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Author Topic: [TSOY] Transcendence (split from First Impressions)  (Read 16224 times)
joshua neff
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« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2005, 07:42:53 PM »

Stephen--

You've already said you don't want to belabor the point, but for the benefit of others, I want to expand on something Mike said:

Quote from: Mike Holmes
On another note, I'd have no problem with the game ending when the first character ascended if that seemed appropriate. That is, again as said above, I'm sure that not only the player sees the end in sight, but everyone else.


That's really important. The Transcendence rule isn't just about 1 player and his/her character, it's about the entire group and their characters. It's one player saying, "Stephen, dude, your character is really close to being able to Transcend!" And another player says, "Yeah! He'd be the first character to Transcend. Hey, wouldn't it be cool if..." And the other players (including the GM) start throwing out ideas and getting really jazzed about it.

So, I'll propose this: before you completely decide you hate Transcendence, consider that if you had played the character for a good long while--and since you choose when to advance your character to the point where your character could Transcend--and everyone in the group was really excited about your character Transcending and was giving you positive reinforcement about it, you might not find it objectionable.
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"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Spooky Fanboy
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Posts: 585


« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2005, 10:08:37 AM »

If I may interject:

I can see both sides of this argument. I understand how the mechanics of the game don't really support play beyond a certain level of character expertise. IMO, neither did AD&D, beyond a certain point. (Hence, so many undead with "energy drain".) It gets boring to have to come up with new challenges that draw the same rush of excitement you had when there was a serious chance your character could stumble at a critical moment.

But, when I first read the rules on Transcendence, I was also a bit put off. "You mean all that time I spent dragging that character from danger to danger, with all those ups and downs, finally getting him to the point where he's the badass I'd always dreamed he'd be, and my reward for this is to retire him? What a rip! I don't give a damn how sweet his goodbye party is, I still have to get rid of him! This blows!" That was my honest gut reaction, no matter how much sense it makes from the standpoint of the rules.

My question, Stephen, if you're still paying attention to this thread: What to you would be a reasonable reward for Transcendence, given that you have to retire a well-worn, well-loved character because he's gotten so powerful that the world can no longer contain him anymore? What would soften the blow and sweeten the deal?

I know I for one might be interested in rules to maybe soup up the next character a little bit, a la The Riddle of Steel. But maybe we should be talking about other options, since boosted characters run the risk of Transcending that much faster. So what other kudos can we give, in-game or otherwise, that might balance the loss of the character? Granted, some people play for the story, not the character, but since some do invest a bit of themselves into their characters, what could be done to help them let go of a much-loved fictional character they created?

Let's be fair. There is no game that will suit everyone, and some people just aren't going to be happy no matter how many compromises and considerations you give. But I think Stephen has raised a legitimate issue, and since The Forge is supposed to be a mad-rpg-scientist collective, perhaps something could be cooked up in the lab? I wish I had an idea where to start, but my rpg-fu is weak and underdeveloped.
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2005, 10:32:07 AM »

Quote
But, when I first read the rules on Transcendence, I was also a bit put off. "You mean all that time I spent dragging that character from danger to danger, with all those ups and downs, finally getting him to the point where he's the badass I'd always dreamed he'd be, and my reward for this is to retire him?


I guess that's not my take on it.  Your reward for all that is that this bad-ass character who has done so much heroic stuff Wins The Game.  He or she achieves whatever objective was driving them all this time.  What's the point of playing any further?  To achieve a long term goal?  Bingo, you transcended and achieved it!  Good for you!

I find it curious that this "early retirement" system gets the same reaction that early retirement sometimes gets in real life: "Oh please don't force me to retire, this job means so much to me!"

I also find it curious that such a tiny rule has elicited such a long discussion!
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2005, 02:41:26 PM »

Quote from: James_Nostack
I find it curious that this "early retirement" system gets the same reaction that early retirement sometimes gets in real life: "Oh please don't force me to retire, this job means so much to me!"


And thank you for giving me the perfect metaphor to explain where I'm coming from.

Yes, you've retired. You've survived ups and downs, heartbreak and triumph, and sometimes long, frustrating stretches where, no matter what you did, the best you could do was break even. You've gotten your farewell party and ceremonial pen or pocket watch, and you're on your way out the door, to a world of vastly expanded horizons.

Now what? You've spent the best, most vital parts of your life with the company, having focused most of your energy to get as far as you can go in it. You never had time to really think about what you'd do after it, because it took up so much of your time while you were in it. Where do you go? What do you do? Who are you, now that the most demanding task of your life is over, and you've more or less won? This is one of the toughest times in a person's life, whether retiree, soldier, or even a prison inmate who's finally free after so, so many years locked in a cage. Suddenly, all the life skills they have don't mean a damn thing anymore. Suddenly, your going-away party seems...kinda hollow.

In a highly exaggerated way, this is what some roleplayers go through when a character they've spent so much time and enthusiasm on. Their favorite character, who they've put so much work into, is being retired and it may not necessarily feel like the right time, no matter what the roll said.

You can argue that it's part of the contract they signed when they started playing the game. You can argue that the mechanics do not support a character at such a heightened level of competence. You can rant about "dysfunctional roleplaying" created by the glut of mostly-Sim games and their cursed focus on character advancement. You can argue about the needs of a good story over the need of a well-used, well-loved character. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one" is a truism, but when you're that one being outweighed, it's easy to feel a touch resentful, no matter how logical the reasoning.

I think the fact that it's mandatory, without player appeal (except through drawing out the story by putting skill boosts in other, non-character-concept skills) that chafes those types of players who really get into their characters. It's the primary part of the shared world they're in that they alone create, and may justifiably be proud of. Other games have ways to work around this: D&D 3.whatever got around this by creating The Epic-Level Handbook, which (IMO) just delayed the problem. The Riddle of Steel softened the blow by allowing some of the experience of the previous character to roll over to a new character. IMO, this won't work for TSOY because it brings up the problem of retirement all that much quicker. Games like Trollbabe and Sorcerer got around this problem by (Trollbabe) making "advancement" into "relations" that can be explored or discarded at the need of the ongoing story, or (Sorcerer) making  "advancement" a near-complete rewrite of the character. Both of these methods allow the character to continue without becoming too powerful for the world to contain, until the player decides that the character has run it's course. Other games just either dropped character advancement or limited it to modifying character concepts (ex. Primetime Adventures).

None of these options, as far as I see, will work for TSOY. From the get-go, it was implicit (even explicit) in games like Sorcerer, Trollbabe, and Primetime Adventures that the characters are only means to explore themes and tell stories. It's hard to argue that that's true for TSOY, because it looks so much like an AD&D-type fantasy-adventure game that most people, at first glance, have no reason to expect that character advancement won't be the primary focus of the game.  Thus, why the retirement cap at a (random) roll of 22 or higher is going to seem jarring until the reasons become clear. And for players who like immersing themselves in their characters, the "Once 22, retire, you!" law isn't going to be much-loved. And yes, when I say, "not-much-loved," read "dealbreaker." Which is sad, because Clinton's written a damn fine game, and no one will convince me otherwise.

But my main point in my earlier post was this: What is the best way to handle a character who is well-loved but is just too big for the world that he "lives" in? If we let this character stay, how do we deal with the fact that he might (will) overshadow the other characters and diminish other's enjoyment of the game? If we make him go, should we try to compensate the player for forcibly retiring his character, and if so, what's the best way? Clinton may not want TSOY to be the game that answers these questions (and I don't blame him!), but surely this is a good question to ask ourselves when it comes to game designing! That's why I wanted to get Stephen's opinion on what would, in his opinion, be "just compensation" for having his character removed before he felt it was time to retire it. It just might be the question that sparks a debate that shifts gaming forward. Why not brainstorm?
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Christopher Weeks
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Posts: 683


« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2005, 03:13:17 PM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
I know I for one might be interested in rules to maybe soup up the next character a little bit, a la The Riddle of Steel. But maybe we should be talking about other options, since boosted characters run the risk of Transcending that much faster. So what other kudos can we give, in-game or otherwise, that might balance the loss of the character? Granted, some people play for the story, not the character, but since some do invest a bit of themselves into their characters, what could be done to help them let go of a much-loved fictional character they created?


One character's transcendance could easily enough result in the next character's birth.  Clinton wrote "change the world," so do it.  Maybe a new race rises up on the surface of Near -- and guess who's playing the first ever example?  Maybe politics change dramatically and your new character is made possible or protagonizable by the change.  Maybe you find a whole new school of magic and you get to play with it through your next character.  Maybe there are a trillion ways to impact the game world so that you get to continue to groove on the same story.
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2005, 05:16:16 PM »

Chris--

All the above is true, and it has the added bonus of not changing the rules a whit.

Downside is, does every group of players want to restrict the "first pick" to someone whose character has Transcended, and what about players who can't come up with something novel to exploit the opening that the retired character left for them?

Still, excellent suggestion. I'd still like Stephen's input on this.
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Christopher Weeks
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Posts: 683


« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2005, 07:44:35 PM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
Downside is, does every group of players want to restrict the "first pick" to someone whose character has Transcended, and what about players who can't come up with something novel to exploit the opening that the retired character left for them?


When the game started, every player had a "first pick."  Whether it was the first elf or the first Zaru goblin or the first character to focus on Priestly abilities or whatever.  But as a reward for engaging the system and taking your play to the limit, you get to transcend and engineer some wicked cool transformation and get a whole new "first pick" if you want.

And I'm having a hard time imagining the inability to "come up with something novel to exploit the opening that the retired character left."  You have an in-game day to pull the right strings.  You have some real-life time to think.  And most of all, you're narrating whatever you want.  Presumably, if this whole "first pick" thing is so important to you, then you've been thinking about what you were going to do when transcendance happened for a long, long time.  So pick one of the cool ideas that you came up with and narrate.  Maybe I'm just not getting it?
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joshua neff
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« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2005, 10:43:50 AM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
Chris--

All the above is true, and it has the added bonus of not changing the rules a whit.

Downside is, does every group of players want to restrict the "first pick" to someone whose character has Transcended, and what about players who can't come up with something novel to exploit the opening that the retired character left for them?

Still, excellent suggestion. I'd still like Stephen's input on this.


I hate to keep harping on this, but your post makes it sound as if only one player--the player with the Transcending character--gets to make the "first pick." And if another player can't come up with something novel, s/he is screwed. And that seems odd to me, because I see it more like this:

Player 1: "I rolled a 12! My character Transcends!"

Player 2: "Cool! What are you gonna do?"

Player 1: "Well, I was thinking of introducing a new race of beings."

Player 3: "Aw, sweet! What about those wolf-men we talked about before, from the frozen south?"

Player 1: "Yeah, I think that would be cool. How about my character goes off to the south, meets this race of wolf-men and leads some of them to Near."

Player 2: "That would be cool. I want my character to be connected to them, but I can't think of how."

Player 3: "What if you take the Secret of Animal Speech with your next advance? The wolf-men are part-animal...maybe that Secret could help you communicate with them?"

GM: "Sure, I'd allow that, although with a penalty die, since they're not really animals."

Player 1: "See? Your character could be the first person in Near to communicate with them."

Player 2: "Oh, that'd be cool. Okay, I'll do that. And then your new character could be the first of these wolf-men in Near."

Player 1: "Okay!"

GM: "Great! So, your character Transcends. Narrate what happens."

See, Transcendence affects one character, but it doesn't affect one player. Is there any reason to assume the group wouldn't be talking about this and getting psyched about it and coming to decisions about it together?
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
GaryTP
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« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2005, 11:17:25 AM »

I've been playing TSOY for four weeks now. It's interesting. We're very excited about transcendance. And here's why.

In our version, we're having transcendance mean you go incorporal and only your conciousness remains. (Read the Reality Dysfunction.) It goes into a collective consciousness that inhabits an old temple. The minds in it then have the status of gods of old wisdom among our peoples. We can access the mind for advice, and have the original player of the character respond in a roleplaying manner. So we never have to cease having contact the character. It's just our own interpretation of transcendance.

Having the ability to choose what transcendance means to you and what your character wants to do with it is key to enjoying it.

Gary
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #24 on: January 30, 2005, 01:34:04 PM »

Gary,

Man, that is cool.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Stephen
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Posts: 172


« Reply #25 on: January 31, 2005, 07:05:28 AM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
My question, Stephen, if you're still paying attention to this thread: What to you would be a reasonable reward for Transcendence, given that you have to retire a well-worn, well-loved character because he's gotten so powerful that the world can no longer contain him anymore? What would soften the blow and sweeten the deal?


I don't want to sound like I'm being obstreperous or repetitious here, but honestly, the conflation of the phrases "reasonable reward" and "have to retire a well-worn, well-loved character" are fundamentally contradictory for me.  If the game's making me give up a character I don't want to give up yet, it's not a reward: it's a punishment.

This is why most videogames are not designed to be "won", or finished.  And one of the biggest draws of roleplaying games back when they first came out -- something I think I could probably find a direct quote about in the first D&D/AD&D books -- was, "There is no end, and no way to 'win' or 'lose' -- the game keeps going as long as you want."

If I want to give up the character, I don't need rules to tell me when I can do it.  If I don't want to give up the character, I don't want a system that forces me to as a reward for success rather than failure.  The very idea of system-enforced Transcendence is a bug for me, not a feature.

This is why I apologized and tried to withdraw -- it's pretty clear to me I'm being rather grognardishly cranky about this, and I didn't want to annoy people by being a stubborn old codger.  TSOY has many intriguing and compelling aspects and it's a very well-written game, but I think I'm not the audience it was written for, and Clinton deserves better than to have me griping about that.
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Valamir
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« Reply #26 on: January 31, 2005, 08:22:04 AM »

Its an interesting perspective Stephen.

I'd be interested in knowing your specific thoughts on the idea that the game isn't making you give up a character you don't want to, because you as a player have 100% control over whether you put your character in a situation where Transcendence is possible or not.

If you aren't ready to retire your character, you simply don't buy up the score to the level where hitting Transcendence is possible, ergo the game never takes your character away.  When you're ready to retire, you buy up that last point, and if you manage to hit Transcendence you go out with a bang.

Is that a suitable solution to your objection?
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Christopher Weeks
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Posts: 683


« Reply #27 on: January 31, 2005, 08:38:34 AM »

Ralph,

Unless I'm misunderstanding, he addressed that above:

Quote
A player involuntarily risks the permanent loss of that control via a system mechanic which is not optional (in that you have to work against everything in the system to avoid this eventuality and artificially stagnate your character).


So he's classifying it as an involuntary risk (where most of us do not) because the system is driving the characters (through limited inexorable advancement) toward transcendence.  Stephen doesn't buy that you can just not buy an ability up to ten because it ruins the verisimilitude or something.  (see his fourth post on the first page of the thread for more detail.)

I can kind of see his point, but I think it's a trivial complaint (unless you really just want to play the same character forever).  I'm sure that I'll be ready for the coolness of transcendence before it comes up.  And if I wanted to accomplish this one cool thing before it happened, I'd just do so (either before buying an ability up to ten or as my transcendental act) and then get on with things.

Chris
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Stephen
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Posts: 172


« Reply #28 on: January 31, 2005, 09:43:35 AM »

Quote from: Christopher Weeks
I can kind of see his point, but I think it's a trivial complaint (unless you really just want to play the same character forever).


It's not so much that I'd want to play the same character forever; I simply object to the idea of the system "deciding" for me when the "appropriate" time to retire my character is, rather than me making that decision myself based on what I want to accomplish with that character in-game.

It's also the particular mechanism by which the TSOY system "decides" that happens: a random roll linked to a character ability, any character ability (regardless of how relevant it is to the character's Keys or adventuring history), maxing out at 10.  What this does in practice is, as I said above, to make a narrativist goal -- sole control over your character's fate and departure from the game -- dependent upon success at a gamist mode of play, the "levelling up" often decried in other contexts.

(After all, purely logically, wouldn't my best "tactic" in a TSOY game be to boost my Stay Up ability to 9 as quickly as possible, and then take my leisurely time with the rest of the game until I feel like Transcending, virtually immune from being Bloodied or Broken by anybody of any lower ability?  Certainly this isn't the spirit in which one is "supposed" to play the game, but it's perfectly feasible by the rules as they stand.)

From my point of view, the problem is that the approach to play required to achieve that reward most effectively does not seem to be the same as the approach to play required to enjoy the reward once you get it.  The game is designed to evoke the old-style feeling of "levelling up" progress, growing from humble beginnings to become a mover-and-shaker of your world, but presents the ultimate reward as not being a mover-and-shaker but abandoning being a mover-and-shaker.  To use the game's own terminology, there seems to be a confusion between Intention and Effect.

I find this dissatisfactory both from gamist and narrativist points of view.  From a narrativist point of view, it means that my story progress is tracked and ultimately resolved by a meter that may not always match what's dramatically interesting or compelling -- not all character arcs are centered around, or end with, the achieving of Absolute Bestdom.  And from a gamist point of view, it means that the ultimate reward of successful progress is to lose the character; that it's in a manner of your choosing, rather than the system choosing for you as an outcome of a lost conflict or gamble, is little consolation, to me at least.

For others this obviously isn't so much of a problem, but for me, I have to admit, I have the same problem I had with level caps in the old D&D (to answer a question I was asked a while ago).  It was the reason I so seldom played demi-humans: the idea of knowing from the beginning I could achieve X level and no higher was just annoying to me; it made me feel like I was just spinning my wheels.

In Wraith: The Oblivion, Transcendence is a similar end-of-the-character mechanic, but achieving it has nothing to do with character power and happens only as a result of actions directed specifically and consciously towards that end (as opposed to TSOY's current structure, where one can achieve the potential to Transcend pretty much without thinking about it and only decide with the purchase of that last Ability level whether to pursue it or not).  Moreover, it's left open to each group how and when it should be achieved, or even if it can be.

To sum up: It's not the idea of Transcendence or the notion of retiring a maxed-out character I object to.  It's the way the system enforces that progress and resolution as it stands, and the fact it's enforced at all.
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Keith Senkowski
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On A Downward Spiral...


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« Reply #29 on: January 31, 2005, 11:32:08 AM »

Quote from: Stephen
It's not so much that I'd want to play the same character forever; I simply object to the idea of the system "deciding" for me when the "appropriate" time to retire my character is, rather than me making that decision myself based on what I want to accomplish with that character in-game.


Okay, so you don't like the mechanic.  Fine, don't use it or if it bothers you that much don't play the game.  I don't see what the point of this is anymore.  It isn't a discussion, just people cursing the wind for blowing.  You are adamant in your belief, fine.  Unless there is something to actually discuss, why is this thread still going on.

Keith
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