*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 29, 2014, 04:46:44 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 64 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: [S&S] Ask How  (Read 7149 times)
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« on: February 17, 2006, 11:59:31 AM »

I just roughed out the following text for the game I'm writing. It's an attempt to formalize the play-procedures associated with certain variations on the 'realism' question. Feedback would be welcome.

------------------------

Ask How. One kind of contest arises when one or more players don’t understand how another player’s character is doing something. This only applies to ordinary actions, not magic: with magic anything is possible, and what’s printed on the spell card rules in all cases. But with ordinary actions, the assumption is that characters are human beings: competent, talented human beings, maybe the kind of human beings we imagine in the more realistic action and fantasy films, but, essentially, people like you and me. They can’t blow down a stone keep, create a mental duplicate of their body, or anything else like that, except by using magic.

This means it’s reasonable to want a filled-in causal story when someone says “I’m doing this” in the world of the game. You don’t have to ask for such a story, and if you’re doing this too much, you need to ease up a little bit: this is a fantasy game, after all. But if someone tries to, say, jump over a fifty-foot wall without using sorcery, this might strain your ability to imagine what’s going on. So it’s reasonable in that case to ask how the player is going to do this thing. Usually, what they’ll say is something like “well, I didn’t literally mean I was going to jump over it, what I meant was I’m going to climb it and swing over the top…”, at which point the GM will decide whether to just let that description ride or call for a roll. Or else they’ll say “um, I’m not sure what I was thinking, actually”, in which case they don’t actually do what they just said they did at all; you go back to where the game was before that bit was imagined.

The GM and other players can use this rule as a tool to make certain kinds of challenges more directly challenging to the other players of the game, if desired. For example, it can be sort of boring to resolve a riddling contest by having the GM and players take turns reading riddles, rolling under player character intelligence scores to see if they can solve the riddle put to them and then to see if their riddle stumps their adversary. Some find this sort of thing much more fun if the players actually have to sweat it out to get through the riddles, and a similar principle can apply to mechanical traps, puzzle rooms, monsters with hidden weaknesses, and many of the other entertaining conventions of some kinds of fantasy tale. The ‘ask how’ principle can apply here too: if a player says “I answer the riddle”, for instance, the GM can reply: “by saying what?” Or again: “I find the beast’s secret weakness.” “What is it?”

“Ask how” is a part of the game that has to be worked out socially, for the most part. When playing with a new group for the first time, try to be sensitive to their expectations: every group has a slightly different threshold for what kind of actions ‘make sense’ to describe in the fantasy world and what kind don’t.

However, note that any characters with an exceptional attribute among their powers are entitled, by the rules, to answer one “ask how” question per adventure which falls under that attribute (see "roll dice" below) with the answer: “with my exceptional attribute”. In other words, in that very same riddle contest, a player whose character possesses exceptional intelligence can just demand a roll to answer the riddle, no matter what the GM might desire. A character with exceptional strength can roll to hold apart those gigantic stone columns and keep the room from caving in, at least long enough to let his friends get out, even if they were initially imagined as being far too massive for that to be plausible.

If the entire group except the proposing player feels that a proposed action is absurd – say, on the jumping over the moon level of absurd – the ‘how’ question can be held up even against the character with an exceptional attribute, but the player of that character should be given every opportunity to answer in a way that makes it plausible, and if even one other player backs him or her up at any point, she gets her roll.
Logged
StefanDirkLahr
Member

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2006, 02:33:03 PM »

So, in summary, this is a social-level rule aimed at focusing the narration of Colour to better create a cohesive imaginary space?

And in the "riddle contest" (which i've actually done in old-school gaming) example, you're trying to extend the idea to cover the conflict resolution system as well? 

I understand that having a player fully narrating their "challenge & answer" makes for excellent description & involvement in the challenge, and I agree it can be very cool to take that up a notch, making the player's ingenuity & narrative skill the actual determinants of whether the player's character suceeds or fails. (Is this pure Drama resolution?) However, I also feel that there always seem to be a lot of problems with this approach. The biggest thing is that you are making the other players judge your performance, and, depending on how the game is set up, they probably have motives, or instincts, beyond that of straight-forwardly appreciating your performance. This brings up all the old problems with Fiat and Charismatic rule by the GM. I'd imagine they apply to an empowered player group as well.
How do you reinforce critical judgement of the performance, and exclude judgment on the player?

For a wholehearted leap into this kind of experience, as i understand it, check out this game, if you haven't seen it already: The Court of the Empress. It is supposedly as much an exercise in player-interaction as it is a game, but i haven't tried it out yet.

(If i'm totally misinterpreting your post, i can only blame my low bloodsugar...)
Logged

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2006, 03:49:27 PM »

You've got the general idea just right, but you're categorizing it differently than I do.

What we're doing in the game is making shit up that happens in the imaginary world, more or less.

Here are three reasons you might want that shit to be contested:

1) It's messed up on a real-world social level. This can't be fixed by rules, I don't think, and it's one of the reasons that 'how to play' text is important.

2) It's messed up on an imaginary level. This can't be fixed by rules either, really, but there are more and less functional procedures for dealing with it. I tried to express what I thought of a functional one here.

3) It's something that seems worth contesting, because either (a) a conflict is desirable to heighten drama, raise uncertainty, take responsibility for the outcome out of the player's hands, whatever, or (b) because two or more players disagree on what outcome they actually want from the scene, or (I guess) because (c) that kind of interaction is always contested when it occurs, by the rules, whether people want it in that scene or not, but they agreed to play by those rules.

1-3 is all the resolution system in my book, not just 3. Just because you can't fix breaks with 1 and 2 with rules doesn't mean they don't need discussion/treatment. (And who knows, maybe there are things you can fix.)

So 'yes' basically to what you say except I don't consider it an 'extension' to the conflict resolution system, but rather part of it. These are the rules for type 2 'conflicts', which I think are really requests for clarification on how you're doing something, hence the name.

----------------------------------------

As far as the 'riddle contest' thing goes, I agree that there are both great virtues and great problems potential in the 'challenge the players' approach, but the game I'm designing _has_ to have room for that. First, I run games that way, and second, I 'believe' in the 'test the player' approach - challenge-wise, imaginatively, emotionally, morally, as deep as I can go. (Which isn't for the most part as deep as some other folks around here go, make no mistake, but it's still my official philosophy.) What I've done is provide, essentially, the option to do it either way - no-one has to ask for more detail, and if you like to just roll for things like riddles and the like, the system lets you do that. (It also lets you just give people the answers, for that matter. Nested defaults.)
Logged
StefanDirkLahr
Member

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2006, 05:04:31 PM »

That is pretty much what i was trying to say - the way i see it, what your "Ask How" idea does, first and foremost, is to insist that the Colour be threaded heavily into the steps of the resolution - precisely so that those imaginary-level disconnects are smoothed over in the course of play. It just seems like an "extension" to me, because you can play, say, Dogs by just "raising" and "seeing" back and forth, which gives the game a definate feel to it, but is not nearly as satisifying or captivating as a fully Coloured resolution. Explicitly giving players the rules to "call BS" on the acting player's descriptions, whether too lame, or too excessive, is a great move. (And by "explicit rules" i just mean something like: "if a player narrates like X, you can go ahead and call her on it; vote if you have to". Which is part of what you have here.)

I don't know how to handle #1, except to make sure that the game doesn't cause more social problems!
I think my problem with the pure Drama resolution is, like i said, differentiating between the player's actions and the player herself. I'm probably making too big of a deal out of it.

So, anyway, cool idea.   
Logged

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2006, 05:31:39 PM »

Thanks!

Dogs is interesting because it basically handles #1 by demanding consensus that there's to be a conflict and what the stakes are before the dice hit the table. This is a nice straight statement of 'work this all out among yourselves'.

I don't know that I want that rule in the game I'm working on, so I may be reduced to 'don't be a dick'/'respect people's boundaries' type player advice.
Logged
StefanDirkLahr
Member

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2006, 08:27:55 PM »

I don't know that I want that rule in the game I'm working on, so I may be reduced to 'don't be a dick'/'respect people's boundaries' type player advice.

Excellent, probably necessary, advice - i don't know what more you could do.
Logged

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
StefanDirkLahr
Member

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2006, 08:48:25 PM »

I'm going to switch gears here for a second.

In the initial post you wrote:
Quote
note that any characters with an exceptional attribute among their powers are entitled, by the rules, to answer one “ask how” question per adventure which falls under that attribute (see "roll dice" below) with the answer: “with my exceptional attribute”.

I missed this earlier, and i thin it is pretty interesting.
From what i gather, your actual system works like this: If you have a "normal" attribute you resolve conflicts using #A) a Fortune mechanic (dice), unless someone invokes the "Ask How" rule, wherein you use #B) a Drama mechanic (the players evaluating the acting player's narrative). However, if the character has an "exceptional" attribute, then you use #C) a Fortune mechanic immune to "Ask How" intervention.

Now, here is my suggestion: Do you think it might be possible to tie the character's Attribute level into the Drama ("ask how") step of this three-way resolution mechanics?

As i see it, the arangement is asymetrical as is - you use the stuff on character sheet in steps #A & #C, but not in #B. Which is confusing, and somewhat inelegant, i my own particular view.

You might be able to find a way in which the Attribute level can be used *with* the Drama mechanic - say the Attribute provides a base value, and the player's votes for the Drama resolution add/subtract from that value (in a powerful way). That way you can do away with having three separate levels of resolution - either you simply "say yes", or you "roll the dice" and narrate!
And if something is clearly, completely over the top - "jumping over the moon" - anyone can "call BS", and start the conflict over.

Think that might be anyway coherent with the system you are imagining?
Logged

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2006, 09:57:01 AM »

Here's a flowchart. There are actually two 'toggles' if you want to think of it that way, the Ask How toggle and the Roll the Dice toggle. You can do neither, either, or both.

Characters have access to 'overrides' for both. Exceptional Attributes let you override/answer 'ask how' once per adventure.
Masteries (split up by activity type rather than attribute type) let you automatically make one die roll per adventure.

So

- player says what his character does

Case 1: nobody objects; imagined stuff stands.

Case 2: it sounds implausible; Ask How is invoked. The answer is plausible; no-one wants to make a contest out of it; so the imagined stuff stands. (Or, no plausible answer is forthcoming, the imagined stuff is withdrawn, and something else happens instead.)

Case 3: perfectly plausible, but it's a contested outcome for whatever reason. You roll the dice to determine the outcome.

Case 4: implausible and contested, do 2 first, then 3 if it becomes necessary.

One purpose of this is to cleanly separate the two things, so there's none of this "you can do that but with a -20 modifier on the die roll" nonsense. If you can try it at all you can try it within the normally derived parameters of the system. (The GMs main power is that he can apply a modifier of +/- up to 20% on any given roll to account for circumstances: this is the mechancial effect of color.)


So here's how I think about it. The basic rule is - you say what you do. Two ways that might be contested, two types of character ability that trump the contest in question.
Logged
StefanDirkLahr
Member

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2006, 11:17:42 AM »

Alles Klar.

I see what you're doing, but not why.

See, the way i'm translating your schema it looks like this:

Case 1 = "say yes"

Case 2 = "call BS"

Case 3 = "say yes", but also "roll the dice"

Case 4 = "call BS", but also "roll the dice"

So my obnoxious hangup is: Why would you ever want to have an automatically contested outcome? If everyone thinks it should be good, why throw down?

Logged

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2006, 12:04:58 PM »

In general, I agree with you philosophically. Furthermore, I don't think there will be any rolls which are automatically contested in virtue of their imaginative content alone in my game. I listed that under 3c above as a theoretical option more than as something for my game in particular.

However, I can imagine games which might have useful 'always roll here' rules. For example, you might have a rule that says that if a described action clearly and unambiguously moves a character towards some sort of goal, and simultaneously involves some other entity in the game under GM control, then you have to roll for success rather than creating an automatic success. (Some adventure boardgames wind up with rules sort of like this.) If the game was a gamist-competitive type dealie this might be a very good rule for the GM to have to follow.

So anyway, it's more like: Say Yes, Ask How, Roll Dice, or Ask How and Roll Dice. Rolling dice is saying, 'we're going to contest this'.
Logged
StefanDirkLahr
Member

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2006, 03:17:27 PM »

Ok. That works. You might want to use Case 3 there. Maybe. I'm not convinced, but oh well. ;)

Back to your idea, i just want to say that when you "Ask How", you are also saying "we're going to contest this". You're just doing it in a different way. Drama vs Fortune - either way you are trying to reinforce the cohesion of the imaginary space.

So when you're Asking How & Rolling Dice you're asking for a double reinforcement of the game - shouldn't be anything wrong with that, right?

Or is there some fundamental difference between a "Die Roll" and an "Elaborated Description" that i'm failing to grasp? (There very well could be!) 
Logged

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2006, 12:07:53 PM »

Some examples:

1. Hrothgar dons a horned helmet in an ancient temple. The spirit of an ancient warlord inhabits it, and attempts to take control of Hrothgar’s mind.

GM: Hrothgar feels the vital persona of the ancient warlord probing his brain, trying to break his will and seize his body…

Player 1: Hrothgar snarls, “No! I’ll not be the plaything for some ancient monster. I am my own man, until cold steel claims my soul for the dark.” He grasps the pommel of his father’s sword.

GM: Hrothgar martials all his will to resist the spirit. It’s massively powerful, level 14, but all is not lost: you’re 6th level with a 13 Fortitude, so you need a 5 or less. Make it a 6 or less for his assertion of independence. That’s a 30% chance…


2. Tanis is spying on the Overlords of Valeras, hoping to find out where they are sending their caravans northwards.

Player 2: Tanis slips up to the end of the bar. You said we could just see past the curtain into the private room from there, right?

GM: Right.I mean, it's not a clear view, but the Overlords and their men move in and out fairly frequently.

Player 2: OK then. Tanis orders a Firewater and listens carefully, blocking out all the tavern noise.

GM: How? They’re in another room, easily 20 feet from you, through a curtain, and you’re in a loud bar full of conversation and music.

Player 2: I’ve got exceptional acumen, that’s why the party sent me.

GM: Hmm. Well, roll then. The most prominent overlords are about 8th level, so that’s your opposition, and I’m slapping another -2 modifier on, one for the curtain and one for the loud bar noise.

Player 2: That seems fair. Tanis has a 17 acumen, though, and she’s 9th level, so I only need a 16 or less. (Rolls.) A 12, got it!

GM: They’re talking about the caravans, all right. They seem to be headed for a place called “Mneme”.

Player 2: That’s the ruined city in the high mountains, the one that’s been uninhabited for more than two centuries…

The GM nods and plays out the conversation overheard by Tanis, describing what people say and acting some of it out.

GM: So, you think you’ve heard about enough now, and it’s probably time to leave. But you notice the guards in front of the window pointing at you; they seem to have noticed Tanis listening.

Player 2: Not so fast! Tanis is an expert spy, and was doing everything in her power to look innocuous. What level are those guards?

GM: Um, second or third.

Player 2: So, right. She’s got a 12 Charisma, 9th level, minus 3 for the guards…any modifiers?

GM: I guess just -1. You were sitting there for quite a while. So that’s a 17 or less to avoid being noticed.

Tanis rolls a 6 and gets away unnoticed, returning to Hrothgar and Shardik to tell them what she has learned.
Logged
StefanDirkLahr
Member

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2006, 03:35:34 PM »

Nice examples; I do see what you mean, vis "Ask How", in the back & forth of #1, as compared to the simple scenario in #1, where Player 1's narration gets him only a tiny bit of the outcome.

But check this out:

2. Tanis is spying on the Overlords of Valeras, hoping to find out where they are sending their caravans northwards.

Protag: Tanis slips up to the end of the bar. You said we could just see past the curtain into the private room from there, right?

Antag: Right.I mean, it's not a clear view, but the Overlords and their men move in and out fairly frequently.

Protag: OK then. Tanis orders a Firewater and listens carefully, blocking out all the tavern noise.

Antag: How? They’re in another room, easily 20 feet from you, through a curtain, and you’re in a loud bar full of conversation and music.

Protag: I’ve got exceptional acumen, that’s why the party sent me.

Antag: Hmm. Well, roll then. The most prominent overlords are about 8th level, so that’s your opposition, and I’m slapping another -2 modifier on, one for the curtain and one for the loud bar noise.

Protag: That seems fair. Tanis has a 17 acumen, though, and she’s 9th level, so I only need a 16 or less. (Rolls.) A 12, got it!

Antag: They’re talking about the caravans, all right. They seem to be headed for a place called “Mneme”.

Protag: That’s the ruined city in the high mountains, the one that’s been uninhabited for more than two centuries…

The Antag player nods and plays out the conversation overheard by Tanis, describing what people say and acting some of it out.

Antag: So, you think you’ve heard about enough now, and it’s probably time to leave. But you notice the guards in front of the window pointing at you; they seem to have noticed Tanis listening.

Protag: Not so fast! Tanis is an expert spy, and was doing everything in her power to look innocuous. What level are those guards?

Antag: Um, second or third.

Protag: So, right. She’s got a 12 Charisma, 9th level, minus 3 for the guards…any modifiers?

Antag: I guess just -1. You were sitting there for quite a while. So that’s a 17 or less to avoid being noticed.

Tanis rolls a 6 and gets away unnoticed, returning to Hrothgar and Shardik to tell them what she has learned.

Doesn't that seem really wierd, once we've re-labeled both participants? They're *both* creating the fiction by  introducing new elements and justifications for their actions as play goes on. Rolling for (task) Resolution is just one type of justification used to convince the opponent to yield the narrative, alongside appeals to reality, defined visions of the characters, and etc.

The concentration on Tasks (that the rolling isn't really accomplishing anything that the talking isn't) might just be an artefact of your DnD-esque example, but it is still relevant in how you picture - and reward - the elabouration of the Challenge and Answer dynamic of the conflict.

Do you see what i mean, by that? 
Logged

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
StefanDirkLahr
Member

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2006, 04:30:31 PM »

A quick counterexample:

Protag player: Ok, so Tanis is going to head into the Overlord's tavern, do a little espianoge to discover where they're sending their caravans.

Antag player: Hold on, the Overlords aren't that easy to spy on! They're in a back room, cloaked by curtains and the hustle and bustle of a busy barroom.

Protag player: Fair enough, but Tanis is a cunning spy! She slips unobtrusively up to the end of the bar nearest the back room, and orders a Firewater, while she listens.

Antag player: Listens?! How do you expect to hear a private conversation in another room over all this commotion in the bar?

Protag player: This is Tanis! She is reknowned for her exceptional acumen - it is why she's the one playing the spy, after all.

Antag player: Fine, that works for me - Tanis does indeed overhear the Overlords' caravan planning roundtable, which goes like this...


At any point in there, or every point, you can throw in a Fortune or Karma mechanic to back up the narration, to lend a consistency to the Challenge & Answer, as well as enabling the potential for the course of the story to be forced onto a different course. Or you could leave it all Drama, with the appropriate reinforcement mechanics. Either way, every point is doing something to empower the dramatic creation of the story.

And what you want is a nice solid mechanic to reward detailed, passionate narration and reinforce the SIS. Which may indeed be as simple as asking "And how does that work, exactly?" when the question comes up in the course of play.

I'm trying to say something along the lines of: there are three basic actions in play: "say yes", demand conflict/"roll the dice", and "call BS" - Where does "Ask How" fit in amongst them?
(That isn't a rhetorical question!)
Logged

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2006, 05:58:59 PM »

Great stuff, Sempiternity - thanks for your feedback.

I have some long answers to your last three posts, but the short answer is - "Ask How" is formalizing "Call BS", and it's formalizing it as not a _call_, but a _query_.

More when I can. Thanks again.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!