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Author Topic: Complications and Stake-Setting  (Read 12342 times)
Zamiel
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« on: October 12, 2006, 02:03:12 PM »

One of the things I've found particularly of interest in the new wave of indie RPG design is the idea of "stake setting," that is, conflicts are entered into with the eventual desired end stated up front as well as the alternative, and then play proceeds through the mechanisms until that particular conflict is completed. There may be more than one such conflict running in parallel or nested in any number of ways.

Maybe its just my second reading of the mechanics isn't deep enough yet, but Universalis doesn't seem to mention stake-setting in it's Complication creation stage, While engaging a Complication does require at least one player to state they want to affect a Component not under their Control, they don't necessarily have to state how they ultimately want to modify or manipulate it. In fact, the light randomness in the Coin payout for the Complication might make the full scope of their desires impossible (though I don't think that, in and of itself, that violates the underlying usefullness of stake-setting).

So, a question and a thought:

Was or is there some intent to do stake-setting at the declaration of a Complication?

Regardless, does the following inject clarity or am I just rattling about in my weird alternate universe?

Quote
Rules Gimmick: Complication Stakes
When you engage a Complication, you need to state explicitly what you hope to gain as a result of the conflict. This might be as straightforward as "I want to remove X from the story" or as loose as "I want to keep X from making it back to homebase to report." The player on the other side of the Complication should then state the oppositional stakes, such as "X seriously damages your ship's infrastructure" or "the scout makes it back to base and they're aware of your ambush."

When the Bonus Coin is spent after the Complication is resolved, the desired stakes have to be paid for first from that pool. Doing otherwise is grounds for a Challenge.
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2006, 06:22:31 PM »

Hey Zam,

Great question.  I'm going to ask you to check out this story games thread on Stakes and let me know what you think.

Embedded in the concepts of that thread is my answer to your question as it pertains to Uni, but I don't want to shut this thread down. 

Rather I'd love to spawn a discussion on the topic.

Ralph
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Zamiel
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« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2006, 09:29:35 PM »

Hey Zam,

Great question.  I'm going to ask you to check out this story games thread on Stakes and let me know what you think.

Embedded in the concepts of that thread is my answer to your question as it pertains to Uni, but I don't want to shut this thread down. 

Rather I'd love to spawn a discussion on the topic.

That was ... singularly unuseful. In the sense that it pretty much exemplified everything about discussions on the Forge that keep me from enjoying the discussion, from Ron Edwards being both pompous and evasive, to folks trying to get decent answers and the point sliding away from them, to new terms being made up left and right which have little to no grounding in anything like the actual definition of the word.

Thank you for reminding me why I don't generally hang out 'round these parts. :)

That said, I fully admit I came away with that knowing less than I did when I went in. Or rather, I gathered that several people have legitimate issues with stating before mechanical resolution occurs what the exact results will be. But almost none of the ensuing flailing about had to do with the way things function in the two core systems I think of when I think about stake-setting and initent-declaritive conflict resolution, those being Primetime Adventures and Capes, both of which use explicit statements about what the conflict is (or, in Capes' case, what the Conflict is) and do so successfully so. Spectacularly so, in  my personal experience.

I've just done a write-up of a theoretical Scene in Universalis on my blog (which I'll reference under another thread, as it has its own issues), a recreation of a Scene I'd done a previous write-up using the Capes mechanics. What struck me immediately, aside from the fact I ran the Capes mechanics is a less low-res way, was that the Conflicts actually played out a lot more directably. Stating up front what the Goal is works to focus exactly how players engage with the mechanism of conflict-resolution and directs how they're likely to work together to narrate a series of events as they activate the mechanics.

That is, in my BSG example, there is a significant conceptual and play difference between saying, "OK, the Vipers initiate a Complication with the Raiders" and "OK, the Vipers are going to try and destroy the Raiders" or "OK, the Vipers are trying to get away from the Raiders." While either of the latter two could actually be the result of the first statement, to be illuminated by the actual narrations as Traits are Called Upon, stating one of the latter ends up with a lot more coherent narrative.

What I'm really asking is what is the expected initiation of a Complication in Universalis? None of the Actual Play examples are worth a hill of beans for figuring out how it's actually played, or at least none of them I've read so far. Great lists of events, terrible for the meta-discussion that goes on during play, which is what I really want to know about at this point.
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2006, 07:08:14 AM »

Heh, different strokes.  I found that thread to be a profoundly useful discussion on why setting stakes up front is problematical...alot of folks did as well.  I know that PTA is often held up as a poster child for explicit stakes setting, but too often what Matt intended in the design (and well summarized by John Harper in that thread) is not what many people wind up doing (which is to tack steeples onto turtles).

But, lets set that aside since it wasn't as useful for you as I'd hoped.

There are no explicit stakes setting up front in Universalis at all.  Instead, what there is a conflict of interest.  Lets look at the primary way Complications get started in Uni.

1) You control Jack, I control Bob.  You narrate "Jack shoots Bob".  Since I control Bob, we have a Conflict of Interest.  You (on Jack's behalf) have decided that its in Jack's interest to shoot Bob.  I (acting on Bob's behalf) decide (presumeably) that its not in Bob's best interest to be shot.

2) Slightly different take, same situation.  You narrate "Jack shoots Bob".  You've done so as the culmination of a series of narrations that paint a certain picture about where you want the story to go.  I have a different picture of where I (as a player) want the story to go.  I Control Bob.  Bob is now my lever to wrest direction-of-the-story control from you.  I'm still obligated to represent Bob's interests as a character, but the conflict of interest is between your and my vision for the story as much as it is about Jack and Bob and who gets shot.


If you like to speak in the language of Stake setting (and unlike Ron, I think the language is useful when properly applied) then the stakes of the above Complication are not "What's at Stake is whether Bob gets shot".  Nor (and most especially) they are definitely not "If you win Bob gets shot, if I win Bob escapes and phones the police"

Instead Universalis stakes work like this: "What's at Stake is who gets to decide what happens when Jack tries to shoot Bob"

THAT question, and that question ONLY is what gets resolved by who gets the most successes on the dice roll.

What this means is that ANYTHING is open.  Even though you control Jack, and you've decided Jack wants to shoot Bob, if you win the Complication you can still narrate Jack missing.  You can narrate Jack missing, Bob running away and getting hit and killed by oncoming traffic.  Even though I control Bob and (most likely) Bob would prefer to not be shot, if I win, I can narrate Bob being shot and killed.  I'll just put my own spin on the events that lead the story in the direction I'd like it go.

So as players, the REAL conflict of interest might not be about whether Bob gets shot at all.  We might both be 100% in agreement that Bob must die and Jack must kill him.  But we might have very different ideas about the context of that death.  Does Bob go out like a punk?  Does Jack's girlfriend see him as a raving lunatic or an avenging hero or a cold blooded assassin?  Does Jack get away scott free or is evidence left behind?  Those items may well be what the Complication is really about...what's really at stake.

OR...the conflict could be about me really not wanting Bob to die (yet) because I still have plans for the character, while you really want Bob to die now because you know I have plans for the character and you'd rather not have those plans in the story.


Ok, so what does a Complication look like in play?

Step one is the initial conflict of interest that brought out the dice.
Step two is the round robin of claiming dice from Traits.

This second step is where the greatest variety lies.  It can be as simple as you claiming dice for Jack's gun and the Trait "Jack and Bob are friends" (justified as helping to get the drop on Bob), and me claiming dice for Bob's "ex military" and "paranoid" traits as helping him stay alive...boom...roll the dice.

Or it could get WAY more complicated than that.  I've seen Complications last most of the session as players jockey for dice.  One of the other players might Create at the spur of the moment "Dave the Doorman" who has the potential to be a witness to the crime.  I might introduce the existing character of "Diane", "Jack's Girlfriend" who tries to stop Jack from committing murder.  Someone else might narrate that in the scuffle a fire got started, and Create as a Component the raging inferno as essentially a third character.  This can continue to go on, and spiral, and escalate bringing in all of the back story, all of the hate and pain and anguish that led to this point, leaving every player at the table with huge heaping piles of dice.

Step 3 roll the dice:  All the roll does then is determine the order of when players get to speak and provides bonus Coins which act as a currency constraint on how much they get to say. 

Step 4, narrate:  Everything has to be sensible and justified by what the initial conflict of interest was, what Traits were drawn on to build the pools and what the accompanying narration was.  But beyond that everything is fair game.  If the conflict was a strait forward bam, couple of dice and roll, then chances are the narration will be equally to the point...both because that's the mindset the players are in and because there's probably not that many Coins to spend.  Wham bam, Bob is dead, or Bob lives, move on.

On the other hand if the Complication spiraled and escalated the main part of the narration and main part of the Coins spent might wind up being about all those other issues that were brought in (like Diane no longer loving Jack and Jack committing suicide in grief and anguish).  The actual death or survival of Bob as a character might be found to be entirely incidental.  It wasn't what the conflict was about at all but merely the catalyst that brought about the real conflict between Jack and Diane.  Heck in the end the player who Created the raging inferno might win the conflict and narrate everyone burning to death in a tragic ending for all...or maybe only Diane gets burned and Jack and Bob reconcile over her death...


That's why there is no setting of stakes in advance in Uni.  Because the real story often evolves organically out of the process of the Complication itself and if you establish to much "if then" in advance you can curtail a whole lot of creative maybes.


Helpful?



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Adam Dray
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2006, 09:41:23 AM »

I have a hard time reconciling the intent of this:

If you like to speak in the language of Stake setting (and unlike Ron, I think the language is useful when properly applied) then the stakes of the above Complication are not "What's at Stake is whether Bob gets shot".  Nor (and most especially) they are definitely not "If you win Bob gets shot, if I win Bob escapes and phones the police"

Instead Universalis stakes work like this: "What's at Stake is who gets to decide what happens when Jack tries to shoot Bob"

with this:

Quote
Step 4, narrate:  Everything has to be sensible and justified by what the initial conflict of interest was, what Traits were drawn on to build the pools and what the accompanying narration was.  But beyond that everything is fair game. 

Doesn't the "sensible and justified" requirement to tie narration back to the initial conflict of interest and tie to the accompanying narration essentially say that, indeed, it's all about if Jack shoots Bob or not?
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komradebob
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2006, 09:47:31 AM »

I have a hard time reconciling the intent of this:

If you like to speak in the language of Stake setting (and unlike Ron, I think the language is useful when properly applied) then the stakes of the above Complication are not "What's at Stake is whether Bob gets shot".  Nor (and most especially) they are definitely not "If you win Bob gets shot, if I win Bob escapes and phones the police"

Instead Universalis stakes work like this: "What's at Stake is who gets to decide what happens when Jack tries to shoot Bob"

with this:

Quote
Step 4, narrate:  Everything has to be sensible and justified by what the initial conflict of interest was, what Traits were drawn on to build the pools and what the accompanying narration was.  But beyond that everything is fair game. 

Doesn't the "sensible and justified" requirement to tie narration back to the initial conflict of interest and tie to the accompanying narration essentially say that, indeed, it's all about if Jack shoots Bob or not?


The bolded part is really important, too. But keep in mind, you may well have coins to spend over and above things that relate to the initial conflict and what traits were called on for dice. Also, both sides will likely have coins to spend on narration, so the outcome of the throw could very well go in some very different directions from the initial complication.
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Robert Earley-Clark

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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2006, 11:01:52 AM »

Good question Adam.  The part Bob (no relation to the shooting victim ;) bolded is a big part of the answer.

Essentially, its the same kind of issue as you might run across in D&D where I might say "I draw my sword and kill the orc", but what actually might happen when we go to the resolution system is that I missed and the orc is totally not dead.

In terms of IIEE, "Jack shoots Bob" is 100% Execution if you control both Jack and Bob with the Effect coming from spending the Coins to buy whatever the resulting Traits are.  Its 100% Initiation if you control Jack and I control Bob.  The Challenge mechanic gives a window of opportunity for any player to resent back to Intent.

So all we know at the moment we break the dice out for a Complication is that Jack shooting (at) Bob has begun.  Presumeably there'd be more narration involved that would set the stage in greater detail.  Execution begins in Step 2 with the jockeying for dice, but isn't finalized until Step 4 when both Execution and Effect are handled with the spending of the Bonus Coins and accompanying narrative.

The sensible and justifiable part comes into play because we shouldn't be taking our Bonus Coins and using them to narrate the failure of NASA's lunar mission*.  They should be used to narrate the current situation which began with Jack attempting to shoot Bob, but depending on the sequence of Step 2, might well have moved on to other things.  Those other things have to follow logically from the initial conflict of interest, but aren't restricted to just that initial conflict.


*Of course an advanced technique is the use of what I call Stealth Facts.  For instance, during step 2 the player in control of Jack might have purchased bonus dice for himself saying "Bob doesn't see me coming because he's busy reading the newspaper".  During the final narration of my Bonus Coins I might say "As the paper falls from Bob's lifeless fingers, we see the headline of the article he was reading 'NASA Moon Launch Fails: rocket explodes killing all aboard".  Presumeably the success or failure of that mission had a part to play in the story and wasn't totally out of left field...but by framing in these terms I actually bring that element into a scene in a plausible manner. 
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2006, 11:42:17 AM »

I'm going to side-swipe this discussion a bit, in hopes of getting all fruitfull. I'll address the direct issue in a practical manner:

How I came to understand this stuff anno 2005

(Now, all you old-timers surely think that I'm a little slow in the head for taking that long to get it, but in my defense, I never played in the dysfunctional manner Ralph discusses, and I'm only referring to theoretical understanding in my spurious title above. So this is more about "how I came to understand the theory behind this stuff".)

I recommend that anybody who's too comfortable with stakes and doesn't get what Ralph is saying here plays some Mountain Witch, a dash of Nine Worlds and a bit of Polaris. That's because all of those games have an incremental conflict resolution system that ultimately refuses to bend to stakes-setting of any kind. They're also recent enough and coming from a design background where there shouldn't be any doubt as to whether the designer could use explicit stakes setting if he wanted to. In random discussion I've generally found that using games like Sorcerer as examples in this manner doesn't often work, simply because the other guy tends to read the Sorcerer-style "conflict-resolution via task-resolution" as "no conflict resolution at all". Heck, I seem to remember we had some elaborate threads about this a year ago, when conflict resolution vs. task resolution was the hip topic of discussion.

Anyway, my point: while I'd been happily playing on without ever explicitly thinking about stakes setting in any more difficult manner than "stakes" or "no stakes", playing the games mentioned above and some others certainly gave me all the theoretical tools for appreciating the multitude of ways you can set or not set stakes. It also gave me a healthy appreciation of the phenomenon Ron's been harping about, how designers tend to use stake-setting language without any basis whatsoever; anybody who's read and played lots of TMW (to single out an example) can tell that the stakes-setting in that game becomes so much needless overhead the minute you start a conflict with multiple sides; a conflict with damage; or a conflict with several goals. Another example of the same phenomenon I recently read is Mortal Coil, just to give a larger basis of examples. My point is: play a game with unnecessary stakes-setting language, and you should pretty quickly come to notice how and why it is unnecessary.

Thus, my recommendation to anybody confused about stakes: play more games without them, and you learn some pretty cool reasons for not front-loading your resolution like that. Just so it's clear, Universalis is also a very clear example of the same principle; instead of stating that you have stakes, you get to decide what the effects of your success are after the resolution. So going into the conflict, you don't know yet what's going to happen. This is kinda cool, and I can definitely appreciate it much better now than I could in 2002, thanks to playing a lot of the above games.
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Zamiel
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2006, 12:56:24 PM »

Step one is the initial conflict of interest that brought out the dice.

This, right here, is the position I see stake-setting as useful. Because in any kind of communication of what the conflict of interest is, you have to define the conflict, and the conflict is what the thing's all about. "Why are we engaging this Complication?" is, at its most basic level, stake-setting. If I don't know how you want to change the story and you don't know how I want to, there's no real grounds for engagement. Any interest at all escalates to Challenge and/or Complication, and that's not useful play. The things that you want have to be expressed, and while that does sometimes come out in the course of Trait-setting, that wouldn't appear to be the clearest way to do so.

Going off my BSG example, there are Colonial Vipers, Cylon Raiders, and a honkin' Asteroid Field in play in the first Scene of the game. There's not enough material in play yet to say what intentions are for any of the players, other than the broad Tenets. For a while, there won't be broad ideas of the established direction for push through. So ... where do they go with it? They know there is a Complication there because there's an inherent conflict, but without articulation, it remains nebulous.

From my perspective, that's why stake-setting is incredibly useful. It might be better put as "intent-setting," but for any reasonable use of the language, its the same. The innate specificity of the Conflicts in Capes is one of it's strongest assets; you know exactly what the aim of play getting there should be heading for. As a result, you tend to frame smaller Conflicts and simultaneous Conflicts because they're clearer about just what they're doing.

The text that reads, "You shouldn't narrate Facts which presuppose the results of another Complication" are all but useless since without some kind of expectation of result, you have no expectation of result. The only reasonable construct is to assume complete orthogonality, which generally means you can't involve a Component in more than one Complication at once.

I'm with Adam Dray when he asks how you can define "sensible and justified" without communicating what the initial conflict of interest is. It may well be that both players involved in the Complication want Bob to shoot Jack dead, dead, dead. They differ on what the methods and fallout should be. But it's still staked by intent that the conflict of interest is whether Bob gets shot.

Mainly, I'm big on understanding how the meta-communication in games is intended to occur. Forge games in particular and indie games in general either have immense signaling methodologies or their designers seem to sneer at the very idea that people might need to communicate during their games about the game. The truth, especially for highly narrative games, is that communication and intent are vital to being able to actually play the things in the first place, because without clear communication of intent, there just is no narrative.
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2006, 03:08:26 PM »

This is a good productive discussion.  I'm enjoying it emmensely. 

For the record, Universalis is designed to function entirely without any meta game communication stuff.  All of the communicating of what I want vs. what you want is designed to be 100% contained in the mechanics without needing to go meta.  This was one of the core design goals of the game.  Mike and I drew very heavily on economic theory and Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" of capitalism.  The signals about where "capital" should flow are all imbedded in the idea of self interest and you spend your money on what you want, and I'll spend my money on what I want.  Things where you might be tempted to use meta communication are actually covered in the mechanics with Negotiation and Bidding Challenges.  Too many people think that the Challenge mechanic is to be avoided...that it represents a failure to communicate.  Not so.  The Challenge mechanic is your friend.  In my games I rarely have a Challenge go to bidding, but I have tons that go to Negotiation.  In form Negotiation Challenges highly resemble metagame discussions between players about what they want.  In practice they're backed by the power of the Bid...so that even if Bidding never happens, it keeps such discussions squarely on target and squarely in the realm of "is this important enough to me to pay for?" rather than just "whim and preference".

Lets run a Complication exercise with your Vipers, Raiders, and Asteroids example.

So far there is no inherent conflict there.  There is nothing there at all.  They are just 3 Components that in your mind seem naturally disposed to have a conflict but that's just in your head.  In game terms they just sit there until someone does something with them.  A hypothetical third player who is totally unfamiliar with BG, might not even be aware at this point that they're supposed to be enemies.

At this point it all comes down to who Contols what.  If you Control everything...then you simply narrate what you want.  There may be a Conflict of Interest between the Components...but since you Control all of the Components...you simply decide (and pay for) what happens.  If you narrate "The Vipers attack the Cylons and wipe them all out before doing a victory roll through the asteroid field and emerging unscathed because they're just that good..."  then that's what happens.  No conflict, no Complication, no dice.

If we are all sitting there mesmerized by your skillfull narrative, then all of this happens just the way you describe.  However, even though our third player knows nothing about BG...he does have his own ideas about what makes for an exciting story.  He might say "wait a minute...that's totally boring to just have the Colonials kill all the Cylons like that...I'm Taking Over the Cylons...lets have a Complication."

So you've said "The Vipers attack the Cylons".  You Control the Vipers...this other player now Controls the Cylons. 

THAT is all that's necessary for a Complication.  There is absolutely no need to define the conflict beyond that.  The conflict is that your Vipers are attacking his Cylons...period.  To put it into Stake setting language "Whats at stake is who gets to decide what happens when the Viper attack the Cylons in the midst of an asteroid field".  Nothing more is required.

So far the asteroids are a total non entity, they're not even PART of the Complication until someone decides to mine them for dice.  You could call on traits from the asteroids to favor the Vipers in which case the Asteroids become aligned with the Colonials.  He could do the same instead, aligning the Asteroids with the Cylons...or...like the fire in the above example...I could Take Control of the Asteroids and set them up as a third party.  Lets say I do that.

There is no further communication about stakes necessary...you have all the set up you need...Vipers attack Cylons...go.


You claim dice, he claims dice, I claim dice, other players get involved. 

New Traits can get invented, say...the Cylon Raider ships have "Upgraded Pulse Cannons", we can easily imagine (and narrate for color) a sequence where a powerful blast nearly wipes out a Viper and the pilot exclaims "holy cow, what was that" and the sturdy wing leader responds "looks like the Cylons brought some new toys to the party...stay in formation".  In fact, after narrating that sequence someone can turn around and add "Calm and Reliable" as a Trait to the Wing Leader, justified by this narration.

New Components can get introduced.  It might turn out that Apollo arrives with reinforcements bringing new components and new Traits for the Colonial side to Draw Upon.  You simply decide at some point in the sequence to spend a Coin to Introduce Apollo into the scene.  You narrate some justification like "Apollo was out on patrol and heard the engagement on his radio, he rushes to the rescue"  Boom...Coin goes down...Apollo comes in.

New Components can get Created from scratch.  In response to your narrating of Apollo's sudden arrival the other player invents on the fly a "Cylon Base Star" and buys a bunch of Traits for it.  Then buys some dice directly narrating that the Base Star was hiding out in one of the asteroids just waiting for an opportunity to ambush any Colonial reinforcements (invented totally on the spur of the moment in response to the arrival of said reinforcements).  One can easily envision a player crying out in their best Admiral Ackbar voice "Its a Trap!"

Eventually dice hit the table.  Lets say the Colonials win and win big.  You burn your Coins to announce how "Apollo swoops in to save the day" and "The Colonials aren't fooled by this primitive trap" and "blasters firing the cylons are driven into the asteroid field" and other such things, and and then you burn a bunch of Coins to Eliminate the Base Star.

Lets say I as the Asteroid side go next.  I narrate the destruction of a couple of the fleeing Cylons but also narrate that "Apollo pursued the fleeing cylons into the asteroid field, but was so focused on destroying his targets he got clipped by an asteroid.  His Viper is now non functional, life support and communications are down and he's adrift.  In the confusion no one notices what happened"...that probably cost me a bunch of Coins, but boy were you not expecting that.  If you had you might have spent a Coin to say "Apollo returns to the Galactica, unscathed" thereby preempting any such narration.

Lets say our third player goes last with just a handful of Cylon Coins from a really bad roll.  He might blow up a few Vipers (probably by reducing a "Viper Sqadron" Group Trait representing some nameless craft blowing up).  But then he concludes with "one solitairy Raider survived the Viper onslaught and, unnoticed to all, followed the Colonials back home.  The Cylons now know the location of the Galactica." for some number of Coins.


Do you see how a simple throwaway "Vipers attack the Cylons" just blew into a wicked cool Complication and major story driver.  We didn't need to say up front that "The stakes are whether Apollo gets stranded in an Asteroid Field"...heck Apollo wasn't even present when we started.  We didn't need to say up front that "The stakes are whether the cylons discover the location of the Galactica".  We didn't need any of that sort of thing.

Alls we needed was the desire to obtain more Bonus Coins from the Complication.  That's it.  Self Interest and the Invisible Hand at work.  Our desire to grab Bonus Coins drove us to draw upon Traits which provide dice which lead to Bonus Coins.  You came up with some really cool narration involving Apollo being on patrol and swooping in to the rescue...but it works just as well if your only motivation was: "hey...Apollo's got a ton of Traits I could Draw on to win this Complication...how can I justify getting him to the battle?" 

Cylon Basestar?  Maybe the other player had that idea floating in his head for a while...maybe he just invented it as a justification for buying a ton of dice with the extra Coins he had lying around.  If it had stuck around it could have been reused and formed a regular source of additional dice...but instead it blew up and those Coins were inefficiently spent.

And now what a great story driver we have...when does Starbuck realize Apollo is missing?  No one has narrated that yet...so it hasn't happened.  Does Adama realize they've been discovered?  No one has narrated that yet...so it hasn't happened either.  Will Galactica be able to rescue Apollo before the main Cylon strike force arrives?  Will the rescuers get ambushed by the attack?  Will Apollo get taken prisoner...or heck...wind up "rescued" by some as yet uninvented third party?

Holy Cow...ALL of that potential future story meat came out of that Complication...totally organically...totally without any Metagame sharing going on...totally without needing to be motivated by anything more than a desire to get more Coins and be compelling enough in ones narration to entertain ones friends and not get Challenged or fined.  And little to none of it would have been possible if we'd set hard stakes in advance.


Do you see where absolutely nothing could have been gained by setting stakes in advance?  No advantage in game play or direction would have resulted, and while it may not have hurt anything to do it, it may actually have limited the creative directions the Complications can go.

Complications are the single most important feature of Universalis.  Its also one of my soap boxes that alot of folks tend to play with an aim towards minimizing Complications.  Without Complications you're just playing pass the Conch with a lot of unnecessary resource management surrounding the Conch.  Without Complications Uni is, IMO, pretty darn feeble as a game.

What makes Complications so key is the role they play in driving the story.  The sheer head to head nature of "can I come up with enough dice to ensure this initial conflict of interest goes my way?" causes players to invent a TON of new game material that then powers the next several scenes and takes things in amazing directions that may well never have been thought of if people just narrated by themselves.

Setting stakes in advance actually limits players' ability to come up with creative sources of dice by over focusing the Complication on just one set of "what's at stake", and limits players' ability to go in a radically different direction than anyone had thought of when the Complication began.  To the extent that happens, the power of Complications is undermined and the whole game is made weaker for it.

This last paragraph (substituting "conflicts" for "Complication) also applies in full to Prime Time Adventures, Dogs in the Vineyard, Shab al hiri Roach, Shadow of Yesterday and pretty much every other game that's held out as a "Set Stakes in advance" kind of game.  Its the heart of Ron's thread on Story Games.  Nothing is added, much is lost.  As Mike points out in that thread, and I've discussed with Ron on, explicit Stake setting is a useful training exercise to break people out of their Task Resolution habits and introduce them to the possibilities of Conflict Resolution using a language that is clear and compelling.  But that's all they are...training wheels.  Once you get the hang of thinking in terms of Conflict Resolution its no longer necessary, and indeed will hold you back.


Is that making sense?
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Zamiel
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2006, 07:52:33 PM »

Let's go to the core of the thing I still have an issue around (the rest being already groked in fullness).

At this point it all comes down to who Contols what.  If you Control everything...then you simply narrate what you want.  There may be a Conflict of Interest between the Components...but since you Control all of the Components...you simply decide (and pay for) what happens.  If you narrate "The Vipers attack the Cylons and wipe them all out before doing a victory roll through the asteroid field and emerging unscathed because they're just that good..."  then that's what happens.  No conflict, no Complication, no dice.

If we are all sitting there mesmerized by your skillfull narrative, then all of this happens just the way you describe.  However, even though our third player knows nothing about BG...he does have his own ideas about what makes for an exciting story.  He might say "wait a minute...that's totally boring to just have the Colonials kill all the Cylons like that...I'm Taking Over the Cylons...lets have a Complication."

So you've said "The Vipers attack the Cylons".  You Control the Vipers...this other player now Controls the Cylons. 

The problem is that the sequence of events here is loose, in the sense that the Interrupt they pay for occurs after the Fact "The Vipers blow away all the Cylons" has been paid for and executed. Which is exactly where the need for metagame communication comes up. (In fact, "Interrupt!" is technically metagame communication, but that's a whole other universe digression.) The event's been made manifest. There's no Complication to be had, strictly by the mechanics. One could go for a Challenge followed by Negotiation which leads to a Complication, but that's an entirely different metagame exchange and not one that's clear that'll occur in the text as written.

I see what you're saying here, and in context with the way you're presenting Challenges in the thread, I see where you're coming from. But that's not the way the text makes it feels.

My up-front guess as to why is that the in-text examples of play start too late, so that the Complication is already a fait accompli when the explanation starts. How one gets to that point in an in-game way is never really exposed. The closest you come is in the extended Complication example, with the attack of the Buzzers, but the text there already has the Scene in an agressively framed state. It could definitely use a further example where you have overlapping Complications of various types.

I definitely think you need to read the abstract of play I wrote, originally. I'm pretty sure you haven't, since I'm 99% sure how I did the Complication setup therein is wrong, and since you haven't mentioned it yet, well ... :)

Also, I don't think you addressed Adam Dray and my question about knowing what is off-limits for narrational establishment during a Complication without knowing what the Complication is "about" beyond just the activated Traits so far. In the BSG example, nothing keeps the Controller of the Cylons in mid-Complication from buying "The Cylons Are Out of Range of the Vipers" as a Fact, which would be presupposing the result of the Complication if the Vipers' Controller were intending to destroy them but not if the Vipers' intent were just to drive them away.

Which brings up an interesting question, since either side can buy Facts / Traits which are inaccessible to the other side but which invalidate their ability to act significantly, after the Complication is engaged. Moreover, it can complicate things by changing the essential situation in odd ways. Do we assume sequentiality or simultanity? That is, if the Complication has Vipers vs Raiders, and I Control the Raiders, for 1 Coin, I can put "Out of the Vipers' Weapons Range" on the Raiders. You, Controlling the Vipers, have little recourse, since you can only affect Facts attached to the setting as a whole or Components you Control. At that point do you have to engage a second Complication to try and change the Trait on said Raiders? How do you phrase that, or is it even possible, since the Components are already engaged in another Complication?

This is definitely a metagame issue, in the sense that it's a question that involves how the players engage with the rules, not how the rules engage with each other.
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2006, 09:09:46 PM »

The problem is that the sequence of events here is loose, in the sense that the Interrupt they pay for occurs after the Fact "The Vipers blow away all the Cylons" has been paid for and executed.

That's not loose.  That's exactly by the rules.  Its not an Interrupt its a Take Over, which expressly does not require an Interrupt and expressly is allowed to take place while the other player is narrating in order to force a Complication.  I can get you a page reference if you need one. 

You are essentially rolling back what had been a statement of Execution, and turning it into a statement of Initiation in IIEE terms.

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Which is exactly where the need for metagame communication comes up. (In fact, "Interrupt!" is technically metagame communication, but that's a whole other universe digression.) The event's been made manifest. There's no Complication to be had, strictly by the mechanics. One could go for a Challenge followed by Negotiation which leads to a Complication, but that's an entirely different metagame exchange and not one that's clear that'll occur in the text as written.

I'm not sure what you're saying here.  Interrupt is not a metagame anything, since metagame technically means outside of the rules structure and Interrupt is an actual game mechanic.  Far from being metagame its totally in game.  I'm not sure what you mean by Challenge and Negotiation leading to a Complication.  Perhaps you thought that my example of the third player Taking Over the Cylons in the middle of your narration was a short cut.  In fact that's all it takes.  With one coin we go from no Complication where you're narrating everything to Complication via that takeover.

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It could definitely use a further example where you have overlapping Complications of various types.

Clarify please.  "overlapping Complications of various types"  ??

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I definitely think you need to read the abstract of play I wrote, originally. I'm pretty sure you haven't, since I'm 99% sure how I did the Complication setup therein is wrong, and since you haven't mentioned it yet, well ... :)

Actually its not really wrong at all.  I'll cop to having mainly skimmed it, but let me go through it line by line:

The first thing I'd point out is that technically when you have Bob announce "let the complication begin" he hasn't actually done anything yet to start the conflict.  Bob really should have said something to the effect of "Viper #2 makes an attack run on the Raiders".  That would have started the Complication because its a Component Bob Controls attempting to affect a Component Connie Controls (pedantically one could argue that "making an attack run" isn't itself an effect and the narration should actually include some description of damage or altering a Trait...but that's one of the group set dials).  As it stands Bob didn't really start a Complication by strict rules interpretation, but since so much of what had been set up was already dripping with implication, if that had happened in my game I probably wouldn't have called him on it. 

I'm assuming that your bold is indicating drawing on Traits just as your italics indicates spending Coins.  When you say "The Vipers bob and weave making it hard to get a lock" that's a good use of narration to commit an uncommitted Component to a side.  I'd have spent another Coin to take a die for the "hard to get a lock" advantage (or remove one from the enemy) as well.

Your use of the Thin Armor Trait both for and against based on who called on it is spot on.  Great use of adding the Synchonicity Trait and then Drawing upon it.

It looks like you chose to draw on the Multiple Traits (like Rocks x3) three seperate times rather than just once and claim all 3 dice.  Not wrong, but not required.  In practice that would get extra difficult to track what's been Drawn and what hasn't. 

I got a little confused with Alice's Bonus Coins until I realized you were actually narrating each removal of a Squad value with a seperate phrase just like you can when you buy off a Component's Importance entirely.  Again, not strictly necessary but a nice touch.

Nope, while I didn't study every detail with a microscope, I see nothing in your Complication that is glaringly wrong by any means.  Your use of narration as you're adding dice is in places a little more elaborate than maybe I would have done...but that's entirely a group preference thing.  The narration was entirely suitable for justifying the use of the Traits you called on.

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Also, I don't think you addressed Adam Dray and my question about knowing what is off-limits for narrational establishment during a Complication without knowing what the Complication is "about" beyond just the activated Traits so far. In the BSG example, nothing keeps the Controller of the Cylons in mid-Complication from buying "The Cylons Are Out of Range of the Vipers" as a Fact, which would be presupposing the result of the Complication if the Vipers' Controller were intending to destroy them but not if the Vipers' intent were just to drive them away.

Correct, there is nothing stopping the Cylon player from narrating that.  Just as there's nothing stopping the Colonial player from saying "the pilots hit the afterburners and soon close the range".  Presumeably you'd each add some dice for this narration and you could go back and forth a few times in this fashion.

What you couldn't do is narrate "Viper #2 returns safely to the Galactica" during step 2 because that would prevent the winning player from having the power to choose Viper #2's fate during step 4.  Now you COULD narrate that in step 4 to prevent a player going later in step 4 from narrating #2's destruction.  Similarly you could narrate (and pay for) the elimination of a non committed Component, but you couldn't eliminate a Component once its been committed to a side.  That would also have to wait for step 4.

Part of your difficulty in seeing the line I think lies with the fact that since you didn't actually have Bob formally kick off the Complication, you don't have that initial conflict of interest to point you in the right direction.

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Which brings up an interesting question, since either side can buy Facts / Traits which are inaccessible to the other side but which invalidate their ability to act significantly, after the Complication is engaged. Moreover, it can complicate things by changing the essential situation in odd ways. Do we assume sequentiality or simultanity? That is, if the Complication has Vipers vs Raiders, and I Control the Raiders, for 1 Coin, I can put "Out of the Vipers' Weapons Range" on the Raiders. You, Controlling the Vipers, have little recourse, since you can only affect Facts attached to the setting as a whole or Components you Control. At that point do you have to engage a second Complication to try and change the Trait on said Raiders? How do you phrase that, or is it even possible, since the Components are already engaged in another Complication?

Well first of all, this is where I'd distinguish between Facts that are Traits of a Component and Facts that are Events in a Scene.  In your example one could argue that the "synchronicity" Trait should actually have been an Event and not a Trait since the synchronous flying could be said to be unique to the specific scene.  Here clearly "being out of range" is not an inherent feature of the Raiders its simply a current fact of the scene, and as such can be dealt with simply by paying for a new fact "the Colonials close the range".

Secondly the prohibition on affecting a Component you don't Control only applies outside of Complications.  Inside they're fair game.  So if you did create a Trait that had some Complication halting effect, I'd just come up with a justification to pay a Coin and cross it off.  As long as that wasn't the conflict of interest inherent in the Complication.

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Zamiel
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2006, 12:33:55 AM »

That's not loose.  That's exactly by the rules.  Its not an Interrupt its a Take Over, which expressly does not require an Interrupt and expressly is allowed to take place while the other player is narrating in order to force a Complication.  I can get you a page reference if you need one. 

You are essentially rolling back what had been a statement of Execution, and turning it into a statement of Initiation in IIEE terms.

Well, its entirely within the rules, but it's still pretty loose in terms of sequentiality. I know the page you're referring to, but this is one of those, "this case could use a good example."

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I'm not sure what you're saying here.  Interrupt is not a metagame anything, since metagame technically means outside of the rules structure and Interrupt is an actual game mechanic.  Far from being metagame its totally in game.  I'm not sure what you mean by Challenge and Negotiation leading to a Complication.  Perhaps you thought that my example of the third player Taking Over the Cylons in the middle of your narration was a short cut.  In fact that's all it takes.  With one coin we go from no Complication where you're narrating everything to Complication via that takeover.

Interrupting is absolutely metagame. The act itself is wholly outside the in-game-experience, it has no presence in the game-space itself. What do the Forgites refer to it as? The SiS? The shared space that represents the game itself, rather than the rules that govern how players interact around the game space. Activating a Trait with narration is an in-game act, narrating the Facts that occur as a result of spending Bonus Coin is definitely an in-game effect, but an Interrupt? It only affects who does the narration, it doesn't have any game perceptual manifestation.

What I'm ultimately saying is that once the Fact "The Vipers Blow Away the Cylons" is brought into play, the Take Over is too late to change the fact of the narration. At least purely by the text. Even once you Take Over the Cylons, having them do anything inconsistant with being "Blown Away" means you can get Challenged with the full weight of Fact against you. To do something about that, you'd have to either Take Over the Cylons before the "Blown Away" Fact enters the world or Challenge the Blowing Away, with your part of the Negotiation being, "Yeah, well, I can take them over and we can have a Complication ..." That's what I mean by when I say it would seem the sequence would seem to require Challenge->Negotiation->Complication. Challenge is the only post hoc mechanical way to change a Fact of that nature that I can see. Now, you could say, "Hold on, Bob, I'd like to oppose that ..." but that's just the short-cutted Challenge->Negotiation->Take Over->Complication path I was talking about.

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Clarify please.  "overlapping Complications of various types"  ??

Complications which overlap. As I mention in the other thread, the introduction of "The Vipers Pull Away From the Cylons" being met by the Cylon Controller wanting to Complication that, either by just dumping Coins to make a Pool or initiating a full-bore opposition with the Raiders. Again.

You can see where the ideas get complicated there. Pun intended.

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The first thing I'd point out is that technically when you have Bob announce "let the complication begin" he hasn't actually done anything yet to start the conflict.  Bob really should have said something to the effect of "Viper #2 makes an attack run on the Raiders".  That would have started the Complication because its a Component Bob Controls attempting to affect a Component Connie Controls (pedantically one could argue that "making an attack run" isn't itself an effect and the narration should actually include some description of damage or altering a Trait...but that's one of the group set dials).  As it stands Bob didn't really start a Complication by strict rules interpretation, but since so much of what had been set up was already dripping with implication, if that had happened in my game I probably wouldn't have called him on it. 

You do realize that "Viper #2 makes an attack run on the Raiders" is both a statement of intent and stake-setting, right? The intent is obvious, and the stakes are "Viper #2 attacks the Cylons." As you point out eloquently, without that bit, it's hard to say what the Complication's about, determine what is and isn't implicated, etc. I absolutely agree that such a thing really needs to be there.

Mind you ... how would you call him on it? Challenge would seem to be the only mechanism to do so, mechanically.

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I'm assuming that your bold is indicating drawing on Traits just as your italics indicates spending Coins.  When you say "The Vipers bob and weave making it hard to get a lock" that's a good use of narration to commit an uncommitted Component to a side.  I'd have spent another Coin to take a die for the "hard to get a lock" advantage (or remove one from the enemy) as well.

Honestly, at that point I was trying to get by on the cheap since I'd lost track of how many Cions the characters had spent for stuff, and I knew I'd be spending more before it was over, so ... purely illustrative cop-out.

However, since you bring it up (and I can lift from lower in the reply), where would hard to hit actually go? Is it environmental (and thus attached to the Scene), or is it an implicit Trait attached to the Vipers (which'd make it cost 3 Coins, actually, if I'm judging aright, one to take over Viper #1 from Alice and one each to put the Trait on each Viper)? Or just as a Coin straight to/from the Pool as an Obstacle? I can pretty much justify any of those intellectually, and the mechanics are understably mute on the question.

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It looks like you chose to draw on the Multiple Traits (like Rocks x3) three seperate times rather than just once and claim all 3 dice.  Not wrong, but not required.  In practice that would get extra difficult to track what's been Drawn and what hasn't.

I keep lots of tokens around to mark various things. My friends used to mock my massive collection of poker chips and whatnot in myriad patterns, until they started realizing how easy they are for marking usages, pools, etc. It doesn't hurt we've moved to playing mostly narrative indy games with token-based economies like Capes and Universalis. And Nobilis, but that's a whole different kettle.

One of the drawbacks I see of using things like Rocks x3 as a block is no one can Interrupt and use those very Traits against you if they're ambiguous. It's both faster and atomic, which is worth keeping in mind.

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I got a little confused with Alice's Bonus Coins until I realized you were actually narrating each removal of a Squad value with a seperate phrase just like you can when you buy off a Component's Importance entirely.  Again, not strictly necessary but a nice touch.

Nope, while I didn't study every detail with a microscope, I see nothing in your Complication that is glaringly wrong by any means.  Your use of narration as you're adding dice is in places a little more elaborate than maybe I would have done...but that's entirely a group preference thing.  The narration was entirely suitable for justifying the use of the Traits you called on.

We've been playing Capes a lot as our primary engine, lately. If you're familliar with the way it handles it's Conflicts, marking each evocation of a Trait on a participant with a narration, the way I wrote that example up mirrored that method. I really should go back and write up another version with my Component costs and die Pools fixed (being off by one) and with narration done in a more "traditional" way for the Universalis examples, if only to see what it'd look like.

(Yes, I like examples. A lot. A whole darn lot.)

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What you couldn't do is narrate "Viper #2 returns safely to the Galactica" during step 2 because that would prevent the winning player from having the power to choose Viper #2's fate during step 4.  Now you COULD narrate that in step 4 to prevent a player going later in step 4 from narrating #2's destruction.  Similarly you could narrate (and pay for) the elimination of a non committed Component, but you couldn't eliminate a Component once its been committed to a side.  That would also have to wait for step 4.

By "Step 4," you mean during the Bonus Coin expenditure step, right?

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Part of your difficulty in seeing the line I think lies with the fact that since you didn't actually have Bob formally kick off the Complication, you don't have that initial conflict of interest to point you in the right direction.

Precisely why I keep going back to the question of stake-setting or at least intent-statement at the beginning of a Complication. The conflict of interest works out best if its apparent to everyone, which is a matter of communication. The Rules Gimmick I kicked this off with, way back when, was aimed at ritualizing and making explicit that very question.

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Well first of all, this is where I'd distinguish between Facts that are Traits of a Component and Facts that are Events in a Scene.  In your example one could argue that the "synchronicity" Trait should actually have been an Event and not a Trait since the synchronous flying could be said to be unique to the specific scene.  Here clearly "being out of range" is not an inherent feature of the Raiders its simply a current fact of the scene, and as such can be dealt with simply by paying for a new fact "the Colonials close the range".

Absolutely. But does it have to be? If need be, replace out of range by Something Inherent To The Raiders That Makes Them Unengagable. In this case, Eerie Synchronization is something that Cylon Raiders do all the time when there's more than one of them, in fact, so does make sense attached to a Component. That does seem to be how things get elaborated on in play, accruing Traits as they go.

(Sidebar: Modifying a Master Component is just like modifying a Tenet, no? So "Eerie Synchrony in Groups" could be attached to the Master for 1 Coin, been immediately usable, but not increased the Cylon Raider group's Importance, no? By either side. So a Viper Controller could put "Vulnerable to Kinetic Weapons" on the Master for 1 Coin just as easily? I can see that getting out of control in certain pathological ways, given that the only response would be Challenge.)

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Secondly the prohibition on affecting a Component you don't Control only applies outside of Complications.  Inside they're fair game.  So if you did create a Trait that had some Complication halting effect, I'd just come up with a justification to pay a Coin and cross it off.  As long as that wasn't the conflict of interest inherent in the Complication.

I thought the ability to affect a Component you don't Control was restricted to only during the resolution phase of the Complication, when spending Bonus Coins? Otherwise, what's the point of a Complication at all? If Alice is racing Bob up a cliff face, it doesn't make much sense that Alice can, during the Calling Upon of Traits, spena 1 Coin and wipe out Bob's "Good-Looking" in the middle of things, just because, even with a great narration about raking her nails across his face as distraction. During the resolution of the Complication, absolutely, because that's the point, to affect the Target Components ... but I don't think being able to do so during the first half makes much sense.

Odds are good that you don't actually think about the first half of the Complication much if you play things out as the examples in the book go, with little narration during that phase, but since you can spend Coins to change Traits during that bit and they can be very important, and as I've demonstrated, can be made disgustingly narration-heavy, I think it's worth making the distinction.
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2006, 03:09:04 AM »

Just butting in to say... you're talking past each other in regards to what "metagame" means.

Zamiel, if I'm reading you right, you're saying that anything that doesn't operate as arising from the in game shared reality is a metagame consideration.

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Interrupting is absolutely metagame. The act itself is wholly outside the in-game-experience, it has no presence in the game-space itself. What do the Forgites refer to it as? The SiS?

Yeah?

While Ralph uses "metagame" to mean any game considerations that aren't covered in the rules:

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Interrupt is not a metagame anything, since metagame technically means outside of the rules structure and Interrupt is an actual game mechanic.  Far from being metagame its totally in game. 


Just to help me get my own head straight, can I ask that the word "metagame" is approached with extreme caution? It's one of those words we all think we understand, and we all do, but we all understand different things.
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2006, 09:32:53 AM »

What I'm ultimately saying is that once the Fact "The Vipers Blow Away the Cylons" is brought into play, the Take Over is too late to change the fact of the narration. At least purely by the text. Even once you Take Over the Cylons, having them do anything inconsistant with being "Blown Away" means you can get Challenged with the full weight of Fact against you. To do something about that, you'd have to either Take Over the Cylons before the "Blown Away" Fact enters the world or Challenge the Blowing Away, with your part of the Negotiation being, "Yeah, well, I can take them over and we can have a Complication ..." That's what I mean by when I say it would seem the sequence would seem to require Challenge->Negotiation->Complication. Challenge is the only post hoc mechanical way to change a Fact of that nature that I can see. Now, you could say, "Hold on, Bob, I'd like to oppose that ..." but that's just the short-cutted Challenge->Negotiation->Take Over->Complication path I was talking about.

I understand that that's what you're saying.  But you are incorrect.  Go ahead and reread page 51.  The Take Over can occur after an action has been declared but before it has been carried out, turning it into a Complication instead.  The sequence is treated exactly as if the other party Controled that Component all along.

i.e. the Take Over doesn't change the fact of the narration, it just changes it from a statement of execution "this event has happened" into a statement of a initiation "I'm now actively trying to make this event happen".  Challenge is an option.  That changes the statement into a statement of intention "I'd like for this event to happen but it hasn't started yet" but its not required.

The rules on page 51 are there to specifically deal with the situation you describe so that you explicitly do not have to Take over the Cylons before the "Blown Away" statement. 

Again, its essentially the same situation as a D&D declaration of "I kill the Orc"...no you're trying to kill the orc...we'll now use the resolution mechanics to see if that happens.

Does that smooth things out?



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Complications which overlap. As I mention in the other thread, the introduction of "The Vipers Pull Away From the Cylons" being met by the Cylon Controller wanting to Complication that, either by just dumping Coins to make a Pool or initiating a full-bore opposition with the Raiders. Again.

You can see where the ideas get complicated there. Pun intended.

Ahhh.  Yes, nested Complications get complicated very quickly.  I think Mike once had a game involving a bomb that was going to destroy a planet where the entire game was one long extended series of nested Complications.  There's a brief essay on how to structure these on the web site.  They are definitely an advanced technique.

Hopefully you'll see they're not necessary in the circumstances you've outlined.  But they can be fun to do when there's a need.

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You do realize that "Viper #2 makes an attack run on the Raiders" is both a statement of intent and stake-setting, right? The intent is obvious, and the stakes are "Viper #2 attacks the Cylons." As you point out eloquently, without that bit, it's hard to say what the Complication's about, determine what is and isn't implicated, etc. I absolutely agree that such a thing really needs to be there.

Right.  And I hope you realize that this is already required by the rules, which has been my point all along.  "Viper #2 makes an attack run on the Raiders" is ordinary normal Uni Coin paying narrative that kicks off a Complication.  Its all that you need.  No additional level of stake-setting beyond that is required.


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Mind you ... how would you call him on it? Challenge would seem to be the only mechanism to do so, mechanically.

Yeah.  If you'd be in a situation where you'd want to make sure Bob was as explicit as the rules require you'd just say "wait a minute, there's no complication yet, because no body is doing anything to anybody else yet.  You have to pay for some event to kick of a Complication."  That should be all you need, just the Negotiation phase.  I doubt anyone would take that to bidding.


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However, since you bring it up (and I can lift from lower in the reply), where would hard to hit actually go? Is it environmental (and thus attached to the Scene), or is it an implicit Trait attached to the Vipers (which'd make it cost 3 Coins, actually, if I'm judging aright, one to take over Viper #1 from Alice and one each to put the Trait on each Viper)? Or just as a Coin straight to/from the Pool as an Obstacle? I can pretty much justify any of those intellectually, and the mechanics are understably mute on the question.

Yeah, it all depends on what you want to do.  If being "Hard to Hit" is an intrinsic trait of the Viper you could add it as a Trait to the Master Component, and then both Viper's could Draw on it.  If you start to abuse that sort of thing other players can reign you in with Challenges.  If being "Hard to Hit" is an intrinsic characteristic of the cocky pilot, you could add it as a Trait to just that Viper (or to the pilot once he's created).  If being "Hard to Hit" is a result of the specific maneuver being narrated right now you could just buy dice directly to the Conflict pool.  Given the specific narration in your example, I'd be inclined to use this third option as the best fit to what was actually said.

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We've been playing Capes a lot as our primary engine, lately. If you're familliar with the way it handles it's Conflicts, marking each evocation of a Trait on a participant with a narration, the way I wrote that example up mirrored that method. I really should go back and write up another version with my Component costs and die Pools fixed (being off by one) and with narration done in a more "traditional" way for the Universalis examples, if only to see what it'd look like.
 

It wouldn't have to work any differently at all.  See the bottom of page 90 and page 102.  You are expected to justify your use of Traits through narration.

Now I admit that in my games my narration is pretty spare.  I'm more inclined to say "Ok, vipers are Maneuverable and have Armor and Cannons so those clearly will all help in a dog fight, so I'll take 3 dice for those" than to narrate it in story fashion the way you did.  But honestly that's more of a habit I've gotten into from the number of convention demos I've done and the need to keep things moving.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the narration you've done.  In fact, for many players that sort of narration will be strongly preferred because it is much more conducive to getting into the story then my somewhat mechanical approach.

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What you couldn't do is narrate "Viper #2 returns safely to the Galactica" during step 2 because that would prevent the winning player from having the power to choose Viper #2's fate during step 4.  Now you COULD narrate that in step 4 to prevent a player going later in step 4 from narrating #2's destruction.  Similarly you could narrate (and pay for) the elimination of a non committed Component, but you couldn't eliminate a Component once its been committed to a side.  That would also have to wait for step 4.

By "Step 4," you mean during the Bonus Coin expenditure step, right?

Right, from my earlier listing of steps not from the rule book.


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Absolutely. But does it have to be? If need be, replace out of range by Something Inherent To The Raiders That Makes Them Unengagable. In this case, Eerie Synchronization is something that Cylon Raiders do all the time when there's more than one of them, in fact, so does make sense attached to a Component. That does seem to be how things get elaborated on in play, accruing Traits as they go.

Ok, lets say the Trait was "Can't be harmed by Viper Weapons"  Its a new super armor or something.  The Complication would work exactly the same way.  The Trait would only provide a single die (unless you bought it multiple times).  The only additional effects are 1) when Drawing on Traits the Colonial player would have to get clever in order to Draw on the Cannon and Missile Traits because all Drawn on Traits have to help and since the cylons are immune the weapons wouldn't automatically be seen to be helpful.  You'd have to narrate something like using the weapons to shoot the asteroids timed so the asteroid debris collides with the cylons and 2) when the Colonial player is spending Coins to eliminate raiders his narration will have to involve some other source of elimination that being shot by Viper Weapons.

Lets say the Trait was "Invisible to Colonial Sensors".  its some new cylon cloaking device or something.  The Complication would work exactly the same way, again providing only a single die per value bought.  The only additional effects are exactly as above.  You may find yourself limited in the Traits you can Draw on since you can't "See" they Cylons.  and the ultimate spending of bonus coins would be similarly limited.  Of course if you narrate the releasing of a cloud of reactor fuel and playing the old "invisible man in the fog" trick than you might effectively negate the Invisible Trait for current purposes because now you can "see" them.

Lets say the Trait was "Absolutely invulnerable to Everything".  Well chances are you'd never get away with adding that Trait to begin with, but if you did, you'd still have to enforce it via Challenge.  I could narrate how my ace pilot finds a crack in your armor and destroys you and you'd have to Challenge me.  You'd have the weight of Fact behind you, but if I out spend you (especially if the other players help) you blow up regardless of being "invulnerable".

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(Sidebar: Modifying a Master Component is just like modifying a Tenet, no? So "Eerie Synchrony in Groups" could be attached to the Master for 1 Coin, been immediately usable, but not increased the Cylon Raider group's Importance, no? By either side. So a Viper Controller could put "Vulnerable to Kinetic Weapons" on the Master for 1 Coin just as easily? I can see that getting out of control in certain pathological ways, given that the only response would be Challenge.)

Yup.  But again don't fear the Challenge (or even Fine).  It doesn't automatically mean there's some dysfunction going on.  Its just a way of signalling your fellow players no different than the peer pressure of "dude...that's just lame, don't go there" except its an explicit part of the game mechanics and backed by the ability to escalate and tie directly into the game's currency.


Oh, and Pete's right, we're just using Metagame in two different ways
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