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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 86 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: John's Standard Rant #1: Freeform Traits  (Read 10988 times)
Darcy Burgess
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Posts: 476


« Reply #30 on: August 27, 2005, 03:41:21 PM »

Another kick at the very same can -- which really amounts to balance.  I implemented this in an early draft of Orbital, which hasn't gone beyond that stage, due to other difficulties.  However, evening the playing field between "better" and "worse" freeform traits it did do.

1) all rolls are opposed

2) Wherever the "buck stops" decides if a given matchup of traits includes one that's more applicable (read: focused, less munchkin-ey, or whatever your issue with freeform trait balance is) to the given conflict/task.  That trait gets a mechanical bonus.  (In Orbital's case, it was extra dice in the die pool.  I could just as easily be die modifiers or whatever.)

Done.

I imagine that this solution would work really well in both Narr- and Gamist-facilitating designs.  I could see some problems with it in a Sim-facilitating game, though.
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jaw6
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Posts: 30


« Reply #31 on: August 27, 2005, 06:15:38 PM »

Maybe it's just me, but I see a different axis of interaction with free-form systems, in regards "balance". I mean, if it's free-form, and I say, "Stronger than a chicken" and some other player says, "Stronger than a moose" -- there's nothing in the system stopping me from being stronger than a moose, or panda, or Hercules, or whatever. I think the operating assumption is that if I chose "stronger than chicken", I must've wanted to play a stronger-than-chicken-character, for whatever reason.

In other words, if the sky's the limit, why should this kind of balance matter?


On the other hand (arguing with myself), I think advising a GM to watch spot-light time between characters whose trait vary in applicability is sound advice, but it's just the standard GM advice to "share the spotlight" -- I guess I don't see it deserving any special mention just for free-form traits.
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Emily Care
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Posts: 1126


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« Reply #32 on: August 27, 2005, 09:20:15 PM »

Maybe it's just me, but I see a different axis of interaction with free-form systems, in regards "balance". I mean, if it's free-form, and I say, "Stronger than a chicken" and some other player says, "Stronger than a moose" -- there's nothing in the system stopping me from being stronger than a moose, or panda, or Hercules, or whatever. I think the operating assumption is that if I chose "stronger than chicken", I must've wanted to play a stronger-than-chicken-character, for whatever reason.

John is apparently not talking about freeform systems, but non- or minimally quantified traits.

Please correct as appropriate, John, others.

best,
Emily
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Mikael
Member

Posts: 206


« Reply #33 on: August 28, 2005, 06:55:42 AM »

I also really like the Thematic Battery idea. I think that it could be easily applied to many systems by requiring that the trait be "negatively charged" via free narration in a suitable context, and then discharged through normal use in a specific system.

That said, I am not sure whether the battery idea really addresses the question of broad vs. narrow traits - it will probably be easier to charge a broad trait than a narrow one, especially if boring, repetitive use of traits is somewhat discouraged, like it often is.

I thought that it might also be interesting to have one example of more quantified traits explicitly spelled out as an example in this thread. In Everway, Powers are rated with the following system:

Is the power Versatile? Can it be used in various, imaginative ways? If yes, cost: +1 points.
Is the power Major? Can it be expected to have a significant impact on the story? If yes, cost +1 points.
Is the power Frequent? Will it be used often? If yes, cost +1. Note that all combat-relevant powers are automatically considered Frequent.

The cost of each power is determined through negotiation and can range from 0 to 3 or more, as each of the categories above can be seen to apply multiple times - "twice Major" and so on.

I think that this system is a good blend of freeform and structured, but not automatically perfect. It still takes some negotiation and constant vigilance to ensure an "equal opportunity" game.

Cheers,
+ Mikael
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Josh Roby
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Posts: 1055

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« Reply #34 on: August 29, 2005, 09:28:59 AM »

That said, I am not sure whether the battery idea really addresses the question of broad vs. narrow traits - it will probably be easier to charge a broad trait than a narrow one, especially if boring, repetitive use of traits is somewhat discouraged, like it often is.

When you give enough control over to the players, this more-or-less becomes a moot point.  Whether I have something very generalized like "Fever Genius" or something very specific such as "Cockney Low-Life", if I am empowered with the ability to call for a die check and apply my thematic battery whenever I like, I don't have to wait for appropriate circumstances to come up; I can fabricate them entirely.

The scene is set in a big marketplace where the party of PCs is going to go barter with Mister Such-and-Such.  Before we get in there, though, I call for a die check and declare that my Cockney Low-Life is in a bar brawl in the marketplace.  In doing so, I'm not derailing anything; I'm helping to contextualize the setting, giving it color, and characterizing my PC.  The players can riff off of that, and all the sudden this isn't a boring negotiation session, it's bartering in a seedy dive full of dangerous people.

If player input is totally constrained to what the character is capable of (therefore barring 'I'm in a barfight'), then yes, the broad/narrow thing is a problem.  The players sit around and wait for the GM to throw them a bone.  You have to invert the dynamics a bit and allow players to help tell the story rather than just participate in it, at which point the broad/narrow distinction becomes meaningless -- the players can contextualize anything.
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Mikael
Member

Posts: 206


« Reply #35 on: August 29, 2005, 10:17:36 AM »

That said, I am not sure whether the battery idea really addresses the question of broad vs. narrow traits - it will probably be easier to charge a broad trait than a narrow one, especially if boring, repetitive use of traits is somewhat discouraged, like it often is.

<snip>

If player input is totally constrained to what the character is capable of (therefore barring 'I'm in a barfight'), then yes, the broad/narrow thing is a problem.  The players sit around and wait for the GM to throw them a bone.  You have to invert the dynamics a bit and allow players to help tell the story rather than just participate in it, at which point the broad/narrow distinction becomes meaningless -- the players can contextualize anything.

I agree completely. However, my point was that your statement above is valid regardless of whether we are talking about your charge-discharge system or freeform traits in general - and thus I think the Thematic Batteries are an excellent system, but not relevant to the broad/narrow discussion.

But perhaps I am missing something.

+ Mikael
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