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Author Topic: Narrativist Reward Mechanics  (Read 3567 times)
M. J. Young
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« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2004, 08:57:33 PM »

I am going to have to go back and re-read Legends of Alyria, because I think there are answers to those questions in that game that I haven't fully grasped myself.

I know that the players are rewarded for actions that advance the story by being given inspiration or corruption points. These can be used in a lot of ways.

Inspiration points can be used to override the resolution system in favor of "Good", and corruption points likewise override the resolution system in favor of "Evil"; this is not good and bad outcomes for the character using the points, nor does it mean that the good guys or bad guys will necessarily win this time, but rather that the group will agree on a resolution to the current confrontation in which Ultimate Good or Ultimate Evil is advanced.

Inspiration points can buy up a character's flaws and build up its strengths (collectively characteristics); corruption can buy off the strengths and build up the flaws. However, because of the way characteristics are used in the resolution system they are only really useful for creating story and addressing premise. I may have maxed out my character's characteristic, Love for People, but it has the same force used against me as it has used in my favor. Every "strength" is a weakness, ever "flaw" an advantage, depending on how these are called into play. Ultimately, they do far more to define what happens in resolving conflicts than they do to make one character superior to another.

Inspiration and corruption points can cancel each other.

If they are not spent, the accumulation of seven of either shifts the character's Virtue one place. There are only five places for Virtue to hold--you might call them fully evil, partly evil, balanced, somewhat good, and fully good. Virtue, however, primarily defines the character's place in the story. I think it might have a value in determining how much it costs to buy off characteristics, but I don't remember clearly. (The game has gone through several revisions, and I've been following it pretty closely throughout, but I sometimes confuse the rules that have been added with those that have been dropped.)

Thus the rewards given to the players are entirely aimed at factors that enhance story and address of premise.

But that's really a sketchy look at something I'm not remembering terribly clearly (I'm surprised I managed as much detail as I did, and would not be surprised to find I got something wrong). You probably want to look at the game for a better picture of this.

--M. J. Young
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Kirk Mitchell
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« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2004, 09:47:52 PM »

Where can I find it.
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Ville Takanen
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« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2004, 01:29:16 AM »

Alyria is in the independend games section of forge

On another point, I use a similar system, where the points are called karma and taint, Karma being "working for the common story" ans taint being influence of other legends and stories on character that removes player control of character little by little. These points cancel each other, and "karma" can be used instead of "experience" or to enchance fortune.
The newest version states that taint is gotten from usage of non mundane powers against the premise/storyline or blatantly acting in a way that breaks the pre-arrangend player/character thematic role in the game.

Another game Conspiracy of Shadows, did have a similar check and balances system IIRC.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2004, 08:35:04 AM »

You're drastically overstating my statements, MJ.

What I was proposing is giving a reward for narrativism that had no guidlines for use on the other end. That is, the system is reinforcing narrativism to get the rewards. The point is that, sans other input, what the reward is given for may influence it's use on the other end. It's not strong, but in no way am I suggesting that you give out rewards that have no influence at all on how the players percieve them, and hope that they will produce the desired play. In fact its been my point this whole thread that you can create one side of the equation that's so strong that it influences the other side of the equation.


Kirk, as an example, if one had a game about political issues, one could gain points in the election phase that were only usable in the administration phase, and vice versa. Does that help you see what I'm talking about?

Mike
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Alan
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« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2004, 09:36:15 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
...I see players getting points, spending them, and then winning them back for spending them correctly. That's always somthing to avoid.

What I like to see is two stage loops at least. That is, the reward is given for one area of thematic exploration, but ends up being useful in a different area of exploration. Meaning that you want to have more mechanics that deal with these things in a more in-game manner.


Hi Mike,

In TROS I have often seen players SAs get activated for a roll, then the action itself earns an SA point.  I understand what you're getting at and I too find it a little incestuous.

I would be interested in seeing an example of rewards in one area of thematic exploration being applied in another.  Do you have any suggestions?

Universalis.  Coins are spent for Director power but earned in Complications (conflict).

Trollbabe.  Rerolls are earned by role-playing relationships.  Director power is earned by surrendering success.

Sorcerer.  Thematic actions change the Humanity score, which then provides character advancement.

Is this the sort of thing you're talking about?
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Kirk Mitchell
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« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2004, 06:59:30 PM »

Mike, I understand what you are saying now.

How would you make that side strong enough though? An example might be helpful for this as well.

But still, driving towards that "pure" narrativist mechanic (why? I do not know, go ask you dad), but avoiding the incestuous circle, we would need to consider:

- What part of Exploration and behavour you would reward
- How that reward would feed into another part of Exploration and increase the effectiveness of another behavour
- The reward could not be used to gain another reward
- The way that characters and players are meant to impact the story
- How the reward effects the way that characters and players are meant to impact the story

At least, that's the way that I see it.

Alan, in the Universalis example, director power could be used to instigate a conflict, which gains you back a coin. (I haven't played any of these games so I'm just going off how it looks to me) Trollbabe grants a gamist reward for roleplaying, and grants greater player power for surrendering character power, so director power could be used to set up a situation to surrender success, so you gain back director power. Sorcerer has no real circle from your description.

So, in these examples, granting director power for an action leads directly to an incestuous circle. Granting a gamist reward (increased player effectivenes) for a narrativist action generally doesn't. So what are other ways of giving a narrativist reward without leading into an incestuous circle? I believe that the points above hold the answer, but the answer itself eludes me...


Kirk
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timfire
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« Reply #21 on: June 22, 2004, 08:19:11 PM »

You might want to take a look at the Trust mechanic in the Mountain Witch. I hesitated to bring it up before because I wasn't sure if it could be considered a reward system... but I don't know what else to call it, and it's the closest thing to a reward system the game has. Something about the Trust mechanic, however, is that it loops between players, not between different aspects of an individual's exploration.

At the start of each scene, a player grants other players a certain number of Trust points. These Trust points can be spent by the receiving-PC to aid, betray, narrate a conflict, or influence the giving-PC.

For the giving player, if they are willing to take the risk of betrayal, they gain the possibility of aid, which grants them a tremendous advantage in a conflict. Now, since Trust points are meant to represent, well, Trust between the characters, simply giving out (or not giving out) Trust addresses premise.

For the receiving character, Trust points give them power over the giving-character. However, the receiving-character must first prove that they worthy of that Trust. Thus for proving that they are worthy, the receiving-PC gains power over other characters. And again, since Trust points represent Trust, simply spending these points addresses premise.

So as you can tell, this creates a cycle of giving Trust and then using Trust, which then feeds back into the giving-PC's choice in how they will give out Trust the next scene.

Hope that all made sense.
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Kirk Mitchell
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« Reply #22 on: June 22, 2004, 09:40:05 PM »

I don't have enough time to look at the rules in full (the game looks pretty interesting) but your description is quite helpful. This I think is a form of Exploration of Character, not of your own but of others. Using trust loops into other characters, which loops into other characters. So the only way to gain trust is to place your trust into others. I like it. I think that looping through players is a good way of avoiding a reward mechanic feeding into itself, but I find that the uses of the mechanic are rather gamist,  but as you said, "giving out (or not giving out) Trust addresses premise". Does actually giving out or not giving out trust reward the desired behavour though? Does the act of using or not using a reward mechanic influence behavour?

Am I making any sense (I usually don't ;))?

Kirk
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2004, 10:25:39 AM »

First, Alan, perfect examples.

Quote from: Dumirik
How would you make that side strong enough though? An example might be helpful for this as well.
Well, for one thing, I think it's about making the side that you don't want to promote "weak" rather than making the other side way strong. Or, rather, the side you want to promote should make the other side somewhat irrellevant.

Hard to explain out of context, yes. One problem is that there are so few functional examples of this. I'll take TROS as an example, however. In that game, there's some debate on how the rules should be interpreted, interestingly, and this is telling. The rules state that SAs are added to any "roll" which is made for which they apply. People have assumed that this means in combat that you add the dice to your combat pool each round. The thing is, you actually make potentially several rolls in a round. Usually at least one offensive roll and a defensive roll.

So, let's say that I've got a character with a CP of 10, and "firing" SAs of 6. Using the rules as technically written - which Jake seems to stand behind, and Ron seems to endorse - that means that I can split my pool in half for five dice each, and add six dice to each of those rolls. Meaning that how I split my pool isn't really all that important. It's so potent, that I'm sure to do well. And my choice is limited to selecting from 6 Offense/16 Defense, to the opposite. Even if I choose something like that, I'm still likely to do OK.

Using the other method, I now have a CP of 16, and still have to decide how to split the dice up. I could go 16 Offense, and no defense. The tactical choices are telling.

The rules as written are far more supportive of Narrativism. Because winning isn't about making good tactical decisions, it's really only about making the right choices for the character (pandering to SAs). In the latter example, the Gamism creeps back into things more strongly.

Now, actually, I'd contend that even the "more Gamist" method still doesn't overwhelm the narrativism in play. This is because the choice to fight is still only based on SAs, really. So not only does the above example show how a mechanic can be tweaked to be more or less strongly supportive of narrativism, but the system as a whole shows how you can sort of "partition" off segments of play. In the latter version what I note is players playing along in a narrativist fashion until they get to combat at which point they switch to gamism for the duration of the combat (at a potential sacrifice in terms of occasionally leading to incoherent play - not the system's fault as this is a drift).

Quote
But still, driving towards that "pure" narrativist mechanic (why? I do not know, go ask you dad), but avoiding the incestuous circle, we would need to consider:
I agree with your points.

OTOH, this is just one way to accomplish the task. There are infinitely more available. I was only discussing the one that seems most obvious to me. So attacking Alan's examples is pointless. He's showing games that get the desired result in some way - not just the circles.

That said...
Quote
Alan, in the Universalis example, director power could be used to instigate a conflict, which gains you back a coin. (I haven't played any of these games so I'm just going off how it looks to me)
Quote
To clarify, when you make a conflict, you roll dice, essentially gambling on the return. So yes it's rewards for rewards, but there's uncertainty in the middle which prevents people from falling into ruts in play (which is the problem with the incestuousness).

Quote
Trollbabe grants a gamist reward for roleplaying, and grants greater player power for surrendering character power, so director power could be used to set up a situation to surrender success, so you gain back director power.
Quote
That's far enough to prevent the potential problem (in moist cases, I'd think). That is, as long as, basically, you can't get a reward of one type for spending the same type of reward, then you're OK.

Quote
Sorcerer has no real circle from your description.
Again, you're fixating on my two circles. Sorcerer does narrativism better than most games by avoiding metagame resources that give director stance. The general mechanics drive narrativism in sorcerer. Most of them.

Mike
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John Kim
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« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2004, 07:02:55 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
  The rules as written are far more supportive of Narrativism. Because winning isn't about making good tactical decisions, it's really only about making the right choices for the character (pandering to SAs). In the latter example, the Gamism creeps back into things more strongly.  

If SAs strongly influence winning, then isn't pandering to SAs a part of tactics?  For example, Amber and Pantheon are both games which strongly reward clever descriptive play with success -- which I would say is a form of Gamism.  Similarly, in TROS, it seems to me that trying to maximize pandering to your SAs can be a Gamist challenge.  It's different than purely mathematical optimization, but similar to the genre-matching challenge of Pantheon.  

This came up in my discussion with Sigurth about his Harn game using TROS a few months ago (cf. http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9387">[TROS] The Riddle of Harn).  In contrast, I had been playing in a Harn game using HarnMaster.  It seemed to me that the influence of TROS was that the its version was in a more heroic genre -- whereas the HarnMaster game was more gritty and/or naturalist.  In my HarnMaster game, our PCs frequently compromised our principles in order to do the most expedient thing.  This sort of drama would be unlikely to happen under TROS, because the PCs get overwhelming rewards for following their principles.  

I would tend to say that the Gamist aspect is minimized if a player can get maximum (or close to maximum) benefit/reward with relatively little skill.  For example, in TROS this would be true if you could easily maximize SA pandering and thus bonuses.  In general, this is true if fairly simple and obvious play lets you be almost as successful as skillful and dedicated players.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #25 on: June 29, 2004, 12:46:59 PM »

Too local, John. Instances of play. Yeah, the "reason" that I go for the guy my character hates is to get the dice which is tactical in the short run. But then what? When I kill him, then what happens? Was killing him a good idea when his brothers come looking for me? Will it lead me to look for magic items to power up? Where's the payoff in terms of player ego relating to something other than creating story in play?

In the long run, in overall agenda terms, it's quite supportive of narrativism.

Mike
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John Kim
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« Reply #26 on: June 29, 2004, 08:59:03 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Too local, John. Instances of play. Yeah, the "reason" that I go for the guy my character hates is to get the dice which is tactical in the short run. But then what? When I kill him, then what happens? Was killing him a good idea when his brothers come looking for me? Will it lead me to look for magic items to power up? Where's the payoff in terms of player ego relating to something other than creating story in play?

In the long run, in overall agenda terms, it's quite supportive of narrativism.

Hmm.  The thing is, these arguments also apply to Amber and Pantheon.  Yeah, nobody collects magic items in those games to power-up -- but that doesn't mean that play isn't competitive.  In any case, in TROS there is power up through more SA points.  

This argument is purely about Gamism.  Now, it might be congruent with Narrativism in this -- i.e. collecting SA points as a goal is both Gamist and Narrativist.  But mainly I was objecting to your suggestion that pandering to SAs wasn't tactics.  Quite the opposite -- SAs are central to tactics in TROS.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #27 on: June 30, 2004, 08:00:56 AM »

I see.

But what I'm saying is that you don't first get into a fight, and then look for SAs to get a tactical advantage. The fights that you get into are largely the result of the SAs (because you know you have the tactical advantage then). See the difference.

Now, if there's some sort of meta-challenge going on for the player with the plot (e.g. he's trying to kill all of the other PCs or something), then selection of the SAs might be tactical at that point. But that assumes a mindset that I don't think the game promotes. Outside of combat, SAs just inform strongly as to what the character cares about.

And, again, if you're playing such that the SAs in use reduce the tactical challenge, then I think we're in agreement that they're particularly narrativism producing in that case.

Mike
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TonyLB
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« Reply #28 on: June 30, 2004, 08:11:21 AM »

I think that you can achieve results that will please Narrativists and Gamists both (a subject near and dear to my own heart).

If half your group panders to their SAs to get the bonuses and kick butt, and half your group kicks butt with the bonuses because it helps support their SAs... well, you've got a group that can play together, right?

If that prevails... wouldn't it be fair to say that SAs are promoting both Narr and Gam play?  Or is that sacrilege? :-)
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timfire
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« Reply #29 on: June 30, 2004, 08:34:28 AM »

Hmmm, I believe there are some misconceptions floating around this thread, or at least there are some ideas I don't agree with. I think they center around the idea of a 'pure' Nar reward, or around the idea of what is or isn't a Nar/Gam reward, or around the idea of what is and isn't addressing premise.

First, conflict/adversity/challenge by themselves do not Gamism make. All CA's utilize conflict or adversity (& so MJ doesn't have to repeat himself, yes, conflict does mean different things to each CA).

Also, addressing premise does not exist in a vaccuum. Addressing premise is about making a thematic statement through the choices your character makes. In a game that utilizes alot of conflit, like combat in TROS, how a PC gets into conflicts and how the PC's resolve those conflicts is tied to addressing premise.

Here's an example of what I'm trying to talk about: You have a player who wants to make the statement "I will follow Love anywhere."

Now, the PC's wife/husband dies and goes to Hades. The PC wants to go to Hades and join their loved one, but the black gate to Hades is guarded by the Dark Hounds.

If the PC does not have the skill to defeat the Dark Hounds, then the PC is effectively de-protanganized, since the player cannot make the statement they wants to make. Thus, in this example, a system that grants a combat bonus to fight the Dark Hounds actually enables addressing premise. Thus in this example, the combat 'power-up' works to facilitate Nar.

In the above example I see Nar and addressing premise on both sides of the equation. What do y'all think?

[edit: cross posted with a couple of people - also, this is meant to a general statement unrelated to the TROS issues.]
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