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Author Topic: [Misery Bubblegum] Character tangle-kickers  (Read 4646 times)
TonyLB
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« on: April 09, 2006, 06:19:49 AM »

So I had a very productive playtest experience of the draft rules of Misery Bubblegum last night ... which is to say that there was the promise of greatness, wholly unfulfilled.

Here's what worked:  I had a new and refined way of people creating something roughly like kickers.  They answered the following questions:

  • What do you want to become?
  • What traits (of yours) help you become that?
  • Who, specifically (of the other PCs or, less good, an NPC) stands in your way?
  • What traits would they have to compromise before you could get what you want?

For instance, in our little fairy-tale high school we had Princess Shadow, who answered (best I can remember) like this:  "I want to become a beloved child.  I am helped by being sincere.  My elder brother, Prince Edward, stands between me and my parent's attention.  I can't measure up.  He would have to stop being graceful and brave before I could get what I want."

Ella (fairy godmother in training) answered:  "I want to be popular and socially dominant.  I am helped by being shallow and magical.  Princess Shadow stands between me and my desire by attracting attention that should be mine.  She's nothing but trouble to me.  She would have to stop being an anti-magic jinx and sincere before I could get what I want."

... and so on ... there was a pixie who secretly wanted to protect Ella, and Prince Edward himself who just wanted to connect with his little sister and all that jazz.

In terms of straight roleplaying, we had a very charged situation.  Ella confronted Shadow, and her pixie got into a fight, and everybody was as bristly and vulnerable as a porcupine dipped in hair-mousse.  Shadow's player bristled every time Edward was mentioned ... so, of course, Ella compared her to Edward at every opportunity.  There was a lot of "Oh man!  She didn't just say that, did she?  It seems innocent, but it cuts so deep!"

And all that was great.  But then the resolution mechanic connected to it sucked ... in part because it was Rock-Paper-Scissors with stuff attached, but the attached stuff didn't motivate anyone, so it was just R-P-S, and in part because it was aiming at the wrong things.  It was aiming at "Who controls, for instance, what it means for Prince Edward to be graceful."  I think it should be aiming at stuff like "What, of the things Prince Edward does, hurts Princess Shadow every time he does it?  What makes her feel good every time he does it?  What, in short, does she need from him?"

That sort of mechanic would allow Shadow to create a link to Edwards (non-existent) arrogance ... she could say very clearly that it would be a great benefit to her every time Prince Edward is arrogant.  If Edward really wants to connect with his little sister, and he discovers this desire, would he actually be arrogant in order to make her happy? 

If Wolf chooses to be rewarded when Ella is caring (which, by default, she never is) and punished when she is self-absorbed ... and then he becomes someone she values ... does that encourage Ella to change how she behaves?  Or does it just make her angry that Wolf wants things from her that she can't give?  Particularly, what if every time she is caring it also rewards Shadow, who sees her vulnerability?

Anyway, the current system does not point people strongly enough to create such dynamics, so I'll have to restructure so that we're not acting on the traits, but rather acting directly on the relationships between people and other people's traits, and how that network creates conflict.

But that's probably material for First Thoughts (pretty soon).  In the meantime, the playtest was very productive and fun to boot. I'd be very interested to hear the opinions of the people who were there, as well as any opinions that this report sparks in others.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2006, 07:29:17 AM »

Tony, are you keeping traits or just dunking them in favor of relationships?  What if you incorporated the traits into the relationships, so Princess Shadow has on her sheet "jealous of Edward's exploits" and Edward has "wants to get past Shadow's superficiality"?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2006, 07:44:51 AM »

I'm probably going to keep traits, as a means of focussing attention.  If Prince Edward has "Brave" as a trait (and you know he's going to be using it, with that exact wording) then you don't say "Princess Shadow gains a point of Misery every time Prince Edward is virtuous."  You say "Princess Shadow gains a point of Misery every time Prince Edward is brave."  You use the same, precise, wording ... that focusses everyone on the same things.

And, also, it gives you room to talk about what isn't yet formally represented in the character.  If the player wants to write "Princess Shadow gains a point of Victory every time Prince Edward is arrogant," and Prince Edward doesn't even have "arrogant" on his sheet (or anything even vaguely like it) then you're making a different sort of statement.  You are saying "I want to examine the possibility of Edward being arrogant."  If we then have Shepherdess Sam say "Sam gains a point of Misery every time Prince Edward is arrogant," then you're starting to develop a group opinion about what it means for Edward to be arrogant ... if he ever chooses to be.

Heh.

Here's a thought:  What if the power of a trait is directly related to how many such relationships it has?  So "Arrogant" is something that cannot possibly influence the mechanics until someone cares.  Edward can be arrogant, or humble, and as long as nobody cares it's just narrative color.  But when his arrogance makes Shadow feel vindicated, and Sam feel unloved, and the Queen feel inadequate and Wolf feel furious ... then it's a trait that gives Edward's player a big bonus whenever it's used.  Your most important traits are precisely the ones that give a big ol' shove to the story every time you use them, by super-charging the opinions and feelings of everyone around you.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2006, 12:53:40 PM »

I like it, Tony.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2006, 06:39:00 AM »

So I've been thinking about this (big surprise!)  And here's the question in my mind:  Is there a valuable distinction to be made between the following actions/outcomes?

  • You change the rewards (misery or victory/passon/drive/whatever-the-other-one-is) that come to you each time you use one of your own abilities
  • You change the rewards you receive when someone else uses one of their abilities
  • You change the rewards someone else receives when you use one of your abilities
  • You change the rewards someone else receives when they use one of their own abilities
  • You change the rewards you receive when an element of Situation comes up in a scene
  • You change the rewards someone else receives when an element of Situation comes up in a scene
  • You change the rewards you receive when an element of Situation is resolved a certain way
  • You change the rewards someone else receives when an element of Situation is resolved in a certain way

Which of these should be conflated?  Which of them are important enough to be treated differently?  Should people be presented with the choice of pursuing one type at the expense of another?

As a basic for-instance:  You have to choose between adding "+1 Victory for me each time the fight to be first-place in the sports festival is an issue" or "+5 Victory if I win first-place in the sports festival."  For some games that would be an interesting choice, and the system could push you toward having those two things weigh in the balance at the same time, so you are mechanically supported in choosing between them.  I wonder whether Misery Bubblegum should do that.

Likewise:  You have to choose between "+1 Victory to me each time the sports-fest is an issue" or "+1 Misery to my enemy each time the sports-fest is an issue."  Again, some games would benefit from having those things arise at the same time and be weighed in a balance, some games would not.

At I-Con Thor inspired me to think "The kind of choices you should be making are these:  Look at these three things, Integrity, Friendship and Success.  Now choose only two of three."

Not exactly on that score, but you could say that in each conflict people spend their resources in three areas:

  • Ways in which people (yourself or others) are rewarded for using their own abilities
  • Ways in which people (yourself or others) are rewarded when someone else uses their abilities
  • Ways in which people (yourself or others) are rewarded when situations arise or are resolved

... and that would create something like that ongoing choice between Integrity, Friendship and Success.  But, similarly, you could do:

  • Ways in which you are rewarded for using your own abilities or when someone else uses theirs
  • Ways in which others are rewarded when you or someone else uses their abilities
  • Ways in which people (yourself or others) are rewarded when situations arise or are resolved

... and that's a different dynamic.  A very different dynamic.

And that's without even getting into the question of outlawing some of the categories.  If I straight out outlaw the notion that you can change your own reward scheme for using your own abilities, that would sort of rock.  If I outlaw the notion that you can change someone else's reward scheme for other people using abilities, that might sort of rock took, though I'm by no means as certain.  Then you get:

  • Ways in which others are rewarded for using their own abilities
  • Ways in which you are rewarded when someone else uses their abilities
  • Ways in which people (yourself or others) are rewarded when situations arise or are resolved

... and that's sort of odd.  Because if you don't want someone else to be messing with how you are rewarded for using your own abilities then the way to block them is to win the category ... and to change how they are being rewarded for using their own abilities.  If you don't want them telling you how to feel about yourself you have to tell them how to feel about themselves.

Dang!  DANG!  I've had a long, painful lull in which I was just trying to remember the excitement I originally had about Misery Bubblegum.  It's only now, as my breath comes short from the sheer possibilities, that I realize how bad things have been.  Bless you, poor victimized playtesters!  I say it upon my knees, bless you a thousand times!
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2006, 10:45:06 AM »

What if a character's vulnerabilities could be opened up by a single player who had the key (my character Princess Shadow was vulnerable to Prince Edward's bravery) and exploited by any player. That is, whenever Prince Edward did something brave in front of Shadow, she was vulnerable at that very moment, and any player could stomp on her for it with mechanical support. Edward's player could intentionally do things to hurt my character if he wanted, or he could just "innocently" open the door and Ella could charge through it with her faerie godmother-in-training stompin' boots on.

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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
TonyLB
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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2006, 03:52:11 PM »

Hey, as long as we're actually in the playtest forum:  Are there people out there who would be willing to be guinea pigs over IRC?  Because I can either go try to make a complete system off of this idea (which'd be keen, but might lead me down the wrong path again) or I can make enough of one for a next playtest, and then see what that experience sparks.  I'd prefer the latter, if I can do it, and a few hours of computer-time is easier for me to arrange than a face-to-face sit-down.  Sad, but true.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2006, 07:59:12 PM »

With enough notice, and on the right evening, I can do. I hates on IRC though. I way prefer MUSH and even have sandbox servers sitting around, but I can do whatever. I haven't used IRC in years so I'll need reminders of where and how and clients and stuff (though I think my mush client does IRC... not sure).
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Madheretic
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« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2006, 10:16:18 PM »

I would similarly be interested in this IRC playtesting. Also a little rusty on the IRC stuff.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2006, 10:23:06 AM »

I'm game any PST evening Tuesday to Thursday, and amorphous times on the weekend.
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