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Author Topic: [Infected] Reinvigorating the Agendas  (Read 3342 times)
Eric Provost
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« on: February 04, 2006, 06:35:35 PM »

We had a successful third playtest of Infected last night.  Among other issues it occurred to me that the PCs ended up with no more relationship to each other than... well..., than D&D characters made by different players on different days in different houses with different settings in mind.  It was solid 'party mentality' and nothing else.  While the situation didn't actually hurt the game, it didn't help anything either.

As I considered what I'd like to do about the situation it occurred to me that I'd originally designed the Agenda cards for just that purpose.  After all, I did pretty well borrow the concept directly from the Dark Fates of The Mountain Witch.  So, with that in mind, it occurred to me that the Agenda cards aren't really fulfilling their original intent at all.  In fact, at least one of them tends to inspire players to avoid contact with the other PCs.  Very unproductive. 

So, the question I've been asking myself all day is;  What kind of relationship could the Agendas inspire one player to forge between their character and one or more of the other PCs?  All the while fitting smoothly into the current form of the rules and avoiding too... um... heavy of a hand in shared PC ownership.  I'm not sure exactly where the line will be drawn between too heavy and just right, but as the game is a pretty light-hearted and high-speed game, I think I'd like to avoid any Agendas that would require authoring part of someone else's PC that's likely to cross any comfort lines.  I'll hit an example.

Quote from: Possible new Agenda
Justice (The Evidence)
Your character is looking for the evidence to prove that one or more of the other PCs is responsible for the infection, the monsters, and the entire catastrophe.

See what I mean?  It'll be cool for one player to point at another and say "Dude!  Your character is totally responsible for everything going wrong!"  On the far side of the spectrum, I think it'd be too far for this game for an agenda to ask you to author something like... an emotion for another player's character.  Like, making another character love or hate yours. 

So, that's where I find myself a bit stuck.  What kind of relationships could an Agenda card inspire a player to forge?  And how can I fit that into the color of the monster-movies?

If anyone has any ideas, I'd appreciate the brainstorming.

-Eric
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dindenver
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2006, 07:39:37 PM »

Hi!
  Instead of active agendas, why not mold it into a passive/incomplete concept. For instance, "Someone has accused me of murder" Then when the group of players forms up, each player can have his character fill the missing/active role...
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Dave M
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2006, 06:17:00 AM »

Eric:  Steal shamelessly from Dogs in the Vineyard.

What is the one question you must answer for every NPC in DitV?  "What do they want/need from the Dogs?"

I recommend that every Agenda should at least provoke answers to the question "What do I want/need from the other players' characters?"  Then all you need is a good reason why everyone wouldn't immediately grant the wishes of others (e.g. Mountain Witch's Dark Fates put a damper on runaway granting of Trust, DitV's town-creation structure makes it impossible to give everyone what they want).  Then you've got players saying "Hey, give me this, please!" and the other player (reasonably!) saying "Errr ... I see that you need it, but ... err ... it's complicated!"  Everyone ends up making hard choices about how to treat each other.
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2006, 04:00:09 PM »

Good thoughts from both.  My initial reaction to both ideas is; How would I impliment this in the current structure of the game?  I've had a thought or two and I think I'd like to try to organize it here, in public.  If everyone can get into my head & the design a little more it sure couldn't hurt.

Current form for Agendas;
  • Agenda action rolls are 'un-opposed', making them effectively opposed by the GM and the system, as Agendas are about gaining WTL and the GM does not want the PCs gaining WTL.
  • Agendas inspire creation of new locations and bits of story in cells.  That is, each bit of story inspired by an Agenda has to do with exactly one PC, rarely reaching out to touch another PC.

What's stewing in my brain about Agendas;
  • Agendas should inspire relationships and story between two or more PCs.  The more PCs the better.
  • Agenda action rolls should therefore be opposed by other players.  This implies that the other players should enjoy the tactical fruits of your character's loss.
  • To tie the tactical side of the equation into the story side, players should be tempted to bring as much opposition into their Agenda rolls as they can get away with.  The temptation will likely be a greater WTL reward.  Greater reward implies greater risk.

After getting that out of my brain onto the screen I've come up with this new sketch of how the Agenda action might look;
  • Like a Despair action, Agenda actions must be opposed by one or more players.
  • Acting player rolls base die plus the location stat listed on the Agenda.
  • Acting player compares their high die to the high die of their opposing players.
  • If the acting player rolls under the high die of the opposing players then the result is a Failure; acting player must pay the high-roller 1 WTL, plus 1 WTL for each Escalation previously rolled.  The story of this Agenda is over.
  • If the acting player ties the opposing players, then the result is Escalation.  The Agenda continues, but with higher values for future success or failure.
  • If the acting player rolls higher than the opposing players, the result is Success.  The acting player gains 1 WTL for each opponent in the roll, plus X for each Escalation previously rolled.(X being equal to 1 or 2 I suppose)
[/list]

It may not look like what you were suggesting, Dave and Tony, but I promise that it was directly inspired by what you both had to say.

-Eric
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2006, 04:34:49 PM »

Thinking I was out of time, I bolted out of here before I completely finished my thought.  As it turns out, my next flight is delayed nearly an hour and a half, so I guess I've got plenty of time to finish up.

With an Agenda system that assumes opposition from the other players, I feel more free to include Agendas that hint at more over-the-line narration.  Or at least, closer to the line.  Now, an Agenda that would prod a player to narrate making another PC fall in love with their PC seems okie-dokey.  As do all sorts of other ideas floating around in my head.  Things that push the horror and loss of the genre.  Agendas that ask you to narrate horrible and despicable things.  Agendas that ask you to narrate frailty and weakness.  In other words; Agendas that let you cut loose.

It's probably time for me to come up with a list of things that Agendas could ask a player to narrate.  Things that are easy to imagine the rest of the PCs being in opposition to.  I think I may suddenly be an awful lot closer to achieving my goal of 16 Agendas.

I was about to post & sign out, but according to my watch, I've still got better than an hour to kill.  So, I thought I'd start coming up with my list of things an Agenda could ask for, then ask all the Forgites out there to chip in with anything I may have missed that comes to mind.

Things an Agenda might ask you to narrate; (someone = another PC)
  • Make someone love you.
  • Make someone hate you.
  • Make someone submit to you.
  • Make someone dominate you.
  • Make someone share in your immoral hunger.
  • Make someone submit to your immoral hunger.
  • Make someone help you indulge in your immoral hunger.
  • Prove that someone is at fault.
  • Find the 'cure'.
  • Find/retain hope.

There's some overlapping there, some possiblities of making several slightly more specific Agendas from one of the more general ones, but it looks like a pretty good start to me.  Anyone who's got suggestions for more or comments on what I've come up with tonight is invited to jump in.

-Eric
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2006, 05:34:06 AM »

Hi Eric,

"Find the cure" has always seemed weak to me. 

Make someone heal me
Heal someone

Seems like a better pair in context.
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2006, 05:43:17 AM »

The intention behind the cure thing was supposed to be about hope.  For reasons of mechanical funocity, I don't want to imply that a player's Infection Points can be removed.  So, right now I'm imagining that all forms of 'the cure' will probably be stripped away and replaced with Give Hope/Recieve Hope, or something along those lines.

-Eric
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2006, 06:02:22 AM »

If Agendas have a clear, uniform mechanism in the game, I'm not sure what the disconnect is - "impossible" agendas, like "heal my infection", are no different from ones that can actually be achieved.  Or am I missing something?
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2006, 08:26:04 AM »

I keep thinking over this question, and each time I try to process a good answer and really consider the idea of having an "impossible" agenda, my face crinkles up like an old man with no teeth trying to eat seeds.

Here's the generic framework for Agendas, as it's in my head right now;

Quote
Genero Agenda:  Try to get something done.

Mechanism:  Roll some dice and consult the chart.

Chart:
  • Bad roll - Narrate how bad things happen because of your agenda and lose some WTL
  • Medium roll - Narrate how things get more tense.  Don't gain or loose any WTL, but your next Bad or Good roll will result in greater or lesser losses.
  • Good roll - Narrate how good things happen because of your Agenda.  Gain some WTL.

When I imagine an agenda revolving around a cure for the Infection then I imagine players wondering why it doesn't have an effect on their Infection Points.  Which means I would need to either have a caveat attached to that particular agenda or the agenda would have to be very carefully phrased so as not to imply any mechanism effects other than those that are already outlined.

Another issue just occurred to me.  When a player gains Infection Points, it's a little bit of authority to act a little weird and crazy.  Narrating the physical effects to their bodies and such.  If player A is having a good time describing their skin sloughing off and player B jumps up with a Heal Character agenda, it seems like a success on B's part would take a bit of fun away from A. 

Ok, it's a pretty thin issue.  Something that could certainly be easily remedied with a little attention to the verbage in the Agendas.  But there it is in my head anyway.

-Eric
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knicknevin
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« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2006, 12:02:33 PM »

I loved this game idea so much after reading this thread at the weekend, that I played it with some of my friends on Tuesday night (February 7th)... I might even have got around to posting my Actual Play report by the time you read this.

What I did with the agendas was let the players choose one that they felt was right for their characters in the story they were telling; after this, I went home and though about what they had come up with and sketched out this idea...

At the start of a game, let the players come up with their own Agendas, then assign a die to each one based on the relationships it encourages and the dramatic potential of it, e.g:

Agenda only helps the acting PC: d4 e.g. "I must get home", "I must clear out my savings account"
Agenda helps other PCs: d6 e.g. "I must save my family", "I must warn the authorities"
Agenda threatens other PCs: d8 e.g. "I must be the only one with a gun", "I must avenge my sister's death"
Agenda threatens the acting PC: d10 e.g. "I must conceal my awful crime", "I would rather die than turn into one of those monsters"

The Agenda can only be advanced through dialogue or interaction with other PCs, who use the die of their Agenda to resist you (justified because its so important to them that you have to work hard to shift their attention onto your issues). For example, a failed roll might indicate that the other PC has information that ends your Agenda ("I passed that neighbourhood earlier; it had burned down") whereas in a successful roll, they might know something about you and your Agenda ("Say, didn't I see your face in the papers last week?") or you might take something from them instead of gaining WTL ("Step away from the car, scumbag!")

As it stands, I wasn't too sure about the results on the Agenda chart; it seems like getting a couple of medium rolls is better than succeeding outright, so maybe some options to Escalate instead of an outright win/jackpot or even instead of an outright fail could be added? Far better, surely, to have an exciting Agenda that drives the plot but doesn't get resolved, than one that gets resolved the first time it is mentioned, for good or bad?
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2006, 12:15:34 PM »

Hey knicknevin,

First and foremost, I'm totally excited that your group picked out my game to play.  Seriously, I'm very excited about that.  I'm eager to see the AP post and talk all about it.

Quote from: knicknevin
Far better, surely, to have an exciting Agenda that drives the plot but doesn't get resolved, than one that gets resolved the first time it is mentioned, for good or bad?

Agreed.  With that in mind, I've been working out the changes to the Agendas so as to prompt more and more Escallation results.  In an earlier version of the rules, one where the players used Actions to author locations, all Actions were pretty tight and a pretty solid commodity, so I was avoiding making Agendas stretch out over too many of them.  Now, with authoring Locations nearly a freebie, then the more Escallation to the Agendas the better. 

How many players ended up with the larger dice from the threatening Agendas?  Did the addition of the extra larger dice seem to have any impact upon play?

-Eric
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knicknevin
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« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2006, 12:57:55 AM »

Howdy Eric,

How many players ended up with the larger dice from the threatening Agendas? Did the addition of the extra larger dice seem to have any impact upon play?

-Eric

Well, that proposal was something that only came to me after the game, I'm afraid. During the game, one player's agenda was to dig up dirt on one of the other PCs, while the other 2 went for acquiring items or goals for their PCs: it was the first player I gave the biggest bonus to!

The whole group seems keen to play again and we might have a chance on any Tuesday soon or on the last Saturday of this month (February 25th) when our RPG group is holding a free mini-con at a local pub. I'll keep you posted on any further play.
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knicknevin
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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2006, 10:30:01 AM »

Having had a chance to look at the notes from my play session and think about framing Agendas as a PvP action, this is what I've come up with:

 - Agendas are chosen and assigned dice as suggested in my previous post.

 - When you advance an agenda, you must target another PC at the same location; you must do so either in a direct confrontation (having a conversation with them, searching the building together) or by taking an action that relates to that PC (going through their stuff, seeing them on the news)

 - Both sides roll Base and Agenda dice then compare results; the acting player finds the difference on the chart below.

You were...                     Result
3 or more lower                  Lose (-1 WTL) or Press
2 or 1 lower                       Escalate+1 or Nudge
0 to 2 higher                      Escalate+1 or Collect (+2 WTL)
3 or more higher                Escalate+2 or Jackpot (+4 WTL)

 - The Lose, Escalate, Collect and Jackpot results are the same as for the results in your 3.2 edit of the rules.

 - Press means you can keep the Agenda active but the Fail result is increased by 1, while the Collect and Jackpot results are reduced by 1.
 - If you choose Nudge, then if you get 2 or 1 lower again then next time you try to advance this Agenda, you Collect instead.

 - On a Fail or Press, your opponent narrates how the scene 'kills' your Agenda ("I passed that neighbourhood earlier; it had burned down") but you narrate how you have one last hope if you Press.
 - On all all other results, you narrate how you are given hope of completing your Agenda (Escalate & Nudge) or you achieve your goals and end the Agenda (Collect and Jackpot)

On a related note, what about allowing Agenda dice to be rolled to create or resist Despair, as long as you reveal your Agenda? This would tie these two actions into a more cohesive structure.

Finally, what about allowing players to exchange resources instead of gaining/losing WTL as a result of Agendas. Say that 1 WTL = 4 WD or 1 Vehicle or help on one future action at no cost; setting new stakes could add more meaning to thematic Agendas. Additionally, what about letting players use their Agendas to express their distrust of each other; say you beat your opponent in an Agenda roll, you could engage them in an opposed roll using your Base die plus your opponent's Agenda die so there is a downside to having big dice for Agendas that introduce more threat.
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2006, 07:02:44 PM »

Good stuff man.

A couple concerns from playtesting though.  Extra dice from Agendas makes me worry that players will get too many dice and throw the tension out of balance.  As it was, in our last playtest I felt like the GM had very little hope of getting anything done once the PCs got together.  Heck, it was pretty slim chances for the GM when the PCs were solo sometimes. The Nudge & Press addition, while once again very interesting, seems a little cumbersome.

The past couple of days have been pretty darned hectic for me, but I've got tomorrow wide open for getting the next edition of the game together.  Maybe even in a comprehensible english.  I've got a version of the Agenda rules cooked up that I'm twitching over getting some feedback on.  I think they're pretty straightforward and direct, but compelling enough to pull out tons of story.  I think.  I hope.  I really really hope.

I should have the new edition up on my site sometime tomorrow evening.

-Eric
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