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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 73 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Player-defined consequences  (Read 7401 times)
Samarkand
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« on: November 28, 2005, 08:36:44 PM »

   I've been reading a bit about the issue of character death--how "one bad roll" can kill a character  either because the PC is too weak at a given ability level, or the capriciousness of Fortune conspire against it.  There are the usual solutions--Falkenstein's "no character may be killed except deliberately", fudging the results of die-roles, etc.  All this predicates on the GM setting both the difficulty of the task and the consequences of failure.

   My thoughts have turned to the "Stakes" method of Dogs in the Vineyard and the "burning Aspects" of FATE.  Maybe an alternate approach is to have the player define what consequences will be risked over a given challenge.  The difficulty is determined by the GM, but the potential penalties are decided by the player through a wagering process.

An example of how this might work:

    A character confronts a serious static obstacle--say, a pit of spikes blocking the way to a given place the PC needs to reach.  GM decides that this will be on the high end of difficult to do.    The player then can wager an escalating ladder of consequences: dignity, fortune, health, and life.  The higher the wager, the better a bonus or positive shift the player can have on the Fortune mechanic involved.  Yet also knowing full well what the character is risking by doing so.

   Assume a poor result on the Fortune--each wager would result in:

Nothing wagered, nothing gained: "As you charge towards the lip of the pit, you suddenly realize that you can't gain enough speed to make it.  You skitter to a stop just before you could go over."  At this point, the action involved has to be abandoned--the character realizes the task is impossible.

Dignity--minor inconvenience: "You won't make it!  You stumble trying to stop, bruising yourself ."

Fortune--a further complication to be surmounted: "You leap...and realize that trusting in luck was not the best idea.  You barely grab the lip of the pit in time, hanging by your fingertips, boots just above the spikes...."

Health--can wager anything from a minor injury to a serious wound--ranging from wrenching one's shoulder in the effort to arrest the fall, to being impaled "non-fatally" on a spike or three.

Life--Live or die by the dice. 

    Slightly altered, the "ladder of wagers" could apply to social interactions or other challenges.  The idea is that heroic acts merit heroic consequences, good or ill.  The player can safeguard the character by limiting the stakes of the wager to what the player can bear or feels is appropriate...at the cost of not being able to affect the ongoing "story" as meaningfully.  So a character's dignity could be wagered as the result of a bar brawl, with defeat meaning tossed out into the street.  While facing an army at a bridge could mean a life wager with the player deciding that it was approrpiate to "go down swinging".

    Has this been done before?

Andrew
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2005, 08:40:39 PM »

Not that I know of, not in that form.

I don't quite get what you mean by "bonus or positive shift."  Can you explain?  Do you mean that the character is more likely to cross the pit if they risk their life doing so than if they are only risking their dignity?
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Elliott Belser
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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2005, 08:43:39 PM »

Maybe each gamble could give you additional dice on the roll?
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2005, 08:45:36 PM »

Trollbabe by Ron Edwards, does exactly that, and well.

I recommend it.

yrs--
--Ben
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Arpie
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Posts: 83


« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2005, 11:19:20 PM »

You know, you might be able to do that much more simply by just counting up consequences. Treating each bad thing that might happen as an individual event*, rather than a numeric modifier.

* That leaves some kind of practical scar or imposes a specific game penalty.
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Samarkand
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« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2005, 04:32:17 AM »

Not that I know of, not in that form.

I don't quite get what you mean by "bonus or positive shift."  Can you explain?  Do you mean that the character is more likely to cross the pit if they risk their life doing so than if they are only risking their dignity?

   The usual sort of modifier--a "plus" die to the FUDGE roll, numerical modifier, etc.  The more you risk, the more you can try to positively influence the Fortune involved in deciding a particular task.  The wager doesn't have effects on a successful result, unless one wishes to apply a "degree of success" rule.  It only affects what the character risks losing if the task fails.  Low wagers in, say, combat mean the character is forced to retreat.  Greater wagers would mean wounds, capture, or death.

Andrew
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2005, 04:38:47 AM »

I must second Ben's recommendation of Trollbabe. It has influenced my own game, With Great Power...

In WGP, a player will set up a scene (for example, "I want to show my superhero on a date with his girlfriend"), and then plays it out a bit (girlfriend player says: "Why are you always sneaking off somewhere? Are you hiding something from me?"). Once the scene reaches a point where a decision must be reached, each side decides their Stakes: how they want the scene to end. The player defines his Stakes first (player says: "If I win, I want her to accept my lie that my dayjob is very demanding and requires me to be on call."). In response to that, the GM defines her Stakes as being what will happen in addition to the simple fact of the player not winning his Stakes (GM says: "If I win, not only does she not believe your lie, she accuses you of cheating on her and storms right out of the restaurant.").

After that, the player and GM each select one card from their hand and compare them. The higher-ranked card wins their Stakes, but the lower-ranked card gets both cards. So there's tension in the decision of what card to play. Playing high now means a greater chance of winning this scene. Playing low now means a stronger hand later. After the Stakes are determined, they play out the rest of the scene to make those Stakes happen.

While the GM does state the consequences of failure, the player's input is very high. FIrst, by setting up the scene, the player chooses what types of things are acceptable (i.e., the player didn't set this scene in a superhero brawl, so the GM would probably be out of line having a villain burst into the restaurant). Secondly, the player's Stakes are the starting point for the GM's Stakes. Thirdly, there's a step in the game called "Pencilling" where everyone at the table is encouraged to make suggestions. This applies for GM Stakes as well. Many of my best Stakes were suggested to me by the player involved.

So, yes, this kind of thing can certainly be done. In more traditional games, both James Bond 007 and original 7th Sea had rules where accepting higher difficulties produced bonuses to effect. But that's not quite the same as accepting more danger.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2005, 05:08:20 AM »

Guys, seriously, you need to be reading Trollbabe before you carry this discussion any further.  It's a $10 PDF, and also happens to be amongst the best game written for playing with newbies, and furthermore one of the best games ever written, period.  Further, it covers all of the ground of this conversation in a whole lot more depth and clarity -- the sort that you get from design and playtesting.

It's an excellent discussion to be having, and I'm sure that there's a ton of fruitful new discussion to be had in this topic.  But right now all you're going to do is thrash around discovering things that we've already worked out.

yrs--
--Ben
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TheTris
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Posts: 68


« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2005, 05:26:33 AM »

At the risk of ignoring that no doubt good advice :-)...

I had a similar idea recently, with a slight modifier:  In conflict, the size of the result you want determines the stake you place.  for instance "I hold off the troll as long as I can" might risk a minor wound.  "I convince the king the vizier is evil and working to destroy the kingdom" would have to stake a major or fatal wound (not necessarily physical).

So rather than increased stake making something easier, increased stake makes your effects bigger.  The dramatic consequences are balanced for each action - and characters only die at the dramatic climax of a story.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2005, 09:39:03 AM »

Andrew, one crucial element to how that system would work out in practice is whether or not the target that the player is shooting for is public or secret.  Does the GM say, "Okay, beat 15" or does the GM say, "Nope, you didn't beat my secret number yet."  Additionally, whether the player risks things before rolling, or can add on risk after the initial roll will also determine whether this is the player throwing dice against a black box or gambling against a target he can see and accurately guage his chances of success.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2005, 07:30:38 PM »

   I've been reading a bit about the issue of character death--how "one bad roll" can kill a character  either because the PC is too weak at a given ability level, or the capriciousness of Fortune conspire against it.  There are the usual solutions--Falkenstein's "no character may be killed except deliberately", fudging the results of die-roles, etc.  All this predicates on the GM setting both the difficulty of the task and the consequences of failure.
Player protagonisation changes the situation dramatically. Instead of "One bad roll kills my character, that sucks!" it becomes "I choose to risk my characters life on this one roll, because X is so important", where X could be a narrativist or gamist investment.

If you take that option as a way of solving the problem, then you need to support the choice. First, the more the player knows about the conflict, the more likely he will feel informed enough to make a choice. So, if the GM decides how difficult the chasm jump is, he needs to determine that in advance and inform the player.
Grumpy side note: I say this as I've finally realised why I don't like GM's with unlimited resources...you don't know how much they will bring to bare. And as a player, controlling how much resources the GM uses by the social feedback/esteem given simply undercuts your claim that your facing a risk, as your exerting influence on the resources that supply the risk.

Second, there needs to be plenty of opportunities, because the player may simply say no to alot of them. If they can't say no to something, then they don't have a choice. So the game can't stop at the chasm...there have to be other opportunities present, or otherwise the player is merely being forced to make the jump.
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