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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 152 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [apocalypse girl] the new mechanic, maybe - time, dice, and currency  (Read 10733 times)
Michael Brazier

Posts: 40

« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2006, 04:14:31 PM »

When a die becomes Fallout, is it then staked from the original target Engine, as well as against its original source?  If so, you could have dice bouncing between Engines several times as Fallout before they got cancelled.

Regarding positive Fallout, what would happen if whenever two sets of different sizes are opposed, the smaller number becomes staked for their sources, as well as the larger number becoming staked against their sources?  If I'm not mistaken it would turn staking a die into a long-term connection between the Engines, since there's fewer ways to discard dice.

Also, could this mechanic work for the old "Schrodinger's War" project, with Engines as historical events, and die-staking as causal connections between them?
Sydney Freedberg

Posts: 1293

« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2006, 11:14:18 AM »

Good questions; I don't have good answers yet.

When a die becomes Fallout, is it then staked from the original target Engine, as well as against its original source?

I'd sort of thought of it as curved back against itself: it's staked from the source as well as against that same Engine -- which means the "bouncing back and forth" doesn't happen. Your thought may well be better.

Regarding positive Fallout, what would happen if whenever two sets of different sizes are opposed, the smaller number becomes staked for their sources, as well as the larger number becoming staked against their sources?

The solution is probably something like that, but that may keep too many dice in circulation, sloshing around indefinitely. I'd like some way for dice to leave the economy/ecosystem other than being spent to successfully change an Engine.

P.S. I've got an entirely different mechanic for Schrodinger's War in the back of my mind, based on decks of cards -- but yeah, the apocalypse girl mechanics could work for that, or for all sorts of things: It's actually pretty generic, and you could very easily change the Roles, change the endgame mechanic, or even add a GM-like figure. What I don't think it can handle is traditional PC/GM play where I own my character, you own yours, and the GM owns everything else. I suspect it can't produce the same kind of intensity as the non-traditional PC/GM system in Dogs in the Vineyard, either.

Unco Lober

Posts: 22

« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2006, 11:52:22 AM »


On the fallout thing. It proved fun in the previous version of AG when conflict dice went: odd to the winner, even to the loser.  This seems to probably change things a bit, though, in terms of balance.
Sydney Freedberg

Posts: 1293

« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2006, 01:23:17 PM »

There's nothing like trying to explain something to another person to make that the idea solidify in your own head -- so my thanks to Anna B. for provoking me into (and being patient with me after) refining [ulr]=http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18539.msg195614#msg195614]some ideas about the feedback cycles in different kinds of reward systems[/url] (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18539.msg195614#msg195614).

Applying those ideas to apocalypse girl, I'd say I'm very satisfied with how the current mechanic uses the reward of "introduce new resources into the economy": you only get more dice by a combination of (a) creating new Engines, which means bringing more elements you care about into play, and then (b) building up existing Engines and (c) recharging existing Engines, both of which require you to narrate some kind of character-development bit. Details of the cycle no doubt need fine-tuning, but it should create a nice story arc naturally: Start with just your Core, add more and more elements to the story, accumulate enough dice to win "destructive" conflicts where you start taking your opponents' Engines out of the story, endgame.

What I'm still struggling with is how to use my Dogs-inspired "Fallout" mechanic to encourage players to start conflicts, rather than having Fallout make conflict so dangerous that people don't want to start them. Adapting the structure I laid out for Anna, there are actually two areas, each with its own set of options:

I. What happens to dice "spent" to reduce/increase the Power/Identity of an Engine?

1. They're discarded (the current option). This helps drain dice out of the game's economy, which is almost certainly necessary given the number of ways to introduce new dice. But it's not an incentive to do anything, one way or another.

2. They return to the Engines they were rolled from as "good Fallout," i.e. potentially increasing the Power/Identity of the winner's Engines. Besides not draining dice out of the game, this also creates a really strong positive feedback loop: Every die I spend to take down your Engines or boost my own Engines comes back to me to boost my Engines more. Probably too strong.

3. They return to the Engines they were rolled from as "bad Fallout," i.e. potentially decreasing the Power/Identity of the winner's Engines. This is too weird a negative feedback loop, I think: Every time I win a conflict and accomplish something, it's guaranteed to hurt me, and the more I win the more it hurts.

4. They roll onto the loser's Engines as "bad Fallout." Again, this is giving way too strong a positive feedback to the winner.

II. What happens to the dice that are matched up and cancelled out?

The tricky thing here is that it's not necessarily the winner or the loser of the conflict that's affected by this kind of Dogs-derived mechanic: Whether I win -- i.e. I can eliminate all of your dice and still have dice of my own left over to affect the target Engine -- has very little to do with whether I cancelled your dice with a larger or smaller pool of my own dice. The winner's one advantage is that s/he's the one matching up the dice, so presumably s/he has a slightly better chance to making the Fallout go as desired -- but that chance may be very, very slight.

So, options:

1. The smaller pool of dice is discarded; the larger pool of dice become "bad Fallout" for the Engines they were rolled from. This is the current mechanic. It helps control inflation in the short term because it's a mild dice sink (mild, because the smaller of two groups of dice is discarded, not the larger). In the long term, because Bad Fallout can only make Engines weaker, not stronger, it reduces the number of dice in play.
But is it positive or negative feedback? Well, this kind of Fallout potentially weakens Engines involved in the conflict (which could be either the winner's or the loser's), which is "negative" to the extent that people look at a potential conflict and go, "damn! If this goes badly, even if I win, I could get hurt." But it also gives you another chance to smack the other player, i.e. by making sure the bad Fallout goes away from you and towards him/her -- "dang! If I put in just a few more dice, I could not only win this, I could clobber that other Engine of yours too."
So this strikes me as a system that would make people reluctant to start conflicts, because of the risks, but also encourage them to escalate once they're committed, because of the potential double-punishment for being the loser and the potential double-reward for being the winner.

2. The smaller pool of dice becomes "good Fallout"; the larger pool is discarded. The inverse of the current mechanic. I think it makes it psychologically easier to start a conflict, and also easier to give up instead of escalating: "hey, even if I lose, I might get some dice back to boost my other Engines."
Of course, the fact that the other guy could get more dice to boost his/her Engines should be a disincentive, but psychologically it's just not the same as you yourself getting smacked -- and in fact it's not the same in game terms either, since this is a three player game and not zero-sum (at least in the short run).
Now, is this is a dice sink? It looks like one in the short term, but since Good Fallout actually leads to Engines getting bigger and bigger, it probably makes inflation worse in the long run.

3. The smaller pool becomes "good Fallout"; the larger pool becomes "bad Fallout." There's no dice sink in this version either short-term or long-term.
This is also a tripled feedback loop: Potentially, if everything goes my way, I can (1) change the target Engine, (2) smack your Engines with Bad Fallout, and (3) boost my Engines with Good Fallout. I'd think this would encourage people to be pretty cautious about getting involved in conflicts -- you don't want to give your opponent that 1-2-3 "hat trick" if you can help it -- but very tenacious about sticking with conflicts and escalating rather than giving in.
Plus the massive fallout effects could overshadow the actual target Engine in contention. I suspect this option would create really, really unstable games, often leading to one big blowout conflict (with someone reaching for the Gun out of desperation, probably) and then, BAM!, one side's so crippled and the other so pumped up that the game's basically over.

Those are the three options I can come up with, assuming the current system of "fallout means the dice in question are now staked back on the Engine they came from, either against that Engine to potentially decrease its Power/Identity (bad fallout) or for that Engine to potentially increase its Power/Identity (good fallout)." If dice can become fallout on different Engines than they came from, that opens up a huge mess of options that I can't get my brain around at the moment.

Looking at these two things in conjunction, I wonder if my current combination of options is too strong a disincentive to start conflicts: I-1 plus II-1 basically means you get no extra reward when you win the conflict and change the target Engine, and the fallout along the way can only hurt you.
There may be much more potential in either
   I-2 plus II-1: Winning the conflict gives you (a little) Good Fallout for your participating Engines, the Bad Fallout along the way can hurt either you or your opponent. The potential extra reward for winning encourages people to start conflicts; the potential harm for losing control of the conflict (Bad Fallout) encourages people to stick with conflicts and escalate.
   I-1 plus II-2: Winning the conflict doesn't give you anything extra, but along the way you can get nice Good Fallout for your participating Engines. This feels too nice, though: I'd rather keep the threat of Bad Fallout in the system, because the key idea of Fallout in the first place is to give players the option to put more and more things at risk in order to win a particular goal.
   The other options all seem too prone to flying wildly out of control through excess positive feedback.

Do people think I'm analyzing the incentive structures right here? Does I-2 plus II-1 strike everyone else as the most potentially interesting variant?

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