*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 24, 2014, 04:18:35 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 74 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [Rats in the Walls] Ronnies feedback  (Read 2164 times)
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« on: September 28, 2005, 07:38:15 PM »

Hello,

Time for some feedback for a winner! As games rolled in, Rats in the Walls was the first entry to make me sit up and say "Wins," without any hesitation, upon first reading. Not only that, Lance is the only author with the nads to post in Actual Play about his game prior to the end of the contest! See Rats in the Walls: first playtest notes. So here goes.

I agree that play will "write itself" to a large degree, as the conflicts are so fundamental to character identity. You've managed to achieve powerful and fascinating Situation automatically, with no need for a complex setting or justification to back it up. The Situations are even built specifically to change, such that the resolution and consequences are fully thematic. You can't get any more Story Now than this, Lance!! (do you see that it'd be the same even if the bidding and wide-open narration were more traditional?)

By the way, does this mean that Narrativist-tending game designs tend also to be favored by me as Ronnies judge? Answer: duhhh - yes! What did you expect?

I like your use of rat as metaphor ... I thought it was weak at first, then changed my mind. "Rat" indicates a gnawing hunger that will feed on itself at its most extreme; the rat's teeth can gnaw through anything, even time. Power through need and self-immolation ... I absolutely love the concept that the character hates his life, but if he changes it too much, he loses his hate - which by now is central to his identity! Can a person motivated by hate act to make himself happy? Nasty question, and far too close to my own heart in real life.

For character creation, I think web construction needs a stricter protocol. I realize it "could" work in various ways, but providing absolute guidelines (6 Hates, 2 or 3 to be connected to someone else's, for instance) makes getting real play off the ground really fast - a definite virtue in this game, which in some ways makes me think "Sorcerer on meth."

Also, the connection between Hate score and points for pools may not be a good idea. Have you written up a variety of characters using a variety of possible starting points? Is any combination from two to eight players really viable?

That d12 handling time, based on the faces showing, looks like a bit of a pain in the ass. How'd that work in play? Is it possible to refine it a little?

Call me stupid, but I'm not a really sharp guy when it comes to bidding rules of any kind (I play Hearts, not Bridge). Can you re-state them a little, and explain as well why the bidding system is used for Profession/Ability rolls?

The Love-changing rules read quite odd - how did it go in play?

The climactic conditions (Love = 0, Hate = 0) make a lot of sense to me. I absolutely love the way that you have to fail to develop a new Hate in order to become a non-rat person.

Now, the GM's role is very interesting in this game. I'm not sure whether "fiat" is really the right term for it. It's almost as if the players toss you a hot potato - "I changed this, now find a way to really rock my world because of it." Kind of like the LeGuin novel, The Lathe of Heaven. What I'm thinking as well is that the GM's primary role is what I call Weaving in Sex & Sorcery. You simply make stuff in each character's story relevant to someone else's story, every so often. How it's relevant can be very automatic and obvious to some GMs (and I suspect you're one), and a great big Scooby-like "Urh?" to others. Can you articulate this process, especially after a solid set of provocative changes, to the latter audience?

I'm a little bit puzzled about whether you carry out any role-playing in non-travelling-time game time. In other words, say I'm playing a character named Bob, and he goes back in time and breaks the leg of the guy who used to bully him as a kid. So he doesn't get pantsed in front of the entire sixth grade, and Bob would very much like it if, upon returning to the present, that he will no longer be a bed-wetter. The GM changes his job, makes him an accountant instead of a urinal-swabbing janitor. (What is it with me and piss in this paragraph? Dunno)

Anyway, here's what I want to know - we role-played out all the stuff for the time-travelling and changing the past. All set with that. But do we now role-play stuff happening in Bob's daily life, that is, his new daily life, before he decides to gnaw into the walls again? It seems we do. How do we do that? Or is it right there in basic resolution and I'm being dumb?

As for suggestions ... we gotta get tons of actual play in, to find and establish standards for the scope of affecting the past and articulating it to the reader. Based on the report so far, the key seems to be to stay small per stated change, affecting aspects of existing things before fully eliminating or transforming them. This gives the GM the opportunity (or responsibility, really) to extend those small changes into major scenario/situation, even setting shifts via the Butterfly effect.

But this game is going to live or die by its examples, and examples live or die based on their extraction from actual play.

So that's that! Lance, what is your vision for publication? What sort of document, what sort of size? Any neat ideas for graphic design, or for the tone of the prose?

Best,
Ron
Logged
Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1962


WWW
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2005, 09:19:07 AM »

Quote
I like your use of rat as metaphor ... I thought it was weak at first, then changed my mind. "Rat" indicates a gnawing hunger that will feed on itself at its most extreme; the rat's teeth can gnaw through anything, even time. Power through need and self-immolation ... I absolutely love the concept that the character hates his life, but if he changes it too much, he loses his hate - which by now is central to his identity! Can a person motivated by hate act to make himself happy? Nasty question, and far too close to my own heart in real life.

I also thought it was kinda weak, but once the idea hit, I knew I had to try this game, weak metaphor or not. The deep themes of hatred, love, redemption and consequences really grabbed hold, and I couldn't let it go until I'd finished.

Anyhow, on to more meaty responses.

Quote
For character creation, I think web construction needs a stricter protocol. I realize it "could" work in various ways, but providing absolute guidelines (6 Hates, 2 or 3 to be connected to someone else's, for instance) makes getting real play off the ground really fast - a definite virtue in this game, which in some ways makes me think "Sorcerer on meth."

I.. think maybe there was a misread here. Every single hatred must connect to two or more other hatreds. At least one of those two connections must be to a hatred not your own. So I might connect my hatred of my ex-girlfriend to my hatred of flying and my hatred of high-culture, but I must also connect it to one of the other player's hatreds before I'm done with it. It's possible even that one of your hatreds may connect exclusively to other people's hatreds, never connecting to one of your own. Is this clearer, or do you think it needs to be stricter and more structured here?

One problem that really cropped up when we added a 3rd player during the second playtest session is that one piece of paper is going to be hard pressed to contain 20-30 hatreds and all of their connections. (We had 10+6+8, so a total of 24) I'm considering a grid or something a bit more organized as another option. It loses some of the visual oomph, but I think it will make it easier to read, and easier to fit more information into the space of a page. Another thing that I noticed is that some hatreds seem to be rather hard to connect to others, and that those hatreds where we had to stretch to get two connections never came up in play. This is probably telling; A hatred that's difficult to connect may be difficult to address in play.

Re: Hate score as a basis for purchasing pools - So far, we've got 3 PCs, and I've not noticed any real problem with it so far. I'll run through a couple other test PCs to see, what results we can get, but I don't predict a problem. What are you seeing that makes you think it's not viable?

Related note: I think this is one of those games, just due to the non-party nature and the constant flux that wouldn't work well with more than 4 PC and a GM, tops. It's going moderately well with the addition of a third PC, but some of the signs of strain are there already.

The time it takes to determine the results of the d12 roll is indeed a bear; I may fiddle with the numbers a bit to make it easier to parse out, but I'm thinking just a bit more structure to reading the results may solve the problem.

Re: Bidding; Well, basically I call it bidding because every basic contest is a gamble; 50% of the time, you'll keep your point, 33.3% of the time, you'll lose your point, and 15.15% of the time, you'll gain a new one. As a result of this, the pools are frequently in flux, representing changes in ability and skill through time and changes. Also, there's really no such thing as a "profession" contest, or an "ability" contest. Each contest is basically the same. Only the circumstances determine if you can dip into your Profession or Love pools in addition to the always applicable Ability pool. Then, when you roll your dice, specify (by color of dice, usually) which apply to which pool so you know the gain/lose results of each.

There actually hasn't been much in the way of Love change, other than numerically. I did decide that a given change in the second session warranted a Love change, and the players all agreed that it made sense.

Time is running a bit short; I'll respond a bit more once I'm done with class.
Logged

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1962


WWW
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2005, 11:46:22 AM »

It's funny that you mention things like the Love changing rules, and the GM's ability to rewrite the present. Well, not funny, but appropriate. See, I've already got a set of vers. A1.1 changes which will address some of these issues, because in play, it's extremely unstructured. A really strong GM and a group that doesn't mind a little participationism can get along fine with it as is, but otherwise, it's pretty chaotic. It was commented that the players were making the changes, but beyond the catalyst, they were fairly powerless; They were basically having to react to whatever I pulled out. Now, a certain amount of that is intentional, but there's too much of it; The GM has basically no limit on his ability, nor does he have to worry overmuch about consistency.

The new rules will add structure to the GM's ability to make changes, and limitations. It will also place a little more power into the players' hands to determine what happens as a result of their changes.

Quote
I'm a little bit puzzled about whether you carry out any role-playing in non-traveling-time game time ... Anyway, here's what I want to know - we role-played out all the stuff for the time-traveling and changing the past. All set with that.

Oh, I'm laughing here. See, it seems we actually got opposite basic assumptions about this. My assumption is that all of the real "roleplaying" will take place in the here-and-now. When you go back to change the past, it's not about roleplaying, it's about making your changes; My first idea was that you simply list off the changes you make. The playtest sessions have shaken my assumptions about that, though; There's a certain thematic power to roleplaying out the changes as opposed to just listing them.

What I'm not sure I understand though, is this question:

Quote
How do we do that (roleplaying in the present)? Or is it right there in basic resolution and I'm being dumb?

What is it you're asking? How do you resolve conflict in the here-and-now? Or what is it your character is supposed to do in the here-and-now? If the former, then yeah; It's basic resolution. The basic resolution system is intended for things that happen in the present; To be specific, I don't want any contests taking place in the past.

The focus of the game is more on what makes you want to make a change, and what the possible outcomes of your changes are, and how you deal with them, whether that be by trying to cope with it in the here and now, or going back to change things again. There is a certain amount of thematic address in what changes you make, and how you make them, which is why I'm going back toward roleplaying out the events in the past, but it's not the primary focus.

Publishing.. I'm looking at digest-sized, and as per my normal preference, I'd like to see it in hardcopy print, with the PDF backup option. I figure with examples of play and elaboration on obscure rules and references, I can at least double the page count. As for layout, some variant on the existing layout and theme is my preference. The tone I'll be going for in the rewrite is something that hints at how possibly nasty the game can be, but without really spelling it out explicitly. Whether it worked as it was currently written, or if it was simply my group's leanings the first night, it turned out to be exactly the sort of thing I want to see; Even if, as mentioned in the introduction, an individual Rat is all about trying to make things better and not to hurt anyone, it's all about hatred, and when that's the focus, I really, really don't see it being a fluffy-bunny game.
Logged

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2005, 06:57:25 AM »

Hi Lance,

I gotcha now about when and how conflicts are carried out, and I think it'll work fine. I like the expectation I'm developing, that the really powerful play will come in as follows: having changed the past, becoming dissatisfied with how it worked out. That's the role-playing, the "what my character does, what happens, gotta roll now" part. It's just plain old human interaction and emotion, no powers, none of that stuff! Fantastic. Plus, there's a festering, gnawing sense of rage that underlies that process, as I see it - "I got what I wanted but I don't like it either."

 It'll be interesting to see how you decide "changing the past" is experienced in play. Same goes for how you plan to define the GM's role in interpreting the changes for the return to the present.

Huh - so "bidding" only refers to the potential gain/loss of points, when rolling? No wonder I was confused. Bidding is a very specific term, involving a one-upmanship process of cumulatively staking points. What you're describing, as I see it, is a much more limited form of just staking points. I'd call rolling the dice "rolling the dice," and losing or gaining points, "losing or gaining points." The Bid term had me looking high and low for the bidding.

Regarding Hatreds that are difficult to connect ... it seems to me that if you have to stretch to connect them to any other Hatred at all (even on the same sheet), then that's a sign that the Hatred is bogus. That might be a built-in limit on Hatred totals, which then factors into the total points for pools, which is a good thing.

Regarding Hatreds and connections in general, you're mis-reading my reading, so the entire communication is now fucked. Let's start over.

Lines on my sheet = connections among my Hatreds; parentheses on my sheet = connections across to someone else's Hatreds. I got that already, it was clear in the game text.

What I'm talking about is how many of each of these is required (Hatreds, lines on my sheet, parentheses). In the game text, you offer a range and are a little "we'll see" about it. I'm saying that fixing these numbers in stone is not a bad idea. Several members of my group, for instance, tend to tie their brains in knots trying to extrapolate all the consequences of choosing, say, six Hatreds as opposed to nine, and then choosing, say, whether to connect them to others' sheets or their own. My suggestion is merely to tell them what to do and get past this stage of pre-play without any quantitative options to flipflop, mentally.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1962


WWW
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2005, 08:46:03 AM »

Ah, I see where we're misunderstanding right now.

See, ALL of the hatreds are to be written on a single sheet; Your hatreds, mine and Fred's too. No trying to connect them on separate sheets. The parenthesis in the example web were to denote who a given hatred on the web belonged to, but the web was all on one sheet. This approach gave the group one item to look at and see how everything connected, but caused it's own problems, as mentioned above.

Now I see your point, though; The reason I put the range is because I see the number of hatreds being a personal choice, as well as a group choice. The GM and or the group collectively chooses the range, be it 5-10 hatreds, 1-20 hatreds or 6-6 hatreds, allowing them to tailor the game to be longer, shorter, higher or lower in power. I like the range because it allows the players to decide if they want more power in exchange for being more fucked up overall, and having greater potential to destroy themselves quickly. If you as the GM think your group would have issues with choosing how many, then you simply set the range as a single number. It's one of those dials that will change from group to group, and while I see the point of just telling them "Do this", I also like the option for scalability built in. People will probably eventually scale things to their taste anyhow, so I might as well foresee it. I do see the point in offering as the default a single number, for instance 6 hatreds, rather than a scale of 5-10.

As for whether or not to connect them to other people's hatreds or not, that's not an option; You must connect them to other people's hatreds, and the more connections, the stronger the web. Basically, you have a minimum.. Beyond that, can you make more connections? Do they make sense to everyone? If the answer is yes, then DO it. There is absolutely no reason not to make as many connections as feasibly possible.

Just to be sure I'm clear, I'll go ahead and whip up a quick example of how the web of hatreds is created. (note: this is only an example, as I don't have the actual web available to me right now, so these connections do not mirror actual in-game connections)

Players: Alex (Vince), Rhonda (Jane) and Zach (Raven) For the sake of simplicity, I'll say they each have 3 hatreds.

Vince hates: Family, Working, Violence
Jane hates: Rape, Hangman's Curve, Justice System
Raven hates: Jesus, Military, Parents

Once everyone's got their hatreds chosen, you grab one sheet of paper. You write all nine of these hatreds on that sheet, then you start drawing lines. There's a line from Raven's Parents to Jesus, because they're very religious. Vince decides that his family is also very religious, so draws a line from Family to Jesus. Jesus now has it's minimums. Raven's father was military, so he draws a line from Parents to Military. Vince connects Violence with the military, so draws a line there. Military now has it's minimums. Raven's Parents has two connections now, but none are to other's hatreds, so it's not finished. We decide that Raven's father (who is, apparently, a real bastard) was also involved in covering up a Rape.. Say, when Jane was raped. On Hangman's Curve, which draws a connection between Rape and Hangman's Curve, which wraps up Rape's minimums. Vince points out that Violence and Rape are basically the same sort of thing, thus drawing that Connection, which finishes up Violence. Note that Violence does not connect back to any of Vince's other hatreds; That's okay.

And continue in that vein, maybe connecting Justice System with Working, and voila, Vince works for the Justice Dept. Maybe next, Hangman's Curve can connect to Vince's family, perhaps they live out there. Whatever. What happens once you're done with all of this is you have a deeply connected setting built collectively, just ripe with conflicts of interest and reasons to hate, and hopefully, everyone is invested in at least some of each other's hatreds.
Logged

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2005, 06:20:06 AM »

Hello,

Whew! Now that all the September entries have finally received public feedback, I can get back to this.

Lance, that's all excellent. I suggesting popping that post into the game text, practically verbatim. I'll be sure to play Rats in the Walls in the near future; expect some posts.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1962


WWW
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2005, 09:58:00 AM »

Thanks for the reply back, Ron. Been really busy, or else I'd have found and posted my vers. a1.1 modifications, which I intend to play next time we get together for RitW. I need to locate the paper I wrote them on, so if I manage to get them posted before you post your AP, please specify if you'll be using vers. a1.0 or a1.1 in your playtesting.
Logged

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Sydney Freedberg
Member

Posts: 1293


WWW
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2005, 01:17:26 PM »

This is indeed very neat. (I've been wrestling with "Narrativist time travel" since my first posts here, and continue to do so as we "GroupDesign" folks sloooowly thrash out our mechanics). A key question, taking off from Ron's observation:

we gotta get tons of actual play in, to find and establish standards for the scope of affecting the past and articulating it to the reader. Based on the report so far, the key seems to be to stay small per stated change, affecting aspects of existing things before fully eliminating or transforming them. This gives the GM the opportunity (or responsibility, really) to extend those small changes into major scenario/situation, even setting shifts via the Butterfly effect. But this game is going to live or die by its examples...

My ideal would be to create, not merely guidelines or examples, but actual rules with clear mechanical constraint for how large a "change" can be and how the ripples can spread. I presume this is possible. But do you have any ideas how? Or is that kind of structure, in this case at least, unnecessary?
Logged

Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!