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Author Topic: Mere Sapnon ki Rani: Conflict System Queries  (Read 4025 times)
Shreyas Sampat
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« on: October 25, 2005, 04:22:07 AM »

I talked about this game some time ago on my blog. I'm trying to work out the way that its conflict procedure works.

The system proceeds like this: (I like d10s, but this system will probably handle okay with any reasonable die size as long as they are all the same.)

Initiation
To begin you need to define each character's goals. Characters may continue participating in a conflict as long as they are able; prior to being disabled, they may surrender. The last character remaining in a conflict achieves his goal. Once you have determined goals, decide which Caste is most relevant to the conflict; you may make attacks with skills relevant to this Caste.

When a conflict is initiated, throw four dice. Each die is a different colour; they represent the four essential forces.
The highest die's colour indicates the Threat; this is the mechanical effect of a defeat.
The lowest die's colour indicates the Danger; this is the consequence of acting without excellence.
Together these define the ground situation for the conflict.

Fighting
The players take turns, proceeding in order of descending Caste rank and decreasing talent.
During your turn, you may attack or lament.

Attacks
You have a pool of dice equal to your talent (that is, your inherent ability to carry out the duties of your Caste). Roll as many unused dice as you can, up to as many as the value of the skill you are attacking with; you use this skill to make your victim's life hard. Choose two rolled dice, or three if the conflict's within your Caste, and add them together; the total is the value of your attack. Then return the selected dice to your unused pool; keep the remainder of the rolled dice on the table without changing their values.

Your opponent may spend up to two rolled dice, or three if the conflict's in his Caste, to subtract from the total. He must reduce it to 0 to escape unscathed! If the final total is not greater than his talent, then he suffers a less profound hardship, which damages his skill by 1. If the final total is greater than his talent, then remove an unused die from his pool and replace it with an injury marker.

If you select an attack die that displays the same value as the Threat, and the victim recieves an injury marker, he suffers the effect of the Threat, and you reroll the Threat die.

If anyone selects a die that displays the same value as the Danger, and does not win (the defender selects and suffers either sort of injury, the attacker selects and inflicts no injury), then that character suffers the effect of the Danger, and the player rerolls the Danger's die.

The Threat and Danger are always the force dice displaying the most extreme values.

Laments
You tell a sympathetic listener of your troubles. Your family will always lend an ear to you; you may also invite player characters to listen, but they may decline. Lamenting restores your energy in one Caste's dice pool. For each listener, you convert one injury marker back into a die, which you roll as you do so.

When you lament, specify a character who injured you, and accuse him of being at fault. Each listener also recieves a sympathy die to use against the accused; after selecting the dice for an attack against the accused, you may roll a sympathy die and add it to the total.

(I.e., you not only refresh yourself, but also generate ill-will against the person you accuse.)

Invincibility and Dukkha
Skills have different levels of vulnerability. The standard skill is mortal; it recieves injury normally. Heroic and divine skills are unusual: a heroic skill downgrades talent injuries to skill injuries, and a divine skill never suffers skill injuries. This doesn't actually make life easier for them; heroism deflects the reduced damage to the hero's family, while gods deflect their injuries onto the world. This is known as dukkha, suffering. (This means that the deflected damage is literally inflicted on all the parties in question; fighting, for instance, Hephaestus, actually damages the ability of all things that exist to make things, while doing well in a battle with Achilles can damage the fighting morale of his whole army.)

Invulnerability is the strongest defence; an invulnerable skill never suffers damage, but instead, the invulnerable character's player chooses another of the character's skills to deflect each injury to. It does not cause others to suffer dukkha.

Notes and questions
I haven't determined the specific effects of Threats and Dangers yet, but, in general, they will act to leach effectiveness away from the characters, for instance by removing dice from pools without adding injury markers, altering access to listeners, intervention from outside entities, &c., so that whenever one strikes it signals that a conflict is closer to its ending.

The skill-damaging system will make severe, talent-hurting injuries rarer as the conflict proceeds; I'm not sure whether this is desirable.

I'm not sure how to handle skill recovery, either, or the precise effect of heroic dukkha.

The idea behind this conflict system is to make it so that continuing to fight is almost always possible, but the returns are gradually eclipsed by the costs and collateral damage; MSKR characters, in seeking what they desire, tend to destroy everything they care about. Does this all seem to fit together in a reasonable way?
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Tim Alexander
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« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2005, 07:22:40 AM »

Morning Shreyas,

First let me get this out of the way: Hindu/Indian inspired game, awesome.

Notes and questions
I haven't determined the specific effects of Threats and Dangers yet, but, in general, they will act to leach effectiveness away from the characters, for instance by removing dice from pools without adding injury markers, altering access to listeners, intervention from outside entities, &c., so that whenever one strikes it signals that a conflict is closer to its ending.

The skill-damaging system will make severe, talent-hurting injuries rarer as the conflict proceeds; I'm not sure whether this is desirable.

I'm not sure how to handle skill recovery, either, or the precise effect of heroic dukkha.

The idea behind this conflict system is to make it so that continuing to fight is almost always possible, but the returns are gradually eclipsed by the costs and collateral damage; MSKR characters, in seeking what they desire, tend to destroy everything they care about. Does this all seem to fit together in a reasonable way?

It's a little thick, and I think I'd need to diagram some conflicts before I'd have a good handle on how all the pieces move. The thing that jumps out at me is that you might want to consider reversing the dice for Threat and Danger. In a given conflict a player is going to want to use his high dice to win stakes.* Having Threat the high die means adding mechanical weight is easy, since it's already strong the players's more likely to be able to use it without risking failure. With Threat the low die, in order to get mechanical weight beyond winning stakes you're forced to play a smaller combination. On the flip side, having Danger be the high die means that when you want to play big in order to ensure a win of stakes you're putting more on the line in the event of failure. It forces choices that way, not unlike deciding to win narration, or play a big hand in Dust Devils. I think I have some other comments, but I'd like to see an example of how you see a given conflict playing out before I give them. I'm not altogether sure that my comments already haven't missed the point somewhat.

*I'm assuming that stakes are set apart from the mechanical weight of Threat/Danger, not unlike Stakes versus Fallout in Dogs.

-Tim
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2005, 07:45:37 AM »

To begin you need to define each character's goals. Characters may continue participating in a conflict as long as they are able; prior to being disabled, they may surrender. The last character remaining in a conflict achieves his goal.

So goals will differ by individual, even individuals working together?  And only one can be actualized?

Quote
If the final total is not greater than his talent, then he suffers a less profound hardship, which damages his skill by 1. If the final total is greater than his talent, then remove an unused die from his pool and replace it with an injury marker.

Is this a strictly mechanical effect or do you see narration coming into play?  "Hardship" threw me a little.

Quote
Laments
(I.e., you not only refresh yourself, but also generate ill-will against the person you accuse.)

Brilliant. 

Quote
Invincibility and Dukkha

Also brilliant.  Very exciting.  This, and laments, instantly make me want to play this. 

Quote
The skill-damaging system will make severe, talent-hurting injuries rarer as the conflict proceeds; I'm not sure whether this is desirable.

I'd worry about the death spiral of decreasing aptitude and increasing collateral damage - the balance needs to be just so, you know?  The temptation to go just that much further needs to be quite acute (I'm thinking of escalation in Dogs here), and this seems like it will be complex to achieve. 

Quote
The idea behind this conflict system is to make it so that continuing to fight is almost always possible, but the returns are gradually eclipsed by the costs and collateral damage; MSKR characters, in seeking what they desire, tend to destroy everything they care about. Does this all seem to fit together in a reasonable way?

It does to me. 

--Jason
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2005, 09:49:46 AM »

It's a little thick, and I think I'd need to diagram some conflicts before I'd have a good handle on how all the pieces move. The thing that jumps out at me is that you might want to consider reversing the dice for Threat and Danger. In a given conflict a player is going to want to use his high dice to win stakes.* Having Threat the high die means adding mechanical weight is easy, since it's already strong the players's more likely to be able to use it without risking failure. With Threat the low die, in order to get mechanical weight beyond winning stakes you're forced to play a smaller combination. On the flip side, having Danger be the high die means that when you want to play big in order to ensure a win of stakes you're putting more on the line in the event of failure. It forces choices that way, not unlike deciding to win narration, or play a big hand in Dust Devils. I think I have some other comments, but I'd like to see an example of how you see a given conflict playing out before I give them. I'm not altogether sure that my comments already haven't missed the point somewhat.

Hi Tim,

I don't think you're missing the point at all, but I see my intentions were not fully clear. Threat and Danger are there to serve as tactical landmarks; I don't want them to force the attacker between decisions he hates, but rather provide them as tools that he can use to press the defender into those decisions.

And Jason,

So goals will differ by individual, even individuals working together? And only one can be actualized?

Apparently so. Not sure right now whether this is the Right Thing. It's possible that Dangers exist that actualise opponent goals in full or in part, thereby allowing multiple victorious characters, but as for the general system, I am not sure how to reconcile the possibility of multiple victory with the "game of chicken" thing.

Quote
Quote
If the final total is not greater than his talent, then he suffers a less profound hardship, which damages his skill by 1. If the final total is greater than his talent, then remove an unused die from his pool and replace it with an injury marker.

Is this a strictly mechanical effect or do you see narration coming into play? "Hardship" threw me a little.

There's narration going on somewhere in this process, but as yet I am not certain where. Suffering injuries definitely triggers narration of some kind.

Quote
Also brilliant. Very exciting. This, and laments, instantly make me want to play this.

Thanks! I am very excited about those two mechanics. I'm not sure they are true to the genre I pretend is my source, but they do seem to match the similarly family-epic stories in my head.

Quote
I'd worry about the death spiral of decreasing aptitude and increasing collateral damage - the balance needs to be just so, you know? The temptation to go just that much further needs to be quite acute (I'm thinking of escalation in Dogs here), and this seems like it will be complex to achieve.

Escalation! Hmm. I think the continued temptation may come from opportunities that the conflict provides, which allow goals to be expanded or redefined. Not certain where to put these, but something involving the Threat and Danger seems appropriate.
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Bill Masek
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« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2005, 12:08:49 PM »

Shreyas,

You have some very nice ideas in the game.  I like the way you use the Hindu cast system, especially what you did with the untouchables.  The rules for threat and danger, while not finished, are looking beautiful.  Your rules for immortality and lamentations are very unique and I believe have a lot of potential.

The largest issue I have with your game at this point is its purpose.  After reading what you posted on this forum and your blog I do not understand what the game is about  Sure, you fight.  Is each game a single battle, like a in miniatures game?  Does the game simulate a series of armed conflicts?  How much of this game will occur between these battles?  Three of your four casts are not combat based.  How do they fit in?  What kind of play do you expect in your game?  What type of adventures will they player experience.

Cool combat system.  Give us more.

Best,
        Bill
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Try Sin, its more fun then a barrel of gremlins!
Or A Dragon's Tail a novel of wizards demons and a baby dragon.
Tim Alexander
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2005, 01:04:36 PM »

Hey Again,

I don't think you're missing the point at all, but I see my intentions were not fully clear. Threat and Danger are there to serve as tactical landmarks; I don't want them to force the attacker between decisions he hates, but rather provide them as tools that he can use to press the defender into those decisions.

Ok, in that case I can see where you're going with Threat, but let me clarify Danger. Since it's the low die it's going to be avoided until such times when you're already pretty much hosed, either from a poor roll with a decent pool, or an injured pool providing few options, right? Otherwise I don't see any compelling reason to play low values. This means Danger ends up having something of a pile on effect, which could be a feature or a bug depending on how the rest of conflict resolution falls into place. Of course I may be overstating all of this depending on what the low/high range really is in play, but die size is going to have a bigger effect on the game because of this. Much more so than in Sorcerer for example.

I'm carping on the above because laments and Dukkha aren't as well developed yet, though they are really really cool. Laments especially reinforce what resonates with my limited experience with the Hindu epics, a vibe I get from the blog text. I'm thinking things like the appeals that shame Shiva into finding a replacement for Lord Ganesha's head. Dukkha I have less immediate example of, but it sure resonates for me, and I want to say Bollywood is part of that. Take that for what you will. I see a lot of potential here, but I really want to know how you position scenes and create a narrative; stuff that obviously isn't there yet. Do you have ideas for that at this point?

-Tim



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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2005, 01:37:17 AM »

<snip>

The largest issue I have with your game at this point is its purpose.  After reading what you posted on this forum and your blog I do not understand what the game is about  Sure, you fight.  Is each game a single battle, like a in miniatures game?  Does the game simulate a series of armed conflicts?  How much of this game will occur between these battles?  Three of your four casts are not combat based.  How do they fit in?  What kind of play do you expect in your game?  What type of adventures will they player experience.

Thanks for the encouragement, Bill.

Perhaps this will help contextualise the game some more:

The characters in MSKR are covetous. They all want some grand thing; it may be that a young woman wants to found a college of astrologer-priests, a younger son wants to become king of his country, an aging hero wants to let go of the world to gain Heaven, an ascetic wants the legendary Surya mantra-weapon, ...

The story of MSKR is the story of this covetousness. Obsessed with these things, the characters determine what they need to do to achieve them (here goes a pacing mechanic), and they initiate conflicts to accomplish these things. Within a conflict, "attacks" as the system defines them are not necessarily narrated as martial struggle; they are simply maneuvering for supremacy within the field of a skill. For instance, all the following are good Celebration attacks:
* You schedule a great yajna-sacrifice on the same day that your enemy is holding one, and come into conflict for guests.
* Having invited your enemy to a feast, you serve food that insults your guest (like coffee to a Kashmiri tea-grower, or meat to a Jain).
* You indicate errors in your enemy's performance of a ritual.

Since skill erosion is harder to recover than talent damage, a typical conflict should involve a variety of Caste-relevant activities.

Between conflicts, characters retreat to their refuges, where they live the beautiful lives of poets and kings. The portion of the game handling this should be minimised, but it is still essential and not omitted; these respites are an important part of dealing with the grief that settles in once the collateral impact of a conflict is made known, and recovering from the injuries that a conflict inflicts. (Maybe collateral damages, and expression of appropriate reaction, generate the currency that the character requires to recover his own strength.) Basically, these serve the same function in the great story that laments do in a conflict. So there is a cycle of bloody-mindedness and pain; your character needs to engage in conflict to attain your ultimate goal, and you need to permit him to suffer if he is to be strong enough to succeed.

Ok, in that case I can see where you're going with Threat, but let me clarify Danger. Since it's the low die it's going to be avoided until such times when you're already pretty much hosed, either from a poor roll with a decent pool, or an injured pool providing few options, right? Otherwise I don't see any compelling reason to play low values. This means Danger ends up having something of a pile on effect, which could be a feature or a bug depending on how the rest of conflict resolution falls into place. Of course I may be overstating all of this depending on what the low/high range really is in play, but die size is going to have a bigger effect on the game because of this. Much more so than in Sorcerer for example.

I'm carping on the above because laments and Dukkha aren't as well developed yet, though they are really really cool. Laments especially reinforce what resonates with my limited experience with the Hindu epics, a vibe I get from the blog text. I'm thinking things like the appeals that shame Shiva into finding a replacement for Lord Ganesha's head. Dukkha I have less immediate example of, but it sure resonates for me, and I want to say Bollywood is part of that. Take that for what you will. I see a lot of potential here, but I really want to know how you position scenes and create a narrative; stuff that obviously isn't there yet. Do you have ideas for that at this point?

So, I'm not sure whether the grief-and-recovery cycle is sufficient motivation to occasionally accept the Danger, but, now that I have come up with it, I'd rather like it to be. Sort of like saying there, you don't spring back unless you get pushed hard enough. I'll definitely be keeping this question in mind, though, as reversing the positions of the forces is relatively uncomplicated and generates an interesting tactical choice.

I'm really excited about the positive response to laments and Dukkha; I tend to agree that the lament is a feature of Asian family epics that seems less common in the European folklore I'm familiar with. Dukkha, I think you can find tinges of in many places...it's a strong feature of almost every mythology that has invulnerable heroes that they cause suffering around them.

Now, I'm going to turn your question on its head -- you know that there are two essential mechanical phases, the conflict and the respite. How do you imagine these connecting together?
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Tim Alexander
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« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2005, 06:12:56 PM »

Hey again,

I've been mulling the following over:

Now, I'm going to turn your question on its head -- you know that there are two essential mechanical phases, the conflict and the respite. How do you imagine these connecting together?

I think the way I would do it, assuming you want to maintain the Threat high die Danger low die dynamic that's going on currently, is to make Danger deeply rooted in the repite. Danger allows the character to be rebuilt during respite, maybe even becoming the key way to increase talents and skills. It stays some sort of mechanical detriment during conflict, but during respite it becomes a needed tool. This eliminates the pile on effect of Danger, and instead makes it a tactical choice for the defender (or the attacker in certain situations.) You're going to want to avoid it in conflicts where the stakes are high for you as a player, since it will hurt your effectiveness in the now, but you'll be looking for times to use it in situations where you're willing to give on stakes.

So now, if you're in a conflict, you want to either acrue Woe (the currency generated by Danger) or win the conflict. Middle of the road play sucks because you get neither what you want (stakes) nor what you need in the respite (Woe.) I think that's a feature, since this sort of game reeks of big wins and big losses, not tit for tat sort of meandering. Once in the respite cycle you are able to spend Woe down through mourning/repairing collateral damage/mending relationships/drinking wine and reading melancholy poetry, etc. etc. I think you're on the right vibe with it being really important to make the respite interesting on it's own. It has to be able to stand alone so that the spending of the currency isn't just a rote mechanism on the road to more conflict. My suggestion obviously only glosses over the mechanics and doesn't address the real substance.

Useful?

-Tim
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2005, 07:20:35 PM »

Tim, that's excellent food for thought. Thanks!
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Bill Masek
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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2005, 10:38:17 AM »

Shreyas,

As you have described your game so far, there does not seem to be any relationships between the conflicts.  The players all want a woman, so they go to war over her.  Time passes, then the king is dying and they all want his crown so they fight for his favor.  Then more time passes, some other unconnected event occurs, and the players fight over it.

I recommend that you use the respite period to link to conflicts together.  Each player could have a Goal.  These goals may be mutually contradictory or unrelated.  However they can not be mutually beneficial.  Before the conflict begins, the GM creates a Situation that the players can use to advance towards their Goal.  The Situation must have some effect on all players Goals.  The Situation creates the Conflict.  Who ever wins the Conflict advances towards their Goal.  Once they advance, say, 9 times, the GM creates a Situation where the player will achieve their Goal if they win the Conflict.  If they loose this conflict, they must win one more conflict before they can attempt to achieve their Goal again.  The winner is the first player to win the Conflict which achieves their Goal.

Also, lets have some rules on family, holdings, etc.  These seem to be very important.  Immortality means your family suffers, but what does this mean in game terms?

Best,
       Bill
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Try Sin, its more fun then a barrel of gremlins!
Or A Dragon's Tail a novel of wizards demons and a baby dragon.
Shreyas Sampat
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Posts: 970


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« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2005, 01:39:54 PM »

Bill, speed response re:GMing...

I feel like having a formal GM is superfluous in this game, as in many other games. The situation construction is a good idea, if decentralised and given some energy...

Like, suppose that you have this currency WHOA (i'm using that rather than Woe so I'll remember to find a word that feels less Rapunzel), which you recieve from Dangers and you spend during respite (another problem word, this). Spending WHOA allows for talent recovery, and along with each recovery, you can find out (define) what the next step toward your goal is. The first player to enter respite (i.e., the first to drop out of conflict) will name an initial situation, and as other players drop, they use respite to define their own involvement in that situation.

Family and holdings and so forth -- My first instinct is that your family represents the energy reserve that you can draw on by engaging in their society and drawing on their sympathy, so dukkha damages their ability to help you recover from things; thus invincibility results in your being tripped up in other ways. Not completely certain how to make that work yet; more later.
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2005, 12:05:47 PM »

So, the message I am trying to convey with this system is this:

"You can have a happy family or you can pursue your dreams, but satisfying either of these needs necessarily causes the extinction of the other."

It's pretty clear to me that the current Danger mechanic does not convey this properly, so I'm reworking it.
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2005, 11:17:28 AM »

So, here is a mechanic that I'm a little happier with:

The Threat remains as it is. However, the Danger is removed, replaced by Misfortune. The Misfortune is the least of the three lesser dice.

When you use a die that shows the same value as that shown on the Misfortune, you are taking a risk! You reroll all the lesser dice (not the Threat, however), and find the new Misfortune. This Misfortune befalls anyone displaying dice that match it.

The talent injury mechanic is also altered so that it dovetails with this; instead of removing a die from your pool, the aggressor selects one of your displayed dice and "locks" it. A locked die continues to display its value, but it cannot be used to attack or defend; rather, it remains in a state of paralysis until respite allows your tension to decline. As a result, you become increasingly vulnerable to Misfortune as your dice are fixed in place. Misfortunes are terrible things you learn about the state of your family, and they erode their willingness to support you in lamentation. Threats, meanwhile, are losses on a personal scale.

So, this solidly builds a framework for the two punishment sticks for dream-chasing, but I am not clear what actually makes players want to chase them; I would like the system to deceptively tempt them into trying, before it thrashes them with the consequences.

---

Also, this new Misfortune mechanic allows for escalation: When you escalate a conflict, it shifts into another Caste domain, but the least and second-least die are both Misfortunes. Add a Misfortune with each escalation until the top die is both Misfortune and Threat.
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