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Author Topic: Non-Binary Conflict Resolution  (Read 8065 times)
LordSmerf
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« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2005, 03:08:26 AM »

Mike,

When I think of "non-binary" resolution, I think of that conversation you and I had at Origins.  The idea that it isn't "I win/you lose" but "I win/you win too" (or maybe you sort-of win, whatever).  I don't think HeroQuest qualifies because it really is pretty binary: A victory is always matched to a defeat, both sides can not achieve victory.

Joshua, is that what you're thinking?

Thomas
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timfire
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« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2005, 04:00:49 PM »

The resolution mechanic in my game, The Mountain Witch, isn't binary at all. You have a number of different outcomes.

You win (they lose)---x4 different degree of success
They win (you lose)---x4 different degress of success
You tie (nothing happens)
You both win (Mutual success)---x3 different degrees of success

12 different possibilities. On top of that, the very broad narration rights of the game can add lots of  nuanced meaning to all of these.

That said, I think you may not be giving the technique of Fortune-in-the-Middle enough credit here (which is utilized by almost all conflict resolution systems). While a given resolution system may seem "binary", in play, all the nuanced meaning that can be added to the narration of a conflict means that the conflict can change the course of play in many, MANY ways beyond what the resolution mechanic in isolation may seem to imply.

Let's use my game as an example. Two samurai are fighting a tengu. They win. One narration is that the two samurai fight together to defeat the monster. Outcome #1: Now the two samurai are better friends. But another narration may be that one of the samurai selfishly blocks the other from making any attacks, so that the first may take all the glory from the battle. Outcome #2: Now the second samurai is holding a grudge against the first. Two different outcomes with the same roll.

Are you following me here?

Quote from: Joshua BishopRoby
..."all players suggest a piece of the final resolution, invest currency, and then the player and/or GM shops among the suggestions for what goes into the final resolution."

This is done all the time, though its most often an informal technique. You should research is the idea of "the buck", as in "the buck stops here." When it comes to narration, in actual play, any player can suggest anything they want. But one player usually holds "the buck", that is, they get to decide what makes it into the official narration. In traditional gaming, the GM almost always holds "the buck." In many Forge games (mine included) the buck gets passed around the group. So, while this is most often an informal technique, what it means is that the narration of a conflict often includes input from multiple players.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2005, 04:15:40 AM »

Okay, quickie overview of the FVLMINATA influence system. In an effort to encourage social manuevering appropriate to our ancient Roman setting, I wrote the influence system to give the players some solid, game mechanical means of changing people's actions. When a PC is trying to influence an NPC, he rolls his appropriate skill (Rhetoric, Poetry, Seduction, whatever). If the roll succeeds, then the player names three potential outcomes: Agreement (what the NPC target will do & say if he completely agrees with you), Concession (what the NPC target will offer instead if he doesn't agree with you), and Neutrality (what the NPC target will do if he does neither). After these three are determined, the player rolls for his level of success. The higher the level of success, the more limited the options of the GM. At the highest level, the NPC must act according to the Agreement result, or the GM must award the player a Humour Point (like a hero point, drama point, etc.).

Also of note is Burning Wheel's Duel of Wits. Both players start by stating their intent, and each has a Body of Argument score. As they make Points, Rebuttals, etc. against one another, they reduce their opponent's Body of Argument. Whoever's Body hits zero first definitely does NOT get his intent. However, if they knocked any points off their opponent's Body, then the opponent must offer them a concession. If both sides hit zero in the same volley, then neither gets what they want, but both must make a concession.

Also, I think you dismissed Otherkind a bit too quickly. While there certainly is the Motion die that deals directly with the declared Stakes, one of the brilliances that Vincent hit on in Otherkind is that, by and large, players don't want just one thing in a conflict. They want a lot of things all at the same time. They want to "get the widget AND not get hurt AND look good doing it AND not have to kill anybody." By forcing the players to decide what they want more, you produce sixteen possible results from four binary categories. Plus, I find that the moment of decision, in play, far more interesting and dramatic than the working out of what it means afterward.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2005, 10:18:01 AM »

LordSmerf, yes, that's certainly one element of what I'm looking for.  Apparently TMW offers a version of this, which is exciting.

Tim, yes, what I'm asking for is certainly done informally all the time.  When we played Dogs, everybody was putting out suggestions for what should happen in the initiatory conflicts, and the GM put them together into what actually happened.  It was really cool, but I get worried when anything informal like that happens, because there's no structure outside what the idiosyncratic play group's style allows for.  What I'd like is something that takes that collaborative feel from our Dogs game and systemizes it so that it's reliable and sound, that players have guaranteed input not based on their social standing in the playgroup, and suchlike factors.  So basically, yes -- now can we embed it into the game so that you can't take it back out?

In your example in TMW, how is it determined if Outcome #1 or Outcome #2 happens?  Is it the decision of whoever happens to have the buck at the time?  Is there anything that the downtrodden samurai's player might do to prevent his character from being shoved aside?

Michael -- FVLMINATA's system sounds very interesting.  Do other aspects of the system, like combat, work like that?  I can see parting shots and phyrric victories being very similar to concessions.

Otherkind and other fortune-in-the-middle systems certainly do offer a lot of options and permutations to play with in the ensuing narration, and the results are very much more complex than a simple binary result.  I'm by no means dismissing that.  They're still hitched to that success/fail of the 'main goal', however, and I'm curious to see if we can detach all those good, juicy details away from the 'main goal'.  Another option may be to reduce the prominence of the goal by creating incentives for the other juicy details (I think Otherkind probably does this, but I have not been able to play it yet).

At this point, I should probably allow that what I'm looking for is no longer really conflict resolution, but other forms of resolution.  By definition, conflict resolution will always resolve a conflict.  I'm curious whether we can broaden the range of details and information that can be generated by the resolution system.  (In some games with an emphasis on character conflicts, these details will be mere distractions and should be avoided; in games with different emphases, these details may be desired.)
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2005, 01:56:29 PM »

At this point, I should probably allow that what I'm looking for is no longer really conflict resolution, but other forms of resolution.  By definition, conflict resolution will always resolve a conflict.  I'm curious whether we can broaden the range of details and information that can be generated by the resolution system.  (In some games with an emphasis on character conflicts, these details will be mere distractions and should be avoided; in games with different emphases, these details may be desired.)


I think that you're right that you're looking at something broader than conflict resolution. This is a pretty specific concept of Narrativist play.

General resolution though is also an interesting topic. Obviously I come at it from a Matrix Game approach but I'll avoid Engle Matrix Game terms to keep it generic.

All the players have characters with descriptions (be they character stats, biographies, etc) which the player mentally adds to with their own creative agenda. If they are gamist they pick a winning condition, a sim player might add more detail to their history so they know more pyschology etc. The players are put together and given a world (another set of information). Play in that world will change this information.

Event resolution like you originally described is how world information is changed.

The method you described sounded a little like Universalis (bidding for control) but because you originally framed it about multi sided conflicts that analogy falls down. If one player controls the narration then one player will "win" the conflict. I think for multi sided competition it is good to take a step back from immediate conflict.

If one turn's worth of events will not settle a matter then the player's actions are about moving them towards their goal. A single action might benefit several people's goals. We will only know who it benefits the most as the story unfolds. This allows players to pursue indirect strategies - which can be very cool.

Say we pull the idea of bidding to take control of the narration. The description the player makes is what happens. In a Matrix Game, the narration they made is called an "argument" and must pass a die roll set for it by a referee. If it happens its effects are just like the previous method. The next player's argument builds on it. This can lead to judo flip outcomes.

There is a tribe of cavemen. Grok and Bluetoe are vying for control. The begin establishing facts as part of the narration.

Bluetoe is stronger than Grok.
Bluetoe has hair that cushions the blows of clubs.
Bluetoe has a keen sense of smell.
Grok says "Bluetoe is an animal!"
Animals are afraid of fire.
Bluetoe is afraid of fire.

Grok becomes cheif because Bluetoe will not join the tribe for supper.

This is clearly a competition in which Bluetoe was winning, but his own actions set him up for the flip about fire.

In present Engle Matrix Game rules players all make arguments. They only roll off against one another if their can not both logically happen. So multiple players can add to the story in the same turn. There are other rules for resolving individual fights (Grok hit Bluetoe on the head) but that gets back into binary resolution.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games

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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
M. J. Young
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« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2005, 12:02:15 PM »

Mike's description of Hero Quest's outcomes is similar to Multiverser's, in which "relative success" and "relative failure" both use how close the roll is to the target number to determine the degree of success or failure.

So if there are three sides to a conflict, and then one side 'wins out' what happens to the two other sides?  Are they completely negated, or can the winner of the conflict allow them some weight in the ensuing resolution narration?  Or would you only enter into a non-binary conflict if you specifically did not want the other two results to play out?  If blocking the other results was not a priority to you, it would be simpler to start a new conflict (especially since the other players' resources are already tied up in the original conflict).
This reminded me of something from my teen years that might be interesting to try in the current context.

My cousin Ron was always the best Risk player anyone knew. For a long time he never lost. However, he played with his brothers so much that they got good, and eventually he came to the point that he didn't like to play anymore, because, as he put it, "I can never win, I can only decide which of them will win."

What if, in a multi-sided conflict, whoever the dice choose doesn't win himself, but chooses which of the other sides wins, giving them the credibility to describe the outcome? Thus if I get the win on the die roll, it's established that I did not get the outcome I most wanted, but I can still choose from my adversaries whichever one I think will least disadvantage me if he gets what he wants.

Of course, I have no idea whether that does what you wanted.

Chris, I'm not at all persuaded that conflict resolution is necessarily narrativist. For example, in Multiverser if a player character is trying to persuade a non-player character to a particular viewpoint or course of action, the player rolls a check against his persuasion score and the non-player character rolls against his will power score. The higher successful roll wins. (That is, if neither roll is successful, it's a draw, if only one roll is successful that character wins, if both are successful the one who rolls higher wins.) This is clearly conflict resolution in a basic sense, as it says nothing about whether the character crafts a coherent argument or whether the non-player character gives him a compelling answer or any other task involved in the matter, but only which side wins the argument. However, it is very much a simulationist mechanic in its essence. Nothing inherent in it points to addressing premise, and in one sense it could limit the ability to address premise as there's no way for the player character to change the mind of an NPC no matter how good his argument if the dice go against him.

I agree, though, that event resolution and conflict resolution are often inappropriately conflated, and ought not be.

--M. J. Young
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2005, 12:11:43 PM »

MJ, that would "do what I want" in that I am mostly canvassing possibilities in this thread.

Secondly, what your describe is not conflict resolution in my book, because there is no conflict.  There is a task (persuade the NPC) that is being attempted.  Conflict requires key character desires and obstacles to those desires.  It's possible that the same situation may be present a conflict, but unless the mechanic somehow addressed the key desires or the obstacle (whereas as it stands it addresses the character's abilities and the NPC's will), it's still task resolution applied to a conflict.  But then I doubt my definition of conflict resolution is exactly canonical.
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