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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 140 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Zhang Zhung: Drama bonus without narrative fatigue  (Read 4667 times)
Chad
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« on: January 10, 2006, 04:38:51 AM »

Hi there,

Zhang Zhung is a wuxia flavoured pulp-fantasy rpg – cinematic style is important to the narration of a characters actions. I am looking for a way in which narrative embellishment can be encouraged, by increasing the effectiveness of the action described. Yet I don’t want it to rely on it too heavily (like say wushu) to avoid narrative fatigue.

To quickly recap how it works: At the beginning of a conflict, a pool of Yin and Yang dice are rolled, derived from a relevant PC Stat which consists of: an aptitude score as well as a balance of Yin and Yang dice which not only determines the balance of the pool but also the style of the Stat. Conflicts are assigned a polarity (Yin or yang) by the GM and players, based on the scenes nature. Dice are rolled and moves are generated: Yin, Yang and Dual. Dice are used to narrate moves, and to avert such narrations by using the apposing polarities dice. If you have the dice and there is inadequate opposition (in the form of events or NPCs) it happens exactly as described. A slightly more detailed rules discussion is here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18263.0 if that makes no sense.

I want to introduce a dramatic bonus mechanism to encourage wuxia action. I also want to do this so the forgone conclusions of a bad roll  can be mitigated by good role-play, or even just -play. The dice should structure the conflict but shouldn't lead to determinism. I also want to avoid narrative fatigue and I want it to be cool. Not easy.

So I am going to throw out ideas, and would like them banged into shape - or maybe possibly suggestions if you have any.

The Action pool:

The Action pool is comprised if a limited number of Dual dice (2 per player), and is shared by the group. A die is drawn from the pool if the players move is cinematic, cool or creative. The die may be rolled and added to the current moves total or may be kept for later moves. However when the pool reaches 0 - more dice may be drawn from the pool into the negative. These ‘negative’ dice are special, apart from being rolled and added to moves – they are used to improve Stat’s as well as traits. i.e. Characters utilize Action dice for advancement. The pool is refreshed at the beginning of a session.

The Flat +1 or +2 bonus:

This would up the total of the move being narrated by 1, or 2 no rolling. A bit predictable, and in my experience players don't bother.

or

x2 the value of the move :- probably too powerful. Success then rests almost entirely on a stream of embellishment, exhausting.
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2006, 11:00:04 AM »

I want to introduce a dramatic bonus mechanism to encourage wuxia action. I also want to do this so the forgone conclusions of a bad roll  can be mitigated by good role-play, or even just -play. The dice should structure the conflict but shouldn't lead to determinism.
So, like, here's a problem, "dice rolls can create reults nobody wants", and you seem to be suggesting that the way you want to avoid this is biasing the dice system so that the unwanted results occur less often. Is that correct?

If so, well, that's another problem. This may seem either bizarre or insultingly obvious, but nonetheless, have you considered first ensuring that all the possible outcomes are interesting to people, before having the dice select between them?

There is also the related problem of selection - who chooses what's good enough to get a stunt bonus? Are you clueing them in with any criteria? I find that games with working stunt systems are powered by one of two things: strong criteria sets (Exalted) or buttering up the GM (The Pool).

In the first case, you get a bonus die for caring enough to describe your action engagingly, another one if you incorporate the environment, and a third if the table reacts to your description with strong approval. This is pretty strongly structured, and the result is that players know exactly what they need to do if they want to earn those bonus dice. It puts them in a very strong position.

In the second case, there is exactly one cue: the GM's approval. This is a condition that requires more energy to be able to use effectively, and in The Pool specifically, I've seen the GM use his bonus dice to bias the result toward what he wants, without actually considering the player's narration.

Quote
I also want to avoid narrative fatigue and I want it to be cool. Not easy.
Here's another thing... have you, in actual play, experienced this fatigue thing? I'm not sure it exists. If so, tell us about it.
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Chad
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2006, 11:40:23 AM »

Hi Shreyas,

Thanks for your response its made me think about it a bit more carefully. With a bad roll I mean, in terms this system - a roll that doesn't leave players with many options leading them to a set conclusion, and so doing discouraging them to continue with the conflict. As they are rolling to generate moves at the beginning of a conflict, so as to supply them with with fuel to deal the conflict and with fewer moves they are obviously disadvantaged - they can do less. I don't want them to feel "Oh I only have two Yang, whats the point" rather, they should be trying to think of a fun way kung fu their way out of it. I want to give them more options to play, despite a bad roll. The dice should really just be the fuel to help structure the conflict, ideally. Perhaps you could say I want to bias the system so they can use unwanted results to be more creative?

In terms of the stunt bonus it would be anything thematically appropriate and entertaining, the bonus is moderated by the player himself - if he thinks it was cool he picks up a dice (or whatever) I finds this motivates descriptive play more, as the players are ultimately their own judge.  So I think it would fit into your first category of "caring enough to describe the action engagingly" I suppose, although that sounds somewhat pejorative.

And yes, I have definitely experienced the fatigue thing playing Wushu. It wasn't sustainable, not for more than a few sessions anyway - not in my group. Despite that when I first discovered Wushu I thought "this is it!!" only to find my group was growing weary of it very quickly. I feel it holds the key for the kinds of rpg experience I really enjoy.
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2006, 12:52:29 PM »

Perhaps you could say I want to bias the system so they can use unwanted results to be more creative?
Okay, this is something you can definitely work with.

Hm. How's this roll work?Maybe you can add in a mechanic that, say, lets you turn failed dice into temporary traits for that scene (which restores your mechanical competence), but the traits are expressed as disadvantages or complications, like "They Kidnapped My Girl 2" or "I Hate Clowns 1 (in response to a clown attack)". That way, the player gets a chance to express his coolness by adding something to the game that not only makes him more effective in that conflict, but also retains the "I rolled poorly on that initial test thingy" meaning.

Quote
In terms of the stunt bonus it would be anything thematically appropriate and entertaining, the bonus is moderated by the player himself - if he thinks it was cool he picks up a dice (or whatever) I finds this motivates descriptive play more, as the players are ultimately their own judge.  So I think it would fit into your first category of "caring enough to describe the action engagingly" I suppose, although that sounds somewhat pejorative.
It wasn't my intention for it to sound like that! That sounds like a fine way to handle the bonus (in a group with a stable social contract), but I'd suggest that you accompany it with a generous amount of suggestions for making your action cool.

Quote
And yes, I have definitely experienced the fatigue thing playing Wushu. It wasn't sustainable, not for more than a few sessions anyway - not in my group. Despite that when I first discovered Wushu I thought "this is it!!" only to find my group was growing weary of it very quickly. I feel it holds the key for the kinds of rpg experience I really enjoy.
So, the thing I've found with Wushu is that it's very difficult to stunt TO THE LIMIT constantly, without continually picking up cues from the other players. Like, if you're gangsters who rolled up to a casino in Vespas (because you're in Europe) to knock it over, and you get in a fight, maybe you smack someone in the head with an ice sculpture shaped like a motorcycle - because you remember that someone else used motorcycles earlier in the game, and it was cool.
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2006, 04:36:39 PM »

Quote
Perhaps you could say I want to bias the system so they can use unwanted results to be more creative?

So, Yin and Yang is very structured in terms of element balance - or at least element distribution.
This narrative bonus is intended to throw off that element balance.

Is that correct?

Envisioning that in my head, I really think that'd be cool. And because you only have so many "unwated results" you want to change, the fatigue is avoided in that the drama bonus can only be enacted X many times - because there are only X many unwanted die rolls.

At least, how I envision it.


Quote
In terms of the stunt bonus it would be anything thematically appropriate and entertaining, the bonus is moderated by the player himself - if he thinks it was cool he picks up a dice (or whatever) I finds this motivates descriptive play more, as the players are ultimately their own judge.

I've never seen that type of self-moderation before, firsthand, so I want to ask a bit about it:
-Do the GM and other players have input on whether the drama bonus is given?
-Do players ever/usually abuse this power?

Quote
Maybe you can add in a mechanic that, say, lets you turn failed dice into temporary traits for that scene (which restores your mechanical competence), but the traits are expressed as disadvantages or complications, like "They Kidnapped My Girl 2" or "I Hate Clowns 1 (in response to a clown attack)". That way, the player gets a chance to express his coolness by adding something to the game that not only makes him more effective in that conflict, but also retains the "I rolled poorly on that initial test thingy" meaning.

I like the idea that there is a cinematic bonus, rather than a "temporary addition to the traits".

But that's just me personally.
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Chad
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« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2006, 01:24:22 AM »

Hm. How's this roll work?Maybe you can add in a mechanic that, say, lets you turn failed dice into temporary traits for that scene (which restores your mechanical competence), but the traits are expressed as disadvantages or complications, like "They Kidnapped My Girl 2" or "I Hate Clowns 1 (in response to a clown attack)". That way, the player gets a chance to express his coolness by adding something to the game that not only makes him more effective in that conflict, but also retains the "I rolled poorly on that initial test thingy" meaning.

Oh I really like the sound of that! that would solve a problem I have been having with this system. What does a player do when he rolls 0 Yang or Yin? Surely they cant just stand there during the conflict. Its brilliant, it will actually develop the character as well as solve that, rather gaping hole in my systems logic.


So, Yin and Yang is very structured in terms of element balance - or at least element distribution.
This narrative bonus is intended to throw off that element balance.

Is that correct?

Exactly right.

Envisioning that in my head, I really think that'd be cool. And because you only have so many "unwated results" you want to change, the fatigue is avoided in that the drama bonus can only be enacted X many times - because there are only X many unwanted die rolls.

At least, how I envision it.

That is uber cool, and really perfect for maintaining that balance and what's more as I see it Shreyas' mechanic would only activate when either 0] Yin or 0 Yang is rolled, so the two ideas aren't at odds at all. The cinematic bonus would utilize up to the max non-results dice. I like it.


I've never seen that type of self-moderation before, firsthand, so I want to ask a bit about it:
-Do the GM and other players have input on whether the drama bonus is given?
-Do players ever/usually abuse this power?

I would say yeah they do have input into the bonus, although in my group it didn't seem to come up. So similar to Wushu there should be a veto rule, I think.
They didn't abuse the power at all, but we have a fairly solid social contract and understanding of what is fun for the game, and we didn't play Wushu for more than a few sessions so it might not have had time to rear its head. So I don't think I should base my judgement about it solely on that.

Wow, thanks guys those are some great ideas. I will have test run and see what comes out of it.

Best,
Chad
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2006, 11:48:05 AM »

Quote
I would say yeah they do have input into the bonus, although in my group it didn't seem to come up. So similar to Wushu there should be a veto rule, I think.
They didn't abuse the power at all, but we have a fairly solid social contract and understanding of what is fun for the game, and we didn't play Wushu for more than a few sessions so it might not have had time to rear its head. So I don't think I should base my judgement about it solely on that.

I know that if I brought this game to my group, they'd try to exploit the self-moderation.

Maybe the player has to run their "bonus" by the GM? Just narrate everything, say "ok?"

Or maybe that won't be an issue. maybe my players are just crooks in comparison to the rest of the world.
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Chad
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« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2006, 11:30:48 PM »

Hi Joepub and Sheryas,

In my test its been a rather fluid thing where the players pick up dice as they describe, so it worked well. Having said that, they are trained and know how I work (Except for Laurence who every so often tries to jig the pig based on his mood - but we ignore him). I think some sense of agreement would be important, terms of the bonus dice, however that is managed by the social contract - do you think I should be specific about that arrangement in the rules text?

What I particularly like about your idea for using the discarded dice from the pool is that, it becomes quite hard to abuse it anyway as they can only milk dice up the maximum polarity dice which are being used to act out, which on average will be 2-3. I think the problem comes in with, how does the GM apply this rule. Only for big characters, or not at all? The PC's in The Way to Zhang Zhung are rather heroic so they should really get the spotlight. I wouldn't want the GM to have to be set up as overt opposition in terms of the Drama device. Perhaps he should have a set pool of extra dice he can roll to this end? maybe he has villain points that the players award him?

I have been toying with that idea, that players should award the GM stuff too. Or perhaps trade with him, you know dice for villain points, or plot twist, that kind of thing.

Shreyas suggestion for the additional complication trait (which i use for a conflict which comes up 0 Yin or 0 Yang) works really well. It makes the gaping whole in my design logic seem like a carefully thought out addition to the system!

What I am also considering at this point is whether that complication trait should award the GM dice too when it is used, or even, if  it should only award the GM dice when it comes into play. although it seems like a punishment mechanic and I really like that a bad roll could be an opportunity for growth.

Shreyas, did you invision the complication to offer an advantage in terms of dice as well as a disadvantage? Or purely as disadvantage?

Best,
Chad
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2006, 12:49:32 AM »

Shreyas, did you invision the complication to offer an advantage in terms of dice as well as a disadvantage? Or purely as disadvantage?
What I was suggesting is that the complication is represented as a Trait for the character that earns it; conculting your older thread, I think you might express it as Dual dice.

So, what that means is that descriptively it makes life more difficult or complicated for the character, but mechanically it gives the player more dice with which to win the conflict - if he wants to submit to the complication.
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