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Author Topic: Agon - First Among Equals  (Read 4467 times)
iago
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« on: August 25, 2006, 11:33:15 PM »

"First Among Equals" is the name I'm using for my Agon running.  I wasn't entirely expecting to, but I ran a session for two players, including character creation, end-to-end, one quest, inside of about 2 hours tonight.  Did a few newbie things wrong, but not to the detriment of the game.  And *man* it was tight.

Details, I've posted over on RPG.net in hopes that it helps elevate awareness of Agon and get the game a little extra love:

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?p=6216060#post6216060
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iago
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2006, 06:53:31 PM »

Ran another session of Agon today, with four players this time.  It wasn't... as *tight* as the first time with half as many players.  I probably skipped story too much, and gave them too many minion fights and not enough NPC fights.

But...

There's a couple things that went on that I'd like to look at.

1 Fate for Divine Boredom

We played with the "1 fate = get all your divine favor back" added rule.  Now, this in practice lead to a lot of awesome, because we had at least one guy at the table who was looking to play a short-timer, and was amping up his fate (he already started as a demigod with a d8 name) in order to churn divine favor.  And one of his favorite things was to spend and spend and spend on additional attacks.  In one exchange, he personally churned enough fate and divine favor to take down seven minions singlehandedly!

Now, that's not a bad thing, on the surface of it.  But here's the rub: I looked around the table while this was happening, and what I beheld was a lot of bored gamers waiting their turn.  Sure, they could play with the oath thing by throwing in helping dice and all that, but that involves impairing, and after a while, the shine comes off that penny.  So an unexpected side-effect -- and one that I'm not sure I'm in favor of -- of the 1 fate = refresh divine favor thing, is clearly that it can produce a spotlight-hogging effect that's not, IMO, in the fun-oriented competitive spirit of the game.  So I'm contemplating turning off that switch for the next time I run it, or changing it instead from a 1 fate = get all your divine favor back, to something like, 'cash in a god-oath, roll the d12, and clear checkmarks from that many divine favor boxes' effect instead.  Something to reduce the ability to amp fate and do the divine favor watusi over and over.  And honestly, even rolling a d12 is too much for me, but I don't want to break the consistency of a d12 = a God Die.

Something to think about; I'd love to hear thoughts on what other compromises could be (such as, limiting the number or sequencing on "attack again", whatever).

But ultimately, the point I want to make on this is this: I'm all for people being glory hogs in game -- that's appropriate to the mission of it.  But all the other methods I've seen have been inclusive of the other players, rather than exclusive of them, and that's where I think the mission *isn't* being delivered on.  I want to allow people to have these huge moments of glory without doing it at the expense of others' camera time.

On to the next bit.

I Pledge Thee An Oath of d4 Abuse

Oaths got cheapened for the players (more than one commented on this to me) during play because it was way too easy to help someone voluntarily, or at their behest, with a d4 die from whatever ability.  It made oaths not seem heavy and significant -- if you could wipe away a debt casually, which is essentially what's happening when you toss over a d4.

My initial thoughts on this are to make it a sliding scale.  Some deeds of service are more equal than others, in other words.  I'd do it something like this:

d4 - Repays no oath, nor creates any obligation, but you can give a d4 freely if you like
d6 - Standard.  You impair an ability with a d6, and either repay an oath that you owed your ally, or create an obligation now owed to you by your ally.
d8 - Double. Loan a d8 to replay/earn two oaths, not one.
d10 - Triple.
d12 - Quadruple.

This approach eliminates "d4 abuse" at a cost of very little increase on complexity, and makes *great deeds of service* count more than *casual brush-offs that would otherwise cheapen the oath*.

I Owe Who For The What Now?

Okay, so, each player is tracking on his sheet what oaths are owed to him.  But the guys doing the owing aren't really on top of what oaths they owe.  The problem this introduces is that it makes it hard to do the "i want to help out here because I want to cancel out the debt I owe that dude" decision making.  This suggests to me that oaths really need to be tracked in a more visible or more communal way.

A more visible way would be: each player has a color which is personal to them, and a set of tokens representing their debt.  When they owe someone an oath, they give that person a token of their color.  This done, they can look around the table, see where, say, their green chips are, and make an easy informed decision about what to do for the people they owe.

A more visible and more communal way would be: always have a big whiteboard on hand.  Write out a list of heroes, and write next to them the heroes that owe them oaths, and how much.  Ever curious about who you owe? Look to the big board.

Other suggestions here would be awesome.  I think the whole colored-chip thing is probably the easiest, but I'm sure there are other methods that could be done.

Was a fun game!  But longer play (this was a good four hour session play -- they did the entirety of the 'defend the Apollo temple' quest from my Island of Arkanam that I posted over on the islands thread) has revealed a few wrinkles that I'd like to iron out.
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iago
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« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2006, 07:30:35 PM »

I just remember one more comment I got from my players.

Why I No Awesome Like You?

This is a relatively minor footnote by comparison, but one of my players commented that minion/NPC special abilities -- like First Strike, Swift, etc -- were really cool, and they were frustrated that those abilities would be forever out of their reach, no matter how many advances they got.

This touches on a small feeling I'd been developing -- namely that only having the ability to increase die size with advances doesn't have enough variety to it.  So I'm going to be casting about for notions of what other kinds of things players could spend their advances on.  Expanded heroic attributes?  A certain subset of strife abilities?  Magical/divine items?  And how would I ascribe cost to those items?
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coffeestain
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« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2006, 07:41:17 PM »

Fred,

How do you feel the game played with only 2 players?  I've heard it said that Agon really sings when there are 4 or so players and I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Thanks!

Regards,
Daniel
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iago
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2006, 07:58:18 PM »

How do you feel the game played with only 2 players?  I've heard it said that Agon really sings when there are 4 or so players and I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Given my two data points so far -- 2 players for 2 hours, 4 players for 4 hours -- if anything, I'd say my 2-player game was stronger, but they both worked very well.

The two player game was very much 'Son of Apollo and his wisecracking sidekick' in feel.  Pretty awesome.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2006, 04:11:37 AM »

1 Fate for Divine Boredom

As you mentioned, the person who used this most was the person playing a short-timer.
I think in any group of a decent size, you're going to get one or two players who will be happy to forego the battle to be number one in legend, in favour of getting lots of success in play, and having characters who burnout brightly and rapidly.
I agree with you that when this also hogs a lot of spotlight time for that player, it's a problem.
I also think that 1 Fate = All Divine Favour back is much more attractive than the other Fate options: cancel one blow, or remove 4 Impairments. If it was 1 Fate for any ONE Divine Favour benefit, it'dbe a lot less problematic for me.  So you could, say, burn 1 Fate to make your weapon divine, or to get a single extra attack. That then makes it an option you use in desperation, like the other two.

In any case, since I'm playing a short-term game at the moment that might become a longer-term later, I see no reason to use it at the moment.

Quote
I Pledge Thee An Oath of d4 Abuse

Oaths got cheapened... for the players (more than one commented on this to me) during play because it was way too easy to help someone voluntarily, or at their behest, with a d4 die from whatever ability.

Have you seen these two threads:
Oaths - the helping die
Oath House Rules

The way we played on Monday was this:
Since the oath die (as with Creative Abilities and Divine Favour rolls) doesn't have to be rolled until you see what your initial roll and enemy's roll actually are, no one called for an oath until they'd tried something and knew it was going to fail. At that point, they knew they needed a five, or a seven, or whatever - and so there was no point offering a d4 or d6 most of the time. Helping was nearly always burning D8's and d10's.

Quote
My initial thoughts on this are to make it a sliding scale.  Some deeds of service are more equal than others, in other words.  I'd do it something like this:

d4 - Repays no oath, nor creates any obligation, but you can give a d4 freely if you like
d6 - Standard.  You impair an ability with a d6, and either repay an oath that you owed your ally, or create an obligation now owed to you by your ally.
d8 - Double. Loan a d8 to replay/earn two oaths, not one.
d10 - Triple.
d12 - Quadruple.

When you get an oath from an NPC, it's a d8. So that seems to me like it should be the default. Which does cause problems for a sliding scale. In the 2nd thread above, I suggested a sliding scale relative to what you actually need: so if a d6 is the minimum die that will actually win against the difficulty, it's one oath. Each die size bigger is an extra oath.

As it stands though, just making Oaths something that people roll after seeing what the antagonist has rolled eliminates the need I felt for extra rules. If you need a 6 or better, people are going to argue for a better helping die than a d6 if they can get it, and "d4 abuse" vanishes completely.

Quote
I Owe Who For The What Now?
Having some kind of public chart showing who owes who is a great idea.
I'm not keen on the tokens, because I'm already using three colours of poker chips. (One for the GM's strife, and green, yellow, and red for positioning bonuses, temp and permanent injuries, as suggested by John.) More would be confusing.
If any of us had different coloured gaming stones, which look different to poker chips, that method would work for us. As it is, I think I'm going to use bright marker pen to mark everyone's oaths on the table in plain sight (we cover our table with a perspex sheet).

Why I No Awesome Like You?

This is a relatively minor footnote by comparison, but one of my players commented that minion/NPC special abilities -- like First Strike, Swift, etc -- were really cool, and they were frustrated that those abilities would be forever out of their reach, no matter how many advances they got.

This touches on a small feeling I'd been developing -- namely that only having the ability to increase die size with advances doesn't have enough variety to it.  So I'm going to be casting about for notions of what other kinds of things players could spend their advances on.  Expanded heroic attributes?  A certain subset of strife abilities?  Magical/divine items?  And how would I ascribe cost to those items?

I don't mind this. Gaining abilities up to d10 and d12 may look like a boring advance, but it's pretty powerful. Many of the monster abilities are there for the purpose of crafting encounters, and countering the advantages that the players have by virtue of their numbers, so giving them to players would upset the balance of power and the strife economy quite a bit.
Such abilities can be made available in a limited way, through items (as you mentioned) or special in-adventure bonuses (e.g. Anyone who successfully sacrifices at the temple of helios gains fiery skin for one day or battle).
Giving bonuses in items does bring to mind the old D&D problem: when a character dies, his items are usually held by the group. That's not necessarily true in this setting though - the retiring characters problably take their special gear to hades or elysium or wherever they end up.

If players really were desperate to gain such abilities as innate abilities, the place I'd consider making them pay for it is in the Name Die. Reducing that die a step (plus an advance cost associated with the power's cost) is a big price to pay. But then, I'm not eager to let the players get most of them, so I'm inclined to pick harsher costs :)
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Darren Hill
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Posts: 861


« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2006, 04:33:58 AM »

1 Fate for Divine Boredom

Another thought on this point.
Any fiddling with the "1 Fate for Divine Favour" option really only postpones the (possible) problem. In an ongoing game characters might increase their Divine Favour to 12-15, or maybe (if very lucky) higher. At which point you don't need to spend Fate to do the "keep attacking till this monster goes down, while my team-mates twiddle their thumbs!" trick. If there is a problem (and I'm not saying there is, but there might be), it's the cost for taking extra attacks. It's the only Divine Favour ability my players used, which might suggest that it's too attractive at that cost.
If that's accurate, solutions could be to alter its cost to 4, or making it only usable once per round, or making its cost be the number of attacks you've made (so first time in a round is 2, 2nd time is 3, third time is 4, etc.)

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iago
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« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2006, 07:31:57 AM »

Quote
I Pledge Thee An Oath of d4 Abuse

Oaths got cheapened... for the players (more than one commented on this to me) during play because it was way too easy to help someone voluntarily, or at their behest, with a d4 die from whatever ability.

Have you seen these two threads:
Oaths - the helping die
Oath House Rules

The way we played on Monday was this:
Since the oath die (as with Creative Abilities and Divine Favour rolls) doesn't have to be rolled until you see what your initial roll and enemy's roll actually are, no one called for an oath until they'd tried something and knew it was going to fail. At that point, they knew they needed a five, or a seven, or whatever - and so there was no point offering a d4 or d6 most of the time. Helping was nearly always burning D8's and d10's.

This all works when you 'call on' an oath.  But the problem arose more (not exclusively, but more) when people jumped in there and offered their d4's to a hero's roll on something in order to create a debt, without being asked.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2006, 07:41:18 AM »

It works the same way, though. You don't accept till after you've made your roll and compared it to your opponents. I [i[think[/i] that's legal.
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iago
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« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2006, 07:46:42 AM »

It works the same way, though. You don't accept till after you've made your roll and compared it to your opponents. I [i[think[/i] that's legal.
I'll need to investigate.  My understanding was more that you could force an oath on someone by throwing a helping die at them -- even a crappy one.
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John Harper
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« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2006, 10:10:42 AM »

Awesome feedback, Fred. Thanks.

The "attack again" option is tricky. The way it works now, it's designed to be a spotlight hog. I understand how this could be a problem. One possible fix: Allow a player to call in an Oath with the spotlight hero in order to stop their attack chain and let the next player go.

I like the idea that giving a d4 helping die doesn't repay or create an Oath. I think that may address your issue. Another thing to do: Call contests in the abilities that other heroes have zeroed out by giving you a d4. That hero can't participate, and gets no Glory. Nyah nyah.
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Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!
Darren Hill
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« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2006, 10:20:59 AM »

Call contests in the abilities that other heroes have zeroed out by giving you a d4. That hero can't participate, and gets no Glory. Nyah nyah.

I know the text says "If a d4 takes an impairment level, it cannot be rolled at all." but I was under the impression you'd still be able to attempt the contest using your name die alone. Is that not the case?

Also, that question Fred raised: does the recipient have the right to refuse a helping die?

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iago
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« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2006, 11:49:33 AM »

Awesome feedback, Fred. Thanks.

The "attack again" option is tricky. The way it works now, it's designed to be a spotlight hog. I understand how this could be a problem. One possible fix: Allow a player to call in an Oath with the spotlight hero in order to stop their attack chain and let the next player go.

I like the idea that giving a d4 helping die doesn't repay or create an Oath. I think that may address your issue. Another thing to do: Call contests in the abilities that other heroes have zeroed out by giving you a d4. That hero can't participate, and gets no Glory. Nyah nyah.


I'm also tempted to say 'Attack again, but only after everyone's gotten their go-around'. Basically, extra attacks only occur at the end of a exchange, not in the middle.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2006, 12:15:57 PM »

I think the Oath solution is the best one proposed. I like players being able to use Divine Favour to attack again immediately, before anyone else acts - but I like others being able to stop them.
Reemmber also, when you buy an extra attack, you get to reroll all dice on the table at that moment - including any from helping/oaths. If you institute a "ecveryone attacks once, then everyone attacks again," keeping track of these bonus dice may get awkward.
The oath method - in ending the attack sequence then - nicely sidesteps this problem.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2006, 01:50:45 PM »

Fred,

I'd also say that multiple attacks are fine but only after everyone's had a shot.

The 1 fate = return all divine favor cycle seems broken to me but I haven't really seen a full reward cycle. I can't imagine that some Legend thing 10-20 games later is supposed to be enough encouragement for me not to be Awesome in this game, right here.

You might also talk about the Mook rule we tossed in. Pretty broken, too, I think.

The game was fun though! I only had some minor quibbles and I'll email you about those.

Adam
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
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