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Author Topic: Why Capes Lite isn't helpful  (Read 8769 times)
Jack Aidley
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« on: March 11, 2005, 03:14:00 AM »

Hi Tony,

Over on RPG.Net I commented that the Capes Lite download wasn't very intelligable, and you asked why - I've started this thread to try and explain. Hopefully others will chip in with their thoughts.

First off though I will say what I think Capes Lite is for - I would imagine that if you disagree with me on this, you'll disagree with me on how I say it is wrong, and how I say it should be as well. I consider the purpose of Capes Lite to be to give enough of a taste of the game to make people want to buy Capes itself.

I think, fundementally, a Capes Lite will always suffer from a basic problem: Capes isn't complicated, but it is very different. The Capes rulebook itself contains very little "flab", which puts you in the difficult position of reproducing enough of it to be intelligable without reproducing so much as to make Capes itself unnessecary. Essentially you need most of the Capes rules in order to play a usual Capes game.

I think Capes Lite contains too much, and as a result fails to explain any of it properly. It rushes in, leaving the reader confused as to what's going on. I think this stems from trying to do too much with it - I think you should aim to let someone reading Capes Lite play out two or three scenes with some pre-generated characters. That way you can cut out some of the complexity.

So, if I was to be doing it, I'd do it like this:

1 I'd begin by explaining how Capes works, how it is different from what the reader may be expecting (let's face it; RP-newbies won't have heard of Capes). In particular the GM-less structure, and the way in which the players co-operate and compete.

2 I'd introduce one of the pre-generated characters, so that later explanations have something to refer to.

3 I'd explain how Conflicts work (rather than how they are introduced) and how characters traits are used to re-roll the dice. I'd also introduce claiming of conflicts and conflict resolution.

4 I'd explain what you can do on your turn: interact with an existing conflict, or introduce a new one. And how the turn order, and pages work.

5 Next, I'd explain about drives, debt and staking.

6 Give an example of play.

7 Introduce the rest of the pre-generated characters (some heros, some villians), and give some starting scenes to play with them complete with an initial conflict.

8 Give a sales pitch for Capes proper.

Ruleswise, I'd not include any character generation, nor would I bother with differentiated debt, exemplars, inspirations or story tokens. These things certainly matter, but they're much more important in the long term and for a quick introduction I think they can be left out. And by cutting down on what you need to explain, not only is it easier to understand because there is less to take in, but it's you can spend longer explaining each thing.

I rather expect you'll disagree with my approach above, so I'll discuss why the existing document fails for me too:

It's too cavalier about how different it is from a normal roleplaying game; there's a comment at the start about not having a GM and the like, but it seems throwaway. I think you need more explaination here.

Quote
You play in various Scenes, broken down into Pages. At the start of each Scene you select or create a character to play. Then in each Page, your character (and every other character) gets an Action.


I think this section sums up, to me, why it's hard to understand. The concept there is really simple: everyone gets a go, when everyone's had a go we call that a page and go on to the next one. But the way it's laid out means my brain goes "right, so there's these Scene things, and there's pages in them - huh, what's a page - and then we create characters every scene - huh, what's  a page? - so I get an action each page, but what's a page?". And you've lost me.

You do this a lot, the concepts themselves aren't that hard - but by introducing them before explaining them you put the readers brain into "I don't understand this, or this, or this" mode while they're reading and that makes everything much harder to understand than it needs to be. I think you'd be better off to explain then name as your general structure.

I hope this is helpful to you, Tony, I better get back to work now.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2005, 03:45:50 AM »

Cool thanks!  This is exactly the type of advice I can use.  Rewriting the Lite document is right on my to do list for the near-term future.  I hope other folks here will jump on the "What's wrong with Capes Lite?" bandwagon, and give me yet more ideas for improvement.

So I'm not sure I've got a coherent enough notion of what's needed to really disagree with anything.  I'm in opinion-gathering mode just now.  But I'll express some of my own opinions, just to add to the mix:
    [*]Click and Lock sells copies.  That's just my straightforward experience from conventions... people love to sit there and fiddle.
    [*]Things should start with a clearly understood super-powered conflict.  Bank robberies and hostage situations seem to work quite well.  My whole pretty/literary idea of setting the later conflict with an earlier non-powered scene doesn't excite people in practice.
    [*]I think that I ought to follow the old public-speaking advice of "Tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them what you're telling them, then tell them what you told them."  So it needs a quick introduction section to put the terms and their inter-relations into the mind, then a more substantive section in which all the terms are explained in context, then a summing up section that describes the structure of the game by using the terms just explained.[/list:u]So, like I said, it would be great if other people could add on their constructive criticism!  Thanks Jack!
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    Christopher Weeks
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    « Reply #2 on: March 11, 2005, 09:50:13 AM »

    It needs an outline of play.  When our Indie-MN group was getting ready, I hadn't decided to buy Capes yet and just read the lite rules.  When we gathered, we spent serious time learning how to play even though every single player had read the lite rules and some of them (not I, sadly) followed the development threads.  Only one person had the authentic rules and it was really, really clear that the lite rules just didn't get us ready to play.  I'll try to get around to re-figuring out what the exact shortcomings were.

    But I want you to know clearly, that if I just read the lite rules and had no other contact with the game, I wouldn't want to play and I certainly wouldn't pursue buying the heavy version.
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    jburneko
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    « Reply #3 on: March 11, 2005, 10:08:55 AM »

    I disagree slightly with the original poster.  I read Capes Lite and I did find it confusing but I'm academic/scientifically minded so I puzzled it out.  And by the way, if I hadn't done so then I think I would have found the real book even MORE confusing but to be fair I was scaning through a .pdf while doing other things.  Not being able to flip back and forth and cross reference makes a big difference so I'll stay focused on Capes Lite.

    1) I think including the click-and-lock stuff is a good idea.  But you might want to leave out the part where you cross out elements.  Having five things in three columns each numbered 1 through 5 I don't think is the end of the world.  It just takes a step out of this process.  You click, lock, prioritize and you're ready to go.

    2) I like the idea of including differentiated drives as I think it emphasizes the moral aspects of the game which are going to appeal to some customers such as myself.  You have no idea how the clearification that you could mix and match heroic and villainous drives tripled my already rather high level of excitement about this game.

    2) Explain Scenes, Pages and Actions carefully.

    3) Explain Conflicts (Goals and Events) carefully.  Explain Claiming carefully.  

    3) Leave out Reactions.

    4) You might want to leave out the whole Blocking concept.  Everything just accumulates debt for supers, non-supers don't have debt or drives.   You can keep the once per page concept though as a taste and to prevent over repetition.

    4) Include staking debt but I suggest leaving out the die splitting concept.

    5) Keep Inspiration.  If you eliminate the die splitting concept then inspiration becomes easy.  Just subtract the dice and in the future you can spend it to raise a die.

    6) Keep Story Tokens but only as a means of buying additional actions.

    Additional Thoughts:

    The single most confusing concept (for me) in Capes is Claiming Conflicts.  What's the difference between Claiming a conflict and just contributing to the die rolls on one side or another?  What happens if I claim a side of the conflict, no one claims the opposing side and I lose?  I know the answer to these questions now but in some cases my confusion about Claiming was only answered by careful analysis of the sample play throughs.

    This way the core concepts come across.  Everyone has a turn.  On that turn I either create a Conflict or participate in an existing conflict.  If I win a conflict I get a resource that let's me affect the dice.  If I lose a conflict I get a resource that lets me have more turns.  Simple.

    Hope this was useful.

    Jesse
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    Matt Kimball
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    « Reply #4 on: March 11, 2005, 10:34:49 AM »

    I'm going to throw in my two cents and say that the click-n-lock system is critical.  My experience with Capes Lite says that you'd lose a lot if you did get rid of it.

    I do agree that the rules are confusing the first time through, but I made sense of it by rereading them.  It wasn't really a problem for me in practice.  There are a couple of key pieces of information missing, like the rotating player order between pages, and the penalty for losing a claimed conflict -- rolling back the die.

    I wouldn't like to see you get rid of dice-splitting.  Without that, the mechanics are less interesting.  Also, I think the pre-set scenes and the progression from non-supers to supers are both helpful for bringing new players up on the system.

    Tony, I don't know if you saw my post in Actual Play about my Capes Lite session before it was lost to the Forge hack, but I found that the structure of Capes Lite worked very well.  I did have the full version to refer to when I got confused about some aspect of Lite, though.
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    TonyLB
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    « Reply #5 on: March 11, 2005, 10:44:22 AM »

    I think my efforts are going to have to be two-fold on this.

    First, I'm going to revise the Capes Lite, to make it a document primarily made to prepare one person to demonstrate the system to others.  So yeah, it will have all the rules, but the emphasis is going to be "And now you tell them their options, which are as follows."

    Second, I'm going to make a solo demo in Flash, with the other characters, the narration and all that handled by the computer.  Yeah, it's going to be a substantially larger job than write a "Choose-your-own-adventure" book, but I think I can address it in a few weeks of consistent work.  The simple fact is that nobody understands the system reading it as well as they understand it once they've played, so giving people a solo play experience is pretty much the best way I can possibly sell it.
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    John Harper
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    « Reply #6 on: March 13, 2005, 01:50:58 AM »

    The solo Flash game is an excellent idea, Tony. Add in some little "tool tip" style pop-ups with helpful info about terms and procedures and the game will teach itself.
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    Stickman
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    « Reply #7 on: March 14, 2005, 02:52:44 AM »

    I think jburneko hit most of the nails squarely above.

    I've been tinkering with a sort of Capes 'Extra Lite' for play with some non-gamers (including an eight year old), and I'd come to the same kind of conclussions.

    For simplicities sake it might be possible to go one step further and at least initially have everyone play Supers, so the question of blocking becomes less important, and everyone is handling debt from the start.

    If you're making a version for someone running the game then including some predefined Scenes with conflicts built in is likely to be a real help for first timers.

    The flash 'solo Capes' would rock too, and the Flash CharGen is awesome
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    Dave
    dyjoots
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    « Reply #8 on: March 14, 2005, 01:14:00 PM »

    Hey, Tony, sorry to be so late to this thread.

    I agree with most of what people said.  The biggest problem I with the Capes Light was that the game is so different from a "normal" RPG, and that it was overall written as though the reader was someone sort of familiar with the game already.

    The first page reads like a poor summary of how the game is supposed to work.  It leaves out big (or at least significant) chunks of the actual game, and is fairly unclear on the parts it leaves in.

    I think the document could really benefit from a flowchart sort of thing, like they have in Magic: the Gathering rulebooks, that show the phases and steps to a page.  Something like this:

    Phases of a Page in Capes --

    1) Claims - claim a side in a conflict, introduce free conflicts

    2) Free Narration - everyone can act and narrate, as long as it doesn't call for rules.

    3) Action - for each character, go through these "Sub-phases":
    3a) Resource - use Inspirations, Stake Debt, Split Dice
    3b) Action - Use Inspirations and either Create conflict or Use ability
    3c) Resource - same as 3a

    4) Resolve - check claimed conflicts to see if you control them, resolve those that you do



    Now, obviously this is overly simplified, but the point is that the game does have a pretty concrete structure (at least, sa far as I understand it) and it isn't explicitly laid out in such a way.  It certainly would have helped my understanding of the game.
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    TonyLB
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    « Reply #9 on: March 14, 2005, 07:49:22 PM »

    Okay, this is taking a bit longer than I expected because (a) I'm sick and (b) it's hard!  Surprisingly hard, in fact.

    I'm lovin' the advice though!  Keep it up!  Here, I'll even give you a topic.

    I currently think that the document needs a three phase structure, as follows:[list=1][*]High concept sales pitch, 1 or 2 pages, outlining the system and its innovations and making promises to be fulfilled by the rest of the document[*]Step by step directions for a "referee" to demonstrate the system to a group, teaching the rules as they go[*]A recap and reference (including systematic breakdowns of the turn order, etc.)[/list:o]What's giving me trouble right now is the question of how much of the system needs to be touched on in each section.  For instance, I feel quite comfortable leaving Inspirations out of the first section.  But can I, should I, leave out Debt and Story Tokens?  The section reads a lot snappier without them, and I can concentrate more on issues like "GM-less", and "Conflict Resolution", which are a pretty big serving of new technique for anyone who hasn't seen them.  But... but the system isn't Capes without the Debt economy.

    Likewise, does the recap section need to touch on the difference between Task and Conflict resolution?  Or should I assume that anyone using it as a reference has to have already absorbed that technique?
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    Valamir
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    « Reply #10 on: March 14, 2005, 08:55:20 PM »

    I'd answer your questions thusly.

    What to leave out:  Is it possible to have a fun, enjoyable, oh wow experience with the game without that rule?  If yes (especially in relation to any sample scenario) you don't need it in the quick start.  You MAY want to include a brief description of the kind of things that were left out for the benefit of the completists who will complain that the game doesn't have "X".

    What to put in:  If the document is to be used for demoing your demo audience is going to go well beyond Forge and RPG.net type folks who salivate over the opportunity to play a cool innovative RPG.  Are there some concepts that if Average Joe gamer doesn't understand he's never going to get Capes?  If so you should at least touch on them, and focus heavily on the ones that are required to make Capes work.

    From my understanding knowing the difference between conflict and task resolution is crucial to establishing effective conflicts to fight over in the game.  You should certainly include that...not in a broad theoretical sense...but in a "how does it apply to Capes" sense.
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    TonyLB
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    « Reply #11 on: March 15, 2005, 04:28:13 AM »

    Yeah, but I'm asking more specifically:  Given that I'm going to be touching on many general concepts three different times ("Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em"), do I need to be complete in each, or can I present some concepts only in sections 2 and 3, or some concepts only in sections 1 and 2?

    I think Section 2 (which is a demonstration of the system itself, meant to be played) will be as close to complete as the current Capes Lite, although hopefully clearer.  Sections 1 and 3 are supposed to help make that more clear, by preparing people (section 1) and handling fiddly details without breaking section 2's flow (section 3).
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