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Author Topic: Questions about running Pool combat  (Read 9707 times)
Kenway
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« on: March 26, 2002, 10:05:30 AM »

I was going to try running a Pool adventure, but I was wondering about combat:
  -I want to run an epic battle or an extended duel, but it seems that the fight would be over in one round- I mean, the players roll and do a monologue of victory if they win.  And that's it.  Any ideas how to make a long, exciting battle under these rules?
  Also, it seems like there's no real difference if 1 pc is fighting a bunch of people or a party of pcs fighting a bunch of people.  I mean, in the party example, a MOV could be "I use my agility and skill to subdue the foes."  The other pcs' MOV would be, "Uh, yeah, we help out."
  -What's there to stop the pcs from defeating a powerful villain the first time they see him?  The official Pool rules say that a MOV can't result in a death unless the gm okays it, but I'm sure pcs could still really mess things up.
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2002, 12:00:50 PM »

If we are talking about anything but Gamist play with an emphasize on winning combats you should be able to assume the players have some sort of desire for flare.  Sure, you could mess up the bad guy pretty bad in one fell swoop, but wouldn't it be more fun to make things drag on a bit?

Besides, the GM has some control on how much a player can narrate with his MOV.  If she feels that the player has gone far enough, she simply says "stop."
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2002, 12:11:18 PM »

Hello,

I think that two major points might help to clear up the issue.

1) What is really being resolved when you say "a battle"? The battle may simply be a backdrop for far more personal conflicts within it, such as confronting an enemy or saving some bystanders, or anything similar.

Or perhaps if the battle is indeed the issue at hand, nothing is wrong with dividing up certain elements or issues of the battle among the PCs and letting them play out independently. For instance, the roll by one character might decide the overall victory, but the roll by another might decide whether the young prince gets captured.

This point illustrates a larger issue that you should consider: remember, the GM does indeed exercise power over how much space and time a given conflict is going to affect. This is a very important consideration and permits lots of "chopping up" large-scale events like battles into several different rolls.

2) By "major villain" and "extended duel," you are already exercising some GM power that is standard in most role-playing, but explicitly distributed across participants in The Pool.

Basically, the best way to do things is to introduce a wide number of NPCs, many of whom are villainous. If the players take one down quickly, no problem - that could not possibly be the major villain. Let the one whom they do not take down quickly become the main villain.

The Monologues of Victory (and if you're using TQB, of Defeat) will provide anything you could possibly want to establish cool in-game content regarding these characters, both minor and major.

To GM this system, you must give up your plans for extended duels and so forth. Just provide material, not outcomes - let the player do all the duel-extending they want with their Monologues.

One final point: don't forget that you as GM do set a major element of the roll - how many base dice they get to roll. The rules say 1 to 3, although I'll confess that in one or two instances, I've even taken it down to 0, forcing characters to rely only on Traits and wagers for their dice.

Best,
Ron
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James V. West
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2002, 01:45:40 PM »

Hello

Couldn't have put it better than its already been put.

With The Pool you simply can't plan out an adventure like you can with many games. All you can do is come up with cool npcs, cool settings, and cool potential conflicts. Then excercise some clever and/or aggressive scene framing to get the elements into play that you are really wanting to see. The rest is going to be a fully mutual give-and-take between you and the other players. They can and will mess with your plans. Let them. Its a blast.

As far as combat goes, It's been my experience that players will protract a fight scene if they want it to rock. For example, in one game I ran a player was fighting an npc villain and got a Monologue that I probably would have let him use to drop the axe on the baddie, so to speak. Instead, he described some intense, gritty grappling and ended up cutting his opponent above the eyes causing the blood to blind him. Then he turned it back over to me. Clearly, he was interested in the story and not in defeating the GM's plans.

James V. West
www.randomordercreations.com
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2002, 02:22:58 PM »

Well, and hell, to abuse the hackneyed Neitsche quote: "What doesn't kill the villain makes him stronger." Just dissallow the villain's death and narrate his escape. He'll be way meaner when he comes back having replaced his lost arm with a poisonous necromantic tentacle from the Kracken of Lake Shmonginong.

So if you really like that one villain, and can't see relegating him to the status that Ron suggests, James has given you the tools to allow you to continue to make him a menace.

Mike
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2002, 03:25:22 PM »

Quote
As far as combat goes, It's been my experience that players will protract a fight scene if they want it to rock. For example, in one game I ran a player was fighting an npc villain and got a Monologue that I probably would have let him use to drop the axe on the baddie, so to speak. Instead, he described some intense, gritty grappling and ended up cutting his opponent above the eyes causing the blood to blind him. Then he turned it back over to me. Clearly, he was interested in the story and not in defeating the GM's plans.


I agree with James. Also keep in mind, Kenway, that this will be fully facilitated by really getting it into the players' heads that the true 'goal' is not simply "I have to win this fight", but telling an interesting story.

Once the players realize that their characters are not in danger of simply dying once their hit points get below a certain level, it takes a lot of the pressure off to get it over with as quickly as possible, and they can concentrate on pulling off cool stuff with their MoVs (and the more cool stuff they want to do, the more MoVs they have to come up with, which means more rolling, which means they almost *have* to drag it out).

It's like the sword fight at the beginning of The Princess Bride. The fight goes on and on because Inigo and the Man in Black are not simply trying to kill each other, they're really just trying do outdo each other in exravagant, elaborate fencing manuevers. It's only when the Man in Black realizes that Vicini is getting away with the girl while he dawdles that he ends the fight quickly by knocking Inigo out.
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Kenway
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Posts: 98


« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2002, 08:48:24 AM »

Thanks for the replies everyone.
   James [how to run a Pool adventure]:  Okay, that clarifies everything.  It's GM<->PC interaction with no fixed plot.  Great.

  I'd like to refer to Clinton's thread:
The Axioms of RPG Design (or, blasting away at the argument)

  Since most of my friends are heavily AD&D-based, the choice between a MOV or +2 dice seems to be contradictary.  I mean, my friends would definitely choose the +2 and ignore the MOVs.
  I think to encourage the MOV, I'll give the MOV and the +2 together.  This way my players will be rewarded for stretching fights out.
  But I can see how you'd want to stretch out a fight with *everything,* like 1 goblin.  I think each encounter would have an importance rating:  a single goblin would rate low- pcs should only be able to smack him around for 1-2 rounds, but if I'm trying for the longer fights I suggested earlier, I'll let the fight go for several minutes before asking the pcs to end it.

  Are there problems with my reasoning?
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2002, 09:56:14 AM »

Quote from: Kenway
 Are there problems with my reasoning?


Mmmsorta.

You are basically saying that you have players that have Gamist inclinations. And you haven't heeded AKs advice about ensuring that the players understand the building story thing. Do you intend to make the Narrativism obvious? If you don't get your players into this mindframe before hand, then you will have problems with the Pool. After all, what James was saying is that the players will create story, but his will only happen in actuality if they want to. If not, the game will go nowhere.

And if you change the game to a more Gamist bent, which is what your proposed change would do, then why are you playing The Pool at all. It really needs no modifications to be the good Narrativist game that it is. What your change will get you is players who will have lots of dice, and control of the scenes. I predict either one of two things will occur, then. Either the Gamist players will go mad with power and make ridiculous MOVs that are in no way story-like, or they will not use the MOVs much at all, prefering to "win" by the normal dice rolling methods.

And let the PCs smack that goblin around for as long or short as they want. That's part of creating story. If they are into it, they'll either make short work of the goblin to emphasize their character's protagonism, or they'll make a more interesting scene of it by dragging things out. Sometimes a goblin getting the upper hand is just what the stroy needed.

Mike
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jburneko
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2002, 10:49:10 AM »

Hello,

One thing you have to remember about The Pool, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that The Pool is NOT deciding success or failure like your standard RPG.  The Pool is deciding who gets to DECIDE what the outcome is.  If your players are constantly taking the +2 dice that means they're turning the outcome of the situation over to the GM.  Just keep describing things as getting worse for them until someone takes a Monologue Victory.  Eventually they'll catch on.

Jesse
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James V. West
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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2002, 01:37:43 PM »

Hey all

"I think to encourage the MOV, I'll give the MOV and the +2 together. This way my players will be rewarded for stretching fights out."

I don't reccomend this. Mike's warning about the heavy gamism slant is right on. If your players are used to gamism and if they've never really tried a narrativist game, then you really can't expect them to "get it" if you allow the system to support the gamist elements first. Keeping the MoV and the +2 dice as a choice of either/or is the better way to go.

Jesse said that getting a successful roll is more about who gets to narrate than it is about winning a conflict. He's right. I think of it this way:

- Get a 1, the ball's in your court. You can narrate or you can get some dice for later. If you opt for dice, the GM will get to decide what happens in the conflict. He can go for something beneficial for you, or he can put the hammer down on your behind (another reason I need to update the game is to clarify this).

- Get no 1s and the ball is the GM's. He can narrate what he wants, but the result should add complication to your situation. That doesn't have to translate into a "critical failure", it just has to increase the tension, up the anty, whatever you choose to call it.

When I wrote the game I was thinking from a somewhat gamist place. During the first re-write I kept throwing in new terminology, thinking there just weren't enough rules there. But there are. It has all it needs. I suggest playing it as-is. Make sure everyone knows that when they cast the dice, they aren't making an Ability Check or anything like it.

I'd also like to chime in there with Mike's statement about the goblin (its good to have support coming from the Universalis team!). Hell yeah. If the goblin fight lasts for an hour of real time, and its a kick-ass scene, then you've accomplished what you set out to do. Have fun, right?

What I like best about MoVs is that they are so unpredictable. That even a lowly goblin guard you threw in on a whim can suddenly become the single most imortant factor in the entire game.

Hope some of this helps.[/i]
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2002, 02:04:34 PM »

Mike's Goblin MoV:

So I slap the goblin out of the way and it lands with a fleshy sound on the floor of the cave entrance. I sneer at it as I pass. Suddenly, the goblin pulls at it's chin revealing that it has on a magic mask that conceals it's true nature. As the mask comes off, a bright light surrounds the figure of the goblin and it slowly begins to grow and change shape.

As we stand stunned before this awesome transformation, what seemed to be a lowly Goblin Guard changes into Kheldrok, the emperor's Half-Troll cheif of the March watch, known for his knowledge of matters 'Cloak and Dagger'. "You fool, I await the arrival of the Goblin Hoard Train arriving from the south. The emperor has charged me with obtaining an item of power from the Goblin Cheiftain's magic chest, " relates Kheldrok with anannoyed look on his massive furrrowed brow, "I'll give you to the count of ten to be away from here, lest you spoil my little surprise."

"But Lord Kheldrok," I reply trying to put the burly humanoid at ease, "I didn't know it was you, please, let us offer our services in finding the item you seek."

The torchlight glints off the imposing mail hauberk that Kheldrok wears with giving him the look of a being that has seen, and won many a bloody fight. He seems to be tinking about my proposal. Suddenly from further out at the cave entrance there is the sound of somebody approaching. Many feet, armored in the goblin style.

Etc.

I'd keep rambling on with consequences until the GM made me stop.

Mike
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James V. West
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2002, 04:40:01 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

I'd keep rambling on with consequences until the GM made me stop.


And that's why GMing The Pool or TQB forces you think on your feet and launches rockets into your well-laid GM plans. It would be great to play the game with someone who not only had a great instinct for storytelling, but who also enjoyed putting the GM to the test. How diabolical.

BTW Mike, how much cash would that MoV cost in Universalis terms??
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Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2002, 06:24:02 PM »

Only cuz you asked, and assumeing no one intervenes with Complications and Challenges:


Quote from: Mike Holmes
Mike's Goblin MoV:

So I slap the goblin out of the way and it lands with a fleshy sound on the floor of the cave entrance. I sneer at it as I pass. Suddenly, the goblin pulls at it's chin revealing that it has on a magic mask that conceals it's true nature. As the mask comes off, a bright light surrounds the figure of the goblin and it slowly begins to grow and change shape.


Assumeing Mike has some combat related Trait he can Draw from to fight the Goblin
1 Free Coin for the Event of slapping down the Goblin Drawn from said Trait.
1 Coin for the Event of the Goblin taking off the Mask
1 Coin to Create the Mask as a Component.
2 Coins to give the Mask "Conceal True Nature +1" (which could be bumped higher if/when desired.
1 Free Coin Drawn from the "Conceal" Trait to change the Goblin into Keldrok (note as a player I'd claim that this Coin covered the cost to Introduce Keldrok into the scene AND exit the goblin from the scene due to the nature of the Trait.  Someone may Challenge that to get me to to spend another Coin, but assuming they don't...)

Thats 4 Coins so far.


Quote
As we stand stunned before this awesome transformation, what seemed to be a lowly Goblin Guard changes into Kheldrok, the emperor's Half-Troll cheif of the March watch, known for his knowledge of matters 'Cloak and Dagger'.


Now if Kheldrok was already a character Created before, than most of the above may well have already been bought and paid for and come included with Kheldrok for the bargain price of the above single Coin.

If Mike is Creating Kheldrok from scratch it could get expensive.

Mike's narrative here sounds like the character he's Controlling has some knowledge of the Emperor and his court.  We'll assume that he has some moderate Trait something along the lines of "Knowledge of Imperial Court +4" to draw from.

The cheapest way to purchase Kheldrok's characteristics would be to make Half Troll and Chief of the Watch simply as Facts for 1 Coin each.  Instead if Kheldrok's supposed to be a fairly important character we can do  "Half Troll +4" and "Chief of the Watch +3" as Traits.  This would 14 Coins, 4 of which come Free, Drawn from the "Knowledge Trait".  This way "Half Troll" becomes a "racial ability" package and "Chief of the Watch" becomes a profession to be Drawn upon in the future.  We'll also buy "Cloak and Dagger +3" for another 6 Coins.

That makes Kheldrok cost 16 Coins...pretty expensive but he's cool.
Total spent so far 20 Coins.

Quote

"You fool, I await the arrival of the Goblin Hoard Train arriving from the south. The emperor has charged me with obtaining an item of power from the Goblin Cheiftain's magic chest, " relates Kheldrok with anannoyed look on his massive furrrowed brow, "I'll give you to the count of ten to be away from here, lest you spoil my little surprise."

[/quote]

Now here Mike wants a confrontation between his character and Kheldrok, so even though he's in Control of both, he can ask someone else to take Control of the hero now (because he has ideas for Kheldrok).  I'll throw in 1 Coin to Take Over the hero and we now begin using the brand spanking new never before seen Dialog rules.

Mike then speaks the above in Kheldroks voice, paying 1 Coin for the Fact about the Train, 1 Coin for the Fact about the emperor's orders, and 1 Coin to Create the magic chest (which currently has no special powers).  Mike decides that all three of these things would be part related to his duties as Chief of the Watch (knowledge of Goblin, movements and being given a mission by the Emperor) so he Draws all 3 of these Coins for Free from Kheldrok.  I'm tempted to Challenge him on the Creation of the Chest, as that's not really related to his profession...but he's spent a bunch of Coins already this scene, so I let it slide and so does everyone else.

Thus, this exchange costs Mike nothing.

Quote

"But Lord Kheldrok," I reply trying to put the burly humanoid at ease, "I didn't know it was you, please, let us offer our services in finding the item you seek."


This is me talking in my voice on behalf of the character earlier Controled by Mike.  I pay 1 Coin for the Fact of offering my services.


Quote

The torchlight glints off the imposing mail hauberk that Kheldrok wears with giving him the look of a being that has seen, and won many a bloody fight. He seems to be tinking about my proposal.


Mike's going spend crazy here.  He decides to buy another Trait for Kheldrok spending 4 Coins to buy "Mail Hauberk +2".  Alternatively, if there was something particularly special about this armor, he could have Created the Hauberk seperately as a Component for 1 Coin, bought a "Armor Protection +2" Trait for it for 4 more and then bought "Wears the Armor of Night +1" for 2 Coins.  Here he decided that the armor was just that, a suite of mail not worthy of being its own Component.

Quote
Suddenly from further out at the cave entrance there is the sound of somebody approaching. Many feet, armored in the goblin style.


Now at last another player decides Mike's had enough control of the story for now.  We'll call this player James :-)

James spends 1 Coin to Interrupt Mike's turn.  It is now James's turn.
He Creates "Goblin Troops" for 1 Coin.  He gives them Traits of "Numbers +4" and "Well Armored +2" for 12 more Coins.  If he chooses to have these Goblins attack, a Complication will have begun.
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HMT
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Posts: 66


« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2003, 03:16:57 PM »

I have yet to play the pool. But I have a question/concern along the lines of the one that started this theard. It seems to me that at its heart this has nothing to do with combat. The "problem" is that there seems to be few tools for distinguishing the capabilities of various NPCs. That is, I would narrate the "defeat" of a competent opponent in a contest in a different way than I would a lesser opponent. Consider the following quote:

Quote from: James V. West
... All you can do is come up with cool npcs, cool settings, and cool potential conflicts. Then excercise some clever and/or aggressive scene framing to get the elements into play that you are really wanting to see ...


It seems to be the case that some of the cool aspects of a cool NPC may not have been fully expressed to the players by the time a conflict begins. When this happens, a MoV could potentially greatly alter the course of the NPC's development.

Is it a good idea to tell players making MoV about hidden aspects of the NPCs? Is it a good idea to say (using the relatively clean example of combat) please don't kill X? Is it usually preferred to keep subtle NPCs away from conflict with the PCs until the players understand who they are?

I am toying with the idea of running supers games. These issues would seem to be especially important there because NPC's capabilities could vary wildly.

In other words, how do you go about this "clever and/or aggressive scene framing to get the elements into play that you are really wanting to see"?
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Paganini
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« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2003, 03:52:32 PM »

Edit: Old Thread Alert! (Didn't notice it was a resurrected thread until just now.) James, split us off?

HMT,

Before playing the Pool it's important to realise that, unlike traditional RPGs, the GM does not control the game. A Pool game belongs to the players. When a player narrates a MoV, he can do *exactly what he wants.* The Pool is the opposite of player limitation; it distributes player empowerment.

You just can't decide ahead of time what's going to happen; mostly because you'll only decide about half of what actually does happen during play.

Pool characters are not defined in terms of their capabilities (although capabilities *can* be an element of character definition). Rather, Pool characters are defined in terms of what the players view as important. Assigning dice to a trait indicates that that trait is important to the player in some way. It's insurance that the trait (whatever story element it represents) can be incorporated into the story.

You wrote:

Quote
It seems to be the case that some of the cool aspects of a cool NPC may not have been fully expressed to the players by the time a conflict begins.


In the Pool, if it hasn't been expressed, it *doesn't exist.* It's fair game for the players or the GM. There is no hiden information in the Pool, because the GM is not running the game... the players and the GM make it up as they go along.
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