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Author Topic: [Dust Devils] The Hanged Man  (Read 9754 times)
Darren Hill
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« on: July 23, 2005, 01:34:03 AM »

I'll be running the Hanged Man adventure from Dust Devils this week or the next. This adventure has four PCs - I have five and one of them is female. Has anyone got suggestions for a female character that would fit the adventure?

Also, how much of the adventure should I show the PCs before we get started? Just the PCs character sheets & the beginning setup, or the NPC page too?
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2005, 05:34:16 AM »

Hello, Darren.

When I demo Dust Devils, I've found using the NPCs works wonderfully. Should your female player wish to play Clara, go for it! Of course, she might want to play Sheriff Meredith too. That works.

There's no reason to keep any secrets from the players. I'd encourage you to at least explain the basics of the town situation, if not let them just read the three main NPCs entirely.
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Matt Snyder
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2005, 01:40:33 AM »

Thanks for the advice, I'll do that.

Further reading of the rules leaves me a little unsure of something about conflicts.
1. The conflict system explicitly allows for follow-up conflicts.
2. The holder of the high card gets to narrate.
It looks to me that these two elements are going to collide at some point during my game.

Can you legally have as a conflict, "I want to kill him" ? If that guy then wins, he can narrate how his foe dies at his hand - or does he have to abide by the limits of damage inflicted and narrate accordingly?
Following on from that thought, does the fact that Named Characters have stats ensure that they can't be killed until their devil is brought into play?
Or what? I'm stumbling a bit here :)

Also, does the loser of the conflict have to abide by the winners narration. Let's say that Jim tries to seduce Helen and wins - he also gets the High Card. Can he legitimately say that they end up in bed together, and any follow-up conflict by Helen has to come after that event?

Thanks in advance,
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2005, 03:50:15 AM »

I've been playing a lot of DD lately, so I have my own opinions about these questions. Don't know how close they are to canon.

Narrating death: you can narrate somebody's apparent death, but as long as he's not had his last conflict, he can return. So the only thing you achieve by narrating a shoot-out and a bleeding corpse is ensuring that at some point later the guy comes a-bragging about how he woke up from the flesh wound, walked through the desert and is here now to avenge himself. You cannot narrate outside genre convention, of course, so decapitating somebody, for example, is pretty much no-go, because then the other person would have to explain how his character survived life without a head.

Handling NPCs: named NPCs work exactly like PCs in all things. I personally don't use a full stat block for them, but in principle there's no difference. Contrary to what people seem to get from the text, there is no rule about the Devil having to appear before the character dies - the death itself will be Devil-relevant, because the Devil will help the character in his last conflict, but other than that there is no limit. Some people I've met have thought that your Devil has to be at 3 for your character to die, but this isn't true either.

Narrating for other people's characters: there is no rules for this. Matt's said somewhere that it's a matter of sociability that you take into account what the other players think. Remember that the narrator won't be the only person speaking, the other folks can throw in dialogue, suggestions and stuff, the narrator just decides which things get into the story.

As for your example - be very careful to note that in your example, the player's goal is defined as getting Helen into bed. If you ever plan to claim that he shouldn't be allowed to narrate exactly this, you've effectively killed the system all dead. It's imperative that conflict goal declarations are respected; if another player doesn't like a goal, he can suggest a better one, decline the conflict, or fold. But if he agrees, then he also agrees that the result of the other guy winning is OK. It's extremely deprotagonizing to start a conflict without ever intending to respect all possible results.

The real problem comes when the narrator tells of things that are not part of the conflict declaration, but are still important for the players. Like, if Jim and Helen were conflicting over how to share the loot, but then Jim also narrated them ending up in bed - in this case Helen's complaint would be legitimate, because that can be a pretty big thing to just narrate. I suggest that if a narrator is strongly wedded to a given outcome (that is, he won't just change it when another player objects), but another player strongly opposes, then it's time for another conflict. First, figure out how the loot is shared, and then let Jim start a follow-up conflict over whether he manages to get Helen into bed.

Then again, that might mean in extreme that the narrator never gets to make important decisions. Doesn't work that way in reality, but in theory there's no method for determining which things the narrator can just tell, and which are cause for conflict. Tricky in theory, simple in practice.
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2005, 05:35:04 AM »

Eero's dead on here, Darren. Read his post twice! It's good stuff.

My only alteration to his comments regards narrator rights. What the narrator says, goes. PERIOD. Yes, this means he narrates what other player characters do. Eero's right that I suggest consideration of other players, but that does not mean the narrator must avoid narrating other player character's actions, thoughts, etc.  It's merely a suggestion of 1) courtesy and 2) story "consistency."

Now, that other player may not like it. He's free to suggest an alternative, and the narrator is free to accept (or not) the suggestion and incorporate it in his narration.
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Matt Snyder
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2005, 08:50:22 PM »

I'm not sure Eero's response fully answers my questions - see next post.
But first, Folding: how do you justify this in the description of the scene?
[Edited to clarify the question]
For example, is it the folding player's responsibility to come up with some kind of in-game justification for the character not escaping the conflict?
Does the GM have to come up with some justification when he does it?
Why would the GM do it anyway? Is this not a little arbitrary? It seems a little like railroading to me, with a small reward for the PCs for tolerating it, but I realise I'm very likely missing something.

If there's another edition of Dust Devils, there's a lot of areas that could do with more explanation for those not familiar with the systems contained within.

« Last Edit: July 27, 2005, 09:13:18 PM by Darren Hill » Logged

Darren Hill
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2005, 08:54:30 PM »

Handling NPCs: named NPCs work exactly like PCs in all things. I personally don't use a full stat block for them, but in principle there's no difference. Contrary to what people seem to get from the text, there is no rule about the Devil having to appear before the character dies -

What I meant is this. It's my understanding that you can't kill a character until he has a stat at 0, and then he enters a contest which uses that stat. That's what I meant by the devil coming into play.
What of the following three cases?
  • Players and NPCs with devils can't be killed unless they have a stat at 0, and they enter a contest using that stat, and they don't fold.
  • Unnamed NPCs with no stats are just furniture - they can drop like flies.
  • NPCs with stats but no devils - what about them?

the death itself will be Devil-relevant, because the Devil will help the character in his last conflict, but other than that there is no limit. Some people I've met have thought that your Devil has to be at 3 for your character to die, but this isn't true either.

Narrating for other people's characters: there is no rules for this. Matt's said somewhere that it's a matter of sociability that you take into account what the other players think. Remember that the narrator won't be the only person speaking, the other folks can throw in dialogue, suggestions and stuff, the narrator just decides which things get into the story.

As for your example - be very careful to note that in your example, the player's goal is defined as getting Helen into bed. If you ever plan to claim that he shouldn't be allowed to narrate exactly this, you've effectively killed the system all dead. It's imperative that conflict goal declarations are respected; if another player doesn't like a goal, he can suggest a better one, decline the conflict, or fold. But if he agrees, then he also agrees that the result of the other guy winning is OK. It's extremely deprotagonizing to start a conflict without ever intending to respect all possible results.

The real problem comes when the narrator tells of things that are not part of the conflict declaration, but are still important for the players. Like, if Jim and Helen were conflicting over how to share the loot, but then Jim also narrated them ending up in bed - in this case Helen's complaint would be legitimate, because that can be a pretty big thing to just narrate. I suggest that if a narrator is strongly wedded to a given outcome (that is, he won't just change it when another player objects), but another player strongly opposes, then it's time for another conflict. First, figure out how the loot is shared, and then let Jim start a follow-up conflict over whether he manages to get Helen into bed.

Then again, that might mean in extreme that the narrator never gets to make important decisions. Doesn't work that way in reality, but in theory there's no method for determining which things the narrator can just tell, and which are cause for conflict. Tricky in theory, simple in practice.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2005, 09:04:37 PM by Darren Hill » Logged

Darren Hill
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2005, 09:04:07 PM »

Eero's post
supports the notion that was worrying me in my first post:
First, imagine that a player can suffer some consequence to his character that basically ruins that destroys the player's vision of that character, makes it an unfun character. For example, it might be that if Jim seduces Helen, the character will be ruined for some reason unknown to Jim and the GM.
Second, If a conflict has as stakes: "you die," that stake can't come about, it can only appear to - unless the 0 stat situation applies.
Third, If a conflict has as stakes: "some fate which will make your character unplayable, but you don't die", then the only protection is to fold. Which might lead to a continued fold-fest as you continue to dodge the issue or run out of chips.

Now, Eero's post also suggests a solution to this - that the stakes of the conflict be agreed by all participants before it begins. Is this the way it should be played?

Again, I think the next edition of the text should have something about this if this is the case.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2005, 09:14:17 PM by Darren Hill » Logged

Matt Snyder
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« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2005, 07:16:18 AM »

Hi, Darren, sorry for the delay in responding. Ok, here goes . . .

Quote
Players and NPCs with devils can't be killed unless they have a stat at 0, and they enter a contest using that stat, and they don't fold.

Yep.

Quote
Unnamed NPCs with no stats are just furniture - they can drop like flies.

Yep.

Quote
NPCs with stats but no devils - what about them?

Yes, indeed. Who are they? NPCs either are "named" and have Devils, or they are unnamed an drop like flies. There is no reason to "stat up" a character (even one who has a colorful name like Doc) unless there is a Devil associated with the character. Should a player wish his character to shoot Doc (who has no Devil) dead, he does so when and if he's 1) successful in a conflict and 2) the narrator (whoever it is) says the character shoots Doc dead. At that point, Doc is DEAD, and that's that.

Quote
First, imagine that a player can suffer some consequence to his character that basically ruins that destroys the player's vision of that character, makes it an unfun character. For example, it might be that if Jim seduces Helen, the character will be ruined for some reason unknown to Jim and the GM.

My response here is fairly blunt, but I'm hopeful you'll come to some common ground with me.

First, why is any player unaware of what any character "is like." I find it very dangerous when playing this game to hold an unshared "vision of that character" for precisely the reasons you're concerned about here. Dust Devils requires a different approach to one's character than most other games. It should involve 1) explaining the character to fellow players and 2) negotiating with fellow players as narration happens to all characters remain "fit." There is no reason to hold secrets among players, and often doing so results in ugly actual play of this particular game.

The nature of the game is that all players must have a reasonably good grasp of each character because they're all protagonists. This doesn't mean each player must have a detailed explanation of every character. It means that each player should have a reasonable appreciation of what other player characters are like, and it means that players should talk to one another and negotiate when something "unfit" for a character is narrated.

Remember, Dust Devils is about creating a powerful story more so than it is about getting invested in "my guy." Sure, you can and should enjoy (and care about, to some extent) your character, but getting defensive about "my guy" is sure-fire disaster for this game. You're bound to be disappointed when others narrate. Get over it!

You must have reasons to like and dislike your character (or at least view his Devil as something immoral or distasteful). That dislike should be part of the game's ultimate choice. You really shouldn't just assume that your guy will make all the moral choices, and that you'll like him forever, riding into the sunset. There should be a reasonable chance that your guy is a real unlikable sunnuvabitch . . . that makes the game that much more fun anyway!

Think of Unforgiven. Our "hero" William Munny is exceptionally fun to watch, especially when he kicks ass at the end. But he's scary. He's violent. And, he doesn't give a shit about killing anyone in the town. I sure as hell wouldn't want him coming into my bar, whether the sheriff made me go there or not! But, I sure as hell enjoy watching him in that movie. I suggest that players take on a similar relationship with their characters when playing the game.

Quote
Second, If a conflict has as stakes: "you die," that stake can't come about, it can only appear to - unless the 0 stat situation applies.

That is correct. But, players may still declare it as a goal, and often do. "I shoot him!" is a fine and appropriate goal. (By the way, are you using the term stakes as in the story consequences of winning or losing a conflict, or are you using stakes in terms of chips players exchange during the game? I'm reading you as talking about story consequences, not poker chips, correct?)

Actually, it can lead to some fun story moments. Say there's a shoot out at high noon, and one character "dies" because another character wins his goal of "shoot 'em dead." Well, the narrator has to accommodate. So, he might describe the winner drawing fast and shooting the other down. He bleeds while the winner walks over to him, and spits in his face. The end, so thinks the winner, right?

But, when everyone goes back inside, the loser either crawls into the barn, or maybe has a sympathetic woman come to his aid. Now, whether one of his stats is at 0 or not, he's ready for a dramatic vengeance! The winner character has a surprise coming his way. Cool.

Quote
Third, If a conflict has as stakes: "some fate which will make your character unplayable, but you don't die", then the only protection is to fold. Which might lead to a continued fold-fest as you continue to dodge the issue or run out of chips.

I haven't found this to ever be a problem, but requiring players to spend a Chip is there for precisely this reason.

But, let me also inquire, because I don't get understand the "make your character unplayable" line. I can't imagine a situation where the character is "unplayable" but not dead. Can you explain?

Are you thinking of something like the character is knocked unconscious? Even in that case, the player still plays his character as normal. Nothing unusual happens to his scores, no negatives, etc. He may still win a conflict, even if paralyzed, tied up, whatever. The narrator simply has to resolve the outcome of his victory.

Remember, again, this is a game about constructing story, not about specifically modeling a character's health and ability. A characters scores reflect more about his relative story-potential than they do about his relative physical acumen.

Quote
Now, Eero's post also suggests a solution to this - that the stakes of the conflict be agreed by all participants before it begins. Is this the way it should be played?

Certainly. I'm confused why you'd assume otherwise. Can you tell me how you came to that? (Maybe your next comment -- quoted below -- is a hint.) More importantly, can I help explain it more?

Quote
Again, I think the next edition of the text should have something about this if this is the case.

The current edition does have something, but it's probably not sufficient. When and if I get around to revising Dust Devils, I will have to better explain conflict and stakes.

For what IS there now, see the sidebar "What is conflit?" I'm thinking of these sentences particularly: " A conflict is any risky situation in which characters have something to lose while trying to meet their goals." and " All kinds of results are possible as character’s deal with conflict."
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Matt Snyder
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2005, 12:21:06 PM »

Let me tell you how I explain the initiation of conflict:

Conflicts in Dust Devils are situations where the participants are ready and willing to do violence, AND they're conflicts in the theoretical sense, too. (Violence here is just a technical term and means Harm, the lowering of attributes.) So Dust Devils conflicts are a special case of the general term. We have three situations:

Neither side is willing to do violence: The goals are not that important, the conflict is small. The way to resolve this is mutual narration, not a Deal. Agree to something or pick up the gun. The Narrator usually has enough unspoken authority to suggest something mutually agreeable.

One side is willing to do violence: The side that is willing gets his way through mutual narration. Violence always trumps non-violence in Dust Devils, is my interpretation. I hold this as the defining feature of the game, much more so than the Devil mechanic.

Both sides are willing to resort to violence: The cards will determine who gets hurt and who wins. It's a Dust Devils conflict.

--

The key to understanding conflict initiation is here: your character cannot be hurt mechanically, and thus your protagonism cannot be reduced, unless you participate in a conflict. But as long as your character desists from violence, you also don't have absolute authority over the events. Your character can be shot, raped, robbed, snickered at or anything else, as long as there's a character willing to do violence doing the deed. So, indeed, there is never a conflict that you're "forced to" accept. The other players can never, assuming that they're playing in good faith and by genre convention, do anything that's so bad that your character's protagonism is lessened. In the case of western, decapitating and quartering your character is pretty much the only thing that makes him non-playable ;) And I've played in games where the players were just willing to believe that "Shade" Williams actually had made a deal with the Devil, and would come back from the quartering.

This system is very elegant and powerful. It allows you to do stuff like just standing there and getting beat up, breaking bones and losing teeth, without losing any mechanical provess. Then, when the bad guys threaten your loved ones, you can stand up and put the bastards down, without losing any tactical advantage over preparing a trigger-happy ambush.

So, my answer to the question of character ruining is that your character was never yours to begin with; in Dust Devils, and some other games (most notably Fastlane), it's up to you to put up the cards, the stats, the chips that protect those things you hold absolutely sacred. If your character's virtue is one, then off you go and pour everything you have into defending it. If you still lose, then that's just the whole point of the game right there - we're gambling on drama, not writing fan-fiction.

My suggestion is that if the players are such pussies that they have trouble with western, they should adapt the game to some other genre. It's easy and fun, and works really well as long as violence is the highest court of narration as it is in a western. Pick a genre where characters can never be raped, killed, robbed, snickered at, or whatever it is that is the unthinkable thing that should never happen to a character. Agree on the lines and veils of the game beforehand, instead of in the middle of the game.

Hmm... violence but no mean stuff = Pokemon, actually. Any boy's adventure series, really. What do you know, Dust Devils works for those, too.

--
Oh, before somebody reminds me, I'll remind myself: of course, in practice you don't step on other players unless your own dramatic sense tells you to. So usually you don't just rape somebody's character without reason. Thus there's rarely a conflict where you aren't all genuinely agreeing to the events. But if absolutes come to absolutes, I think that the violent party has the right of way. The folding rules offer enough protection in all practical situations for the other party to avoid the unthinkable conflict long enough to get rid of the offender, especially when used in a clever manner. Just take castrating the bastard as your goal, and fold long enough to get that royal flush. Gather stakes from other conflicts to stay flush. Sooner or later you'll get the fucker.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2005, 07:05:48 PM »

Hi, Darren, sorry for the delay in responding. Ok, here goes . . .

Thanks for sticking with me! I was beginning to worry - because I'll be playing the game on Monday :)
Oh, and yes, when I talked about stakes, I was using it in the story consequences way.
I've snipped the Named NPCs/Extras - thanks for clarifying.

Quote
Quote
NPCs with stats but no devils - what about them?

Yes, indeed. Who are they? NPCs either are "named" and have Devils, or they are unnamed an drop like flies. There is no reason to "stat up" a character (even one who has a colorful name like Doc) unless there is a Devil associated with the character.
I asked this because in the text it says things like "Just as player characters have a Devil, so too should some of the Dealer’s most important non-player characters."
But I do like the idea of making all Named characters have devils - I can't see a downside there.

Quote
Quote
First, imagine that a player can suffer some consequence to his character that basically ruins that destroys the player's vision of that character, makes it an unfun character. For example, it might be that if Jim seduces Helen, the character will be ruined for some reason unknown to Jim and the GM.

My response here is fairly blunt, but I'm hopeful you'll come to some common ground with me.

I'm not offended by your "get over it" rant ;) I've ruthless snipped much of it - because I accept much of it, especially the idea of the shared vision. Here's a question that gets right to the crux:
Quote
But, let me also inquire, because I don't get understand the "make your character unplayable" line. I can't imagine a situation where the character is "unplayable" but not dead. Can you explain?

I had a specific play example from the Forge in mind: in a recent Dogs in the Vineyard thread, a player described how his female Dog got in a conflict with a few soldiers and the outcome, if she failed, would have resulted in her rape.
The player consented to the conflict, and only realised halfway through that this outcome just didn't work for her - it wasn't the rape itself, but the circumstances in which it came about.

I can think of other situations from my own play where things have happened that I as GM or another player wish they could have taken back - where the consequences to the shared vision of that character have diminished that character to the point where they have then been retired or (in the case of NPCs) written out.
With character death, it's obvious to everyone that the character will be unplayable afterwards, but there are other situations which can be just as "bad" (as in, deprotaginising) as character death.
For example, can a player set as a conflict - "I persuade him to leave town," or "stop interfering with me," or "hang up his spurs and retire" - all of which could be just as character-ending as death.

So here we have at least three situations:
* Characters die (but not really)
* Characters get removed from the adventure in play
* Characters suffer some consequence that destroys the character's role in the campaign.

That last is hardest to explain - and is easily confused with "my guy" syndrome, but I don't think it's the same thing. (Also, I'll accept that it might turn out to be a nonissue in play, what with shared ownership.) But that second situation is clearer and any solution to that will probably work for number three, so lets focus on that.

It seems to me that there is a double standard in Dogs: you can have a conflict over one kind of character-ending thing (gunfight to the death) and if it goes against you, you get to take it back; but another type of character ending thing (which might be rape, it might be maiming, or something else), and you don't get to take that back.

I don't think I'm getting hung up on "my guy" type situations. I'm trying to understand why there is a difference between character death and these other things.
This is what I'm struggling with - is it really a double standard I'm seeing?

My current thoughts are that I'll have to be careful about setting the conflicts up (what Trollbabe calls the Fair and Clear stage), with players being able to declare, "this thing can happen, but if this thing is going to happen I'd fold so you can't do that," so that deprotaginising narration can be more easily avoided.

Quote
You must have reasons to like and dislike your character (or at least view his Devil as something immoral or distasteful). That dislike should be part of the game's ultimate choice.

I get this, and I anticipate that one of my players in particular will have difficulty grasping this element, but I don't think it's part of my concern on this point. It's one of the things I find attractive about the game.

Quote
Quote
Now, Eero's post also suggests a solution to this - that the stakes of the conflict be agreed by all participants before it begins. Is this the way it should be played?

Certainly. I'm confused why you'd assume otherwise. Can you tell me how you came to that? (Maybe your next comment <snip> is a hint.) More importantly, can I help explain it more?

It's the lack of discussion in the text about what the players and GM are doing, rather than the characters. Dust Devils was one of the first Forge-inspired games I bought, but I put it aside because I couldn't learn how to play it from the text.
(I'm mentioning this not out of sour grapes or anything, but purely in the hope that it will lead to a reviosion of the text that would be clearer for players who were like me when I found it.)
Now, after buying many more games and getting to grips with some of the non-traditional aspects, I can read into it stuff that wasn't in my head the first time I read it.
Maybe I was especially dense and others wouldn't have these problems, but I certainly had difficulty grasping some things, for example:
* Can you die in a conflict before reaching zero in a stat?
* And for that matter, what can you declare as conflict outcome? If you say, "I persuade him to leave town," is that a viable conflict? What enforces the losing player to go along with it? Actually, that could be an excellent example of a conflict rendering a character unplayable, as it might force a character off the stage of play.
* If a player narrates one thing, like the loser leaves town, can the loser somehow force a second conflict to undo that - and is that cheating?
* What does folding mean? (Is that a subtle hint to the other question in this thread... :))

That first time or two I read it, I just couldn't put it together how it would actually be played. A lot of that was of course because I was firmly mired in traditional gamerthink, but the book didn't do anything to help me past that the way some others did (like Trollbabe and Dogs In The Vineyard).

Quote
The current edition does have something, but it's probably not sufficient. When and if I get around to revising Dust Devils, I will have to better explain conflict and stakes.

Having a couple of examples describing what the actual players say while sitting around a table as they play through conflicts would help a lot, I think. Including the negotiation of whatever the conflict is about and possible outcomes, if I'm right in assuming that sort of thing should be a part of play. I think the text is silent on this.

Quote
For what IS there now, see the sidebar "What is conflict?" I'm thinking of these sentences particularly: " A conflict is any risky situation in which characters have something to lose while trying to meet their goals." and " All kinds of results are possible as character’s deal with conflict."
One thing that example misses is any discussion of conflict outcome - what, other than damage, will happen after the conflict is over. What is the conflict about, and what happens next.

Whew, another mammoth post. Hope I'm not becoming too tiresome yet.
Conclusion
Your responses (and Eero's) have gone a long way to clearing up my concerns about GMing the game.
Here's my outstanding areas of (minor) confusion:
* Death and other conflicts - exactly what are the limits, what exactly can you declare a conflict to be about, and what long-term effect can they have (including how easy it is to undo).
* Folding, what does it mean: actually I think the answer is just, "the folding player with the help of the group comes up with some in-game justification to avoid the conflict" but the idea is still a little alien to me.
Thanks for the responses so far.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2005, 07:18:25 PM »

Let me tell you how I explain the initiation of conflict:

Conflicts in Dust Devils are situations where the participants are ready and willing to do violence, AND they're conflicts in the theoretical sense, too. (Violence here is just a technical term and means Harm, the lowering of attributes.) So Dust Devils conflicts are a special case of the general term. We have three situations:

Neither side is willing to do violence:
One side is willing to do violence:
Both sides are willing to resort to violence:
--

I'm not sure about this definition that conflicts are about inflicting violence to get your way (even though, in effect that's what happens). I'll have to think about that a bit. In the meantime, on to another post you raised:

This system is very elegant and powerful. It allows you to do stuff like just standing there and getting beat up, breaking bones and losing teeth, without losing any mechanical provess. Then, when the bad guys threaten your loved ones, you can stand up and put the bastards down, without losing any tactical advantage over preparing a trigger-happy ambush.

So, are you saying that if someone says, "I beat him up," and you Fold (am I right in assuming this requires a Fold?), you do actually get beat up, but it doesn't have any effect? That seems pretty novel and radical to me, so I'm forced to examine the extreme case: what if they say, "I shoot you" ?

Quote
My suggestion is that if the players are such pussies that they have trouble with western, they should adapt the game to some other genre.

That did prompt a little snicker :)

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Agree on the lines and veils of the game beforehand, instead of in the middle of the game.
Definitely good advice.

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The folding rules offer enough protection in all practical situations for the other party to avoid the unthinkable conflict long enough to get rid of the offender, especially when used in a clever manner. Just take castrating the bastard as your goal, and fold long enough to get that royal flush. Gather stakes from other conflicts to stay flush. Sooner or later you'll get the fucker.
But what does the Folding look like in the game? What do the characters (not players) see when a PC or GM folds from a conflict?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2005, 08:20:03 PM »

Hiya,

Think of people getting shot and beaten up and scolded ... and giving up, without actually sustaining lasting injury.

A powder scorch and ringing ears.

A bloody nose.

A really nasty humiliating comment, and looking around to see everyone looking away rather than stand up for you.

This sort of thing is actually really common in stories. It's just not common in gaming.

Best,
Ron
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Darren Hill
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Posts: 861


« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2005, 08:36:14 PM »

Thanks Ron, those concrete examples help a lot.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2005, 12:58:32 PM »

Darren: two confusions, death and folding, right? I'll work on both. I'm on the roll after running a gazillion sessions of the game during the last two months.

Death: death is just a state of drama. You asked whether a conflict could have a goal of "persuade him to leave town", and the answer is yes. Just like death, you can do this. Yesterday in our game a player stated that his goal was to persuade a NPC to go to California, instead of messing about as a fiance to the town beauty. That's kosher. BUT, what the player can't do is to claim that the other guy is going away forever, or that he'll stay dead, or anything permanent like that. Permanency is a matter of continuing cooperation between players, and there's very little that can't be narrated away if a player wants to. Consistency in narration is only kept up by the mutual motivation of the players in making sense. Think about it: if a player could claim permanent effects, then his narration rights (or victory rights, in this case) would extend to infinity. "Is he still there?", "Yes he is." That's not kosher, because that's a player playing narrator long after the relevant conflict.

I should clarify at this point that there's two kinds of facts that come out of conflicts in Dust Devils: narration facts stated by the narrator, and victory goals caused by the winner succeeding. For the most part you can handle these exactly the same, but I suggest that to narrate a succeeded goal away will always need another conflict. Examples:

I won a goal: You're left dead in the desert.
You'll have to win: Finding your way back from the desert.

I won a goal: You ride out of town, persuaded to go to California.
You'll have to win: You come to a different conclusion later on.

I won a goal: I get the bar stool.
You'll have to win: You get me to give the stool back.

So you can't just narrate the opposing achievement away after the conflict.

As far as narrated events go, I don't deem them any stronger than out-of-conflict narration as regards counternarrating them. The narrator of a conflict says that my character goes out of town, I can narrate him right back in after the conflict, when I again have some narration power. If he wants any system backing to me going away, he'll have to win a specific conflict with that as the goal, and even then I can repeal the degree through another conflict. Even if I can narrate myself back in, though, I'll still have to

Folding: The mechanical meaning of folding is that the character is out of the conflict, and won't be affected by it adversely. I read this to mean that the in-game situation is resolved in such a way as to leave the character goal in question unattained, but still attainable. The other participants of the conflict will still have to play it through, unless they're unambiguously on the same side. The latter is important when you have teams and such: if A and B are stacked against C and D, and A folds, B might want to end the conflict after losing his motivation, but he can't without folding, too. Even if it's A against B against C against A, and A folds, B and C will still have to shoot it out. When you get into a conflict, even unnecessary violence is a possibility.

Also, remember that the other parties of the conflict will get their goals. If the conflict fizzles because there's nobody opposing anybody, then everybody else gets their goal. If there's still a conflict, the successes are decided normally. The only thing that won't happen is if somebody's goal makes the folder's goal unattainable: in that case the goal in question is also "folded out"; it's not successful, but it's not made impossible to reach either. So if I'm raping you and you resist, you fold, then we have a situation where the same conflict can be initiated again, because neither goal by the above definition of fold-out was made unattainable by the fizzled conflict. Whatever happened in narration, the issue is still on the table. But if I tried to rob a bank and you tried to reveal my identity, and either of us folds, then the other one gets his wish, because the goals are independent from each other.

Now, I admit that I've a number of times wished that there were a way to resolve the narrator of a fizzled conflict, because deciding how to depict the folding (I'll assume here for simplicity's sake that there's just A against B here) is often a charged question. I give the narration right to the one who didn't fold (on the violence principle), but the rules don't comment. Anyway, how to depict it? The above principles in action look like this:

My goal: Rob a bank.
Your goal: Reveal my identity.
You fold: I rob the bank succesfully, and you don't manage to reveal my identity. However, I didn't manage to give you a false impression either, so your will and means to revealing my identity are still intact. As you can see, how much folding resembles losing depends on how much you lose dramatically by postponing the conflict. This is in the rules by design; folding means postponing a conflict, and nothing more.

My goal: Reveal your identity.
Your goal: Rob a bank.
You fold: I manage to reveal your identity, and you fail to rob the bank, or perhaps never even start trying. However, you are not arrested and the bank is not secured, so you can try again later.

My goal: Get you to bed.
Your goal: Not get in bed with me.
You fold: You don't manage to dissuade me, but I don't get you in bed, either. Perhaps somebody interrupted us, or the time of the month is no good, but for whatever reason the conflict has to be played to the end at some other time.

My goal: Not get in bed with you.
Your goal: Get me in the bed.
You fold: You don't get me into bed, but are not rejected, either. Perhaps I played for time, or any of the above reasons. The conflict is tabled until another time. As you can see, the result is pretty much identical to the above case, because the goals are directly opposed. In both cases the result is a draw.

The main thing to preserve in folding is the possibility of the same goals still coming up later. The conflict can not be resolved through folding. Usually it's pretty simple to craft a reason for the goals still being valid, but not resolved. In the typical fighting conflict, for example, some possible reasons are: we fight until neither can anymore and slump down unconscious, indian war party intervenes and we're forced to stop and fight them off, great rains change the road into a mud where it's impossible to fight, my ammunition runs out and I choose to turn tail, to think up some. It's almost as simple as narrating victory.

You asked about my example of getting beat up as well: no, you don't need to fold. The situation can go like this:

You: I beat you up!
Me: I just stand there and take it.
You: OK.

See? No conflict declaration, because both sides agreed to what happens. Whether a situation is violent or sexual or racistic or political or beautiful or anything else has no bearing on whether it's a conflict. What's more, your character may resist all he likes, but it's still not necessarily a conflict:

You: I beat you up!
Me: I struggle mightily, but it is to no avail. I end up lying on the ground all broken.
You: Uhh... is that a conflict declaration?
Me: I'll tell you when I want a conflict, and this is not it. Unless you want to conflict over whether I manage to struggle futilely?

Mechanically this is just the same as me telling that my character crosses a road (or you telling that my character crosses a road). We all agree, so the stuff is just told with great grim poetry. I call a game like Dust Devils formalistic: narration has no direct meaning on the mechanics, or rather, the players have to choose to take any given bit of narration and invest it with mechanical weight. Without such investiture it's all just talk we use to set up the mechanical bits. In the case of Dust Devils, the "just talk" continues until there is a conflict with the possibility of harm.

Continuing in the same vein, this can happen too:

You: I beat you up!
Me: OK, that's a conflict, my goal is to escape you... I draw cards... shit, I fold!
You: So I start to beat you, but you dodge cunningly. Then you dodge behind the barn, and when I follow, you're nowhere in sight; you hid yourself in the cow manure, hoping that I won't notice you. I start searching.
Me: That's cool with me: I didn't get beat up, but neither did I escape. The conflict was just delayed. My next goal is to hide long enough for you to tire and go home.

But, notice: in all the above examples of you beating me, no mechanical consequences accrue on me. This is part of the level playing field DD offers: I have to accept conflicts I participate in, I cannot be harmed mechanically unless I'm part of a conflict, and thus it's up to me and my compadres to decide when, exactly, the terms are suitable for me to lay my cards down. I myself choose the stakes and the situations, and thus I control the drama. This is all a matter of protecting the players from force-narration and deprotagonization. In a game like Dust Devils your protagonism depends very much on how you can affect conflicts, and losing conflicts generally changes your opportunities in that regard. Thus it'd be unjust if players could force the mechanical consequences of losing on others without their agreement.

Hope that answered the questions. For the record, I can kinda understand how DD is not a fount of clarity for all. For myself it hit like a bolt of clear lightning; not in a revelation kind of way, but I understood everything (except the reason for not having "small conflict" rules) in it instantly, for the first time seeing a functional, tight narrativist machine in all it's glory. I guess that the book only works like that if you already have all the tools for understanding it in your head.

--

One last point about the rape story (I read that DiV thread, too): in Dust Devils you can always fold as long as the cards have not hit the table. So it's very unlikely that you could manage to play through the motions of a conflict with your character's rape as the opposing goal without ever realizing that you don't want it. And when you do realize, you can fold.
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