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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Popping the stack  (Read 5243 times)
TonyLB
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« on: November 19, 2005, 06:36:26 AM »

The title's computer terminology.  If it boggles you, ignore it.  The question's straightforward, I think.  Here's the example.

PC#1:  And so it was that I bopped the demon on the noggin (assertion 1.1)
PC#2:  But only if his noggin is so hard that it blunts your starlight blade (assertion 2.1)
PC#1:  But only if his noggin is made of delicious cheese. (assertion 1.2)
PC#2:  It was not meant to be ...

There!  Right in that moment, there ... we're essentially rewound back to the point of assertion 1.1 (1.2 and 2.1 are cancelled by "It was not meant to be").  Does player two have another opportunity to challenge assertion 1.1, as if it had just been made?  Or was assertion 1.1 (the demon is bumped on the noggin) made into fact in the instant that PC#1 decided to respond to assertion 2.1 with anything other than "It was not meant to be"?

I like the latter interpretation, so very, very much, and will totally be nicking it for my own game design.  If you want, I can talk about how incredibly cool it is from a competitive standpoint (which I know ain't wholly your thing, just as you know it is wholly mine).  But first I want to know whether I've correctly or incorrectly interpreted Polaris.
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Blankshield
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2005, 09:24:25 AM »

I'm not Ben, but I've played Polaris, and I'm pretty frickin' sure it's the second.  That's the way we played, at least. 

That makes "It was not meant to be" as earth-shatteringly full of potential is "And so it was".

My favorite Polaris moment is when I described someone's hated superior knight looking at her in contempt from a high window, and she, irritated at his presence, said "But only if he falls to his death."

I thought for a moment and said "And so it was."

And all of us, myself included just sort of sat there going "holy shit." at what the system had not just allowed, but actively encouraged and pushed us towards.

Very powerful.

James
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2005, 05:20:54 PM »

Tony, you're latter interpretation is correct.  It was not meant to be ends conflict.

And, yes, it's very powerful.

yrs--
--Ben
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2005, 07:20:21 PM »

One question, just for clarification: Is "I bopped the demon on its noggin" a good statement? Should it be, "I bop the demon on its noggin, sending it crashing to the floor, giving us time to get past it" or "I bop the demon on its noggin, killing it" ?
I realkise I might be being too literal, and Tony might have been using shorthand for something like that.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2005, 08:22:29 PM »

Tony, you're latter interpretation is correct.  It was not meant to be ends conflict.

And, yes, it's very powerful.
Actually, I wasn't pointing to the power of It was not meant to be.  I'm excited about the wonderful potential of the pattern of sequences of But only if.  Let me explain:

In the example (which, yeah, is short-hand):  let's say that PC#1 does not like assertion 2.1 (because who wants a blunted starlight blade, after all?)  But he really likes his assertion 1.1, because head-bonking is cool.  After PC#2 puts out assertion 2.1, PC#1 has three obvious choices (looking at a limited set of the mechanics, for clarity ... It shall not come to pass and And furthermore add wrinkles beyond the scope of my current focus):
  • It was not meant to be prevents assertion 2.1 (the blunt sword) at the cost of assertion 1.1 (the noggin-bumping).  This is the maximally risk-averse strategy:  PC#1 prevents what he doesn't want, but also loses what he does want.
  • And so it was gives PC#1 his noggin-bopping, at the cost of a blunted starlight sword.  This is still a risk-averse strategy.
  • But only if gives PC#1 noggin-bopping (guaranteed!) and may also prevent the blunt sword.  Basically, PC#1 can hope to make an assertion so unacceptable that PC#2 will have to respond with It was not meant to be and lose the blunting of the sword.  But, of course, this is a very risky strategy.  PC#2 could respond with And so it was or But only if and then the sword is officially blunted.  PC#1 is (in order to get the noggin-bopping) gambling that he can make PC#2 back down.  Whoever calls And so it was or It was not meant to be cedes the last word in the conflict to their opponent, in exchange for not having things escalate further.  They're playing chicken.

That's a nicely powerful little temptation scheme there.  At each stage you're faced with a choice:  if you go with But only if then you get the previous narration, free and clear.  And it doesn't cost you anything right then.  All it does is give your opponent (in turn) the opportunity to get their previous assertion.  But if they do that then it gives you the opportunity to do the same, which they obviously don't have the guts for, right?
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2005, 11:43:22 PM »

quote author=Darren Hill link=topic=17658.msg186731#msg186731 date=1132456821]
One question, just for clarification: Is "I bopped the demon on its noggin" a good statement? Should it be, "I bop the demon on its noggin, sending it crashing to the floor, giving us time to get past it" or "I bop the demon on its noggin, killing it" ?
« Last Edit: November 19, 2005, 11:51:38 PM by Ben Lehman » Logged

Iskander
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« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2005, 07:38:58 AM »

So, if I've understood correctly, that clears up a question some of us NYC.nerds had during play. After an extended sequence of But Only If..., negation with It was not meant to be does not unravel the whole chain of consequence, just the last two assertions, (as it is written in the text). So (to continue TonyLB's coding theme, but harking back to a simpler time, when code was instructive, symbolic, all-purpose and for beginners...)

10 Heart: Sir Al Na'ir crashes through the ice into an underground cavern where Demon Lord Kaliss guards the Grail of Midnight.
20 Mistaken: But Only If he breaks his legs as he falls to the cavern floor.
30 Heart: But Only If he lands, shattered, next to the Grail itself.
40 Mistaken: But Only If Lord Kaliss' scaly tail yanks it just out of reach, taunting Sir Al Na'ir with mocking laughter.

...by allowing the Mistaken to make the statement at 40, the third But Only If..., the Heart has accepted that Sir Al Na'ir's legs are broken, and can't undo that, without...

50 Heart: But Only If as the demon yanks the Grail away, two drops of the Queen's Tears spill from it, and miraculously heal Sir Al Na'ir's legs.
60 Mistaken: But Only If Lord Kaliss melts back into the lava-filled pool heating the cavern, and taking the grail with him, leaving only the soft echo of his taunting cackle.

(And that was how it happened, if memory serves).

I fucking loved how pushing high stakes meant you would get something to come to pass. It really struck home that letting the demons of my twisted mind loose as Mistaken gave the Heart much more to work with, and really drove his story hard. There's a definite tactical approach to the phrasing that the evil munchkin in me deeply appreciates, but the choices that came out of presenting two different but equally unpalateable alternatives when faced with You Ask Far Too Much... were golden. I don't think we quite got to the tactical finesse of using And furthermore..., but if we revisit these folks to conclude their tales, I'm sure we will.
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Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
boredoom
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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2005, 11:32:09 AM »

Ha! I came here to ask the question Iskander just posed, after playing with him. It seems logical to me that a sequence of four But Only Ifs would unravel if the last one is negated, since they're all conditional on one another. But it's an interpretation that would require more book-keeping, and even then could cause confusion, so I'm happy to do it the other way, i.e. letting only the last two be unraveled.
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