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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Tony Irwin on October 13, 2003, 04:46:18 AM



Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Tony Irwin on October 13, 2003, 04:46:18 AM
Hey Folks, I split this myself from the Adventures in Improvised System Thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=86529#86529) as my questions are quite off topic.

Quote from: Paul Czege
Hey Vincent,

First off, I agree that Universalis is brilliant. But I must say I'm unconvinced that its workings can be correlated to any great extent with the dynamics of what you, Meg, and Emily do during play. A game of Universalis is essentially a mechanically regulated conversation. Your gameplay is a conversation as well, but qualitatively quite dissimilar to a Universalis conversation, I think.

Consider the common dynamic of a group of guys talking. They interrupt each other. They challenge and contradict. They redirect. They talk over each other. The mechanics of Universalis regulate that kind of conversation. It's a male conversation. It's about challenges, and elaborations, and the only kind of support recognized by the system is unqualified agreement.

Your gameplay isn't that. Your gameplay is not an unregulated version of Universalis. If Meg's character enters a room, you take up an NPC and do your best to support what she's trying to do in her scene. Universalis isn't about attentiveness and respectfully facilitating each other. Sure that stuff can happen, but it does so entirely off the radar of the system.
Anyway, in case it's not obvious, I'm seriously interested in what a non-systemless non-male "Universalis" might be like.

Paul


Hi Paul, I really enjoyed reading your comments and I had some questions about them.

I think I see what you mean, for example in Universalis complications all parties involved are rewarded (or at least protected from loss) for getting involved in one side or another. The more you commit to being confrontational, the more dice you have the chance to win. Then the system takes the players' different intentions and beats them out into a strict "this is what happens" verdict. The system values players with opposed intentions, aggressive commitment, and also the idea that definitive "this is what happens" rulings are intrinsically satisfactory and what players will want.

So bearing in mind that I think I see what you're saying, and I think I see it too, here are my questions.

1) How commited are you to seeing this as male/female thing? Do you see this as just a useful way of describing at it (like classifying joints as "male" or "female" in carpentry), or something more? For example would you see value in the idea of someone taking "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" and writing a Universalis clone based on the female perspective it puts forward?

2) I can see counter-arguments based on the suggestion that conflict is what makes stories tick. If stories are all about conflict then a game like Universalis (which is all about controlling stories) needs to keep the conflict in players' hands. Do you see non-male Universalis clones still being able to tell conflict laden type stories? Or would story conflict still be achieved, but through "female" means?

3) In Ron's rough categories for Narrativist Play/Design (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7819) Universalis shares the first category with other games that emphasise controlling story elements to create Story Now. I very much agree that the same kind of "Take control to tell a story" approach in Universalis can be seen in The Questing Beast, and Inspectres as well (these are the only ones I've played in that category). Do you see that whole category of games as essentially "male" in the way you've described? Do you see "female" approaches yielding new games in that category, or is a female approach basically incompatible with that whole category?

Quote from: Paul
Notably absent from Universalis are mechanics for being sympathetic to the efforts of another player even if you disagree with what they're trying to achieve. You either support them in their effort, or you don't. There's no way to give the game equivalent of a plate of homebaked cookies to someone who failed at something you warned them not to do. And there's no "thank you" mechanism for support received during a challenge other than supporting someone later when they're being challenged. But I bet you guys play around with stuff like this in your games all the time. Am I wrong?


Quote from: Jonathon Walton
Paul Czege wrote:
Anyway, in case it's not obvious, I'm seriously interested in what a non-systemless non-male "Universalis" might be like.

*cough*Ever-After/Facedance*cough*


4) Hey Jonathon, can you be explicit about how you see Ever-After fulfills this?


Title: Re: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd Sys
Post by: simon_hibbs on October 13, 2003, 05:09:09 AM
Quote from: Tony Irwin
...The system values players with opposed intentions, aggressive commitment, and also the idea that definitive "this is what happens" rulings are intrinsically satisfactory and what players will want.
...

1) How commited are you to seeing this as male/female thing?...


Anyone who thinks agrressively arguing their possition is a purely masculine trait has obviously never got on the wrong side of my wife!


Simon Hibbs


Title: Re: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd Sys
Post by: Jonathan Walton on October 13, 2003, 07:09:25 AM
Quote from: Tony Irwin
1) How commited are you to seeing this as male/female thing?


Calling it a male/female thing seems liable to lead into gender stereotypes and the whole bit.  Obviously, it's not just a male/female thing, but I think Paul's right that gender (and social constructions thereof) has a lot to do with it.  I don't know about you guys, but I go to a school (Oberlin) that basically teaches that gender is a social construct that has more to do with how society expects you to act than the equipment you were born with.  By this description, I think that Universalis is definitely "male" in that sense: i.e. it is based on how men are taught to interact (agressively) in our society.  That, I think, may have been what Paul meant.

Quote
2) I can see counter-arguments based on the suggestion that conflict is what makes stories tick. If stories are all about conflict then a game like Universalis (which is all about controlling stories) needs to keep the conflict in players' hands.


Sure, the story is driven by conflict, but why should that conflict have to be between competing views of the players?  Why can't two players agree that their characters are in conflict and then give them ways to resolve it agreeably?  This the Torchbearer model, actually, and Shreyas often does a good job of building "female" resolution systems that are based on consensus and not free-market idea economics.  Darwinistic mechanics are often "male" and exclusive-seeming, unless you're willing to dive into the pile and fight for your ideas.  Not everyone is.  Especially at first.

Quote
3) ...games that emphasise controlling story elements to create Story Now. ...Do you see that whole category of games as essentially "male" in the way you've described? Do you see "female" approaches yielding new games in that category, or is a female approach basically incompatible with that whole category?


You can "control" story elements without being "male."  We're not talking about Communist game design here, where all story elements are shared by the group.  Obviously, taking the time to come to consensus on everything that happens is probably too time consuming in most cases.  But people can control story elements without actively bringing them in conflict with the narrative visions of other players.  Honestly, I don't think the issue is control at all.

Quote
4) Hey Jonathon, can you be explicit about how you see Ever-After fulfills this?


Sure.  Ever-After/Facedance started because I wanted to create a Universalis-like game that I could play with my current player group, which is 95% female.  Honestly, I knew that they would never really get into Universalis, but until Paul's post, I hadn't really put my finger on why (thanks, Paul!).  Now I'm sure it's the agressive interaction required for it to work really well.  My group can play freeform like there's no tomorrow, but ask them to fight with each other, even in a friendly way, and they balk at it.

In any case, there are a few things I did with Ever-After to change things.

1. Turn based, with the opportunity to pass. This way, people don't have to fight for input into the story.

2. You can't reject anything someone else does.  They have the right to do anything related to the things they have control over.  None of this "your ideas have to pass group approval" stuff, which can be very threatening.

3. No detailed list of traits to make things "seem otherwise" than they are.  There's no way for one character to triumph over another, simple because they have more traits.  Everything stands an equal chance, with no way to really "rules-lawyer" your way to victory.

4. You can't damage or destroy someone else's creation.  They have to do it themselves.  This limits the risk of victimization.  No de-protagonization.

5. No reward for causing conflicts.  Players who are more active than others quickly find themselves without the resources to do anything else.  This creates a balance between quieter and louder players.

That's all I can think of right now, but I'm sure there are other bits.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 13, 2003, 07:27:05 AM
What an interesting line of discussion.

I had never made the connection myself, but having read Mars and Venus, I'd say Paul's comments make a lot of sense in that context (if one accepts the dichotomy as posed in the book).

In fact, after reading Jonathan's list of differences in Ever After I think I'd probably balk at it in the same fashion that he suspects his group would balk at Universalis.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: simon_hibbs on October 13, 2003, 07:43:10 AM
Quote from: Valamir
What an interesting line of discussion.

I had never made the connection myself, but having read Mars and Venus, I'd say Paul's comments make a lot of sense in that context (if one accepts the dichotomy as posed in the book).


Mars and Venus is exploitative populist faux-psychology at it's worst. What can you believe about a relationship book written by a man now on his third marriage, who wrote it while on a relationship counseling tour with his second wife, during which their own relationship disintegrated.

Please!


Simon Hibbs


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 13, 2003, 07:53:17 AM
Perhaps...and certainly its more sensationalized than it needs to be.

But having read it together with my SO of 10+years I have to say we both found it to be as pretty dead on accurate as any sweeping generalization is capable of being.  

In fact the section on men putting on their "Mr Fix-it Hat" when their women just want a sympathetic ear to listen to them helped our relationship enormously.

Since I find all psychology to be a great steaming pile of clap trap anyway, I found Mars and Venus to at least be accessible useful and practical...regardless of the guy's questionable credentials.


Title: Re: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd Sys
Post by: Emily Care on October 13, 2003, 08:06:32 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton
By this description, I think that Universalis is definitely "male" in that sense: i.e. it is based on how men are taught to interact (agressively) in our society.


Let's go with this as an assumption. Arguing whether gender is innate or not is simply going to derail the discussion.  

Quote from: Jonathon
You can "control" story elements without being "male."  We're not talking about Communist game design here, where all story elements are shared by the group.  Obviously, taking the time to come to consensus on everything that happens is probably too time consuming in most cases.

Actually, in the improvised system we use (Vincent/Meg/Emily), 100% concensus is required.  And although not all elements are group controlled, a much larger percentage are communal than in most other systems. That may not be necessary to construct the "female" Universalis, but it's the option we've chosen.

Quote
But people can control story elements without actively bringing them in conflict with the narrative visions of other players.  Honestly, I don't think the issue is control at all.


It may not be control of game elements, but from your description of Universalis/Face Dancers, the changes you've made modify narrative control. In Universalis, the control of the ball is competitive, in U/FD, it is shared equally.  It sounds like we're looking at competitive vs. cooperative models.

--Emily Care


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 13, 2003, 08:21:51 AM
I suppose we could use the male/female terminology in the sense of the various plugs on the computers and other wires. A male/female plug in this case has little to with the human sexes. It is just a method of describing the device. So in terms of system, "male" is proactive, aggressive, etc. and "female" is accepting, enabling, passive, etc. All of this has nothing to do with men and women. This could work, but maybe it's better not to since wires are wires but games still deal with people and the potential for confusion is greater.


Title: Re: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd Sys
Post by: Emily Care on October 13, 2003, 09:12:43 AM
One of the initial questions was how strongly committed Paul is to the male/female dichotomy, which only he can answer. (smile) But I agree with Jack that it is potentially more confusing than it's worth to use this terminology. Do we really want to have the same argument about it everytime someone hears about it for the first time? We could look at the phenomenon and describe it more explicitly using gender neutral terms, and take it as read that there is sometimes a breakdown in preference of one type over the other based on gender, for whatever reason.

Quote from: Paul Czege
It's about challenges, and elaborations, and the only kind of support recognized by the system is unqualified agreement.

This is Paul's description of Universalis. Is this support written in to Jonathon's alternate version?

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

In any case, there are a few things I did with Ever-After to change things.

1. Turn based, with the opportunity to pass. This way, people don't have to fight for input into the story.

2. You can't reject anything someone else does.  They have the right to do anything related to the things they have control over.  None of this "your ideas have to pass group approval" stuff, which can be very threatening.

3. No detailed list of traits to make things "seem otherwise" than they are.  There's no way for one character to triumph over another, simple because they have more traits.  Everything stands an equal chance, with no way to really "rules-lawyer" your way to victory.

4. You can't damage or destroy someone else's creation.  They have to do it themselves.  This limits the risk of victimization.  No de-protagonization.

5. No reward for causing conflicts.  Players who are more active than others quickly find themselves without the resources to do anything else.  This creates a balance between quieter and louder players.

That's all I can think of right now, but I'm sure there are other bits.


Not really. The changes limit the players ability to compete with eachother, they don't necessarily reward them for cooperating or supporting eachother's actions. What needed to be changed was the emphasis on challenge in Universalis for this group to enjoy it.

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Now I'm sure it's the agressive interaction required for it to work really well.  My group can play freeform like there's no tomorrow, but ask them to fight with each other, even in a friendly way, and they balk at it.

There's a rule in Universalis that rewards players for using a trait attached to someone else's character, which could be used for supporting the work of other players. However, it seems like the focus of the game is on conflict which undermines the possibilities for collaboration inherent in it.

It may boil down to the fact that the main way to gain resources is via complications. Rewriting complications to give reward for more than just winning the conflict, and broaden resource increasing activities to include creating situations or settings that engage traits of other characters could change this dynamic. Along with emphasizing rewards for mirroring traits created by others.

--Emily


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 13, 2003, 09:31:39 AM
Quote
It may boil down to the fact that the main way to gain resources is via complications. Rewriting complications to give reward for more than just winning the conflict, and broaden resource increasing activities to include creating situations or settings that engage traits of other characters could change this dynamic. Along with emphasizing rewards for mirroring traits created by others.


Interesting.

I'll note that reward in Complictions is not just for winning the conflict.  You get bonus Coins just for participating.  Its possible to get more Coins as the loser than as the winner.

Since the most effective way of coming out ahead in Coins in a Complication is to generate most of your dice for free using Traits, to some extent one is encouraged to create situations that engage those Traits.  Since using the Trait (and gaining a die from it) requires an in game justification, I am thus motivated to use, and reinforce through that use, the Traits that you assigned to something.  While its possible for me to seek to subvert, ignore, or eliminate the Traits you selected, it costs rather than generates Coins to do so.  It is much more "wealth promoting" for me to go along with and reinforce what you've done rather than to attempt to overthrow it.  

But I take it this is just scratching the surface of what you have in mind.

I'd love to see a write-up of what might be required to change the dynamic of the game in this manner that I could put on the site as a variant.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: LordSmerf on October 13, 2003, 09:36:02 AM
Emily, i think you pointed out the dichotemy pretty well: "competative vs. cooperative."  I don't know exactly how to facilitate cooperative play, but a couple of ideas come to mind.

1. No systemic opposition.  Just because you have the most resources (coins) doesn't mean you get your way.  You can voice opposition, but if someone is dead-set on having it their way on their turn then they get it.

2. Rewards for support (which has been mentioned).  This is already done socially, you get along better if you help each other out.  A systemic version seems like it would be much harder to execute.

3. Games are generally focused on competition.  In Universalis competition is between players, in more traditional games it is between players and between the party and the GM.  If you want a non-GM system that still includes competition, but not between players, then it would seem that the system itself would have to generate competition (opposition tables, etc.)  Perhaps you decide that you want a Complication and instead of someone introducing one, roll some dice and check a table to get an outline for the Complication.  Then the players cooperatively flesh out what happens...

That's all i've got for now...

Thomas


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Paul Czege on October 13, 2003, 09:48:47 AM
Hey Em,

It sounds like we're looking at competitive vs. cooperative models.

I'm not sure this is the most meaningful possible distinction. But maybe that's just because men and women have a fairly different understanding of "cooperative." To a lot of guys, dividing a project into separate chunks, each wholly owned by one contributor, is cooperative. To a lot of guys, voting on proposed alternatives, with all participants agreeing to accept the outcome of the vote, is "compromise."

Let me throw something out for consideration: conversation among women is often characterized by participants working to elicit details from a speaker. "He said what? You're kidding!" What's the reward? A little bit of ownership of those details, installed credibility when you relate the story later? The dynamics of social significance are different.

Paul


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on October 13, 2003, 10:07:20 AM
Oh, so it does have something to do with men and women. My bad.

*wanders off*


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on October 13, 2003, 12:41:44 PM
Hmm, can we get away from the male/female dictonomy while still acknowledging some of that distinction?  How about we appropriate some non-Western terminiology and say that Universalis supports a very Yang-oriented resolution system: one that is aggressive, impulsive, strong, resolute, stubborn, and often "male."  What we're looking for, then, is Yin-style Universalis, one that rewards being open, receptive, fluid, changeable, irresolute, compromising, and often "female."

I agree with Emily that E-A/FD isn't really Yin-oriented.  I think I was more trying for a balance of forces, something neutral that different personality types could play together.  E-A/FD doesn't actively support cooperation in the game system because players are encouraged to build that kind of thing into the Social Contract (which is the part of the game I haven't written up yet).

I think Emily and Smerf both have good suggestions for tailoring Uni to more Yin-style personalities (which includes people like me, honestly).  But I do think de-protagonizing the conflicts is a mistake.  The thing that's so great about Uni is that every bit of it is represented by a player and not the GM or some abstract embodiment of mechanics.  You just have to ensure that the conflicts stay between characters and not players.  I think you can do this without losing protagonism, because I, the player, can still enjoy my character getting the snot beat out of him.

Anybody want to help take this on as a side project?  Yin-style Uni?  I'd volunteer my writing and layout skills if people want to get a bunch of us together and create a webpage or PDF that Ralph can post.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Tony Irwin on October 15, 2003, 01:10:19 AM
Hi Paul, thanks for joining in.

Quote from: Paul
Let me throw something out for consideration: conversation among women is often characterized by participants working to elicit details from a speaker. "He said what? You're kidding!" What's the reward? A little bit of ownership of those details, installed credibility when you relate the story later? The dynamics of social significance are different.


Can you think of any examples of game mechanics that model any of the kind of dynamics you're talking about, do you think these kind of mechanics can be modelled in a game?

Also do you see the mechanics Nicotine Girls is built on as being closer to male or female dynamics in your experience?

Quote from: Jonathon
Hmm, can we get away from the male/female dichotomy while still acknowledging some of that distinction? How about we appropriate some non-Western terminiology and say that Universalis supports a very Yang-oriented resolution system: one that is aggressive, impulsive, strong, resolute, stubborn, and often "male." What we're looking for, then, is Yin-style Universalis, one that rewards being open, receptive, fluid, changeable, irresolute, compromising, and often "female."


I can see what you're saying Jonathon - in the Men are from Mars book I mentioned earlier the author confines himself to discussing Martians and Venusians. He refuses to get bogged down in nurture/nature debates and emphasises that men and women can find themselves taking on either of the Martian and Venusian roles at any time.

The entire book is a discussion of how Martian/Venusian values are the cause of specific behaviours. When it comes to RPGs I'm not sure that male/female or martian/venusian or yin/yang are going to be helpful for me because I'm struggling to see immeadiate links between the values and the behaviours. eg

Value
"Yin is receptive, fluid, changeable, irresolute, compromising, and often female."

Behaviour
"conversation among women is often characterized by participants working to elicit details from a speaker. "He said what? You're kidding!" What's the reward? A little bit of ownership of those details, installed credibility when you relate the story later?"

See what I mean? To me the two above statements are worlds apart - it's a long and complicated road from one to the other. If I was trying to create mechanics/dynamics based soley on my understanding of the value, I feel there's no guarantee I'd end up with anything resembling the behaviour.

I could certainly build a game with mechanics based on Yin values - but there's no guarantee it would play naturally and instinctively for people in my life who I think of as having those values. Game mechanics that model their behaviours (not my guess of behaviours that match their values) are perhaps what's needed.

What do you think of that? What kind of design approach would you take for making a Uni clone for your group?

Quote from: Jonathon
I agree with Emily that E-A/FD isn't really Yin-oriented. I think I was more trying for a balance of forces, something neutral that different personality types could play together. E-A/FD doesn't actively support cooperation in the game system because players are encouraged to build that kind of thing into the Social Contract (which is the part of the game I haven't written up yet).


Cool, that answered my question. I confess I've only read over FD a couple of times and my understanding of it was that perhaps it was structured to prevent conflict rather than actively support cooperation, so I wasn't sure at first how you saw it modelling the kind of play Paul talks about.

Tony


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: lumpley on October 15, 2003, 07:32:50 AM
I'd suggest that the "maleness" of Universalis is in its challenge and interruption mechanisms, not in its conflict resolution and reward mechanisms.

I've been thinking about how we've played it, and here's my first stab.

--

Contributive Interruptions

Before you interrupt another player's turn, you have to get that player's permission.  This is as informal as the first step of a challenge.  Catching the player's eye or bouncing up and down in your seat are fine ways to ask to contribute, as is just asking.

If the other player refuses your interruption, you have to sit on your hands.

If the other player accepts your interruption, you pay for having interrupted, then introduce things and pay for them as always.  If the other player challenges your contributions you should retract them at once.  Once you're finished, the other player's turn resumes.

The other half is that you should be gracious about accepting interruptions and moderate about asking for them, in proportion to your own personal tendency to go on and on.

--

We've been playing Universalis this way without (before now) formalizing it.  It matches my longstanding personal policy: if a woman's talking, I don't interrupt, and if I'm talking and a woman interrupts, I shut up.  (I don't always stick to it but it's my policy.)  So in that sense, it's gendered - A way for me, male, to adapt to conversations with women.

--

But I haven't at all addressed Paul's very interesting insight about playing to draw details out of your fellow players.

-Vincent


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: LordSmerf on October 15, 2003, 07:33:35 AM
After some more thought on using charts to generate Complications i have come up with the following:

The chart is a generalize guideline like "physical attack" or "insult of reputation" or "the chosen course is blocked."  The details will have to be generated cooperatively by the players.  This way you feel less like some other player is "out to get you" by introducing Complications and more likely to feel a sense of shared creation of the Complication...

Thomas


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 15, 2003, 08:15:29 AM
Quote
I'd suggest that the "maleness" of Universalis is in its challenge and interruption mechanisms, not in its conflict resolution and reward mechanisms.


So I guess my editing out the third stage of the Challenge process...knife the guy if he still won't agree...was a good thing   ;-)


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: LordSmerf on October 15, 2003, 08:33:44 AM
Another thing that i feel tends Universalis towards the "male" is that it keeps score (via coins).  I find that i often put together a lame Complication so that i can replenish my dwindling supply of coins.  Now i see why coins are used and why Complications replenish them (drive the conflict), and i don't have anything better.  Perhaps it's just my inexperience with the system, but it seems that at its core it doesn't facilitate a kind of "cooperative" play...

Thomas


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 15, 2003, 09:08:50 AM
I hesitate to turn this thread into a Universalis rules discussion, but Smerf, some of your concerns about "lame Complication" are addressed in this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7751)

A pertinant quote from that thread that is more broadly applicable

Quote
It actually flows quite well into the game's self balancing mechanic.

consider:
1) I spend all my Coins in a flurry of activity
2) I then begin a Complication for the primary purpose of using a bunch of Traits for free dice to generate a bunch of bonus Coins which I intend to pocket.
3) But, someone like Mike, who still has enough Coins to interrupt me, does so and activates most of my Traits against me in the Complication leaves me likely losing the Complication and not generating nearly enough free dice to make up for what I spent.
4) So given that I've now discovered that Complications are not always automatic Coin refreshers, I now must be more cautious about when and how I spend them.


I think Paul hit this issue on the head above in his response to Emily.

Its not that Universalis doesn't support Cooperative play, its that its decidedly geared towards Yang style Cooperation rather Yin style.

In other words its the kind of cooperation and consensus building one uses when playing King of the Mountain.  Since the game was inspired in large part by free market capitalism (a decidedly Yang economic form, and which was drastically more heavy handed in earlier versions) this isn't surprising.

So I'd hesitate to say the game doesn't foster cooperation.  As Paul pointed out, its all in how you define cooperation.

As far as facilitating a more Yin form of cooperation, I don't think that the game discourages such play at all.  Vincent's descriptions of how they play Uni involve really only some modest rule changes easily done with a gimmick or two.  I'll try and collect a bunch of these ideas for my next web update.

But even without such gimmicks, a vast amount of Uni depends directly on the social contract of the group.  Throw Mike and I into Vincent's group and their simple concessions might be insufficient to to curb my own innate Yangness ;-).  However amongst themselves (correct me if I'm wrong here Vince) they accomplished a more Yin form of play without needing to actually formalize what they were doing as an explicit gimmick.  It was just a natural consequence of the way they interact in their play.

But certainly there is built in a degree of Ego based cooperation in Uni.  Something that I can clearly recognize but probably wouldn't have noticed if these threads hadn't pointed it out (blinders and all that).

But what can I say. dominating the world through my own force of will is appealing to me ;-)


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 15, 2003, 11:54:37 AM
I think that to an extent, Ralph has captured my feelings about this in the above post. That is, I think Universalis sets up a framework that's very naturalistic in many ways. Sure you can call it Free Market Capitalism, but aren't personal relationships handled that way? Think of it in terms of Transactive Psychology. Players are purchasing Strokes from each other, really. What the game does is to give players a way of transacting above board, and from an equal footing. That's footing, it doesn't make them equal. Harrison Bergeron would still stand out.

The Complications are put in the game very much to create conflict. But that's absolutely neccessary. Because it's a game about creating stories. The mechanics only encourage that. I fail to see how you can get story without conflict. What this means, however, is that Universalis is only "male" or "yang" assuming that stories are male or yang.

As for the social level that goes on "above" the game, that will, of course, be based on the players social norms. I'd expect that Vikings would play much more competitively than even Ralph. In any case, I think that game goes out of it's way to make it so that competition isn't the default of play. I think that, of RPGs, Universalis is potentially the most "female" yet. Because players aren't advocates for individuals neccessarily, they're advocates only for the story by default.

Any bias after that is the player's own. I'm male, so is Ralph, so is Paul. Any chance that this "maleness" is being projected on a blank slate? Em?

Mike


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on October 15, 2003, 01:03:50 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
I fail to see how you can get story without conflict.


It's not that you can have story without conflict.  It's that the mechanics of Universalis encourage the PLAYERS to have conflicts, and projects that conflict onto the story components to create action and interest.  Is that not the case?  Aren't players encouraged to bid for whatever outcome they want and then roll for success?  Isn't that the way of resolution system emphasized in the examples?  Sure, you could also just negotiate your way out of things, but the game makes that option seem "less fun" because you don't get to utilize all the neat mechanics.  You might as well just be playing freeform in that case and god knows we wouldn't want that ;)


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: LordSmerf on October 15, 2003, 02:13:11 PM
I have to agree with you on conflict Mike, without it there is no story.  I'm not advocating that we have no conflict between characters.  However, the Universalis ruleset turns inter-character conflict into inter-player conflict because it makes you pick a side.  The reward goes to whichever side "wins."  There's no reward for producing an interesting, albeit doomed, set of opposition.  There is, however, and incentive to produce an overpowering set of opposition, even if you plan on narrating that opposition as failing.  I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, merely that it is limiting.

I don't know that i have a good suggestion to change this (if you want to, not everyone will).  Maybe distribute Complication dice equally regardless of who was on which side of the conflict.  This seems to bear some thinking on...

Thomas


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 15, 2003, 05:19:41 PM
Quote
There's no reward for producing an interesting, albeit doomed, set of opposition


I think with a few more games under your belt you'll realize that that's not the case at all.  Even being on a side that loses can wind up generating net profit Coins for you.  I activate 4 traits, I roll 4 dice, I lose, I get 4 Coins.  

In fact, even if you choose to go in gung ho guns blazing and get into a bidding war spending tons of Coins to buy dice, then you lose you still break even at worst.  The only way to actually come out behind in a Complication is if you spend Coins like crazy...WIN...but win with such a low roll that you wind up generating fewer free Coins than you spent

So, in fact, doing this:

Quote
There is, however, and incentive to produce an overpowering set of opposition, even if you plan on narrating that opposition as failing


can actually get you screwed.  Doing the thing that you say the game incents is, in fact, the only way one can come out behind.


Title: sorry for length
Post by: Green on October 15, 2003, 06:35:04 PM
*risks being labelled as a self-promoting egotist*

I think my game, Kathanaksaya (http://www.geocities.com/kathanaksaya), would be interesting to look at in the context of this discussion, if only to provide both points of comparison and a points of contrast.

Because it is particularly necessary in this discussion (as well as to prevent many incorrect assumptions), I will come out and say it: I'm a woman.  I've often deconstructed my game in an attempt to see what works, why it works, and what is interesting while not being obvious.  In the context of this discussion, this is what I figured out.

K. is a very feminine game in terms of its orientation, goals, and methods of reward.  Character design is holistic and highly internal.  Most of the Story Points come from understanding how your character ticks and relating that information to the story.  All the details you create for your character are not equally considered.  The number of Story Points you get depends not on how many details you give, but the nature of those details.  The main behavior you will find rewarded is developing an intimate portrait of your character.  I am willing to concede that I am demanding too much, but at the very least I wanted to create a system that would allow this to happen and encourage it, as opposed to relying on chemistry and assumptions about "good roleplaying."

The feminine elements of this game also extends to character creation.  Most games present character creation as a linear process wherein Step B follows Step A, not because it's easier, but because it's necessary.  It's hard to know what your character's attribute modifier is if you don't know the character's attribute score.  K., on the other hand, only uses a systematic method of character creation as a tool to make things easier on the players.  It is possible to just jot down ideas as they come to you then figure out how many Story Points they are worth, or to determine which aspects you want to detail first.  In fact, this is mainly how I create characters for K.  The outside-in and inside-out stff was only developed later on after players seemed to have difficulting understanding just how they were supposed to make their characters.  Then again, this may just be a difference between Narrative games and Sim/Gamist games.

But, if there is anything particularly feminine about character creation, it would be the intuitive nature of the process.  I should probably be ashamed of myself for saying this, but most of the design decisions I made regarding this game were rather haphazard.  I didn't think about them beyond whether or not they would work during play and if they made sense on a gut level, based on what feels right.  In essence, a long string of Eureka! moments.  As a result, the mechanics of K. are decidedly simple.  The most logically abstract part of the game is the addition and subtraction required to keep track of Story Points.  The difficulty for me proved to be translating the game in my head into a system that would allow for the integrated roleplaying experience that I enjoy most.  That is, using intimacy with a character as a means of exploring and creating an answer to a particular concept, question, or idea related to human nature.

Outside of character creation, there are other aspects of K. that strike me as particularly feminine.  The first is how rewards don't necessarily come as a result of a character's success.  Especially in replenishing Story Points.  Success in the case of K. comes more from developing an interesting story as opposed to fulfilling specific objectives.  The second is how the bidding mechanic need not be used in a purely competitive way.  Players may combine Story Points in bids to represent things their characters do to assist each other.  Once again, this may just be the difference between Narrative games and Sim/Gamist games.

K. is masculine in the sense that conflict resolution, while ostensibly about the characters, can be between players.  I believe this is because Story Points are a metagame mechanic and player resource.  As a result, players can vicariously settle conflicts through their characters, but all within the events of the story.

The masculine element also rears its head with the bidding mechanic.  Bidding is often an aggressive, competitive thing, although it need not be.  However, the fact that players have to narrate what each bid represents implies that the other players involved in the bid should not interrupt.

You could also argue that the mathematical representation of narrative power, the organization of the game, the detail I put into explaining just what can and can't be done in this game, as well as the seemingly logical approach to character design are masculine.  Yet (and this is interesting now that I think about it), these things are precisely what gave me the most trouble when I was writing it.  In several revisions, I felt like I was drying up the wells of inspiration (so to speak) in order to make the game read more clearly, which my mind translated into making the game seem more like a chemistry textbook devoid of pictures.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: hix on October 15, 2003, 09:01:21 PM
Reading this reminds me of my script editing. For five years, I worked on the principle of observing the changes I believed needed to be made and then I'd argue through each one of those changes. In other words, very Aristotelian, very A versus B - an environment of conflict and argument.

All of that changed when I adopted the De Bono "6 Hat" method where you consider a problem from a variety of different perspectives in turn: emotional, structural, creative, etc.

The point: the 6 Hat method institutes a structure that gets people looking at a problem or situation in parallel - it encourages "best solution finding" rather than defending "my" opinion against "your" opinion.

Maybe it's this parallel, team based thinking that needs to be rewarded whenever the story-telling in this new game reaches a decision point?

Steve.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Emily Care on October 16, 2003, 10:44:56 AM
Thanks for sharing about your game, Green, and about yourself. Many different approaches are good to hear.  I had one of those "intuitive" mechanics moments in our last session of gaming. Always good when they work out.

Quote from: hix
Maybe it's this parallel, team based thinking that needs to be rewarded whenever the story-telling in this new game reaches a decision point?


That's an important aspect of how my game group plays. I call it fully co-gm'ing, which is inaccurate in some ways--we do take turns guiding the story, and each have game elements that we veil from the others--but in all aspects of play our primary goal is to actively help each other develop characters, plot and setting.  Even when we have character conflict, we collaborate on setting up satisfying opposition.


Mike, I'm open to the idea that gender bias is being projected onto Universalis--complications can be approached in non-confrontational ways, and there's nothing blocking anyone who plays from collaborating on world etc. What may be missing is specific mechanics that encourage this behaviour.  
My anecdotal experience with Universalis (one game with Vince, Meg and Tony, an assertive and funny male friend of ours) leads me to believe that assertive characters are at an advantage over quieter or less forward players in Universalis. The game gives you the freedom to create and rewards you for introducing dynamic interactions. That's what can make it a fast-paced, fun game, but the personality of players become an asset in the game. Those who can think fast and are confident can drive the game.  Everyone has the same option to do so, but not all are equipped with the same inter-personal tools to do so.

Just so, Jonathan Walton's changes counter-balance that dynamic.  What he did in Uni-Face Dancers sounds a lot like techniques used to help facilitate meetings so that everyone gets an equal opportunity to contribute.  And these traits cut across gender boundaries.  If it's useful to think of them as "male/female" that's fine, but these are issues that will arise in any group, regardless of the gender mix among the participants.

And, finally, that is just my experience from one game. It seems like the social contract would determine a lot about what it's like to play Universalis.

Regards,
Emily Care


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 16, 2003, 10:58:21 AM
Quote
That's what can make it a fast-paced, fun game, but the personality of players become an asset in the game. Those who can think fast and are confident can drive the game. Everyone has the same option to do so, but not all are equipped with the same inter-personal tools to do so.

It seems like the social contract would determine a lot about what it's like to play Universalis.


Quite.  In fact, in the section on social contract the text (unless I'm remembering an older version) addresses this very issue; indicating that the games Pacing can be set as a Social Contract tenet in order to try and counterbalance this effect.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: LordSmerf on October 16, 2003, 11:18:55 AM
After an interesting session of Universalis last night (i'll post a link when i get an Actual Play written up) i think i agree with Emily's point that it's not that Universalis disallows cooperative problem solving.  It's that the mechanic does not encourage it, the mechanic seems to encourage confrontational problem solving.  Again, this isn't bad, most of the time i enjoy it.

Anyway, what was so interesting about the game last night was that it was just two fairly laid back players telling a story.  I don't think we used a single mechanic.  We spent coins (sometimes) but never started any Complications or Challenges...  It was interesting...  I'm not even sure if we were actually playing Universalis...

EDIT: The actual play write-up can be found in the Actual Play Forum: here. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8378)

Thomas


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2003, 09:49:56 AM
Quote
My anecdotal experience with Universalis (one game with Vince, Meg and Tony, an assertive and funny male friend of ours) leads me to believe that assertive characters are at an advantage over quieter or less forward players in Universalis. The game gives you the freedom to create and rewards you for introducing dynamic interactions. That's what can make it a fast-paced, fun game, but the personality of players become an asset in the game. Those who can think fast and are confident can drive the game. Everyone has the same option to do so, but not all are equipped with the same inter-personal tools to do so.


I fail to see how this is any different from Freeform play. Perhaps that's my male POV, but it seems to me that with, or without Universalis rules in play, player personality is going to have a huge impact on how play goes.

Complications, while portrayals of conflict, are themselves, I'd argue, co-operative.

Look at how they work. No player entering into a complication stands to lose anything. It's not a Zero-Sum game. All participants profit. Yes, the winner is more likely to profit more, but that just incentivizes each player to add to the complication on their own. Yes, in theory, the player who does not profit as much from the complication because he was outspent, is losing an opportunity for profit, but he's not being damaged. In fact, unless he chooses to put in Coins, which is optional, he isn't really participating. Declaring a Complication gives an opportunity to all players to participate in the potential profit by being a contributor to the conflict.

This was intentional in the design (we could dig it up in the notes). What we wanted to have happen was for everyone to be encouraged to participate in Complications, and for each player's motive to be "enlightened self interest" in a situation which could be called a(Ricardo?) "Mutual profit" situation.

Look at this fact. If I Control both sides of a potential conflict, I can't create a Complication, I can only just resolve things normally. Only when two players have Components they Control in conflict with each other can a Complication occur. What often happens in play is that one player will ask another to Take Over one of their Controlled Components in order that they might start an Complication with them. So, distinctly in this case, it requires co-operation to even start the Complication. I see much more in the way of "let's do a Complication" sorts of play than "Hah, I'm putting a complication on you!" style play.

Now, will some players approach the "bidding" in a competitive manner? Surely. Does that mean that the game encourages it? I'm not so sure. I think, again, that here what you see is mostly that particular player projecting themselves on the game.

I'd even be willing to accept that there might be a slight bias in there. But much less, I'd argue than most other games in existance. I mean, certainly games other than RPGs, but amongst RPGs as well.

Mike


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: lumpley on October 18, 2003, 06:44:25 AM
I agree with Mike. And Paul.

Quote from: In Adventures in Improv'd System (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8232), Paul Czege
Consider the common dynamic of a group of guys talking. They interrupt each other. They challenge and contradict. They redirect. They talk over each other. The mechanics of Universalis regulate that kind of conversation. It's a male conversation.


If you have a bunch of guys playing Universalis, they use Universalis' turn flow mechanics a lot. They spend lots of coins interrupting, contradicting and talking over each other.  In normal conversation, they'd spend social force of personality doing it.

If you have a bunch of chicks playing Universalis, they don't use its turn flow mechanics much at all.  They don't interrupt, contradict or talk over each other; they wait demurely for each to finish talking and pass the turn to the next.

If you have a mixed bunch of guys and chicks playing Universalis, they use its turn flow mechanics a lot - and to the chicks' great advantage.  In normal conversation the guys would interrupt and talk over the chicks and the chicks wouldn't contradict the guys, because of the social mechanisms involved. Universalis' mechanisms regulate the social mechanisms: chicks can block guys' boorish behavior with coins, not with social force.

I think Paul was just pointing out that Universalis doesn't similarly regulate chick conversations.

(If anybody thinks that I think that all and only men act like "guys" and all and only women act like "chicks," please rest assured that I don't.)

-Vincent


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Emily Care on October 22, 2003, 01:25:09 PM
Hi Mike & Vincent,

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I fail to see how this is any different from Freeform play.


Freeform doesn't give more in-game resources to louder folks. They may get more time and attention, but not more ability to be effective in game.  Since complications are the main source of coins in Universalis, folks more ept at navigating and initiating conflict, and resourceful at incorporating traits, are at an advantage there. If there were other ways to gain resources, then folks with other traits would have other ways to compete.  

The coins are a way for "chicks" (of whatever sex) to counter "guys" mechanically, but if the guys end up with more coins overall (either because they win and/or simply initiate more conflict), then the chicks will have less ability to block them.

That said, Uni's complication mechanic is great because it makes everyone come up with conflict, keeping the game interesting.  And the more the complications can be viewed as a cooperative vehicle for drama and access to resources, the better.  

Regards,
Em

note: I'm defining freeform as a system with no written rules and no (or few) mechanical techniques, mostly based on discussion and group concensus.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 23, 2003, 08:00:14 AM
Quote
Freeform doesn't give more in-game resources to louder folks. They may get more time and attention, but not more ability to be effective in game.
Again, this is the same thing. Coins as resources in Universalis don't increase "effectiveness". They only allow you to speak and get your way. Just like forceful personalities in Freefrom. Universalis, unlike these games, however, has a framework that equalizes all player's abilities to participate by making the methodologies uniform (Vincent's point). Everyone can say "interrupt" as well as the next player. I posit that it's easier for a timid person to do this with the rule in place, than without. Not that I've found women to be timid in conversation anyhow. Being as there's little to no interplayer conflict going on neccessarily (IMO), I don't see where women are disempowered in any way.

Quote
Since complications are the main source of coins in Universalis, folks more ept at navigating and initiating conflict, and resourceful at incorporating traits, are at an advantage there.
But again, Complications are character (Component, actually) conflicts, not player conflicts. This is an important point that I've tried to make. Do you agree or disagree? Do you see the difference? Players are less "connected" to the characters in play in Universalis than in any other RPG. So there's as little player to character association as you can get. Meaning, again, that Universalis couldn't be less about player v player competition, and still incentivize conflict created by multiple parties.

To say that males are better at coming up with conflict in the literary sense would be to say that they're better at writting literature. Tell that to all the female authors out there. Or, again, is it the contention that stories are a "male" thing?

I'd sorta accept Vincent's idea that it's a male game because it speaks to limiting male interaction. But that's a long way to go to lable this game as "male". And one by which I think almost every RPG in existance could be labled male. I mean, how much more male is it to make characters that go out, kill things, and take their stuff. D&D of that mode is pretty damn male, IMO, being a representation of primitive male hunting-party status gathering. In fact, I'd say that potentially Universalis could be labeled the "least male" RPG. Certainly "not particularly male". Which renders the assignation rather moot, doesn't it?

Mike


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: lumpley on October 23, 2003, 09:32:31 AM
Hey Mike.  As far as my point goes, maybe this'll be clearer:

Universalis draws everybody as equal participants into a guy-type conversation, guys and non-guys alike.  It creates an interrupting, contradicting, talking over conversation where coins - which everybody's got equally - matter, instead of force of guy-will.  It makes guy-type conversations accessible and fun.

Most RPGs don't even.  Most RPGs regulate the conversation poorly if at all.  If the players have a guy-type conversation, force of guy-will dominates, to the disadvantage of everybody.  Most RPGs fall down in this regard, I'm not afraid to say, and Universalis doesn't by far.

In other words, I agree with you absolutely.

But to see where Universalis might be called "male," compare it to the game Paul's after: the one that draws everybody as equal participants into a chick-type conversation, even guys.

Guys and chicks, I mean, it's like I'm channelling dear departed Jared.

Anyhow, for the thread at large, the "create a conflict, roll dice, get coins" part of Universalis doesn't seem guyish to me a bit.  Not a bit.  It seems like radically player-empowered storytelling.

-Vincent


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on October 23, 2003, 10:31:00 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
But again, Complications are character (Component, actually) conflicts, not player conflicts. This is an important point that I've tried to make. Do you agree or disagree?


See, this is what I don't agree with.  Aren't you the same Mike Holmes who typically argues that the characters (or Components) don't exist or have desires of their own, outside of the players' manipulations of them?  Components don't have conflicts.  Players have conflicts (via the Lumpley Principle, trying to decide what occurs in the game) which are then projected onto the Components.  All conflict is player-player conflict, ultimately.  If the players don't disagree, you don't need a Complication to resolve anything.  You can just negotiate your way through the situation and not roll any dice.  At least, that's what the rules seem to be implying to me.  But Uni wants you to confront each other, be stubborn about what you want to have happen, and ultimately go into a bidding war where you roll some dice.  One player's wishes are eventually superseded by another's player's wishes, or the minority is silenced by the majority.  THAT's why it's a male/yang/guy conversation happening, in my opinion, because it's about overruling minority opinions for the sake of the game as a whole.  It's capitalist, it's democratic, and it's competitive.  It's not about consensus building or validating everyone's ideas.  Sure, it's individually empowering, but not if your ideas don't compete equally with everyone else's.  Imagine playing Diplomacy with someone who just wanted to be everyone's friend.  That person would get trashed.  And I fear the same thing would happen in Uni.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 23, 2003, 11:30:40 AM
I think you're starting from a good point but you're carrying it to an unwarranted extreme.  I've never seen the level of antagonistic comptetion you fear in any game I've played or heard of.

And I think that's the key.  "Antagonistic Competition"

I get the sense from your posts that you view all competition as intrinsically antagonistic "me vs. you", and further view competetion as being diametrically opposed to consensus building as if they were two seperate things.

On that I fundamentally disagree.  Competition does not have to be a table pounding, face turning read, contest of wills.    Consensus is impossible without either submission or negotiation.  And ALL negotiation, however benign, is a form of competition.

I fail to see how uni is in any way NOT about consensus building.  I would heartily argue that that is ALL uni does is establish a formalized framework for building consensus.  Consensus is about giving ones consent.  No action at all takes place in the game without every other player explicitly or implicitly giving their consent for it.  I think you are conflating the idea of "consensus" with "everbody is equally satisfied by the choice made".  

I would also argue that any and every consensus building technique out there functions exactly the same way; only instead of a regimented organized form of equally distributed currency that is at stake, the currency of consensus is an amporphous, difficult to define, but omnipresent social construct.  Authority, guilt, peer pressure, feelings of inadequacy, ego, spite, intellect, perceptions, favorites, friendship, love, sexual tension, etc, etc, etc. form the currency of consensus building.  

Heck, how often does a group of friends arrive at a consensus with the odd-man-out finally conceding with words like "fine, but you owe me one".  What is such a phrase except the explicit statement of dissatisfaction with the choice made but a willingness to go along any way in exchange for some future consideration.  In such a situation that individuals "social clout" was insufficient to swing consensus to their preference so they had to accept the preference of others.  Uni functions in exactly this same way but substitutes the playing field leveler of Coins for the purely social currency of "clout".

And as for
Quote
But Uni wants you to confront each other, be stubborn about what you want to have happen, and ultimately go into a bidding war where you roll some dice.
I'd have to say that this completely misses the mark of the game.

The rules repeatedly penalize you for being stubborn.  If someone challenges and you give in, niether player loses anything.  If you instead insist and stick to your guns stubbornly, you can still win, but it costs you.  You have to pay for the privilige of being stubborn.

Quote
One player's wishes are eventually superseded by another's player's wishes, or the minority is silenced by the majority.


This is called life.  There is no social situation in which everyone's wishes are fully implemented all of the time.  Uni is no more "plagued" by this than any other form of interaction.  You may be percieving it as such because the mechanics of Coins make what is going on explicit and up front; but I guarentee that except in cases where everyone already started in agreement, there has never been a consensus reached about anything in which someones wishes were'nt superseded by someone elses.  Somebody ALWAYS makes a sacrifice for consensus to be reached.  The sacrifice may be so trivial as to barely count as a sacrifice, it may be significant but acceptable on the basis of expected balance in the future, or it may be so severe that one party winds up in tears.  But consensus ALWAYS involves one or more parties sacrificing something.

Uni works the same way only the process is formalized and put on display for all to see instead of hidden behind a social veneer (one could make an arguement that the rules of etiquette exist primarily to conceal the underlying process of consensus building; which is why I find Orlanthi culture in Glorantha so appealing)

In uni someone will always be doing something that you hadn't thought of.  At some point its going to be something you'd have prefered not have happened (or happened in that way).  You may find its a trivial thing that you allow to pass with out commentl.  You may find its a signficant thing, but you let it pass on the grounds of expected balance.  That balance may come simply from the social preasures of someone else not argueing with you in the future because you didn't argue with them; but in uni it actually comes mechanically in the form of you know having more Coins to do with as you will.  

So yes, I see a degree of "free market" in Unis design (wholly intentional), but I do not see where this encourages antagonistic conflict between players.  A Challenge that goes to bidding, is not a war...its setting a price of "how important is it for you to get your own way".  There are a myriad of ways that this question gets asked socially (up to an including throwing a tantrum and shedding tears).  In Uni we measure this desire in Coins.  Rare is the Challenge that results in one party wanting to continue except they've run out of Coins and have to submit.  Experienced players don't let themselves get that low in Coins relative to their fellows without having done so on purpose fully knowing the risks.  This is no different than a social situation where 1 party has used up all of their "brownie points" or says "don't bat your eyes at me, that won't work this time".  In such a situation, the one party has lost all social clout and the ability to influence the other.  In uni...the one party has lost all of their Coins and the ability to influence the other.


A final comment:  How people choose to use their Coins in Uni is the same choices they make as to how to use their social clout in any relationship.  I fully admit that I use my Coins in a very Yang manner when playing Uni.  I've conceded that there probably is a bias toward such useage in the game because...well...I designed it.  But NOT to the extent or degree that you seem to be saying.  If you want to spend your Coins in uni in a Yin fashion...than do so.  There is no rule that says you HAVE to interrupt.  There is no rule that says you HAVE to take challenges to the bidding stage.  

Does this mean you'd be doomed to be ramrodded by Yang players...no...no more than Yin personalities in real life get ramrodded by Yang personalities.  You just have to approach things differently.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 23, 2003, 11:34:22 AM
Hello Jonathan,

Disagreements among players in Universalis are handled by Bidding (no dice, just money).

Conflicts among characters in Universalis are handled by Complications (the dice).

They're different imaginative/collaborative processes, different mechanics, and different social interactions. I'm having a hard time seeing why and how you're thinking of them as the same thing.

Best,
Ron


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on October 23, 2003, 12:12:16 PM
See, this'll teach me to post when teed-off, especially when my copy of Uni is at home.  Apologies all around, both for the tone of my last post and for misremembering the rules (which Ron clarified).

Ralph, your point about the relationship between competition and consensus building is well taken.  But while every attempt to build consensus is ultimately a competition, I'd add that every competition is also about building consensus on who the winner is or what the result is (Lumpley Principle at work again).  Honestly, I feel like this relationship isn't as clear in my mind as it should be.  Let me step back a bit and then I might start another thread on the Competition/Consensus issue, after thinking some more and reading old threads on the topic.  I was throwing out half-finished thoughts, which isn't quite fair.

One thing I can say, I think, is that I was reacting, in part, to Uni's codification of that "clout" you were talking about.  It seems like it's a reinforcement of something that's already happening, like you said, but it also doesn't seem to encourage players to develop solutions that satisfy all the players as much as can be done.  Again, this may not really be a weakness, as per the "too many cooks" phenomenon that can water down the power of individual decisions.  But it seems to me like the players who lack "clout" in normal conversations aren't necessarily getting any more by their participation in the coin system, since, being used to their "place" in those kind of conversations, I can see them chosing to back one side of a dispute or another, instead of voicing a different path for the group to take.

Again, this isn't meant as criticism of what the game does as much as things that I'd like to see another game do.

Still, it's become apparent to me that I'm not quite ready to step back into this discussion yet.  Let me retreat and think for a bit.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 23, 2003, 12:27:33 PM
Quote
Still, it's become apparent to me that I'm not quite ready to step back into this discussion yet. Let me retreat and think for a bit
.

I look forward to it.  This has been a very interesting thread for me and your further thoughts on the topic are quite encouraged.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Emily Care on October 23, 2003, 03:16:12 PM
Hello all,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Disagreements among players in Universalis are handled by Bidding (no dice, just money).

Conflicts among characters in Universalis are handled by Complications (the dice).

Coins are bid to settle disagreements, and coins are gained via complications--many more are gotten by winning a complication. I do see the difference between player and character conflict. My contention is that people who are more comfortable (ie feel less inhibited by or have more experience with) intiating conflict in general, may take like a duck to water with the central role it plays in Universalis and end up with more resources, ie more coins, which does equal player in-game effectiveness: you create components with coins, use them in complications and in inter-player conflicts. They are the currency of the game.  

This, of course, implies nothing about the quality of what they come up with (*Mike I replied to you below about this issue*)  And of course, this may not in fact be what really happens when most folks play Uni. But this is something I observed in the sole game I've played so far, and seems a likely thing based on these rules.


The player dynamic probably determines a lot about how cooperative a given game of Uni can be. I can imagine people finally "getting it" that initiating a complication helps everybody out--all involved can get coins, yes?---and then doing the things that Ralph and Mike have described: handing off components to someone else so that a complication can be initiated, coming up with inter-component conflict in collaboration with other players and conspiring to bring about complications in the interest of creating interesting play.  Liberal use of the rule about full concensus could go a long way towards helping people learn to work together.  And it also could be exploited as a tool by those disinclined to do so. It may be that what I experienced in our game was in fact a gns clash.

But I can also see it could take a while for people to "get" it, and cling to components as being identified with a given player, or viewing complications as being conflict with another player rather than as a game world conflict that involves the components of another players.  And maybe some folks would never get it.  I'll have to play more to see.

Another aspect of this for me to remember is that there is no limit of coins--no one can corner the market on them.  And why place such emphasis on winning bids? It's only of utmost importance if interplayer conflict is a big part of the game.


Quote from: Mike Holmes
To say that males are better at coming up with conflict in the literary sense would be to say that they're better at writting literature. Tell that to all the female authors out there. Or, again, is it the contention that stories are a "male" thing?

That's quite the leap. From what I wrote, and also in and of itself.  Assertiveness=Inventiveness?  The traits I was talking about center around ability to put oneself forward, not ability to put good things forward. Also, you may be confusing me with folks who tie the yang/yin personality traits we're talking to biological sex.

Be well, all. I'll be away until Sunday. I hope my comments can be taken as reflection on what I see as a possible dynamic of the game, and not as a criticism, or pigeon-holing.

Respectfully,
Em


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Emily Care on October 23, 2003, 05:46:02 PM
To answer myself--

Quote from: I
My contention is that people who are more comfortable (ie feel less inhibited by or have more experience with) intiating conflict in general, may take like a duck to water with the central role it plays in Universalis and end up with more resources, ie more coins

Vincent kindly just refreshed my memory of how coins are awarded: one per die rolled for the loser, and a number equal to the successes to the victor. That sounds like it should award plenty of dice to all.

--EC


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Valamir on October 23, 2003, 06:23:22 PM
heh, he beat me to it :-)

Emily, have you had a chance to read through the rules yourself or have you just been taught through the one game?

If you haven't, I'd love to have you do so and let me know how well the text as written addresses the concerns you raised above.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Bob McNamee on October 23, 2003, 06:42:25 PM
Quote from: Emily Care
To answer myself--

Quote from: I
My contention is that people who are more comfortable (ie feel less inhibited by or have more experience with) intiating conflict in general, may take like a duck to water with the central role it plays in Universalis and end up with more resources, ie more coins

Vincent kindly just refreshed my memory of how coins are awarded: one per die rolled for the loser, and a number equal to the successes to the victor. That sounds like it should award plenty of dice to all.

--EC


It is also (rarely) possible for the 'losing' side of  complication to get more Coins than  the 'winners'. Which can further balance things, potentially.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 23, 2003, 08:12:13 PM
Hello,

I'd also like to point out that someone who pushes the "brinksmanship" of Bidding a lot, i.e., competes via spending in order to win disagreements, will end up with less coins over time, not more.

In other words, "winning" disagreements does not enhance what passes for effectiveness in Universalis.

In case anyone's interested, I had extensive conversations with both Ralph and Mike during Universalis' gestation period about exactly this: to what extent is competitive play rewarded. In my estimation, and putting aside the truism that Step On Up (and its child, competition) can enter into any interaction, the game doesn't offer long-term payoff in these terms.

Best,
Ron


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: hix on October 23, 2003, 09:02:50 PM
Say your aim's to create this much more collaborative, consensual game of uni. What gimmicks or tenets would you use?

* High coin refresh to reduce the need for complications?
* No interruptions?
* A reworking of the challenge mechanic?

Maybe we can illustrating the dynamic we're talking about here.

Steve.


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: M. J. Young on October 23, 2003, 10:21:55 PM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton
See, this is what I don't agree with.  Aren't you the same Mike Holmes who typically argues that the characters (or Components) don't exist or have desires of their own, outside of the players' manipulations of them?  Components don't have conflicts.  Players have conflicts (via the Lumpley Principle, trying to decide what occurs in the game) which are then projected onto the Components.  All conflict is player-player conflict, ultimately.

Gandalf stands on the bridge in Kazad-dum. You cannot pass, he says to the creature of flame and darkness. I am the guardian of white fire, and you cannot pass. He strikes the bridge with his staff; the beast advances, but tentatively. Gandalf repeats his assertion and strikes the bridge again.

I'm sorry, that's conflict between components, or characters, without any player conflict at all. Tolkien, I am quite certain, knew that the Balrog was not going to achieve its objective of destroying the Fellowship. He probably also knew that Gandalf was going to be carried into the depths of Moria and continue this battle out of sight of the reader. A single author imputes desires, goals, and objectives to all his characters or components, and that brings them into conflict with each other. He is not in conflict with himself, necessarily, because of this.

If a single author can do this, there is no reason why a group of players cannot set up conflicts between components in a game without being in competition with each other.

I do not know whether Universalis works that way (I will, one day, I hope--Ralph gave Multiverser a shot very early in its life, and I at least owe him turnabout on that), but I think that there's a big difference between saying that components are only characterized as having objectives and desires and saying that they don't come into conflict with each other without their creators or controllers coming into conflict with each other.

That is, just because I've created a vampire who wants to kill my heroine doesn't mean that I have any desire to see him do so.

--M. J. Young


Title: Men are from Universalis (split Adventure in Impro'd System)
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 24, 2003, 10:23:44 AM
Right, MJ. Jonathan, Ralph is the guy who says that there's nothing to the character's existence. I'm the one who argues against him on the pilosphical points. In any case, it's the characters that are fighting, imaginarily. The players co-operate to get that to occur.

Let's say that two players were playing a theoretical game in which the Complication rule is that if you and I create a Complication, we each get 10 Coins, and work out the result together. Would that be Competitive between players? It would require that we create a conflict of some sort in-game, but it would be completely co-operative.

What people stumble over is how the rules work in detail. All sides in a Complication are rewarded. Even if I lose, I'll profit by a number of Coins equal to the free dice I got by activating extant Traits. Now, usually the player who wins the complication gets more than that, but not neccessarily. So, if anything the only thing that they're fighting over there is the right to have the randomly determined result instead of the fixed one. Which is a truely trivial incentive to actually compete.

The one other thing that's being competed over is the right to first narration of events. This is arguably a bigger reward, because the player gets to direct the outcome of a Complication, which should theoretically be an important moment in the story. But given that I can just narrate these things with my Coins at any time, it's not that big a deal.

To whit, in play I never worry about losing. Ever. Now, if I were a woman, or not very competitive, I could argue bias. But I'm very male (IMO, enought testosterone to have male pattern baldness to the extent that I'm very bald at the age of 35) and I am highly competitive. You should see me play wargames. So the fact that I don't feel any incentive to compete I think is telling.

OTOH, I know the game well. That is, understanding these things, and having the experience with it that I do, I may be too close to it. It may very well be that the text delivers a different message than the one that Ralph and I intended on these fronts. But we do try repeatedly to say that it's a Collaborative Storytelling Game. As opposed to competitive (like Once Upon a Time, which I'd like to see more and better of).

Very much we see Universalis as Freeform + Framework, where said framework serves simply to ensure that there is conflict for the character's stories. In most freeform, the conflict comes from players creating it on their own initiative, or from a GM, who's job it is specifically to deliver this. Having no GM, we just wanted to incentivize player creation of character conflict. That's the theory, anyhow. I can see that it might not work out perfectly that way.

Vincent, if the rigidity of the framework is male, then I guess I agree. But, again, as Ralph points out, it's mostly optional, so, again, it's gently male if anything.

Mike