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Author Topic: [The Drifter's Escape] What's Missing?  (Read 2459 times)
Ben Lehman
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« on: October 11, 2005, 01:51:19 AM »

http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/The_Drifters_Escape.php

This thread will not make any sense unless you have read the game in question, which can be downloaded at the URL above.  It was written for the Ronnies 24 hour game entry.  I have a new version, which has the same text but also some pictures from my bro's magazine: Free Reading.

I cannot express how excited I am about this game right now.  The basic mechanic is relatively solid, and I'm absolutely sold on its ability to produce interesting thematic play.  The genre is one that I love and also that is widely under-represented in RPGs and popular culture in general, particularly after the grisly commidification of country music during the 80s.  Also, this is the first creative project for years that my brother and I have been working on together.  In short, I'm jazzed and also committed to production.

Problem is -- I can't see the flaws in the game.  I am pretty convinced that, end-game aside, the basic mechanics do what I want them, but clearly the game needs some more bits and pieces to get it going.  I don't think that there is enough there to let people know how to play the game.  Of course, I can see how the play the game, myself, so that's a problem.  What I'd like, if someone is interested in the development of the game, is for them to read it and post about the parts where they cannot understand what to do, and post about those parts here.  Particularly in regard to the function of The Man and The Devil as "game master" figures.

Of course, if you can understand, maybe you could post a little bit about your understanding, too.

Thanks.

yrs--
--Ben

P.S.  I will not be able to respond for four days or so, so keep that in mind.

P.P.S.  Ron, you can post your feedback in this thread.
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Graham W
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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2005, 08:11:01 AM »

Ben,

These questions might be rather naive, but let me try them anyway.

So firstly: can this game be played with only three people or do you need four? Given that you need one Drifter, one Man, one Devil and someone to play Decent Folk if the Drifter spends a Dream token, that looks like a minimum of four to me. Or have I got something wrong?

At the beginning, I get that the Man and the Devil design the situations that the Drifter will be involved in. Do they do it separately from the design of the Drifter? Or do they design the situations in response to the Drifter's drives?

So I get that during the Deal, the Drifter has to choose between the Devil's hand and the Man's hand. How does he choose? It sort of feels that there should be an element of bluff, with each of them trying to convince the Man that they have the better hand. But there's nothing to bluff with, because the hands are completely hidden. Does the Man just have to choose based on what the Man and the Devil want them to do?

And is this a game about travelling? Is that a large part of it or just incidental? If I think about books like The Grapes Of Wrath, one thing I really liked was the feeling of travel.

If there's two Drifters, and one of their stories finishes first, does the other just carry on, with the first Drifter playing Decent Folk as needed?

That's probably enough for now. It's a splendidly evocative setting - for me, it's all dusty American backroads and endless Southern highways - and the Drifter-Man-Devil split is lovely.

Cheers Ben, hope that's useful.

Graham
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talysman
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2005, 02:39:52 PM »

So I get that during the Deal, the Drifter has to choose between the Devil's hand and the Man's hand. How does he choose? It sort of feels that there should be an element of bluff, with each of them trying to convince the Man that they have the better hand. But there's nothing to bluff with, because the hands are completely hidden. Does the Man just have to choose based on what the Man and the Devil want them to do?

I was going to say that I think they definitely bluff, since the Devil and the Man can change their deal after hearing the other's deal... but this does raise the question: does "hidden" mean that the Devil and the Man don't look at their own hands, or only that they don't look at each other's hand?

I kind of have a problem with poker, since I keep forgetting the order of some hands (straight over flush, or the other way around?) of course, the order of hands could be written in the corner of the character sheet... poker's certainly a better match than blackjack, in terms of color. but: have you considered lowball poker? I'm not sure what the most popular game among drifters would be, but it does have a sort of thematic appeal...

you know, I realize that The Man and The Devil are intended to be the co-GMs in the game, but I think a good argument could be made that The Drifter is the real GM.

I think the game is solid in many ways, but there may be a problem keeping track of Debt for multiple Drifters. I think the Devil and the Man need a playsheet, with big squares to label with the names and Pains of each Drifter and enough room to stack the chips.

also, Dream might need to flow a little more freely. it's the way the Drifter introduces NPCs, trigger Raw Deals, and run away from Favors/Demands, all of which make the basic game more interesting. but Dream starts so low and takes so long to earn, Drifters aren't going to spend it often. I agree it needs to start low, for thematic reasons, but I'd like to see it waver up and down more.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
TonyPace
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Posts: 38


« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2005, 04:05:03 PM »

Just offhand, it strikes me that the Drifter is screwed from the beginning, since the only way to get Dream is to succeed in a Drive, you only get as many Dream as Deals you succeed in, and there is no way to win a deal without either gaining Debt or losing Dream. You can try to balance it off, but this strikes me as a pretty one way street since there are plenty of other ways to lose Dream.

Do you get Dream for acheiving an Endebted Desire?

If the Man or the Devil asks for something big and the Drifter takes them up, how is that handled? What if it's something that takes a long time? (The man says - get a job). Should it be treated as a new desire?

I think the Devil and The Man should be able to show the Drifter one or two cards if they like.

Other tahn that I really like it!. It's kind of an interesting variation on Shadows, which is one of my all time favorites.
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Tim Alexander
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Posts: 304


« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2005, 07:50:59 AM »

Hey Ben,

First off I'd really like to play this game. I mean I'm really interested in it. I think I could figure out how to play, but on the face I feel like there are a few missing links. Here's my take on it:

A) We need more clarity in the text on how the Devil and the Man are going to create a scenario. It sure seems like they want to design situations that create a juxtaposition of Pain and Drive, but I think you'll really want solid text on how they should go about that.
B) The currency is broken if the Man and the Devil don't request Favors or Demands, and as it stands it's unclear to me why they ever want to do that. I suspect it might fall out of clearing up the above, but I think you might want some additional mechanical tension between the Devil and the Man that prompts them into asking for Favors or Demands.
C) Changing people into Decent Folk seems like the same issue as above, and I suspect that fixing one will readily make fixing the other apparent.
D) The process of bluff for who gets to help needs to be sorted out, much like everyone else has mentioned.

Again, I really like this, and it 'feels' great in the text, but there does seem to be something missing. Luckily though I also feel like once you plug that hole it'll all fall into place. Oh, and lastly, you need to put the Incredible Hulk show in the reference section, it seems to me to be a great reference point for play, and widely accessible.

-Tim
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Tim Alexander
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2005, 07:58:01 AM »

Me again,

I just thought of something more, and I think Talysman hits it on the head with showing cards but I'll go one further. The deals should be stud hands, probably seven card. Two down, four up, one down. That way the Drifter gets a good idea of the two hands, the Devil and the Man do as well, and they can then effectively try and bullshit or cajole to get the Drifter to side with one or the other. It's also really thematically appropriate.

-Tim
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2005, 02:05:24 PM »

To reiterate what other folks have said:

Some more explicit guidelines on the Devil and Man conspiring to put together scenarios would be good.  What happens when they want different things?  Can they offer eachother debt or play poker hands between themselves, or something similar?

I really like the seven-card stud suggestion -- some things are known, other things are cloaked in shadow, the Drifter must make decisions based on what limited information he knows.  Alternately, giving the Devil and Man the ability to show the Drifter some cards makes the bargaining a little more interesting, and introduces the same uncertainty on the Drifter's part.  As a final note, I'd put explicitly in the rules that the Devil and Man can lie about the cards they don't show -- it should be understood up front that they are not required to be forthright (they're the Devil and the Man, after all).

Then on to my personal nitpicks, which all seem to be about your currency:

I think your currency economy is a little lopsided and lends itself to death spiral:
DREAM starts at 2 or 4 per character, and gains ~1-5 when a Drive is resolved, which by my read is relatively rare (once or twice a session?).  It's spent to introduce Decent Folk (1 DREAM), to Fight a Raw Deal (1 or 2 DREAM), to trade in cards (1 or 2 DREAM) and to avoid Favors and Demands (1:1 with the Debt cost).  Given that you'll be spending Dream to earn it back, with pretty sorry chances for ever seeing a return, the Drifter players will be fighting just to break even.
DEBT, on the other hand, starts approximately equal to DREAM, and gains on average once per two Deals.  It's spent to introduce Favors and Demands (more on these in a bit).  The Man and the Devil will be rolling in Debt.
I'd suggest introducing more ways for Drifters to gain Dream, making the one possible way easier or pay bigger, introducing more ways for the Devil and the Man to piss their Debt away, or some combination of all three.

Thematically, it seems to me that Favors and Debt work backwards.  Why do Drifters lose Dream when they avoid Favors and Demands?  It seems to me that accepting Favors and Demands would be what saps men of their Dreams.  Similarily, it seems that the Man and the Devil should gain Debt if a Drifter accedes to a Favor or Demand, rather than spend Debt (assuming 'Debt' is individualized to the Drifter and his relationship with the Man and/or Devil).  That's certainly how the Deal works.

How are Drifter players compelled to include Favors and Demands?  Why can't they simply ignore it or not let it affect play?  You say it 'replaces a Drive' but do they get Dream if they resolve it?  Might Drifters gain an appropriately-colored Debt for resolving a Favor or Demand, to be spent like Dream but never to avoid Favors or Demands that offer the same color Debt?  And lastly, why do the Devil and the Man even want to do Favors and Demands in the first place, since it reduces their chance of winning?

Similarily, what's the mechanical benefit of introducing Decent Folk?  Why would a Drifter spend Dream on it since it reduces his chance of winning?  Could that point of Dream be invested and still count towards the win-goal, even if it's now a frozen asset?

How is it determined if a Drive is "Finished"?  Is it the fiat of the Drifter, or must that be a Deal in and of itself?

I really like the feel and mood you have going on in the text, and the playing poker with the Man and the Devil (or more properly, them playing against eachother and you only stomping in when it's important and climactic) is perfectly awesome.  The numbers need a little tweaking, I think, but once you do, you'll have a tuned-up machine raring to go.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2005, 02:12:05 PM »

The more I think about it, the less I see the necessity of the Favor/Demand mechanic at all.  Isn't that pretty redundant to the Deal?  What does the Favor/Demand do that the Deal doesn't?
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2005, 06:55:08 PM »

Thanks a bunch, folks!

The deal works like this -- the Devil and the Man get to look at their own hands, and then they make offers.  They can't show cards or talk about them directly, but they can say "I've got a good hand," and ask a lot.

Unless you are hardwired on your Goals, like hitting at least three of them, it isn't worth it to even try during conflict, in terms of Debt vs. Dreams.

There may be a slight mechanical twist that makes Decent Folks worthwile mechanically, but the real reason to spend for them is -- Decent Folks will help you out, and if you pay for transformation, you've just saved someone's life.  Isn't it worth a Dream to save someone's life?

I'm going to change Endgame to involve Demands/Favors, rather than Debt.  That's good advice from all of you.

I'm going to go produce a new draft, now...

yrs--
--Ben
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Tim Alexander
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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2005, 07:13:49 PM »

Hey Ben,

This may be early, since you're drafting, but I wanted to say:

The deal works like this -- the Devil and the Man get to look at their own hands, and then they make offers.  They can't show cards or talk about them directly, but they can say "I've got a good hand," and ask a lot.

Unless you are hardwired on your Goals, like hitting at least three of them, it isn't worth it to even try during conflict, in terms of Debt vs. Dreams.

This seems a bit strange to me. It seems then that you're specifically trying to avoid conflict until you can get your goals involved, which seems somewhat thematic, laying low until you have your shot. However without more support for how you accomplish it, also sounds boring.

Quote
There may be a slight mechanical twist that makes Decent Folks worthwhile mechanically, but the real reason to spend for them is -- Decent Folks will help you out, and if you pay for transformation, you've just saved someone's life.  Isn't it worth a Dream to save someone's life?

This needs some sort of highlighting in the text. I don't get anything as it stands that makes me as a player want to create Decent Folk. If the lynch pin is saving someone's life, I'd like to see something material in there to help whoever is running potential Decent Folk in creating this sort of choice. Or at least make it explicit that's the choice that's presented.

-Tim

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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2005, 04:48:59 AM »

Hi guys.  I'm just noting down some changes I'm making to the rules, and I was wondering to get people's reactions to them in light of this thread.

1) Control of characters is based on how much influence The Devil or The Man has in that person's life.  So there are no brainers -- the hard-line cop who is controlled by The Man or the cult-leader who is controlled by The Devil.  But, also, it can be the farmer who's stuck in spiralling debt (controlled by The Man) or the single-mom who's addicted to drugs by her pimp (controlled by The Devil.)  In the second cases, it isn't that the people think that what they are doing is right, but they think that they have to do it, because The Man or The Devil has his hooks in too deep and they can't see any other way.

In light of this, I think that the purpose of spending Dream to convert people into Decent Folks is pretty clear.

2) Redraws now function differently.  For each person materially helping the Drifter in a conflict, the hand that the Drifter sides with (whether his own or not) can redraw one card.  So, if you have 2 people helping you, you can toss up to two and redraw them.  There is never any reason to have the help of more than 5 people, and more than 3 is almost never worthwhile.
  The people don't need to be there in person to help, but the help does need to be concrete and material (can't just be "I remember Mary, so I get a card" but it could be "I hold the locket that Mary gave me and it steels my will against Satan.")

Characters controlled by The Devil will help only if they think it benefits them, personally.  Characters controlled by The Man will help only if they think that it will make the Drifter more like themselves.  Decent Folks will only help if the Drifter is doing the right thing.

Spending Dreams for redraws is no longer in the system.

3) If the resolution of Goal directly applies the Drifter's Pain, he gets one extra Dream for it.  If a Favor or Demand directly applies to Pain, it costs 1 extra Dream to buy it off.

4) I'm loosening up the end-game structures a bit.

yrs--
--Ben
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Tim Alexander
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Posts: 304


« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2005, 06:44:34 AM »

Hey Ben,

Quote
1) Control of characters is based on how much influence The Devil or The Man has in that person's life.  So there are no brainers -- the hard-line cop who is controlled by The Man or the cult-leader who is controlled by The Devil.  But, also, it can be the farmer who's stuck in spiralling debt (controlled by The Man) or the single-mom who's addicted to drugs by her pimp (controlled by The Devil.)  In the second cases, it
isn't that the people think that what they are doing is right, but they think that they have to do it, because The Man or The Devil has his hooks in too deep and they can't see any other way.

In light of this, I think that the purpose of spending Dream to convert people into Decent Folks is pretty clear.

I like this a lot. Are you going to have some frontloading of notable characters during the Devil/Man prep? It'll be useful to have them sketch out some characters during the scenario creation. For other characters will the control simply be reached by consensus? By whoever brings in the character to play? I do think it's well on the way to giving something concrete to purchase on for Dream converts, especially in light of the redraw changes below.

Quote
2) Redraws now function differently.  For each person materially helping the Drifter in a conflict, the hand that the Drifter sides with (whether his own or not) can redraw one card.  So, if you have 2 people helping you, you can toss up to two and redraw them.  There is never any reason to have the help of more than 5 people, and more than 3 is almost never worthwhile.
  The people don't need to be there in person to help, but the help does need to be concrete and material (can't just be "I remember Mary, so I get a card" but it could be "I hold the locket that Mary gave me and it steels my will against Satan.")

I like it. How about spending additional dream to give the Drifter wild cards before his deal?

Quote
3) If the resolution of Goal directly applies the Drifter's Pain, he gets one extra Dream for it.  If a Favor or Demand directly applies to Pain, it costs 1 extra Dream to buy it off.

I'm still hazy on why the Man/Devil want Favors/Demands. Are you clearing that up in the text, or am I missing something?

-Tim
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Selene Tan
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« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2005, 04:38:37 PM »

I only just got around to reading this, but it's neat!

One thing is that I'm really confused about how Fighting a Raw Deal works.

Quote
Any time before he decides who to side with, the Drifter can FIGHT A RAW DEAL by deal himself into
the game. This costs 1 DREAM if he does it when he deals the cards to the other players, or 2 DREAM if he does it after they’ve looked at their cards. Jokers aren’t wild for the Drifter, ever, but he can pay another DREAM to throw back as many cards as he likes and redraw them. If the Drifter’s PAIN applies, he can do this twice, at the cost of another DREAM for the second time.

Does this mean that the Drifter gets to deal himself a poker hand? If it does, what happens if his is the winning hand? Would this mean he doesn't have to side with either the Devil or the Man?
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2005, 05:31:41 PM »

Also just read this -- it's a beautiful, fever-dream-like thing, as is Polaris. Like others, I'm intrigued by the three-cornered nature of the game -- Drifter, Devil, Man. What I'd be tempted to do (uh, somehow) is (a) punch up the equitable division of scene-framing and other GM powers, so no one or even no two of the trinity are "the GM," and (b) heighten the competition over the Drifter's soul between the Devil and the Man, and explicitly make it a "victory condition" for each player, so that each of the three is in perpetual competition with both of the others and yet can only win by allying moment to moment with one of the others and playing them off against each other.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2005, 06:56:46 PM »

Quote from: Tim Alexander
I'm still hazy on why the Man/Devil want Favors/Demands. Are you clearing that up in the text, or am I missing something?

Yup, you're missing something!  The main thing you're missing is that there is more than one Drifter in the game.  The other thing is that Favors / Demands occupy Goals slots -- preventing the Drifter from earning Dream as quickly.

Quote
Any time before he decides who to side with, the Drifter can FIGHT A RAW DEAL by deal himself into
the game. This costs 1 DREAM if he does it when he deals the cards to the other players, or 2 DREAM if he does it after they’ve looked at their cards. Jokers aren’t wild for the Drifter, ever, but he can pay another DREAM to throw back as many cards as he likes and redraw them. If the Drifter’s PAIN applies, he can do this twice, at the cost of another DREAM for the second time.

Does this mean that the Drifter gets to deal himself a poker hand? If it does, what happens if his is the winning hand? Would this mean he doesn't have to side with either the Devil or the Man?

Yes, the Drifter deals himself a poker hand.  He then decides whether to side with himself, The Man, or The Devil.  If he sides with himself, he makes no DEAL and gains no DEBT.  If he wins the draw, he also wins the stakes of the conflict.

The second step is pretty unclear.

Quote from: Sydney Freedberg
Like others, I'm intrigued by the three-cornered nature of the game -- Drifter, Devil, Man. What I'd be tempted to do (uh, somehow) is (a) punch up the equitable division of scene-framing and other GM powers, so no one or even no two of the trinity are "the GM," and (b) heighten the competition over the Drifter's soul between the Devil and the Man, and explicitly make it a "victory condition" for each player, so that each of the three is in perpetual competition with both of the others and yet can only win by allying moment to moment with one of the others and playing them off against each other.[/tr]

The Devil and The Man are the GMs.  Note that you can (and should!) have more than one Drifter but you can't have more than one Devil or Man.  Despite the fact that this game owes significantly to Polaris for conflict, it is a child of the Dust Devils, Nine Worlds, Trollbabe family for the purposes of scenario design and GMing.

The "victory" conditions for each player are already in the text, but I'm not sure that they're "Victory" conditions at all.

Thanks a ton for your feedback!

yrs--
--Ben
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