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Author Topic: [Messenger II] Disloyalty and Advancement  (Read 6657 times)
Wood
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Posts: 43


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« on: September 18, 2006, 07:11:23 AM »

Me again, and still thinking about the game I dared to call Messenger, because it's a better and less painful title than The Second String Professional's Vanity Project.

So, in the first thread, a couple of people gave me some very valuable feedback. My answers to those magical nineteen questions are there, too.

Here's a recap, anyway:

You have the two stats/psychological resources, Compassion and Control, expressed as Circles and points (think like Willpower in the various WW systems). You risk points to do stuff that you might not be trained to do, or which require personal investment. The GM risks points too. If the player wins, his character succeeds and he gets back points equal to what the GM risked; if he draws with the GM, the character succeeds and the player gets back the points, plus one.

If what the character does is dramatically appropriate and/or risky, the other players can vote that the player gets an extra point back on top of that.

You advance by amassing points and buying more Circles, which allow you to risk points, and so on.

A concern was raised that this, combined with a Sanity/Conscience mechanic which can also rob a character of Circles, would lead to stats going down a lot faster than going up. And I think they're right.

Now mechanical advancement in the traditional sense doesn't bother me as such. However, on the other hand, having a character who becomes, inexorably, less adept at doing, well anything - that's actually no fun.

So question 1 is: how do we balance advancement and degeneration?

And then there's question 2. I wanted to include a mechanic based around Disloyalty Points. The characters are workers for this global corporate brand (it doesn't make anything, anything at all, but it has a hell of a brand identity, enough that people in developing countries fight wars over which T-shirt you wear). If they fail in some way, or openly make a decision that vitiates the principles of the company (eg. they ignore Directive 1/"The only responsibility of the Brand is to our Shareholders" by not killing some poor innocent who's defined by management as somehow being a threat to the brand, losing the company a piddling profit), they get a Disloyalty Point.

Now I'm thinking this mechanic should be double-edged. The company's a pretty vile institution. That's a given. It's like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Nike, GM, BAE, Ford and Nestle all wrapped up together in all their venal glory. So in being disloyal to the company, the character should get some benefit for it, psychologically, and I was thinking that it's an extra pool of points that a character can choose to add to Control or Compassion any time he or she wants, and which he can choose to replenish up to his DP score (in that way, DP are like Circles, only fixed) with points won back and so on. On the other hand, middle management in this murderous corporate beast starts looking at you funny, there are going to be consequences. Now in story terms, the consequences are plain: you get brainwashed, murdered or fired. Or maybe two out of the three, in any combination. Given that the artificial island state on which the game is set is owned by the corporation and every citizen is somehow employed, being fired is bad, because you cease to be a human in the eyes of the law. Not good.

So. story consequences: easy.

But what are the mechanical consequences of Disloyalty Points? And how can one lose them if one wants to? Suggestions gratefully received.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2006, 12:00:05 PM »

Heya,

Quote
But what are the mechanical consequences of Disloyalty Points? And how can one lose them if one wants to? Suggestions gratefully received.


Okay, do you want Disloyalty Points to encourage or discourage a kind of behavior?

Peace,

-Troy
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Wood
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« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2006, 01:40:23 PM »

I like you. You make me think.

I don't want them to necessarily encourage any kind of behaviour. I think the resources (with the morality/sanity mechanic) do that to an extent. I just want them to have consequences, both good and bad. On the good side, the sense that you've somehow put your own morals and self-esteem over that of the employer gives an increased sense of self...

On the bad side... well. There are consequences. You are less likely to be treated well by your superiors. They are more likely to place you in hazardous situations. Your loyalty will be tested more often. And if you go too far, they may even try to kill you, disenfranchise you or brainwash you. I'm just wondering how to model that.

Point is, it's both good and bad, and a character can become a better person while losing his rights, his freedom and even his life.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2006, 03:32:23 PM »

Heya,

I like you. You make me think.

I don't want them to necessarily encourage any kind of behaviour. I think the resources (with the morality/sanity mechanic) do that to an extent. I just want them to have consequences, both good and bad. On the good side, the sense that you've somehow put your own morals and self-esteem over that of the employer gives an increased sense of self...

On the bad side... well. There are consequences. You are less likely to be treated well by your superiors. They are more likely to place you in hazardous situations. Your loyalty will be tested more often. And if you go too far, they may even try to kill you, disenfranchise you or brainwash you. I'm just wondering how to model that.

Point is, it's both good and bad, and a character can become a better person while losing his rights, his freedom and even his life.

-Okay.  I think you have most of the mechanic down pretty good actually.  This part, " a character can become a better person while losing his rights, his freedom and even his life" is gold.  Now, here's the thing.  If your mechanic, in this case, neither rewards nor punishes an action then it will likely be ignored.  Let me put it another way.  If there is no incentive or no dis-incentive for players to engage a rule in your game, why would they bother with rememberign it during play?  It has to serve some function, and probably should serve a potant function, IMO. :)

-So, let me ask you this.  It is obviously good to "increase one's sense of self" in yoru game for both the character and the player.  So does "being in hazardous situations and having your loyalty tested more often" help increase your sense of self?  I am guessing that it should or does.  Therefore, Disloyalty points could be used to escalate the situation faced by the characters.  They get more resources but face more danger at the same time.  Does that sound good?

-Now let me caution you before you post your reaction.  Don't just agree with me cause I happened to reply to your post.  You have a vision for your game that I can't comprehend.  If my suggestion lines up with your vision, then great!  We'll talk more about it.  If not, I want you to reject it whole cloth and share your vision in a deeper way with us here.  I won't be offended.  Your game is going to rock.  You gotta follow through all the way and you gotta put in the hard work.  But it will rock as long as you stay true to you vision.  So let's talk, can Disloyalty Points be used to increase resources and danger in your game?  Can they be used to force the players towards harder and harder choices for their characters?

Peace,

-Troy
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Wood
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2006, 11:42:36 PM »


-So, let me ask you this.  It is obviously good to "increase one's sense of self" in yoru game for both the character and the player.  So does "being in hazardous situations and having your loyalty tested more often" help increase your sense of self?  I am guessing that it should or does.  Therefore, Disloyalty points could be used to escalate the situation faced by the characters.  They get more resources but face more danger at the same time.  Does that sound good?
Well, yes, that's exactly what i was trying to get at; exactly what I was after all along. You have totally apprehended what I want to do.

Quote
-Now let me caution you before you post your reaction.  Don't just agree with me cause I happened to reply to your post.  You have a vision for your game that I can't comprehend.  If my suggestion lines up with your vision, then great!
No, that's it. You've got what I'm after. You just put it more clearly.

Quote
Your game is going to rock.  You gotta follow through all the way and you gotta put in the hard work.  But it will rock as long as you stay true to your vision.
I hope so. 

Quote
So let's talk, can Disloyalty Points be used to increase resources and danger in your game?  Can they be used to force the players towards harder and harder choices for their characters?
There's the question. I like the idea of making the characters face harder and harder choices. I'm unsure how. I'm assuming that they'd up the stakes somehow.

So a player gets the option of adding DPs to his character's Resources. Should that have a mechanical consequence, a greater risk? Hmm. Racking my brains for an answer.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2006, 04:07:34 AM »

Heya,

I'm really thinking about a solution for your situation, Wood.  I'll post again in another day or two when I come up with something.  :)  I just didn't want you to think that I had abandoned ya or something.

Peace,

-Troy
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Wood
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2006, 01:04:46 AM »

It's OK. Been away for a few days myself. Been mulling it over. Thought perhaps that:

a) if you risk a DP, you always get it back, even if you fail, and you get is back first if you succeed.

b) every time you risk a DP, the Narrator gets an extra point in his (finite) pool of Story Points. 

But I'm not sure it's direct enough.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2006, 11:13:33 AM »

How about Disloyalty Points get you fired or otherwise cause the character to leave the company when you get to some arbitrary number? They never go down. This makes them finite, each use very important, and more important than the last. And it also gives a life-cycle to the character.

I'm coming in to this late, so my suggestion probably misses a goal somewhere, but I thought I'd give it a shot.


BTW, I work for a multi-national with offices in Mumbai, Gurgaon (suburb of Delhi), and elsewhere...In fact my manager is in Gurgaon. Hmmm...

:-)

Mike
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Wood
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« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2006, 02:08:11 AM »

OK: System change!

When a player wins or draws a reveal, he gets back points equal to the number the Narrator risked, plus one. The narrator gets back points equal to the number the player risked, and only if he wins outright.

How does that work?

How about Disloyalty Points get you fired or otherwise cause the character to leave the company when you get to some arbitrary number? They never go down. This makes them finite, each use very important, and more important than the last. And it also gives a life-cycle to the character.

I'm coming in to this late, so my suggestion probably misses a goal somewhere, but I thought I'd give it a shot.


BTW, I work for a multi-national with offices in Mumbai, Gurgaon (suburb of Delhi), and elsewhere...In fact my manager is in Gurgaon. Hmmm...

:-)

Mike
I think that Delhi or Mumbai are amazing places to set any game. Which is why they're my second default setting. What particularly struck me about Delhi in particular when I last visited there was how one the one hand, traditional underground methods of trading on the streets had adapted to new technology, and how riches and poverty were so close together.

And of course, in Mumbai, there's always the chance to get a job as an extra. God, I love India.

Anyway, yeah. Disloyalty Points. Now. I was actually moving towards not being able to lose them (which brings us into escape scenarios and stuff, Logan's Run as written by Naomi Klein, that sort of thing - in fact, feck it, that's a fantastic summary of the game -  Logan's Run as written by Naomi Klein! God, I'm a genius).

Re. Losing DPs: But, you know what? I think you could lose them (or maybe all but the first one? Hmm). You might be able to confirm your loyalty, but how about this: only at the cost of a) doing something terrible in-story to confirm it  - you kow, like killing a friend, or evicting your grandmother, that sort of thing, and b) at the automatic cost of one Circle of Compassion or Control.

You see? You give up part of your soul (either in terms of feeling or identity) to get back in the Corporation's good graces. I like that. I just made it up, but I think I'll keep it.

Re. The effects of a certain number of DPs: Yes, I think in-story, you get too many, you get disenfranchised. You get Audited. You get Liquidated. You lose your citizenship. Because that's the Democratic Way, kids.* I don't think that there should be a set number that gets you killed. Some folks get away with (figurative) murder in their jobs, others get fired after the first minor infraction. But the result should be afected by the number you have, and how much you choose to use them to help you flex your emotional muscles, as it were.

But what about meta-story? What about in mechanical terms? How does that work?

Currently, you can use DPs as Resources. And you get them back when you use them, even when you lose a reveal.

But what happens when you use them? One solution, which I said above, is to give the Narrator a point in his pool which can only be used in risks taken against that player. Since he has a finite pool of Story Points (NPCs don't have stats and stuff in this game, just the Narrator with his finite pool of points, equal to the total of Compassion and Control Circles of all players), this makes the risk greater for that player (and character).

And it's not a one-time award. Every time the player chucks in a DP, the Narrator gets a copy of that point for later. I think that the player's character becomes more at risk of getting caught and "fired" if he loses a reveal on which he spent DPs. I have no idea how I would effect that. Any ideas, folks? 

_____________________
*Or at least it is in my setting. I find it fascinating that political terms and allegiances change and shift over time. Being a "Tory" in 1939 meant very diferent things to what it means now. Likewise, "Labour" is not the same now as it was twenty years ago. And "Democracy" was a dirty word two hundred years ago. Now it's enshrined, and yet, as time goes on, it becomes less democratic. So in my notional future, the Commercial Free State, which operates with US permission under the Open Democracy License (natch), is actually working as a kind of plutocratic slave-owning fascist republic, only because it's a century down the line, that's what everybody thinks of when they hear the word "Democracy".
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contracycle
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2006, 03:23:57 AM »

One way to make DP's persistently effective is to make them relevant to a randomly triggered event.  Soemthing like, Human Resources send you for Ethics training and the like.  Maybe you can even use the punitive managerial escalation to some effect; accumulating DP's can get you Written and Verbal Warnings which are filed on your Permanent Record.  Rather than triggering a crisis, it contributes to escalating a crisis over ther course of play.

What I'm getting at is that the problem associated with disloyalty is that it attracts attention, from people with power over you.  Hence the theme in several existing works about frustrated, silent resentment rather than outright resistence.
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Wood
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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2006, 04:28:26 AM »

One way to make DP's persistently effective is to make them relevant to a randomly triggered event.  Soemthing like, Human Resources send you for Ethics training and the like.  Maybe you can even use the punitive managerial escalation to some effect; accumulating DP's can get you Written and Verbal Warnings which are filed on your Permanent Record.  Rather than triggering a crisis, it contributes to escalating a crisis over ther course of play.

What I'm getting at is that the problem associated with disloyalty is that it attracts attention, from people with power over you.  Hence the theme in several existing works about frustrated, silent resentment rather than outright resistence.
Yeah. I get you. Written (well, emailed) and Verbal Warnings: with you there.  And Ethics Training - what an excellent source for a story.
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Wood
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2006, 03:59:35 AM »

Another thought, not strictly related to advancement, about degrees of success.

Now having a dedicated system for combat and injury is not what i want to do, right. But maybe, on occasion, there's a deal where you might need to know how weel you did.

Sooo... let's make it about what you get back if you succeed. The examples are pretty elementary. You're faced with an unstable guy with a gun. Either you talk him down or shoot him. You take a risk. You get a stake back.

If you get back...

More than your stake: Total success. The person you're talking to is completely brought round to your way of thinking. You shoot your target dead.

Your stake, or one less than your stake: Comfortable success. You get the person you're talking to back down and possibly even give himself up to the authorities. Your bullet seriously wounds your target. If he doesn't get immediate medical attention, he'll die, messily and painfully.

More than half of your stake: Success. You get the person you're talking to to put the gun down and talk some some more. Your bullet causes an injury that needs medical attention and hurts like hell.

Less than half of your stake: Marginal success. You manage to make someone relent momentarily from a course of action they probably didn't want to do anyway. Your bullet causes a flesh wound.

I think this works. Except... something doesn't feel quite right. There's something wonky there.
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