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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 140 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Adversarial GM - incentives to win?  (Read 9842 times)
Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #30 on: April 17, 2006, 07:53:20 AM »

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Many a time PCs split of their own volition.

Then, it's their own decision. If they don't want to risk being driven into conflict without others support, they should stick together in the same scenes. I'm rather comfortable with this - as I've said, I prefer when screen time is not divided, unless there is some really good reason to do it.

There's one more thing. BA gets points for every Thread level he gains during a conflict, but also for every level lost by opposing players. So it pays to have more PCs in the conflict - the more Threads they bid, the more points he can get.

Oh, and one more thing. For now I've been talking mainly about BA vs PCs situation, but there is no rule against BA allying with some PCs against the rest of the group, or pure PvP conflicts. Sometimes it may come out naturally because of the direction the story develops.

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Also, this will cause an adversarial GM, one that will develop grudges, if he's constantly vetoed?

I'm also somewhat worried about the possibility of constant vetoing. But the veto rules are there as an emergency valve against introducing thing with which others are not comfortable. Players are supposed to use the veto rules with responsibility.

Multiplayer FTP games come to my mind (especially CounterStrike). In many of those games, there is at least one highly powerful weapon, usually the sniper rifle. It's easy to sit on some roof with the sniper rifle and put down everyone in range with few head-shots. Many times I've seen unspoken rules against using such a wimpy tactics.

And in Threads I'll clearly state that veto rules ought to be used only as an emergency valve.

Generally, I think it simply pays to cooperate outside of conflicts and not to do things that would provoke a veto.

Of course, I need to see how it comes out in Actual Play. It's possible that it simply won't work - I'll have to do something with it then.

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Where is his input, his control over the story?

As I've said, there is no longer formal GM. Backround Animator simply controls the world, and apart of that he doesn't have more input than other players. Maybe I'll quote a part of the text:

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PCs vs BA

Protagonist Controllers (PCs) do the following:

*They are in control over their characters (and anything purchased as an Edge that isn't an inherent part of the character).
*They can frame scenes and introduce new elements to the story, such as NPC's, locations, events and the like, but they have no direct control over them.
*Outside of conflicts their job is to work with the rest of the group (BA included) on establishing interesting and engaging context for the next conflict. Well, and to seek opportunities for conflicts.
*During conflicts their job is to do their best to win, and thus to provide difficult opposition for BA, to provoke intense tactical thinking on his side.
*They strive to increase mechanical potential of their characters and watch their growth.
*Most of all, they try to do what gives them fun (and since they are playing this particular game, it is supposed that they consider the mentioned things to be fun).

Background Animator (BA) does the following:

*He is in control over every element of the story that the PCs are not. He 'plays the world'.
*He can frame scenes and introduce new elements to the story. Contrary to the PCs, he can control those elements, as well as everything introduced by PCs.
*Outside of conflicts his job is to work with the rest of the group on establishing interesting and engaging context for the next conflict. And to provide PCs opportunities for interesting conflicts. And to add some dramatic twists to the story.
*During conflicts his job is to do his best to win, and thus to provide difficult opposition for PCs, to provoke intense tactical thinking on their side.
*Although he does not advance mechanically, he can shape the world and NPCs in his chosen way and has quite strong influence on the story development, through background events.
*Most of all, he tries to do what gives him fun (and since he is playing this particular game, and assumes BA's function, it is supposed that he considers the mentioned things to be fun).

'The players', 'the group', 'everyone' and the like always refers both to PCs and BA. Otherwise it will be stated clearly if something refers only to PCs or only to BA.
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #31 on: April 17, 2006, 08:01:24 AM »

I'm worried he'll have less control.

The PCs are always protagonists, always there, and with Vetoing his meager story control can be removed.

I want to see some AP of your game, I'm interested. It may also answer some design questions I have.
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Guy Shalev.

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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #32 on: April 17, 2006, 08:44:52 AM »

Soon there will be playtest version available, I hope. And I'll try to playtest current version later this week.

As for my playtests, we've focused on conflict resolution up to this time. Outside of conflicts it went in a way similar to most of our other sessions, though I think players were generally a little bit more active in introducing their own elements to the story than when we play mainstream games. I don't remember veto rules to be used at all. But then, there was still a GM and players were accustomed to more standard narrative control division. Since finally I changed some assumptions and formally removed the GM, previous AP doesn't really apply.

So I also wait for AP actually. And I'd really like to see AP from some outside playtest - our sessions are bound to be somewhat influenced by the way we play, so many problems may not come out at all.
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Kat Miller
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« Reply #33 on: April 18, 2006, 05:31:42 AM »

I couldn’t help noticing parallels between AlternateV and my husband Michael S. Miller's game With Great Power…  

You noted some concern about putting the GM in an adversarial position.  You’ve mentions the use of playing cards.  With Great Power… also uses playing cards, and during conflict the GM is an adversarial role, as he is in control of the villains, but the GM is also one of the co-writers of the fictional comic book that the group is creating during the game, which allows the GM to also be supportive with ideas for the rest of the players.

The key to creating an adversarial role for the GM in With Great Power... is in clearly defining that role.  From the Beginning the GM is aware that he is BOTH in charge of the Villainous master plan AND Co-collaborator in this fun and dramatic story that all the players are building. 

The players pitch scene ideas for their characters, and set stakes for the scene they have pitched, the GM is free to make suggestions to aid the players, but it’s the player who determines the actual scene.  The GM can only set Scenes for his Villains, not for the Heroes.  Each player takes turns setting scenes that focus on their own characters,  and during this part of play the GM is collaborator.  Once the player determines what the stakes are in the Scene, the GM is in an adversarial rule by setting alternate stakes also geared in a personal matter focusing on the heroes weakness.  Cards are played, the scene is played and then the GM is a collaborator again.

So you really can have it both ways.

-Kat Miller
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kat Miller
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #34 on: April 18, 2006, 06:27:31 AM »

Hi, Filip. Last year I wrote With Great Power..., a game with an adversarial and cooperative GM role, that my wife referenced above. Having looked over your questions and responses in your thread, it seems that your main trouble is that you want the GM to play hard during conflict and literally pull every dirty trick that he, as a living, breathing, game-playing human being can think of. But you also feel that he needs to cooperate and be the kindly storyguide during the between-conflict scenes of setup. On the one hand, you can give the GM an adversarial role in both conflict and setup scenes, like I did in WGP.

On the other hand, I'd suggest that you take setup scenes out of the GM's hands. This removes the temptation to "play too hard." Maybe the players set them up. Maybe responsibility for setup passes to the left. Maybe the winning side of a conflict advances mechanically (gains levels or whatever) but the losing side does the setup for the next conflict.

Since you've made clear that the setup scenes are not the main focus of game play, then minimize them as much as possible.

Further, I'd suggest 2 things:

1) If you can get a copy of the out-of-print RPG RUNE, by Robin D. Laws, do so. It's all about spending resource points to create challenging conflicts.

2) Drop the idea of the "GM playing the world." Just put the GM in charge of the opposition. Give him a budget and let him and his creativity loose. Let "the world" take care of itself.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #35 on: April 18, 2006, 05:10:21 PM »

So, I have finally finished the first English draft. You can find it here:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19549.0

The discussion in this topic influenced most of the current out of conflict structure, as well as my return to the Negative/Positive Threads. I've also came upon the idea of Bonds after it. The Trait awards mechanics have been somewhat adjusted after my reading of some other topic here on The Forge.

Thanks for help!
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Saxon Douglass
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« Reply #36 on: April 19, 2006, 02:42:21 AM »

I havn't read the whole thread, but I was wondering if when the GM wins they might earn Fiat Points (we'll call them that just for arguments sake). They basically count as extra "people" voting for the GM's side when a veto happens. You mention it is a saftey-valve, but it could become something more I feel.

It'd be narration rights almost. By winning conflicts the players or GM gain more "narration rights", and since the system is self-balancing they should stay reasnobly equal. But it still gives and incentive to both sides. Everyone wants the ability to say what happens, and tying that to winning conflicts means they'll both go there hardest. But out of conflict they gain no such power, and so have no reason to not be co-operative. Infact they'll want to co-operate so as to spare Fiat points for when they're really needed.

Maybe when the GM wins a conflict give them an amount equal to the number of players, and when the players win they get 1 each. Every point brought into play during a veto counts as another vote the same as the person's who brought it in. It means if the players stick as a whole they have equal veto power from a conflict as the GM does.

Just a thought.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #37 on: April 19, 2006, 04:57:58 AM »

Quote
I havn't read the whole thread, but I was wondering if when the GM wins they might earn Fiat Points (we'll call them that just for arguments sake). They basically count as extra "people" voting for the GM's side when a veto happens. You mention it is a saftey-valve, but it could become something more I feel.

The thing is, I specifically want the veto rules to function only as an emergency valve. The game supports gamist agenda in the first place, and I want the competition to run mainly on the level of conflicts, not on the level of struggling for narration rights. There is already a great number of games that are driven by the struggle for narrative power, and Threads is not intended to be one of them. I also striven to remove as much of the GM's fiat as possible - so there are no additional mechanisms regulating the votes like in, say, Universalis (and I'm not inclined to add such a mechanic, unless Actual Play proves that veto rules invariably break the game). In current version the GM (Backround Animator) is a player, and a player is a player. I think he has some important mechanical advantages during conflicts, that make up for him usually being outnumbered by the other players. His mechanical decisions during conflicts practically can't be vetoed, and even if they are, players can only force him to change what happens on the story level, not on the mechanical level. And that should suffice, since the game is driven mainly by mechanics, like a CCG.

Veto rules can come out during setting the stakes, and it is possible for the players to force BA into setting stakes that don't pain them at all. But somehow now I see it rather as a method of adjusting the difficulty of the game, than imposing narrative power typical to many purely narrativist designs. It's just like in a computer game. If they want to play Nightmare, they can veto stakes that are too soft. If they want Standard, they won't veto anything. If they want Easy, they will veto stakes until they are fully acceptable for them. And if by any chance they prefer to play in God Mode, they certainly can.
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