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Author Topic: "Gritty, Dangerous" pseudo-Comics Code  (Read 11833 times)
Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2006, 10:37:55 AM »

"Comics Code:  No person may die through action or inaction of the heroes"

For the purposes of inquiry I will use a slightly modified CC:
"Comics Code:  No innocent or hero may die through action or inaction of the heroes"

Does the above Comic Code constrain what actions the characters can do?

For example, a player want to have his hero throw a bus at the bad guy.  However, there are bystanders present. so: Event: Captain Good throw a bus at Mr. Evil (or Goal: Captain Good incapacitates Mr. Evil by throwing a bus at him)

Is the hero disallowed from throwing the bus at Mr. Evil?

It constrains the player of Captain Good only insofar as Captain Good's player must come up with an immaginative way to narrate throwing the bus so that no civilians are killed, and so that it doesn't sound so contrived that his fellow players all go "Geez, that was stupid" and throw popcorn at him.  It actually constrains Mr. Evil's player more than Captain Good's, in a way, because I would hazard a guess that Mr. Evil's player would just LOVE to describe Captain Good killing a few civilians, and he simply is not allowed to do so. 

Another example, Mr Evil take a hostage.  Does the above Comics Code prevent the heroes from placing the hostage's life in jeopardy, or does it state that whatever the heroes do, they will not able to harm the hostage, so they should feel free to open fire on Mr. Evil?

After being involved in a few discussions about Capes, my gut is telling me that what a rule says is all that is bound and not one whit more.

Absolutely correct.

So *my* read on this is that the above Comics Code, by preventing any action or inaction of a hero to cause the death of someone, it *actually* free the heroes up to take any action they wish knowing that the *can't* cause the death of anyone.

[snipped text showing light bulbs coming on like crazy over Sindyr's head]

Actually, I quite like the idea of the above CC giving hero's players carte blanche to do anything knowing the innocents are not in any real danger.  After all, why else would heroes in every comic book fight baddies while easily killed mortals watch nearby?

This is a cool way to look at it that hadn't occurred to me.  I had previously looked at the CC as a way to let players of "evil" characters try to do really evil stuff, knowing they won't succed and knowing they will get stuff (story tokens for gloating) for trying.  I had never viewed it as a safety net for the heroes as well (although this brings up that gloating thing again...)

However, there is a danger, I think, in the way you describe this.  Remember that Capes rules have absolutely nothing to do with any kind of realistic model of cause and effect.  So it is not a matter of Captain Good throwing a bus at Mr. Evil in a crowded street, knowing no civilians can be hurt.  It is more of a protection of the story as a whole; it prevents people from narrating something that would violate the conventions of the kind of comic book story you are trying to tell. 

In the story, a lot of fun could be had with the character of Captain Good dithering over whether or not to throw the bus, or being terrified that he HAD actually killed some civilians.  If I were playing Mr. Evil, I would be sorely tempted to put an Event out along the lines of "Event: Captain Good is certain he has killed several civilians" in response to the bus throwing incident.  We players know that no civilians have really died, but we could have several scenes go buy during which Captain Good, and everyone else in the world THINKS that they have.  Then, finally, little Susie, thought crushed and pulped beyond recognition, is found alive in the sewers, captured by the Sewer People who made her their queen, and Captain Good sobs with relief over her.

Moreover, in your CC it says an innocent can't DIE, but it says nothing about serious injury.  As soon as Captain Good throws the bus, my very next narration as Mr. Evil's character might be "the screams of the wounded and maimed civilians are terrible to hear..."  Teach him to throw a bus at MY character.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2006, 10:41:19 AM »

Does the above Comic Code constrain what actions the characters can do?

No.  It constrains what events the players can narrate.

So *my* read on this is that the above Comics Code, by preventing any action or inaction of a hero to cause the death of someone, it *actually* free the heroes up to take any action they wish knowing that the *can't* cause the death of anyone.

Yep!  It also frees the players of villains to take any action they wish, knowing that they can't make the heroes cause the death of anyone, but that they can get heartily rewarded for trying (as they should, if they're playing villains!)

Now, as Hans points out, there's also the question of how much suspension of disbelief your group can handle.  For instance, if your hero comes up to a mugger and rips his head off it might (with some groups) be difficult for them to simply accept, without further narration, that the comics code has not been violated.  At some point many people will wonder ... "But ... that whole decapitation thing?  And the funeral?  And the body decomposing?  Doesn't that sort of indicate ... uh ... death?"  I don't have objective rules dealing with that (like saying "You can gloat now, but not now ... you must gloat here, but cannot gloat there") because (a) it would have been really, really, really hard and (b) I sort of figure that most groups will hit their own social balance on the issue without further structure.

Actually, I quite like the idea of the above CC giving hero's players carte blanche to do anything knowing the innocents are not in any real danger.  After all, why else would heroes in every comic book fight baddies while easily killed mortals watch nearby?

Scott McCloud made a wonderful little comic book called "Destroy!" in which two super-powered bruisers really go at it, in classic Kirby style, and take out (one by one) almost every landmark of New York city, followed by a single titanic explosion that destroys the city itself.

The last panel is the mayor looking around the ruins of the entire city and observing "Well, thank God nobody was hurt!"

That last panel, satirical as it is, helps to take the curse off the violence in the whole rest of the story.  I love that panel.
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Hans
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Posts: 576


« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2006, 12:40:05 PM »

Now, as Hans points out, there's also the question of how much suspension of disbelief your group can handle.  For instance, if your hero comes up to a mugger and rips his head off it might (with some groups) be difficult for them to simply accept, without further narration, that the comics code has not been violated.  At some point many people will wonder ... "But ... that whole decapitation thing?  And the funeral?  And the body decomposing?  Doesn't that sort of indicate ... uh ... death?"  I don't have objective rules dealing with that (like saying "You can gloat now, but not now ... you must gloat here, but cannot gloat there") because (a) it would have been really, really, really hard and (b) I sort of figure that most groups will hit their own social balance on the issue without further structure.

At Pandemonium, when I was organizing two tables of Capes, I coined what I call the "popcorn" answer to almost any question about Capes that begins with "But what keeps a player from narrating..."  My answer is "the other players throwing popcorn at the narrating player with scorn and contempt."  I say this not with sarcasm, but with full understanding, as I once asked those sorts of questions on this forum, and was given a similar answer.  I just like the image of popcorn flying across the room and beaning someone for saying something completely absurd.
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Sindyr
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Posts: 795


« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2006, 01:01:18 PM »

"popcorn" answers make me sigh.

And they also make baby Jesus cry, so...

;)
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-Sindyr
Tuxboy
Member

Posts: 125


« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2006, 02:29:36 AM »

Quote
Now we get to the crux of our confusion.  Your understanding of the gloat mechanism is faultless.  It is your understanding of conflicts themselves that I respectfully suggest is not consonant with the rules. 

Page 29 of the rules says "Technically there is no such thing as a "for" or "against" side of a Conflict. The sides are defined by who rolls which dice, and what narrative goals they pursue in doing so."  Also, characters don't claim conflicts, their players do (page 22).

Therefore, there is no "yes" and "no" side to a conflict.  There are just sides.  As Able's player, I can roll on the "Goal: Able Succeeds", and claim a side, if I choose to.  Is that now the "for" side?  Only if I think Able succeeding is a cool thing to happen. 

To take it a step further: as Able's player, I could put out "Goal: Able Fails Miserably", claim a side of it, and roll up that side using Able's own character traits, perhaps narrating what a bumbling fool Able is.  This could even be a big deal in the story: maybe Able is normally played by some other player, who really has been working to make Able into something more than a bumbling fool.  But someone else has claimed them for this scene before Able's normal player got a chance to.  Maybe they claimed Able expressly for the purpose of squeezing Able's normal player for story tokens, because they know that Able's normal player will fight tooth and nail to keep bad stuff happening to Able.  This may seem far-fetched to you, but I have seen almost this exact situation in actual play, and several situations similar to it.  All of them led to some really cool story-telling.

It is perfectly obvious that anyone can claim any side of a conflict, roll on either side, and narrate what ever the want...and is very good tactics to do so...I think the issue is that you seemed to misunderstand my point and thought I meant that "good guys" couldn't gloat and that I believe all conflicts have a rigid "good/bad" side, which I think came from the structure of the original example.

The point I was making is that only the player resolving the conflict that violates the gloat mechanism can gloat on it, which is by definition the player who claimed that side of the conflict. The "for/against", "yes/no", "good/bad", or "black/white" side of a conflict is semantics in this situation.

Quote
It is exactly the rule above that makes me have questions about the gloating rule, found on page 114: "Any time that Resolving a Conflict would make [a violation of the comics code] happen, the Resolving Player must Gloat instead."  In light of the rule on page 29, what does "make them happen" mean?  Nothing MAKES anything happen, its all a matter of player choice.  So then, who gets to gloat? 

Given the wording of the rule your question doesn't seem to make any sense. Resolving a conflict "makes" the conflict happen, it is the whole point of the mechanic.
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Doug

"Besides the day I can't maim thirty radioactive teenagers is the day I hang up my coat for good!" ...Midnighter
Hans
Member

Posts: 576


« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2006, 06:11:48 AM »

It is perfectly obvious that anyone can claim any side of a conflict, roll on either side, and narrate what ever the want...and is very good tactics to do so...I think the issue is that you seemed to misunderstand my point and thought I meant that "good guys" couldn't gloat and that I believe all conflicts have a rigid "good/bad" side, which I think came from the structure of the original example.

The point I was making is that only the player resolving the conflict that violates the gloat mechanism can gloat on it, which is by definition the player who claimed that side of the conflict. The "for/against", "yes/no", "good/bad", or "black/white" side of a conflict is semantics in this situation.

I freely admit what you have written above makes no sense to me.  In the first sentence you say that anyone can do anything on any side, and then you say in the next sentence that "good guys" can't do anything they want, because they are "good", and that all conflicts have a rigid "good/bad" side, which to me directly contradicts the actual wording and also the intent of the rules.  Then you go on to say that "for/against", "good/bad" are just semantics.  Agreed, this was my point exactly, therefore, the terms are meaningless from a game mechanic perspective.

Tuxboy, I feel like you and I are speaking two different languages, so I respectfully suggest we call a halt amicably to the discussion.  We seem to be in a cycle of misunderstanding each other which often ends up fruitless.  I have achieved my aim with this thread, which was to get feedback on the code, and also get some questions answered about gloating (which Tony answered a couple of posts ago).  I suggest that if we are ever at the same convention together we pick this conversation up again in person, after both of us have played a lot more Capes, and see if we can understand each other and come to some conclusion.  OR, better yet, just play some Capes together, and you can throw popcorn at me when I try to gloat as a "good guy". :)
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2006, 06:33:08 AM »

"popcorn" answers make me sigh.

And they also make baby Jesus cry, so...

;)

Sindyr,

I know your comment here was somewhat tongue in cheek but the "popcorn" answer holds for every single RPG I've ever read, including all the traditional ones like D&D, GURPS, etc.  Every game has someone who contrains what can be added to the game's narrative (or Shared Imaginary Space, if you're up on the jargon here at the Forge).  In traditional games this is the GM.  The GM has all the powers (and more) than each player in a Capes game.  He can narrate anything he wants at any time.  So, why doesn't he narrate stupid, lame stuff?  Popcorn.  The rest of the players would roll their eyes and toss popcorn at him for being lame.  It works (most of the time) in those games.  It works in Capes too.

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Tuxboy
Member

Posts: 125


« Reply #22 on: March 10, 2006, 02:47:16 AM »

Hans

You are right. The misunderstanding does seem to stem from the main issue of communication with the written word, that there is no way to verify to other person's understanding, which is pointed out by your comments on :

Quote
It is perfectly obvious that anyone can claim any side of a conflict, roll on either side, and narrate what ever the want...and is very good tactics to do so...I think the issue is that you seemed to misunderstand my point and thought I meant that "good guys" couldn't gloat and that I believe all conflicts have a rigid "good/bad" side, which I think came from the structure of the original example.

There is no contradiction there as the statement
Quote
you seemed to misunderstand my point and thought I meant that "good guys" couldn't gloat and that I believe all conflicts have a rigid "good/bad" side
actually points out were the original misunderstanding was ;)

In fact I think we agree about everything except the ability of the non-Resolving player to gloat on a conflict. *L*
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Doug

"Besides the day I can't maim thirty radioactive teenagers is the day I hang up my coat for good!" ...Midnighter
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