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Author Topic: [Vendetta] Ronnies feedback  (Read 705 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: October 06, 2005, 05:14:54 PM »

Hello,

Drew Hart-Shea's Vendetta has one strike against it that Drew doesn't know about - I think John Campbell's "Hero" ideas are at best childish, and at worst abysmally stupid. But! In fairness to Drew and the game, I'll just put that aside and deal with the framework, structure, whatever we call it, as it's presented here, on its own merits for purposes of enjoying play.

But first, the stuff that I think was nifty right out of the box.

1. I like the way hatred is surprisingly neutral as a mechanic, which at first seems odd, then makes total sense. In this genre, the vendetta exists mainly as an excuse, and I'm OK with that.

2. I really like the Things and their mechanics-consequences. Fantastic niche stuff.

3. Extended Conflicts remind me a lot of Bring Down the Pain in the Shadow of Yesterday, which themselves are a version of Extended Contests in HeroQuest; all of this is a good thing. I do have one question: how many successes are needed?

4. Russ Meyer stuff! Cool! I just had to say that.

Now for the difficulties. They are centered on one key concept: that the rolls and conflicts within scenes aren't integrated with the overall story-structure at all. For example, the Ordeal is just another conflict, and surviving/escaping it doesn't do anything, it just means you "did the Ordeal." Same goes for the Mentor - "It's time to see the Mentor, OK, we go see him, GM plays Mentor and makes vague pronouncements, OK, done, move on." What's the consequence of seeing the Mentor? What are the ways the scene can go?

As it stands, the game seems to be Participationist to a paint-by-numbers degree. Nothing that happens seems to be consequential.

Another issue concerns the group context, which I think is out of tune with a single overriding hero's vengeance story. Or at least, having them all out to get vengeance on a boyfriend, and pumping all the girls into one stage at once for parallel reasons, isn't working for me. It seems that some of them, at least, should be sidekicks, and it also seems to make more sense to have more than one girl be fixated on the same boyfriend.

Finally, I think it needs a mechanism for characters to die or drop out, but for players to keep playing. Here's my suggestion: that the GM doesn't play the Boyfriend when he finally appears. Instead, he's played exclusively (and communally) by the players of the dead and dropped-out player-characters! Nasty, eh?

Best,
Ron
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rrr
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2005, 01:20:57 AM »

HI Ron.. thanks for the feedback, now I can start on the next Ronnies challenge feeling like I might have learned something!

This was my first real game I've actually finished, and so (without having had any chance to play-test) I was feeling pretty unaware at all of what might work and what might not.

Right, so here's some thoughts from me:

First up, I think Campbell's ideas are pretty interesting personally.  My only real exposure to them is recent, so it's not a kind of long term belief thing that I'm particularly invested in, but from my perspective there seems to be an element of truth in them which personally I find interesting.  But anyway, that's neither here nor there.  Irrespective of the validity of Campbell's ideas, I didn't implement them well.  (See Graham Walmsley's Ronnie entry Get Out... for a game that deals with the ideas far more successfully!)

1) Hatred and the mechanic was actually the central idea.  My "design goal"  was along the lines of wanting a mechanic which would force the players to enter into conflicts even if they didn't want to (you gain Hatred if you back down) and as the game progressed would give an increasing chance of play descending into an orgy of violence.  But also in the kind of films being mimicked the point at which the characters succumb to rage is actually kind of cathartic and empowering so I wanted Hatred to not necessarily be a bad thing.  I think this was the main area of the game I succeeded in.

2) Things were my attempt to offer a choice of "kewl powerz" which fitted the genre and wouldn't break the game.  I'm happy with all of them except "The Car".  I wanted to get the road movie-ish feel, so I knew I had to include a car as an essential mechanic.  Anyway it occurred to me that the car is basically just a means of getting from scene to scene, so why not have the car confer the scene framing ability?  I liked the way it split the GMing between the GM and another player.  What I don't like is that it seems kind of arbitrary, and slightly clumsy.  I don't know how it would work in play with a player setting up a scene and the GM then having to immediately improvise a conflict in that situation.  The GM part of me kind of thought it would be a cool challenge, it gives a tough little moment to the GM every now and then you have to think fast.  But I suspect it could fall on it's face at times.  Any thoughts people?

3) Extended conflicts: you need as many successes as the opposing character's relevant Attribute.  So if you're a girl with Booty 3 trying to seduce the stuffy town mayor with Conformity 4 then the Girl needs 4 successes to win and the Mayor needs 3.  As each round only ends with one person getting a success, it's simply a matter of who hits the target first.  I'll have to look at the rules on that section, see if I can clarify it.

4)  Don't know why it said Russ Meyer to me...!  I guess I wanted violence and I wanted it from the perspective that the women were strong and sexy.

Now for the difficulties as Ron says!

The structure of the game is probably the weakest point for me also, and I attribute it to a combination of lack of experience in these matters and the fact that it was kind of tacked on late in the night after my mind was trying to go to sleep. I had this mechanic for Hatred, I had the basic idea of vengeance, and I was desperately casting about for a means to get some kind of structure to the game.  Having just been reading about the Heroic Journey the past few days it was fresh in my mind and I was thinking about it anyway.

So I just went "yoink... that'll do"

Without much thought as to how to integrate it into the game.  I was vaguely uneasy about the idea at the time, but wrote it anyway as I couldn't think of anything else... that'll larn me not to do stuff that I know isn't right (note to self: gain a point of Self-Loathing..)

Casting around for a way to make it stick I hit on the MlwM idea of having the players have engage in one GM specified conflict to fulfill the requirements of the scene.  (yoink again, sorry Paul) I messed around with it a bit to try and get it to fit, but of course Ron's right  (sigh) it doesn't work.  It just becomes slightly weak Participationist play with everyone just going along with the story but no real drive to it and no real consequences.

Which is exactly what I wanted to avoid!  By adding in a structure I hoped it would provide a means to tell a road movie type of story.  But as it stands its just kind of lame.

OK Forge-ites.  How do I fix this?  I'm actually kind of lost and don't really know where to go or even what my questions should be at this point.

I'm thinking it needs the whole story structure ripped right out, but then what?  How do I make it be a road movie?  How do I get people on their mission to vengeance?

Here's my thoughts.  Am I on the right track?

1) I need more of an in game motive rather than a structure.  A bit like the Faith in DitV prevents the players from backing out of a town.  In this context a structure doesn't work because it doesn't provide in-game motivation, it just makes you fit a pattern.

2) Ron's idea of the players whos characters died playing the Boyfriend at the end is utterly awesome.  I should try and include that.

To be honest I'm not sure if this game is worth saving.  I'm very much viewing the Ronnies as a learning process which will hopefully help me in the long run with a couple of the games I want to make (one of the reasons I've waited till getting feedback before entering the next round)  Maybe I should just put this one down as a learning experience.  Robert Rogriguez claimed every film maker has three bad movies in them which you just need to get out of your system as quick as possible.  Maybe it's the same with game design?

Drew
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My name is Drew
I live just outside north London, UK
Here's my 24hours Ronnies entry: Vendetta
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2005, 06:26:36 AM »

Hi Drew,

I think Robert Rodriguez is right (he's paraphrasing earlier novelists, by the way). However! That doesn't mean that you should abandon a first draft of anything, and that's all a 24-hour game can be, a draft. Let's take it through one more round of revision and then see.

#1 - If the people involved in play aren't all excited about the Faster Pussycat and Kill Bill context, then no imposed structure can put that excitement there. It doesn't matter whether the imposed structure is extremely rigid and external like a play-structure, or invidivualized to a number on the sheet, or generalized in-game to an element of the setting. So don't get concerned about whether the group will "do a road movie right" if you don't make them.

Instead, do two things. (a) Assume an audience which wants to do it, but doesn't quite get why they like this material. (b) Write introductory text and find other layout/illos material that explains your enthusiam fully unapologetically, with no holds barred. After that, you're golden. This is the Sorcerer & Sword model of game text design.

#2 - The Car is brilliant. Don't lose the Car. It seems to me that you are automatically trusting the GM to frame scenes, and automatically distrusting the players to do so, in the classic conflict-of-interest assumption of many gamers. Turn that around - why wouldn't you trust the players to do it better? Because if they're inspired by #1 above, they will.

#3 - Keep the beef(s) with the boyfriend(s) vague and limited to one sentence. That permits the various scenes to gain power in terms of content, as details and nuances and twists about that conflict can be added into play. Just to stay traditional, I think the GM ought to be the author of such things, therefore tossing twists and "but you left him" type content at the players, as long as it doesn't contradict the original sentence.

#4 - Do keep stuff like the Ordeal and the Mentor in the game, just not in lock-step, and with meaningful unique outcomes. I think it's important that every scene contain the possibility of player-character death or permanent exit. I think it's also useful to include the "Tontine" concept, which is to say, whenever a player-character dies or otherwise leaves the story permanently, all the remaining ones get stronger. (That's the improvement mechanic for this game)

This is fun! Take it from here, Drew; I'd really like to see the next draft. Then is the time for you to decide whether it's sucky or not.

Best,
Ron
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Hans
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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2005, 09:36:47 AM »

This is the first of the Ronnie submissions that I want to play-test NOW!  Not later.  What does that say about me?  I shudder to think.

Anyway, Drew, I knowvery little about John Campbell's theories.  I suspect that a significant proportion of your potential players won't either.  Therefore, I recommend you simply state up front in the introduction that you were inspired by these theories and then jetison the terminology associated with them.  The whole game would read more smoothly if all of the terminology is reworked for the intended setting.  For example, instead of "Reward (Seizing the Sword)" as the climactic stage, you would say "Vengence is Mine!" or "Death comes to Tuscaloosa"; obviously you would want something hipper than those phrases, but you get the idea.

Its been a LONG time since I last saw "Faster, Pussycat"....  *stares longingly into space for a few moments whispering "Tura Satana"* ...but I remember it being more drawn out then the stages you describe.  Perhaps there should be some kind of recursion built into to the stages around Step 4?  In other words, there could be a series of escalting challenges that lead up to the final climax.  Each challenge, by the nature of the mechanics, would serve to increase the Hatred of the characters.  Perhaps the signal to enter the climactic scene would be the 2nd character to enter mondo-psycho mode, or something similar.

As a philosophical question, I wonder if this game would have ANY appeal whatsover to female players?  There are deep questions of gender identity and gender relationships being explored here, I think, because I suspect it is mostly male players who will groove on this game, where, by definition, all the characters are hyper-feminine in one way or another.

One quick note on numbers: why did you decide to drop 6's?  This seems like a needless complication to me, but I'm sure I am missing soemthing important.

Anyway, my personal thought is keep working on this.  As Ron said, only certain people will even be interested in the game in the first place, so don't try to soften or expand the concept.  Just go for it.
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