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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 157 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [FoA] Red Prophet, Black Prophet: I'm what?  (Read 9073 times)
Jason Morningstar
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« on: January 17, 2006, 09:12:56 AM »

[fair warning, probably some hot button issues follow]

So we finished act III of our bizarro duellin' prophets of Islam Face of Angels game last night.  It began on the national scale, with one PC ensconced in an Oman exclave and the other building an Islamic state in the northeastern US.  We quickly escalated - I established a pan-Islamic caliphate stretching from the Western Sahara to Indonesia, and Remi seceded from the US, taking the northeast with him as the "Grey Caliphate".  At this point we were bitter rivals.  There were some truly epic conflicts - the sort that end with the mass conversion of the United States armed forces and the destruction of Washington DC by a "suitcase from Allah".  It was crazy.  Tank battles in Connecticut.  Remi's character going bananas, all fire and sword, while mine took a humble and peace-loving approach (the nukes were the consequence of a conflict I lost). 

The final conflict was, in contrast to the super-mega-giganto insanity we had authored, intensely personal.  I arranged an intercession to stop the war in North America.  By this point my character veiwed the site of his transformation, Groton Connecticut, as the New Mecca.  I wanted to control it, which meant helping Remi achieve an Islamic state and then kicking him out.  The American expeditionary army that had occupied Cairo, now faithful jihadis, were steaming home toward the US.  Our characters met in an underground bunker to discuss how to bring peace about.  We had a conflict, trumps were flying, and Remi did something interesting - there's a "secrets" mechanic in Face of Angels that allows you to reveal another PC's secret for advantage, which he used to win this intense person-to-person conflict.  The conflict was about the Red Prophet's no-longer-latent homosexuality (his secret, which I had not yet used), and whether the Black Prophet would return his embrace.

So the result was that I not only accepted his homosexuality, I also accepted my own - which, up until I lost the conflict, I did not know I had (I also got my wife, Princess Fatima, turned into a foe).  We had started as rivals, became as close as brothers, then bitter rivals again, and then, at the dawn of act IV, maybe lovers.  The Red Prophet's supertrump got played, and he changed his trump suit from clubs (violence) to hearts (compassion and love).  Which was utterly awesome.  So we're entering the final act not as enemies, not even as friends, but as a couple.  It is not what I would have predicted - it's a lot better. 

It was interesting to me, given recent discussion about character ownership out there in the blogosphere, to experience someone else authoring for my PC as the result of winning a conflict.  It was extremely cool. 
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Remi Treuer
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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2006, 11:44:07 AM »

One cool thing is that you stated, out of scene, your plans revolving Groton. This was early on, right after I had said, "One morning, tanks appear on the border of Connecticut." It was neat, because it absolutely was something Grey would know, but I didn't. This bit of knowledge , and the dominance struggle between us throughout the game, drove my crazy play in this session.

Another noteworthy thing that happened in this game is that we both established our respective Caliphates, but our stakes were never about whether or not they were founded, but rather about how secure our positions were. You won, and thus started out in a strong, peaceful condition. I lost, thus isolating me, forcing me to become even more violent, even more paranoid about your aims on my territory, and eventually forcing you into war against the US and setting the stage for our end game.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2006, 11:53:41 AM »

Here's what I found interesting, and it all revolves around character deconstruction:

Washington going up wasn't because Jason lost a conflict, although I know why he thinks that. It was because of the stakes bidding system, where I specified that if he wins, Washington goes up, and he accepts it. The conflict was over whether the US broke his caliphate or not, with the added bit that if he won, the US would be humbled.

The last scene - Remi didn't win until I helped. That is, Jason's character could have resisted, but I helped with Remi's super-trump, forcing his powers to go all nova and making him become the Prophet of Love. This was awesome - for me as the outside world character, I got to force something on one of the two characters in the conflict.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2006, 01:18:13 PM »

The last scene - Remi didn't win until I helped. That is, Jason's character could have resisted, but I helped with Remi's super-trump, forcing his powers to go all nova and making him become the Prophet of Love. This was awesome - for me as the outside world character, I got to force something on one of the two characters in the conflict.

Which had a cascading effect on my character, which was really cool.  So, outside the world, every player was changed by a force outside his control in that scene.  It's cool that the world got to be kingmaker in this case, and I'm glad, because my win condition was not as fun as my loss condition in that conflict.  That said, I've been trying to play very hard to get my way throughout and "win" as much as I can.  Y'all just teamed up and outfoxed me.
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2006, 02:23:02 PM »

Wow. I think I'm going to have to sign up for that FoA game going down on Sat at NC Gameday.  It seriously looks like a Donkey-Punch of roleplaying goodness. I'll be eagerly awaiting the rest.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2006, 11:38:20 AM »

Washington going up wasn't because Jason lost a conflict, although I know why he thinks that. It was because of the stakes bidding system, where I specified that if he wins, Washington goes up, and he accepts it. The conflict was over whether the US broke his caliphate or not, with the added bit that if he won, the US would be humbled.

The more I think about it the more interesting this is, because in play it means the formalized negotiation forces concessions - if you properly frame the stakes as being very, very unacceptable both win and lose, your opponent is still going to have to accept one of them anyway.  You're right, that's how Washington got nuked - I didn't like "and if I lose..." even more. 

Clinton, what happens when someone frames the stakes so aggressively unpleasant that leaving either win or lose intact is unsatisfying for them?  Is this just an issue of assholery and player trust? 

(I secretly enjoyed nuking DC)
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2006, 11:44:48 AM »

Clinton, what happens when someone frames the stakes so aggressively unpleasant that leaving either win or lose intact is unsatisfying for them?  Is this just an issue of assholery and player trust? 

(I secretly enjoyed nuking DC)

It's totally an issue of that. This is an issue I struggle with. I think because of the weird fakey nature of role-playing games (ok, I'll explain that below) it's nearly impossible to make something completely dick-proof. We can, however, make things structured enough that it's kind of dick-retardent, and then it's up to the user to avoid giant dickery. In TFOA, there are limits on the stakes, but by Act 3, if there's still a dick around, he can really get nasty.

Re: "fakey nature of role-playing games." I mean that there's these rules, but there's giant holes where people can do all sorts of stuff and we assume they won't. I'm talking about the idea that a GM in D&D can have three thousand ogres attack and the rules don't say he can't. In a more hippie game, like The Face of Angels, I can start every conflict with "If I win, your mom craves my sexy body," and that's legal. We assume that this won't happen, but it can.

(I knew you enjoyed it.)
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2006, 12:19:26 PM »

One guy's playing hard is another guy's dickosity, which I guess is a social contract issue from the beginning, especially in a game that allows such crazy wide latitude in stake-setting, like Face of Angels, where you actually wnt the stakes to be unacceptable out of the gate.  So as long as that is clear everybody's OK. 

As a side note, it'd almost be a weird piece of performance art to play D&D, etc. with complete disregard for the unspoken conventions.  3000 orcs, brief fight, new characters.  2000-foot tall unicorn, brief fight, new characters.  Repeat.  Or is that just your 11-year-old nephew's regular game?
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Remi Treuer
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« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2006, 12:36:41 PM »

This style of stakes setting, due to the way stakes are negotiated, should be made VERY clear when the rules are eventually finalized, that making both stakes difficult for the opponent is the optimal way of playing. There should be an 'escape valve' of some sort, though, because encouraging extreme stakes in both directions makes breaking through veil comfort zones much more likely.

As for playing D&D with no social conventions . . . isn't that the source from which all Knights of the Dinner Table humor springs?
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2006, 12:54:07 PM »

You know, come to think of it, we reset stakes on numerous occasions, casually.  Someone would say, "no, that's a little weak" and we'd try framing the conflict again from scratch.  I guess crying foul on that falls under assholery, but I think that technically it isn't allowed.  I wouldn't play any other way, but it seems to me that ought to be articulated in the rules. 
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Lisa Provost
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aka urbanpagan


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« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2006, 12:22:21 PM »

Wow what I wouldn't give to be in the peanut gallery while these games have been going on. 

One guy's playing hard is another guy's dickosity, which I guess is a social contract issue from the beginning, especially in a game that allows such crazy wide latitude in stake-setting, like Face of Angels, where you actually wnt the stakes to be unacceptable out of the gate.  So as long as that is clear everybody's OK. 

Very true. 

You know, come to think of it, we reset stakes on numerous occasions, casually.  Someone would say, "no, that's a little weak" and we'd try framing the conflict again from scratch.  I guess crying foul on that falls under assholery, but I think that technically it isn't allowed.  I wouldn't play any other way, but it seems to me that ought to be articulated in the rules. 

Do you really think it needs to be in the rules? I mean actually printed?  Don't you think that it's already understood in the social contract?  Or are you talking about having a place in the rules that defines a social contract?
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2006, 12:55:25 PM »

I mean the rules should be very clear about aggressively dumping negative stakes on your opponent as a tool to push conflicts, and how that is different from being a dick.
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Lisa Provost
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aka urbanpagan


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« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2006, 04:29:44 PM »

Oh I got what you're talking about. That makes sense.

We had started as rivals, became as close as brothers, then bitter rivals again, and then, at the dawn of act IV, maybe lovers.  The Red Prophet's supertrump got played, and he changed his trump suit from clubs (violence) to hearts (compassion and love).  Which was utterly awesome.  So we're entering the final act not as enemies, not even as friends, but as a couple.  It is not what I would have predicted - it's a lot better. 

I think that is the kewlest thing!  In the playtest that Eric and I still need to finish (should be able to soon Clinton!) we sort of did the same thing.  Just not as drastically.  We started out as aquaintances.  Went to being friends, and now we are bitter rivals.  Do you think it's a mechanism of the game or do you just thinks it's a coincidence in these two instances?
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2006, 06:42:47 PM »

More play will bear it out, but I really think it's in the card distribution.  Relationships are just going to change a bunch.
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