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The role of fortune

Started by Joshua A.C. Newman, September 19, 2005, 12:22:38 PM

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Sven Seeland

Maybe it's because it's late and I'm tired but it would help me tremendously to actually know what we are trying to discuss here. Is it that we're trying to find out why randomness is fun? I don't think anyone here is arguing that randomness is the only and best way all the time. As to why it's fun I think we already got some good answers. The apprehension of an uncertain outcome, of gambling something that is at stakes, of dealing with a surprising outcome are all things that make randomness fun (at least to me and as it seems to some other people as well).
Josh, you talk about ressource management as an alternative. See, that is something I totally don't dig. When I play games (most of the time) I don't want to be accounting for ressources here and there, planning ahead on how to use them, develop strategies, etc. If I fail in that case it's my fault. I'm thinking "Great, if I just had done this instead of that things would be better now." I get to blame no one but myself, which - to me - is frustrating. If I roll dice instead it's not my fault any more. I see the result and say "Well, bad luck then. I guess I'll have to deal with it". Scapegoat again. And a matter of taste, big time. Does this help you any?

Also, what kind of randomness are we talking here? Strictly mechanical randomizers like dice or cards or coins? Or other more "human" randomizers as well, like gambling (the scene bidding in Universalis).

I think it would really help if you told us what you're actually trying to get at, Josh. What exactly makes randomness obsolete, in your mind? Maybe it's just me being unable to read between the lines, maybe it's because I'm not exactly a Forge veteran but I'm not really seeing the goal here (although I'm sure there is one).


P.S.: Sorry if this post seemed offensive at all, it wasn't meant to. It's late, I'm dead tired and my English isn't as good as it used to be...
- Sven

Mr. Sandman bring me a dream...

LordSmerf

I think that, in ideal circumstances, randomness increases the challenge of play.  Let's see if I can break this down coherently.

Potential outcomes are determined by the players, so randomness doesn't increase the number/quality of the outcomes available during resolution.  However, randomness will occassionally select the outcome that no one at the table really wanted to occur.  The challenge I'm talking about here is the ability to take that outcome and see the potential in it.  To make it even better than what you were thinking of before.

This has happened a number of times in my HeroQuest experience.  I'll be hoping to win some conflict, or to lose it.  I have a preference for outcome there.  But the dice just come up against me.  It is now to me to take the outcome I didn't prefer and run with it, to make it cool.  I'd say it's fair to say that every so often everyone at the table wants the same outcome, but that you roll anyway and that you all "lose".

Suddenly everyone has to switch gears and figure out how to make this new, unexpected thing cool.  And I think that in many cases, that's a lot of fun.

Thomas
Current projects: Caper, Trust and Betrayal, The Suburban Crucible

xenopulse

Randomness also introduces an element of risk and temptation.  Why do you roll for Humanity in Sorcerer instead of just losing a point whenever you do something that warrants a roll?  Now, I hate to guess at what the reasons for certain design features are, but for me, it makes it more of a temptation.  If I knew I'd lose a point no matter what, I'd be much less likely to do it than now that I'm just risking it and could get away with it.

Joshua A.C. Newman

Andrew, I don't know where, precisely, this is, but randomness is a shortcut around interesting territory. I'm not saying it's useless. I'm saying there's more interesting stuff where randomness is used.

I'm not softening that statement one iota. I really think it's true.

However, I think you're misunderstanding me: I'm not saying that randomness is inherently a shortcut around interesting territory. It obviously has its uses. It obviously has its uses within the realm of RPGs. I also think there's interesting stuff to do that the dice take away.

I want to know why we assume fortune is a better idea than other stuff. So I want to know exactly what it is that randomness gives us so I can figure out other ways to get it, too.

Sven, Universalis' bidding mechanic isn't random. I don't know what's going to happen becuause I don't know what you want or I don't know how much you want it. That's interesting, it's nonrandom, and it's a clear alternative to dice or cards.

Also, Sven, your comment about scapegoating is interesting - it puts failure on the dice.

What I'm hearing here is that people like randomness - they like that its' no one's fault when something goes wrong (which I hate in games that I play, btw), or you get to point to the dice and say "the dice did it!"

There's also a realm in which randomness is used to give you something that no one expected or wanted and you all have to make up something new and unexpected because of an unlikely roll. I'm pretty sure this can be gotten without randomness, as well, but you can obviously use randomness to get it. I also know that in our PTA game, Epidemonology, all the unexpected stuff came from someone making up something really good. Whenever the cards came out, it was because either outcome was going to be good and we weren't sure which to do.

Ah, then there's the "doing something runs a risk" rather than "doing something produces an outcome". That's a very valid point, I think. That's when the game is about risk. Can a game be not about risk? I don't know.

!!! That, right there, is the crux of my post, it turns out! If a game is about risking something, it should use a Fortune mechanic. If it's about trading one thing for another, maybe it shouldn't. Hah, hm.

.... it occurs to me that I may be using the word "fortune" incorrectly. I'm assuming that it has to do with luck; that is, randomness, and not simply an unpredetermined factor like bidding. Have I run into a jargon jag?


Ye gods! I can't keep up with the posts here! Someone posts every time I write a sentence that addresses the post!
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.

LordSmerf

Quote from: glyphmonkey on September 19, 2005, 06:52:35 PM
I also know that in our PTA game, Epidemonology, all the unexpected stuff came from someone making up something really good. Whenever the cards came out, it was because either outcome was going to be good and we weren't sure which to do.
So, what do you think about that?  Did that make the game better?  Worse?  Just as good as it would have been without the cards?

Thomas
Current projects: Caper, Trust and Betrayal, The Suburban Crucible

Andrew Morris

Okay, Josh, let me restate your theory in my own words, to make sure I'm understanding you correctly -- fortune is always a "shortcut" around....something.  That "something" is sometimes more appropriate than the shortcut, but the "something" is always more interesting. Sound right? I'm not sure, because at one point you say "randomness is a shortcut around interesting territory" and in another you say "I'm not saying that randomness is inherently a shortcut around interesting territory." I'm not sure how to reconcile these two statements.
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Green

I believe I'm starting to get where Joshua is coming from here because it's something I've been debating with my own game, Dramatikos.  I deliberately avoid fortune mechanics because the point of the game is to facilitate interactive storytelling.  The point of the game is to think on your feet, keep things moving, and go into a direction that would be both interesting and meaningful.  A lot of my energy has been spent on coming up with ways to really achieve my design goals with the game, even though a fortune mechanic would make things a lot easier to arbitrate.  And there's the rub: I could easily come up with a unique dice mechanic, but I'm not sure that lies within the spirit of the game.

Do I have a problem with games that have fortune mechanics?  No.  However, sometimes I do feel that designers default to dice rather than exploring other options.  As for me, the main reason why I'm eschewing fortune mechanics in my game is because other games that share similar design goals already do it better.

Joshua A.C. Newman

Quote from: Andrew Morris on September 19, 2005, 10:25:36 PM
Okay, Josh, let me restate your theory in my own words, to make sure I'm understanding you correctly -- fortune is always a "shortcut" around....something.  That "something" is sometimes more appropriate than the shortcut, but the "something" is always more interesting. Sound right? I'm not sure, because at one point you say "randomness is a shortcut around interesting territory" and in another you say "I'm not saying that randomness is inherently a shortcut around interesting territory." I'm not sure how to reconcile these two statements.

Andrew, you're just misparsing.

Just because Dice St. is a shortcut around Something Market doesn't mean there's not something interesting in Something market, but I might not want to go there right now. Maybe it's too time consuming, maybe there's something on Dice St. I want. But sometimes I want to go to Something market.

Randomness obviously can have interesting results. I just think there's other stuff out there that's underexplored.

Green, how does resolution work in Dramatikos?
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.

Sven Seeland

Ah, I think I'm coming closer to understanding your mindset, Josh. You're saying the scene bidding in Universalis isn't random. See, to me it is. Viewed from the player's point of view, it doesn't matter whether the opponent rolled a dice or secretely picked up a certain number of coins. It's a (more or less) unpredictable outcome. I won't know what happens either way. This is where we run into difficulties of defining "random" or "fortune". Some definitions of random seem to assume that all results have an equal probablity of occuring, like the sides of a dice do. In my book it's simply that I don't know which element will come up. I can calculate probabilities or judge the psyche of the person how is picking up the coins but in the end I can't say for sure what comes up. This is random to me.
You are only refering to mechanical randomizers, with an equal probability for every result to come up.
There was a rant about this matter somewhere here but I can't seem to find it right now.

This might sound like hair-splitting but I think that this distinction is actually very important to the discussion (at least for me it is). Because if you're saying we need more of the Universalis scene bidding instead of the dice and I say we need some kind of randomizers in games than we're not actually arguing since to me the bidding is a randomizer (for I don't know the outcome when I set the stakes). From your posts I gather that "randomness" for you can only be achieved by mechanical means.

Are we on the same page now?

Now onto where we are heading. Are you actually trying to find Something Market or have you already found it and now try to find out why people keep going to Dice Street anyways? You're talking in very general terms which is making it hard for me to parse you and really nail down your intent, I'm sorry.
- Sven

Mr. Sandman bring me a dream...

lumpley

Plus wait a second, J - are you saying that Shock's not going to use dice anymore?

-Vincent
who's committing the forum equivalent of insider trading.

Andrew Morris

Quote from: glyphmonkey on September 20, 2005, 02:10:30 AM
Just because Dice St. is a shortcut around Something Market doesn't mean there's not something interesting in Something market, but I might not want to go there right now. Maybe it's too time consuming, maybe there's something on Dice St. I want. But sometimes I want to go to Something market.

Josh, if that's the case, I have no idea what your point is. Your earlier posts sounded like you were advocating "something" over Fortune. Now it sounds like you're just reiterating the prevalent opinion here that certain things work better for certain games. If that's really what you meant...well, then...yep, I agree. But that's as much a given as saying "different games use different rules."

I'm just not able to find the core of discussion here.
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Joshua A.C. Newman

Jumpin' Jimminy.

1: Shock: usese a randomizer, but it comes waaaay at the beginning of the resolution process. The reason it's there is to make a random scale for the conflict. I wanted it random because the scale doesn't matter in the long run, so long as it has one, and it's not always the same. It bascially details how much struggle there will be about an issue.

2: Andrew, I wanted to know what it was that a design got from randomness, and I wanted to know which parts can be gotten by other means. That's all. Any proposal of Something Else is in the abstract because I don't know what it is, but it stands in for techniques that are nonrandom that share characteristics with randomness.

3: A non-secret bidding system isn't random. I don't know what's going to happen, of course, but I can figure out what you'll want and bid appropriately. Consider a mechanic like Poker where I bid one, you bid two, I bid three, you bid five... until eventually I don't have faith in my hand enough to bid more. Now consider changing that "faith" to "desire", the desire to win this conflict: the more I want my character to win the conflict, the more I'm willing to bid, the more I'm willing to spend. It's definitely not random. It's no more random than a move in a strategy game: I don't know what you're going to do next, but I have a pretty good idea, and when you do something else, everyone goes "ooOOooooo!"
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.

lumpley

Quote from: glyphmonkey on September 20, 2005, 12:18:46 PM
1: Shock: usese a randomizer, but it comes waaaay at the beginning of the resolution process. The reason it's there is to make a random scale for the conflict. I wanted it random because the scale doesn't matter in the long run, so long as it has one, and it's not always the same. It bascially details how much struggle there will be about an issue.

And that's a very good use for a randomizer. That's how Dogs' dice work too.

I think you might just be saying that Fortune at the End is suck.

-Vincent

Joshua A.C. Newman

Quote from: lumpley on September 20, 2005, 12:31:50 PM
I think you might just be saying that Fortune at the End is suck.

No! I'm not saying that anything is suck! I'm trying to figure out what it is that randomness gives one's design, and distill those things out, because some of those things don't require randomness to take place. I'm particularly interested in places where you have to make hard, defining decisions instead of rolling.

Tony and Sven were talking about using the dice as a scapegoat. I think that happens a lot in game design and I think it's intentional, if perhaps unconscious. I'm not interested in scapegoats in my game designs. I want people to take responsibility for the events in the story, so I'm trying to figure out how to do that effectively. Dice give you some goodies, but there are other goodies that dice give you that might be better if the mechanics worked differently.

Uh... and, yes, Fortune at the End is suck. That's probably where this shoulder-chip originates, back in the mists of teenage role-playing.
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.

Emily Care

One thing I really get out of randomness is using it as a sounding board for creativity. 

Example: the little smiley face dice.  I reach for them regularly in our rules-improv game because it helps me get some thing to work with in order to make up what I'm making it up.  For example, we ran a scene that was the aftermath of a battle with "little" dragon spawn.  Grogs were wounded & dead, townspeople had been killed & run away, our mages were damaged & had come into conflict.  Instead of going through them one by one and deciding cold what had happened to them--which we were completely capable of--we rolled a smily-frowny-neutral-faced die (six-sided with various expressions on them) and then interpreted the outcome to make up what happened to the character.  Of course we were still deciding it, we were not saying "the dice made us do it", we were completely using the cue of the die to help us make up something satisfying that we wanted to be true. 

Another example:  a friend of mine (Kip) made up a family tree for several generations of mages in a given world.  Randomly rolled, or arbitrarily created, I'm not sure which. They had no names, just lineages (ie M1, M2, etc)  Another friend, (Sarah) spent a winter making up who the mages were and what their lives were like based on those arbitrary trees.  It enhanced greatly her abilility to make stuff up because she had a framework to hang it on. 

best,
Emily
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games