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Author Topic: known outcomes  (Read 2021 times)
contracycle
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« on: January 29, 2002, 04:39:57 AM »

So a thought on the implementation of the HW mechanic.  There's something I've been toying with but presents some social contract concerns which I'd like to poll opinions aboyu.  On the other hand, it appears plausibly implicit in the rules as writ.

And this is: does the GM have the freedom to PRE-DETERMINE the outcome of an extended contest?

The kind of thing I'm thinking of here might be something like the following: the characters engage the main villain, but the GM has already conceptualised how this scene is going to play out.  The GM wants the fight to drift back up a tower, culminating in a dramatic finale in which the villain gets to say a few last words before being run through.

Now, there are many ways that such a plan could be derailed, especially as the players are controlling the size of their bids, and hence to some extent the pace of the contest.  On the other hand, it would seem to me a way of framing dramatic scenes which are then realised, more or less, by the mechanics.

My major concern is: will players think that it is cheating or railroading if the GM has, in effect, predertermined the possible outcomes of the scene?  Might I be accused of using this as a "dishonest" device if, frex, I employ it show the defaeat as opposed death of an NPC I wish to recurr later?

Any thoughts appreciated.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2002, 06:49:31 AM »

Hi Gareth,

There are two issues that I see here: (1) the actual final outcome and (2) the means or pace or procedures of that outcome. In your example, for instance, you have "the villain dies," but you also have "the villain fights up the floors of the tower, gets run through, and delivers a final speech."

I'll deal with the final-outcome issue first. I've found that Hero Wars has a similar predictability as Champions, in that given my knowledge of the rules and procedures, I can look over the numbers and Hero Point totals of player-characters and NPCs to get a pretty good idea of the outcome of the conflict. It's even easier than Champs because all the abilities work exactly the same way in game terms.

My personal take on this is to view it as a problem, and to encourage players to utilize system features such as lending Action Points, neat interpretations of affinities, augmentation across characters, or shifting abilities-in-use to give me less predictability prior to play.

But I can also see that for other forms of play, that predictability can be desirable, and again, my call is that Hero Wars lends itself to it much more than, say, Sorcerer does. I don't think that the predictability can be nailed down to a game-to-game equation or anything similar, as a lot has to do with person-specific trends in spending Hero Points or in bidding habits, but within a group, I think you could be pretty confident.

The second issue, the events and steps within the conflict itself, gets a very different reaction from me. I have a hard time understanding why one would prep or GM in this fashion using Hero Wars, as the system is built specifically to let these kinds of events during conflicts to be created by the group, via bidding mechanics and Fortune-in-the-Middle. Why not just provide a cool tower to fight in, and let the players choreograph a cool fight scene as they see fit? It may go up the tower and around the parapet, it may go into the little cathedral built into the side of the tower, or it may go into the moat (I'm making this up, obviously). I can't see any reason at all to choreograph "up the tower and get run through" prior to play, and it seems to me like railroading in a big way, Hero Wars or not. I'm even trying to pretend as though I'd want to do it, and I still can't see how the system could work for you; it would literally fight you by giving so much power to the players.

One element of this second issue that's a little different concerns the villain's final speech, and here I see that the system can help you out a lot. If I'm correct, then the only way a foe fails to get a final comment is if he loses Action Points way, way down the scale in the final blow, usually due to a Parting Shot on a player's part. So chances are, you'll get in those final comments without too much trouble, as combat doesn't work like in hit-point-based games ("down to zero, croak, next foe").

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2002, 07:42:35 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

I'd want to do it, and I still can't see how the system could work for you; it would literally fight you by giving so much power to the players.


Cool.  I'm thinking that the structure of the system gives me-the-GM the same kind of power it gives to the players.  Because I'm not dependant on task resolution, I can to an extent manipulate or intepret the outcome of the mechanical resolution in a way that would not need a rules override.  

Yeah, I agree there are lots of ways the players could derail this sort of concept; I guess part of the idea was a micro-version of the concept of "knowing your ending" applied to the contest as a thing rather than the adventure/story/plot as a thing.  The thought was partly inspired by the discussion of coincidence in the Guy Ritchie films thread; where a failure in a "drive hell for leather for the border" roll fails, the GM could introduce the "coincidentally crash into significant NPC" event as a consequence of that AP loss in the contest.  Hmm, perhaps no the best of examples, but I was wondering if the principles of premeditated story design - foreshadowing, only showing things that address the conflict, etc etc - could be applied inside the resolution mechanic to produce a number of events that are very hard to do in RPG.  Like in the Lock Stock genre, some stories seem to pretty much depend on the fact that a character suffers some very near fatal experience, or that the assasin was killed in the fight and could not be interrogated.

In fact thats possibly a more easily accessible case study.  I want to send a Dart Warrior against someone, but I cannot permit the warrior to fall into their hands and be interrogated, becuase the rest of my plotting is premised on the assumption that the characters are warned but not informed about the htreat they face.  Thus, would it be legitimate for me to conspire to ENSURE that the Dart Warrior dies?
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contracycle
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2002, 07:50:56 AM »

A part of this concept is aimed at writing adventures for people; I'm still very much into the concept of writing scenarios as support for settings.  Again, personal preference.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2002, 08:28:58 AM »

Hey Gareth,

A lot of my thinking about this topic is predicated on the idea that one cannot have it both ways: either an event is generated by group creativity, or it isn't, and in the latter case, it shouldn't even pretend to be.

I've discovered that many of the "key events" you are aiming at such as "fight ends up crashing through aged bricks into secret room," are far easier to treat as Bangs in the bandolier, waiting for player-cues through their own creativity, than as pre-planned events. In other words, just hold'em ready - it doesn't matter when and how they bash into that secret cellar, just that you've got it ready to happen when any event, action, or statement makes it sensible to happen. Thus engineering the fight in a particular way becomes less necessary. It may be that it's not a fight that reveals the cellar at all.

Another sort of key event is much like a Kicker - "the assassin attacks, but you survive - boy, better start looking for whoever's out to get you." This is easily handled in Hero Wars by considering that conflict is not the same as task - the fictional assassin may think he's trying to kill the hero, but you are the assassin's player, and you are rolling to establish the parameters of your goal - to alert, intrigue, and involve the player. It's not like Rolemaster, in which a series of rolls can splatter the hero's brains on the wall, but a whole different system in which the result of a successful roll is literally what you, not the character, want to happen.

The final sort of key event is trickier, and your example makes me especially nervous: "Oh shit, they captured my bad guy, they're going to make him talk, and that means I have to cough up the details of my Secret Plan and thus spoil the scenario - oh shit!" I tend to think that this sort of thinking reveals that the speaker is already rather far down a corridor that I never enter, well into a situation that indicates a power struggle going on between GM and players.

If I were going down that corridor, though, then I'd solve it (as I used to do, in Champions mainly) by having the captured bad guy be a lot more interesting and lead to fun stuff rather than some kind of inroad to my GM-mind. Of course he'll spill his guts, but they won't necessarily be truthful guts, or maybe they are, but the Real Villain is no moron and changes his plans just in case they've been compromised.

I'm not sure if any of this is helpful, but as a general issue, it strikes me that you are describing a managerial style of GMing that might be necessary in many games (Call of Cthulhu, L5R, and Unknown Armies come to mind) but is not necessary at all in Hero Wars and might even be a hindrance.

[Oops, forgot to finish my thought; editing this in - I do understand your priorities in terms of writing scenarios. Having written one for Hero Wars publication, though, I think that a relationship-map based approach, with a series of semi-planned or locally-distributed NPC actions (rather than rigidly-planned or "have to happen"), is a very effective method for the game.]

Best,
Ron
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Bankuei
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« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2002, 10:03:43 AM »

One of the fun parts of Hero Wars mechanics is that you can choose to not "railroad" an event, but have several safeguards that can make it tons of fun and still following the rules for your chosen event.  In the case of the escaping villian, you can make them have a terribly high motivation(I must live to see my dreams) and use that to boost any escape rolls.  You can also use the classic reinforcements to boost escape rolls("Master, run!  I'll hold them off!").  Both of these options allow you to demonstrate the villian's loyalty and compassion(or lack of) for the followers.  You can also use non-character events to aid a situation(the classic cave-in cuts off the heroes from the villian).  Again, there's still a chance for the players to overcome it, but they will have REALLY earned it, and you should reward them.

Chris
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2002, 02:03:31 PM »

Ron,
I think your expression of the NPC as the GM's character-as-player, pretty much in Pawn mode, neatly sums up what I was thinking.  This is a good way to express what I mean in terms of scenario writing.

On the other hand, I wanted to comment thast its not actually villains I was thinking of so much as minions.  In cases where they are not acting as Followers of a lead NP character, they act on their own AP and suffer their own consequences.  My problem is that what I don't necessarily want is a string of captured minions interrogated one by one, but given the power of the players to determine events in a contest its tricky to make that happen.

I see your point about bangs though; that bears thinking on.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
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