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Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 22, 2003, 03:04:50 PM
Hello,

This is the second of a few little readings-over I've finally made time for. All of them are games that I think are phenomenal starting-out phases in their development, only a few playtesting experiences away from the I'll-buy-it point.

Thugs & Thieves is written by Ethan Greer:
Thugs and Thieves: a summary (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=5939)
Thugs and Thieves: first draft (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6099)
[Thugs and Thieves] Playtest version 1 (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6542)
Thugs and Thieves: playtest version (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7474)
Thugs and Thieves: conflict resolution (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7553)

I have sought long and hard for what might be called "solid little Sim" games. This might be one of the first High Concept ones to appear that works without saddling me with hundreds of pages of stuff to learn. It does that by abstracting its "setting" from the source material, without providing a source-material-inspired setting of its own.

Thugs & Thieves has almost too many virtues (or at least homages/influences from things I like) to list. A couple include the Dynamic descriptors option, from Hero Wars, and the Mastery mechanic, which is like a Devil from Dust Devils, but oriented toward celebrating one's plot hook rather than toward gut-ripping Narrativism.

Minor points and comments
As we discussed in the forums, the conflict system needs an "out" for people who've rolled low and would rather not continue with their stated action. This was inspired by Sorcerer, which in turn was inspired by Zero, so Ethan, check out both of these for their "abort" mechanic. As I stated in the forum discussion, I don't suggest necessarily copying that mechanic, but rather combining one's "do-over" option in the middle of resolution with some feature of the Thugs & Thieves raison d'etre, such as having to sacrifice some resource or opportunity related to one's Vice.

A couple of the Attributes seem to overlap to me, most notably Stealth & Cunning, and Physique & Prowess. For example, let's say my character is fighting some guy as they balance on a log overlooking a chasm. My guy gets disarmed! Shit! So he drops off the log, catching it with his hands, and swings up behind to kick the opponent from an unexpected direction! Cool ... but is it Fighting, or Prowess? I suggest providing some good examples of making that kind of decision during play.

I like the reward system, in terms of the game's extremely clear "fun kickass Sim" source-material-celebratory goals. It's not about getting all better than everyone, although that happens to occur. Nor is it about making any sort of major comment on moral/ethical issues. It's just about whether you feel like playing this guy some more or not.

The "wandering, godless ronin" mechanics are surpassing brilliant. I love it, especially because it's a solid punishment mechanic that still permits, if one is so inclined, a chance for redemption. But it does not, thank you thank you, romanticize the "ronin" thing by making them more effective - the curse of most samurai RPGs.

Major point
Just as I commented on for Sean Hillman's Empire of the Dragon Lotus, this game needs major text guidance for scenario preparation and application. However, since the stated goals of play are so different, my advice is different. In this case, it's not about putting the crunch on some moral or identity crisis via the Setting ... it's about Situation. Just plain adversity - the characters want to profit, and the world is full of ways to kill you while you try.

So what constitutes an excellent Thugs & Thieves adventure? The key element to my way of thinking might surprise you - it's geography. In every cool-ass pulp adventure I ever read, or any plain fun pulp-fantasy movie I ever saw, geographical features as well as distance among locales are hugely important. They force separations among protagonists and provide opportunities for suddenly reuniting them, provide set-piece choreography, and contain back-story and property that the NPCs really care about.

But that's just my take on things. Ethan, my advice is to articulate just what a GM should have written out in order to run the best Thugs & Thieves possible. Just as with Sean, I'm saying that whatever this is, it's probably the last thing that you, personally, need to write down or to remind yourself during play. After all, your facility with the whatever-it-is is what led you to be the person who could write the game in the first place. But again, it's probably the most crucial piece of the game text that you have to provide.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: ethan_greer on August 23, 2003, 05:57:24 PM
Sheesh.  I am just now finally getting a moment to respond to this; what a weekend.  First, thanks for the praise!  It's extremely encouraging.  Second, thanks for compiling all the Thugs and Thieves threads thus far; quite helpful.  Especially from a designer's standpoint, it's real interesting to go back through those and see how the game's evolved.

I'll go ahead and go point by point.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
As we discussed in the forums, the conflict system needs an "out" for people who've rolled low and would rather not continue with their stated action. This was inspired by Sorcerer, which in turn was inspired by Zero, so Ethan, check out both of these for their "abort" mechanic. As I stated in the forum discussion, I don't suggest necessarily copying that mechanic, but rather combining one's "do-over" option in the middle of resolution with some feature of the Thugs & Thieves raison d'etre, such as having to sacrifice some resource or opportunity related to one's Vice.

Actually, as a result of that conversation I've added some things.  First, you can abort to defend against an attack if you so choose (and if you've already gone, you defend for free).  Pretty much like Sorcerer there.  Second, I really liked the idea you had about giving the abort option some narrative punch, so I've incorporated that.  Here's the text from the current version of the document on my hard drive:
Quote
...A participant may simply elect to abort his action completely, but this comes at a cost: Each action that is aborted garners a cumulative -1 penalty on the character’s next MASTERY roll. The reason being, switching gears quickly in a stressful conflict is, well, stressful. As a result, the character is less likely to exhibit a great deal of willpower when he gets paid.

How's that sound?  I like the way it "feels" when I read it, but I'll get a chance to playtest tomorrow, and that'll be the acid test.  For now, whaddya think?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
A couple of the Attributes seem to overlap to me, most notably Stealth & Cunning, and Physique & Prowess. For example, let's say my character is fighting some guy as they balance on a log overlooking a chasm. My guy gets disarmed! Shit! So he drops off the log, catching it with his hands, and swings up behind to kick the opponent from an unexpected direction! Cool ... but is it Fighting, or Prowess? I suggest providing some good examples of making that kind of decision during play.

Good call; I should take a cue from Pollies (http://www.simplephrase.com/freestuff/pollies/) in that respect, which had good guidelines for Attribute use.  (IMHO.)

To answer your direct questions:  Stealth vs. Cunning:  Stealth is physical, sneaking around, picking pockets, knife in the back, etc.  Cunning is the catch-all mental stat covering things like being clever, lying or catching others in lies, noticing stuff, willpower, memory, etc.  Mental=Cunning, physical=Stealth.

As far as Prowess vs. Physique: Prowess is combat effectiveness, period.  Anytime you're attacking someone to do damage, Prowess is used.  So in your example, guy1 swinging around on the log uses Prowess because he's attacking.  If he's successful, guy2 who gets kicked gets a chance to defend.  If he fails the defense, he would need to make a Physique roll to avoid the Wound.  On the other hand, if Guy1 is swinging around to trip Guy2 and knock him off the log, it would simply be an opposed Physique roll.  Prowess measures a character's ability to hurt people/things.  Physique measures everything and anything else having to do with physical activity.

On the rewards: Are you talking about the Purchasing, or the Ability advancement at the end of the session?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The "wandering, godless ronin" mechanics are surpassing brilliant. I love it, especially because it's a solid punishment mechanic that still permits, if one is so inclined, a chance for redemption. But it does not, thank you thank you, romanticize the "ronin" thing by making them more effective - the curse of most samurai RPGs.

I'm not sure I'm following what you mean when you talk about the "ronin" mechanics.  The punishment mechanic is, I'm assuming, the Mastery stuff?  And, but, the characters are more effective than most folks.  I'm lost here.  Can you clarify?  Whatever you're talking about, I'm glad you think it's brilliant... :)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Ethan, my advice is to articulate just what a GM should have written out in order to run the best Thugs & Thieves possible.

Solid advice.  Consider it taken.  Here's my plan: provide guidelines for building scenarios using explanatory text and including examples.  Then, conclude with a "putting it all together" section that takes the examples and ellaborates and compiles them into a sample scenario that purchasers can run when they get the book.  How's that sound?

Thanks again for all the great comments, Ron.  You da man.


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: Andrew Martin on August 23, 2003, 06:27:53 PM
Quote from: ethan_greer
Quote from: Ron Edwards
The "wandering, godless ronin" mechanics are surpassing brilliant. I love it, especially because it's a solid punishment mechanic that still permits, if one is so inclined, a chance for redemption. But it does not, thank you thank you, romanticize the "ronin" thing by making them more effective - the curse of most samurai RPGs.

I'm not sure I'm following what you mean when you talk about the "ronin" mechanics.  The punishment mechanic is, I'm assuming, the Mastery stuff?  And, but, the characters are more effective than most folks.  I'm lost here.  Can you clarify?  Whatever you're talking about, I'm glad you think it's brilliant... :)


I think that Ron was thinking of Empire of the Dragon Lotus at the time.


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: ethan_greer on August 23, 2003, 07:54:10 PM
If that's the case, darn.  I wanted to be brilliant. :)

But, I also forgot to mention something above (hard to believe, I know).  Namely, what about the stuff that is there about how to play?  Specifically, I've got a couple suggestions on how to run games, ideas for adventures, and a section on setting, and how it is mutable to the needs of the GM.  Also there are bits in the "How Long..." section that address different styles of games.  Good start?


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 24, 2003, 10:02:23 AM
Hi Ethan,

Whoops, that ronin material was for the Empire post. Sorry about that.

About those comments, I was working with a slightly older draft, I think, that didn't have much stuff about "how to play." The current material is definitely going in the right direction. Is it the right stuff to say, or too much or too little? I don't know. This kind of genuinely constructive "how to play" prose is so rare in RPG history that it's hard to judge.

I think that linking aborting to the Mastery mechanic is a great idea, but remember that you're talking to the guy who thinks "rules" are primarily social and aesthetic agreements, rather than representational features of the in-game world. So I bet another guy might protest that aborting an action in a fight "doesn't have to reduce one's ability to resist temptation." And then you'd have to explain the rule to his satisfaction in some way.

About the rewards, I was talking about the abilities-improvement. I forgot to mention how much I like the wealth rules, too.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: David Chunn on August 24, 2003, 09:56:43 PM
Love the system and the title.  This little game has it going on for me.  I ran a mini-campaign like this a few years ago, and I wish I'd had these rules then.

I agree with Ron about the importance of the geography.  And I think it should have a primal feel, too.  In a way, the locale is an adversary, if for no other reason than the fact that it won't slavishly cater to my hero's vice.  Also, there never seem to be any good options for work in these harsh places, especially when the vice begins to call the loudest.  

Examples:  

1.  The desert that keeps my hero from getting work, makes him thirsty and yet keeps him from getting another drink.  

2.  This damned exotic town full of beautiful women but all of them in these blasted, guarded harems.  

3.  "What!  No one but sorcerers hire mercenaries here?  Can I afford to get back to a civilized place . . . oh, damn it, is that an opium merchant?  Guess I can work for a sorcerer."  

I also think good NPCs are important, the kind who know the charcter's vice and don't mind taking a little advantage.  Like the ones who like to go 'vicing' with the character upon his return to town.  You know, that friend who always gets you into trouble and somehow manages to mooch off you no matter how hard you try.  That sort of thing.

Most other characters in the setting need to be just as vice-ridden as the player-characters.

If you haven't, you really should read some of the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Lieber and the Howard Conan stories.  This would make a good system for a couple of Lankhmar adventures.


--David


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: ethan_greer on August 25, 2003, 07:37:46 AM
Hi David.  If no-one's said it yet, welcome!

I'm having a bit of trouble getting a handle on exactly what you and Ron mean when you refer to geography.  To quote from the text:

Quote
The specific details of the lands your characters live in and explore are entirely up to you. Remember that the best Thugs and Thieves settings are all about flavor and attitude. Do you want a big sprawling desert city? Poof! There it is. An ancient, sprawling forest filled with dire beasts and carnivorous plants? Poof! There it is. A giant cave complex with a floor plan shaped like a human skeleton? Poof! A ruined temple to forgotten gods haunted by ghosts and plagued by fell beasts?  Poof! All of this poofing is to emphasize the primary setting guidelines for Thugs and Thieves: Don’t worry too much about details. This isn’t a game about history, rich political landscapes, delicately balanced fictional ecologies, trade routes, or how many families inhabit this or that town. If you have a general idea of how things work and what things look like, that general idea will be enough for you to keep things consistent enough to support a campaign.

So, is that the sort of geographical info you're talking about?  Is it on the right track?  What sorts of things do I need to say to nail down the concepts of how geography interacts with play?

When you ran that mini-campaign, what system did you use?  What sorts of mechanics did it provide that supported the style?  Anything you think I should add to Thugs and Thieves based on that experience?

That NPC stuff you mention is great advice, by the way, in the "why didn't I think of that" sense. I'll be including guidelines for that straight away.  Thanks!


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: David Chunn on August 25, 2003, 01:56:19 PM
Thanks for the welcome, Ethan!  (Everyone around here is always so nice and polite, which I guess is why I decided to stop lurking and post.)

Glad the NPC comments helped.

The system I used was one I created with a friend.  A solid, tactical adventuring system, but it was made with a sort of swashbuckling setting in mind.  It worked well after a few quick adaptations, but it didn't have just the right flava.  It was clean and useful but did nothing to support the feel or style of the game.  I had to do that on my own.  It was a dark, arabian sword & sorcery kind of campaign, and the system felt too clean compared with the atmosphere.  I don't know of anything I needed that your system would not have provided, but if I think of something, I'll let you know.

As for geography, I think you're right on with the lack of extensive setting details stuff.  The most important thing is conveying atmosphere.  And style; it's all about style.  The landscapes have to feel seedy, primal, and vice-ridden.  Conflict arises from the land as well as opponents.

What you've got is an intro that tells us how we don't need the details and can set it wherever we want.  Now we just need the text to help us figure out how to make appopriate settings in terms of atmosphere and conflict, so we can run some kick-ass adventures.

What can I do to get the right feel across to my players?  What kind of conflicts would work best and how should I tie those into my characters vices?  (The NPC stuff fits in with this.)  Maybe expand those examples out into a couple of paragraphs each.

How do I give that ancient sprawling forest the right kind of feel?  What makes it a Thugs & Thieves scenario instead of a D&D adventure?  What appropriate conflicts would I find there?  How do I motivate the characters into those settings?

I could be all wrong, but it feels like you may be holding back a little on the atmosphere and conflict because you're trying to stress that people can set their adventures wherever they want.  But I think you can get both across at the same time.  

I hope that helps.

--David


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: ethan_greer on August 25, 2003, 05:55:15 PM
David, that did help.  Thanks!


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 26, 2003, 10:57:16 AM
Hi Ethan,

David's right on target (welcome, David!), but maybe that geography point isn't coming across.

I understand and agree with your point about geography as it relates to Setting (which is consonant with my points in Sorcerer & Sword), which is to say, don't work from a Big Game World Map. But I'm talking about geography as it relates to Situation. These are really different things.

Geography relates to Situation by providing specific adversity. In a dungeon-oriented Gamist game (like my current Tunnels & Trolls one), it's not the world map that matters, but rather my tunnel-to-hallway, level-by-level map, and it matters a lot. In that case, it's all about providing instances of tactical pressure for the players. In the case of Thugs & Thieves, it would be all about providing crisis points for character performance, i.e., ability rolls for the most part.

Rope bridges. Quicksand pits. Ruins with different levels of broken walls. Secret passages with thick hanging curtains. Two-wheeled wagons in the yard that the two guys fight on, which tip one way and then the other. And on one side of the yard is the hitching post, with the horses' butts toward the combat ... and they kick ...

So yes, I wouldn't expect or want a world-map or "swamps here" map for Thugs & Thieves. But for a given scenario, as a player or GM, I'd really like to have the relationship between the river, the outlying woods, and the falls clear in my mind. That might or might not mean a detailed map; I used to get quite a bit of mileage out of a whiteboard and markers when playing Champions.

My top recommendation would be the schematic "not a map" method outlined in the game Extreme Vengeance. It's fast, effective, exciting, and sufficient.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: ethan_greer on August 26, 2003, 11:44:10 AM
Zero and Extreme Vengeance were printed by the same company (Archangel, wasn't it?) and are both long out of print.  Sigh.

However, I have some ideas on how I'll get this geography thing across.  Interestingly, in my playtest on Sunday, I actually used features of the environs in exactly the way you're describing.  In one encounter, there was a table that a character vaulted over as a bodyguard (who was on fire, oh yeah!) imbedded his sword into it, and in another scene there was a staircase in a tavern that a sailor tackled the character into, preventing the bouncers from getting into the fight.  Cool.  Thanks for the clarification.


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 27, 2003, 02:54:33 PM
Hi Ethan,

Cool! Now, conceptually, hop up one tiny step in scale. So instead of the table and the doors and the horses at the hitching post, we're talking about the cabin and the river, the river and the hidden bandit camp, and the temple's underground passage to the hidden camp. That'd do it!

Best,
Ron


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: David Chunn on August 28, 2003, 02:36:54 PM
Hi, Ethan.

Ron said it.  I was thinking about that campaign I ran, and what everyone remembers best about it were the locations.  Crossing the scorched desert for days with their enemies in sight, finally amubshing them from a sand dune ridge.  Being ambushed themselves in a jagged canyon that had a bunch of little steps carved into the side that you could climb up (and fight on).  Finally reaching the Great Library buried under the sands in which they climbed a giant spiral staircase that was broken halfway up.  As the assassins chasing them entered the great hall, the party would quietly circle the staircase so they could always stay out of sight.  Etc.

I own a ton of pretty color and b/w rpg maps, but it seems like the ones I use most are the ones I draw out by hand with a moments notice, the ones with local geography.  Where the river is related to the camp related to those caves we saw yesterday.  That kind of stuff.  

Course, I spend most of my time winging it, so that might be part of the reason.  Still, handling those situations, coming up with dramatic and dynamic scenery and events, that's the kind of advice I'm always looking for in GM sections but never seem to find.


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: ethan_greer on August 28, 2003, 05:52:35 PM
Alright dudes.  Here's my latest addition to the text:

Quote
Instead of concentrating on setting at large, a GM should consider the specific features of the in-game “sets” and make these features a part of play. Whether the set is a small area (like a room or small building), a larger area (such as a town, lake, or castle), or even a large geographical region (such as a forest, desert, or mountain range), the GM should pay careful attention to how the environment can interact with the characters, and vice versa.

For example, suppose the characters are in a nobleman’s study. Perhaps the table could be tipped over and used as a makeshift shield, or even picked up and thrown at a monster. A candelabra is a ready source of mayhem, either if used specifically for arson or inadvertently knocked over into the long heavy curtains.

Suppose the characters are in a library. If they are being pursued, knocking a standing bookshelf over would be a good way to delay the pursuers. All the better if knocking over one shelf creates a domino effect and brings the entire library crashing down a shelf at a time.

Or suppose the characters are in the mountains and come across a rope bridge. Is the rope bridge safe? Should the characters cross one at a time? Perhaps the bridge is rickety, and even if the characters cross one at a time there is a chance the bridge gives way while someone is crossing.

On a larger scale, the lands themselves can play a huge role in both the events and the overall flavor of the game. A session that takes place in a forest teeming with all sorts of weird and dangerous denizens will be very different from a session that takes place in a vast, sandy desert. Or one that takes place in the high mountain passes. Or in the icy tundra, or the verdant meadowlands, or the ocean shore, or on a sailing vessel far from land. There is no real reason why a game can’t range across any and all of these different types of landscapes, and the scenery can be as important an NPC as any.

Nearly as important as the environment itself is how the different areas and locations in the game link up to one another. In other words, the GM should have a general idea how characters get from point A to point B. That isn’t to say that it is necessary to have detailed maps and such. Usually it is sufficient to know the general layout of setting elements.

Example: To get from the castle to the forest, you have to cross the river. To cross the river, you have to use the fords, but if it has rained recently and the water level is up there’s a chance to lose your footing and get swept over the falls. The forest is at the base of the mountains, and the mountain passes are frequently guarded by bandits and/or trolls; rock falls are also a common hazard. Below the falls and downriver, there is a large lake infested by plesiosaur-like monsters. And so on.

A quick and dirty way to “map” out a series of locations is by drawing blobs and lines on a sheet of paper. Each blob represents a location, and the lines connecting the blobs indicate possible paths between the different locations. These diagrams can be an invaluable tool for a GM when the characters are moving from set to set.

What do you think, does that cover it?


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: Matt Snyder on August 28, 2003, 07:04:01 PM
Ethan, here are my comments on Thugs and Thieves. Finally! Sorry it took so long. Hope I'm not duplicating comments, and that it's ok to post these here in the thread Ron started.

Comments follow, according to how they appear sequentially in the document:

Couple minor nitpicks before I offer comments on game elements.

1) Under Milieu, page 1: The first sentence of the second paragraph is a run on sentence. Just a grammar thing.

2) Under Descriptors, page 3: Perhaps make it explicit that only one Descriptor allowed per ability. When I first read it, I wondered how many a player could take, and it wasn’t clear to me initially.

Ok, on to some other issues. . . .

When describing the Equipment rules on page 4, you effectively say characters can have anything short of magical item type equipment they want. But in the next section, The Tyranny of Vice, you say that food must be bartered for or exchanged for. One line there says

Quote
Alternatively, they can barter for it, but trading away important gear makes them liess likely to be hired, so this should be avoided at all costs.


But if the characters can have nearly any equipment they need, and style matters over substance, why would players ever concern themselves with the economy of scarce food? I can see a scenario like this;

Player: “I have a donkey and wagon to carry my loot.”
GM: “Fine, but you’re getting hungry.”
Player: “Ok, I trade the donkey for some meat and bread.”
GM: “Great, you’re full, but you can’t pull your loot.”
Player: “No sweat. I get a camel on my way out of town. Oh, and some shovels, and linens and . . . . “

This “economy” issue also ties in with Mastery. Am I wrong in viewing Mastery one of, if not the most important attribute? Perhaps I’m not remembering the rules correctly, but it seems to me that Mastery comes into play only when the players want to buy something outside of their Vice. And yet, if they can have nearly any equipment, then they can barter for whatever they need, etc. I don’t think you’ve intended this, but in saying, “Style matters, not substance. Just let the player have what they need whenever they like,” that doesn’t jive too well with “Characters are ruled by their vice, and can only spend loot on vice-stuff unless they master their worst trait.”

Further, I’d like to see Mastery applied to different situations. (Again, am I forgetting something about Mastery? Sorry, if so.) When they’re broke, perhaps they must succeed on a Mastery roll to NOT take a Faustian bargain job from the rival, the fat merchant who wants to cut off their fingers and feed them to their mothers. Succeed on that roll, and you punch the merchant down the stairs, and find more benevolent work.

On Action

You’ve intentionally set up an order (initiative) system that doubly enforces chaos in action. Players cannot coordinate actions well, because they cannot set up things like “You open the door and spring the trap, then I’ll leap in and stab the tiger.” I recognize what you’re trying to do here, but I submit that the genre is MORE conducive to teamwork than you’re allowing. Rogues work well together, when they’re on the job. See: Conan the Barbarian, when Conan and Subotai actually sneak into the snake temple and the snake mountain. It think the randomness of the dice mechanics and whether characters succeed or fail is sufficient risk for things to “go aglee”. I don’t see the need to enforce craziness again with the “can’t change action” rules.

To further make my point, I look at the How to Play section on page 9. There, you describe the camaraderie of thugs and thieves, like Conan and Subotai outside the witch tent. This, to me, doesn’t jive with the order of action mechanics that discourage teamwork.

Character death

You describe the scene in which the character is stuck in the tall tower facing death if he leaps away. So, you rightly say that this means no matter how bleak things are, there’s a way out. I think you need an example, perhaps using the tower situation to show several (not just one) way the character could get out of the mess.

A pet peeve

Just one thing that grated me in the text. On page 9 under What the Characters Do you say:

Quote
Basically, much fantasy role-playing material can be mined for ieas and possible adventures for a party.


Now, I really do understand what you’re saying here. I know what you’re getting at. But reading it made me think about the game I was reading. That is, if it’s overtly suggesting that I go use material for other fantasy games I already own, why am I not simply playing those games and using those materials. It made me really think, “Huh, what IS it about Thugs and Thieves that makes it worth playing?”

I think the answer is that there ARE things that make this game worth playing. It does indeed offer something unlike other fantasy RPGs. But as I was reading this passage, I thought that the isuses I raised through this post need to be focused tightly so I can say so with confidence to others. “Yeah, you should check this game out. It’s got a tight premise, including a slick character-based mechanic that really manages resources in the game.”

Well, that wraps up my comments. I want to see some things that seem contradictory to be addressed or tightened, but I think there are lots of very groovy things going on here!


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: ethan_greer on August 29, 2003, 10:46:46 AM
Quote from: Matt Snyder
1) Under Milieu, page 1: The first sentence of the second paragraph is a run on sentence. Just a grammar thing.

I'll run it by my grammar taskmaster; I thought the conjunctions made it valid...

---

Quote
2) Under Descriptors, page 3: Perhaps make it explicit that only one Descriptor allowed per ability. When I first read it, I wondered how many a player could take, and it wasn’t clear to me initially.

Fixed, and thanks for the suggestion.

---

On the equipment/economy: You pretty much nailed the concept that the equipment rules emphasize style.  What's not clear from the text is that the remark you quoted about bartering away needed gear is also a stylistic statement and not intended to imply any mechanics.  Bottom line is, that section needs a reworking; it's one of the oldest sections of the text.  Your comments highlight that.

Case in point:
Quote
Player: “I have a donkey and wagon to carry my loot.”
GM: “Fine, but you’re getting hungry.”
Player: “Ok, I trade the donkey for some meat and bread.”
GM: “Great, you’re full, but you can’t pull your loot.”
Player: “No sweat. I get a camel on my way out of town. Oh, and some shovels, and linens and . . . . “

What's not coming through in the text, and needs to, is that I would consider a donkey and cart something you'd purchase by rolling against Mastery.  To me, "equipment" refers only to gear that the character carries on his or her person, and only refers to comodities that are absolutely necessary to doing jobs.  Things like clothing, weapons, backpack, rope, torches, travel rations, simple tools.

Again, this'll all need to be hashed out and clarified.  In any event, you've gotten me thinking about it, so thanks.

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Am I wrong in viewing Mastery one of, if not the most important attribute?

Enh.  When it comes to personal wealth, Mastery is important.  Otherwise, it's not a factor.  Mechanically Mastery and Vice are specific only to how the character handles all the excess treasure they get their hands on.

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Further, I’d like to see Mastery applied to different situations.

My gut reaction is, no. I like Mastery and Vice being very specific to treasure and handling money.  Reason being, it's really just a part of the reward mechanics, and not supposed to be a focus of play.  Granted, a Vice can really define a character, and most players will role-play according to their Vice.  But the game is as much or more about kicking ass and taking names.

The scenario you describe with the evil merchant who hires the players would IMO set up an unhealthy player/GM relationship, in which the player has to roll dice (effectively on their lowest Ability) in order to get a decent adventure out of the GM.  I realize this was just an example off the top of your head, but for me it highlights the problems of trying to work Mastery into things other than obtaining special items.  Specifically, I am against anything that will force characters to do something the players don't want, especially if the only way to avoid the undesired thing is to succeed on the character's lowest Ability.

On the other hand, preventing something the players want is a different animal; I'm okay with doing that, as evinced by the purchasing mechanic.

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On the conflict resolution system vs. teamwork: The one playtest session I've done was a one-on-one in which the system worked great.  But then, there was no team involved there; it was just one guy against whatever NPCs I had. When I get a larger group together I will examine this carefully.

The example you supply (I open the door, then you attack) is doable in the current system, provided that these actions are not already taking place during conflict resolution.  Would you expect the characters to be able to plan things like that if they were also fighting guards at the same time?  How I would probably handle the example is, the first guy opens the door and springs the trap, and then we start a conflict resolution to deal with who does what first, the tiger or the other guy.

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See: Conan the Barbarian, when Conan and Subotai actually sneak into the snake temple and the snake mountain. It think the randomness of the dice mechanics and whether characters succeed or fail is sufficient risk for things to “go aglee”. I don’t see the need to enforce craziness again with the “can’t change action” rules.

I can't remember the specific details of how the snake temple went in the movie, but if I recall the only thing that happened that I would handle with conflict resolution would be the encounter with the giant snake.  As for the infiltration of the snake mountain, the characters didn't really work together in a central conflict.  Whatshername is busy stealing the girl and setting fire to the tapestries, little thief guy (Subotai?) is dispatching guards, and Conan is upsetting the vat of human soup and fighting his two nemeses.

Oh yeah, and one other thing worth noting: the conflict resolution in the current (not online) version of the rules has changed as a result of this discussion (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7553), so things are a bit more flexible now.  Again, it's just something I'll have to look at in further playtesting.

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Character death is another section that's been updated to make it more clear what I'm going for.  However, I agree that it needs an example to really drive it home to the reader.  Good call there.

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That is, if it’s overtly suggesting that I go use material for other fantasy games I already own, why am I not simply playing those games and using those materials.

Yeah, I think that's another old portion of text that I don't necessarilly agree with anymore.  I'll probably lose that statement.  In my own defense, what I meant was that other materials can be mined for ideas, not used directly.  But I can see why you had that reaction.

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I want to see some things that seem contradictory to be addressed or tightened, but I think there are lots of very groovy things going on here!

Thanks for the compliment!  I'll do my best to address the concerns you've raised.  Thanks for raising them!


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 29, 2003, 02:01:55 PM
Hi Ethan,

That's some good text for the geography/scenario/set-piece issue.

When playing certain games, one thing I do a lot is put out a big map that struck my fancy during prep. I just set it out there, secret doors and all, and we all use it from the bird's-eye view without caring much that characters have or haven't seen a particular portion (or making use of that knowledge for entertaining effect, but otherwise not caring).

Not for Tunnels & Trolls, in which my GM map is literally a weapon wielded against the players' caution and cunning. But definitely for Sorcerer and Hero Wars/Quest play.

Best,
Ron


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: David Chunn on September 02, 2003, 09:11:10 PM
Hi, Ethan.

I like the new scenario text.  Have you added it to the pdf yet?  I'd have to read it in place to really respond to how it works.  Now that the practical side is covered, I would personally like to see a section on making those locations really feel like Thugs & Thieves.  How can I make them gritty and vice-ridden?


Title: [Thugs and Thieves] Game text comments
Post by: ethan_greer on September 03, 2003, 05:18:10 AM
How to make things gritty and vice-ridden?  That's a good question, and I agree with you that something like that is needed.  I'll have to think about how to go about conveying those ideas.  In the meantime, got any suggestions?

Per your request, I'll go ahead and update the PDF sometime this week and start a new thread when I've done so.