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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 202 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Vespertine: Some System Help?  (Read 7147 times)
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2004, 03:34:16 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

More good stuff but, like you say, some of it is a little dense, especially when compared to the relatively rules-lite Little Fears.  I agree with a lot of it, though.


Indeed, I like your outline better for it's simplicity. However, there's the problem of focus: the Lesson rules you outlined are IMO a little out of place with the one-roll resolution used for other stuff. If you don't find that problematic, then it's all good, but I'd anticipate it to prove a drag in-game. All the comparing of values and stuff going on, while a normal fight or a whole date can be rolled with one die roll? And that only if the fight or date is normal, and not a Lesson, in which case it'd take die pools to resolve.

My outline was one way of resolving this: make all rolls use die pools, and the Lessons won't stand out unduly. Also make all non-magical stuff into potential lessons. The other way would be to find a way to do the Lessons as one-rolls, which I'd actually prefer if some simple way could be found. Then again, you'd have to find another role for Self in the proceedings...

This is of course only dislike for separate rules structures speaking; in principle doing Lessons with pools while doing other things with singular rolls should work.

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Since the Lessons use a different set of mechanics, though, I think characters can probably just use Mundane or Supernatural sin effects to escape from Lessons, since normal sin rolls don't require the same kind of dice pools (in my mind) and wouldn't, therefore, interfere with a Lesson in progress.


That's true. One way of making Lessons palatable as far as pacing of play goes is to string them out a bit - using one die in a Lesson could mean one evening of smooching or driving around looking cool, and it'd only be after several of these that the players would find out if Sin will stick. The players could have multiple Lessons open at once, as different forces tug at them. This way you wouldn't have a dozen Lesson rolls per one normal roll.

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I had thought about stealing WW's permanent/temporary resource system.  The earlier versions of Vespertine explicitly used them.  However, they're not really in place in Little Fears (which, in actual play, can cause problems when players lose Soul and gain Fear too quickly).  In some ways, you can simulate the permanent/temporary thing by just making people roll against Self a lot, with a low chance of actually chaning the score.  That's more what I was leaning towards, but having a temporary score does have some clear advantages.


Rolls against resistance can be either cool or a drag, depending on many factors. You run into the danger of granularity, like in D&D: your high level character has no trouble at all 70% of the time, but he's dead if you miss the roll. Then there's something that could be considered a whiff factor: you have to roll to just stay where you are, and failing hoses you. On the other hand, I myself like to use multiple rolls to give structure to the narrative: each roll can represent a concrete bit of soul-searching that's roleplayed out, like in Nicotine Girls.

One intermediate option which could be simpler is to have a soft cap for Self: values under six work in a certain way, while values over six tend to drop faster and easier. For example, when Self is over six, it could drop by one every time it's used, regardless of outcome. Something like that.

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On the normal use of Sin (not in Lessons), I agree that the Mundane/Supernatural split should be clear.  In my mind, it goes like this:  to show off how Cool you are, you try to roll under Envy.  If you fail (or if you don't want to bother with the initial Mundane attempt), you can make yourself Supernaturally Cool (or do something impossibly Cool), but then have to roll over your Envy or risk turning into a monster.  In the case of dueling Supernatural Sins, both parties try to roll over the other person's Sin to win (which is a very Little Fears style mechanic), and then roll over their own Sin to prevent transforming.  This can lead to ties and standoffs, which is fine.


Sounds good to me, and I like it for the feel of the game better than a detailed die-pool system like I suggested. If you can integrate the Lessons, you have no trouble at all. I suggest however rereading my bits about defining supernatural and stuff: both my earlier (supernatural is relative to the task) and the most recent ("supernatural" includes both natural and supernatural stuff, with heavy stuff only at high levels) suggestions have virtues in relation to your die mechanic.

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Your system summery is close to what I want, but not quite there.  I think I'd rather have a fixed cap for Self, to keep it fairly low and risky, since really high Self values would make descent into darkness less likely.  What if we cap it at 6 like everything else?  Otherwise, Little Fears caps meta-resources at 10, which would also make sense.


Or use multiple caps, like suggested above. A soft cap at six, after which the score'd have a greater tendency to drop. Kinda like a permanent and temporary score combined.

It all depends on how Self is used by the system. If there's die pools, open ended is good. If there's roll-under/over, you need the cap. Note that really high Self is not necessarily a bad thing: you can tie it to thematic elements in different ways to compensate. Two examples:

Ex 1: Self is about maturity, and getting a really high self just means that the character is a stable, healthy youngster. The system makes this a rare occurrence.

Ex 2: Self is about social ties, and a really high self is actually a bad thing, as you start to disassociate with your peers. You don't need them and their childish ways, you'd much rather hang out with mature people. This can lead to all sorts of problems, the main one among them that both teenagers over their head and hermits are easy pickings for those final points of Sin.

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Also, I don't really think "magic" is the best way to describe the supernatural powers that Sin provides.  Sin changes teenagers into monsters, so I think that the "magic" of sin should be a partial transformation or a act of power resembling something a monster would do.  So auras of seduction and fear would work, leaping onto rooftops, ripping somebody in half, communicating with animals, that kind of thing.


Yeah, I got it. The stuff in my example was more along the lines of inadverted magic. Like  the curse stuff: you meant to just make the guy think he's lost his face, but actually he really lost it as a curse... The degrees of magic were meant to enforce the feel of supernatural: to do anything overtly supernatural at all you'd need Sin 4, and to make the effect permanent would require Sin 5. It's easier to just use the monster.

Also, it doesn't hurt to give rationalizations for different kinds of stuff. Like, if there's this haunted house in the edge of town, and anyone who sleeps there at night is transformed into a vampire... what causes that kind of stuff? The answer would most likely be a happless adult magician who's preserved some scraps of knowledge from his childhood and used it in a rite. These speculations need not actually affect the game in any way, they just help the GM to ground himself.


Anyway, you have most of the game laid out quite well. No reason to panic. Let us know if you do an online playtest, I might just make an inroad into web-based roleplaying for this.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2004, 06:03:22 PM »

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
The Lesson rules you outlined are IMO a little out of place with the one-roll resolution used for other stuff. ...The other way would be to find a way to do the Lessons as one-rolls, which I'd actually prefer if some simple way could be found.


You and me both.  Here's the problem, though, as I see it:

-- The horror in Sinning comes from slowly digging yourself in deeper and deeper, until you're doing things or having things done to you that you wouldn't normally have allowed.  It sneaks up on you and seduces you into it.  Before you know it, you've broken some kid's face just because he made you angry and it was felt good to punch him.  I don't see a way that we can simulate this kind of thing with one-roll resolutions.  Sure, we could decide the ultimate outcome and then roleplay it out, but it's the details of these interactions that really matter, more than resolving who wins.

-- However, if we expand this blow-by-blow resolution to things that aren't sin-related, it makes the system run very, very slow and draws more attention to things that, in the end, aren't as important as the Sin-related stuff.  So I think, one way or another, we're going to be stuck with a split system.  It might be possible, however, to make both systems a bit more similar to each other.  We could make the Lesson mechanics into a series of roll-under-target moves, instead of a pool-bidding mechanic.  Let me think a little more and see if I can't come up with another option I like just as well or better.

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The players could have multiple Lessons open at once, as different forces tug at them. This way you wouldn't have a dozen Lesson rolls per one normal roll.


Would it be easy to keep track of THAT many ongoing, unresolved conflicts?  I tend to think this might be a headache.  Maybe there could just be some sort of penalty that could apply to resuming unresolved Lessons, which would quickly bring them to the place where they last ended.

For instance, if you're being given a Lesson in Lust by your girlfriend, but your parents come home early and you have to give it up.  However, when you start the Lesson over next time, you can skip the foreplay (both figuratively and literally) and there are less "moves" to work out the details of the Lesson.  This would work similarly if the same bully kept hounding you, but you kept getting away.  Each time, it would be easier and easier for the bully to provoke you into doing something rash.

Maybe you could just have a cap on the number of Self dice you could draw, -1 for each previous encounter, until you and your teacher manage to resolve things.  Does that just make things more complicated?

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On the other hand, I myself like to use multiple rolls to give structure to the narrative: each roll can represent a concrete bit of soul-searching that's roleplayed out, like in Nicotine Girls.


If I decide to go this route, it will definitely be in a form like this.  Rolls without meaning are silly.

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Or use multiple caps, like suggested above. A soft cap at six, after which the score'd have a greater tendency to drop. Kinda like a permanent and temporary score combined.


Interesting.  I don't know that I've ever heard of this kind of soft cap mechanic before.  Not sure that it's what we need here, but it's something else to consider, surely.  Self is really the thing I want to nail before playtesting this, since the Fear and Soul mechanics in Little Fears can be potentially troublesome, since the values can change pretty randomly (every time you roll a 6 on a Fear Check, you gain a point of Fear).  I'd like for Self to be a little more stable, but still change to reflect the events of the game.

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Note that really high Self is not necessarily a bad thing.


Only for the character involved.  You know, the obvious solution is to have really high Self lead to a premature "adulthood," blinding the character to the supernatural and making them join the world of responsibilities and maturity.  Still, that's a cap in and of itself, unless there's some Self check that determines whether a character has grown up, much like the check to avoid becoming a monster.  I guess you could roll against Self every time you use your Self to try to control the monster in someone else.  After all, that's what adults do...

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Let us know if you do an online playtest, I might just make an inroad into web-based roleplaying for this.


Will do.  A playtest notice will definitely appear on the Connections forum and in this thread.  I don't know if I could set aside the hours for a chat game, though, with my schedule so erratic.  Play-by-email would work, except I find it to be a problematic format for horror games (De Profundis not withstanding), since the time elapsing between posts takes you out of the moment and lets the anxiety disperse a bit.  Still, it would be better than nothing.

It will be interesting to see if players can "break" the game by playing a straight-edge puritan or a hedonistic thrill-seeker.  How fast can you become a monster if you really want to?  Can you really avoid Sin if you are determined to do so?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2004, 09:56:31 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

-- The horror in Sinning comes from slowly digging yourself in deeper and deeper, until you're doing things or having things done to you that you wouldn't normally have allowed.  It sneaks up on you and seduces you into it.  Before you know it, you've broken some kid's face just because he made you angry and it was felt good to punch him.  I don't see a way that we can simulate this kind of thing with one-roll resolutions.  Sure, we could decide the ultimate outcome and then roleplay it out, but it's the details of these interactions that really matter, more than resolving who wins.


Sure, but at the same time I see all kinds of other interesting stuff going on in the game. Actually, that's why I like Vespertine as compared to a random high concept nar game; there's room for all kinds stuff in there. Although I dig the Lesson theme, I'd say that you sell short the other possibilities if you make them systemic sidenotes. We've already seen what happens when a game system skews strongly to one direction: any "generic" fantasy game has one-roll resolutions for, say, forging stuff, and pages upon pages of combat rules. Guess which happens more often in the game. I'll give one example, my favourite:

The implicated setting: I find it extremely interesting that the school council could be run by the goblin king, and that every werewolf in that pack is a lost teenager. That there are evil demon kings somewhere out there who have a plan for these people and this world. Possibilities for Setting and Situation abound in a kind of symbolic crossover of Lovecraft's dream worlds and Hellraiser. All this from only a few words, the game is like Polaris in that regard.

See how that angle of attack (plotted morality play) suffers from heavy Sin rules? I can totally imagine playing 50/50 between character development (Sin mechanics) and Setting/Situation development (everything else). When Sin rules take four fifths of the handling time, the support for this erodes. I would actually find the game a little dull if it was played as pure MLwM, without drawing plot and interesting situations from the setting. It'd be just about individual moral choices, and not at all about reacting to horrorful situations.

Solution: put in one or two other subsystems to spread the focus out a little. My suggestion is a system of magical ritual, drawing from teenager superstition (ouja boards, speaking to mirrors at night, that kind of thing) and blending it with the demonic ties the whole Vespertine mythology has (I feel that monsters and demons are more interesting if humans can actively try to mess with them). This'd need to be just as heavy as the Lesson system, and it didn't even need to be used unless necessary. Could even be the same system of pool comparison, just with appropriate details. Actually, now that I think of it, this is essentially what I suggested before at some stage.

Another solution: make the heavy die mechanic (pool comparison) and the light mechanic (one-roll) alternatives for each other. They'd obviously have to be fiddled with a little. In any situation the players could choose to use one or the other, depending on the level of detail they want, not depending on whether it's a Lesson. Like HeroQuest.

At this point of our relationship I hope you'll understand that I totally support your decision if you'll go with split system. It's not like you don't know what you're doing. I'm just doing some backseat driving over here.

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Only for the character involved.  You know, the obvious solution is to have really high Self lead to a premature "adulthood," blinding the character to the supernatural and making them join the world of responsibilities and maturity.  Still, that's a cap in and of itself, unless there's some Self check that determines whether a character has grown up, much like the check to avoid becoming a monster.  I guess you could roll against Self every time you use your Self to try to control the monster in someone else.  After all, that's what adults do...


That's actually the setting-based result I've been looking for, I got sidetracked because it's not called Maturity anymore. Characters with high enough Self could indeed lose their knowledge of supernatural, which is effectively what happens to near everybody. The problem here is that this implies that supernatural is a result of the racial subconsicious - when your sense of self heightens enough, you lose touch. This is an interesting twist, but you'd have to support it in setting for it to make sense. Would conseivably mean that imagination is about losing yourself, and bourgeoisie values are actually about highest kind of self-definition. Strange, but interesting.

As for the check on when character grows up, it's simplest to make it after a week has passed from the last supernatural event the character witnessed. Succeed, and you continue believing, fail, and you become an adult. Adults will only see supernatural in extreme conditions, but are likely outside the scope of this game.


Anyway, the game seems to be well in hand. I'll put a short non sequitur here just because: I was thinking about playing Seadog Tuxedo the other day, and flashed on a supplement for the game. Care if I write one at some date? It'd be about how the penguins have to sail into deep arctic to get bigger than normal icebergs (read: extra big ice cubes) if and when they want to make a longer-than-normal raid on the summer isles. There they have to tussle with ice bear people, the next addition to the action figure line. Considering the length of the game, the supplement would probably be about the length of a page or two. You could actually write it yourself to save me the trouble and let me sleep without pictures of gaudily dressed ice bears floating in my head.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #18 on: August 09, 2004, 10:42:01 AM »

Just made a playtest annoucement, here:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=12291

Going to be a few changes before the playtest, from what's written here.  I definitely think I want to make the Lesson rolling simpler, but still incorperate extra Self dice and even character traits (which, in Little Fears, give you extra dice that you can pick a higher result from).  

So I'm thinking that you roll your combined pool (Sin+Self+Traits) and try to get over your opponent's Sin (if your opponent has none of that particular Sin, then they're all Successes).  Then you save all Successes and can play them to attack or defend against your opponent's attacks.  Self dice that don't Succeed lose you minor fractions of Self.  That's the gist, and I'll work the rest out when I write up the playtest rules.
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chadu
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« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2004, 11:25:09 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Vespertine is a sequel to Jason Blair's Little Fears.  Not THE sequel, necessarily, but a possible one.  Little Fears is a horror game about kids trying to survive, escape, and triumph over scary monsters.  Vespertine is a game about teenagers trying not to become monsters themselves.  Little Fears is the battle for Innocence.  Vespertine is about resisting and indulging in the so-called Seven Deadly Sins: Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth, and Wrath.  


Jonathan, have you had a chance to look at Dead Inside? I wrestled with many of the same issues you're talking about in this thread (for example, the original DI Vices were the Seven Deadly Sins).

It could be valuable for you to join the DI yahoogroup and go back through the messages for the discussions of the Virtue & Vice System. In the final version of the game, I altered the Vices from the 7 Deadlies to a more generic set of 5; this was in response to the idea that there were too many to keep track of. (In fairness, this may be related to the fact that the original version of the game also contained the Seven Heavenly Virtues; reducing the number of Virtues & Vices to track from 14 to 10 was well-received.)

Just an idea.

CU
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Chad Underkoffler [chadu@yahoo.com]

Atomic Sock Monkey Press

 Available Now: Truth & Justice
Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #20 on: August 09, 2004, 11:30:22 AM »

Thanks, Chad.  I'll definitely have to look at Dead Inside before I write up the playtest rules.  Hopefully, without the Heavenly Virtues to get in the way, Vespertine will run okay with just the 7DS + Self + Traits, but we'll have to see.
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chadu
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« Reply #21 on: August 09, 2004, 11:50:37 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Thanks, Chad.  I'll definitely have to look at Dead Inside before I write up the playtest rules.  Hopefully, without the Heavenly Virtues to get in the way, Vespertine will run okay with just the 7DS + Self + Traits, but we'll have to see.


I'm interested where you're going with this. Be sure to let me know when you've published so I can give you some jing.

CU
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Chad Underkoffler [chadu@yahoo.com]

Atomic Sock Monkey Press

 Available Now: Truth & Justice
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