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Author Topic: [Address of Challenge] Deciding what is THE challenge  (Read 14014 times)
Silmenume
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Posts: 467


« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2006, 04:37:44 PM »

Hey Callan,

I think more along the lines that players should take the challenge they want, rather than be given it. They see a challenge within the risky activities presented, then take it.

Actually, a way that I am viewing Gamism, is that all play is a potential risk situation and that part of the Step on Up comes is derived from the players ability to assess the amount potential risk in any given situation.  This assessment process is not without its own inherent risks and to a certain extent this is the realm where more “guts” are shown as at this point in play there is so little information available upon which to base further action.

On the other hand I believe that play that is heavy on the Gamble is in a sense easier to run for a GM precisely because the GM is less responsible for the outcome.  Contrast this with the Crunch where the players aren’t looking for a high risk, but a manageable one with a reasonably predictable outcome and the GM has to work to match the players’ skills against the subjective difficulty of the Challenge.

Finally I don’t believe players look for Challenge in the same way that players look for Premise in Nar play.  In Gam play I believe that Challenge is defined post facto it is what the players have Stepped on Up against.  We don’t know what the players will Step on Up to until they have made that choice.

One question that comes to mind then, is the “crunch” GM supposed to float the difficulty and monitor the eventual outcome so as to “ensure” the result while the “gamble” GM is freer to let things ride out to their eventual conclusion?
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #16 on: March 31, 2006, 07:57:20 PM »

I think more along the lines that players should take the challenge they want, rather than be given it. They see a challenge within the risky activities presented, then take it. A player with cleave, for example, might take up horde fights. Or he might take up a challenge that's half horde fight, half one on one fight, because he see's the challenge there as seeing if he can still handle it all, despite his investment in the cleave resource. Or something else equally complicated and practically impossible for the GM to second guess. Hell, IMO even the player often doesn't know where they will see the challenge, until it happens.

I see what you're saying about the "players pick the challenge" thing; I was following it in your Rifts PBP thread as well. But the GM, at least in a pretty strong GM-sole-authority-to-introduce outside-events game (like D&D), still has to give the players something to pick. I had a Swashbuckler with Combat Reflexes in a short-lived game, who never got to use it because he never had multiple assailants to set it off. . .the party had to go into a Kobold lair to retrieve some artifact our rogue's guild sent him after, as initiation. I perked up at the thought of fighting a whole swarm of li'l nasties, and seeing if this character's engine would really hum. In the entirety of the "dungeon" (a linear tunnel with a puzzle room and two doors at the end), we fought (ready, now?) an acid slime, and a mimic. Yeah. An acid slime, and a mimic. After all this "you see the crude markings of Kobolds adorning the rough-hewn walls" shit. This was a simple matter of shitty GMing. D&D allows players to tell GMs, very clearly, in quantified terms, what challenges they wish their characters to tackle. So GMs need to give them some. The way you describe our hypothetical cleave-fighter, one gets the impression of him entering a town, seeing "one on one fights down this street," "horde-fights down that alley," "wizard duels behind the tavern," and so on. In actual practice, of course it's not going to be so neat, and even if the GM presents multiple challenge options, he's still in charge of writing the menu.

I know you did refer to this in the phrase, "risky activities presented," but I guess I'm pointing all this out because I don't see how this invalidates Tommi's point.

Peace,
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Tommi Brander
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« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2006, 08:13:11 AM »

Callan,
Short version: What Joel said.

Long version: In traditional model, GM can pretty much select which potential premises/challenges the PCs face. Hence, flags.
Even in standard model the GM has harder time choosing how the premise/challenge is dealt with (which I think would be deprotagonisation). I assume that taking all the possible interesting premises/challenges away would be deprotagonising, too.

Do you disagree?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2006, 02:03:21 PM »

Hi Jay,

Quote
Finally I don’t believe players look for Challenge in the same way that players look for Premise in Nar play.  In Gam play I believe that Challenge is defined post facto it is what the players have Stepped on Up against.  We don’t know what the players will Step on Up to until they have made that choice.
I don't quite understand how the player isn't looking for something, but do step up to something. I can only see it that the players must have chosen that something, and to have chosen it they were on the look out for things like that.


Hi Joel,

Quote
But the GM, at least in a pretty strong GM-sole-authority-to-introduce outside-events game (like D&D), still has to give the players something to pick.
*snip*
D&D allows players to tell GMs, very clearly, in quantified terms, what challenges they wish their characters to tackle. So GMs need to give them some. The way you describe our hypothetical cleave-fighter, one gets the impression of him entering a town, seeing "one on one fights down this street," "horde-fights down that alley," "wizard duels behind the tavern," and so on. In actual practice, of course it's not going to be so neat, and even if the GM presents multiple challenge options, he's still in charge of writing the menu.
No, that leaves some responsiblity in the GM's hands, which deprotagonises the players ability to make a bet (betting involves taking on responsiblity). When the players pick, that leaves some responsiblity with the GM. When the players take, that leaves all responsiblity with them.

Taking means a complete disinterest in the intent of the GM. He doesn't exist, as far as intent goes. Which means he can't screw up either. That also means the only person left who can screw up is...the player. Thus the player is protagonised to take responsiblity. Yay! That's a good thing! He CAN make bets now! I remember a T&T account here where the player asked "How do we feel about slavery?" to which the GM (Ron) replied "I think it's abhorent". The player in question said "I wasn't asking you, your not a player". The GM's intent was surely ignored. :) And any intent brought in with a responce to the slavery, would recieve similar disinterest. Just another risk to face because of previous choices (responsiblity taken), rather than being labeled the act of an vindictive GM (responsiblity rejected).

That leaves some question, I imagine, about 'what if the GM acts like a shit'. Well, then the game is shit, not the GM. Don't play that game. That's a harsh reality that many nar or sim designs don't have to take into account when designing, because in them the player and GM can both take on some of the responsiblity of events and it doesn't deprotagonise anyone.
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2006, 12:31:32 AM »

The way you describe our hypothetical cleave-fighter, one gets the impression of him entering a town, seeing "one on one fights down this street," "horde-fights down that alley," "wizard duels behind the tavern," and so on. In actual practice, of course it's not going to be so neat, and even if the GM presents multiple challenge options, he's still in charge of writing the menu.

Well, why not?

Quite a number of games use a sort of marked location on a map system, and then let the players choose what they want to investigate, whether this be venerable boardgames with inverted tokens or modern CRPG's with quest locations.  The same device could be used in tabletop quite easily.  Although you would not want anything too cheesy, of course, the art would be building a quest that was also entertaining and deepened the setting.  And then, if you don't have the cleave ability, for example, you ignore that quest for the meanwhile and acquire it through character development and levelling, and come back to to the mission later.

The problem with such a design is the degree to which it impinges on other desires, for story and setting.

I think Callan is correct to say that it is important for the challenge to be seen.  This is because the sense of triumph is dependant on our own assesment of our abilities versus the challenge; we measure our own success by the kind and degree of challenge we can handle.  So there is a sense of progression and mastery from the conquest of challenges that were previously too difficult.

Jay wrote:
Quote
Contrast this with the Crunch where the players aren’t looking for a high risk, but a manageable one with a reasonably predictable outcome and the GM has to work to match the players’ skills against the subjective difficulty of the Challenge.
...
One question that comes to mind then, is the “crunch” GM supposed to float the difficulty and monitor the eventual outcome so as to “ensure” the result while the “gamble” GM is freer to let things ride out to their eventual conclusion?

I don't think this is correct; a Crunch challenge can be just as risky, in terms of what is risked, as a Gamble.  The distinction is the degree and frequency of randomness inherent to deciding outcomes.  Diplomacy is pure Crunch and you can still lose the game.

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ErrathofKosh
Member

Posts: 190

Lest Darkness Fall.


« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2006, 08:50:35 AM »


Hi Jonathan,

As I said to Tommi, I think they should just take, rather than tell. You know how in Dogs the player just decides if he puts his PC's life on the line? He doesn't communicate to the GM that this is what he wants and wants agreement from the GM about that. He just does it.

Quote
I think Trollbabe illustrates player control of risky activities well - the player decides or helps to decide the scale, the pace, when the conflict ends, etc.  Since I'm still working on getting my group to play it, I'm not entirely sure of this hypothesis, but it seems like instead of rewarding the player with relationships, perhaps the Gamist version would reward the player with resources...
Tricky. I feel in gamism, the player should pick from what risky activities are actually there...like the challenge is already inherently there, but just needs to be 'seen'. Rather than actually deciding variables like the scale, pace, etc.

Drawing from computer games like Grand Theft Auto or Mercenaries, a wide landscape of risky activies is one way to fulfil this. Kind of the same, in that the Trollbabe is just deciding the scale or pace, while the gamist is simply picking out the activities he wants. But there's something important about the activity already being 'there', I feel.

I've said 'I feel' twice. Shoot me down! Ron would! :)

Some thoughts:
I think that players could either "take or tell" challenges.  It reminds me of the beginning of conflict resolution, some systems have the players declare that they want a conflict, while others assume that it begins based on certain cues.
I also think that allowing the player to determine scale, pace, etc. would be reasonable in a system in which challenges were formally announced.
The risky ideas should be suggested by the setting, but they don't need to be explicitly laid out.

Here's my experience that I base these ideas on...
Often, after making D20 Star Wars or Rolemaster characters, my group will take the characters and pair off in combat.  There is no need for a GM, it's definitely a challenge to see who wins the fight, and the setting is often a jointly constructed thing.  I see this as a formally declared challenge with all the particulars (setting, pace, scale, etc.) being determined by the players.  The setting of Star Wars or LOTR suggests certain risky activities, but no where do I remember a fight in Tolkien's books that took place on log rafts on the Anduin.  I have to post that one sometime, if only for Silmenume's enjoyment (you are the one that loves Middle Earth, no?)

So, we have the GTA example of having many risky activities available.  The player's choice of risky activities informs us as to the challenge he's interested in.  And we have the pair-off and fight example, where the risky activities and therefore the challenge is defined by the players formally.  In the first case, I think that it is important for the game designer to be aware of all the risky elements available in the setting and make sure that the characters have the ability to be created in such a way that they can challenge any combination of those elements.  In the second case, the designer can present a more limit set of risky elements and thus have the characters be more defined in scope.  Either way, the designer needs to make sure that the characters are tied to the risky elements in the setting.  I hope that's not too obvious for me to state (I have a talent for stating the obvious).
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Jonathan
Tommi Brander
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« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2006, 09:45:14 AM »

Callan, I think I just understood what you are after.

Gamism can manifest as "Look! I am skilled/daring enough to try THIS!", so picking one's challenges is very important.
Is this it?
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #22 on: April 05, 2006, 11:01:53 AM »

Callan,

I think maybe we're talking past each other or something. I totally get (or think I do) the idea of players choosing their conflicts, proactively, not just reacting to a GM's threat-of-the-week. But unless we're talking about shared setting creation, which is not an explicit part of, say, D&D, the GM is still the one in charge of introducing those challenges into play. The player cannot choose horde-fights as his challenge if the DM does not introduce any horde-fights. No matter whether the game is a railroaded linear track or a wide-open playing field, populating that field is still the GM's territory.

Yes, you could have play where players have more direct say in what is introduced into the SIS. That's definitely cool and interesting, but still is a subset of the available types of Gamist play. It sounds like you're formulating concepts for applicability to the whole spectrum of Gamist play, so I would think you'd want the ideas to relate to, for example, play with more traditional Player/GM division of labor.

Peace,
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Callan S.
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« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2006, 09:04:50 PM »

Hi Jonathan,

I think we've got some good solid shared ground between us.
Quote
Either way, the designer needs to make sure that the characters are tied to the risky elements in the setting.
How strong should that tie be between PC and risky elements? Too strong and the player is forced into particular risk engagements? Too weak and...well, I don't know, I've always thought in terms of 'the game should engage me' and those ties being too weak would defeat that. But if what I'm suggesting is true, that players should engage the game, then perhaps there just needs to be some way of allowing the player to determine the strength of those ties? I guess it'd kind of like being 'bah, boring fight, boring fight, I wont bother tying my health resource closely to their damage, - oh wait, look at this cloud castle ambush fight! Awesome, I fully link in my health to their damage!"

Hmm, I think this sort of happens in games like GTA or mercenaries. There are ways of getting health, for example, which are relatively easy to do. But in the middle of a cool fight, I haven't wanted to go off and use these because - well, they just seemed outside of the scope of the battle. What do you think? Does that tie into what you mean by scope? Or am I being too abstract?


Hi Joel,

I would agree a player who hasn't taken up responsibility does force the GM to take up responsibility in providing challenges. Contrast these two examples:
1. The player takes cleave because it just sounds cool. When he goes into play and there aren't hordes, he looks at the GM pointedly.
2. The player takes cleave, betting from the setting information that there will be hordes. When there aren't hordes in the game, the player goes "Damn! I made the wrong bet!" and kicks himself.

The first example forces the GM to take responsibility, because the player isn't willing to make a bet on whether there will be hordes. In other words, he isn't willing to take on the possibility of disappointment (in taking the cleave feat). If the player isn't willing to be disappointed, then the GM is forced into ensuring he isn't.

In terms of the whole spectrum of gamism, 'The GM introduces the challenges' and it's reasons for existing isn't something that's part and parcel of traditional gamism, it's actually an absence of the agenda.


Hi Tommi,

Quote
Gamism can manifest as "Look! I am skilled/daring enough to try THIS!", so picking one's challenges is very important.
Is this it?
Yes! If your noting that if another person (like the GM) decides to alter the details of 'THIS' after the players stated it, that players statement is being screwed with. Specifically when the other person alters the details so as to fit their prefered idea of what 'THIS' should be.
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contracycle
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« Reply #24 on: April 05, 2006, 11:36:04 PM »

I think maybe we're talking past each other or something. I totally get (or think I do) the idea of players choosing their conflicts, proactively, not just reacting to a GM's threat-of-the-week. But unless we're talking about shared setting creation, which is not an explicit part of, say, D&D, the GM is still the one in charge of introducing those challenges into play. The player cannot choose horde-fights as his challenge if the DM does not introduce any horde-fights. No matter whether the game is a railroaded linear track or a wide-open playing field, populating that field is still the GM's territory.

Not necessarily, there is room for a third person, the author.  That is, the challenges could be determined and the field populated by a party wholly external to the local play group; acceptance of these decisions can be part of the initial social contract agreement to play This Game, much as, say, the random placement of Orcs in the board setup for Wizards Quest (6 provinces in each region, roll 2d6 until you get different numbers for each region, place 2 orc counters in those provinces.)  Or, there is analogy with computer games in which the authors write the content and the local CPU executes that content for the player.

Under those circumstances the GM can fall back to a refereeing function that is more administrative than authorial.

Callan wrote
Quote

In terms of the whole spectrum of gamism, 'The GM introduces the challenges' and it's reasons for existing isn't something that's part and parcel of traditional gamism, it's actually an absence of the agenda.

Yes, consider the earlier D&D forms (basic, expert, master series), in which dungeons were rated by level, and you built up to handle them; or in the way that you might pull out of a dungeon in order to restock, or send the thief to scout and take on only those areas you thought you could handle.  I recall a Dragon article on the topic of "getting out while you still have some 'bottom'", that is, when you still have some resources to expend (arrows, charges, spell slots, potions) to be sure of making your escape.  There was both high visibility ("for characters levels 1-3" on the back) and 'engagement at will'.
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ErrathofKosh
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Posts: 190

Lest Darkness Fall.


« Reply #25 on: April 06, 2006, 07:13:23 AM »

How strong should that tie be between PC and risky elements? Too strong and the player is forced into particular risk engagements? Too weak and...well, I don't know, I've always thought in terms of 'the game should engage me' and those ties being too weak would defeat that. But if what I'm suggesting is true, that players should engage the game, then perhaps there just needs to be some way of allowing the player to determine the strength of those ties? I guess it'd kind of like being 'bah, boring fight, boring fight, I wont bother tying my health resource closely to their damage, - oh wait, look at this cloud castle ambush fight! Awesome, I fully link in my health to their damage!"

I'm thinking that most traditional RPG's assume that the risky activities that the players are interested in involve combat, so they build a combat system that involves more detailed resolution for that activity.  One idea I'm leaning toward in theory is a system that would allow players build a character with something similiar, though probably more focused.  Thus, if my character was interesting in having taking cleave, whenever he was in the situation that it was appropriate for, he'd use the full resolution system.  But, if he was in a situation where he just needed to use his fists, he'd use a simpler resolution mechanic.  In contrast, you could have a character who took brawling, and he'd use the more complex resolution system when he was fist-fighting.  Of course, using the more complex system should have a greater risk-reward associated with it.  Another idea... the player could decide when to use the more detailed system (and it's attendant risk/reward) whenever he felt the inclination (which is what I think Dogs allows you to do, I'm not sure, I need to buy it).  Whichever method you employed, the players would get some say in which ties to risk were the strongest.  Allowing them to vary the strength of those ties would be more complex, but I'm thinking about ways to do that. 

I keep thinking that Trollbabe could be an awesome Gamist engine, though I'd switch it up and call it Conman or Hustle or something where the stakes always involve getting something for the character or the character getting out of trouble.  I'm really thinking about trying it that way...  Thoughts?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2006, 11:35:33 AM »

Quote
Thus, if my character was interesting in having taking cleave, whenever he was in the situation that it was appropriate for, he'd use the full resolution system.
What about if the player could decide to still use the basic resolution system with cleave? So that would mean he would decide when the situation was appropriate for complicated system use (which also takes responsiblity off the GM to make every situation an appropriate one). Does that fit what you had in mind?

Quote
I keep thinking that Trollbabe could be an awesome Gamist engine, though I'd switch it up and call it Conman or Hustle or something where the stakes always involve getting something for the character or the character getting out of trouble.  I'm really thinking about trying it that way...  Thoughts?
I've also wondered about whether nar game systems could be flipped over somehow. But they always prompt some reason for any action, rather than "Why did I climb the mountain? Because it was there!" action. The issue in nar games usually has no approach vector which is not a moral question and based in the game world. All the stuff you can use in dogs seems to be about your characters mindset. In capes, there's nothing that exists in game world that you can use and all the mechanics have moral sounding tags. There's no way to touch the goal without making a statement.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2006, 12:34:23 PM »

General side note for the thread: I think of, damn, years I've been trying to codify 'the challenge' I wanted in a game. I've certainly enjoyed many challenges in many game formats. I'd often find one and while still in the fire of the moment go 'There, I'll use that one!". But then I'd go cold on it as it came time to just focus on that challenge...it didn't seem so hot latter on. Because basically I was looking to define my own challenge whilst playing the game - I didn't want a fixed challenge, even if it was made by me originally! I'd be applying force to my own descision about what is THE challenge.

What alot of wasted design time, because of that hurdle.
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ErrathofKosh
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« Reply #28 on: April 10, 2006, 09:34:59 AM »

Quote
Thus, if my character was interesting in having taking cleave, whenever he was in the situation that it was appropriate for, he'd use the full resolution system.
What about if the player could decide to still use the basic resolution system with cleave? So that would mean he would decide when the situation was appropriate for complicated system use (which also takes responsiblity off the GM to make every situation an appropriate one). Does that fit what you had in mind?

Quote
I keep thinking that Trollbabe could be an awesome Gamist engine, though I'd switch it up and call it Conman or Hustle or something where the stakes always involve getting something for the character or the character getting out of trouble.  I'm really thinking about trying it that way...  Thoughts?
I've also wondered about whether nar game systems could be flipped over somehow. But they always prompt some reason for any action, rather than "Why did I climb the mountain? Because it was there!" action. The issue in nar games usually has no approach vector which is not a moral question and based in the game world. All the stuff you can use in dogs seems to be about your characters mindset. In capes, there's nothing that exists in game world that you can use and all the mechanics have moral sounding tags. There's no way to touch the goal without making a statement.

Yes to your "cleave" response.  I think that could work as a both an in-game answer to stepping on up and as an implicit signal to the other players that the player is doing so.  As for Trollbabe, I can see now that it would need some major retrofitting, to the point that only the basic mechanics would be similiar, to have it address Gamist preferences. 
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Jonathan
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