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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 95 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Adversarial GM - incentives to win?  (Read 9911 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2006, 07:57:19 PM »

BTW, I considered what you've written in your first post again - and I think that something similar to what you had in mind is present in AlternatiV. I recall reading some topic here at the Forge about player's choosing what is a challenge for them in gamist play - it was yours, wasn't it? I actually find it very insightfull. In AlternatiV players actually can chose in what matter they want to be challenged - that's the whole purpose of this "setting the context for the next conflict" stuff. Also, it is the player who decides to bid his Threads in conflicts - unless someone else finds it implausible at the moment and vetoes, player has the narrative power to decide when and how the things he before pointed out as important for him (the Threads) are being involved in the story and depending on the result of the conflict resolved or not.
If your concern is overly aggresive GM's or overly passive GM's, why not make one of the conditions the player can choose the aggresiveness of the GM? I mean, your trying to get the GM to do his best and yet at the same time not crush outright. Instead of you trying to code that into the rules, why not let the player just decide exactly what level of opposition he's facing? Perhaps the player feels they can only handle a fairly passive GM? Perhaps the player wants a GM to try and crush him outright? Either is fine and up to the players choice.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2006, 05:16:45 AM »

Paul:

Threads are apparently something similar to plotlines in your game, but only players posses them. Completing Threads is possible only through winning a number of conflicts connected with a given story element. In current versions players are not directly awarded anything for losing conflicts (though it is possible for them to get a specific roleplaying award regardless of how they do). Up until now if they lost, GM's pool decreased, so it automatically became easier for them to win following conflicts - but now I'm not so sure about this rule. On the other hand, I'm not sure if I want to reward players directly for losing in a conflict. I don't want to give them incentive to actually try to lose in order to gain that award.

But for GM there is no such mechanics as Threads. Actually, I've just realised that there is some inequality. Players can advance their characters through Threads and watch them grow, so there is some sense of continuity for them. GM "plays the world" and every conflict is totally separate event for him - at most, the size of his pool for next conflicts is going to change. Outside of conflicts GM doesn't have any goal other than cooperating with the players to establish context for the next conflict.

There will be GM's sheet in AlternatiV, I think. It should be handy in tracking GM's pool and allocating points between various statistics of a challenge when conflict starts. I'm also thinking about adding another stat for GM, that would limit a number of points he can allocate to some mechanical aspects of "a challenge".

So, I could possibly give GM some Threads concerning The World. He could track an advancement of some important approaching events and the like. I could also define win conditions for the session clearly (e.g. whoever gains the most Thread levels wins a session). Maybe that's a solution. On the other hand, players try to move their Threads forward because completing them is a main way of advancing their characters (and high level Threads provide some secondary mechanical benefits). I'm not sure if there would be any reason for the GM to try to complete his Threads - I can't think of any long term award he could get. His only award would be to introduce some events into the story of the world, but that's totally different agenda to that of the players.

What's more, I'm afraid that giving GM some win objectives outside of conflicts (which have their own separate win conditions right now) would be an incentive for the GM to try to thwart the players outside of conflicts, instead of cooperating with them. I don't think I want such a fierce competition on the scale of a whole session.

Callan:

Quote
If your concern is overly aggressive GM's or overly passive GM's, why not make one of the conditions the player can choose the aggressiveness of the GM? I mean, your trying to get the GM to do his best and yet at the same time not crush outright. Instead of you trying to code that into the rules, why not let the player just decide exactly what level of opposition he's facing? Perhaps the player feels they can only handle a fairly passive GM? Perhaps the player wants a GM to try and crush him outright? Either is fine and up to the players choice.

As for the "crushing outright" thing - competition between GM and players starts just after the stakes are set, and finishes after one side surrenders. During that period, there are no safety guards - everyone is expected to try their best to win. Actually, during that time it is perfectly acceptable for the GM to be aggressive towards the players, just as well it is fine for the players to be aggressive towards the GM. Since the system makes it impossible to get knocked out of game or lose something very important without one's consent, there will be no casualties unless someone decides that a given case is really worth sacrifice on their part.

I just don't want it to spread outside of separate conflicts. Outside of conflicts I want cooperation in establishing context and moving background story forward.

Problem with overly aggressive GM's is that they could actually want the competition to spread out too far. That would be playing the game in a way it simply wasn't intended to, and I'm actually not as concerned about it. Unless I provide some incentive for GM to do it that way, it would be GM's fault, not a fault of the system. I'm just carefull not to provoke that aggressiveness outside of conflicts by some rule.

As for passive GM's, that's more of a problem. Like someone mentioned earlier in the Thread (timfire probably?), in traditional RPG GM is somehow forced to pull his punches, because he simply could destroy the PC's if he wanted to. E.g I think in most RPG's it is completely normal for a GM to don't give a damn for the result of the combat, because he has got no interests in total party kill - and many GM's would often restrain themselves from killing PC's (by "cheating" on the dice, or switching to Drama and so forth), for the sake of the plot. Such a manner of GM'ing certainly can work, but not in a gamist game I think. E.g. if I compare some D&D sessions which I played, it simply wasn't fun for me when GM didn't try his best for the monsters to win a fight. It always became obvious when GM was pulling his punches, and after that there was no need to think tactically any more, because the match had been already sold. I think DitV addresses similar matter in some way, giving GM advice to play the NPC's honestly and do his best (through of course it's not because of gamist concerns there).

In AlternatiV there is no need to pull punches for either side. And it would be destructive to the fun if one side pulled their punches. The aim of playing AlternatiV is mainly to have fun from intense 'tactical' thinking during the conflicts, and making mechanical choices that matter. But if one side doesn't care about winning the conflict, there is nothing that would provoke intense 'tactical' thinking. Like, there is no fun to play chess or go against someone who is totally indifferent towards winning and simply moves his pieces randomly around the board.

So, I'm mainly concerned about GM's who would try to bring their approach from traditional RPG's to the table. I think I need some mechanic that would make them care about winning the conflict.
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2006, 05:25:14 AM »

The GM doesn't work from the same agenda as the players, he plays a different role.

Give him those Threads, let him introduce new events by them. Let him advance existing storylines by them.
I'm not a believer of the "If the PCs don't experience it it doesn't happen" methodology. Use the GM Threads to embody things that happen in the background until they're uncovered.
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Guy Shalev.

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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2006, 06:15:15 AM »

Actually the more I think about it, the idea of GM's Threads appeals to me more and more. I think I've found a place for them - they will just indicate things that GM is interested about in the story, just as players use their Threads to indicate what they find important. There was a rule that important NPC has the same kind of protection from death stakes and such as PC's - so with GM's Threads the distinction between important and unimportant NPC's, places and other background elements will become formal and clear.

The thing is, I don't want GM to track things that other players wouldn't know about. Since it's a mostly gamist system, I'd prefer if everything that happens at the table was open, so that everyone could be sure that everything goes fair. And I peronally (but that's just my personal preference) don't see any value in events and facts about which player's are not aware. Even if their characters don't know about something, it should be stated clearly for everyone at the table - otherwise it's as if nothing happen at all.

It's not a game about uncovering things anyway - it's about playing competitive conflicts, with some story in the background. So no place for secrecy in this particular project.

Quote
The GM doesn't work from the same agenda as the players, he plays a different role.

And the problem is, that I want them to work from roughly the same agenda. GM is in fact practically a player, only he 'plays the world' instead of an individual protagonist, and for some part of the game he is the opponent of the rest of the group. Up to this point, GM didn't get his equal share in the game - I've been reducing his role to that of the opposition only.

I think that the only thing I'm missing right now is a reason for the GM to care about increasing and resolving Threads, that would be somehow corresponding to the reasons that the players have (i.e. mainly character growth). If I find it I'll examine what I have and I'll see if there are actually any incentives for taking the adversarial role out of conflicts.

So, what I need is some effect of increasing and resolving Threads that wouldn't provoke competition outside of conflicts, but would be tempting anyway. Or better something that would encourage out of conflict cooperation.
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Paul Strack
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« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2006, 06:50:20 AM »

The thing is, I don't want GM to track things that other players wouldn't know about. Since it's a mostly gamist system, I'd prefer if everything that happens at the table was open, so that everyone could be sure that everything goes fair. And I peronally (but that's just my personal preference) don't see any value in events and facts about which player's are not aware. Even if their characters don't know about something, it should be stated clearly for everyone at the table - otherwise it's as if nothing happen at all.

Well, supposedly, the GM would only be able to advance his threads by bringing them into conflict with the PCs. So he would have to bring them out into the open. Also, if the "progress" of all the threads was public knowledge, then everyone would know how far the GM was towards reaching his "goals", even if he didn't reveal what the goal actually is.

If you do introduce GM threads, I am fairly certain the players are going to want the option of thwarting those threads. Is there a mechanism whereby another player or GM can contest the progress of someone else's thread? Note that I don't think this needs to be balanced, here. The PCs can thwart the GM plots, but the GM need not be able to thwart player-controlled threads. However, I think the players would need to give something up (e.g. advancement on their own threads).
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #20 on: April 15, 2006, 07:48:43 AM »

No, right now it is impossible to force anyone to bid their Threads during conflicts. Whatever was purchased as a thread is simply untouchable as long as every player who bought that Thread doesn't consent. So if a player had a Thread "Someday I'll kill the Villain X", it would be impossible for Villain X to die until the Thread is completed by the player, unless he allows that (in such a case he can reallocate levels from that Thread between other Threads, or simply change it to something like "I want to destroy the remnants of an organisation of Villain X" or something).

To purchase new 0 level Thread player has to increase GM's resource pool by some amount. Then he can bid levels of that Thread in conflicts. When he bids a Thread, it gives GM some additional points to use in that conflict only, and if the player wins he gains a level or two of the Thread. If he loses, he decreases the level of Thread by one or two, up to a minimum o 0. When Thread level reaches 5, the player can try to resolve it in a conflict connected with it. If he wins that conflict, he loses the Thread but gains an advancement. If he loses, he has the option - either he loses 2 levels of the Thread, or GM decides how is the Thread resolved and how the advance is to be used.

After every session highest level Thread or Threads are lowered by one level, and 0 level Threads can be removed if player is no longer interested in them.

If GM's Threads work the same way, players won't be able to affect them significantly unless GM decides to bid them in conflict. But it will be impossible for him to increase the level of Thread without actually putting the thing at stakes.

It pays to have some unresolved high level Threads anyway, because they allow recovery of resources during conflicts. Hence the automatic level loss at the end of the session - so that it wouldn't be possible to hoard Threads for infinity.

I thing it's more important that I find some strong reason for the GM to resolve Threads, because with what I have now it only pays to hoard them. There's rather no way for him to advance as players do - and I don't want to give him similar form of advancement, because it could lead to long-term imbalances in the relative potential between the sides.

I could actually give players option for making the GM's bid his Threads in conflicts, e.g. by awarding him more resources for such a conflict. Surely, there is a way.

I'm somewhat afraid that allowing the players to thwart GM's Threads without his consent would encourage competitiveness on the level where I want them cooperate. GM would start to get defensive, and from that, he could start getting aggressive outside of conflicts, which I don't want. I'm inclined to make GM's Threads untouchable in the same way that player character's and their threads are protected.

Unless the GM has some strong reason to build up Thread levels up to 5 and resolve them, there is no reason why he should oppose thwarting his Threads by the players anyway.

My assumption is that it's going to work like this:

Players want their characters to get into conflicts connected with their Threads, because they can bid their Threads and advance, and they are able to gain some mechanical benefits from adequate uncompleted Threads. GM wants the players to get into conflicts connected with his Threads, because he can bid and increase them, and gain some benefit for resolving (which I yet need to find). He can gain more resources during that kind of conflicts, by using the Threads, so conflicts of that kind are less favourable for players, and they are going to avoid them. So, GM will mainly take Threads that are somehow connected with players Threads and matter for them, so that he could get a chance to bid and use them. So, they must actually cooperate and it hopefully creates that context for conflicts I want.

I wander how would giving players option to actually thwart GM's Threads figure into this.

I'm more and more inclined to put some definite win conditions for the session, like for every Thread level gained player or GM gets 1 point, and for every level lost he loses 1 point. For every Thread resolved player or GM gains 3 or maybe 5 points. Whoever gets the most points by the end of the session is the winner of the day. And no award besides that winner status 1st place - maybe the other players should feel responsible to buy the guy a beer or something ;) Or maybe the winner should be able to narrate some important event at the end of the session, or he set the story context for the next session? I don't want the award to be too tempting, because I simply don't want very intense competition on the story level - only on the conflict level.

Eh, thinking hurts ;) I must go on a walk.
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #21 on: April 15, 2006, 07:55:47 AM »

Thread being won gives the winner narration rights over its outcome.

The GM then will want to have Threads going on and being resolved so he'll have more control over the developing story.

As for mechanical side, give the GM an advance to his pool. When a GM resolves and wins his Thread his resource pool advances by X(5, 1 for each Thread level, which also allows him to "Resolve" it before it reaches 5?), that way to keep pushing the players in the future he has to use and advance Threads, which in turn push the players now.
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Guy Shalev.

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Paul Strack
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« Reply #22 on: April 15, 2006, 08:03:10 AM »

I thing it's more important that I find some strong reason for the GM to resolve Threads, because with what I have now it only pays to hoard them. There's rather no way for him to advance as players do - and I don't want to give him similar form of advancement, because it could lead to long-term imbalances in the relative potential between the sides.

Here's an idea: allow the GM to "advance" by inflicting flaws on the PCs. For example, if the GM completes a thread, he can inflict an enemy, curse or a lingering wound on a PC. The GM can draw on this flaw in future conflicts, in the same way that PCs can draw on their abilities. That way the GM gets a permanent mechanical advantage by completing a thread, but the game is still focused on the protagonists.

If you like the idea, I think you would need some meta-rules about the kinds of flaws the GM could inflict. The GM would not be able to inflict a flaw that altered a protagonists personality without the player's permission. However, a player could suggest that he take personality flaw instead of whatever flaw the GM suggested. Or something like that.

Of course, if you make flaws the benefit for completing GM threads, the players are definitely going to want to block them. Maybe you could set up a rule where if a thread was reduced to some negative value, it would have to be permanently removed, or something.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #23 on: April 15, 2006, 11:40:57 AM »

Guy:

Quote
Thread being won gives the winner narration rights over its outcome.

The GM then will want to have Threads going on and being resolved so he'll have more control over the developing story.

That's right. And it would be sufficient in a typical narrativist game - but my game is mostly gamist, and the story development part is not the main focus. So I'm not sure if that's enough here, though maybe it is ;)

Paul:

Generally I don't like that specific approach to flaws and in AlternatiV they already have their place. A Thread might symbolize a flaw with which the character struggles. But you reminded me about one concept which I've been playing with in previous versions. There was a sigh of the Thread - each Thread could be negative or positive. Positive Threads were mechanically beneficial, and they represented things that move the character forward. Negative Threads represented story elements that were destructive to the character, and using them was connected with a hook. I think I'll return to that concept, and I'll give something similar to GM's Threads. It probably will be possible to change the sign of other player's Thread in a conflict.

I also decided to include an additional resource (Drama) used for triggering mechanical benefits of the Threads and some other things. Negative Threads will be one of the sources of Drama for the opposing side.

As for the reward for resolving a Thread for GM, I think he will be allowed to allocate some number of levels among the Threads of the players, even creating new ones, and change the sign of every Thread affected. That way, he will want to resolve Threads because that way he gets an additional source of Drama and encourages players to try to follow and complete Threads selected by him.

Ok, I'll get to work. You were all very helpfull, thanks for all the advice.
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #24 on: April 15, 2006, 11:54:31 AM »

You may want to look at Cranium Rats, my recent post about Slime Octopi and Coral(is it still an RPG?) and this LiveJournal entry. I had the same problems with my idea where I am mostly into Gamism.
I decided to call them CSI Games, Competitive(or Cooperative) Story Interaction Games. The name is important.

If all we care about is the mechanics, then we can just sit down and play it as a board/card game, on a purely mathematical level. The fact that we still call this an RPG, the fact that we still generate story is vital in its definition.

Thus, it is not a "Typical Narrativist Game", it's a "Typical" or rather, a "Fitting Narrativist Element", one that keeps the story aspect going on.
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Guy Shalev.

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Callan S.
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« Reply #25 on: April 16, 2006, 01:50:42 PM »

Damn, black card for me - I read it as a problem with aggressive GM's inside of conflicts (I saw the aggressive GM and passive GM problem and thought they were both within conflicts)

For passive GM's, perhaps the players can given a certain number of 'Man, that was tough' points. These do nothing, mechanically, the GM simply collects them and adds each sessions total to his overall score. But socially they are an evaluatory tool - a GM who comes out with a handful of them is lookin' good. One who comes out with none - well, it makes you wonder what he was thinking?

Outside of conflicts, when your framing them: Well, if it's tightly defined when a conflict ends and begins, then you can also have a rule where players can take away up to X amount per session of  'Man, that was tough' points if the GM gets aggresive at these times.

Quick thoughts. Sorry for adding my confused posts to your thread! :(
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Philosopher Gamer
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #26 on: April 17, 2006, 03:49:33 AM »

First of all, I'm dropping the working title and I officially title my game as 'Threads'. Because the working title was lame anyway ;)

Quote
I decided to call them CSI Games, Competitive(or Cooperative) Story Interaction Games. The name is important.

And I think I'll adopt this CSI label for Threads. Since it's RPG/CCG blend anyway, it fits nicely.

Quote
For passive GM's, perhaps the players can given a certain number of 'Man, that was tough' points. These do nothing, mechanically, the GM simply collects them and adds each sessions total to his overall score. But socially they are an evaluatory tool - a GM who comes out with a handful of them is lookin' good. One who comes out with none - well, it makes you wonder what he was thinking?

I already decided to define victory conditions for every session. There will be Score for each of the players (including GM). Whoever has the highest Score at the given moment is entitled to frame scenes. Whoever has the highest Score at the end of the session, has the right to narrate final events of the story. After each session, Score resets to 0.

But since it's possible for anyone to veto framing players narration, points are mostly evaluatory.

I got rid of formal GM by the way - instead I divided players between Protagonist Controllers (PCs) and Background Animator (BA), who 'plays the world'. There was not much authority for GM anyway, so now everyone is just a player.

Quote
Outside of conflicts, when your framing them: Well, if it's tightly defined when a conflict ends and begins, then you can also have a rule where players can take away up to X amount per session of  'Man, that was tough' points if the GM gets aggressive at these times.

Score will be awarded for conflicts won, gained Thread levels, and Thread levels lost by the opposition during the conflicts.

BTW, as for your statement about 'choosing how aggressive or passive GM should be' - although I wasn't sure what you meant and I couldn't think of any mechanical application for such a thing, now I discovered that it's already there. The veto rules do that. It is always possible for PCs to veto the BA, and even if he demands that the group vote, PCs usually have advantage in numbers. So, even if he was overaggressive in setting the stakes or something, he could be easily voted out. Of course, it's a matter of how players want to play the game - in the text I strongly adviced not to use veto rules to thwart every move of BA unless that's just the way you want the game to proceed or you are pretty sure you want a boring game.

Quote
Quick thoughts. Sorry for adding my confused posts to your thread! :(

That's all right, they got me thinking anyway ;)
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #27 on: April 17, 2006, 04:27:51 AM »

They don't veto narration rights away from the BA, merely the narration instance, keeping Score a function.

What happens when there's a tie in Score?

How many Scenes do you think to have in an average(3-4 hours?) session? When one player leads, he may get to keep Narration for the whole session.

The BA has a better chance of gaining higher Score, if the PCs are seperated he has a Conflict per PC(group), where they only have Conflicts they're in.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #28 on: April 17, 2006, 05:24:57 AM »

Quote
They don't veto narration rights away from the BA, merely the narration instance, keeping Score a function.

To an extent. Still, if they really want they can decide what will happen by deciding what can't.

Quote
What happens when there's a tie in Score?

Ah, I've been thinking about that. Probably the player who didn't frame a scene yet will have a chance. Or there is a vote. Anyway, in such a case the right should be passed from someone, who had his chance to frame scenes previously.

Quote
How many Scenes do you think to have in an average(3-4 hours?) session? When one player leads, he may get to keep Narration for the whole session.

I'm not sure. I'm aiming at conflicts taking no longer than 20-25 minutes on average, including the mechanical setup. Lets say there will be about 10-15 minutes between conflicts. If there will be 1-2 conflicts per scene, that's somewhere around 1-2 scenes per hour, so around 5 per scene on the average, I presume. More, if there will be no conflicts during some scenes. The game isn't suited well for more than 5 players total, so everyone should have his chance to frame one scene if they perform comparatively.

Probably it will be possible for one person to have the right to frame scenes for the whole session, but it's not as much of an authority I think. Regardless of who frames the scenes, he only decides on the initial setup, and everyone has his chance to introduce their chosen story elements. And it is BA who controls most story elements anyway, since he plays the world.

Having the right to frame the scene has practically only one advantage - you can decide on the initial situation in the scene, thus including every element you are interested in (possibly creating opportunities to increase Threads).

Also, I didn't decided how scenes will end yet. Probably I'll allow for anyone to propose ending the scene, and it will be voted if others don't like his idea.

Quote
The BA has a better chance of gaining higher Score, if the PCs are separated he has a Conflict per PC(group), where they only have Conflicts they're in.

I'll allow for anyone to include his character in any scene. Since stakes that kill or otherwise remove your character from the game are impossible without your consent, there should be no problem with that.

Even if BA tries to divide the group through conflicts, they can veto him.

Anyway, BA is only one - and there will usually be 2-4 PCs. As long as every PC cares, BA can be easily vetoed.

Generally I don't like when players are divided - those, who are not in the scene always loose their chance to act, loose the screen time, and can only comment. Boring ;)
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #29 on: April 17, 2006, 07:19:25 AM »

Many a time PCs split of their own volition.

Also, this will cause an adversarial GM, one that will develop grudges, if he's constantly vetoed? Where is his input, his control over the story?
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
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