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Author Topic: My First Uni Game + Confusion about complications  (Read 11030 times)
emb
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« on: October 17, 2006, 07:33:10 AM »

Hey everybody,

I've been having a good time playing Universalis for the first time with some guys from the indie net gaming group.  We're using a wiki to play, and it's going really well (fun-wise), although I am a little confused.

Here's a link to our first and only scene

http://uniwiki.trevismartin.org/bin/view.pl/Uniwiki/TheProphet

I'm the one who won the conflict about Ryle escaping from the guards.  I asked a couple of questions to the group, but am still not satisfied.  You'll notice that after winning the complication, I narrate him beating up the guards, etc, and trying to get out of the compound, which were all Traits that were drawn upon in the conflict.

However, I get confused after that point.  You'll see I narrated Ryle confronting Howe, including adding a trait to him.  Now, I know you can alter components however you want when you win a complication, but can you do it to components that were never introduced into the complications during the buying dice phase?

If so, does this end your no-interruption guarantee? 

Thanks for your help.  I'd appreciate any other corrections and advice. 

-sean


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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2006, 07:58:40 AM »

Is there a page that shows the actual mechanics of how the complication played out?  Not sure I can answer just from the story transcript.
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emb
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2006, 09:29:29 AM »

Yep!  See all the "[Player] says..." links?  Click those and our comments show up.  We put all the mechanics in there.

Thanks!
-sean
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2006, 10:10:24 AM »

mmm....no actually.  The only links I see are to the Components and to the players' log page.

Are those links perhaps only visible to the players in the game?
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emb
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2006, 10:29:30 AM »

Ok, sorry, I'll be more clear.

It looks like our admin changed the format halfway down the page.  At first, you should see a small "See Comments...." link under the name of the person who added the entry.

After several entries, he started making them separate... so if you scroll down quite a ways, you should see larger sections with links to the comments that have been added.   Just scroll down and click anything that's blue. 

I know you should be able to see them, I can see them when I am not logged in.

Let me know if it still doesn't work, and I'll contact the admin.
-sean


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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2006, 11:39:36 AM »

Nope, sorry.  No "see comments", no links farther down the page.  Just the Components and the links to your current Coin Count.

Maybe you could copy and paste the Complication text into this thread.
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emb
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2006, 11:51:14 AM »

Grr... fine :)

Quote

Mick [1, control] watched Ryle warily, he knew these Genemods were capable of some tricky things. He lets out a breath. It'll be fine. Only two days and he'd be back home with his family [1, Trait ] and hopefully done with this rock forever. Mick moved to block the door[1], and drew his Pistol [1, Trait ]. The two guards [1, control] reached their positions, stun batons at the ready.'
"Ok Galesi," Mick says "Hands behind you, slowly."
----
        Complication time I imagine. -- TrevisMartin


-----
[1, interrupt] At that very moment, Ryle [1,control] heard the sound of the compound's main door opening. The new prisioner was early [1].
Now was his chance. He let his mind slide into a shallow trance, opening his body to a flood of adrenaline [1, trait], his body filling with its natural strength [1, trait], and he let go.
The wounds the guards had received last time were just a test [1]. He knew that they were weak.
He moved with incredible speed [1, trait].

-----
Ok, I want to draw on Ryle's name, plus Naturally Strong, Capable of adrenaline flooding, Incredibly Fast, Is a GeneMod (Genetically Modified Human), Wants Payback, Heightened senses
And the fact that he's made a previous attempt (experience), that the guards will be distracted because the other prisioner is early, and that they are afraid of him.
That will make a total of 10 dice. Any challengers?   -- SeanHess
-----
Ok then, I'm going to take control of the MysteriousPrison component. I'm adding the traits of in confusing tunnels and arcane security system to MysteriousPrison ( TrevisMartin 03 00 ) and then drawing on them for 2 dice. I'm taking dice for MickTheGuard's name, security guard and pistol traits for 3 dice. I'm also taking dice for the guards and their stun batons for two dice. -- TrevisMartin

Ok, at this point we rolled, I got 9 successes, and he didn't even both rolling.  They gave me 32 dice, he got 7.   Then, I continued with my narration..

Quote
Time seemed to slow as Ryle's mind focused on his movements. In one swift action, Ryle slipped behind Mick[1], broke his hand[1], and took the pistol[1]. He fired twice, and the two guards fell with a moan, their stun rods clattering to the ground unused [2, elimination].

Mick screamed in pain, and fell to the ground as Ryle kicked him hard in the back[1], Ryle jerked and snapped the band from around Mick's neck, bringing his passcard with it [1]. He had always thought they were idiots for giving their seargents full access cards, but right now he didn't mind [1]. He knew the security of this place better than the guards did [1], including the passcodes [1]. It was amazing what one could learn simply by being observant.

He knew he had little time before the transport took off[1]. The transport would dock[1] with a capitol ship in orbit[1], and those could take months to search thoroughly[1]. He didn't quite know how to go about convincing them to let him dock, but he could worry about that after he hijacked the transport[1, intent].

All of this occured before anyone noticed what was happening[1]. Ryle ran swiftly down the corridor towards the main access gate[1]. He stopped as he rounded the corner and saw the Captain that had come in earlier [1].

"You, What's going on? Where's ... " Understanding flashed in Howe's eyes.

Ryle smiled. He was too late. Ryle watched him for a moment, waiting to see what he would do[1], while Howe stared at him straight in the eyes. The captain didn't seem afraid[1, trait].

Then Ryle's smile faded as his accelerated mind took in his surroundings. There was a woman with him, bound[1, Elaissa]. 'So she must be their new victim', he thought [1]. For a moment, their eyes met, and he studied her. There was something different about her[1]. 'If I could bust her out too,' he thought, 'that'd show the bigshots.[1]' He had to try[1].

There was no time to put a plan into action. Sensing his distraction, Howe reached for his pistol[1], and ryle jumped, gripping a pipe with one hand, and ripping a grate off the roof with the other. He pulled himself into the ventilation duct just as the first shots hit the strong steel underneath him [1, got away][1, unharmed].

"I'll get you dammit! I'll hunt you down if I have to crawl in there myself!" The captain was persistent[1, trait].

It wasn't long before Ryle heard a thumping. Howe was coming after him[1].

-- SeanHess


Howe was never called upon in the complication, and even though he was in the scene, he wasn't even declared to be present until I wrote that he was.  So, my question is this: can I invovle Howe in my complication resolution?  Can I add/subtract traits and do whatever I want and still not be interrupted?  Are there any restrictions on what you can and cannot narrate in a complication resolution? (aside from challenges, of course).    Any other tips/corrections would be appreciated (this is my first game).

Thanks! Sorry for the technical problems.   
-sean
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Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2006, 01:19:30 PM »

Cool. 

I'll caveat what I'm about to say with the following:  I've never played a Wiki game.  I've played via chat but never asynchronously.   I know from following the various Wiki games (both more and less successful) that there are some distinct differences in what works on a Wiki from what works FtF.  In a FtF game Challenges are EASY.  A raised eyebrow and a well timed "really?" is often all it takes for the other player to respond "yeah, I guess that was a little weak" and everybody moves on.  In Wiki play Challenges are harder.

Caveat #2 is that there is a difference between "how Ralph would do it", and "the right way".  Mike and I intentionally designed Uni to have alot of dials and leave alot to play group preference.  Alot of what's "right" for a given game is established during play by what things get challenged and what things don't...setting precedent and boundaries for future play.  Since Challenges are harder in a Wiki this is another area where asynchronous play is going to differ...its much harder to define what's "right" organically in play.


So, that said.  Here's what I take away from your Complication:

1) I can't tell from the transcript what you paid for as an event and what you paid for as a Trait, so I'll just mention that I'd probably have bought several of the items like "knows the security better than the guards" as Traits for Ryle.  You may have done that.

2) Trevis wasn't as aggressive as I'd have been calling on Traits for the Guards.  I would have called on Mick's family for 1 die (narrated in with appropriate, "no way you're going to kill me before I get to see my daughter!" passion), 1 for blocking the door, and 1 for the guards being in position and ready.  Here "Mick Blocking the Door" would have been a Trait for the prison cell, that you would have had to Remove for a Coin before going through it.  Of course, here again, its alot easier to get aggressive calling on Traits FtF...that squincy face from the other players immediately tells you when your creativity has crossed the line.  This is much harder in chat play, but extremely hard in asynchronous play.  So its entirely possible that Trevis (as a wiki veteran) was playing it conservative so as not to get sidetracked down that road.

3) Your "took the pistol" for 1 Coin is one of those dials that in FtF play would be quickly and easily set organically.  If you were in a FtF game with me I would have suggested that should cost 2 Coins...1 for deleting the Pistol from the Guard...1 for adding it to Ryle.  One of us would have backed down or else gone to bidding and the issue would have been resolved in about 5 seconds adding another data point for future boundaries.  That sort of thing is much harder in Wiki play.  Whether that statement should cost 1 Coin or 2 is 100% group and game dependent.  In this case, you had so many Coins its likely you wouldn't have cared.

4) Also falling in the "how I would have done it" camp is that I probably would have cut off the Complication with Ryle running down the corridor before confronting Howe, pocketed the remaining Coins, and THEN Interrupted and continued with the encounter with Howe in regular play...likely quickly escalating into another Complication.  Given the infinite variety of potential Complications, its impossible to write hard and fast "end here" rules, but the general guideline is that the Bonus Coins should be spent on things immediately relevant to Complication at hand...which was getting away from the guards.  Establishing facts like "all this occured before anyone noticed" and "running towards the gate" are excellent ways to deter the loser from surprising you with witnesses or having you run the wrong way.  But the rest of your description is somewhat playing beyond the limits of the Complication at hand (beyond the "stakes" of the Complication to reference  this thread But again.  That sort of communication is super easy to do in person ("hey, call it there and lets wrap up the Complication before starting the next sequence"..."oh, good idea") and much harder to do asynchronously. 

5) Another option would be to nest the Complications.  Not entirely applicable in this example, but lets say your Complication was about getting to the access gate rather than defeating the guards.  Your interlude with Howe then could have been a seperate Complication nested inside the main Complication that would have to finish before the main Complication could continue.  That quickly can twist your mind into a pretzel and probably is even harder to pull off asynchronously, but I figured I'd mention it just for completeness.


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Trevis Martin
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« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2006, 11:50:52 PM »

Hey Ralph,

I suspect you have javascript turned off in your browser.  The comments are hidden by a javascript twisty tag so if you don't have it on they won't show.
I can see them in IE 6 and firefox on widows 2000, Firefox, Camino, Safari and Opera on Mac 10.4.8.  I haven't tried any linux stuff.

For my 2 cents, I was a little confused as to the complication.  I thought he was running Ryle's escape from the entire prison.  (Perhaps the prison should have had a "incarcerates Ryle Galesi" trait that he tried to remove?)  Which is why I brought the prison into it.  My start of the complication of the guards was indeed weak. I'm probably the vetern of the group and my experience is limited.  It looks like we need to be more explicit about the limits of the complications when we do them.

Trevis
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emb
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2006, 05:36:23 AM »

Trevis,

Yeah, that's what I thought too ... .that the complication was about escaping the prison, but John specifically wrote and said that he thought it was just about escaping those guards, so I guess there was some confusion.

In the end, I thought that it merited escaping the entire prison, since you did bring in the prison's traits, but there were things I wanted to do on the way.  I didn't have enough coins to make him confront Howe (important to me), and to bring the woman with him (also important).  Also, I was unsure of whether or not I could even narrate that.

So, I guess that's another question, Ralph.  Say I had (justifiably) decided to narrate his escape from the prison.  That was strongly invovled in the complicaiton, however, I really wanted to do some things (like confronting Howe and bringing the woman) that weren't invovled in the complicaiton at all.   How can one do that?  Can I narrate him escaping, and then narrate what happened in the meantime later?  It seems kind-of counter-intuitive to do it that way.
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2006, 07:40:38 AM »

Ahhh.  Javascripts...yep.  When I'm at work I keep those turned off...safer that way.  Shoulda thought of that.

As for confusion about the Complication, yup that's when it pays to be specific when beginning one.  This relates directly to the Complication and Stakes thread I linked to above.

Technically speaking, a Complication begins when one player has a Component he controls do something to, or try to affect a Component controlled by another player.  Technically speaking you don't have a Complication unless that happens.  The player should have made a statement where by one Component was doing something to another Component.  That statement becomes the initial "stakes" of the conflict as it were and sets some rough boundaries on what the Complication encompasses.  This boundary can get pretty stretched based on all the narration and such while Drawing on Dice...but the statement is the starting point.

In the above example the statement that kicked off the Complication was implied but not explicit.  Trevis you kicked it off with dialog "put you hands behind you" (which is always a bit of a weak Origination since it usually doesn't involve anyone doing anything).  Now what was implied (because we're all familiar with cop shows) is that Ryle is going to resist arrest and Mick is going to try and lay the cop beat down on him.

In FtF play that implication is sufficient most of the time because its REALLY easy to check in and see that everyone is on the same page...in fact, in FtF play some player at the table probably would have made a comment like "oh oh, Mick...you is in trouble now" and other sorts of chatter confirming that.  For wiki play you might want to ensure that you do less by implication and more by explicit statement.

For example right after the dialog, Trevis, you could have spent a Coin on something like "Mick puts the electro binding cuffs on Ryle's forearms" (possibly spending extra Coins to make the cuffs a cool Prop).  That would have been an explicit statement of one character controlled by Trevis trying to do something to another character Controlled by Sean.

In IIEE terms:  If Trevis Controlled both Mick and Ryle the statement "Mick puts the electro binding cuffs on Ryle's forearms" would have been a statement of execution.  It happened, period (assuming someone didn't pop in to Take Control of Ryle just then).  The follow up statement of "Ryle is now securely bound by the electro cuffs" for 1 Coin would have added the Trait "Bound by Electro Cuffs" to Ryle as a statement of Effect.  Note:  for many groups (including mine) a second statement and seperate Coin would not have been required.  The initial statement of "Mick puts the electo binding cuffs on Ryle's forearms" would have cost a Coin...bought the Trait for Ryle ("Bound by Mick's Electro Cuffs") and been a statement of Effect.  Someone wanting a second Coin spent could challenge as per the "how many Coins does it cost?" section in the rules.  This is one of those dials mentioned above.

Since two different players controlled these Components, however, the statement becomes only one of Intent.  What Trevis said was "Mick puts the electro binding cuffs on Ryle's forearms" but what it means in the rules is "Mick attempts..." to do so.  That's what kicks off the Complication.

Now we get into all of Ryle's genetic modifications coming down on the side of keeping Ryle out of the cuffs, while Trevis commits the guards onto the side of putting Ryle into the cuffs.

The subsequent Bonus Coin spending then can encompass that whole sequence.  Both the result of whether or not the cuffs were put on and since the narration escalated events to include a brawl with the guards the fate of the guards as well and since its a natural extension for a prisoner to make a break for it after brawling with guards the escape from the cell and heading for the main gate.  But at that point the Complication should have ended.

I think that ending point would have been much clearer had you had that explicit kick off phrase.

Of course that kick off phrase could have been any number of things I just made the cuffs up as an example.  In FtF play it would be easy, for instance, at that point for Sean to Interrupt right after Mick's dialog to state "Ryle springs to action and kicks Mick in the head".  Then THAT would have been the kick off (i.e. Originating) statement and Sean would be the Source and Trevis the Target.  The "stakes" would be about the beat down Ryle was about to lay on Mick.


Ok, so what if Sean had said something like "Ryle escapes from the Prison".  Well if the Prison at that point was a Component Controlled by someone else, that would Originate a Complication against the Prison*.  The Controllers of the guards could commit them to the Prison side etc. and the Complication would play out that way.

So how would Howe get involved in the Complication at that point.  Well the easiest way would be for some other player (i.e. not Sean) to Introduce Howe as another way of getting dice on behalf of the Prison.  Sean can't do this because Sean is committed to Ryle's side.  But Sean could find a way to justify Introducing Elaissa...and she could be Committed to Ryle's side.  Sean could describe Howe being with Elaissa (since that would make narrative sense, him being her escort) but that would just be Color.  Some one else then could pick up the hint, pay the Coin to formally Introduce Howe and then off to the races.  Of course, in FtF play its pretty easy for Sean to just say "Hey, I want Ryle to confront Howe in this Complication, someone Introduce him"...most likely someone will leap at the chance to get bonus Coins.  You could probably do that with a parenthetical in your Wiki comment too.


Now lets complicate things a bit.  Lets say Sean Controlled both Ryle and the Prison and then says "Ryle escapes the Prison"  Since Sean Controls both sides there's no Complication.  Unless another player does something, Sean just narrated Ryle out of the Prison for 1 Coin.

The easiest thing to do would be for someone at that point to say "Hold up...I Take Over the Prison...Complication buddy" which is why that rule is there.

The second easiest (and slightly more devious) thing to do would be for someone to throw down an Obstacle...say "The security door slams shut trying to keep you in your Cell...here's 3 Dice representing the Security Door" (for 3 Coins).  NOW there's a Complication...but the stakes aren't about Ryle escaping the prison but whether he can even get past the security door to leave his cell (told you that was devious).  NOW you can Introduce all the guards and whatever on the side of the Security Door and even if Ryle wins, the only thing he's won is getting past the Security Door out of the cell.  If he then says "Ryle escapes the Prison" someone can then take over the Prison as above and have a whole other Complication with whatever Components Ryle didn't Eliminate the first time. 

Pretty neat.


* Ok, here's were I'll go a bit into Universalis Pedant Mode.  Almost no one (including myself) plays this hard core, but its important to understand the hard core because it makes playing the game loosely easier.

Technically the Location of this scene was not "The Prison".  Technically the Location of this scene was "Ryle's Cell" (or something along those lines) which is Owned by "The Prison" (see the General's office and the defense HQ example in the book).

Technically at somepoint when somebody said "Ryle's a prisoner", or "One of the prisoners, Ryle" (or whatever the narration was) a Relationship Trait of "Ryle is a Prisoner" should have been added to both Ryle and Ryle's Cell and the Prison itself. 

If one REALLY wanted to make this a prison break story, you could have the Cell owned by the Prison Wing owned by the Prison Building, Owned by the Prison Complex, Owned by the Prison Planet...with the "Ryle's a Prisoner" Trait cascading through all of these, such that when Ryle escapes his cell he crosses off the "Prisoner" Trait from the Cell, but he's still caught in the Wing...and then the building...and then the yard...until finally he crosses off "Ryle's a Prisoner" from the planet and his own sheet and he's free.  Ownership Traits are fun.  Relationship Traits are fun.  They can interact in fun and exciting ways.

If at some point Ryle was taken from his cell to the Interrogation room in another wing the "Ryle is a prisoner" Trait would have to be bought off of his cell and the wing he's in and bought for the new wing and the Interrogation room (which have a similar ownership chain to the above).  When he's taken back to his cell...the reverse.

Now, as I said, no one (that I know of) plays quite this fastidiously.  BUT if one were to write a computer Universalis program (like Zork and the old Text adventure games) this sort of hard core anal retentive tracking of exact Traits is how a Computer would parse things per the Uni rules.  It can be helpful to think in these terms when trying to evaluate what underlies a looser structure.

During play, you'll find that alot of Coins that were spent while narrating could have bought Traits in this fashion it just wasn't important to do so at the time.  But should it become important to do so, it would be possible to retroactive reconstruct the Component and its Traits from the record of what Coins were actually spent.  Something Wiki play is actually better at then FtF play.
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Trevis Martin
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2006, 11:40:19 PM »

Cool Ralph,

Man, I've had Uni for like three years now (I think) and a lot of the other GOUMS (games of unusual mechanisms) around here and I'm still surprised on how much ingrained personal roleplay habits prevent me from seeing stuff like this.  (What's the actual real physical location of this scene, etc.)  I do know that once I got that everything was facts I noticed how easily events slide into traits; pretty much every fact you say about a state something is in can be (and maybe should be) an assigned trait to something.
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Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2006, 09:34:31 AM »

Yeah, the eureka moment for me in designing the game (and I think Mike got there first and was impatiently waiting for me to catch up) was in realizing that Tenets, Events, and Traits were all the same darn thing.  Its easier to explain if you break them out into different classes but they're all just Facts with the exact same game mechanical effect.

One thing that often gets set aside I've noticed in looser Uni games is the mandate to identify the "Location" where the scene is.  Alot of looser play kind of takes this for granted as just stage setting color with narration.  But this is one area where I recommend keeping pretty tight.  In Uni the "Location" is an actual Component which gets Traits of its own.  If you treat the place as being a character in the story, alot of the Uni mechanics fall into place better.  Things that in a traditional RPG would be "environmental modifiers" from a table can actually be Traits of the Location Component, and Drawn Upon accordingly.

Similarly it helps alot to think of the "Scene" itself as a Component, and Events as being Traits of the Scene Component.  I didn't write it up that way because its gets squirrely in other ways (like Eliminating a scene by paying off its Importance), but its usefull to think in those terms. 

For example "Jack stands up on his chair to get a better view" would be an Event that comes out in narration...the player likely dropped a Coin in the bank as he was talking.  It wouldn't be very practical to put a Trait on Jack's sheet of "Standing on a Chair" because then Jack is on the chair forever until you pay another Coin to remove him from the chair.  But you certainly can think of that as a Trait of the scene.  You could have in your note book "Scene 3:  at the ballgame" and as you're scribbing notes about what's going on "Jack stands on Chair" can get written down.  Now 9 times in 10 that statement serves no other purpose than reminding you what happened when you're trying to write up an AP report.  But sometimes its helpful to actually use that as a Trait.  A brawl breaks out among the fans and Jack's player claims a die for the height advantage of being on the chair.  Or his opponent claims the trait to take away a die from Jack due to the vulnerability of standing on a wobbly chair (whoever gets to the Trait first).

Now its not very practical to write down EVERY detail that someone spends a Coin on...so maybe no one actually wrote down that Jack was on the Chair.  But they could have.  And if you get used to thinking in those terms its easy to see that in a Complication someone could clearly Draw on that as if it were a written Trait (as long as everyone remembers that a Coin was actually spent on it).
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