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Author Topic: [Misery Bubblegum] Power 19, Ranma 1/2, veto-based character  (Read 9478 times)
TonyLB
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« on: February 24, 2006, 07:49:12 AM »

Okay, a few things:  First, I don't think I've ever clearly done the Power 19, and they rock on toast, so ....

1) What is your game about?  Teenagers, constantly becoming new people through their own efforts and the influence (good and bad) of those around them.
2)What do characters do?  Fight each other, date each other, hide their feelings, reveal their feelings, hurt each other, be hurt in turn, sometimes be surprised by happiness.
3) What do the players do?  Take turns being in charge, gather resources, protect their character, risk their character, put their characters fate in the hands of others
4) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?  It's High School.
5) How does Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?  There are no skills.  There are only things that you can put at stake.  You only get what you need to play.
6) What types of behaviors/styles does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?  Reward people who are willing to make their characters vulnerable to the actions of others.
7)How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?  Player reinforcement (a la PTA) and rewards for soliciting engagement (a la Capes).
8)How are responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?  GM duties are as standard, except that they rotate on a minute-by-minute basis.
9) What does your game do to command the player's attention, engagement, and participation?  See below.
10) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?  See [Misery Bubblegum] Stakes Resolution.
11) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?  It's all about what you'll risk.  Literally.  There's nothing else in the mechanics.
12)Do characters in your game advance? If so how?  By the creation of new bundles of player tools with narration.  This is done by a player other than the one running a character (Opinions)
13)How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?  You can only advance by leaving your character vulnerable to the opinions of others.
14) What sort of product or effect do you want the game to produce in or on the players?  That moment when other players at the table find more in your character than you realized.
15)What areas of the game recieve extra attention or color? Why?  High School society (because of Opinions) and personal doubts (because of story-pacing issues).
16) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?  Oooh ... too many to decide.  Love, love, love!
17) Where does your game take the players that other games can't, don't, or won't?  It's high school.  Even if it's a ninja-robot-pilot high school, it's at base about who we are, not what we do.
18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?  Published in Manga format as a graphic novel about a group of friends playing the game (which, coincidentally, teaches you the game).
19) Who is your target audience?  Enthusiasts of Shoujo Manga and Anime.  Also, people who like John Hughes movies, or John Cusack.  Or have been to high school.


So, in [Misery Bubblegum] Stakes Resolution I set up this nice little dynamic:  Sometimes you're a player, sometimes you're the GM (while still being a player).  There's always someone being the GM.  They are expected to push their characters agenda, hard while they're the GM.  Other players are expected to push the GM to hard choices.

There are cards (with things you can put at stake about a character or the story), GM dice (previously called Passion dice) and Player dice (previously called Misery dice).  The GM will spend GM dice (mainly) and cards to earn Player dice and more cards.  The players will spend player dice and cards to earn GM dice and more player dice.  When the GM runs out of GM dice he will become a player, passing the role to someone who has GM dice to spend.

So, basically, there's a pretty closed cycle of dice.  They shuttle back and forth, and they don't really swell or shrink in quantity all that much.  They're a mayfly sort of resource, fluttering and shifting, but very, very ephemeral.  The cards are the more medium-term resource.  The cards that make up your character can be in your hand, in someone else's hand, or in the middle (uncontrolled).

What I'm not sure of is what it means, to the Shared Imaginary Space, to have those cards in various positions.  If the cards are just ... there ... then they don't really motivate much of anything.  So they need to mean something.  They need to inform what the players say and imagine about the fiction that's happening.  Now:  example fiction:  Ranma 1/2.  Ranma is a tough martial-artsy kid, who has been cursed so that whenever he gets soaked with water, "he" turns into a "she."  And yeah, there's layers and layers of complexity that only an afficianado of the series understands, but let's leave that to one side.

Ranma's curse is a secret.  He doesn't want the world to know.  So I'd give him "Secrecy of the Curse" as a card.  When Tom (playing Ranma) has that card in his hand, the secrecy of his curse is generally working for the ... player's interests? ... character's interests?  But, say, Ranma gets to transform into his girl-form and pig out on ice-cream that he's much too macho to be seen eating as a boy.  Clear victory Ranma!

Now Ryoga (played by Julie) also has "Secrecy of the Curse" (he turns into a little black pig ... don't ask).  If Tom gets his hands on Ryoga's "Secrecy" card then he can also use that in Ranma's best interests.  Ranma uess Ryoga's secret to blackmail him, to humiliate him ... all that jazz.  Sucks to be Ryoga.

So how does this actually get mechanically reinforced?  The whole "the card acts in service to such and so" thing seems awfully wishy washy.  It needs more teeth.

Here's one thing I've been thinking of (though I'm not at all sure that it's the right answer:  Each card can come with a "Veto" ability ... something that the holder of the card can veto in narration.  Like Ranma's "Secret of the Curse" card could come with "Veto:  Boy-form Ranma appears unmasculine."  So long as Tom is holding that card, nobody can ever narrate Ranma being girly or weak or anything other than the manliest of manly men (at least while in boy-form).  But if Julie got that card ... oh, my, if Julie got that card.  Well then, Tom would be at her mercy, wouldn't he?  If someone else (Ashley, for instance) described Ranma ending up in a frilly pink dress, it would be Julie who decided whether or not to veto that.  Ryoga's a decent guy though, right?  He wouldn't ... Julie wouldn't allow such a thing.  Right?  Right?

Do you think that would engage people on the imaginative level, and give value to the cards above and beyond their use in the mechanics as such?

Here's another thing I've been thinking of:  maybe the cards have a reward mechanic built into them, like TSoY's Keys or Nobilis's Restrictions.  Maybe whoever is holding the card gets some resource whenever ... say ... "Ranma has to hide because of the form he/she's current in."  That's another way that the cards could be linked to the actions being narrated, and thereby to the Shared Imaginary Space.  Does that sound like it would make vying for the cards a worth-while endeavor?

Or should there be something else entirely?  I'm totally open to suggestions.  What should these cards mean when the dice aren't hitting the table that instant?
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2006, 09:41:43 AM »

Tony, assigning a specific potential-thing-in-the-Fiction to the card, rather than a generalized topic, is on the right track, I think.  The veto-power is probably the most straightforward means to acheive that, but I think in actual play this will probably be problematic and sometimes just downright unfun -- you get "no, that didn't happen" a lot.  I think a reinforcement (reward) system bound to the cards is probably the right way to go.  Something that influences but does not dictate, you know?
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Stefan / 1of3
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2006, 10:38:44 AM »

I don't think the Veto thing would work for me. I'm too nice to make life hard for others, if it doesn't help me. And why would I want Ranma to appear female? (Maybe I overlook something.)

The Key/Restriction thing I like better. It's more like: "If I do that, I get an advantage. What? You suffer? What a pity."
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2006, 11:04:34 AM »

Oh hey, maybe exercising the ability listed on the card nets you dice or whatever.  Cause how much would it suck if a character had a trait that never came up in play?  Get the player to display Ranma's genderbending in a 'safe' situation (like eating ice cream) by rewarding them for it, and get the other players to display the same in a complicated situation (when the grandparents visit) by rewarding them in the exact same way.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2006, 11:38:43 AM »

Heya,

Quote
Tom would be at her mercy, wouldn't he?  If someone else (Ashley, for instance) described Ranma ending up in a frilly pink dress, it would be Julie who decided whether or not to veto that.  Ryoga's a decent guy though, right?  He wouldn't ... Julie wouldn't allow such a thing.  Right?  Right?

-This is cool.  This IS cool!  I hope I get some more time this weekend to give you some better feedback on all this, Tony.  Until then, keep working at it.  You've done some really nice stuff here.

Peace,

-Troy
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TonyLB
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2006, 12:38:16 PM »

Oh hey, maybe exercising the ability listed on the card nets you dice or whatever.  Cause how much would it suck if a character had a trait that never came up in play?  Get the player to display Ranma's genderbending in a 'safe' situation (like eating ice cream) by rewarding them for it, and get the other players to display the same in a complicated situation (when the grandparents visit) by rewarding them in the exact same way.
Heh ...and there's some complexity that comes in when (say) Tom is holding Ryoga's "Jusenkyo Curse" card, rather than Ryoga's player Julie.  Tom gets the reward (whatever it is) then when Ryoga changes form, right?

Or ... hrm ... here's a thought, with a bit of tactical overview for prelude.

You'll have dice in a pool (just owned generally by the player and/or character) and dice on cards (specific to that card).  So you have a pool of GM dice, a pool of Player dice, then GM dice and player dice (potentially) on the "Curse of Jusenkyo" card.  If you've got a lot of dice in your pool then you're powerful generally.  If you have a lot of dice on the Jusenkyo Curse card then you're powerful when you're trying to make that card an issue in the game.

So you'd always want your dice in your pool, rather than on the cards, right?  Wrong.  Because when you're a player, the GM dice in your pool are a penalty to you.  When you're GM the player dice in your pool are a penalty.  Whereas dice on cards are never a penalty ... they're just not useful unless you're involving that card.

With me so far?  There is a tactical benefit to moving dice from your pool to your cards.  There's even a benefit to moving dice from your pool onto cards held by other people.  It's not absolute (it's not like being handed an M&M, always a good thing no matter the situation in play) but it is a reward in many circumstances to be able to do that.  In some circumstances being required to do that would be a cost.

Now what if your reward/cost, when you use an ability, is that you put a die on the card?  A GM die if you used the card to succeed at something (Ranma becomes a girl to eat ice cream) and a player die if you used the card to introduce a complication to your life (clueless Kuno wants to have a duel with boy-type Ranma, and insists that girl-type Ranma watch and cheer ... complicated!)
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2006, 12:46:01 PM »

Now what if your reward/cost, when you use an ability, is that you put a die on the card?  A GM die if you used the card to succeed at something (Ranma becomes a girl to eat ice cream) and a player die if you used the card to introduce a complication to your life (clueless Kuno wants to have a duel with boy-type Ranma, and insists that girl-type Ranma watch and cheer ... complicated!)

And what gets used gets invested with more power; what doesn't get used doesn't get invested and falls away to the sidelines.  A nice built-in filtering mechanic.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2006, 01:08:36 PM »

There's also the split of what kind of dice get on a card.

A card with lots of GM dice is likely to stay where it is.  The GM can't forcibly stake cards controlled by other players (only those players can volunteer them) but the players are allowed to stake controlled cards from the GM (the GM is a great big old target!)  But the GM can use the GM dice on a card to say "No, that's not part of the stakes," so the only time it could end up in the stakes against the card-holder's will, they have dice that they can use to pull it back.

Conversely, a card with lots of player dice is likely to move into the uncontrolled area, and be up for grabs again.

So, once again:  GM dice mean control for the card-holder.  Player dice mean less control for the card-holder.

What I like about combining this with the idea above is this:  Assume that you want to keep cards in your hand, and to shake cards free from other people's hands.  So you want GM dice on cards held by you, and player dice on cards held by anyone else.

Having another player take one of your cards changes your reward structure.  Before, you were motivated to use (say) Ranma's girl-type to eat ice cream (to add GM dice).  Now you are motivated to have the curse create complications for him, wherever possible (to add player dice).
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2006, 01:18:25 PM »

Tangential: why'd you ditch Passion and Misery Dice and went with boring ol' GM and Player Dice?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2006, 01:34:56 PM »

Because they tie in much more clearly to the roles.  When you're the GM, you can spend GM dice.  When you're a player you can spend player dice.  Boring, yes.  Also simple.
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Clyde L. Rhoer
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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2006, 03:14:00 PM »

I'm not sure I completely understand. It's been 15 years since I've seen Ranma 1/2. I'm going to parrot what I'm hearing you are saying about the cards. I hope I'm not far off.

Cards have these functions:
  • Function one. Good or Bad depending on situation. Example: Boy form
  • Function two. Transient state. Example: Down on the table.
  • Function three. Good or Bad depending on the situation. Example Girl form

Then you have dice that can place on a card, in your G.M. pool or your player pool. The G.M. pool and Player pool oppose each other so you are likely to want to have more than dice in one pool or the other but not both. On the card they require you getting that condition in play.

My first question is, can you only place the dice on the card while it is down on the table? Why are the dice ephermal instead of the cards? How many cards are there? One card per player? Can there be less than one per player?

Here's what I think might be neat, if there is less than one card per player (You would probrably need some sort of marker):
  • Card in my hand equals boy form.
  • Card on the table equals whatever form I was last in. I place my marker on it.
  • Card goes into someone elses hand equals girl form for me.

When the cards are on the table perhaps you can load the card with dice to encourage someone to pick it up, or load it with dice they don't need to discourage them from picking up the card. Obviously depending on how people play, you might be encouraging some while discouraging others. Maybe other people can load the card with dice that you don't want to discourage you from picking it back up. Perhaps you get a bonus when you place the card on the table, or perhaps you get a bonus when your marker is on it.

Regardless... whether I'm understanding completely or not it sounds like an interesting dynamic.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2006, 05:52:24 PM »

I'm going to parrot what I'm hearing you are saying about the cards. I hope I'm not far off.

Eh.  A little off, but understandably.  I have to keep reminding myself that when I say "card" many people think of playing cards, rather than the 3x5 cards to which I am unspeakably addicted.  I like 'em because they're so modular.  You can move them around into different patterns on the table, remove some, replace them, cross things out ... 3x5 cards rock.

Anyway, what I'm mainly thinking is, instead of writing up a character sheet with general traits like "Anything Goes Martial Arts," and "Jusenkyo Curse" and "Relationship with Akane" and "Stubborn arrogance" and then putting that character sheet down on the table for people to look at, you put each of those things on a 3x5 card, and put those down on the table for people to look at.  The cards you control wouldn't be a "hand" that you're holding up, off of the table.  They'd just be the 3x5 cards that happen to be right in front of you at the moment.

My first question is, can you only place the dice on the card while it is down on the table? Why are the dice ephermal instead of the cards? How many cards are there? One card per player? Can there be less than one per player?

Cards are always on the table.  Dice can always go on the table.  Dice are ephemeral (in my opinion) because the pools are going to shift much more quickly than possession of the cards is going to.  There are several cards per player:  five sounds like a good round number.  I would not expect to see a situation where there are less cards in play than there are players.

And, specifically, the resolution mechanic of the game almost assumes that you will have at least three or so cards that a given player cares about intently (which may mean they belong to that player's character, though not necessarily).  The point is to get two piles of cards that the GM-of-the-moment has to choose between, and then make them choose.  Does he retain control of "Anything Goes Martial Arts" and simultaneously gain control of "Ryoga's warrior pride," at the cost of losing control of "Relationship with Akane" and "Jusenkyo Curse"?  Or does he keep control of the relationship and the curse and lost the martial arts and his chance to benefit from Ryoga's formidable pride?

Yeah, given the opportunity, Ranma's player would prefer to have a choice that let him take all four and surrender nothing.  But the dice mechanics are all about setting up those choices, so the odds that he'll get such a complete shut-out are slim to none.

I hope that answers your questions!
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TonyLB
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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2006, 05:25:08 AM »

I had a thought, or a dream, or whatever during the night.  It gave me another reason for pushing for "Veto" abilities in some sense or another:  they help structure a story.  This is sort of an expansion on what I wrote here about running structured/plotted stories in Capes.

There are things that everyone agrees the story is leading toward, which it is (nonetheless) vitally important to veto, because they should not happen yet.  "Ranma and Akane kiss," for instance, could be such a story element in Ranma 1/2.  Everyone agrees it should happen ... but not yet (or not in a way that counts).  The tension of their personalities and their zany adventures getting in the way of that "meant to be" element is what makes it fun.

Likewise "Ranma's secret is revealed to all" is an element that you could have a pretty hefty veto on.  Yes, it seems inevitable that it's going to happen, and it's the fun of watching people scramble to prevent it that drives much of the fun of the series.  Because of that, you want to give players the tools to come to the brink of public revelation, without accidentally toppling over into the unfun on the other side.

Yes, you need to know the difference between "not yet" and "never" ... and to move on when "not yet" becomes "now".  Joss Whedon, for instance, gets great mileage out of setting up things like "Will Angel go over to his dark side?" and then actually having it happen.  But it's not something to do accidentally.  Dave and Maddie (Moonlighting) for instance should never have slept together.  Once they removed that tension, the series didn't have anything else.

Some elements shouldn't be rewarded when they happen, they should be rewarded when they almost happen, but not quite.  Does that make sense?
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2006, 06:18:23 AM »

Heya,

Quote
I had a thought, or a dream, or whatever during the night.  It gave me another reason for pushing for "Veto" abilities in some sense or another:  they help structure a story.  This is sort of an expansion on what I wrote here about running structured/plotted stories in Capes

-Oh yeah, it definately does.  I have one quick question, and I bet you've answered it before- I just haven't followed your game as closely as I should.  But are the cards in MB pre-generated for the players or do the players create their own cards before play begins?  I guess I'm asking you to go into more detail about your Chargen system. :)

Peace,

-Troy
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TonyLB
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« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2006, 06:53:04 AM »

I don't have a char-gen system yet.  At the moment (for development) I'm just figuring "the players write down whatever they want, and we see how the game goes from there."

I'm pretty sure that there will need to be a char-gen system (and, in fact, a story generation system), in much the same way that Dogs in the Vineyard needs a Town Creation system.  I think the game could function if you just let players write anything they want on 3x5 cards, and then expected them to "make it work" in the game.  But I'm pretty sure that I will find, in playtesting it, that some structures of cards make the game not merely function but sing.

When I have the skill of (myself) knowing how to make a really cool character for this game then I'll be able to turn that skill into a character generation system that lets anyone make a character that will fit the game well.  So I think it's a later step in the development of the game.

For what it's worth, I strongly suspect that char-gen, by the rules, will require that people do it together in a group.  You jointly create a number of characters, by each individually pursuing the character-generation game rules.  I can't see a rule (just random examples here) that says "Now, create a Goal that your character will pursue" working anywhere near as well as "Now, create a Goal your character will pursue and two Obstructions, which become part of the personality of two other characters at the table.  Hand them their Obstruction cards, and keep your Goal card."
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