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Author Topic: Drama Resolution Mechanics  (Read 6245 times)
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2004, 08:48:26 AM »

Oops, I think I was thinking of BD&D Blue Book, pre AD&D, post OD&D.

But we all get the point. By AD&D, this pure fortune rule had some Karma added in in terms of the dex mods, etc.

Yeah, "core" mechanics are often the "flexible" mechanic that can be applied to "any" situation in theory, while the other mechanics for resolution are sorta seen as "fringe". That is, if you have rules for how long it takes alchemists to create potions given the materials to do so, it's rather pointless if nobody is playing the alchemist. The flexible core rules, however are likely to be applied to everyone, no matter how narrow they actually are. Hence how every D&D character will eventually have to make a roll to hit something at some point in all liklihood.

Mike
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2004, 11:20:08 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

Drama - the GM decides that it would be cool if Bob's character just happened to arrive just now. Drama is used to resolve what happens in game all of the time, and people just don't think about it. Because, again, this isn't one of those "does he/doesn't he" task resolutions. But it's still a method of determining what happens in game. Note how he could roll if he felt like it, or check the time of day and compare to a timeline...


Everyone should also note that Drama is likely the most widely-used resolution mechanic in all role-playing everywhere, because, with certain rare exceptions, dialogue in almost all games is completely Drama.

Exceptions I know of: Last Unicorn's Star Trek: TNG game had a "techno-babble chart" where your used Fortune to determine a character's dialogue. And Og! the caveman RPG uses Karma to limit how many words your caveman's vocabulary is limited to. In all other games I can think of, you can have your character say what you want because you think it's Dramatically appropriate.
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Hunter Logan
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« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2004, 11:29:04 AM »

I've been sitting on all this for a good long time. Haven't had time really articulate or post it.

Drama resolution feels like handwaving mostly because it frequently is just handwaving.

Basically, Fortune and Karma produce results through a contest. The player rolls dice, spends points, modifies the attribute or whatever to generate a measure of strength for the contest. This is compared to an opposing strength. The player wins or loses, simply meaning that the player either achieved his desired result or something else happened. In games where the contest determines who narrates what happened, winning means the player gets to narrate the outcome. Losing means someone else narrates the outcome. The narration itself is a powerful Drama component, but Fortune and/or Karma still play an important role..

Drama produces results through player intent. The player with the credibility or authority to declare what happens at a given point in time says what will happen, and that happens. But players don't really have anything in the way of formal recourse when they don't like what's going on. I suppose lots of things have been tried such as voting for approval and little contests to determine who has authority, but none of it has really solved the problem.

So, let's address the problem directly. The limitation is in DFK, specifically in the relationship between K and D. Fortune tends to exist just fine on its own. We can always intuitively assess a method of resolution using Fortune and end up with useful results. We may not like the results. We may not be satisfied with the results. Yet, the results are usually accepted on their own merits with little fuss. Drama is not fine. Drama needs something. It needs an element of Karma to make it go. Which is to say, Drama needs the benefit of a comparative element.

Here is a sore spot: Karma is usually about character ability. Character has X skill or Y attribute. This produces a modifier or certain chance for success in the resolution system. Yet, this says nothing about player intent or resources that enforce player intent. I have a character with a number of hero points. These allow me to have my way at certain times of my choosing... At least, I hope that's what they do. These hero points are a resource, but they're not about Karma. They're more about Drama. My understanding of the terms, Karma is about character ability. Drama is about player intent.

Follow me into heresy. Drama is not just player statements. If Drama is just player statements, Drama will always be restricted to handwaving. Instead, I say Drama is actually player statements plus resources intended to enforce or facilitate the player's intent. Yet, this does not conform to Tweet's notion of Drama, which is why in my own work, I don't use DFK. I use Chance, Ability, and Intent. These notions are closer to the truth.

Chance is part of any mechanic that uses a randomizer to resolve a situation.
Ability is part of any mechanic that uses character ability to resolve the situation.
Intent is part of any mechanic that promotes or enforces player intent to resolve the situation.

Resolution methods that emphasize Chance with Ability will still mostly produce results through a Contest. That is my observation looking through lots of games. People seem to like the OCntest. As it's been explained to me, the dice act as a buffer between the players. Still, the Contest is subject to considerable distortion, and the implied fairness might just be one of the biggest lies ever told in roleplaying.

Resolution methods that emphasize Ability may eschew the Contest in favor of the Expenditure. See the recent Marvel game for an example of that.  I spend X points to get what I want. As player, I choose how many points to spend subject to the number of points available and other limits on spending. I spend points based on how badly I want the thing to happen. Of course, my power is usually limited to how many points I have available and how many points I can spend.

Resolution methods that emphasize Intent are still a problem. It seems to me some other method of enforcement is needed. If we already have the Contest and the Expenditure, I suggest using a Transaction. That is, we all have a resource to use as currency. When I want one thing and you want something else, we make a transaction to determine what happens. I will not bore you with more theory.

Instead, I will refer you to The Cash System to demonstrate my ideas. Yes, I will be publishing the posted material one way or another. Yes, I will accept comments and suggestions. No, I really don't have anything else to add.
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Lxndr
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« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2004, 11:33:32 AM »

Mr Miller>  But... how often is dialogue the method of conflict resolution?  Yes, there's a lot of situations where it's very he/she, and so on, but a lot of that isn't really the resolving of a conflict, but rather the setting-up of a conflict, and/or the playing out of a conflict often resolved by another means (Fortune, Karma - see Fortune in the Middle for an aspect of this).  Unless the choice of dialogue IS the resolution element, I'm not sure your point stands.  Yes, a lot of a lot of games include drama-related choices, but when is the drama the primary part of resolution?

Simon>  Yes, most (all) games have resolution systems which are a mix of the various types... sometimes two, sometimes all three.  But, generally, one holds more sway than the others.  

In Sorcerer, there's Karma elements (how many rolled is determined in part by stats) and Drama elements (giving out additional dice 'cause of coolness and stuff) but those are subordinate to the Fortune element (the actual roll of the dice).  Thus, I'd consider Sorcerer's resolution system Fortune-primary, and I think I'm right on that call.

In Amber, as I understand it, there's a subjective Karma element (most Karmic games at least attempt to set an objective standard, but in Amber it's all "how much people wanted to bid") that is subservient to the Drama element... the Drama element comprised entirely of "whatever the GM finally decides on."  Amber (at least as it's talked of by its fans) is Drama-primary, with a subordinate Karma element.  But Amber's Drama rules, such as they are, seem to be entirely "whoever can convince the GM his plans are better."
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xiombarg
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« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2004, 11:42:07 AM »

Thanks for the clarification, Mike. I guess I already knew that, but didn't know I knew. ;-D

Ron already beat me to mentioning Zero At the Bone, which is Drama-based with Fortune to determine ordering.

Also, Mike and Alexander have played at least one game that I think has a major drama component: The way the result of a Lapse in Unsung is handled, by a vote, consensus, and dramatic narration, is "hard" Drama, if you asked me. Arguably the Gift system is pure Drama as well... The narrative element of a Gift is added to the game assuming the players connected to it don't veto, there's no Fortune involved except in whether a Lapse happens, and Karma doesn't even come into it.

In fact, if voting and consensus is Drama, then Pretender has a large Drama component, particularly during the "set-up" phase.

In fact, if determining narration rights and letting someone narrate is Drama, and I think it is, then Pretender, Otherkind, Torchbearer, OctaNe, Donjon and InSpectres are all primarily Drama-based games, with the Drama moderated by Fortune to a greater or lesser degree.

So that's a lot more red-headed stepchildren for you. An early example of "hard" Drama might be the optional "Cut-Up" resolution system for Over The Edge that appeared in the supplement Weather the Cuckoo Likes. In that mechanic, you drew several random words out of a bag. If you could describe your character's success using those words in a logical way, then you succeeded in the way you described.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: May 12, 2004, 11:44:28 AM »

Oh golly, bonk-on-head: InSpectres Confessionals. Drama resolution all over the place, which may even act as a constraint on the allowable conflicts/rolls/outcomes in the next scene despite Fortune outcomes as those scenes are played.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #21 on: May 12, 2004, 12:00:04 PM »

Quote
Mr Miller> But... how often is dialogue the method of conflict resolution?
At the risk of stealing one Mike's thunder, this one will answer.

1. There's a question of when something becomes a "resolution." It's really quite nebulous. From one POV, drama is always used to "resolve" every action that occurs up until one of the other two methods is used. I mean, "I cross the street" could be seen as a conflict. In HQ, it's quite explicit. This is a situation that's handled by using the Automatic Success method of resolution. Essentially before you do any narration at all, you make a decision whether or not to use the "other" resolution methods, or just allow the statement to stand. BTW, the actual rule in HQ is that "no character will fail where it's inappropriate for a hero to fail." Completely a drama step. From this POV, every consideration to "not" use another resolution system is Drama.

2. From a more traditional way of thinking, some people would bs outraged if you told them that they had to roll to convince another character to come along on a quest, because that would limit their chances to "role-play" their character. What I mean by this is that some people reeeeealy prefer that any social contest be "played" out with dialog, and the result determined by drama. Situations that would definitely be resolved using fortune or karma in other games.

Mike
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Cemendur
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« Reply #22 on: May 12, 2004, 05:29:06 PM »

Here's my explanation of some forms of resolution mechanics, including an example of a drama mechanic. The explanation indicates a pattern that could be further applied to drama resolution mechanics.

Resolution mechanics being, "the rules which determine resolution of events in the imaginative space".

Karma is resolving actions using character statistics e.g., this character has a 10 Strength, so she can pick up a fifty pound weight with no problem. In pure Karma resolution, there is no random element.

Karma, Resource is when Karma gets spent up.

Fortune- Dice, Cards (Represent a continuum, a degree of success or failure.)

Resource Fortune - When a resource intitiates a fortune

(Fortune) Oracle- Fortune with interpretative results. What events do the oracle resolve? How does the interpretation resolve an event? Perhaps the GM reads the interpretation?

Resource Oracle- When your Karma or your Karma Resource effects your oracle fortune. Example, Helsna has an "Insight" of 3. So 3x a day she can cast an oracle to understand/resolve a situation. How does the oracle help with understanding/resolving an event? Perhaps the GM reads the interpretation?

Fate - resolving actions based upon prearranged consensus.

Example: Gelkor has Destiny: Find Lost Artifact of Rog-I-Yaz. On the path to that destiny, he has the following Fates: Lose a close loved one; Exiled from Umperfa; Kill Argua the Defiler. Gelkor is in a battle with Argua. He is losing and desperate. Gelkor declares, "May Rog-I-Yaz have mercy upon me!", invoking the fate of "Kill Argua the Defiler"

Resource-Fate - When a prearranged RESULT is initiated through a resource.

Example: As above, Gelkor invoke's his Fate, "May Rog-I-Yaz have mercy upon me!". Gelkor's player then checks his Devotion resource which is significant enough to invoke the god/fate.

Resource-Fortune-Fate- When a resource intitiates a fortune which initiates a prearranged RESULT.

Example: As above, Gelkor declares, "May Rog-I-Yaz have mercy upon me!". Gelkor's player then checks his Devotion resource which is significant enough to invoke the god. However, the fate has not been sealed, it is now the god's discretion. The GM decides Rog-I-Yaz' response based on fortune - perhaps adding the characters "War Reputation" to the die. Rog-I-Yaz is the god of mercyless war and decides Gelkor is too weak and needs to "Lose a Close Loved One" (invoking the fate) to harden up. (Depending on the degree of failure within the fortune resolution and the system, the god could give the character a positive or negative fate in return.)

Drama Resolution

Resource-Drama-Fate- When a resource intitiates a drama resolution which initiates a prearranged RESULT.

Example: As above, Gelkor declares, "May Rog-I-Yaz have mercy upon me!". Gelkor's player then checks his Devotion resource which is significant enough to invoke the god. However, the fate has not been sealed, it is now the god's discretion. The GM decides Rog-I-Yaz' response based on drama. Gelkor dialogues with Rog-I-Yaz, the god of mercyless war. Gelkor grovels, "Rog-I-Yaz have mercy upon me!", an unwise tactic. Rog-I-Yaz decides Gelkor is too weak and needs to "Lose a Close Loved One" (invoking the fate) to harden up. (Depending on the degree of failure within the fortune resolution and the specifics of the fate resolution mechanism, the god could give the character a positive or negative "fate" <to be used later> in return.)
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #23 on: May 12, 2004, 09:18:14 PM »

A long time ago I argued that drama was the foundation of all mechanics. You might say that the primary mechanic in D&D is fortune, because whenever you don't know what would happen you roll the dice. The problem is that whenever you don't know what would happen is a drama decision: drama-resolution determines when fortune is required and when it isn't.

Of course, that's splitting hairs, to a significant degree--although it is in keeping with Erick Wujcik's article on diceless games in the articles section--the argument there is that someone decides when to use the dice, and therefore you're using a means of resolution other than dice in order to decide to use the dice. Mike has covered that already, but it helps to recognize that drama resolution is constantly being used unnoticed.

I disagree with Hunter that "intent" is clearer in this regard. Although the names karma and drama aren't particularly good, they work and they are known.

There was an original question asking for examples of drama resolution; it was initially taken to mean published games in which drama resolution is primary. Since then there has been some divergence from this, so I'm going to follow the divergence.

Somewhere I suggested a drama system that was not hand-waving and one-person decision making. As far back as the Gaming Outpost discussions about System Does Matter it was understood that drama didn't necessarily mean "one person decides"; it meant "someone decides" in a more general sense. Thus "someone" can easily mean everyone in the group agrees to the outcome.

The proposed system worked like this: whenever there was a conflict, two players at the table representing the two sides of the conflict each stated the outcome they proposed. Everyone else at the table voted for one outcome or the other, and the majority determined what happened as between those two choices. One of the two sides would frequently be the referee, but not always so; in any event, since the outcomes are being judged by the vote of everyone else, there is some benefit in proposing a moderate result (more likely to win support of the others) and in creating outcomes that benefit or involve in positive ways the other characters (for much the same reason). This would be a drama resolution system that could be run fairly quickly (particularly if every player was given a black chip and a white chip so voting could go swiftly).

Someone said that something like it was implemented somewhere, but I don't recall where.

--M. J. Young
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #24 on: May 12, 2004, 11:36:00 PM »

Quote from: xiombarg

In fact, if voting and consensus is Drama, then Pretender has a large Drama component, particularly during the "set-up" phase.


BL>  I disagree, strongly, that voting and consensus represent Drama resolution, namely because they are reduceable to simple player-level karma interactions (each player gets one vote, say...)

yrs--
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pete_darby
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« Reply #25 on: May 13, 2004, 01:45:17 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Quote from: xiombarg

In fact, if voting and consensus is Drama, then Pretender has a large Drama component, particularly during the "set-up" phase.


BL>  I disagree, strongly, that voting and consensus represent Drama resolution, namely because they are reduceable to simple player-level karma interactions (each player gets one vote, say...)

yrs--
--Ben


But, by that standard, GM fiat determined Drama, or player determined Drama, is still actually Karma because of the presence of a single vote / veto, just at a purely binary level... I thought Karma at least implied either comparison of fixed numbers or manipulation of a resource pool (which, in Nobilis & MU is replenished through a Drama mechanic...)
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Pete Darby
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« Reply #26 on: May 13, 2004, 04:31:08 AM »

I know I keep comign back to Amber, and commenting with reference to it, but it's the only explicit, formal drama resolution game I've played and I have played it quite a lot.

Quote from: Lxndr
In Amber, as I understand it, there's a subjective Karma element (most Karmic games at least attempt to set an objective standard, but in Amber it's all "how much people wanted to bid") that is subservient to the Drama element... the Drama element comprised entirely of "whatever the GM finally decides on."  Amber (at least as it's talked of by its fans) is Drama-primary, with a subordinate Karma element.


On reflection I don't think Karma (fixed ability scores) are any more or less significant in Amber than they are in most diced games (HeroQuest, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu from my own experience). I've not noticed any feeling that my character's abilities are any more or less significant in Amber than these games.

Quote
But Amber's Drama rules, such as they are, seem to be entirely "whoever can convince the GM his plans are better."


That's true, but there has to be a reason for it. The GM has to narrate what happens in a way that is convincing to the players. If a PC is defeated for unknown reasons that tells the players something - there's some factor in play that they are not aware of and they will investigate it so the GM had better be prepared for that. Amber players don't like to leave such mysteries unsolved for long.

In a randomised game you don't always know, in the game world, why one charcater won and the other one lost. Yes there may be modifiers and such, but who can say which modifier swung the result one way or the other? You have to post-generate a justification. In Amber there's always a reasoned justification for why one character won and the other lost, and it's always there in the narration. It's genuinely the cause, not a post-resolution rationalisation. Usualy the root cause for particular events within the contest will be down to attributes, special abilities and such which are Karmic. Sometimes it will be down to good use of the environment, but it's always there. That's why players accept the validity of the resolution.

Yes it comes down to personal credibility and trust in the GM, but if everyone knows the system there's much less reliance on that than you'd think. I've seen some people who've never played Amber describe it as a beauty contest between narrations of the outcome but nothing can be further from the truth. That chain of cause and effect is always there, built up step by step.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
xiombarg
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« Reply #27 on: May 13, 2004, 04:44:46 AM »

Yeah, I gotta agree with Pete on this one. A vote isn't a stat -- you're not comparing it to other votes, it's just a way of deciding "who narrates," in a way. If you prefer, it's Drama influenced by Karma.

I mean, if voting is pure Karma, Pete is right: GM fiat is just really boring Karma (I have one vote, you have zero votes) and Drama does not exist.

What about Success? Does the fact that there are stones involved mean it's not Drama?
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #28 on: May 13, 2004, 06:09:09 AM »

Quote from: Lxndr
Mr Miller>  But... how often is dialogue the method of conflict resolution?


Hi, Alex. Actually, you hadn't mentioned conflict resolution until this post. I thought we were talking about resolution in general--as in "How do we decide what happens in the imaginative space?"

In which case, Mr. Holmes & Mr. Young articulated my point-of-view precisely.
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