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Author Topic: Reading 9W  (Read 2679 times)
Eero Tuovinen
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« on: February 11, 2005, 03:34:18 PM »

So, Nine Worlds found it's way to my northern hermitage. I think I'll ask a question about the rules... but first I'll spout some nonesense.

First, let me say that the game is still seeming really abstract to me. Really, really abstract. I have no problem with abstraction on the narrative level (like MLwM, in which there is actually no abstraction at all - it's all about narrative logic), but here the connection between in-game events and the rules is nearing arbitrary. I'm understanding it much better after reading Ron's actual play explanations about how this is supposed to work, but if somebody can hint at additional resources, that's all the better.

From reading, I'm seeing a kind of unspoken but central rules feature here. Take the example on page 47: Alexander is restoring mortality to his sweetheart Hannah. The book reads: "The game master explains that Zeus' agents have placed two extremely powerful stasis locks on her Arete and Hubris, but Alexander may attempt to break those. Alexander's player announces an immediate conflict: his goal in the conflict is to try to restore her mortal form (in other words, break the locks).

What's exactly happening here? Where those locks came from? Why he needs to break them? Why is his goal in the conflict stated as a mechanical one (destroy the locks) when winning conflicts is actually the way to reach in-game goals? Why is it not sufficient to win the conflict?

What I'm seeing here is that there's all kinds of variable ties between in-game events and the mechanics, and the players are assumed to improvise rulings on them. The players decide on the spot that this and this rules feature signifies such and such in-game thing, overriding the narration rules. Almost all examples in the book have the players enter conflict, move some scores around, and narrate in-game results. The problem is that the rules don't address this part in any way (or I haven't noticed it yet). Indeed, the examples are vague on whether the players are narrating events and justifying it with use of tricks, or the other way around! Typically these formalistic games have it the other way around, but here many examples leave the impression that it's actually happening world first, mechanics second: in the example on page 38 the conflict is about avoiding the agents. "This time, however, it won't be so easy for Alexander." There's stasis locks on the power attributes of the agents. I might be a little dense, but why does the example continue into removing those badges? What benefit is there, if winning the conflict is what allows the characters to escape? It seems to me that there's a constant creation of limitations going on, somebody has decided that those badges have to be removed for the escape to be successful, and I can't for the life of me see who makes the decision, and what it's based on. Is it the GM? Or a player? Why?

So, what is the narrative power of trick-taking, and what meaning winning conflicts has?

On a lighter note, I have a simple procedural question. Who can capture tricks and from whom? As I read it, the text doesn't tell when the capturing is done. Apparently it has to happen before the player narrates, but if it happens only on the narration turn, capture can never happen. The player with lesser Fate narrates and spends his tricks, after which the next player gets to narrate, but there's no tricks to capture, because the weaker player already spent his.

But if tricks are captured first, before narrations, isn't there any limitations to the captures? The strongest Fate just takes all tricks on the table? But why is the list on page 36 so queerly phrased in that case? Additionally, the text at this point seems to be dividing the players into allied and hostile parties, but I see no way to define who is what. Nothing stops players from taking tricks from friendly parties.

Actually, now that I'm reading the relevant passages again, the text refers in many places to multiple winners of conflict. If the winner is defined by having the highest Fate score, how can there be many winners? Who are the winners? Apparently only winners can capture tricks, for example, so this is somewhat important.

Might be that all this is explained in the book and I just don't see it.
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2005, 08:29:55 PM »

Eero, I'll explain the capture of Tricks first.

It's a first come, first serve issue. The person with the highest Fate has the first opportunity to capture any Tricks he desires. He can capture Tricks from any of his opponents.

If any Tricks remain, then the person with the next highest can do so, and so on.

Yes, this means that the person with the highest Fate hand can elect to take everything. But, the other victors still likely have Tricks from their own hands, as well as the option to "burn" their Muses and create Tricks at any time.

I'll get to the other issue in the next post.
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Matt Snyder
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2005, 09:07:09 PM »

Quote from: Matt Snyder

Yes, this means that the person with the highest Fate hand can elect to take everything. But, the other victors still likely have Tricks from their own hands, as well as the option to "burn" their Muses and create Tricks at any time.


Yep, I've clearly missed something. Who are the "other winners"? Your answer implies that their tricks cannot be taken, but I still don't understand who they are. My addled reading says that winning is subjective: if you have more Fate than somebody else, one could say that you're a winner compared to him, because you get the last word in narration (compared to him). But apart from that it seems I missed it in the book when winners were determined. Is it just an evaluation of whether the stated goal is reached? But in that case the winners wouldn't be known before the narrations were done...

More comments, now that I'm here:

It was eerie, reading the book I was constantly thinking that it reminded me of this one marginal Moorcock novel I read last fall... then "Blood" was mentioned as an inspiration in the end. A pretty nice book, in an atmospheric way.

Why isn't there more statistics for in-setting stuff here? This seems like the kind of game where stuff like individual Titans' stats would actually be directed towards actual play instead of padding the book... I could well imagine enjoying some more points of contact between the rules and setting in this manner. Easier to engage the setting when there's more crunch, isn't it?

Why the conflicts limit the player to only one urge per conflict? I was thinking when reading that all the more interesting effects require applying several urges. And why the actual resolution is so relatively simple (as opposed to, say, using some actual trick-taking game)? Is that to faciliate playing multiple hands in a row? The scale of the single hand is apparently pretty small, compared to some other conflict-based systems.

Why are all the Primarchs such bastards? I dig the Choice, but as written your text seems to slant pretty strongly towards hubris and revolution. From the first reading I don't really get any strong drive to be a stooge to any of these characters. Whatever nobility service and knightly ideals might hold, I don't feel that you've been really convincing in exposing them. Even the "good guy" Primarch, Prometheus, seems to be saying that the Archons specifically should go out and not expect him to tell them what to do.


In summation, I like the text. I'll definitely try to play this at some point. Until then I'll be assuming that the simpler Dust Devils wins out on the great scales of gaming, though...
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« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2005, 09:14:33 PM »

Eero, regarding you other concern about abstraction ...

I agree that Nine Worlds involves much abstraction. But, I strongly disagree that it's an arbitrary matter.

You've hit upon a major stumbling block that others have, which is "Why can't I do what I want when I win the conflict?"

I have addressed this in at least one other reply: [9W] Problems with certain actions. I recommend reading that thread as well.

Let's first take a step back and talk about why and what this game is about and what it does.

This game is about changing the universe. It's about power and authority, and who gets to make things the way they are.

So, when you enter a conflict, you really have two levels of power.

Let's call the first level of power "Narrative" power. If you win a conflict, you can really change a lot of what's happening in the game. You can introduce elements. You can change scenes. You can make up anything you want to describe. It's simply saying something, and POOF! it's true. You get to Narrate. The game system is built so that other players acknowledge that what you say enters the shared imaginary space of the game. It's the mechanism for you having authority over other players at that moment. You're the narrator. Neat!

But, there's a second layer of power. Let's call that layer "Metaphysical" power. This is where the game really forces you to consider how you want to spend your resources and decide how you want to change things. You can't Narrate something IF there is some kind of Metaphysical investment involved. Here are some specific examples:

Example 1: You can't just win a narration and say "I kill Kronos." Why? Because Kronos is invested with Metaphysical strength, in this case a very remarkable Power attribute, plus a strong lock on that Power attribute. He's very hard to destroy. You can't just dismiss him.

Example 2: Your GM cannot just win the narration and say "I take away your Talisman for good. No more Aethership for you!" Why? Because you have invested it with metaphysical power. You spent some Pride points and created a Talisman, complete with Power and Urge attributes. The GM can't just say "It's gone." He MUST expend Tricks and destroy that Metaphysical currency FIRST.

Frankly, without this "Metaphysical" level of power, that's when *I* would call the game arbitrary! This level makes darn sure that complication happens, but not in the way that other games you may have played do. Nine Worlds takes a different approach.

Eero, I think you're viewing Metaphysical power almost exclusively as a limitation (Example 1), and not seeing it as an opportunity (Example 2), which it is. You seem troubled by the inablity to just wash away locks (for one example, anyway) ... because they don't fit what you want to say in narration. You seem to just want to have it be the case that winning narration is all the authority you need to do anything you like.

But you're not talking about when YOU create locks (or other Metaphysically-powered entities). Consider -- would you want me, the GM, to just wash away your locks without a struggle because *I* want to say something, right now? You wouldn't. You'd rather invest some of your power and authority in those locks and resist things, because by golly, that's how you want the shared imaginary space to be! If anyone's going to take away YOUR authority, they're going to have to put up a fight!!!

See? Locks, Tricks, Power, and all the attributes in the game are AUTHORITY. If you want to change something that's invested with someone else's authority (usually, the game master), then by golly you're going ot have to fight for it. It's going to cost you Tricks. And to narrate what you REALLY want to say, it's going to take some time and effort. Conversely, when you DON'T want something changed, then that's going to cost you, too. You're going to have to invest in that something so other people can't just take it away.

Nine Worlds is not a game where conflict resolution just happens over one round or scene. Events that matter (i.e. events invested with Metaphysical power) could take a great deal of interaction, phases and play to alter.

The challenge to players is handling and ably combining the two levels of power. How can you mesh your "Narrative" power with your "Metaphysical" power? Get creative. You'll find connections all over the place. This process is, for me, one of the great joys of the game. I'll try to give you some examples using your questions from the book.

1) You asked about Hannah's stasis locks, which are keeping both her Hubris and her Arete at 0. This means she's deader than dead.

What ARE the stasis locks? I don't specify, but we can easily imagine them as, say, shadowy demons that flit around her shade all the time, weighing down her soul in the darkest reaches of Hades. Or, they could literally be chains that have her tied up. Or, she's in a bottle of lead. See? All that stuff is color. Wonderful, beautiful color. And, the game is forcing you to paint the picture, to fill in the gap of just what those locks are. That's intentional. It's my attempt to force players to get imaginative and create some cool color and ideas.

Why does Alex need to break the locks? Because if he doesn't, she remains deader than dead. (And, after all, his Muse is to free her from Hades.) She's dead. Her abilites are at 0. The game suggests that when you reach that point as a player character, your character is no more. So, maybe that's part of your confusion. Here, were having a bit of fun with a non-player character. The idea is that if Alex can remove the locks, then Hannah's Arete and Hubris will "bounce back" and she won't be dead anymore! That is, if he can get the locks off (say, by dismissing the demons), he can take Hannah back with him to anywhere but Hell!

I hope by now I've answered this question of yours:
Quote
Almost all examples in the book have the players enter conflict, move some scores around, and narrate in-game results. The problem is that the rules don't address this part in any way (or I haven't noticed it yet). Indeed, the examples are vague on whether the players are narrating events and justifying it with use of tricks, or the other way around!


Procedurally, players are assigning Tricks, then "narrating" to explain why they did so (as well as possibly narrating other details unrelated to Trick assignments.). In practice, I've seen it work a couple different ways. Some players do this: They assign some Tricks, then narrate that bit. Then, they assign some other Tricks and narrate that next bit, and then they may assign the last of their Tricks and narrate that final bit. Other players do this: They assign all the Tricks, get it all laid out, then explain and narrate everything. The effects are the same, really.

Also, Eero, have you downloaded and read the Players Kit? It should be helpful as a precedural outline for conflict, with good reminders of how things get done during phases.
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Matt Snyder
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2005, 09:29:02 PM »

So many questions! Slow down!


Quote
Yep, I've clearly missed something. Who are the "other winners"? Your answer implies that their tricks cannot be taken, but I still don't understand who they are. My addled reading says that winning is subjective: if you have more Fate than somebody else, one could say that you're a winner compared to him, because you get the last word in narration (compared to him). But apart from that it seems I missed it in the book when winners were determined. Is it just an evaluation of whether the stated goal is reached? But in that case the winners wouldn't be known before the narrations were done...


Because the current text has its shortcomings. It does not sufficiently explain the declaration of opponents. If you declare an opponent in a phase, and your Fate value exceeds that opponent, you're a victor. You'll be narrating. Simple as that. Whether or not you have Tricks to use depends.

Of course, you may also be getting clubbed because someone ELSE declared YOU an opponent and had a higher Fate hand than you did. Life sucks for you, because that guy CAN steal all your Tricks. If that guy who beat you ALSO declared the opponent you defeated as one of HIS opponents, guess what? He can take all those Tricks, too. (It's all his option. He may elect not to do, but why not!)

Fate has its advantages.

Quote
Why isn't there more statistics for in-setting stuff here? This seems like the kind of game where stuff like individual Titans' stats would actually be directed towards actual play instead of padding the book


Sigh. Yep, again. Because the current text has its shortcomings. (shrug)

I also was gun-shy of offering up "too much" setting because I didn't want people to think that my setting was gospel. I wanted people to take the ideas within and run with it. No metaplot. No arguments like "I think Zeus would kick Kronos' ass." Just inspiration for great play. But, I've also learned that stats like that would have been very helpful instruction for players to have a sense of comparison among the meek and the mighty.

Quote
Why the conflicts limit the player to only one urge per conflict? I was thinking when reading that all the more interesting effects require applying several urges.


You got part of it right. It's to encourage multiple hands. Also, remember, when you get Talismans, you WILL be able to use more than one Urge in a single phase. Now, you kick ass! First, you use Chaos and whittle them down. Then, immediately your Talisman steps in an uses Stasis to lock 'em down. Yeah!

Quote
The scale of the single hand is apparently pretty small, compared to some other conflict-based systems.


Not at all sure what you're saying here. What do you mean by scale? And what other systems are you thinking of?
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2005, 09:33:12 PM »

Quote
In summation, I like the text. I'll definitely try to play this at some point. Until then I'll be assuming that the simpler Dust Devils wins out on the great scales of gaming, though...


Different strokes for different folks. Weighing those on my own scales is like trying to decide which of my children I "love more." They're different games. One is absolutely approachable, quick, simple and visceral. The other is subtle, requires thought, and unfolds a wonderfully rich universe of opportunity.

One is a perfect, juicy hamburger. The other is a seven course gourmet meal. Sometimes I love hamburgers, sometimes I love fine food.

Both have, I hope, given people some fun gaming and also changed they way they think about their hobby. That's what I'm aiming for in my designs.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2005, 10:00:21 PM »

Quote from: Matt Snyder

You've hit upon a major stumbling block that others have, which is "Why can't I do what I want when I win the conflict?"


Yeah, this part is pretty clear, it's emblematic of this brand of games. The system represents certain in-game phenomenons, and the judgement over the change of those phenomenons is solely vested on the mechanics: change the mechanics, you change the in-game situation. This is clear.

Quote

Example 1: You can't just win a narration and say "I kill Kronos." Why? Because Kronos is invested with Metaphysical strength, in this case a very remarkable Power attribute, plus a strong lock on that Power attribute. He's very hard to destroy. You can't just dismiss him.


Yeah, these are simple and clear examples of the principle at work. This works because death is specifically defined systemically.

Quote

Frankly, without this "Metaphysical" level of power, that's when *I* would call the game arbitrary! This level makes darn sure that complication happens, but not in the way that other games you may have played do. Nine Worlds takes a different approach.

Eero, I think you're viewing Metaphysical power almost exclusively as a limitation (Example 1), and not seeing it as an opportunity (Example 2), which it is. You seem troubled by the inablity to just wash away locks (for one example, anyway) ... because they don't fit what you want to say in narration. You seem to just want to have it be the case that winning narration is all the authority you need to do anything you like.


Heh, I'm not viewing the game as anything yet, just trying to understand the rules. I don't prefer games where you're required to disregard the rules - to the contrary, I make plenty of this kind of games myself. My problems are with understanding the technique, not with accepting the principles.

For instance, I don't think that you should be able to revive dead characters just by narration. I took that example because I was confused with the definition of death and why Alexander had to break those locks. It's the diametrically opposite problem from the one you address: there's not too many constraints, but too few. I'm not seeing in the rules the motivation for that lockbreaking, or for the lockbreaking in the badge example. They seem to me like the players just decided that "In this particular conflict we'll have to break these locks to reach our goal.", even if locks explicitly do nothing but stop you from changing a statistic.

Quote

The challenge to players is handling and ably combining the two levels of power. How can you mesh your "Narrative" power with your "Metaphysical" power? Get creative. You'll find connections all over the place. This process is, for me, one of the great joys of the game. I'll try to give you some examples using your questions from the book.


This is the crux of the design question I have. Do you intend these system-setting connections to be completely arbitrary? That's OK with me if it's so, I dig Humble Mythologies. It is indeed fun to interpret system into events when the system is abstract and symbolically loaded.

My confusion was solely about the examples of play, which constantly suggest that there are some rules in operation about the goals of characters. Like, random example: page 37, Alexander wins some guards. Why does he reduce their Power? What's in it for him? I don't understand. If his goal is to avoid arrest, wouldn't narration suffice? I would understand it if the guards would come haunt him later or he'd want to weaken them for some other reason. But here the tricks could surely be used to pump Muses.

Let's take another random page: page 40, Alexander is unconsicious, and we're again dealing with locks. This time they're there as part of Aegis's security measures. Nowhere does it say why the players decide to remove those locks. As locks themselves are not dangerous, I see no reason.

Actually, reading these examples I'm coming to think that perhaps this is just about the examples being twisted. Question is, are the players in actual play supposed to constantly use their tricks for setting and breaking locks and changing the attributes of marginal NPCs? Because that's what I'm seeing in the examples. Could be just because each example tries to demonstrate the specific rule it's about, and doesn't make sense in isolation.

My hypothesis about non-stated rules being in effect was based on this phenomenon. From what I'm reading here my tricks would be going exclusively towards muses and such. Perhaps set some nasty locks on important NPCs. But the GM wouldn't find any support for forcing me to use tricks for lowering the power of some third-rate guard.

Quote

1) You asked about Hannah's stasis locks, which are keeping both her Hubris and her Arete at 0. This means she's deader than dead.


OK, this is answering my question. So that particular example is just using the rule about characters being dead at 0 Virtue. What would have happened if Alexander had succeeded? By the rules she'd still be dead, but I guess I could understand an interpretation where he'd use Cosmos to raise her Virtues.

Quote

Why does Alex need to break the locks? Because if he doesn't, she remains deader than dead. She's dead. Her abilites are at 0. The game suggests that when you reach that point as a player character, your character is no more. So, maybe that's part of your confusion. Here, were having a bit of fun with a non-player character. The idea is that if Alex can remove the locks, then Hannah's Arete and Hubris will "bounce back" and she won't be dead anymore! That is, if he can get the locks off (say, by dismissing the demons), he can take Hannah back with him to anywhere but Hell!


Yeah, this is the answer. The lock mechanic is indeed used as an impromptu resistance. I'm seeing this elsewhere in the rules, too. A given lock is interpreted as this or that in-game thing, which essentially ties changing that thing to breaking the lock. My confusion was about the unstated mechanics of this, but you've answered that: the mechanics are primary, and any in-game description is incidental. The GM apparently can however imbue metaphysical importance (give stats, in other words) for anything he deems necessary.

Quote

Also, Eero, have you downloaded and read the Players Kit? It should be helpful as a precedural outline for conflict, with good reminders of how things get done during phases.


A good hint, I didn't remember that there is something like that.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2005, 10:14:46 PM »

Quote from: Matt Snyder

Quote
The scale of the single hand is apparently pretty small, compared to some other conflict-based systems.


Not at all sure what you're saying here. What do you mean by scale? And what other systems are you thinking of?

[/quote]

Scale, how much happens in-game per conflict resolution. The conflict system would seem to favor multiple phases in conflict, as it takes multiple phases to attain some effects, like killing somebody. Compare with HeroQuest, where an important part of the design aesthetic is that absolutely anything can be done with a single conflict (and the system goes to great pains to make sure that the simple and extented contests operate on the same scale). It thus favors clumping the situation into a single conflict. Or PTA is an even better example. Dogs in the Vineyard has a heavey conflict system, so it tends to wider scopes. I don't think you'd care to use too many conflict rounds for resolving things in that game.

But anyway, I'm growing to like the game. It certainly has many intriguing features. I don't think that it's a bad thing if it is somewhat opaque. I didn't get Sorcerer for three years after buying it, after all.

Strangely, opposite to some other folks, I find Earth an interesting place to play the game. It'd be an especially colorful twist to draft in the WoD aesthetic and play with the drab and rainy Earth reality getting dispersed by the technicolor vision of the Nine Worlds. Peculiar possibilities, and the intertext would be funny: instead of some friggin' antediluvian vampires we have ZEUS bossing folks around. Yeah, mirrorshades and motorcycles, and Greek gods. Nice. Like that Dionysus comic.
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