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Author Topic: [DitV] I can't kill characters  (Read 6723 times)
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2005, 08:13:47 AM »

Fallout conflict in Dogs is a little bit different from most conflict in Dogs.

Difference 1: The stakes are already set: does this character die or not?

Difference 2: The GM always takes the side of death, the player (or players, if there's a PC healer involved) always takes the side of life.

Observation: The player can give right away if he wants to die; end of conflict.

Observation: If either the player and the GM think there ought to be a conflict to decide the death of the character, than that desire dictates that there will be a conflict.

Observation: If the player wants his character to live and the GM wants the character to live, and no-one thinks there ought to be a conflict, the GM can give, and then the character will recover with medical attention.

Observation: If the player wants his character to live and the GM wants the character to die, then you once again resort to the conflict mechanisms to decide things.

There are all sorts of reasons you might want or not want any of these options. Observation 2 means than when Daniel's in a game, you always roll when his character's taken fallout, because he likes those things to get resolved that way.Observation 3 means that when I'm in a game with newbies, I'm within my rights to cut them some slack if I don't think they understood the full consequences of their decisions. Or if I'm in a game with experienced players, and we suddenly realize there's a way better thing that could happen than the character dying here - we think - we're within our rights to punt.

A final Observation: Any time you take gun fallout, there is at least a 2.8% chance that your character will die straight up, on the 20. So the chance of dying without recourse to the medical attention conflict is always there when the guns come out, and nothing anyone can do about it. This means that the decision to escalate to guns is always meaningful in the character-staking sense, even if you're in a game with a GM and other players who are pretty casual about giving on medical attention conflicts.
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2005, 08:19:36 AM »

two quick edits and then I'll leave the field to others:

- the first observation is a little weird to me: the GM could say, "no, I give, you live!" I guess then we need to resort to high pair to determine initiative, winner gives first, I guess. I have trouble imagining things going this way outside of a screwed social situation, but I'm trying to figure the rules here.

- the fifth observation should say 'the decision to take gun fallout' rather than 'the decision to escalate to guns'.
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Josh Roby
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Posts: 1055

Category Three Forgite


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« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2005, 09:24:24 AM »

(Maybe we should hold the horses till Adam posts again.)
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


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« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2005, 09:25:08 AM »

I think these are probably valid observations. As a GM, though, I'm not sure I'd ever want to Give in a life and death situation. The player wanted to risk the character's life. That's why they didn't Give in the conflict that started this all. The player said in explicit, mechanical terms, "I want to risk my character's life on this issue."
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Brand_Robins
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Posts: 650


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« Reply #19 on: December 12, 2005, 09:38:52 AM »

(Maybe we should hold the horses till Adam posts again.)

Second.
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- Brand Robins
Adam Cerling
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Posts: 159

WhiteRat


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« Reply #20 on: December 12, 2005, 05:45:49 PM »

Wow! Lookit all the feedback. Thank you all. I'll answer those points that provoke me the most.

Brand (and Judd, making the same first point) --

Quote
2. You don't kill characters, players kill their characters.

I thought I understood this, going in. It's good to see it restated. I was feeling more responsibility than I had.

I did remind them repeatedly that they could give. The girl who only took 3d10 Fallout? During the conflict she gave halfway through, rather than take even more.


So Brand, Kintara, Frank, Marco --

You are all right. Much can be laid at the feet of inexperience with this system. Next time, we will know better what d10s of Fallout mean.


Back to Brand --

Quote
4. Groups that aren't about the hard choices and hard consequences may not like Dogs.

We loved it. I knew we'd love it. We're all about the Story Now. Perhaps for that very reason we've never much had to address the question of System-enforced character death: for years we've avoided it with Illusionism, while playing otherwise Vanilla Narrativism.

Quote
5. Have you ever played Everway? Or read the articles about fortune/karma/drama and their use as resolution mechanics? Under that kind of setup, when would you be willing (comfortable) killing characters?

Yes, I played Everway with this very group. I never read the rulebook, however. Another of our number was the all-knowledgeable GM. I don't recall using the Fortune systems -- just Karma and Drama. Unless drawing Tarot cards was the Fortune part?

You are right that I feel a mistrust for the dice.

*To me, the difference feels enormous between "this is worth a 2.8% chance of my Dog dying" and "this is worth my Dog dying." I would have no problem whatsoever with a player opting for the latter.

*But the former, the chance: it feels too easy to gamble like that without really meaning it. Once the player loses the gamble, how can I not say: "Did you really mean that? We [the group, by consensus] have the power to undo it, you know." Anything less seems almost cruel.


James --

Quote
However, the one thing he didn't say, I'm going to: Can you post the town and the run through the Dogs gave it, even in abbreviated form?  I really want to see the town that left 5 Dogs bleeding on the floor!

I'll start a thread on it in more detail later, but for now let's say it involved:

1. A man abusing his family in terrible ways;
2. A Steward who had been trying unsuccessfully for years to correct the problem peacefully;
3. And a firebrand who wanted to solve it with violence, whose wife was spreading gossip to help justify such a solution.

As for how the Dogs handled it: It is remarkable how art imitates life.


Chris --

I understand the dangers of irresponsible GM fiat. In order to undo a death, I'd have to get the whole group on board. The problem is that I just wouldn't be able to be impartial about it.

*It is hard for me to understand how a functional group can tell one of its own "no, it doesn't matter that you still want to play this character, we won't let you anymore."


Calithena, Lance, Coffeestain, Joshua --

It happened that I did Give one of the healing conflicts outright. Another player had taken only 3d10 Fallout: adding in Demonic Influence, I rolled utter crap on 6d10. He didn't even have to bring in any additional dice to survive.

It was actually pretty funny: The King of Life says, "You done yet?" and he goes "Nope." So the King's all, "Aiight then." Bam! He's healed.

But overall I had the clear impression from the text that I was not supposed to just give, at least not without making it hard for the characters. "Escalate, escalate, escalate," says the book. And with all the dice out on the table, the players know if you're going easy on them.


Thanks all for your feedback!

I am most interested in discussion continuing on the ideas I marked with a * above, although maybe there's nothing to talk about but my quirky hangups. This doesn't feel like a mere Creative Agenda clash to me: it feels like I have a particular Social Agenda that this crazy Dogs episode did a great job of revealing.
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
Brand_Robins
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« Reply #21 on: December 12, 2005, 07:23:34 PM »

*To me, the difference feels enormous between "this is worth a 2.8% chance of my Dog dying" and "this is worth my Dog dying." I would have no problem whatsoever with a player opting for the latter.

*But the former, the chance: it feels too easy to gamble like that without really meaning it. Once the player loses the gamble, how can I not say: "Did you really mean that? We [the group, by consensus] have the power to undo it, you know." Anything less seems almost cruel.

Actually, I can understand this. Mo (my wife and most frequent player) has this same issue. If she is ready to lay things down, she is ready to lay things down. But things that require her to gamble with it, one way or the other, drive her nuts. In fact she shows a preference away from Fortune mechanics in general. Ironically she likes Dogs a lot though, so I'm not fully sure what to make of that. (Other than that cream always rises).

If you look at my replies on this thread you'll see an example of what I mean. In that situation my wife lost her character in a brutal, traumatic way and didn't have a problem with it. Of course, she also didn't roll to live or die. She just let it happen. The only part she wasn't happy with is that she couldn't save her worst enemy, which is something she rolled for. And it wasn't even that she wasn't happy with the result, it was that she was unhappy with the gambling aspect of it. I think she wanted to say something with it, one way or the other, and felt like the point at which she was rolling was letting the dice, rather than her, have the say of it.
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- Brand Robins
Frank T
Guest
« Reply #22 on: December 13, 2005, 12:58:40 AM »

Aside:

As a GM, though, I'm not sure I'd ever want to Give in a life and death situation. The player wanted to risk the character's life. That's why they didn't Give in the conflict that started this all. The player said in explicit, mechanical terms, "I want to risk my character's life on this issue."

It never stops wondering me how fundamentalist people tend to get round here, and how much Meaning they tend to read into one tiny ephemera. Fine if it works for you, though.

- Frank
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #23 on: December 13, 2005, 06:18:42 AM »

What's even stranger though, Frank, is that people are less fundamentalist about that kind of stuff around here than almost anywhere else in the RP world, in general.

So this:

Quote
*It is hard for me to understand how a functional group can tell one of its own "no, it doesn't matter that you still want to play this character, we won't let you anymore."

This is definitely a personal preference thing.

People really hate losing at basketball too, but when the ball goes through the rim that last time, and you have fewer points, well, that's the end. You lost.

It's a game? Character investment is different for different people?

Here's the thing. The group might have something invested in death as part of play. In old-school gamist play it's a form of failure, but it doesn't even have to be that: maybe you're trying to play a sort of blood opera game, or just a big, epic sweep Game of Thrones kind of game where it's important that lots of protagonists die en route to resolution. That's the feel you want for your story.

So you decide to adjudicate that randomly.

It sucks when authors kill your favorite characters in the middle of books, too, but I don't stop reading if the book is otherwise good when that happens.

Am I missing something here? A player says "my story isn't over". The GM and the rest of the group say "yes, it is, we're playing with these rules and the dice said it's over. Suck it up, you can make a new character and get back in ASAP."

I realize this is misery-inducing for lots of people, and that there are a lot of gamers who would rather play it your way. I'm just saying there are also a lot of gamers who are fine with it if a character they weren't 'done with' dies. Even if they're heavily invested in the character. All this is going on in our imagination, remember. It's not like any actual human beings were killed by the outcome of this game.
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lumpley
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« Reply #24 on: December 13, 2005, 07:35:22 AM »

I have a practical take and a personal vision.

Practical take: Part of what you must do in the first two three sessions you play is work this stuff out with your group. "How lenient do I be in those medical aid conflicts?" fits right in with "what counts as a good raise?" and "how much supernatural?"

As such, give or don't give, and be prepared to do the opposite next time, nothing to worry about.

Personal vision: I do not believe that a player's ownership of her own character is sacrosanct. Some schools of thought about RPGs consider it fundamental; not me. When you play Dogs, you volunteer you character to be changed, totally beyond and outside of your own control. People's emphasis above this post on "if a character dies, it's because the player chose it" is misguided, I think; instead I'd say "if you want to hold your character as she is, don't play her."

If you want to hold your character as she is, don't play her.

Dogs very concretely and in very specific ways takes away your control of what happens to your character and who your character becomes. Death is the most dramatic example, that's all. It might be that you'd have this reaction to the game even if no character's life had been at stake.

I'm glad this thread exists! Thank you, Adam.

-Vincent
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


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« Reply #25 on: December 13, 2005, 10:34:10 AM »

As a GM, though, I'm not sure I'd ever want to Give in a life and death situation. The player wanted to risk the character's life. That's why they didn't Give in the conflict that started this all. The player said in explicit, mechanical terms, "I want to risk my character's life on this issue."

It never stops wondering me how fundamentalist people tend to get round here, and how much Meaning they tend to read into one tiny ephemera. Fine if it works for you, though.

What's fundamentalist about this? I go into something wanting to have the crap beat out of my character and maybe kill him. I have a way to do that. If I don't want to do that, I don't have to.

It's like racing cars without the danger of crashing: you get bored of having your foot on the floor all the time because you can't do anything dramatic.

You also break the game in some serious ways:  You're giving the GM power of life and death over the characters and You're making the game lose its thematic kick by making it no longer be about choices about violence and its consequences.

You can solve both by saying to the players, "If you want to live, I'll give." after the dice are down. That way, they get to say something both ways, and without breaking the rules.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Frank T
Guest
« Reply #26 on: December 13, 2005, 11:42:46 AM »

Hey Joshua,

I'm not sure if we're still on topic for this thread, so Adam, please feel free to cut this discussion at any time.

Fundamentalism is "the interpretation of every word in the sacred texts as literal truth". (Source: dictionary.com).

There must always be meaningful choices. There must always be statements and theme. Any mechanically enforced decision in the game must relate to the underlying issues. As the GM, you must strictly enforce the Narrativist agenda at all times. The consequences of any action must be pushed through without mercy lest deprotagonization occur (which the Good Lord forbid).

I am speaking figuratively, of course. But there is an attitude round here of making actual play fit the theory to the last ephemera. It's not your conclusions, it's your assumptions. As I said, fine if it works for you.

- Frank
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Adam Cerling
Member

Posts: 159

WhiteRat


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« Reply #27 on: December 13, 2005, 06:06:08 PM »

Brand --

That actual play report sounds cool and powerful. I bet I'd enjoy the kind of play Mo brings to the table.

Sean --

You're right about it being a matter of personal and group preference. I suppose that the situation I'm thinking of is an inherently dysfunctional one: it's where most of the players are committed to this whole "dice determine death" thing, and one player isn't -- but that player doesn't realize it.

Character death is distinctive. You can talk about it, but you cannot experience it up-front. You can only encounter it well into play. It's a time-bomb of dysfunction. It cannot be prevented unless each player really knows himself well. What do you do when the time bomb goes off, and it's nobody's fault, it's just that the player didn't know?

In this case of Dogs play, we mostly had players who didn't know from the system what they were getting into -- but we also had one newbie roleplayer. Fortunately, I don't think my group is committed to "dice determine death:" if real unhappiness had occurred, I think we would have done all we could to change things for the unhappy player. And that feels pretty functional to me.

Vincent --

Thanks for the excellent commentary. This in particular is challenging:

Quote
If you want to hold your character as she is, don't play her.

I think there's a question of degree here that's important.

I don't want to hold a character as she is. Watching her change in ways both planned and unplanned -- that's where the fun's at! You say Dogs takes away your control of what happens, but after this session my players remarked on exactly the opposite: Fallout in Dogs offers you incredible control over your character's growth.

Change is a spectrum, though, and mechanically-determined death is an extreme. This Dogs session re-exposed me to it after a long time away, and I discovered that despite all the excellence of the Dogs system, when it cranked the Change dial up to death I suffered the same discomfort I remembered from watching friends' characters die in other games.

Part of the shock, I think, was having that feeling happen while I was in the GM seat.

Anyhow, I think there's a dial here that my group can set if death really upsets us. I read a thread in the Lumpley forum a while back about a Dogs group that saw a character die in one episode -- and the next episode the character was alive again with no explanation. Playing the game like that -- non-linear, a bit surreal -- could be a lot of fun as well. Maybe the game ends after everyone has died once.

Joshua and Frank --

Feel free to spin off another thread if you like, linking back to this one to discuss the Actual Play from another angle. I did approach this game with a more "fundamentalist" approach than any I'd run before. "System does matter," right? I'm not supposed to change the rules if I want Dogs to be as cool and powerful as I read about online.[/naivete]
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
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