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[Adrift] Going beyond "Parlor Narration"

Started by Cyrus Marriner, October 23, 2005, 06:19:12 AM

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Callan S.

QuoteI was thinking, "Hey, it'll be cool to see how the characters interact," but then I restricted it to algorithms so it pretty much was the roleplaying equivalent of interaction in the Sims,
Yes, but what's wrong with that? Why isn't that still a valid base to work from?

Look, I think your going with something you like now, but I also think what you had before was something else you like - and it's not being explored any more. In a simulationist actual play thread I was once told "not to bring in the god damn narrativism". I think this thread could have done with the same advice - but as soon as relationships get mentioned, everyone 'knows' what it must be about and bring up the obvious 'faults' in the design. I wonder how much potential there was for something different here.
Philosopher Gamer
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Cyrus Marriner

(I figure I can get away with bringing back this thread since it's the top thread on page 2, which is really close to page 1.)
Yeah, sure.

Let's see.  In this example, I'm going to be assuming that each player has control of one character, and there's no bidding or anything like that involved in character control.  Also, I'll be assuming that they've all gone through some introductory interactions like what I have envisioned, and they already have at least one facet to each of their relationships.  No backgrounds in this example, either.  Just the main two parts of the system.  Here's the character sheets:

Harold

-A rich American ex-con who bought his way onto the ship.

Survival: 5

Relationships

Minh:
"I don't think she can take care of herself."

Devaratha:
"He won't mind his own business."

Ludomir:
"Can't be trusted."

Minh

-A fiercely independent young Vietnamese woman who ran away from her family to find a way onto the ship.

Survival: 5

Relationships

Harold:
"Too quiet for my tastes."

Devaratha:
"The only one here who understands me."

Ludomir:
"I think he's nicer than he lets on."

Devaratha

-A charismatic Indian man who was one of the first wave of applicants accepted to the ship.

Survival: 5

Relationships

Harold:
"Silent loners don't inspire trust."

Minh:
"I'll bed her in a week."

Ludomir:
"He's probably the one who'll keep us all alive."

Ludomir

-A resilient, strong-willed eastern European who was just on the upper edge of the age range to be allowed onto the ship.

Survival: 5

Relationships

Harold:
"He's always watching."

Minh:
"She needs protection, but not from anything we might find on the planet."

Devaratha:
"I can trust him to help me survive, but not for anything else."

Alright, for purposes of this, everyone has one facet to their relationships with each other character.  I'm envisioning a more fluid process for developing some relationships before the first threat, probably something completely resolved through drama.

I'm doing actual dice rolls, so essentially I'm playing the role of all four players and the GM, seeing how the system works.

They encounter the first planet, and the probe suggests atmospheric composition very much like that of Earth.  The team goes down in the shuttle, and as they get closer, they see several large cityscapes dotting the landscape, and pick one to land near.  The set down in an open field on the outskirts of one of the alien cities, which is formed of long, flat buildings, with very few parts of the cityscape rising above two stories.  The buildings are made from some sort of white plastic-like material, and they're all very architechturally smooth, with hardly any sharp edges.  They have doors that open automatically to motion, with a slight *woosh* and a soft tone, and the interiors are filled with alien furniture and soft lighting that automatically lights up when someone enters the room.

Minh goes out to collect soil and water samples.  Devaratha decides to tag along, bringing along an assault rifle for "added protection."  Harold and Ludomir set up in one of the buildings, taking more detailed atmospheric readings, and start looking around the city for any sign of where it came from.  They don't find a whole lot, but see no signs of deterioration anywhere in the city, almost like it was abandoned yesterday.  Minh and Devaratha come back at dusk, and the team begins to analyze the samples.  As night falls, Harold, who is completely uninterested in the samples, goes to look around the alien building they're in some more.

The GM tells the players to roll their survival dice, starting a threat.  He rolls a challenge die for each character.

Harold gets 6,6,3,2,2 with a challenge of 4

Minh gets 6,6,5,3,2 with a challenge of 5

Devaratha gets 5,5,4,3,1 with a challenge of 2

Ludomir gets 6,5,5,4,3 with a challenge of 5

The first challenge to be resolved is Minh and Ludomir's.

GM: "Ludomir, you hear a soft tone and a door whooshing open behind you.  When you turn to look, you see a strange-looking alien humanoid, about four feet tall, with smooth skin and a three eye stalks forming a sort of crown on the top of the head.  It's moving towards you, almost mechanically, with steady movements like someone learning to walk.  Its face is featureless, except for a wicked looking, razor-sharp beak like a squid's.  The only noise it makes is it's mouth snapping open and shut, and its feet padding on the soft floor.  It hits a table and throws it to the side with almost preternatural strength."

Ludomir: "What the fuck is that?"

GM: "Minh, you look up quickly from the analytical device, but your vision swims.  You start to feel sweat forming on your brow, and through your blurred vision you can see a red warning light blinking on the inside of your helmet.  The one that means, 'seal compromised.'"

Minh: "Uh-oh.  I grit my teeth and try to clear my head."  She puts forward her 6 and 3 to meet the challenge. "And I hold my breath."

Ludomir: "I'm going to draw my pistol and blow its head off."  He puts forward two 5's to meet.

The GM rolls complications.  He rolls a 4 for Minh's challenge, giving him a total of 9.  Minh's 6 and 3 meet that, so the GM goes ahead and narrates.

GM: "Minh, your vision clears.  Just long enough for you to see part of the results from a plant sample you brought back.  It's dead.  In fact, the carbon dating test has come out at the maximum possible value.  That means it's been dead for over 60,000 years."

Minh: "What's that supposed to mean?"

The GM is silent, and rolls a 5 for Ludomir's challenge, for a total of 10, which Ludomir's two 5's barely meet.

GM: "Your bullets jerk the alien back, and drop it on the floor.  There's a big hole in its forehead now, with black blood oozing from it and pooling on the floor."

Those challenges resolved, the GM moves on to the next challenge, Harold's.

GM: "Harold, you're looking around one of the rooms in the complex, when you hear one of the doors open behind you with a soft tone."

Harold: "Huh, I'll turn around to greet whoever followed me."

GM: "Guess what?  It's one of those aliens.  Its just about right on top of you, too, and its beak is snapping excitedly."

Harold: "I'm going to shoot it with my assault rifle."  He puts forward a 3 and 6 to meet.

The GM rolls Harold's complication.  It comes up a 6, which brings his total to one higher than Harold's meet.

GM: "Your bullets blow off two of its eye stalks, but it grabs you by the hips and plunges its beak into your flesh, biting down."

Harold: "Holy shit!  Little help, guys?"

The GM looks to Minh.  Her 6 is tied for highest showing die with Ludomir, but her next highest die is higher than his, so she gets the first opportunity to help.

Minh: "I'm a little busy trying to hold my breath and seal my helmet."

Ludomir has a a six as well, so he's next: "Devaratha, go help him!  I'll help Minh."

Devaratha: "No, I'm going to stay here and help Minh.  You go help him."

Ludomir: "If something caught Harold unawares, he must be in trouble."  He's invoking his "He's always watching" facet of his relationship with Harold.  Reluctantly, he glares at Devaratha's player and puts forward his 3 to help Harold see. "I run to where Harold is, and when I see him and the alien, I put one bullet through the alien's head."

GM: "It drops like a stone.  Harold's badly wounded."

Ludomir: "Shit, let's get out of here.  We'll patch you up on the ship."

Harold: "Sounds good to me."

The GM moves on to Devaratha's challenge.

GM: "Minh, Devaratha's helping you, trying to find the break in the seal, when you see a shadow cast from the door behind him.  It's quickly joined by several more."

Minh: "I can't talk, since I'm holding my breath, but I'll point behind Devaratha to catch his attention."

Devaratha: "I turn around, and clamber to pick my shotgun up from where I left it propped against the table."

(Note: I'm playing it fast and loose with the belongings, I'll figure either they can load up before they go down to the planet, or they'll just have whatever seems appropriate for the scene.)

GM: "You see several aliens shambling through the door towards you.  There's more behind them."

Devaratha: "I'm going to just start shooting the shotgun into the doorway until I don't see movement anymore."  He puts forward a 5 and a 3, which is enough to meet the challenge even if the GM rolls a 6, so the GM doesn't bother to roll a complication.

GM: "The sting in your ears from the sound of the initial blast becomes just a dull ringing by the time your shotgun runs out of ammo, and black blood is staining every surface behind the mangled corpses of the seven aliens you've dropped."

Devaratha: "Alright, I'll reload."

Minh: "Uh..."

Devaratha: "Shit, I mean I'll help Minh."

The GM starts a new round of challenges.  He rolls a 4 for Harold, a 4 for Minh, a 3 for Devaratha, and a 5 for Ludomir.  Ludomir's challenge is first to resolve.

GM: "Alright, Ludomir, you, with Harold's arm around your shoulder for support, get back to the room after hearing eight loud shotgun blasts.  You see Devaratha still trying to help Minh.  You see black blood pooling in a doorway, and when you take a look you see several mangled corpses oozing on the floor."

Ludomir: "Damn.  Alright, I'll set Harold down up against a wall or something."

GM: "As you're gently setting Harold down, you feel something grab your ankle and claw at your leg."

Ludomir: "What the hell?"

GM: "It's torso from one of the mangled corpses, which apparently crawled across the floor to get you.  It's legs are being dragged along behind it, apparently attached by thin strips of flesh."

Ludomir: "I'm grabbing my pistol from where I stuffed it in my pants and putting bullets in its torso until it stops moving."  He puts forward his final two dice, a 6 and 4, to meet.

The GM rolls his complication, a 5.  Ludomir meets the challenge, but he's out of dice.  Next are Harold and Minh.

GM: "Harold, you start to feel dizzy, and start to sweat.  A second later you vomit on the inside of your helmet, and begin to lose consciousness."

GM: "Minh, you're running out of breath, and the dizziness is hitting you again."

Harold: "I'm going to grit my teeth and try come to my feet.  I don't want to show any weakness."  He puts forward a 4 and 6.

Minh: "I'm going to find the loose latch on my helmet, seal it, and press the button that vents the tainted air out of the suit.  I'm assuming they have something like that, right?"  She puts forward a 5 and 6.

GM: "Sure, why not?"

Since both Minh and Harold put forward meets that are at least 6 higher than their challenge dice, the GM doesn't bother to roll for complication.

Minh: "I grab my pistol from off the table and shout.  Let's get out of here!"

The GM moves on to Devaratha's challenge.

GM: "What are you doing right now, Devaratha?"

Devaratha: "I guess I'm reloading my shotgun and checking out the next room."

GM: "Alright, you poke your head out through the door and it is instantly met by a clawed hand swiping at it."

Devaratha: "I'm going to calmly dodge away from the claw and pop two shells into whatever it's attached to."  He puts forward a 5 and 4, once again enough to meet the challenge plus six, so the GM doesn't roll a complication.

That's where I'll stop, for two reasons:

1) It gets the flow of threats down fairly well, I think.

2) If the GM drops another threat, it will almost certainly kill all of them, considering that the remaining dice are two 2s and a 1, and one character has no dice. 

The latter makes me think that I definitely need backgrounds, so the GM can challenge the group when everyone's pools are low on dice.  I also think that I need to up the starting Survival to 6 or 7--enough to get the players through at least one more round of challenges before their dice start getting low.  The characters rolled great pools, which is probably why there weren't as many opportunities to help other players as I had hoped, but with a slightly higher starting survival, I'd imagine that will happen less often, and there will be more lower dice in several of the pools, forcing more interesting choices about which dice to use to meet challenges.

I'll try to write up an aftermath conflict tomorrow.

greyorm

Cool, Cyrus, thanks! My main question after reading that is: so the GM can basically keep going until the players have no dice anymore and kill them all if he feels like it? And how do the characters narrate getting off the planet? Does that just happen when the dice are all gone and everyone is done throwing and bidding?

IMO, this confusion/looseness is not a feature, it's a bug. There should be a standard by which to judge the severity of danger on a planet, because most GMs (like me) will be clueless about the math: they won't know how much was too much until it is too late, nor how much is too little (though likely less a problem). My personal preference, which you are free to ignore, would be to limit the GM by giving them a particular number of dice per planet, allowing them to increase that amount in trade with the players for some other resource.

I look forward to seeing how things work once everyone is back on the ship!
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Gregor Hutton

Quote from: Cyrus Marriner on October 26, 2005, 11:11:11 PMI'm also considering a third set of traits, backgrounds, which could be invoked by starting "flashback" scenes to gain traits for later use.  I kind of wish I hadn't read 3:16 before doing this, since now I feel like I would be ripping it off to add this kind of device to the game.

Heh Cyrus, go for it if you think it fits in with the game. I feel flashbacks could fit in real well. How long have they been adrift for, and how many characters were originally on the ship?

One thing that I thought adrift needed was for the players to get more power in their hands, y'know? You have all this cool stuff for people to do it, and I kinda feel that they should be doing it. Sure, the GM should set it up, poke the conflicts and so on, but at the heart of it let the players play.

I find it really cool how methodical you have been in this thread. Great stuff.

Cyrus Marriner

Alright, here's the aftermath conflict.

The characters are all back on the shuttle, strapped in and starting to break the atmosphere and get back to the ship.  Harold's been bandaged up, and Minh is still trying to hold down her lunch, so Ludomir is flying with Devaratha riding shotgun.

Ludomir's the only one who helped anyone out during the threat, so he gets an extra die for his pool.  He has 11, everybody else has 10.  The GM starts the blind bidding process.

-Harold thinks about what he wants most from the other characters, and he decides he wants Ludomir to trust him.  So, he bids 4 dice towards that, leaving him with 6 dice for counterbids.  It's not as important to him as keeping his wits about him and not being decieved by anyone.

-Minh thinks about what she wants.  She wants Ludomir to think that she's competent, since she's kind of ashamed by her problems on the planet.  She bids 3 dice towards that purpose, leaving her with 7.

-Devaratha wants Minh to become attracted to him, and probably sleep with him.  He bids 7 dice towards this, because he really wants this, and doesn't really care that much about whatever designs other people have on him.

-Ludomir wants Devaratha to know that he's in charge, and their survival depends on his ability to follow orders.  He bids 6 dice towards this, leaving him with 5.

This done, all the players reveal their bids, and each has an opportunity to counterbid.

-Nobody has bid to change Harold's mind, so he doesn't have to worry about the counterbid.  However, the 6 dice he saved are lost.

-Devaratha bid against Minh, and she responds by bidding all 7 of her dice, since she doesn't have any other bids to contend with.

-Devaratha drops his remaining 3 dice in countering Ludomir's bid, since he doesn't have any other bids to worry about.

-Ludomir doesn't want Harold to get one over on him, so he bids 4 dice against his bid, and puts the remaining single die towards Minh's bid, since he doesn't really mind her goals.

Now that all the pools are set, each aggressor, in no particular order, decides how they want to set up the scene in which they'll try to advance their agendas.

-Harold decides that he'll try to catch up with Ludomir when he's working out.  That'll be a good place to show strength and reliability, anyway.

-Minh figures she'll just talk to Ludomir anywhere, and decides she'll catch him alone on the bridge.

-Devaratha wants to comfort the currently sick Minh as soon as the shuttle breaks atmosphere and hits zero-g, when he can unstrap himself from his chair.

-Ludomir decides he'll confront Devaratha in his room, a few days after they get back to the ship.

Since they've all set the scene, they start resolving them, in any order that makes sense to the progression of the story.  Devaratha's is obviously the first one, since it takes place on the shuttle as soon as they enter zero-g.  They roll their dice.  Devaratha has 6,6,6,4,3,1,1 and Minh has 6,6,4,2,1,1,1.  Devaratha's player starts the scene:

Devaratha:  "As soon as I feel the weightlessness of space take over, I unlatch myself and head back to where Minh is strapped down."

Minh: "Alright, am I still feeling sick?"

GM: "Yeah, you have a fever, you're a little chilled, and your stomach is still upset."

Minh: "Okay, just checking."

Devaratha: "I push off of the chair to float over to where she is, and when I get there, I grab lightly onto her arm to slow myself.  'Are you feeling okay?'"  He puts forward a 6 and 1.

Minh: "'No, I'm not.'  I'm going to brusquely brush his hand off of me."  She also puts forward a 6 and 1.

Devaratha: "I'm going to look embarassed for a moment.  'Oh, I apologize, I merely needed to stop myself.  I hope I wasn't too untoward.'  I'll give her a soft smile."  He puts forward a 4 and 6.

Minh: "I'm nauseous, you said?"

GM: "Yeah."

Minh: "I'm going to throw up in my helmet." She puts forward her 4 and 6 to meet.

Devaratha: "Uh, well.  Okay, I'm going to take off her helmet."  He puts forward his 3 and 1, in hopes his 6 can finish her off, if she can meet this.  He has something good in mind, too.

Minh: "I'm going to reach up to his arm and stop him.  'I'm not sure it's safe.'" She puts forward her 2, 1, and 1 to meet.

Devaratha: "I'm going to ignore her and take off her helmet anyway.  I grab a towel from one of the compartments I would imagine is near the bed, and gently wipe off her face.  'Don't worry, it'll be alright.  You're looking good already.  Like you usually do.'  I'll shoot her another of my winning smiles."  He puts forward his 6.

Minh: She has no dice to meet, and she doesn't really think she can find a good way to invoke her relationships, so she concedes.  "Alright, I'll weakly smile back, and ever so slightly blush at his words.  'Thanks.'"

Devaratha: "'You going to be okay?'"

Minh: "'Yeah, thanks.'"

Devaratha: "I'll clasp her hand for a moment, then push off."

That's the end of the scene, so they both add a facet to their relationships.  Minh adds the facet, "He's almost too good to be true."  Both her player and Devaratha's player agree this is a pretty good facet to represent Devaratha advancing his agenda.  Devaratha adds "I almost feel guilty," to his relationship wth Minh.

They get back to the ship, with GM narration, and then Minh's player decides she wants to do her scene.  She rolls her 3 dice, getting 2,2,4.  Ludomir rolls his 1 die and gets a 4.  Minh's player initiates the scene.

Minh: "A few days after we get back, I notice Ludomir going alone to the bridge.  I wait a few minutes, and then try to catch up with him there.  I pull myself up into the bridge.  'Hi.'"

Ludomir: "I look up from what I'm reading on the computer console.  'Oh, hello.'"

Minh: "Do you have a moment?"

Ludomir: "Sure."

Minh: "I just wanted to know if you still trust me.  To do my job."  She puts forward her 2 and 4 to challenge.

Ludomir: "What?"

Minh: "I mean, I kind of panicked down there."

Ludomir: "Oh, right.  Well, it was understandable.  Equipment malfunction.  I checked the suit once we got back and you were safe, it wasn't your fault."  He concedes the challenge.

Minh: "Oh, good.  Well, that was all I wanted to say."

The brief scene ends, and Ludomir writes down the facet "I can rely on her," which is pretty much exactly what she wanted, so Minh okays the facet.  Minh writes down "A lot more going on than I thought," as a facet for her relationship with Ludomir.

Ludomir wants to do his scene with Devaratha, next.  He and Devaratha roll their dice, getting 6,5,4,4,3,1 and 6,3,1, respectively.  Ludomir opens the scene.

Ludomir: "While Minh and Harold are occupied elsewhere, I'm going to try to catch Devaratha in his quarters.  I'll knock sharply, twice, on his door."

Devaratha: "I'm kind of floating in the zero-g, reading a book from the library.  Make it Catcher in the Rye, even.  'Enter.'"

Ludomir: "I open the door, and pull in, stabilizing myself on one of the handholds on the wall.  'We need to speak.'"

Devaratha: "About what?"

Ludomir: "You didn't listen to me down there.  I need to know that you'll follow my orders." He leads with a 4 and 1.

Devaratha: "I don't see why you are automatically the leader.  Did we have a vote?"  He meets with his 6.

Ludomir: "A vote isn't necessary.  I'm the best."

Devaratha: "What qualifies you as the best?"

Ludomir: "I have a background."

Devaratha: "What sort of background?"

Ludomir: "Ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia.  I'm a survivor.  I know how to survive, and you will listen to me when I tell you to do something.  If you don't like it, fine.  If you won't do it, fine.  Tell me now, though, so I can know if you're worth my time when we're down on the planet." He challenges with his 6 and 5.

Devaratha: "My apologies.  In the future, I will endeavour to heed your words on the planet."  He concedes.

Ludomir: "That's good to hear.  Trust me, I've come through worse than we dealt with down there."

Devaratha: "How good to hear."

That concludes that scene.  Devaratha adds "The one to listen to," to his relationship with Ludomir.  Ludomir adds "Willing to swallow his pride," to his relationship with Devaratha.

The only scene left is Harold's with Ludomir.  Both players roll their dice.  Harold gets 6,3,2,1 and Ludomir gets 6,6,2,2.

Harold: "I'll walk into the gym where Ludomir is working out.  'Hey.'"

Ludomir: "I'll give him a respectful nod of acknowledgment, and continue working out."

Harold: "I'll work out quietly with him for a few moments, and give him the opportunity to say the first words."

Ludomir: "I guess your wound's healed enough to work out again?"

Harold: "Yeah, but it still hurts a little.  The workout is important."

Ludomir: "Hmn."

Harold: "I'll let a few more minutes of silence before I speak up again.  'I know that I owe you.'"  He puts forward his 3 and 2.

Ludomir: "Yes?"

Harold: "I owe you a debt for back on the planet.  I want you to know that I will make sure that debt is paid.  I'm a man of my word."

Ludomir: "Oh.  Think nothing of it.  It was merely a wise tactical decision."  He meets with a 6.

Harold: "That may be how you view it, but I see it as a sign of trust.  I know that I can trust you, now."  He challenges with his 6 and 1.

Ludomir: "I do not place such trust so easily.  I will merely assume you can see the benefits my survival provides to our team."  He meets with a 6 and 2.

Harold can't put forward any more challenges, so he concedes.

Harold: "I think I consider that a kind of trust."

Ludomir: "'Consider it what you want, it matters little to me.'  I won't speak any more after that."

After the scene, Ludomir writes down "Honorable, but suspicious" for his facet of his relationship with Harold.  Without the "but suspicious," this could easily be the facet if Harold had won the scene.  Harold writes down, "Cold sonuvabitch" for his facet.

Then, after that, they go to another planet, and deal with the new threat and the aftermath.  To recap, now the character sheets look like this:

Harold

-A rich American ex-con who bought his way onto the ship.

Survival: 6

Relationships

Minh:
"I don't think she can take care of herself."

Devaratha:
"He won't mind his own business."

Ludomir:
"Can't be trusted."
"Cold sonuvabitch."

Minh

-A fiercely independent young Vietnamese woman who ran away from her family to find a way onto the ship.

Survival: 6

Relationships

Harold:
"Too quiet for my tastes."

Devaratha:
"The only one here who understands me."
"He's almost too good to be true."

Ludomir:
"I think he's nicer than he let's on."
"A lot more going on than I thought."

Devaratha

-A charismatic Indian man who was one of the first wave of applicants accepted to the ship.

Survival: 6

Relationships

Harold:
"Silent loners don't inspire trust."

Minh:
"I'll bed her in a week."
"I almost feel guilty."

Ludomir:
"He's probably the one who'll keep us all alive."
"The one to listen to."

Ludomir

-A resilient, strong-willed eastern European who was just on the upper edge of the age range to be allowed onto the ship.

Survival: 6

Relationships

Harold:
"He's always watching."
"Honorable, but suspicious."

Minh:
"She needs protection, but not from anything we might find on the planet."
"I can rely on her."

Devaratha:
"I can trust him to help me survive, but not for anything else."
"Willing to swallow his pride."

greyorm

Cyrus,

Interesting. However, I notice that the example is missing a use of inter-character relationships. Does that function just as a "Ok, I use my relationship with this guy to nab some extra dice"? If the person you have a relationship with doesn't have any dice left, doesn't that pretty much screw you over? What's the point of having relationships if you can't USE them on more than an occassional basis?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Cyrus Marriner

Okay, I learned a lot from the play example.  Thanks for the suggestion, Raven.

Here are the things I think I need to do:

1) Facilitate a way for characters to conflict outside of the aftermath conflicts.  While I was writing up the second part of play, I thought, "Damn, why are they just going to let the infected dudes back onto the ship?  How do they know the virus is gone now?  Are they willing to take the risk?  And how cool would it be if Ludomir and Harold disagreed with what to do with the others?"  I realized that this would make for some awesome roleplaying, and I had no way to handle it.  So I'm thinking I might need to expand the character creation process to include traits that would relate to conflict outside of the two situations.

2) I need to set up the threats so that way characters are forced to help each other.  I was hoping that the element of fortune involved would force players into making calculated risks, but every player can also just play it safe and force the GM to kill all of them if he wants to kill one of them.  I want players to die, but I don't want the first session to be a total party kill.  I almost want to go back to leaving it up to GM fiat, which still seems to unfair.  Still, a sample of one play isn't exactly something I can draw a conclusion from, so I'll run through a few more sample threats, and mess with the number of dice the players get a little bit.

3) I want backgrounds, but I need some sort of resolution system for them.  The way I'm thinking about the background is that each player writes three of their character's formative experiences on the character sheet, and then when they invoke their backgrounds, they roleplay a scene in order to get a facet added to their background that they can use to get dice, like a relationship.  I don't want a player to just invoke his background and get some dice, I want there to be some sort of element of risk involved.  Which means I need to set up some form of conflict resolution that's outside of the current scope of the game.  Which means I probably need to expand character creation.

4) The idea of each player having one character and all of them going down to the planet doesn't make sense in the setting.  I want there to be multiple characters, but I'm still not sure how to handle ownership.  I'm thinking expanding the bidding system so you can bid on characters to go planetside with, and then players can bid dice on behalf of any character to meet a challenge.

5) I need to bring back the emphasis on death and loss.  This is another reason I want to expand the number of characters, so characters can die and it won't just be, "Oh, unfreeze another one."  I need to add real mechanical effects for death, along the lines of getting several dice when you try to use a dead guy to advance your agenda.  There needs to be the potential for it to backfire, though.

Here are some of the ideas I'm tossing around right now.  There were a few above, but these are mainly modifications to the core of the system as it stands right now, as opposed to new elements to add.

1) Characters can not only invoke their relationships with characters that they're helping, but also they can invoke their relationships with other characters and the other character's relationship with the character they're helping.  That's kind of hard to phrase, so here's an example of something the characters above might be able to do:  Devaratha needs help, and Harold doesn't want to help him.  But his player announces that he's going to help him, because he knows Minh cares about him (The facet of Minh's relationship with Devaratha, "He's the only one here who understands me.") and he doesn't want Minh to hurt herself trying to help him (The facet of his relationship with Minh, "I don't think she can take care of herself.") so he invokes those two relationships to help Devaratha.  Something like that, if you can see what I'm going at.

2) When you invoke a relationship to help someone, you give them one of your dice, and they also get to roll an additional die that they can add to their pool or use to meet the current challenge.  This will give people cause to aid one another, but it won't make helping completely without repercussions.  If you invoke two or more relationships to give someone a die, they only get one, though.

3) Instead of rolling one die for each player for the threat, the GM rolls two, each a different color.  I like green and red.  The green die is a safety die, and the red is a challenge die.  If the green die is higher, then the character doesn't get challenged by the threat.  If the red die is higher, they do.  If they're the same, then I have to come up with an effect.  Hopefully, this will make the numbers the players have to hit higher, giving them more opportunities to aid one another.  Also, the green die would determine the order of opportunity to help.  Oh, and each player wouldn't be getting challenged every turn, so they won't all run out of dice at the same time.

4) You get extra dice when you confront someone you helped in the aftermath, in addition to the extra dice you get for your bidding pool.  One die for each die you gave to help the character you're confronting, right at the start of the conflict.

5) You can bid against multiple characters with one pool, and have your scene include both characters, who combine their counterbids into a single pool.  Also, I'm thinking about adding a way that you can bid to change other characters' relationships with characters that aren't yours, which is contested by a pool made of dice bid by both the character you're confonting and the character of the relationship you're trying to change.  For example, Ludomir could try to get Minh suspicious of Devaratha with his bid, and Devaratha and Minh would both counterbid.

That's what I'm thinking about for now.  Sorry I haven't replied directly to you, Callan, Gregor, and Raven, I'll try to get to that soon.  Right now I just wanted to get my thoughts in order and out there.  I need to think a little bit more at the moment.

Cyrus Marriner

Alright, now that I've got those last three hefty posts out, let me address a few people's comments.

Callan, you're right.  It might make for an interesting game.  Would it be fun, though?  When I stepped back and took a look at it, it wasn't something that I thought I would have fun playing, which was where I decided I needed to stop and attack it from a different tack.  It could be fun to see how the relationships fall out, kind of like how in the Sims the interesting part is seeing the effects of the choices you made.  And building your house.  Still, the Sims operates on a complex level behind the scenes, while the original rules are right there in front of you.  You're not going to be surprised, just like how you're not going to be surprised by the behavior in the Sims if you wrote all the AI code.  After Ron's initial feedback, I thought about it and it pretty much came down to, "Do I want the fun to be in seeing what results the system produces, or do I want the players to have fun by making choices and roleplaying?"  Not that either of those is necessarily a bad thing, I just felt that the system wasn't complex or fine-tuned enough to surprise the players with the results of the very few choices they got to make.  Which is why I made that call.

Gregor, if you take a look at a few of my thoughts above, you'll see that I agree with your advice, and the system does need to facilitate interesting things the player would want to do outside of the two main parts of the game.  In the end, I'll have three discrete systems: one for handling the threats, one for handling the character interactions in the wake of the threats, and one for handling general conflict resolution that occurs outside of those two parts of the game.  Which I must admit I am stumped on at the moment.

Raven, you're right.  I didn't think about using the relationships until after I had written and posted the play example.  I was focused entirely on the straight and narrow of the core mechanics, and forgot about the other mechanics, and they didn't really provide an opportunity to inject themselves into the conflicts.  Is this a problem with the system, or just a natural result of me giving all of them such hostile relationships with one another?  I'm not sure yet.  The system still has a lot of work to go, though.

Thanks to all three of you for your feedback,
Cyrus

Callan S.

Hi Cyrus,

I get you. I thought perhaps there might have been the potential for focus on 'what's in the black box' sort of questions. Like having a box with something inside...you rattle it around and try and guess what it is. Here you roll the dice and try and 'guess' the game world reasons behind that result. The guess is really a player invention and addition to the SIS.

Really what may have been lacking it getting players to articulate these inventions and perhaps also to draw on previous ones to do so.
Philosopher Gamer
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