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Author Topic: [Dance and Dawn] Healthy Competition in Speed-Dating  (Read 2936 times)

Posts: 576

« on: April 22, 2006, 09:18:03 PM »

About two years ago, The Dance and The Dawn came out of the IGC. I’m getting it together for a revision now. You can see the rules at the link, but here’s a summary of the flow of play:

The game takes the form of a fairy-tale. There is on GM and three players, each of whom will play a Lady. Each player creates a character with light biographical information building up to a single desire, in the form of “I wish…”. The GM creates 4 Lords to dance with them; they all will have a light biography and a single fate, in the from “I will…”. 3 of the Lords will correspond to the 3 Ladies, while the 4th lords has a fate of “I will never be yours.” Each Lady dances around with different Lords, answering their questions and, if the Lord is pleased with the answers, asking a question of her own and attempting to determine the Lord’s nature. Along the way, they may wish to curry favor with the Duke of Ash (who encourages regret) and the Queen of Ice (who encourages cruelty). At the end of the Dance, each Lady picks the Lord who she thinks is her match. Depending on who you pick, you may end up with a happy, bittersweet, or terrible ending.

(As for the thread title: a playtester described my game as "gothic speed-dating". That's probably true.)

One key mechanic I wanted to encourage was an economy of cruelty and competition among the players. The Queen would give out Ice Tokens to those she favored, which could be used by delivering a subtle insult to another player (knocking her out for a round). In the original rules, the recipient of this Ice Token could keep it for her own uses, if she wished. (The hope was that this would encourage continuing a cycle of this kind of competition.)

Several months while ago, I played it with some friends, and it was mostly succesful, although it seemed perhaps too easy – all the players had more than enough time to figure out who their partners were to be, and everyone got a happy ending; there was no competition-driven incentive for the players to act out cruelties to each other, which was some behavior I wanted to encourage more of.

More recently, I ran the game again, with two changes. (1) Once an Ice Token was used in play, it did NOT go to the recipient. (2) Before the game, I would randomly determine that there would be only 1-3 happy endings available. This would mean that, even if you picked the right partner at the end, if there weren’t enough happy endings left over, you would be moved down to the “bittersweet” level. I was hoping that threatening this common resource – i.e. happiness – I could encourage more competition.

As it turns out, my new rule condition did not come out in play – there were enough happy endings to go around – but the players didn’t really like the rule, saying that it felt contrived. Meanwhile, some of the players did get into a pattern of taking turns getting Ice Tokens from the Queen and chasing each other around the dance floor to use them, but this was driven mainly because it was fun to mean, rather than out of a gamewise necessity. It very plainly didn’t help them at all to consider using cruelty.

So what I’m mainly trying to figure out is: what other ways can I muck around with the competitive dynamic in the game? I like the idea of Ice Tokens begetting more ice tokens, but I don’t want to see a bunch of “tagbacks” of players just chasing down each other with the same Token, if only because that makes it less helpful to use them in the first place. Here are some other rules features I’m considering:

1. One of the Lords being courted is the Prince of Ice, and is different from the others in that he is harder to court (he is allowed to reject a player in the endgame) but can offer a better “ending” because he has more status than the other Lords.
2. The Queen of Ice keeps a strict ranking of which Ladies she prefers, and this order matters for selection of partners between dances and, at the end, selection of partners. To curry favor with the Queen, you must impress her with cruelty and cunning of your own.
3. When an Ice Token is used on you, you can choose to keep that Token, but you
4. Get rid of Ice Tokens altogether, and simply give players a free reign in their mutual cruelty, driven only by wishing to rise higher in the eyes of the Queen.

An interesting thing is that, to some extent, I’ve already playtested #1 and #2. Some friends, excited by the game, recently ran a LARP based on it. The LARP was a vastly different creature that my own game, adhering to a lot of more traditional features of previous LARPs that we’ve done, but it seems the social effects of having a Prince and currying favor with the Queen worked quite well, so I’m inclined to use these back in the game.

I’d love some feedback on how these 4 options, or others, could help with the competitive aspect of the game.

Ben Lehman

Posts: 2094


« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2006, 11:47:22 PM »

I don't like the Prince.  The rejection seems to much like GM fiat, unless there are hard-coded rules for how it works.

Here's a thought:

Whenever you get hit by an Ice Token, you get knocked out for a number of rounds equal to the number Ice Tokens that have been spent on your or the number of Ice Tokens that you've spent, whichever is higher.

Here's another thought:

When you are dancing with a partner, you get into a pace of "Question" / "Answer" / "Question."  What if the answer to the last question only happens if you still have your partner at the beginning of your next turn?  That way switching partners could also be a form of PVP -- especially if the last question was deeply important.

The other thing is, I think, that players need to realize that they can control time (by dancing around the center of the board) and use this as effective PVP. 



Posts: 576

« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2006, 06:38:15 AM »

I forgot to menton some other rules changes that had emerged. Original movement was: on a players turn, she makes a move on the board, is asked a question, makes a move on the board, answers the qustion, makes a move on the board, asks her own question, and ends the turn. In the last playtest, I tried: make a move, handle all question asking/answering, make another move, and end the turn. At this point I'm liking the latter, as its more streamlined.

I don't like the Prince.  The rejection seems to much like GM fiat, unless there are hard-coded rules for how it works.

There's already some Fiat in play, in that the GM protraying the Ice Queen and Lords of Ice must be arbitrary and difficult, especially so in the case of the Ice Queen. (I feel like it's similar to Court of the Empress in that fashion.) But perhaps the use of fiat in the endgame might be a bit too potent - even without the Prince, one player seemed disappointed in the end game because it was somewhat too difficult to figure out her partner. If I was to remove the Prince's ability to deny a marriage in the endgame, here's what the endgame conditions would be:

* If you select your true love or the prince, you can narrate your own ending; otherwise, the GM narrates one for you.
* If you select your true love, you get a happy ending; if you select the bad Lord, you get an unhappy ending; otherwise, you get a bittersweet ending.
* A bittersweet ending with a Prince may be better than a bittersweet ending without one. (But if the Prince is the soulless one, it's the worst of all.)

Does that make the Prince any better? Or is earning the Ice Queen's favor alone enough to get a reason for competition flowing?
« Last Edit: April 23, 2006, 10:38:48 AM by DevP » Logged

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