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Author Topic: Game-mechanic questions  (Read 14110 times)
Zamiel
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« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2006, 04:09:21 AM »

Having run the game, though, I still feel that the story arc structure is too rigid. As written, there is only one way for the heroes to "win": lose 5 times (in conflict) and force the villain's plan to suffer 5 times (most likely in conflict). I'd like some variation.

For example, you can't reach the game's victory conditions without getting into conflicts, probably several of them. In the game I ran, I had to throw in gratuitous fights just to move the story forward. Since the enrichment scenes seem to me to be the most enjoyable part of the game, I'd like some mechanic that allows enrichment scenes to move the story arc forward as well.

Key problem: thinking of conflicts in purely physical terms, the give-away phrase being "gratuitous fights." WGP's Arc architecture is rigid, admittedly; too rigid for my tastes, for most uses, but it definitely doesn't require throwing in gratuitous fights. It does require having the heroes actually fail at five relatively major direct conflicts with the villain's developing plan ... but that's an extremely minor requirement, given that we (as GMs) know up front exactly what those major conflicts will be targeting: Strife Aspects. And we know that the heroes are already greatly predisposed to care very greatly about the stakes centering on such Aspects, as the Players have told us so.

That said, the Players define whether the advancing Arc will involve primarily physical or non-physical conflicts. It just so happens that most heroics are centered around physical threats to physical Aspects because that's what people find interesting. And the resulting focus on protecting those physical things from physical assault is a fairly central trope of the comic book heroic philosophy. But that's OK, because that's what the Players want. If its what the Players want, then its hardly gratuitous.

Given your plaints thus far in the thread, I'm disappointed in your saying "I'd like some mechanic that allows enrichment scenes to move the story arc forward as well." There's absolutely nothing that says enrichment scenes can't move the plot forward. The only difference between enrichment scenes and the extended conflict scenes is just this: the latter are extended and explicitly target the Strifes most of the time. Nothing constrains the latter to being fights, any more than enrichment scenes are constrained to not being fights. If there are a group of non-physical Strife Aspects, it makes great sense to have the villain attack all of them at once in a complicated non-physical extended scene, perhaps a social gala or such, where the resolution is telescoped out to emphasize the importance of the mechanical wrangling over the stakes.

My current thinking is using some kind of story tokens or chips. You earn 1 chip for winning in either a conflict or enrichment scene, 3 chips for devastating and transforming a trait and 5 chips for devastating/transforming a strife trait. The villains win with a certain number of chips (not sure how many yet, but at least 15). Players can spend 3 chips to move the story arc forward. They could also spend chips to counter GM chips, and when they redeem devastated traits, they take away 3/5 chips from the GM.

As for the villains winning, yes I want it to be a real possibility. Not likely, but still possible. When I run (or play in) a game, I want to bad guys to be a credible threat. If it is obvious that the bad guys have no chance of winning, then a lot of the thrill of the game is gone.

Hades below, man, if you want to run Capes, run Capes! (Which is, perversely, my solution at this point. While I admire WGP for its modelling of the semantic underpinnings of the heroic tropes and Arc, the hard structure that it imposes in doing so isn't really suited to the kinds of stories I want to run/play, and the actual physical mechanics of the play of WGP are just incompatible with my grasping appendages.)

Your chip solution doesn't really add meaningfully to the Arc architecture. All it really does is add a very token (pun intended) reward for winning a conflict that's already rewarded by gaining the stakes ... The chip mechanics are already manifested by the card gain/loss/exchange mechanics. I see nothing gained by adding a whole new and additional resource to manage in this case.

In WGP, the bad guys have a very credible chance of winning. In fact, you were just harping on the fact that the progression of the Arc hinges on them winning. Repeatedly. So which is it? In the early Arc, the villains are pretty much guaranteed to get the stakes they want, because their cardplay is advantaged. As the story progresses, they accumulate successes and the heroes find the odds coming more into their favour even as the things they care about are torn down around their ears (ie become Imperiled and Devastated). And finally, just as in the media that WGP is pretty clear about the fact it emulates to great effect, melodramatic comics, the heroes have a pretty good chance of putting the kibosh on the big bad's evil plan but having to deal with the damage it has wreaked in the meantime to their most cherished things. That's the formula. Its pretty much the formula you find in the bulk of fantasy lit, in fact, at both the big and small scales.

See, that's what I don't get about your issues with WGP: They're inconsistent. They're essentially about trying to say WGP should do things it pointedly says it doesn't and doesn't want to, and adding complication to the lot just so you break the things it does do that it says it will.

You've got the wrong tool for what you want to do.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2006, 09:21:11 AM »

Hi, Paul.

About the secretly-GM-chosen Strife Aspects, I think that Zamiel is right that it defeats the purpose of having Strifes in the first place. They're there to say: "Hey, everybody (especially the GM), I want you to make THIS THING really important to the story." If the GM picks them, it doesn't work.

Insofar as WGP not doing exactly what you want to do in the way you want to do it (to paraphrase Zamiel), I say: Okay. To each their own.

You've got a few options for how to proceed from there:
(A) You could find another game. Zamiel suggested Capes, an excellent game I'm not as familiar with as I should be.
(B) You could make the rules alterations and play them to your heart's content.
(C) You could make the rules alterations, playtest them to your heart's content, and e-mail me privately about publishing a mini-supplement. That could be cool.

BTW, I'm still hoping to find out about your Stakes in your AP thread.
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Paul Strack
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« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2006, 05:01:31 PM »

OK, I think I have had an epiphany. I have parsed what everyone has said and I think I finally get it.

The GM (and the villains) do not really have a victory condition. The players have a victory condition of (a) moving to the end of the story arc and (b) devastating the villains plans. The "victory conditions" for the GM are simply a goal to drive her play in the correct direction of making the heroes' Strife aspects suffer.

It does not really matter how well or how poorly the villains do, because the GM can regulate the level of player tension by (a) using appropriately threatening stakes and (b) emphasizing an increasing series of thresholds that the villains can cross.

  • If the GM does poorly, card-wise, she can make the players feel like the heroes are in danger by emphasizing how awful it will be if the villain gets to devastate one of their aspects.
  • If the GM does modestly well and devastates some aspects, she can emphasize how awful it would be if the villain manages take a captured aspect all the way up to transformed.
  • If the GM does amazingly well, she can emphasize how awful it will be if the villain transforms all the hero aspects and completes his plan.

The GM can maintain the proper focus by setting the stakes for individual challenges at the correct level of unpleasantness (depending on how she sees the game going). If the GM needs the game to end at a given time, she can regulate game flow by either (a) using GM enrichment scenes to reduce the suffering of the villain's Plan aspect to lengthen the game or (b) deliberately playing poorly to throw some conflicts the player's way to shorten the game. With multiple villains, the GM can also de-emphasize and ignore some plans while playing up others as an additional flow-control mechanism.

Taking the view above, the game is finally starting to click in my head. The game is not about whether the heroes win or lose. It is about how much they suffer and sacrifice along the way to victory.
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Paul Strack
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« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2006, 05:09:40 PM »

(A) You could find another game. Zamiel suggested Capes, an excellent game I'm not as familiar with as I should be.

I did take a look at Capes before I picked up WGP. It is clear to me now that my understanding of Capes was coloring my views of how a WGP game should go.

I think Capes is an interesting game, but my group hated it. It was too open-ended for them, and didn't fit our style of play. The thing I like most about WGP is that it provides enough structure for players who are new to improvisational story telling so that they do not suffer from the "blank page" syndrome.

Also, my players really liked WGP, which is what really matters.
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Paul Strack
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« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2006, 05:17:52 PM »

Key problem: thinking of conflicts in purely physical terms, the give-away phrase being "gratuitous fights."

That's actually very good advice. I think my initial understanding of Enrichment scenes vs. Conflict scenes was flawed. I was originally thinking "Enrichment is for roleplaying" and "Conflict is for fights". Given your advice, I now think of them like this:

Enrichment scenes spotlight one hero (or a small group), focusing on a few aspects (often one).

Conflict scenes involving a number of cooperating heroes, working in some way to oppose the activities of the villains.

The "conflict" could be a manhunt, a courtroom scene, a sports competition, a party with charge social undercurrents or anything, really. The real difference is between group scenes vs. spotlight scenes.
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Kat Miller
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Posts: 141


« Reply #20 on: February 25, 2006, 05:49:22 AM »

Taking the view above, the game is finally starting to click in my head. The game is not about whether the heroes win or lose. It is about how much they suffer and sacrifice along the way to victory.

That's it exactly! 

The "conflict" could be a manhunt, a courtroom scene, a sports competition, a party with charge social undercurrents or anything, really. The real difference is between group scenes vs. spotlight scenes.

One of the most engaging conflict scenes I ever got to play, was a confrontation between Supervillian father and his Hero son.  "the fight" was an argument rather than a brawl, and the stakes for the page were personal and very high- (I think Perjury the villian wanted Purge the Hero to know that no matter what he did the world would always view him as a potential villian, and I think Purge wanted his father to be proud of his heroic accomplishments and turn himself in to the authorities.  We used persuasion, dodge, stealth,attack person, attack thing and using a power as social tactics and it worked amazingly well.

We've also done fist fights in enrichments.   

It's easier to explain that the Enrichments are where the roleplay is, but in play its a little more complicated.  If the concept of the scene is focused on the Heros life then the scene would be best played out as an enrichment, but of the concept of the scene is focused on The villlian's plan then it's best played out as a "Conflict" Scene.

-Kat

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kat Miller
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2006, 04:05:00 PM »

I love it when people have epiphanies! You said:

Quote
Taking the view above, the game is finally starting to click in my head. The game is not about whether the heroes win or lose. It is about how much they suffer and sacrifice along the way to victory.

That's exactly why I wrote it the way I did.

As for the ladder of GM-goals, you're also right on the money. Not the way I would have phrased it, but accurate nonetheless.

About the diversity of conflict scenes, that's exactly what I was trying to get across in the 2nd paragraph on page 58. FWIW, I have notes on Social Conflict rules and Telepathic Conflict rules in the works.
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Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!
Paul Strack
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« Reply #22 on: February 26, 2006, 12:11:13 AM »

About the diversity of conflict scenes, that's exactly what I was trying to get across in the 2nd paragraph on page 58. FWIW, I have notes on Social Conflict rules and Telepathic Conflict rules in the works.

Yeah, it was there, and I just missed it on my first reading. An example of a non-combat conflict scene might be a good thing to add at some point. Or better yet, rules like the ones you are discussing above. It would also help to have characteristics of conflict that were more general and less combat-oriented.

I am thinking now of using a Conflict Scenes to manage investigations, something that happens a lot in the games I run. The heroes could set stakes based on what they want to learn, and the individual pages would handle each investigation. The opposition would be indirect, with the villains working behind the scenes rather than directly fighting the heroes. Or the villains could get nasty and set stakes about ambushing the heroes or stealing something important while they are out investigating.

Along those lines, I am thinking that the Alternate Panel Sequence on p. 120 would work well for many non-combat Conflicts. It would allow for longer exchanges between individual players and the GM, which might work better, especially if the actual Conflicts to not directly interrelate.
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