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Author Topic: [Expendable] The Mechanics of Guilt and Innocence  (Read 2636 times)
greyorm
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« on: April 04, 2006, 01:00:12 PM »

"Expendable" was a Ronnies enty last year that I am finally getting around to

Here's the PDF over at 1km1t

Here's the Ronnies thread.

In the latest drafts of the game, I have answered a number of the questions Ron had in the thread above, and fixed some minor mechanical stuff to make it more clear. My largest problem remains with the Guilt, Innocence and Repenetant mechanics.

Quote
A quick summary of the current basic rules: Two players roll against one another with a pool of dice. Each finds their highest die. The number of the opponent's dice higher than that is the number of injuries they take. Any rolls that are ties cause injury to BOTH parties. These injuries stick and cannot be removed with Fallout.

After a roll, either player can use a skill point to "Increase the Stakes", shifting the damage to his equipment, the local environment, or bystanders (the process is called "Fallout"). They may then reroll with a penalty. Damaged Equipment may be useless or less useful now (out of power, out of bullets, irreprably damaged, shorted out, intermittently functional, etc.), a damaged Environment places the Fallout in a pool that is used by the gamemaster in various ways, damaged Bystanders cause a loss of Innocence or Repentance.

Ok, now, here's the problem I face: the role of Guilt/Innocence/Repetance in all this.

Guilt and Innocence are binary on/off switches. You can go from the latter to the former, but not back. Repententance is something you earn through Acts of Innocence (as defined by the players before play begins. I will include a sample list in the final book).

Guilt is supposed to provide both a large bonus and a large penalty. The penalty is supposed to be that the character is an injury magnet. The bonus is supposed to be a greater ability to resist or divest oneself of damage. How this actually functions has not been worked out. I am concerned that this is basically negating both the penalty and the bonus, so why bother? However, Guilt does have one concretized benefit: the Guilty always have one bonus die to roll against Innocents. I am considering making this the only benefit they recieve, but it does seem pretty skimpy.

Mechanically, Guilt should: Make you badass. Be useful. Be dangerous.

Repentance can be spent for...stuff. Haven't quite figured out what that is, but for the moment, I'm allowing it to be spent for Ties. A Tie causes an injury to both the individuals involved in a roll, and it cannot be regulated elsewhere with Fallout, but I'm not certain this is a thematically appropriate benefit. Originally, it could be expended to ignore injuries.

Mechanically, Repentance should: Be less useful than Guilt, at first; become more useful as you gain more.

Innocence is supposed to be something you should strive to keep the whole game if you have it, because hanging on to it should be rare. The game should force you to make choices about staying Innocent or becoming Guilty in order to survive. I have nothing that makes those two things click together.

Mechanically, Innocence should: Be less useful than Guilt. Provide a benefit no one else can get.

And that's where I'm at right now. Thoughts, suggestions, useless sniggering?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2006, 05:49:12 AM »

Scenario design, or more jargon-y, Situation, is what you need to concentrate on now.

You need to be answering the question, "What do the characters do?"

Once you have a solid concept for that, then all sorts of feedback will occur in your brain and the answers to those questions will seem obvious.

Best, Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2006, 08:38:36 PM »

Unlike a number of my other abortive designs, I've known that from the get-go: the characters get dropped off in various super-lethal hot zones full of environmental and biological hazards and attempt to survive long enough to complete their mission while quite probably shooting at each other. There's a number of "color" pieces in the current write-up that are all about what is expected to happen in the game; the movies "Alien" and "Aliens" are primers for the game regarding "what kind of things the characters do", along with a couple of inspiring episodes of "Star Trek: the Next Generation" whose names I don't know.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
greyorm
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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2006, 06:16:17 PM »

Ron...you bastard...

See, despite knowing what my game was about, Ron made me go back and look at it again, and look at my mechanics in light of that. He even made me think about changing the Guilt/Innocence thing into a purely social relationship mechanic, and thinking about that made me weep and bang my head against the desk for a bit (because it was a good idea that just didn't work, leaving me stuck again), but despite the agony, something productive arose out of all this. This is why one should always think about whatever design advice this man gives you. This is also why he is a bastard.

So, what's do the characters do and how do (or DO?) these mechanics specifically help implement that?

You can see what they are supposed to do above, and you can see what I wanted the mechanics to do above that. I threw them together into the blender as advised and realized how I could make Guilt and Innocence breed intra-party conflict while making the Guilty both tough and the universe's punching bags.

Here's what I came up with:

Guilt has returned to its design roots and is now tracked as a seperate variable. Guilty and Repentant characters both retain Guilt, only the Innocent are free of it. It starts at either 1 or 0, and it goes up but never goes down.

Each point of Guilt you earn (from performing an Act of Guilt) gives Repentant and Innocent characters an extra die they can add to any rolls against you. The Guilty cannot use another character's pool of Guilt against them.

The Repentant can only use a number of their opponent's Guilt dice equal to the amount of Repentance (earned by performing Acts of Innocence) they have.
The Innocent can use all the Guilt another character has.

Additionally, the Guilty are able to shift all injuries into Fallout when they Increase the Stakes, as long as they have skill points left to do it.
Repentant characters are also able to do this when they Increase the Stakes, but may only shift as many points of injury to Fallout as they have of Repentance.
Innocent characters cannot shift any points to Fallout, though they may still Increase the Stakes.

I'm not sure if I am entirely happy with the mechanics for Innocents -- I worry they might too swiftly end up tenderized -- but I have a workable dynamic right now, and it should be playtested before I try to tweak it any further based on what I think might happen rather than what does actually happen in a game.

I am now moving on to concretizing the rules for Equipment (and attendant the Technology resource I had to add to cover that -- thank you InSpectres!) and Environment. However, I do want to ask before I do that: does anyone have any questions about the above rules, or see any absolute glaring errors I happen to have missed in the implementation?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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talysman
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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2006, 07:03:26 PM »

Here's an observation: the rules you just laid out for Guilt, Repentance and Innocence leave the Innocent at a disadvantage, as you mention. The Innocent get chewed up. Guilt is a quick way to get power, but it's only powerful in the short term. The most powerful position, then, is Repentance. The Repentant are realistic. They've crossed over the line in the past, and they know they can cross again, but they choose not to, right now.

So, before you do something to fix Innocence, you might want to consider: do the rules as they now stand make a statement that you'd agree with?
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John Laviolette
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greyorm
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2006, 07:46:06 PM »

Here's an observation: the rules you just laid out for Guilt, Repentance and Innocence leave the Innocent at a disadvantage, as you mention. The Innocent get chewed up. Guilt is a quick way to get power, but it's only powerful in the short term. The most powerful position, then, is Repentance. The Repentant are realistic. They've crossed over the line in the past, and they know they can cross again, but they choose not to, right now.

So, before you do something to fix Innocence, you might want to consider: do the rules as they now stand make a statement that you'd agree with?

Yep. What you're saying is all intentionally there.[1] And if you're seeing what I wanted the mechanics present, then I'm in a good spot. Excellent.

Also note, there is more to this than just the mechanics. There are social/personal level player-things that may come into play as well. That is, someone may choose to try to maintain Innocence regardless of the mechanical benefits just over the corner over there. That, to me, is a Big Fucking Deal player-statement.

I should mention, however, a piece of the puzzle that is not apparent from the above, but which makes a big difference in what you do in play: as before, recrossing the line -- that is, a die-hard Repentant comitting an Act of Guilt -- is mechanically a Big Deal, with capitalized letters and everything. Doing so erases all the Repentance you have earned and gives others more Guilt to use against you. Remember, Guilt never goes away. What all that means is low Repentance characters are actually worse-off than Innocents.

I fully expect some people may try and game the system on that line between Repentant and Guilty, and I have no problem with that. But I also expect that once you're more than a few points in -- moral issues aside -- dropping all that Repentance just to do something you feel is necessary becomes a much harder choice. When that choice comes up and someone says, "Screw it. I shoot the fucker in the head" or "Crap, I can't survive this! I...I call for Fallout on those Bystanders."[2] That should be a "holy crap" moment at the table.

Like I said, I'm in a good place with them right now if you're seeing what's in my head regarding play when I show the mechanics to you. Thanks for the feedback, John!

-----

[1] Just so no one gets confused, and as a general statement (not as a specific response to you, John): what I am saying with the mechanics is not what I personally believe about morality or how I think the universe at large actually works or should work regarding these issues, and whether I agree with the statement being made by them is besides the point. I'm using the mechanics to set up specific sorts of scenarios and situations between particular sorts of people; the mechanics are there to make things interesting, not to represent any quantative measure of reality or cause-effect. They are flash-points for creating and enabling meaningful conflict.

[2] My notes above do not make this option clear. I have said the Innocent can not move injuries into Fallout; I should make note that they CAN TOO, at least they can with Bystanders (which may include other players). They just become one of the Guilty by doing so. It's a choice.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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