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Author Topic: [Misery Bubblegum] Voting ... for creator or for player?  (Read 2529 times)
TonyLB
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« on: March 21, 2006, 01:45:40 PM »

So, here's a sketchy thought.  You ask each player three things about their character:

  • What was your character trying to achieve before the story started?
  • Why do they, as a person, uniquely need to achieve this?
  • How did it go wrong?

This is, essentially, a Kicker specifically channeled to get at the question of motivation.  Then you get your collaborative element.  For each character, every other player gives their own, alternate, answer to the second question ("Why do you need this?")

So Jack is playing Carrie, and says "She was trying to be top student in the school.  She needs to do this because she is intensely competitive.  Bob, the transfer student, beat her out on the mid-year exams."  Then three other players answer (respectively) "She needs to do this because she is afraid of human connection and uses her academic excellence as a shield," "She needs to do this because she's got a hundred dollar bet riding on it," and "She needs to do this because of her terrible faerie curse."

All these answers just sort of hang out there. Maybe all of them have a grain of truth.  But some of them are going to come up for a moment and either be dismissed or accepted ("Sure, she has a faerie curse, but what's important is why she keeps trying,") and some of them are going to have a longer run.  The potential (as touched on in this thread) of each of these threads is going to be determined by vote.  People will have points to give out, and they'll give them out to the explanations that they like best, and those explanations will have the most potential to grab screen time.

With me so far?

So here's the question:  How should that voting occur?  I see two obvious alternatives:

  • Jack ranks the three alternate explanations for his character's behavior in order of how much he likes them (3, 2, 1) and the ranking of how cool it is to Jack is the ranking of how much potential there is for it to dominate play.  This seems (to my mind) to reward players for thinking up alternate explanations that really tweak Jack's fancy.
  • All players rank the alternate explanations they themselves made of other people's characters in order of how much they like them, and the ranking of how cool each explanation is to the player who spawned it is the ranking of how much potential there is for it to dominate play.  This seems (to my mind) to reward players for thinking up characters with such muddied motivations that other players can think up alternate explanations that they really like.

What do you think is the right way to go?
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2006, 02:12:55 PM »

I like the first one, Tony, especially because while you are letting the other players characterize that guy's character, he still gets to take those suggestions and rank them, so the alternative that he's really disinterested in can get low screen time and he can be done with it.

All players rank the alternate explanations they themselves made of other people's characters in order of how much they like them, and the ranking of how cool each explanation is to the player who spawned it is the ranking of how much potential there is for it to dominate play.  This seems (to my mind) to reward players for thinking up characters with such muddied motivations that other players can think up alternate explanations that they really like.

I don't like this one prima facie, but in addition, you have a potential balance problem.  Imagine you, me, Annie, and Barbara are making characters.  You make this terribly engaging excellent character and I make this character that I find terribly interesting but don't present in an engaging way.  Annie, Barbara, and I make up alternate motivations for your guy, and because your guy is supercool, we rank those as our favorites.  Annie, Barbara, and you make up alternate motivations for my guy, and because you-all don't 'get' my guy, you rank those on the low end.  You end up with three high-ranking alternate motivations and I end up with three low-ranking alternates.  If these translate into screen presence, you end up being star of the show. I end up playing some guy in the background -- and don't get the screen presence I need to display how really neat-o my character really is.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2006, 02:22:41 PM »

Joshua:  I have to admit that I think of that as more of a "feature" than a "bug," especially since the Potential on stakes doesn't actually translate into screen presence ... it translates into how much benefit players (any players) can reap if they successfully resolve those stakes, but it also shows how much work needs to go in to resolving said stakes.

So, yeah, if Ed makes Buffy and Gina makes Xander, and Buffy gets "Demonic slayer heritage, 5" and "Self-destructive tendencies, 5" and so on while Xander gets "Sort of lame, 1" and "Defines himself by others, 1" then he gets to resolve his stuff first, and roll the impact from that (whatever it turns out to be) into having an effect on Buffy's story-lines.

So I totally think that making an engaging character makes the story be about that character.  But I'm not at all sure that it makes the game be about that player, if you get the distinction.  People should be rewarded for making cool characters, and punished for making lame ones, so long as that can be done without disempowering them as players.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2006, 02:37:11 PM »

Refresh my memory, Tony -- how long does a game of Misery Bubblegum last in terms of sessions and hours?

Cause if we're going to play Misery Bubblegum once a week for the next four weeks and I have to play the Leppo for a full month, I'm going to come away from that saying, "Misery Bubblegum sucks."

Because while yes, certainly, interesting characters are good and uninteresting characters are bad and designs should encourage players to make interesting characters, I just worry that this penalizes a player for the whole of the game.  Is there any opportunity for players to correct their mistakes and make a more interesting character who can then take a more prominent role in the story?  Otherwise this just means you can roll up a Barbarian with no social skills for the game of political intrigue.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2006, 02:59:35 PM »

At the moment I'm thinking you would redo these questions, and the voting, at the beginning of each session.  Always for the same character, but their conflicts evolve (and, hopefully, evolve to be more interesting to the other players at the table).
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Doug Ruff
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« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2006, 05:57:50 AM »

Hi Tony,

How about a bit of both?

going back to your three steps:

(1) What was your character trying to achieve before the story started?
(2) Why do they, as a person, uniquely need to achieve this?
(3) How did it go wrong?

The player who owns the character gets to define (1).

The other players define (2), but points are assigned by the owning player; he's giving feedback on their development of his character.

Then the owning player defines one or more (3) that addresses each (2). The other players assign points (from a separate pool) to each (3) that addresses their own (2); they are giving feedback on how the owning player has picked up their feedback and run with it.

This way, each player has a guaranteed resource pool at step (2), but there may still be some variation at step (3).

For example for my character Luke:

I want to defeat Vader

The other players offer:

Because he killed my parents
Because I'm in love with the princess
Because I'm the next Jedi master

I rank these 3,2,1 respectively

I then respond:

But Vader is my real father
But the princess is actually my sister
But I'm too angry to control my powers

And I'm competing for points from the players who made the original suggestions - for each of these three responses, one player will be awarding me 1,2 or 3, depending on how they rate my response against the responses they got form the other two players.
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