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Author Topic: [Cranium Rats] On Tokens; Getting Competition and Story to Work Together?  (Read 4511 times)
Thunder_God
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« on: August 01, 2006, 01:27:29 PM »

This discussion begins with other discussions. Funny how that goes.
The first discussion is that about the Token Economy of Cranium Rats. That thread already raised issues regarding the clash between Competition and Story, and as you can see from the second playtest session, that is still an issue.

I created Tokens in order for them to bolster the Story creation part of the game, but it clashes with the Competitive element of the game, where people may ignore the story aspect in order to further enhance their competitive angle, undermining my whole point! So, my question is, how would you make the Tokens work as they should without this.. friction?

Also, I know the obvious solution is to make some Resources only deal with Story and some only dealing with Competition, but then you basically have two games played at the table. For me, the resources must be the same for both sides of the game.

The situation I'm currently considering returns the old "Story" and "Competition" Tokens, though removing the "Owned"/"Given" dichotomy which was needlessly cumbersome. Funny how you return to old solutions you've discarded several versions ago. Anyway, I'm also looking for input regarding it, since somewhere deep down I'm still not entirely satisfied with this solution, though I don't know why. It's the best I came up with till now.

Tokens will be again split into two types, "Story Tokens" and "[Mechanic nameholder] Tokens"(How does (Monkey?)Wrench Tokens sound?).
When you give someone a Story Token, they receive a Wrench Token instead.
When you spend a Wrench Token, it is removed from the game.
Each session begins with each player(including the Enlightened) gaining 3 Story Tokens.

Each Story Token can be used to buy Narration rights from another player, in which case you give the Token to that person.
You may give a Story Token to the Enlightened in order to set a scene for a character for whom you play the Water Aspect.
You may "invest" a Story Token in another player's Aspect to give him a Goal. The Token is "gone", invested in the character/Aspect.

Each Wrench Token may be spent to give any Aspect/Character/NPC 2 dice in any Conflict, it is afterwards removed from the game.
You may use a Wrench Token to give your own Aspect a Goal.

When a Goal is completed(success or failure), the player owning the Goal gains one Story Token and one Wrench Token.
When a character fails a Conflict or a Flood Scene is initiated, the Enlightened gains one Story or Wrench Token(of his choice).

At the end of a session, all unused Tokens are Removed.
For each unused Story Token a player has, he loses one die from each Aspect he controls. Any Flood Scenes this may bring will be handled either now or at the beginning of next session(before any new Tokens are handed out).
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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
John Kirk
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2006, 06:32:21 PM »

I created Tokens in order for them to bolster the Story creation part of the game, but it clashes with the Competitive element of the game, where people may ignore the story aspect in order to further enhance their competitive angle, undermining my whole point! So, my question is, how would you make the Tokens work as they should without this.. friction?

Also, I know the obvious solution is to make some Resources only deal with Story and some only dealing with Competition, but then you basically have two games played at the table. For me, the resources must be the same for both sides of the game.

If a resource provides a competitive advantage to a player, then you cannot have a third party (the GM, in this case) swoop in and give one player more of that resource without the other players feeling cheated.  Even if you do it with the honorable intention of improving the story, players will object.

Splitting the story and competitive games down the middle would be a good solution, but I understand you wanting to stick to a single resource in order to keep the game as simple as possible.

There is only one solution I can think of that satisfies both the goals of "competitive fairness" and "bolsters story" where you allow the GM to hand out tokens that give a competitive advantage.  That is to ensure that the GM always provides equal "value" to all players whenever he influences the story.  Thus, the GM could give one player a new Goal to drive the story in a direction he finds interesting.  A Goal in Cranium Rats is essentially worth 1 token.  So, the GM should always be required to give the other players an equal boost whenever he does so.  For example, you could require the GM to give all players new Goals simultaneously.  Or, if the GM can't think of a new goal for one or more players, then give each of those players not receiving goals a token as recompense.

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John Kirk

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Thunder_God
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2006, 09:40:09 AM »

Would you want to play a "GM" so constrained? Would you want to have your decisions be guided and leaving you no choice as to how?
Also, it is important to note that the Enlightened is another player, not a GM per se.

I think that this runs counter to anything that we know. While we talk about it like this, everytime we actually see it, it doesn't go this way.
Look at PtA and some other games, when you perform well you get Fanmail, or some other token of appreciation, in a mechanical form.
You may say that PtA is not Competitive, to which I'd simply reply that all activities where we get rewarded for being better at something are competitive.

Also, this actively stripes away from CR's competitive nature. If it's competitive, and I am better at making you involved with my character, shouldn't I get rewarded for it?
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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
John Kirk
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 121


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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2006, 06:11:10 AM »

Guy, your tone seems like I have somehow put you on the defensive.  Just to be clear, I'm not trying to push your buttons here.  I am only trying to help.

Would you want to play a "GM" so constrained? Would you want to have your decisions be guided and leaving you no choice as to how?
Also, it is important to note that the Enlightened is another player, not a GM per se.

My wanting to play a GM that is so constrained is an independent question as to whether the system you have set up is problematic for the other players.  If it were done right, then yes, I would probably want to play a GM under these constaints.  If not done properly, then no.  You can call the Enlightened a GM or not.  That's just semantics.  I personally think it fits the bill in this case, but whatever.  The Enlightened may be another player, but he is most definately not another competitor.  (Where is his "win" condition?)  In a competitive game, you first need to focus on making the game fair to the competitors or they will balk.  If you can't make the Enlightened's role fun at the same time (which it certainly needs to be), then you need to eliminate the role somehow.  I do think that you can have both fun and balance, although it may not be easy to achieve.

I think that this runs counter to anything that we know. While we talk about it like this, everytime we actually see it, it doesn't go this way.
Look at PtA and some other games, when you perform well you get Fanmail, or some other token of appreciation, in a mechanical form.
You may say that PtA is not Competitive, to which I'd simply reply that all activities where we get rewarded for being better at something are competitive.

PtA is not a competitive game.  It is cooperative.  If it were competitive, nobody would give anybody else any Fanmail, ever.  I have a hard time believing that you, among all people, are claiming that any activity for which we get rewarded is competitive.  What is it exactly that distinguishes CSI games from other types then?  In my opinion, players in a competitive game do whatever they can (per the rules) to win the game.  Generally, this means hindering their opponents to the best of their abilities at every opportunity.  Currently, Cranium Rats is set up like a chess game between three players, where each player is devising his own strategy to win the game.  However, the game also has a "referee" that occasionally gets handed a chess piece that has been removed from the board.  He can't play them himself, but he can come in at any time and hand one of them to any player he chooses, depending on what he personally finds to be aesthetically pleasing.  How is this fair to the competitors?

Also, this actively stripes away from CR's competitive nature.

No it doesn't.  The non-Enlightened players are still competing.  (You aren't, actually, trying to make the Enlightened a competitor also, are you?)

Now, the changes I have proposed might mess up your currency flow.  In fact, they probably will.  I haven't looked at that issue.  Such a change might demand changes elsewhere to compensate for its effects.  But, those issues can be addressed after you ensure the game is fair to all competitors.
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John Kirk

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Thunder_God
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2006, 06:24:20 AM »

First, I am sorry if my tone was overly defensive, it wasn't my intent. This issue baffles me, it's this issue that is at the bottom of the Competitive-Story Hybrid, and I am trying to get to the bottom of it, even in others' view, so the questions aren't attacks, but questions to help me understand how what you said makes a coherent whole.

If the Enlightened is a competitor, then it's on the Story angle, on having more effect on the story, but then again, given the flow of resources and his referee duties, that's a given.

Well, my point about fanmail is thus, the game is cooperative and has no win/loss conditions, but people do compete to gain fanmail, to get acknowledged by their peers as making something cool.

I am trying to get the players to compete as hard as they can mechanically, while still trying to work together and even benefit others when it comes to the Story angle, that's what this post is about, trying to make it happen.
Also, as to the "Fair" angle, in a way, isn't it fair that those who do better, put in more effort into creating a good Story be rewarded for their efforts?

Also, what do you think of the method I provided in the first post, which also begins to solve the Token/Goal problem. I as the Enlightened can give someone a Goal, but if he gets the Goal, he also gets another Story Token which he must give to another player in some form.
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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
John Kirk
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 121


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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2006, 11:01:44 AM »

This issue baffles me, it's this issue that is at the bottom of the Competitive-Story Hybrid, and I am trying to get to the bottom of it, even in others' view, so the questions aren't attacks, but questions to help me understand how what you said makes a coherent whole.

That is perfectly understandable.  What you are trying to accomplish with Competitive Story Hybrids is difficult at best.  Let me try to explain my thoughts by using non-RPG analogies.  In my opinion, truly excellent competitive games always have winners and losers.  Let's consider three such games:  Chess, Settlers of Catan, and Magic: The Gathering.  What do these games share in common (with regard to competition)?  All of them decide who wins and who loses based on higly objective rules.  Of the three, I would say that Chess is the only one that is perfectly objective, since the other have situations that arise where there are questions about rules interpretation.  Even so, all are at least highly objective.  Based on his understanding of the rules, a player can devise multiple strategies and plan ahead to implement them in order to win the game.  All good competitive games have this trait of objectivity to a greater or lesser extent.  Of course, some competitive games are far less objective.  Figure skating or ball-room dancing, for example, require judges to provide their opinions on the quality of a performance.  Due to the highly subjective nature of any single opinion, though, such sports try to re-introduce a greater degree of objectivity by providing rules as to how and when judges award points.  Even then, they usually have entire panels of judges to tone down the subjective opinion of any single judge.

This is your single biggest problem with creating a competitive game that rewards players for creating a "good story" and expecting these rewards to influence who wins and who loses.   Determining whether one story is better than another one is highly subjective.  I don't see how you can get around this.  As soon as you introduce a highly subjective element into a competitive game, players are going to feel that the person providing the subjective opinion (in this case the Enlightened) is cheating them, even if he has no stake in the outcome of the game.

That's why I originally recommended you split the game into two parts.  One part would be competitive and objective.  The other part would be cooperative and subjective.  As long as the currency of the two simultaneous games are completely isolated from one another, you won't have the problems mentioned above.  If the subjective game can, in any way, influence the outcome of the objective game, you have problems.

I am trying to get the players to compete as hard as they can mechanically, while still trying to work together and even benefit others when it comes to the Story angle, that's what this post is about, trying to make it happen.
Also, as to the "Fair" angle, in a way, isn't it fair that those who do better, put in more effort into creating a good Story be rewarded for their efforts?

Philosophically, yes.  Practically, no.  Not if it influences who wins and who loses.  Again, the problem is the subjectivity of the reward.

Also, what do you think of the method I provided in the first post, which also begins to solve the Token/Goal problem. I as the Enlightened can give someone a Goal, but if he gets the Goal, he also gets another Story Token which he must give to another player in some form.
It's a good start, in that you've got two resources: one for mechanical influence and the other for story influence.  But it still has problems because one can be converted into another and visa-versa (through various means).  This interplay between the resources allows subjective opinion to influence who wins and who loses.  That's a problem.
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John Kirk

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Thunder_God
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2006, 11:10:34 AM »

Hm, I'll see what Filip thinks of it in actual play.

I'm trying to stay away from two seperate systems within the game if it can be helped. I am operating from an assumption that it's possible, just that I(we?) don't know how yet.
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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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