is either I can do the math for any system in my head, and if I have players that don't care, they will not ask about it (in which case any system is just as "non-number" as any other), or the players will want to know the numbers, in which case, such a system is an impediment, and I'd be silly to do it, anyhow.

So, what's this system got that all other systems don't already have? Other than, perhaps text that encourages the GM to do all the math himself?

Again, if this is just a "feel" preference, then fine. I can't argue with that. But I'd argue that numbers give as good or better a feel. Personally.

When will players mention their stat ratings you ask? When you ask them for them.
Q."What are you using to open the box?"
A. "My Fair intelligence."

Again, the GM can do all this himself in any game. It just takes more effort. There's nothing specific to your game that makes this more true in the enumeration system. I play GURPS using chargen similar to what you describe. I ask a series of carefully selected questions, and just pick values that fit the description. Ignoring points. This makes GURPs chargen easier, and better, yes. But it's a function of that tactic, and has nothing to do with how the system rates anything. If you realy wanted to keep the numbers from the players, wouldn't you take away the cahracter sheet as a whole? So that they'd have to work from their impression of the character rather than have levels listed that could be converted.

Heck, GURPS resolution is just as simple. You always roll three dice and add them (please don't tell me that adding three numbers from one to six in onerous; moreso than searching four dice for the max value? Or sometimes the min?). Never any change. The player simply tells the GM the total, and he can do the neccesary comparison (assuming that the GM does it all himself).

I'm not saying that GURPS is a great system. It has it's flaws. I'm just not seeing how what you're doing is significantly different in terms of math or enumeration. Again, if you just like it, say so. But if I were to play, I'd chuck the descriptors, hand the character sheets to the players, and have them do the one step of math whenever they need to. It baffles me as to how this is an impediment to role-playing. It's never slowed down any game I've ever seen, or made any player somehow...I dunno, I can't even see what it might do: make them uncomfortable?

In fact allowing the players to do some of the work has its advantages. I certainly don't want to be hampered as a GM in my creativity in having to handle all the calcualtions myself, all the time. Bettter to distribute it about. In Rolemaster, I always assigned a player as "Chartboy" so that I could continue with play while they looked up results. GMs are players too!

This may come off as overblown. But I've never understood this POV. It doesn't make any sense mathematically. Perhaps that's just my math mind talking. I dunno. But I've yet to see a convincing argument to the opposite. And we've been over this about four times now (do a search on "Transparency" and "FUDGE" for examples).

Mike


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 03, 2002, 03:55:27 PM
I guess it comes down to my own personal view that having the players define and think of their characters in game terms as a series of numbers, stats, bonuses, etc can at times make them appear to be just that - an ordered list of numbers, bonuses, values or whatever.

I totally buy what you say about some players wanting to "know" how the system works. You can't hide the math, although you can disguise it's use.

Once players figure out how the system works then they can do the math themselves. Point is, even if they do know how things work it's the actual application of the mechanic that matters.

I'll pinch your example to show what I mean.

Q."What are you using to open the box?"
A. "My Fair intelligence."

I wouldn't even ask that sort of question in that sort of way if the player had announced that their character was trying to open a locked puzzle box.

I'd ask, "How are you trying to open it." and I'd expect an in character statement of intent  not an out of character one like, "Using my fair Intelligence".

Sure, a player could still answer, "I'm using my Fair Intelligence." but where is the roleplay in that?

The player could try to smash the box open "I have a crowbar, I'm going to try and prise it open and if that doesn't work I'm going to give it a few hefty whacks." (implied Strength assuming it's a bloody big box).

Or maybe the player could try to finesse it open, "I'm going to see if I can try and figure how the thing opens, is there a lock mechanism?" (implied Intelligence or Knowledge of some description.)

The point is I'd expect the player to tell me what their character is actually doing and infer from their stated intent what trait is most logically being employed.

In essence by limiting the requirement for the players to view aspects of their character in "game" terms (like stats or bonuses) I would hope to promote more in character roleplay.

It is very hard to be objective with ones own ideas and I fully appreciate your take on things. You're not ranting. You are giving an honest opinion which to be fair is one that some of the players in my own group would probably share.

Question: If a GM proposed running a game and presented you as a player with this kind of idea would it be a step too far?


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 04, 2002, 10:12:32 AM
Quote from: wfreitag
This is an elegant mechanism. Since you were interested in similar ideas discussed previously, I'll point out that it has a lot in common with the high-granularity variant of the "Symmetry" (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2509) mechanism I use for most of my role playing. Some of the similarities are:

- A variable number of dice rolled, with a result that's interpreted differently based on whether the chance of success is above or below 50%.

- The symmetrical quality itself, such that chance of failure if you roll equals chance of success if the opponent rolls, and vice versa.

- Centered on a 50% chance, and the residual chance of success or failure decays exponentially as one adds dice to move the odds away from 50%.

I gotta say, though, I like your mechanism better in many ways. Probably better overall, too, though I can't tell for sure until I've tried it out.

And I agree that the way you propose having the GM determine the number of dice during play, without mentioning the numbers or the descriptors out loud, can work. I've done this myself with high-granularity Symmetry. (The original low-granularity version, in which four points of difference have the same impact as one point in the high-granularity version, seems to fit better when the players are doing their own adding and subtracting and small modifiers can come into play.) It works because each die represents a doubling or halving of the task's relative difficulty to the character, so the on-the-fly assessments the GM is called only need ballpark accuracy. They're more convenient and even seem, to me at least, more natural. (Research has shown that in many cases, human senses and gut feelings are more oriented toward logarithmic scales than linear ones. That's why, for example, the decibel scale for perceived loudness of sound is logarithmic with respect to the actual energy of the sound.)

There's one issue you may want to consider in the numbers vs. descriptors issue. One thing Symmetry, and your system too I believe, is very good at accommodating is extreme old-school character advancement. Mechanically there's no difference between a character with a decoding skill of 5 attempting a decryption of difficulty 4, and a character with a decoding skill of 9 attempting a decryption of difficulty 8. In fact, there's no mechanical reason you couldn't go on to have a skill of 20 confronting difficulties also in the neighborhood of 20.

Tying the numbers to descriptors reduces this flexibility somewhat, because descriptors above "superb" tend to lose any clear sense of their relative meaning. That is, a "23 vs 20" situation remains easy to understand as numbers, while whatever descriptors you'd have to assign at that magnitude just get silly.

Using numbers alone without descriptors also helps at the low end of the advancement spectrum. If I have a skill of 3 and I routinely beat challenges of 1 and 2 (and sometimes even prevail over challenges of 3, 4, and 5) that arise, my character comes across as competent and I don't have to think of his skill as really just "mediocre" relative to some universal scale.

Of course, this is a non-issue if you don't want (as most designers here don't usually want) open-ended character advancement.

Best,
Walt


Thanks for the feedback wfrietag, much appreciated.

Your point about descriptors becoming less useful when you have a large scale (say 1 to 20) is one I agree with totally.

In practice I'd hope to maybe work the seed of an idea into running a game in my favorite setting which is Middle-Earth (I just love the ICE modules).

In terms of scale I would make a conscious effort to set PC traits so that absolute maximum values would be about 8 or 9 - denoting an extreme level of ability.

As a rough guideline, and totally off the top of my head, I'd probably have Superhuman/Supernatural traits (Nazgul, Trolls, Ents) falling in a range between say 8 and 12 with demi-god like traits (think Sauron, Gandalf or other Maia) upwards from 13.

i.e.
A fairly weedy Troll would be Incredibly (8) strong in human terms but an Uber-Troll might be Phenomenally (12) strong.

Nazgul would induce a Supernatural (9) aura of fear in most creatures, the Lord of the Nazgul could possibly have that ability at (11).

I don't expect the players to be mixing it up with the likes of Sauron though.

Most of the main protagonists in my games however tend to be humanoid rather than super-human monster-fiends so expect lots of Vicious (5-6) Orcs usually commanded by one or two Formidable (7-8) Uruk-Hai with maybe the odd Servant of the Eye (8-9) thrown in for fun.

That's the kind of scale that I see the mechanic working on.

For game balance and to present a challenging conflicts I figure that really hard antagonist traits/difficulties would be around the 7-12 mark although that obviously depends on the traits of the protagonists themselves.

Character advancement is a whole other topic although in practice I tend to employ in-play character rewards rather than metagame character advancement.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 04, 2002, 11:12:25 AM
I understand what you're going for. But there is nothing about having "Fair" on the character sheet that makes a player less likely to give a roleplaying description of their actions, than to just state the stat. I'm not saying all players do this, or that all would with your system. Just that the system is not achieving your goals, IMO.

You're goals, are, BTW, just fine. I'm not arguing with the notion that it might be cool to have a game that promoted such play. I'm only looking at what you have critically, and trying to help see whether or not it will achieve your goals.

I have played, and in fact run games in the manner that you describe. I've been using examples from those experiences. What I found is that my players hated it. They wanted to know the mechanics, and not knowing them just made them fidgety. They'd ask, "Well, what sort of chances does my character have to accomplish x?" etc. They wanted to know for various reasons, but a lot of it has to do withy control. I even experimented with systems where I, as GM, did all the rolling myself. THe players never saw anything mechanical at all. They hated this even worse. They wondered if it wasn't all arbitrarily being decided by me (after all I could be fudging every roll). Players get a sense of control from not only rolling their own dice (which you sensed, probably, as you didn't take that away from them), but from seeing the mechanics in action.

Now, my players are particularly of a certain variety. And not all players would respond so. But to the extent that the mechanics enhance the eperience, the players enjoy seeing them in action. To the extent that the mechanics don't enhance play, they should be non-existant. The system is, itself a part of play. If you don't want a resolution system to at all be the center of any of play, I suggest you not have one at all. Freeform RPGers (mostly the online variety; this does not refer to LARP) do without resolution systems just fine.

This is not to say that you can't keep the fortune system and yet still promote the sort of play you like. I think it just needs something else. For example, you should definitely include the "roleplaying bonus" as seen in games like Sorcerer. That is, if the GM likes the description, he could, for your system, bump down the difficulty by one level, or two in the case of extremely well described events. This incentivizes players not to say, "I use my Fair intelligence," or, "I hit it" as the descriptin of the intent of their action, but to be as narrative as possible.

These are the sorts of mechanics that actively enable the sort of play you describe. I've seen no evidence anywhere that simply relabeling traits accomplishes this in any way. I've seen as many FUDGE players go either way with their descriptions. Mostly seems to depend on what the "norm" was for the group they played in prior. Because, like your system, FUDGE does little to actively inform the player that the game is about better descriptions.

Now, that example mechanic is just a vague idea. But I'm sure that if you put your mind to it, you can come up with something linked to your game's premise that will produce the kind of play you're looking for.

This is getting to the point where it's going to become important to know what the other design goals of the game are before you can tweak it further. This highlights the problem of discussing any particular mechanic outside of the context of the game for which it might be used. Do you have something in mind?

Mike


Title: Re: Seed of an idea
Post by: Paganini on December 04, 2002, 11:43:58 AM
Cass, would joining the indie-netgaming group be a possibility for you? I'm really excited about the success of our Monday night games. They're regular as clock-work, and we've got a decent-sized core group that you can count on to show up, and a fairly large group of folks who are less regular, but some of whom can be counted on to show up every week. We hardly ever have fewer than 4 people these days. We play a large slice of indie games. It's all very informal, also. If you want to play something, you just bring it up on the mailing list (it's a yahoogroup).

You'd be able to try out a lot of different play styles. I think you might be surprised at how different the kind of gaming you've been doing (Window with task resolution) is from the kind of gaming you say you want. I know I was. :)


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 04, 2002, 12:38:15 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
This is getting to the point where it's going to become important to know what the other design goals of the game are before you can tweak it further. This highlights the problem of discussing any particular mechanic outside of the context of the game for which it might be used. Do you have something in mind?


I do actually and although it's by no means concrete but I'll do my best to try and flesh it out.

I chose the word "Fate" in the mechanic because it's a major aspect of the idea I have in my head.

After the characters have been written up but before the very first session each player will be asked to define what they believe to be their characters True fate to be but also their Dark Fate.

Both Fates must be realistic outcomes for the character given the setting and are tied in some way to the initial character concept.

This essentially has the players set what they believe their characters parameters for winning and losing.

Clearly defined player goals linked to their characters in the game.

The setting I run most of my games in Middle Earth mid 3rd age as Sauron is beginning to regain his influence and Dark Fates are usually tied in some way to furthering the cause of Sauron.

Arwen Example:
True fate = Marrying Aragorn, becoming mortal, having lots of little Aragorns.
Dark Fate = Seduced by Sauron into betraying her father and becoming the possesor of the ring of power owned by Galadriel.

Or maybe more generically take the X-Files:

Agent Mulder:
Ideal Fate: Finding the ultimate truth.
Dark Fate: Becoming part of the lie.

Use of the "Fate" resource in play would either push the character to their True Fate (win for the player) OR drive them closer to their Dark Fate (loss for the player).

In simple terms, if Fate reaches 0 then the character becomes a victim of Fate and their Dark Fate happens. The character ceases to be a player controlled protagonist in the game and the player assumes the role of a new character.

If your Fate reaches 10 (arbirtrary figure at the moment) then the characters True Fate comes to pass and is tied into the game. The player either sets a new True Fate for their character or the character ceases to become an active protagonist, the choice is the players.

The idea of winning and losing are Gamist but having the players actively think about what they really want to happen and perhaps more importantly what they don't want to happen to their characters is intended to help the players form a vested interest in the game driven by their own conceived goals.

Potentially, one players True Fate might come into conflict with another players - which could be fun to play out.

Risk (via the use of Fate in the mechanic) either helps the player get closer to their True Fate or moves them closer to their Dark Fate.

Rewards for "Good Roleplaying" could mean additional Fate points, and in line with the characters efforts to achieve their True Fate.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 04, 2002, 02:07:12 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
I understand what you're going for. But there is nothing about having "Fair" on the character sheet that makes a player less likely to give a roleplaying description of their actions, than to just state the stat. I'm not saying all players do this, or that all would with your system. Just that the system is not achieving your goals, IMO.


Creating and maintaining the impression during play that the players are to all intents and purposes their characters is a big part of what role-play is about for me.

"I'm going to use my Fair Intelligence to figure out how to open the puzzle box."

or...

"I'm going to try and figure out how to open the puzzle box and I'm going to use my Intelligence."

...or more bluntly...

"I'm going to try and figure out how to open the puzzle box I've got +3 intelligence."

Doesn't do anything as far as I can see to mantain the illusion that the players are actually playing the roles of their characters.

Each and every time that happens in play the player is dropping, albeit momentarily, the illusion that they are acting out the role of their character in the game.

"I'm going to try and figure out how to open the puzzle box."

For me maintains the illusion that the player is essentially still thinking and speaking in character. The illusion isn't broken.

I'll give you some typical examples from a d20 game I'm in at the moment. The GM is constantly asking things like...

"What did you get."
"What's you such and such bonus."
"Give me a reflex save."
"Give me a spot roll."
"What's your AC."

And loads of other little phrases which make you switch from character mode to player mode and back again. Drives me nuts. You are constantly reminded time and again that your character is just a bunch of numbers and bonuses. Playing Vampire is the same, just a different set of phrases.

I not a big fan of Freeform. Arbitrary decisions made by the GM and/or other players directing the course of play just don't excite me at all.

I like that element of chance that Fortune provides. The feeling that a contest can go one way or another and no-one really knows which way the dice will roll or what the eventual outcome will be. There is just something utterly suspenseful about rolling some dice and knowing that things could go badly.

Irrespective of all that I've got to say that I'm inclined to agree with you that some (maybe most) players get a big kick out of "the system", plus this, minus that, 10 dex, level whatever, are a big part of the games that we've all played.

Take that away and I think that players are likely to feel somewhat uneasy playing an RPG without some of the obvious elements they are used to.


Title: Re: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 04, 2002, 02:10:55 PM
Quote from: Paganini
Cass, would joining the indie-netgaming group be a possibility for you? I'm really excited about the success of our Monday night games. They're regular as clock-work, and we've got a decent-sized core group that you can count on to show up, and a fairly large group of folks who are less regular, but some of whom can be counted on to show up every week. We hardly ever have fewer than 4 people these days. We play a large slice of indie games. It's all very informal, also. If you want to play something, you just bring it up on the mailing list (it's a yahoogroup).

You'd be able to try out a lot of different play styles. I think you might be surprised at how different the kind of gaming you've been doing (Window with task resolution) is from the kind of gaming you say you want. I know I was. :)


Thanks for the invite Pag. I'd love to do something like although I'm guessing that most of you guys are from the States.

I live in England so the time difference may be a problem, we are 5 hours ahead of EST.

What time do you play?


Title: Fudge
Post by: zaal on December 04, 2002, 02:20:24 PM
Cassidy,

Have you heard of Fudge?  It's a pretty nice system that may work for you.  Trait levels are focus very much on words, but you can use dice to randomize results.  It's available online at Grey Ghost Games'website. (http://www.fudgerpg.com)

Jon


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 04, 2002, 02:23:44 PM
Have you read the System Does Matter essay, Cassidy?

What is the point to the first four fifths of that last post? How does it contradict anything that I've said?


And I like Fortune resolution, too, FWIW. The point is that in having such a system, that the system makes itself known through play. And there's not much you can do about it.

Mike


Title: Re: Fudge
Post by: Cassidy on December 04, 2002, 02:25:50 PM
Quote from: zaal
Cassidy,

Have you heard of Fudge?  It's a pretty nice system that may work for you.  Trait levels are focus very much on words, but you can use dice to randomize results.  It's available online at Grey Ghost Games'website. (http://www.fudgerpg.com)

Jon


Got my own set of Fudge dice so I have - very funky looking. It's a nice system but a little too math heavy for what I want.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 04, 2002, 02:40:41 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Have you read the System Does Matter essay, Cassidy?

What is the point to the first four fifths of that last post? How does it contradict anything that I've said?


And I like Fortune resolution, too, FWIW. The point is that in having such a system, that the system makes itself known through play. And there's not much you can do about it.

Mike


I've have read the "System Does Matter" essay. Is there a specific element of the essay that you want to draw my attention to?

My previous post wasn't meant to be a contradiction of anything that you said.

I was merely trying to illustrate how use of the mechanic in play would facilitate the illusion that the players are acting out the roles of their characters.


Title: Re: Fudge
Post by: Andrew Martin on December 04, 2002, 03:00:36 PM
Quote from: Cassidy
Got my own set of Fudge dice so I have - very funky looking. It's a nice system but a little too math heavy for what I want.


Could you explain further, please? I'm puzzled by this.


Title: Re: Fudge
Post by: Cassidy on December 05, 2002, 03:50:51 AM
Quote from: Andrew Martin
Quote from: Cassidy
Got my own set of Fudge dice so I have - very funky looking. It's a nice system but a little too math heavy for what I want.


Could you explain further, please? I'm puzzled by this.


Fudge seems ideal for a Simulationist approach to play. Doing ad-hoc math is standard for Fudge, i.e. roll 4DF,  shift your skill up or down depending on the result, tell GM result. Sometimes you add bonses for circumstance, sometimes you may check a chart to extrapolate results, that kind of thing.

The mechanic I've been trying to present is not meant to facilitate or promote a Simulationist mode of play among the players. If it was then I'd use a suitable RPG system that I'm familiar with. There's plenty to choose from.

The type of games I like which are ones in which the GM tries to emphasize and encourage a Narrativist approach to play.

The mechanic is merely a tool that is used to guide the narrative at certain points where either success/failure is important to some aspect of the story or where success/failure may both be equally good directions for the story take.

The characters traits identify those broad aspects of the character that are likely to be influencial in the creation of the story and when necessary actually quantifying them. The 'traits' are not meant to be narrow definitions of an ability, a skill, etc since I'm not attempting to simulate the imagined game reality in a degree of detail that say a system like Fudge can be made to do.


Title: Re: Seed of an idea
Post by: Paganini on December 05, 2002, 07:44:54 AM
Quote from: Cassidy

Thanks for the invite Pag. I'd love to do something like although I'm guessing that most of you guys are from the States.

I live in England so the time difference may be a problem, we are 5 hours ahead of EST.

What time do you play?


Most of us are, but not all of us. One guy is in Norway, I think, and another guy is down by Austrailia someplace (New Zealand I think). Anyway, gathering time is 8:00 PM CST, although most of us usally get there a bit early to talk shop. We usually have a game started by 8:30 or 9:00, assuming that we don't wait for anyone.


Title: Re: Fudge
Post by: Paganini on December 05, 2002, 07:52:33 AM
Quote from: Cassidy


The type of games I like which are ones in which the GM tries to emphasize and encourage a Narrativist approach to play.


At this point I'm sitting here chanting "Shadows! Shadows! Shadows!" like a fan at a sports game. :)

But, seriously. I might be able to point you at a game you're *not* familiar with that will do what you want, but I need a little more info. For one thing, are you looking for something more or less generic, as the Window is, that you can apply to any setting / genre etc.? Or does your group have a particular setting that you always play in?

Frex, if you want D&D style fantasy with a narrativist approach, Donjon is probably the way to go. The Pool and Shadows are more generic.


Title: Re: Fudge
Post by: Cassidy on December 05, 2002, 08:23:47 AM
Quote from: Paganini

But, seriously. I might be able to point you at a game you're *not* familiar with that will do what you want, but I need a little more info. For one thing, are you looking for something more or less generic, as the Window is, that you can apply to any setting / genre etc.? Or does your group have a particular setting that you always play in?


I guess the sort of setting that I prefer would be "low fantasy". By that I mean a setting where truly supernatural/magical/fantastical elements are present but rare and are definetly not the norm.

If you've ever read any books by an English author by the name of David Gemmell then thats the kind of setting and atmosphere I'd love to create.

:) I have a sudden urge to check our Shadows again.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 05, 2002, 09:06:56 AM
Quote from: Cassidy

I was merely trying to illustrate how use of the mechanic in play would facilitate the illusion that the players are acting out the roles of their characters.

But your post doesn't do that at all. You talk about how the GM will not ask questions that will lead to such play. You talk about appropriate player response, and what good play should look like. Then you point out how D&D does a bad job. But this is reasoning by induction, and you've made a big logical error. Which is that you assume that it's the fact that D&D does numbers that makes players speak about attributes and stats. That's simply not true.

In Sorcerer, to use an obvious example, players have several numerical scores. Further, each score has a descriptor attached to it. Yet, do you ever hear anyone reference these numbers or descriptors? Not really. It all goes very much in play like you describe being good play. What's the difference? In Sorcerer, you get extra dice for describing things in good narrative form. Thus if you include your descriptor in your narration somehow, the GM will give you a reward. However, you can't just keep saying, "I'm using my Athletic Stamina of three". That's never going to get you dice. What you have to say is, "Bob leaps high into the air, his well-toned musculature enabling him to get high enough to kick the demon in the head." That will get you dice. Thus this numerical/descriptor system always produces the desired effect.

It's the fact that D&D rewards careful consideration of your traits, and play bout them that results in their discussion. These stats are the point of play. All you have to do is avoid that in your game, and you're home free. But what do you hav right now? Something that is practically indistinguishable from FUDGE in terms of what sort of play it will produce. Your post above only enumerates how a GM should phrase questions, and how a player should respond. That's fine, but how does the system (System Does Matter) produce these effects? You can place admonitions in the text about doing like you describe, but historically, that does little. Take for example Storyteller which encourages detailed narrative in the text. Mechanically, however, it encourages Vampire: the Supers Combat. What do you get? Far more of the latter than the former.

So, is this just for your own consumption? Or do you want to develop a system that produces such play for others? If so, you'll have to go beyond translating numbers to descriptions. Because, just like in FUDGE play, it will not work with your system.

Now, the Fate mechanic idea has some merit as a reward system. But it seems a bit off to me. Basically, it encourages a player to go for their light fate, and discourages falling to the dark fate. This is gamist. Yes, promotion of "good" narration for the purpose of trying to achieve a prticular player goal is gamist. Or, at the very least, it's Simulationist trying to promote display of "winner" or light fate scenarios.

What if a player want's to play Narrativist, and explore his dark fate? You'll reward that angle only by narrating poorly? The reward should occur no matter which direction you go.

Others have suggested that what you want is Narrativism, and they may be right. Do you have an opinion on the subect? If it is Narrativism, then the Fate things needs some fixing, IMO.

Mike


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 05, 2002, 10:39:14 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

In Sorcerer, to use an obvious example, players have several numerical scores. Further, each score has a descriptor attached to it. Yet, do you ever hear anyone reference these numbers or descriptors? Not really.


During ongoing narrative focused play are you aware of those numerical scores?

Is your attention ever diverted from the narrative to look at those numerical scores when you are resolving an action?

If it is, then why is that?

Is it desirable to require players to divert their attention away from the in game narrative so that they can consider abstract numerical elements of their character.

How does that help further the narrative goals of the game?

Quote from: Mike Holmes

What if a player want's to play Narrativist, and explore his dark fate? You'll reward that angle only by narrating poorly? The reward should occur no matter which direction you go.


The concepts of True Fate and Dark Fate are the stated win/loss parameters as set by the player.

True Fate is the Fate that the player desires for their character and vice-versa.

If the player wants to explore a particularly nasty outcome for their player then that becomes their True Fate.

If you want to play a doomed warrior who is Fated to die in some particularly heinous way then thats his True Fate.

Conversely, the player could deem the characters Dark Fate to be one where the character becomes some fabled and highly renowned figure.

It could be fun to play a character who is truly destined to achieve some "evil" fate.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 05, 2002, 11:43:13 AM
Quote from: Cassidy
During ongoing narrative focused play are you aware of those numerical scores?
Yes, when they need to know how many dice to roll. Just like your game when the GM tells them how many to roll. In fact, the GM could keep the character sheets and just throw dice at players like you describe.

Quote
Is your attention ever diverted from the narrative to look at those numerical scores when you are resolving an action?
No moreso than your system. In fact, it's very similar. You look for your highest die, and do a comparison. Can be more effort if you tie with another roller, but not a lot.

Quote
Is it desirable to require players to divert their attention away from the in game narrative so that they can consider abstract numerical elements of their character.
No, but it'anot undesirable either. In either case this all misses the point, yet again. Neither system does anything with it's enumeration method to keep player's attentions away from the stats. Sorcerer does do something in it design outside of that, however. This is where it's a superior design in that light.

Quote

The concepts of True Fate and Dark Fate are the stated win/loss parameters as set by the player.

True Fate is the Fate that the player desires for their character and vice-versa.

If the player wants to explore a particularly nasty outcome for their player then that becomes their True Fate.
Gamist narration. Cool.

However, that means that all players will always attempt to play well, and, if that's the simple criteria, they will always succeed at achieving their True Fate. To avaoid this, you have to make the criteria strong.

In the only other systems that I've seen that use such a technique, Pantheon and Primeval, the player's play is judged by very specific criteria. Including failure criteria. The problem is that if you want to make your game work, there will be times when you have to not reward players for their play. When they think they should be rewarded. Such is the subjective nature of "good roleplaying".

The point is that if the rule is just "The GM decides", that's often waaay to subjective for many players. I wouldn't want to run it or play it. OTOH, if you were to set up some more specific criteria, then you might be onto something.

Mike


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 05, 2002, 12:34:57 PM
I haven't played Sorcerer and I've only read the online PDF a while back but from your reply it seems pretty close to what I'm after in terms of in play conflict resolution.

On the math/stat angle as I did mention before I am inclined to agree with you that stats and knowledge of how the "system" works are a necessary part of the whole gaming experience.

In hindsight, and on reflection, the notion of distancing the players totally from any inherent system mechanics is likely to be viewed suspiciously by some players. I suspect that to be true of the players in my group.

With that in mind, and assuming that it is in some ways desirable for the players to adopt an active role in "using the system" are there any drawbacks in the using the following sort of in play process to resolve conflict...

a) Conflict arises.
b) GM narrates the scene and requests statement of intent from player.
c) Player narrates statement of intent.
d) GM requests roll from the Player.
e) Player determines what dice need to be rolled and rolls them.
f) Results are interpreted and narrated.

The steps I would be concerned about are (d) and (e).

(d) Because the GM will have to step out of "narrative mode" to phrase the request to roll, potentially in using system terms that the player(s) can interpret.

i.e. "I need you to make a test - difficulty 7"
     "Give me a roll - difficulty 6"

I'm assuming that the character trait that is being tested is either inferred or stated in some way either by the GM or the player as part of the prior to the GM stated request to 'roll the dice'. This limits the need for the GM to refer to the trait being tested in 'system' terms.

I'm concerned that phrasing requests to the player could detract from the narrative tone that has previously been set and which I would be trying to maintain.

(e) Requires the players to step out of "narrative mode" to do the math which determines how many dice need to be rolled.

i.e. (player thinking)
<My Strength is 6, the difficulty is 7, 6 - 7 = -1, so I need to roll 2 dice and take the lowest result.>

or...

<My Perception is 8, the difficulty is 6, 8 - 6 = +2, so I need to roll 3 dice and take the highest result.>

Whilst it enhances the players feeling of 'involvement' in the 'mechanical' process of conflict resolution (which I accept some players like), I can't help feeling that it's potentially detracting from the narrative goals I want the game to achieve.

Am I just being over-zealous in my desire to create a gaming envoronment that is focused on promoting narrative play?


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 05, 2002, 12:47:47 PM
Rewards for "good role-playing" never seem to work in my group and thats probably due to the group dynamic more than anything else.

Some players are just more articulate and better able to role-play a character than others. They may inadvertently "over elaborate" or "grandstand" in an effort to be seen as "playing well" if they believe it is likely to result in an in-game reward of some sort.

Others players just aren't as eloquent or find it harder to adopt their chosen roles. They see rewards being handed out to other players who are just better role-players. Ego's get bruised and players can start to feel a marginalized from the game.

Have you experienced anything similar?


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 05, 2002, 01:32:39 PM
I have seen what you are talking about. In systems built inappropriately. This is the basic problem that I have with the Fate system you're building. Essentially, I feel neither good enough a roleplayer, nor judge to try the system out.

The ones that do work are the ones where the GM gives out the reward on the spot, the reward can't be gotten another way. And the GM gives them out like candy based on the effort the player displays. I once saw a guy go from complete D&D hacker mode of play, to complete narrativist play, simply because he saw that we were getting extra dice. The GM found a spot where the player described the action with the least little fair, getting into it. The GM said, "Cool!" and gave him an extra big bonus. From that point on there was no stopping this player.

Because it's not good roleplaying that we want. That's right. You and I both agree, it seems to me that what we want is effort in that direction. Some players just can't do it well. But that doesn't matter. As long as they're trying, that's all we can ask, right?

So what do we do? We give on the spot rewards for what we like to see. And players respond. Boy do they respond. You wouldn't believe. Such a switch in focus is startling. Because play suddenly goes from "I'm trying to win by player tactics" to "I'm trying to make this dramatic". And the difference can be like night and day. Starting with the player stopping thinking in terms of stats (which no longer have anything to do with the rewards), and instead starts thinking in terms of "cool".

Gotta admit it's getting to me. Actually, you can have the best of both worlds. See TROS.

Mike


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 05, 2002, 01:44:07 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

However, that means that all players will always attempt to play well, and, if that's the simple criteria, they will always succeed at achieving their True Fate. To avoid this, you have to make the criteria strong.


Absolutely.

Looking at the idea of True Fate and Dark Fate in terms of a "challenge" to the players...

Achieving one's True Fate should be an ongoing struggle, fraught with difficulty, peril and risk. In game terms it should be hard to achieve.

Achieving one's Dark Fate should be enticing, tempting, deceptively alluring, easily achievable. In game terms your Dark Fate should be easily achievable.

As I mentioned before, my preferred setting is Middle-Earth, and the influence of Sauron and/or other dark powers is potentially a workable rationale for the concept of True/Dark Fate.

Powerful immortal beings such as Sauron (or before him Morgoth) seek to shape the world in their own design, a design that was never intended to be and which is the antithesis of the original thought of the creator, Eru.

Will the characters become part of that design? Will they be manipulated by immortal powers far greater than themselves with the will and the power to alter destiny?

In game terms, spending Fate is the tempter. Every time you spend Fate you are effectively attempting to alter your destiny, your True Fate. You are trying to shape an event by your own will, weilding a little of that Dark Power that Sauron himself wields.

When you've spent all your Fate then you are bound to a destiny that is in some way tied to the dark design of Sauron. Your Dark Fate.

Regaining Fate should be hard.

I can't think of an in-game process under the direct control of the players that I could use which would fit.

As such I'm thinking that it would be better to award Fate as a consequence of the characters in-play activities that can be directly tied to or rationally deemed to be bringing them closer to their True Fate.

As a concept I believe it has potential. Clearly defined player goals are very often missing in games and often unstated. Allowing the players to define those goals and through actual play work towards them seems a very good way to engage the players interest.

In practice I can see that it has some problems though.

Players will naturally have diverse True Fates. Moderating play so that each players perceived progression towards their True Fate is in sync with the overall story is going to be tricky. I guess I'll just have to be inventive.

If it can be done though, and each players chosen True Fate is engaging and interesting then there is a very good chance that the players are going to enjoy the game, which is the ultimate aim.

Time as well is a factor. How long should it take for a player to achieve their True Fate?

What happens when one player acheives their True Fate? It would seem like a natural end for the player since there is little to compel them to carry on playing other than to create a new True Fate.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Andrew Martin on December 05, 2002, 01:47:15 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
We give on the spot rewards for what we like to see. And players respond. Boy do they respond. You wouldn't believe. Such a switch in focus is startling. Because play suddenly goes from "I'm trying to win by player tactics" to "I'm trying to make this dramatic". And the difference can be like night and day. Starting with the player stopping thinking in terms of stats (which no longer have anything to do with the rewards), and instead starts thinking in terms of "cool".


I totally agree. For munchkins, it's the instant reward, "what gives me the most plusses?" And the answer is, "to roleplay gives me the most plusses." Now you've got a roleplayer, instead of a munchkin.

A similar reward scheme gets great drama and moral choices. Any time the player chooses to make life more difficult for their character, instantly reward the player with more in-game power. And very, very quickly, you'll have dramatic play.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 05, 2002, 02:02:45 PM
MH, I just read your "on the spot reward" post.

I never envisaged handing out Fate points like as a reward for good narrative play.

Given your experiences I suppose if I did then players would achieve their True Fate before the pizza had time to go cold :)

Short game.

I always saw Fate points as a long-term reward thing, a defined goal for the player to strive towards which addresed some kind of theme that was of personal interest to the player.

Question:

What about awarding a player who gives a suitably vivid description of intent the right to narrate the outcome?


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Paganini on December 05, 2002, 02:42:41 PM
Hey Cassidy,

I'm not sure that you have a clear picture of what a narrativist system actually looks like, yet. The Forge on the whole has adopted the terms Ron uses in his "GNS" essay. There are some dissenters (Hi Fang!) who keep things interesting, but as a rule if you say "narrativism," people will assume that you're talking about narrativism as described in Ron's essay. Therefore, if you say that you're looking for a narrativist system, it's important that you understand how the word is locally defined. It may turn out that narrativism isn't actually what you're after at all, but rather a system with few "Points of Contact," as described in one recent thread, or a system that encourages player director stance, frex.

Remember that the phrase [sic] "narrativist system" is a short-hand that means "a system that facilitates or promotes narrativst play." So what exactly is narrativist play? Two points are required for narrativist play to exist:

1) Player contribution to narration - IOW, the story-telling duties are not all left up to the GM.

2) The group as a whole prioritizes the exploration of some "thematic question," which is what Ron calls "premise."

The tricky thing is that, until you've tried it, it's (IMO) impossible to grok what a narrativist style game section actually looks like. I was in that position not that long ago, where I'd read the essay, understood the concepts intellectually. Then I actually played a narrativist game, and was totally blown away by how different it was from what I'd imagined.

Now, in order for a *system* (as opposed to a session) to be narrativist, it must facilitate and / or promote points 1 and 2. Shadows and the Pool are very explicit about point 1, but leave point 2 up to the group. This means that, game sessions using these systems aren't necessarily narrativist, if you play them exactly as writen. I think this is what Ron calls "abashedly narrativist." It's really easy to play narrativist games with the Pool and Shadows, but the systems of those two games aren't out actively campaigning for a premise. :)

Mike and J.B.'s Synthesis is an example of a game that tries to actively promote point 2. It's in the playtest phase right now, and has a couple of problems, but I think you can still get a lot out of it. (It's actually one of my favorite games right now, coming in fairly closely behind Universalis. If only Synthesis had more director stance... <ducks froth from Mike> :)

Anyway, as it turns out, all this time I thought I was hardcore narrativist, I was wrong! I'm not really into addressing a premise. I enjoy playing in narrativist games, but I can do just as well without a premise as with one. What I really enjoy (and what Shadows and Universalis do very very well) is simulationism (prioritising exploration of situation, character, and / or color) coupled with a hefty dose of player director power (IOW, lots of narration from everywhere, not just the GM). This is one reason I love Universalis. There *is* no GM, so all the narration comes from players in director stance.

This sort of play may often, in retrospect, look a lot like narrativism. It tends to produce oustanding stories, and looking back over a play session you may even be able to identify premise being addressed. (For a good example of this see this (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3939&highlight=shadows+monday) shadows game report I posted over in the Actual Play forum.) The difference is that *during play* exploration of a premise was not prioritized. It may turn out that a premise was addressed, but any such circumstance is purely coincidental.

From your posts I suspect that you may be, as I am, more interested in this kind of play than in hardcore narrativism.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 05, 2002, 03:11:58 PM
Holy cow, Nathan. :-)

Don't let Nathan get you down. You may, in fact, have a perfectly good vision of what Narrativism is. Or not. Either way, that's not actually all that important. You've got goals, and you're trying to get to them, and that's fine.

The problem, again, with "suitably vivid" is that it's very much a GM call. The rewards should be easy to get, actually. Any attempt at appropriate play should get some reward (essentially make it so that not getting the minimum entitled reward is a punishment for poor play which will be reare under sucs a system). The easier they are to get, the greater the fecundity of the response. The key is the phrase "like candy". Give them out left and right, and players will be constantly clammoring for them.

As such, the reward should be of variable intensity. Low reward for any weak effort, large reward for really good effort.

And no reward then becomes a punishment for outright poor play.

"What no dice?"
"Dude, that sucked; don't refer to your character sheet next time."
"Oh, I get it."

:-)

Garunteed results.

Mike


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 06, 2002, 03:24:34 AM
Quote from: Paganini
From your posts I suspect that you may be, as I am, more interested in this kind of play than in hardcore narrativism.


For me, GNS defined Narrativism that requires players to prioritorize a recognizable theme that addresses or explores some ethical of moral issue is not a suitable mode of play for my group.

I know my players and not all of them are going to be interested in addressing the same narrativist premise or will prioritorize that premise during play. For me, it would be futile even trying to run a game in tha way.

Quote from: Paganini
What I really enjoy (and what Shadows and Universalis do very very well) is simulationism (prioritising exploration of situation, character, and / or color) coupled with a hefty dose of player director power (IOW, lots of narration from everywhere, not just the GM). This is one reason I love Universalis. There *is* no GM, so all the narration comes from players in director stance.


This hits a chord with me.

What I like to see...

Use of descriptive narrative to provide colour, tone and atmosphere to help create in the minds of the players the imagined setting, situation, characters etc.

Some (not a lot, but some) director stance play from players which allow them to direct the course of the story. Before I read GNS or even found the Forge I've allowed that to happen on an ad-hoc basis in any case. If a player gives me a good description, or the scene is vital to the player, or even if say the player gets a perceived outstanding outcome or pathetically dismal outcome I'll usually say, "Tell me what happens."


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 06, 2002, 04:07:17 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

Don't let Nathan get you down.


I won't. He's just more familiar with the whole GNS thing that I am.

In a perverse sort of way I think it may have been better if I hadn't even tried to use any GNS terms in my posts.

Quote from: Mike Holmes

The problem, again, with "suitably vivid" is that it's very much a GM call.


"Vivid" was the wrong term for me to use. If the players do end up giving vivid descriptions then great. I guess what really matters is that the players are consciously trying to add some colour and atmosphere to the game through the use of narrative. When they are able to that that unconsciously (i.e. without even thinking about it), then you've got to be onto a good thing.

I wonder of thats why the Pool seems to have the appeal it does at the Forge.

The reason for the 1-3 die GM award to players in the Pool is never explained but it seems obvious that it's the 'candy' you refer to.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Paganini on December 06, 2002, 06:57:30 AM
Quote from: Cassidy

For me, GNS defined Narrativism that requires players to prioritorize a recognizable theme that addresses or explores some ethical of moral issue is not a suitable mode of play for my group.


Ah, aha. <nods like a wise sage>

;)

That makes sense. (Although, you might want to try it just once. Posts in the Actual Play forum often contain surprise at how certain players took unexpectedly to certain play styles.) But, in any case, I'm with you in prefering no premise. The more I play, the more I find I'm a sim/sit kind of guy.

Quote from: Cassidy

Use of descriptive narrative to provide colour, tone and atmosphere to help create in the minds of the players the imagined setting, situation, characters etc.

Some (not a lot, but some) director stance play from players which allow them to direct the course of the story. Before I read GNS or even found the Forge I've allowed that to happen on an ad-hoc basis in any case. If a player gives me a good description, or the scene is vital to the player, or even if say the player gets a perceived outstanding outcome or pathetically dismal outcome I'll usually say, "Tell me what happens."


Mmmm. You might not like Shadows, in that case, because it has *lots* o' director stance. Basically, players can narrate whenever they wish. The content of the narration is limited by a Shadow Roll, but that's a tangential point.

Have you... er... played Donjon? In spite of how Clinton has made it look on the outside (D&D Parody) inside it's a really cool fantasy adventure game with some player empowerment. Specificaly, when you get successes on a roll you have a choice: You either spend the successes to define "facts" in the game world (as in "There's an orc hiding behind that rock. He wants to ambush us.") or to get bonus dice on your next roll (assuming that you can justify a relation between the rolls). This works in reverse, so that when a player fails a roll, the GM spends the successes to define facts.

The nifty thing is that whoever fails does the narrating. If the player wins the roll, the player defines the facts, but the GM narrates them. If the GM wins the roll, the GM defines the facts, but the player narrates them.


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Paganini on December 06, 2002, 06:58:51 AM
Quote from: Cassidy

I won't. He's just more familiar with the whole GNS thing that I am.

In a perverse sort of way I think it may have been better if I hadn't even tried to use any GNS terms in my posts.


That's an unfortunate side-effect of the very specialist terms Ron chose to emply when writing the thing. They work, but they don't mean what they look like they should mean at first glance. :)


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Mike Holmes on December 06, 2002, 08:10:45 AM
I think we're starting to communicate.

Quote from: Cassidy
"Vivid" was the wrong term for me to use. If the players do end up giving vivid descriptions then great. I guess what really matters is that the players are consciously trying to add some colour and atmosphere to the game through the use of narrative. When they are able to that that unconsciously (i.e. without even thinking about it), then you've got to be onto a good thing.
Ok, that's a well defined, and interesting goal. What we're now looking at is what your system will do to make that happen.

Quote
I wonder of thats why the Pool seems to have the appeal it does at the Forge.

The reason for the 1-3 die GM award to players in the Pool is never explained but it seems obvious that it's the 'candy' you refer to.
The 1-3 dice are not to encourage good description. In fact, this is a problem in using such a mechanic. Which is to say that if you use FitM at all, there is usually very little to be done in the iniation step, and therefore, little ground to make reward decisions on. In some systems you might even want to discourage pre-fortune narration; The Pool is one of those.

No, the GM dice in The Pool are there to encourage the player to keep the game oriented in a correct thematic manner. That is, the conflicts that the plyer calls for need to make sense in the context of he story. But if "I kill him" is thematically appropriate (the character has a killin' motif), then that statement alone should get three dice. It's not for good narration of the situation (though I suppose that could help).

Interestingly, what makes both The Pool and Universalis Narrativist, if anything, is that there is nothing else to do. Having stripped off all the possibly gamist or sim elements, all you are left with is the urge to tell a story. But strictly speaking, neither of these games has the sort of mechanic you are looking for. That is, nothing in either game rewards good narration per se.

Closer, but still not on target, are 7th Sea's Drama dice. These are again more for thematic elements, however. That is, if the player has the character act in a dramatic manner, he is rewarded. Again, at the right moment, "I kill him" could garner you as large a reward as any more flowery description.

In fact, only a few games have the sort of mechanics that you need. I've mentioned Sorcerer, and, actually, I can't think of any more.

Which is to say, mostly you're in uncharted territory. Cool, eh? That is, you have a neat opportunity to create a new mechanic that does something in a manner never before seen. A few others are working on the same problem now, but nobody has reported success.

This also means that I have no good suggestions for you. You could copy Sorcerer's idea. But that's no fun. Looking at the Fate thing, I see a lot of conflicts of interest. Interestingly, what I see is a Narrativist mechanic, but not one that can be used to reward good narration effectively. Hmmm..

One easy change is that you could simply increase the number of Fate points required. That is, instead of ten, say fifty. What this does is allows you as the GM to hand them out in variable amounts based on every player Narration. That is, a basic try gets you one, a good effort get's two, and an outstanding effort gets you three. Poor, irrelevant, or unimportant narration gets nothing. The point is to give the player 0-3 Fate every time they describe how their character is approaching a problem. Very much like Sorcerer in this respect.

Anyhow, what this means is that, if you are somewhat stingy, and give out the twos only occasionally, and the threes only once a session or so, it will probably take three to four (4 hour) sessions to get to your end, assuming that the player never uses any Fate for rolls. Which I doubt. Let's estimate that it would double length, making the ccampaign go about eight sessions? Just a WAG really.

The nifty thing about going this way is that a player always will have more Fate than he needs, and as such will be very tempted to use it. What's a couple here or there when you've got thirty? This empowers players to protagonize their characters whenever they see the need.

Another cool thing is that you can choose a magnitude for the Fates selected in different games. For example, if you're going after Sauron, that might be a 100 Fate Target. A simple quest to get, say, the book of Marzabul might be only 30. In that way the GM can control the length and magnitude of the game to suit.

BTW, if you really wanted to leverage this, just ensure that all conflicts have relatively high values. That will make player expenditure of Fate a much more important consideration for success. Every roll becomes a question of how much Fate to spend. This is very dramatic, and sounds cool to me. No "shoe tieing" dierolls, all conflicts should be presented as diff 8 river crossings, and worse.

Still, I see other kinks to be worked out. For example, how do you orchestrate the events such that the character happens to be in the right place at the right time when he gets that last Fate point he needs? Also, I really don't ever see the player running low on dice, unless you pound them with danger. What possible incentive could the player have to spend that last die? If it's a choice between that and death, then it simply beccomes a player choice: Death or Dark Fate. Hmm. Actually that might work. But definitely something to ponder.

With work, this could be very cool.

Mike


Title: Seed of an idea
Post by: Cassidy on December 07, 2002, 03:49:42 PM
Thanks for the reply, you've given me a great deal to think about.

The feedback I've received from all quarters has been insightful and if has helped solidify my design goals.

The hard part now is translating those goals into a coherent game design.

Wish me luck :)