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Author Topic: SIS Control Problem: A Concrete Example  (Read 22079 times)
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2005, 09:11:23 AM »

Okay, after reading this thread I think my suspicion has been confirmed.  My proposal is that the example that I've provided and Ralph extended is actually against the rules as they are already written.  The problem here, is that Tony and those he plays with have so internalized the rule that he doesn't realize it's a rule.  And the "being on different planets" feeling is coming from the fact that he keeps shifting the example from the one Ralph and I are talking about to a sub-example where the rule ISN'T being broken which is coming off as trivializing.

Here's the rule, which is written ALL over the Capes text: "You can DO anything you can not ACHIEVE anything."

This rule is the EXACT SAME rule as Sorcerer's rule: All conflicts are resolved by the system and all conflicts, once decided, are over.

The problem inherent in all conflict resolution systems is that the exact same narrative description can be either the conflict istelf OR color while addressing another conflict.  So when "Valence takes the ray gun from Dr. Otto and gives it to Starflare", that COULD be a conflict between Valence and Dr. Otto and thus REQUIRE the system to be used OR it could just be comic color on top of the conflict between Valence and Starflare and thus not require the system to be used.

What I'm proposing is that Dr. Otto's player has established that having the Ray Gun is infact an actual Conflict and that Valence's player CAN"T just take it during a narration because that would violate the "you can't ACHIEVE anything" clause in the rules.  I'm also proposing that if you have internalized this rule as I suspect that Tony and his group has that a) it will never be an issue and thus never be discussed as a point of the rules and b) anytime this rule IS broken it will appear to be a malicious violation of the social contract and thus the player is just trying to be a dick and not really engaged in the game at all.

So the disconnect I'm seeing is that we propose a situation where a player by passes a genuine conflict using narration and ask why is this legal?  And Tony looks at the example with his deeply internalized rule and can't fathom why anyone would by pass the system if it is a genuine conflict without being a total dickweed and since we're insisting that the palyer isn't being a dickweed then we MUST be talking about color on something else that IS a genuine conflict and yeah, sure that's legal.

Sorry for crawling around so much in every one elses head but I think that's what's going on here.

Jesse
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Valamir
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« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2005, 09:36:49 AM »

Sorry Tony, I don't buy that for one split mili-second.  Human nature doesn't change simply because you're playing Capes.  The pertinant points are a) no GM to smooth things over by fiat, b) players have the ability to narrate stuff, c) somebody may at some point narrate something someone else really doesn't like at all.  In those aspects Capes and Uni are identical.  So no...there is no deeply different pattern of play going on that's going to change that.  Players are not suddenly going to magically realize that all of the stuff they thought they didn't like about someone elses narration they're really in love with after all and its all good.  

You seem to be suggesting that if only we get over our fear of someone elses narration we'll some how realize that what we initially thought was garbage has miraculously turned into gold.  Ok...sometimes that can happen, yup.  And sometimes, at the end of the day, its still garbage.  When I play, I want the ability to decide for myself what I think has the potential to be gold and what I think is a waste of my time.


Jesse...I think you very well may be on to something there.  At least your reasoning seems eminently in line with everything.

If accurate that does raise the question of who gets to judge what's just color and what's achievement.  In Sorcerer it works because there's a GM to say "hey that's a conflict...roll the dice".  In Capes, my suggestion of a reaction conflict seems to play that roll, allowing the players to pass that judgement case by case as they see fit.
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jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2005, 12:23:13 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
If accurate that does raise the question of who gets to judge what's just color and what's achievement.


And this is why I suspect that Tony has internalized the rule.  Because people with Tony's game play priorities (Ron included) find it "obvious."  Which is why Tony continues to assert that this is a non-issue.

Jesse
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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2005, 01:21:50 PM »

Quote
Here's the rule, which is written ALL over the Capes text: "You can DO anything you can not ACHIEVE anything."


I can get behind this 100%.

Funny thing is, I don't remember reading it in the text. But I do realize that I have been playing under this assumption. It just seemed so... obvious.
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Anders Gabrielsson
Member

Posts: 31


« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2005, 01:45:51 AM »

This is my first post here at the Forge, so if I commit any social blunders, feel free to smack me. But gently.

I've read through Capes but have no Actual Play experience yet. Hopefully, I'll be correcting that soon.

With that out of the way:

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 think this is a very important point.

In Capes (as I understand it), you're not competing for control over the SIS. This is actually what makes it different from all other roleplaying games.

In a "regular" RPG, you use the rules to affect the SIS. Depending on the exact system and mode of play some changes can be achieved through negotiation with other players or the GM, but most of the meaningful changes (for some suitable value for "meaningful") require that you go through the rules. To change the SIS you need to work inside the rules and the wishes of the GM and the other players, who are also bound by the same rules to some degree. "I [the player] have this goal [my character to become more powerful / that player's character to succeed in seducing the Duke / this story to turn out cool / everyone to have a good time], so I try to have my character perform this action to facilitate that goal. The rules will decide if I succeed."

In a freeform game, you need the acceptance of the other players and/or GM. (I'm not sure if the standard definition of freeform used here includes a GM or not; in any case, I have very little practical experience with freeform.) To change the SIS you need to work inside the social contract. "I have this goal, so I try to convince the other players to accept this narration. They will decide if I succeed."

In Universalis, as I've seen it referenced here, you also need some degree of acceptance from the other players, or they will use the in-game resources to stop you. Here the social contract is brought into the rules, in some sense. To change the SIS you work inside the rules like in a traditional RPG, it's just that the rules are more focused on enforcing the social contract than regulating what your character can achieve in the fictional world. "I have this goal, so I try to convince the other players to accept this narration. The rules will decide if I succeed."

In all of these the game is, in some sense, about the SIS. Controling or affecting the SIS is the primary way to achieve your goals. You desire control of the SIS because that will help you achieve your goals, either directly ("My character slew the dragon!") or indirectly ("My character slew the dragon... and the other players thought it was cool!"). (As an aside, this may be the source of some conflicts between "social" gamers who roleplay as just another way to hang out, and more "dedicated" gamers - the social gamers don't have goals connected to the SIS.)

But in Capes there is no competition for control of the SIS. Anyone can declare anything to be so, and it is so. You can achieve short-term control over the narrative by declaring Conflicts, but as soon as that Conflict is resolved, anyone can say "...but it was just a dream!". Anyone can put Bobby in the shower.

Therefore all goals that are tied to affecting the SIS - having a character change in a particular way, have something happen or not happen - become meaningless in Capes. What's left are the goals that are either tied directly to the mechanics - "I want to show the others this clever rules trick I came up with", "I want to win this Conflict", "I want to gain more story tokens" - or not specifically tied to the game at all - "I want everyone to have a good time tonight", "I want the others to admire this cool idea I just had", "I want to make the other players laugh".

I think this is what's throwing a lot of people off. When someone asks, "If the changes I make to the SIS don't need to be respected by the other players, what's the point of the game?", I think they expect to be able to fulfill goals that aren't meaningful without competition for control of the SIS.

Just to make it clear, I don't think this is a problem with Capes. However, it is a feature, intended or not, that separates it from other roleplaying games, and players who don't realise that it's there may become very frustrated.
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Anders Gabrielsson
Member

Posts: 31


« Reply #20 on: August 09, 2005, 04:36:28 AM »

I should clarify that a bit.

Of course you compete for control of the SIS in Capes - that's what the Conflicts are for (in some sense). However, any victories there are fleeting, and can be invalidated by any other player at any time.

I think this makes some players feel that "You can DO anything but you can't ACHIEVE anything" would more correctly be formulated as "You can DO anything but you can't achieve ANYTHING".
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Gamskee
Member

Posts: 41


« Reply #21 on: August 10, 2005, 06:30:14 AM »

I've heard this argument a couple times. Putting the power of free narration in someones hands will make them into a raging dick.

The "problem" is that capes sort of has two modes running simultaneously(I am sure people will disagree with this, but I don't really care): Gamemaster stance and Character stance.

Your spotlight character will likely be played as you would normally play a character in an RPG, trying to achieve certain goals, explore certain issues, and generally create cool happenings about him.

In Gamemaster mode, you try to find ways to make the goals worth pursuing, support issue exploration, and create cool happenings about them.

In any normal RPG, I am given the power of GM fiat. If I want the villain to take the Ray Gun, he gets it. The player can roll, whine, wheedle, whatever, he has no true say. I can then declare he is struck by lightning and dies. Usually, I don't do any of these things because it doesn't support any of the above goals. Nothing in the rules prevents me.

So, when we hand this power over to those with a Character stance, the assumption is suddenly they will become a power mad tyrant, crushing everybody's hopes and dreams. Maybe, for people who play every game with all cheat codes on, this is fun, but for the rest of us, it feels fairly pointless after a while. Why, when I have absolute control and no character mean I'm fine, while having a character suddenly makes me disrespect everyone around me? If player B swipes the gun and doesn't know he is being a dick, he probably isn't very aware of what an ass he is being. If he is, he suffers the fate of most asshat GMs: a sudden lack of people willing to play with him.

It's much like a game where a GM has a 'pet' character, that seems more powerful, capable, and cooler than the players characters. It's simply not fun when your contributions are constantly trivialized by the GMs character. Thus, like any RPG, you need to be a good player, especially as GM.

Another bit of BS on my part. Capes to me seems more as if you are playing the part of several comic book writers who have been told by the Editor in Chief that their characters are now in a monthly team title and that they have to write together and keep continuity. Semi-obviously, they are often rooting for their own characters and trying to make arguments on how things should proceed. Story tokens represent owed favors for allowing their character to shine. Just like in the real comics, horrid writing can lead to things like auto-Raygun theft, without a hint of coolness.
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drnuncheon
Member

Posts: 155

Some call me Jeff


« Reply #22 on: January 27, 2006, 02:26:25 PM »

I'm going to necromance this thread rather than creating a new one (I hope that's OK) because I've just gotten ahold of the full version of Capes, I've been reading all the backlog in the forums, and this seems to be the clearest example of what's been worrying a lot of people.  It worried me too, at first, until something clicked in my head, and I want to toss this out here and see if I'm "getting it".

So we've got Dr. Otto, Valence, and Starflare.

Dr. Otto has just won the conflict to "Steal the Ray Gun".

Valence narrates taking it back to win "Impress Starflare".  The argument is that he can do that in free narration, and it totally undermines the conflict that Dr. Otto won.

But that's where everyone always stops the example, even though play wouldn't stop there (unless it were the end of the scene).  There's this unspoken assumption that Otto just says "curses, foiled again" and vanishes.  But he's got the same power that Valence does with regards to the narration.  When his turn comes around:

"Hey!" protests Dr. Otto. "I stole that fair and square!"  He snatches the ray gun back from Starflare.  (Player: I introduce the conflict: "Goal: Get Starflare's gun from Dr. Otto"  Or maybe "Goal: Dr. Otto escapes with Starflare's Gun").

Now Otto's got it on the table (and he'll get Story Tokens if they manage to wrest it away fom him).  Of course, if Otto were really devious, he'd just smirk as Valence takes away the gun, and then on his turn:

"Event: Starflare uses the booby-trapped ray gun." 

Or maybe he spends a story token and introduces "Booby-trapped Ray Gun" as a character.  Or he works it into the narration of one of his later conflicts.  "I'm rolling 'Always has a backup plan'...a 5!  the boobytrap Otto planted on Starflare's gun goes off, distracting the heroes..."

So...getting it?  Or am I missing something still?

J
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Zamiel
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Posts: 145


WWW
« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2006, 04:57:36 PM »

After reading the fullness of the thread, I really think the underlying problem is orthogonal to the way its proposed.

Basically, I think this is such a thing that the first time it comes up in context and a group has to deal with it, it'll get written into the Comics Code by means of solution.

For Tony's group, this may never happen. They clearly have an internalized model of play that implicitly side-steps that kind of play.

For others (mine, for example), I think the best solution would be adding "A resolved Conflict cannot have elements invalidated through simple narration in the same Scene as its resolved in by another player without the first's agreement."

Some of you might find that a bit of a cop-out in terms of playstyle, but the beauty of putting it in the group's Comics Code is that it can come off later if it stops being an issue, and then you get the other interesting, but more complicated, play-elements like Otto's player introducing the booby-trapped gun and the like. Its also worth noting that I deliberately phrased it such that its only the same scene. Next scene, Otto's current player can be playing Starfire and simply hand it over to whoever she likes, without repercussion, or Valence might show up with the gun in his hands and a complicated off-screen explanation. That's good play, and we don't want to gank that too much.

Ultimately, this is something too group-specific to be read from the mechanics like Biblical dicat; its a dynamic specific to a certain style of play, like the idea of individual privileged Characters, and as such likely belongs in the Comics Code.
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Capes: This Present Darkness, Dragonstaff
Kintara
Member

Posts: 48


« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2006, 12:27:29 PM »

Certainly, this can be handled in many ways.  Zamiel, the thing I find interesting about Comics Code solutions is how you can Gloat them.  Now that I think about it, having a Code with your provision in it is almost like having a way to set up an improvised Code based on what's "set" for the scene.  You could have a Goal or Event just to set up a Gloat later on.

Anyway, Capes has always had the feature of being extremely open with what someone could do through narration.  I think that players end up coming up with a narrative style that everyone finds the most productive in play because everyone at the table is attempting to do the same thing, which is interest the other players so that they can get resources.  That means that if taking the ray gun away again is a conflict that would pique interest at the table, then it makes more sense to make it a conflict where resources can be won.  Narration has a certain ephemeral story power, but it doesn't give you resources in itself, so you don't have much motivation to press buttons with it.
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Zamiel
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Posts: 145


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« Reply #25 on: January 29, 2006, 10:40:47 PM »

Certainly, this can be handled in many ways.  Zamiel, the thing I find interesting about Comics Code solutions is how you can Gloat them.  Now that I think about it, having a Code with your provision in it is almost like having a way to set up an improvised Code based on what's "set" for the scene.  You could have a Goal or Event just to set up a Gloat later on.
In this case, I think this would be more the "social contract" portion of the Comics Code, much like the issue of what kind of genre that folks should narrate to. I think of that as part of the Comics Code as well, but I suppose more rightfully it should be thought of as separate from the CC itself.

Mind you, making it explicitly Gloatable could be intriguing, but it requires introducing a Conflict, and we're explicitly speaking about things which aren't Conflict-driven. That's a different, orthogonal issue, entirely.

Anyway, Capes has always had the feature of being extremely open with what someone could do through narration.  I think that players end up coming up with a narrative style that everyone finds the most productive in play because everyone at the table is attempting to do the same thing, which is interest the other players so that they can get resources.  That means that if taking the ray gun away again is a conflict that would pique interest at the table, then it makes more sense to make it a conflict where resources can be won.  Narration has a certain ephemeral story power, but it doesn't give you resources in itself, so you don't have much motivation to press buttons with it.
You're assuming two things here:
  • Firstly, that the person introducing the acquisition of said gun thinks of it as a conflict that would pique the interest of the table. Its been pretty thoroughly defined that such isn't the intention at all, rather, that the player considers it a minor detail or equivalent they leverage to accomplish a Conflict they consider interesting (ie, impress Starfire).
  • Secondly, that the point is a resource issue. Its not. Its about a sort of "blocking" that is often an issue in situations where two people have different personal goals in mind. That's a conflict that scopes well outside the game, and as such should be addressed outside the scope of the game proper. The metagame social contract is the fairly obvious place it should end up.
I know that the discussion of making implicit social contract explicit is not alien to the Forge; I've seen it many times before. In this case, I think it solves things neatly while explaining the divergent points expressed so far in the thread.
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Blogger, game analyst, autonomous agent architecture engineer.
Capes: This Present Darkness, Dragonstaff
Kintara
Member

Posts: 48


« Reply #26 on: January 29, 2006, 11:34:00 PM »

Zamiel, I'm not saying your solution isn't useful for some groups.  But I also think that it might not come up as a problem as often as might be assumed.  I mean the idea is that you don't want people stepping on eachother's toes, but Capes gives you such a huge field that I don't think it's going to come up much.  You can narrate lots of stuff with very little limits, so if people are stepping on toes, I can't help but think that it's more likely to be intentional.  And if it is, then I think it makes more sense to move that intentional toe stomping into an area closer to the resources.
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #27 on: February 02, 2006, 12:32:55 PM »

Another bit of BS on my part. Capes to me seems more as if you are playing the part of several comic book writers who have been told by the Editor in Chief that their characters are now in a monthly team title and that they have to write together and keep continuity. Semi-obviously, they are often rooting for their own characters and trying to make arguments on how things should proceed. Story tokens represent owed favors for allowing their character to shine. Just like in the real comics, horrid writing can lead to things like auto-Raygun theft, without a hint of coolness.

To my mind, this is the best description I have heard yet of what the actual process of playing Capes feels like.

On the original problem described by Valamir; I have had problems getting my mind around this as well (and have posted very similar thoughts) but after playing more now, I have an example of why what you describe is unlikely to occur more than once in a player group:

Dr. Otto: I resolve the conflict...haha, now I have the Ray Gun
Valence: Ok, my action, I do some stuff and take the Ray Gun and give it to Starflare
Dr. Otto: WHAT?  That is so unfair dude.  So you know what, I do some stuff, and I take the Ray Gun back!  And I shove it in a big safe!  And I pull down your pants, so that now Starflare thinks you are an idiot!

For every instance of what Valamir is describing as conflict result undermining, there is going to be some way to narrate a complete reversal.  Valence narrates that he takes the Ray Gun to impress Starflare, crushing Dr. Otto's player.  Dr. Otto then...fights like heck to keep Valence from winning the influence conflict, and/or, if it resolves before the end of the page, immediately narrates something that undermines that conflict result (pants pulled down, as above).  This is a kind of mutually assured narrative destruction, and hence unwise.  So the bottom line is that if you really think your fellow player wants to keep that Ray Gun, don't just cavalierly narrate taking it away from him...give him the common courtesy of fighting over it through a conflict.  And on the other side, if you really want to keep that Ray Gun, and you want the conflict to be about your taking and keeping the Ray Gun for a long time, be very explicit about it, and accept it if the other players aren't so interested.  To paraphrase something Tony said about another situation:

"How long does Dr. Otto keep Star Flare's Ray Gun?"
"Until the at least one player finds it interesting for him to lose it."
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #28 on: February 02, 2006, 12:34:48 PM »

I wish you could edit, because I just realized drmuncheon said the same thing I did.  DOH!  Read the entire thread, Hans....
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Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #29 on: February 02, 2006, 02:05:13 PM »

Certainly, this can be handled in many ways.  Zamiel, the thing I find interesting about Comics Code solutions is how you can Gloat them.  Now that I think about it, having a Code with your provision in it is almost like having a way to set up an improvised Code based on what's "set" for the scene.  You could have a Goal or Event just to set up a Gloat later on.
In this case, I think this would be more the "social contract" portion of the Comics Code, much like the issue of what kind of genre that folks should narrate to. I think of that as part of the Comics Code as well, but I suppose more rightfully it should be thought of as separate from the CC itself.

Mind you, making it explicitly Gloatable could be intriguing, but it requires introducing a Conflict, and we're explicitly speaking about things which aren't Conflict-driven. That's a different, orthogonal issue, entirely.

It should definitely be considered separately.  The Comics Code in Capes is nothing more or less than "the list of things people can gloat over but not make happen".  It is not "the list of things none of us are interested in and would rather not hear about or have happen."  There was another thread that talked about adding things to the Comics Code to make sure they never happened (I believe the subject in question was rape), and someone pointed out that by adding it to the Comics Code, you ensure that while it will never ACTUALLY happen there is a pretty strong incentive to ATTEMPT to do it all the time.   If there are things your group really isn't interested in, you should just get them all out on the table and make them explicit as part of your Social Contract.  If you want people to keep resolved conflicts sancrosanct until the end of the scene, its best to just say so to the group.

However, adding this to the Comics Code is not such a bad idea, if the consequences seem interesting.  If you were to add the concept of conflicts not being undermined within the same scene to the Code, then to my mind you are encouraging people to TRY to undermine them, because gloating is such a sweet, sweet way to rake in story tokens.  So in the example, given your proposed modification to the Code, the moment Dr. Otto resolves "Steal Ray-Gun from Star-Flare", the incentive to play "Steal Ray-Gun from Dr. Otto" conflicts skyrockets.  Suddenly, from a game mechanics point of view, the Ray-Gun has become a very important and interesting thing, roughly equivalent to destroying the world or changing history or revealing a secret identity.  I'm not sure how that would effect game-play...it could be a lot of fun.
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