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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 109 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Domus] The Colour of Verbal Diarrhea  (Read 2774 times)
Darcy Burgess

Posts: 476

« on: December 29, 2005, 08:15:00 PM »

yeah, yeah.  EWWWWWWWW.....but you clicked on it, didn't you?

I'm starting this thread to bat the ball around regarding an interesting behaviour I witnessed during a playtest of Domus.

While you're reading this thread, you may want to check out its sister thread over in Game Design -- that's where I'm addressing the "solution" (whatever that means) to the behaviour.  However, for the purposes of this thread, I don't want to make value judgements on the behaviour -- I'd like to constrain discussion to the behaviour and its (potential) cause(s).

As a background, Domus uses as pretty straightforward structure (==> means "leads to"):
Situation ==> Conflict ==> Stakes ==> Resolution ==> Narration of Outcome

1. The behaviour
During declaration of action (which happens during the "resolution" portion of the flowchart), players tended to engage in verbal diarrhea in an attempt to garner as many mechanical bonuses as possible.

2. The obvious culprit
The mechanic that rewards players for incorporating more of the character's traits into their declaration.

3. The Evil Mastermind
The fact that the reward mechanic essentially rewards inclusion of colour -- not in the sense that character traits are strictly colour, but because by the time the traits are incorporated, situation is established and stakes are set.

So, what I'm proposing is this: Item 1 is a fact.  Item 2 is the "easy" truth, something that you'd assume to be true on a cursory glance.  However is item 3 the real impetus for the behaviour -- the power behind the culprit, as it were...


Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.
Darcy Burgess

Posts: 476

« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2005, 10:49:27 AM »

I just realized that I skipped a big piece of valuable info: some of the stuff that happened during play.  D'oh.

I decided to make this a full-bore playtest, no pregenerated characters (the game could work with pregens, in theory, but I wanted to see how the chargen mechanics worked, as well as the post-chargen mechanics).

My playtesters were Glenn and Tymen, and I got them to read through sections 1 & 2 (setting and the most important rule, respectively) while I finished gulping down dinner.

Domus doesn't have a fiddly chargen system -- it can be summarized in about five lines.  However, I was surprised to see how long it took.  To be fair, Glenn and Ty both have reps for overthinking characters.  So, I shouldn't have been surprised when I asked them to "just pick a culture that you think is cool" and we settled into a good 15 minutes of them thinking and me constantly prodding them to brainstorm with me.  Ty spoke up first, claiming Celts.  Glenn followed shortly with Vikings.  I pointed out to Ty that I happen to know next to nothing about Celts, so he'd have to educate me (as it turned out, this was a great technique to help him define his traits for later on...)

Then, they tweaked their cultures.  Ty's Celts "lived in trees".  Not like ewoks (what I said), but by actually manipulating and twisting them -- sort of like bonsai, but on a grander scale.  This tied in nicely with the culture's innate shamanistic tendencies.  Glenn went a different route -- he just put his Vikings in Egypt.  My initial reaction (internal, of course) was "weak!"  Then, I thought about it again -- how fucking cool are a bunch of sun-god-worshipping vikings with a real economic base?  That's right bucko -- these guys have a wicked good agrarian economy and they like raiding & pillaging....

Names were next.  Fallon the Treecelt, and Lars Horushand the sandy Viking (I helped on that one -- too many years of naming Norse BloodBowl teams, I'm afraid...).

Beliefs and Symbols were next.  Beliefs are things that your culture has strong feelings about, and symbols are just equipment (however, they should embody a belief to some degree).  This is just made up from whole cloth, and probably took the longest.  Beliefs seemed to be trickier than Symbols, although having to explain to me what the hell Celts were seemed to help Ty out.

Beliefs: Bard, Bloodthirsty, Honour, Individualism, Sacrifice, Shamanism
Symbols: Pan Flute, Wooden Sword, Wooden Shield w/ Symbol, Torc (metal necklace, apparently) w/ Symbol, Sickle, Leafy Cloak (alive!)

Beliefs: Courage, Cyclism (ie: tides, day/night), Destiny, Learning, Manifest Destiny, Reverence
Symbols: Broadsword, Vial of Nile Water, Amulet (Balances), the Scrolls of Thoth, the Prophecies of Njal Rasen, Pharaoh's Scarab

I got Glenn to elucidate on some of his "bookish" things -- the scrolls were basically a portable library while the prophecies were a sacred writing that talked about how his people would one day cover the earth.

The last thing was working up some grist for the prophecy mill.  Everyone (me too!) wrote out a bunch of really, really overwrought prophecies.  Things like "Into each generation, a slayer is born."  We then pull all the meaty words out, and come up with this list:

Fall, Sun, Rise, People, Free, Hand, Chaos, Wrack, Passion, Overthrow, Beast, Moment, Last, Saviour, Strike, Dawn, Curse, Doom, Oblivion, Fell, Red

Fallon takes "Saviour" as his first prophetic Term (and fills its spot on the list with "Blood").  Glenn picks "Dawn" and adds "Zenith" (he wanted to add "noon", but I pointed out that Zenith was more "prophetic" and also a little more open-ended).

We look at each other -- we're all grinning.  This is good.

Act One
I decide (at random) to do Glenn's introductory scene first.  Lars has just finished five days of trials, one for each of his beliefs except Courage.  These trials are to prepare him for his great voyage to Domus.  We spitball back and forth, and it turns out the sandvikings are a pretty shammy lot -- just about every trial was rigged by the Pharaoh (his dad).  Lots of chanting and whatnot.  Now, we get to the last trial, Courage.  I set the situation as being that Lars has to walk to his awaiting boat.  Down a road lined with asps.

Glenn set his winning stakes as "giving the people hope", and I set the stakes as being "your crew won't be fooled -- they'll see that the asps have had their fangs pulled".

Glenn's opening bid was for Lars to taunt and dance away from the asps on his way to the boat.  My bid was that even though he was bitten, there was no blood.  He loses.  As victor, I get to narrate that as he dances through the crowd, they cheer him on.  But when he gets to the boat, he's greeted with sullen faces and a less than enthusiastic response to his order to shove off.

We then switched over to Fallon's rites of departure.  I had no idea about the sorts of things the Celts would do to bless a great warrior.  Glenn suggested that a typical rite was a ritual sacrifice that amounted to the victim being strangled and thrown into a peat bog.  So, we went with that.  I framed the scene, talked about the torchlight and the solemn reverence...blah blah blah.  Of course, Fallon would have to perform the rite himself.  Tymen narrated about stepping through the crowd towards the victim.  And then, I hit him from the blindside: it's his own sister.

Stakes: Give her a good death, worthy of legend.  Counterstakes: Crap.  I don't remember.  I think it may have had something to do with losing faith in himself.  Not sure.  Tymen bids by talking about his firm, steely grip.  I counterbid by flashing back to a similar sacrifice he and his sister witnessed years ago, and how it had gone horribly wrong.  It sets a tremor in his bones.  Ty beats me hands down, and gets to narrate how he snaps his sister's neck so she doesn't feel a thing.

There was some Payback floating around too -- both Glenn and Tymen Went Too Far, so I was nicely stoked to lay some beats down on them.

I've got some AP transcript for Act II as well, but I want to see how useful the Act I stuff is first.

Ty's bid is how he places his


Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.
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