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Author Topic: SIS Control Problem: A Concrete Example  (Read 22098 times)
jburneko
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« on: April 21, 2005, 02:55:11 PM »

I've been thinking about all the arguing about whether or not there's any causal substance in the SIS in Capes.  I've seen the arguments on both sides. Here's a concrete example that I think illustrates the problem.

Let's say that there are three characters in the scene: Dr. Otto, Starflare and Valence.

Dr. Otto has Goal: Steal the Ray Gun From Starflare.  And Valence has the Goal: Impress Starflare.

So the game is being played and people are staking debt and what not.  At the end of the page the "Steal the Ray Gun" Goal resolves first in Dr. Otto's favor.  Dr. Otto's player narrates clutching the ray gun and laughing in victory.

So Valence's Goal: Impress Starflare is still on the table in some state.  Now, come's Valence's turn so he rolls up his side of the conflict using the ability: Bold or Cocky something like that.  He gets a five and let's say that makes it 5 on 3 so the conflict is going his way.

He then narrates: "Valence strides up to Dr. Otto, plucks the ray gun from his hands and presents it Starflare with a bow and a smile."

Do you see what happened?  Valence's player just totally underminded Dr. Otto's achievement.  Worse, it was done as narrative color on a die roll.  It wasn't even the result of a conflict being resolved.  It could have been even worse if it was done during the free narration period at the top of the page. This doesn't violate the, "Not Yet" rule because the Steal the Ray Gun conflict is already resolved and off the table.

I CAN see why this would be frustrating as all hell.  Now I have a proposed solution that I believe is already supported by the rules but I'd like to see if everyone is on the same page and agrees that this situation is exactly what the arguing has been about.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2005, 05:48:53 PM »

I agree that this looks like what people have been arguing about.  But I don't see the same thing you see (though I think I see why you see it, if that makes sense).

Taking the ray gun back from Dr. Otto does not undermine the achievement he listed in the Goal.  He still stole it from Starflare.  That happened.  Nobody has made it unhappen.  If this is an ego-contest between the two of them (for example) then that might be all that matters, and the eventual disposition of the Ray-gun is wholly irrelevant.

Now, to show (hopefully) that I understand what is being argued here (and that I'm not just saying "Nah, nah, nah, not listening to you, it doesn't undermine anything, nah, nah, nah!") let me offer that a person could quite reasonably feel that the meaning of Dr. Otto's achievement has been undermined.  But I have to point out that you can only say that in one particular mode of creating meaning:  Meaning at the Beginning.

Suppose you feel that, as soon as Dr. Otto's achievement occurred, there was group judgment on the ways that it could effect the authority of later actions.  It would be reasonable to judge that this achievement lends its authority to the notion that Dr. Otto has the ray gun.  The player may even go so far as to declare (before anything else happens) that he won the goal in order to possess the ray-gun.

If that's what it's meaning (the judgment of players about how they should attribute authority to each other because of this element of SIS) is then yeah, Valence is playing silly buggers with that.  He is cavalierly ignoring the authority that he agreed (perhaps tacitly) to offer Otto's player over the disposition of the ray gun.  He's not even offering any countering authority (like "Yeah, but I'm so much stronger than Otto that I can take it right back", to bring Superstrength in as a source of authority).  He's just denying that any authority over the disposition of the ray-gun exists.  The fact that Otto stole it means nothing in reference to the question of whether he can hold onto it.

Is that the reasoning?  I think I've understood why people twitch on this particular issue, but I could always stand to be corrected again.
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Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2005, 06:24:37 PM »

Pretty much.  And it can get much worse even without getting extreme.

If Dr Otto's goal was "Lock Starfire's ray gun deep in the vault of my impenetrable fortress" and then Valance just narrates going in and taking it that would be pretty hard to explain even by resorting to Meaning at the Beginning.

I mean one would think that creating a Conflict where the goal is "Penetrate Dr. Otto's Fortress and retreive the ray gun" would be a great Conflict to play out.  But why bother when Valence's player can simply narrate taking it.

It seems fairly unreasonable to me that after winning a conflict and locking the ray gun in my vault that the only way I have a chance to keep it at all is to continually waste an action to introduce the "steal the ray gun goal" on myself...and then waste more actions to ensure the opposition (me) keeps winning it.

That was the root reason behind my starting a Conflict as a Reaction to someone else's narration suggestion, so that at least you have a defense against this sort of thing.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2005, 06:47:28 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
I mean one would think that creating a Conflict where the goal is "Penetrate Dr. Otto's Fortress and retreive the ray gun" would be a great Conflict to play out.  But why bother when Valence's player can simply narrate taking it.

Is this a trick question?  

... because the only way that free narration can have even an indirect effect on you getting the rewards of the game system is by establishing great conflicts to play out.  Narrating something which neutralizes or bypasses an interesting conflict is counter to every reward mechanism in the game.

The game is not about "How can I get what I want without getting into a Conflict?"  It is about "How can I get into a Conflict about what different players want?"
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C. Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2005, 07:19:17 PM »

Hey Tony,

My first instinct is to wonder why I would be particularly concerned about the reward currencies when I can achieve my goals through free narration.

-Chris
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TonyLB
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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2005, 07:28:44 PM »

Well, what are those goals?  Specifically, what are the goals of you, the player.  The character's goals are just your tools, of course, for pursuing your player goals.
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WiredNavi
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2005, 12:20:53 AM »

What player goals does Capes support?

No, seriously, I'm not saying it doesn't, I'm saying it's not obvious to me and I'd like to know.  I'm confused along with these other people, but some of these Actual Play threads have made me drool, so I'd like to know how I should be approaching a Capes game to enjoy the system.
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Dave R.

"Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness."  -- Terry Pratchett, 'Men At Arms'
TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2005, 05:27:13 AM »

That's a cool question, Jinx.  Thanks!


What you can do

Okay, you know the stuff we get excited about in the thread GM-Task:  Test to Extremity?  That can be a goal as well as a technique.  Providing better adversity will push you to understand your friends better.  Having other people provide better adversity will push you to understand yourself better.  Plus it's fun, on an aesthetic level.  So there's that.

And then there's the goal of being part of something beautiful and dramatic (though I hesitate to use the word "story," because RPGs are something other than literature).  Virtually every cool thing you ever see happen in Capes will be partly your creation.  You will have laid the ground-work, or made a critical observation, or figured out the perfect adversity to make a character shine.  But, despite the fact that you helped make it, it will be something that you, alone, would never have thought of... because of the constant, aggressive, productive interference of other players.  Even people who push for an option and lose are informing the game, because they have forced folks to admit and carefully consider the other option, and why they want it in the face of opposition.

Finally there's raw ego-gratification, which I consider one of the most worthy goals when handled properly.  The very nature of the Capes system implies that you cannot play the game without explicitly praising the efforts of others.  You've got this Debt and you have to spend it, and in spending it you basically say "Wow, this thing you've done here is cool, I'm going to run with this!"  There is no way to force people to like something they don't, but the system gives you a huge boxful of tools to figure out how to create something that another player will get really excited about, and when they get excited about it you know.  And man, that's a kick.

What you can't do

If your player goal is to single-handedly create something beautiful to show to the other players, but never to let them touch it or interfere with your artistic vision (the Jimi Hendrix Guitar) then this game is not for you.  Go be a GM in any of a number of other systems.  It will suit you better.

If your player goal is to establish yourself as a gatekeeper for the SIS, so that you have the power to reject inputs that surprise you, make you uncomfortable, or promote a creative vision other than your own, then this game is not for you.  Again, go be a GM.

If your player goal is to always be in agreement with the other players, so that the only things that happen are the things that are agreed upon by full group consensus then this game is not for you.  Go play freeform.

If your player goal is to have your artistic contributions to the game treated with exactly the same level of interest and praise as everyone elses, even if you stink and other people rock (or vice versa) then this game is not for you.


I hope this helps!
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2005, 06:05:24 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Quote from: Valamir
I mean one would think that creating a Conflict where the goal is "Penetrate Dr. Otto's Fortress and retreive the ray gun" would be a great Conflict to play out.  But why bother when Valence's player can simply narrate taking it.

Is this a trick question?  

... because the only way that free narration can have even an indirect effect on you getting the rewards of the game system is by establishing great conflicts to play out.  Narrating something which neutralizes or bypasses an interesting conflict is counter to every reward mechanism in the game.

The game is not about "How can I get what I want without getting into a Conflict?"  It is about "How can I get into a Conflict about what different players want?"



Its not a trick question at all.  But I am beginning to wonder if we're even on the same planet at this point.

To continue with the hypothetical.  Lets say I'm playing Valance.  What I want as a player is to have Valance get that ray gun from Dr Otto so I can impress Starflare.  That's my goal.  I want that ray gun.  I want that ray gun so I can impress Starfire.  That's what I the player wants.

BUT I already have a goal "Impress Starflare" that I really want to win (maybe I've staked debt on it too).  So I have a limited number of resources to use to win that Conflict.  I can't afford to enter into a "Get Ray Gun from Fortress" Conflict as well.  I don't have the resources to accomplish both.

Ahhh....so Capes is a game about making hard choices like that right?  Deciding what's really important to you because you can't do everything...Well...I think that's what its supposed to be and that would be just groovy but unfortuneatly there appears to be a big hole in the rules that makes this not the case.

Because see I don't NEED to start a Conflict "Get Ray Gun from Fortress".  All's I have to do is be in control of the Impress Starflare Conflict and use my ability to narrate to simply automatically take the Ray Gun from Dr. Otto and narrate how I kill all of his guards, burn down his secret headquarters, and steal the picture of his mother in the process.

I can get absolutely everything I want as a player without ever haveing to spend any resources or engage in any conflict.  I just say it...and it is so.


If Dr Otto's player has a vested interest in keeping the Ray Gun he can do NOTHING about it.  He's screwed.  He doesn't get to do that....unless he reads my mind...realizes that that's what I'm going to do...and wastes an action setting up the "Steal the raygun Conflict" for me.  Because the only time I'm not allowed to do anything I want is when its an active Conflict.

So I who want the ray gun have a vested interest in NOT starting a Conflict about the ray gun because that just makes it harder for myself.  

Is this wrong?  Am I missing a step?  Is there more to it?  Is there something I don't know?  Because this is what we've been talking about for about 100 posts now and to date you haven't demonstrated any mechanics where by I can't do what I just described.  I'm not being a dysfunctional dick head player here.  I'm not being the Jerk that no rules can protect against.  I'm using the system exactly as I understand it works (please tell me if my understanding is off...I suggested you write up a big example precisely so I could see if there was some element in there I'm not yet aware of).

But in using the rules as I understand them to be, I completely emasculatated Dr. Otto in a manner I doubt his player found very enjoyable.

And please don't trivialize this point by pretending that the only problem here is Dr. Otto's player trying to establish himself as a gatekeeper for the SIS, and trying to reject inputs that surprise him or isn't his own creative vision.  Dr. Otto's player played by the rules and fought hard to accomplish a task using those rules.  A task that was then completely undone by another player who didn't have to work at it at all.

As I've said before I'm REALLY excited by Capes...but I'm having trouble envisioning how having everybody able to run roughshod over every body else would be the least bit fun.  So far the only thing I've seen in examples where this doesn't happen is that it doesn't happen because everybody coincidentally happened to like the ultimate output and thus didn't mind being run roughshod over.  But certainly that's not always going to be the case.

It seems to me that you think that just because, as Valance, I don't get any game mechanical reward from doing it that there is no motivation for me to do it.  That the only way to get a game mechanical reward is to engage in Conflict therefor I'd be motivated to launch a conflict.

But to that I say Phooey.  I'm a big believer in game mechanical rewards, but much of the time simply having the ability to alter the SIS with my own narrative is reward enough.  That is after all the single most common type of reward that is the foundation of all roleplaying since the hobby started.  Saying "I swing my sword at the orc" and having everyone agree that that's what I did is as much a reward as the XPs I get for killing it.  

So if my reward is being able to narrate that I have the ray gun and give it to Starflare than the patch of least resistance for claiming that reward (a very gamist motivation) is to simply narrate it for free and circumvent the game mechanics altogether...if the reward is in the narration, then the lack of story tokens earned is hardly a demotivator.

So please.  Explain to me in some detail what prevents Valances player from simply taking the ray gun whenever he wants and what Dr. Otto's player is supposed to do per the rules if he really wants to keep that ray gun.  


And I'm also very interested to hear Jesse's proprosal on the idea as well.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2005, 06:39:47 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
I'm a big believer in game mechanical rewards, but much of the time simply having the ability to alter the SIS with my own narrative is reward enough.

And you think Capes doesn't offer enough of this?  Good lord.  We really are on different planets here.

If all it takes to make Doc Otto happy is that he steals the ray-gun then he's really easy to please.  He doesn't need a conflict or anything.  He just narrates "I steal the ray gun!"  Then he can sit there the rest of the session saying "Heehee!  I stole the ray-gun!  Yay!"

I've done that myself.  Zak took out twenty guards with a single thrown coconut, by calculating the angles and trajectories so well that it bounced between them like a pinball machine.  It was SO coooooool!

Similarly, if all it takes to make Valance happy is the ray-gun then he should take the ray-gun and be happy.  Yay!  Happy!

Now... wait... why is Doc Otto frowning?  I thought he was going to be happy, because all he wanted was to steal the ray-gun (which he did).  Oh, wait, he wanted more than that?  He wanted the theft of the ray-gun to have meaning, eh?  Well now that's a more complicated proposition, isn't it?

Quote from: Valamir
Is this wrong? Am I missing a step? Is there more to it? Is there something I don't know? Because this is what we've been talking about for about 100 posts now and to date you haven't demonstrated any mechanics where by I can't do what I just described.

You're not wrong.  You're not missing a step.  I haven't demonstrated any mechanics whereby you can't do that, because there aren't any.  And I've pretty much been saying that since the first post.

I am perplexed by the fact that you apparently cannot hear it.
Quote from: Valamir
I'm having trouble envisioning how having everybody able to run roughshod over every body else would be the least bit fun. So far the only thing I've seen in examples where this doesn't happen is that it doesn't happen because everybody coincidentally happened to like the ultimate output and thus didn't mind being run roughshod over. But certainly that's not always going to be the case.

Ah, this is my cue to get a sly look and ask very slowly... "Are you sure?  Or are you just assuming that it can't always be the case?"
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2005, 07:40:33 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Quote from: Valamir
I'm a big believer in game mechanical rewards, but much of the time simply having the ability to alter the SIS with my own narrative is reward enough.

And you think Capes doesn't offer enough of this?  Good lord.  We really are on different planets here.


That's taken out of context Tony.  The point I was making is that there is absolutely no motivation for Valance's player (me) to start a Conflict over the ray gun.  You've made the point previously that the reason I'd want to start a Conflict over the ray gun is to get the game mechanic's reward (debt reduction, story tokens, inspiration, whatever).  My point was that the ability to narrate what I want is motivation enough...there for there is still no reason for me to WANT to start a Conflict (I'll start a new thread to discuss that one).



Quote
If all it takes to make Doc Otto happy is that he steals the ray-gun then he's really easy to please.  He doesn't need a conflict or anything.  He just narrates "I steal the ray gun!"  Then he can sit there the rest of the session saying "Heehee!  I stole the ray-gun!  Yay!"

Now... wait... why is Doc Otto frowning?  I thought he was going to be happy, because all he wanted was to steal the ray-gun (which he did).  Oh, wait, he wanted more than that?  He wanted the theft of the ray-gun to have meaning, eh?  Well now that's a more complicated proposition, isn't it?



You don't see that as the normal state of affairs?  You don't see that 9 times in 10 when a player creates a goal and wins that they're going to EXPECT it to have lasting impact (or "meaning" if you like).  I mean if Doc Otto's goal was to lock the ray gun deep in his fortress you don't think the player expects that anyone who wants to get it back should actually have to work for it?

As players we're really supposed to be satisified with transient goals that have no future impact...all the time?


Quote

Ah, this is my cue to get a sly look and ask very slowly... "Are you sure?  Or are you just assuming that it can't always be the case?"


While I appreciate your sly look I can say for 10000000% certainty that yes it is absolutely fact that it will not always be the case.


I can say this with certainty because if I was playing Doc Otto and I just won a goal where I'd locked the ray gun deep in my impenetrable fortress, and you were playing Valance and just off handed narrated stealing it without needing to work at it at all....I'd be friggin pissed off.   And it wouldn't be because my ego demands being gate keeper on the SIS and it wouldn't be because I don't like being surprised by others creativity.  It would be because you basically pissed all over me and my character by turning something I felt was important into something trivial and transitory.  And you didn't do that because you're a dickhead...you did it because because that's exactly what the game system told you you should do.  


If I had just bought this game and hadn't had the benefit of your generous and seemingly inexhaustible patience to try and explain to me how this was actually an intended feature of the game...I would be completely stunned by a game system that would actually tell other players to not care a whit about what anyone else wants and just do whatever because they can't stop you.  I would probably view the game as being broken and require some house rules to provide some manner of permanence and protection to events.


Fortuneately, now armed with with a clearer idea of what your actual intention for the game was I can see how the rules aren't broken but actually deliver the sort of play you wanted.  I still can't fathom why you would want that sort of play...but that's pure personal preference and clearly not a design flaw.

Even so I can't envision myself enjoying this game with some house rules to provide that permanence and protection.  I've experienced play like that in Uni and don't enjoy it in the least.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2005, 07:49:45 AM »

Ralph, let me give you a hypothetical:  Imagine that you were pitching Universalis to somebody.  "You can create terrific stories without a GM!", or whatever your pitch is.

They respond "Well, I've played with friends in D&D when the DM didn't show up, and it always ended up with us just sitting around, maybe fighting with each other, but that's it.  So I've experienced play like that in D&D, and don't enjoy it in the least.  But maybe you could make a house rule in Universalis to add a GM!  Then maybe it would be cool."


Do you know some really clever thing that you can say that disabuses this person of the lunatic notion that D&D without a DM provides the same GM-less experience as Universalis?  Because if you've got some cunning way to phrase that, I'd really like to know what it is, so I can repeat it back to you.
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xenopulse
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« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2005, 07:53:06 AM »

Let me see if I understand the point here, sometimes formulating it in a different way makes it clearer.

Capes has a currency system. It's cyclical, like D&D's experience system, in that getting more currency makes you more efficient at getting even more currency. In D&D, this means that killing and looting enables you to kill and loot better (kill bigger monsters, gain larger treasures).

Now, Capes also has narration powers that are separate from that system. One can simply change events in the SIS by stating that they are so, instead of using the conflict system. That way, you bypass the currency--and you don't need any more currency, because narration is already all powerful.

So the analogy would be a rule in D&D that says, "Instead of using the combat system, you can just declare that your character kills any creature she encounters. However, there won't be any XP or loot."

Now the D&D player can go wild and use that rule, shaping the SIS as she sees fit. But there's something wildly unsatisfactory about that; you're not overcoming the challenges. You're not Stepping On Up. You're missing out on the fun of the game.

I am not going to guess at what Tony's trying to say, I know that's a bad idea :) But in my own perception, narrated facts in Capes have little value: you changed the SIS, but you didn't Step On Up to do it. You wimped out.

My impression, therefore, is that Capes seems to work wonderfully for Gamist-oriented players. They pick their battles, make conflicts that other people care about and join in, and then beat them (or not). Why would a Gamist-oriented player care if someone narrates the humiliation of Dr. Otto? It's not been fought over. It's not someone's victory. There are no bragging rights associated with it.

Now, if you just care about the SIS events no matter how they were created, you might have an issue with that. Your idea of what would make a good story might get violated. But then, we all know that a game does not support all CAs equally well, and I'd suggest that Capes is just not made to accomodate that. It does what it does with a specific player attitude in mind, and it seems to do it very well.

Maybe that's where different planets come in? :)
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Valamir
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« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2005, 08:37:22 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Ralph, let me give you a hypothetical:  Imagine that you were pitching Universalis to somebody.  "You can create terrific stories without a GM!", or whatever your pitch is.

They respond "Well, I've played with friends in D&D when the DM didn't show up, and it always ended up with us just sitting around, maybe fighting with each other, but that's it.  So I've experienced play like that in D&D, and don't enjoy it in the least.  But maybe you could make a house rule in Universalis to add a GM!  Then maybe it would be cool."


Do you know some really clever thing that you can say that disabuses this person of the lunatic notion that D&D without a DM provides the same GM-less experience as Universalis?  Because if you've got some cunning way to phrase that, I'd really like to know what it is, so I can repeat it back to you.


Nope...because on the Uni web site you'll actually FIND a house rule to add a GM to Uni.  That was the whole point to the Gimmicks.  "Think it would be better with a GM...there you go...run with it and find out".

Are you actually suggesting that my experience with Uni isn't relevant to Capes?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2005, 08:48:29 AM »

I'm not suggesting it.  I'm saying it flat out.  

Capes evokes different patterns of play than Universalis.  We just got done getting onto the same page about that, didn't we?  So how could you extrapolate from one to the other?  Of course there are things that will work in Capes that won't work in Universalis, just as there are things that will work in Universalis that won't work in Capes.  They're different tools for different tasks.
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