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Author Topic: Superpets questions for Zak  (Read 2388 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: February 19, 2002, 09:33:04 AM »

Hi Zak,

I'm lookin' over some games I want to play really soon, and Superpets poses a problem or two for me. I like it a lot but help's needed first.

THING ONE: TREATS
We're looking at a Sorcerer mechanic: roll several dice, take the highest, compare to opponent's roll, highest wins. So far, so good (he said modestly); now to the Treat thing.

See, I don't get the Treat dynamic at all. We all have 0 Treats to start.
- If I add one to my dish, I get to add a die to my roll.
- For every one in my dish, the opponent gets to add a die.

So this means that all that happens is, I add a Treat and boost both dice pools? I don't get it. If we start even, we stay even; if I start ahead, then I get less ahead, if I start behind, I get less behind.

Secondly, why would I ever eat a Treat? It knocks down my dice pool.

Am I missing something here?

Finally, the GM has no dish, right? So he uses the guidelines given in the first section - half the player's, equal to the player's, and one-and-one-half the player's, right? But he never gets Stinky Treats?

Does that 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 thing include the TOTAL dice rolled by the player, ie, including the extra for Stinky Treats? If so, again, I don't see much point to accumulating Treats at all.

THING TWO: CHARACTERS
i can't see a reason why the characters must have an equal number of Tricks and Problems - seems like the same-old "gotta balance" mantra that means, well, nothing. (James and I went through this on The Pool.)

Now, I grasp that a good Superpet needs a Problem. Why not just say so? Minimum # Problems = 1. Minimum # Tricks = 1. Maximum for either = 5. No other restrictions.

(Gasp! Shock! That means that Pet A can have one Trick and five Problems, and Pet B can have five Tricks and one Problem! The horror!)

On a related note, the giraffe character demonstrates the oldest trick in the Champions book - making sure that one's disadvantage never comes into play. This is done by making one's disadvantage only operative if the powers are "taken away." Since taking away the character's powers basically de-protagonizes him, the player knows it'll never or rarely happen, hence the disadvantage will be similarly rare.

Let me explain. Belfry, the giraffe, gets all his powers from his goggles. He's nearsighted without his goggles. See? If you take away his goggles (hence incurring the nearsighted), you've also taken away his powers. Bluntly, in play, this kind of combination is tremendously bogus - it amounts to not having the disadvantage at all, or risking player complaints that you're making the character "ineffective" in an arbitrary way.

I highly recommend that you not permit Problems and Tricks to interconnect in this way. It seems "elegant" but it's really a very nasty Currency abuse-mechanism.

(Oh, and I can explain why any number of comics superheroes do NOT suffer from this problem, even though gamers will indignantly insist that they do, specifically Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, and Daredevil. Private mail, if you'd like.)

THING THREE: PREMISE
I notice that you credit Mike Holmes with asking you about the Premise, and I am disappointed that there is no answer. Without it, you have the (at best) humorous idea of "being" a superpet, which is interesting for about five minutes. So why all this engine-construction that grants all this author-power? Why bother?

I suggest that the superheroes ("owners") be explained a tad better. What's the point of play? Dealing with one's owner - you gotta save him, you gotta do what he says, you gotta NOT steal the spotlight, you gotta get approval ...

See what I mean? This kind of adventure construction and goals/values framework would give Superpets a Narrativist Premise, even if it's just a few sentences of text.

Best,
Ron

Nocto, Super Bat
Telltale: Wicked Un-Batlike Grin
Tricks: Crazy Flying, Boo Power
Problems: Gets Things Wrong, Incomprehensible Squeakings
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2002, 01:01:54 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Hi Zak,

I'm lookin' over some games I want to play really soon, and Superpets poses a problem or two for me. I like it a lot but help's needed first.


Here's the short answer: I didn't apply much serious game design thoughts to this one. I think it needs a serious retread, like Chthonian.

Quote from: Ron Edwards

THING ONE: TREATS
We're looking at a Sorcerer mechanic: roll several dice, take the highest, compare to opponent's roll, highest wins. So far, so good (he said modestly); now to the Treat thing.


Oops. The way the Treats mechanic works is: When you put a Treat in your dish you get a ONE-TIME bonus. But the opponent bonus works EVERY TIME. That way you can get a quick bonus, and if the Treats taste really bad, the players will have a tough time getting rid of this penalty.

And yeah, the GM has no dish. There needs to be better GM guidelines, here.

Quote from: Ron Edwards

THING TWO: CHARACTERS
i can't see a reason why the characters must have an equal number of Tricks and Problems - seems like the same-old "gotta balance" mantra that means, well, nothing. (James and I went through this on The Pool.)
 ...
I highly recommend that you not permit Problems and Tricks to interconnect in this way. It seems "elegant" but it's really a very nasty Currency abuse-mechanism.


Good point! It was a "fairness" mechanic that does look elegant at a first glance. And don't worry about explaining the "comic heroes' powers & weaknesses all balance out." I know it's not a truth of comics (though I've never been into the superhero stuff).

Quote from: Ron Edwards

THING THREE: PREMISE
I notice that you credit Mike Holmes with asking you about the Premise, and I am disappointed that there is no answer. Without it, you have the (at best) humorous idea of "being" a superpet, which is interesting for about five minutes.


Good point. At the time, I didn't intend it to be anything more elevated than a funny (and maybe playable) read. Mike got me to look at the game, but I didn't really change anything. I just reread it and thought about it some more. I do like your idea of putting "owner" stuff in here. I will have to pick a good Premise and nail down a better Superpets.

The March game is my attack on the Double Dragon video game, but during the time I set aside on that one, I'll go over Superpets again!

Thanks for the input!
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2002, 01:16:57 PM »

That didn't answer the question that Ron posed. Is it "EVERY *OTHER* TIME"? Or in other words, does the opponent get the bonus on the same roll that I get it on, as well as all further rolls? If so, then why would I ever take a bonus? The opponent is getting the same bonus, and will continue to get it until I eat the stinky snack. Or is it that I get a bonus this roll and the opponent only gets the bonus on all succeeding rolls? That would make sense, especially if the player can stomach the stinky treats.

Mike
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lumpley
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2002, 01:19:35 PM »

Or the bonus could be a couple few dice, and the penalty just one.

Random thought.

-Vincent
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2002, 02:41:17 PM »

Oops. I'm not being clear enough. The rules, as I intended them (note the past tense; I have been shown that Superpets is a broken game, so I'm not averse to tons of rules suggestions, changes, etc) are as follows:

* If you put a Stinky Treat in your dish you get an immediate one-time bonus to a single roll.

* For every Stinky Treat in your dish, an opposing roller gets to add a die to her roll.

Reading everyone's posts and looking back, it's horribly broken. I guess a quick-fix would be that the new Stinky Treat isn't put in the dish until AFTER you make your roll. That way you don't add a die to your and your opponents' pools.

It's still mangled, though. My suggestion is: a) fiddle with the rules, b) design a different game, or c) wait for me to write a new Superpets.

B is the best option, since Superpets is pretty broken.

Option C will realistically not happen, since I look ahead more often than retreading. Though Superpets is so horribly broken, a new design would be a whole new game, really.
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