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Author Topic: Universalis -- any Rules Gimmicks to "FORCE RPG-like" vs 'story-telling' style?  (Read 2702 times)
REkz
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« on: September 27, 2006, 10:54:30 AM »

Uni gamers,

I just got my copy of Unversalis.  Exciting!

My small group just did a run of Prime Time Adventures,
which I really enjoyed, but I heard a regular comment from players
that it wasn't RPG'ing and it was more 'story-telling'. 
Considering how the game went, it's hard for me to believe b/c the roleplaying
(ie acting) from my point of view was exceptional,
but I'm just mentiong it b/c it was a frequent comment.

I'm considering pitching a session of Universalis...
and wondering if there's any commonly used Rules Gimmicks
that make the game more traditional RPG-like?   
Seems like the rules offer a great way to co-GM a story,
but not sure about all the constant trading of components.

I was thinking along the lines of:

The 'My Character' Rules Gimmick:
Each player may have one character 'Component' that they cannot lose control of,
unless they chose to temporarily give up control of it for one scene,
after which control returns to that player.

Has anyone played with something like this? 
Any suggestions for perhaps a better method for the same idea?

I like Uni rules, but my concern is that game/story construction will be
the emphasis over character roleplay.
Is that what players have generally scene?

Another observation is that where PTA uses the paradigm of TV
to make gameplay easier for non-gamers,
Universalis seems very abstracted - to the point where only die-hard gamers
seem to follow the concept,
ie WHY this is a game in the first place.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2006, 11:19:37 PM »

Some friends and I recently played a character-focused, Conan-meets-Earthsea session of Universalis. The PC Rules Gimmick did change the flavor, but it was still more about the story than the PCs. We did have more dialogue than usual, but that probably had more to do with the "Dialogue is Free" Rules Gimmick.

So my suggestion would be to use both the PC and Dialogue is Free Rules Gimmicks and see how it goes.

I'm not sure you could really "force" anything in Uni. I suppose you could create a Rules Gimmick that gave one player the title of "GM," and allowed only the GM to create or control Components other than the PCs (or something like that). I've got no idea how it would play out, but my gut tells me it would create a crazy imbalance in Wealth fairly quickly.
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Zamiel
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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2006, 11:56:30 PM »

The 'My Character' Rules Gimmick:
Each player may have one character 'Component' that they cannot lose control of,
unless they chose to temporarily give up control of it for one scene,
after which control returns to that player.

Has anyone played with something like this? 
Any suggestions for perhaps a better method for the same idea?
I've been giving this a bit of thought, and it occurs to me you might want something softer. Vaguely lifted from a Capes optional rule:

Priviliged Components:
For 2 Coins, you can add a Trait to and Component of the form, "Priviliged by *Name*." Any attempt to modify that Component's Trairs by someone other than the Priviliged Player costs twice as much. For established Facts, that ends up being 4x as much. Any Component can only have one Privilige at any given time.

With this, you can have folks still have the ability to modify Components but still be largely controlled by a single Player.
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2006, 08:02:37 AM »

I was hoping some folks would pop in and start a discussion on this, thanks guys.  Too often when the game designer replies that puts an end to the thread.

I think this is a pretty open arena.  So I hope the discussion continues.  Universalis was designed to be gimmicked into the sort of game you want it to be so I'm all about twisting things around to suit.

I think its important to understand what one wants to accomplish with a PC type gimmick.  Protecting a PC's Traits and actions from "interference" by another player is pretty easy to do.  Creating an experience where you can "get into character" in the same way as you do in more traditional games is not.  Or rather it is, but you have to come at the issue from an entirely different direction and set of expectations.

See in Universalis it is absolutely vital that characters are available for folks to mess with.  To introduce into scenes, to take control of at opportune moments to cause Complications, etc.  So even if you do privilege one character per player as a PC they will still need to completely involved and committed to grabbing and using all of those other characters just as much as they're committed to their own.  Otherwise the sources of conflict dies down to nothing and the game becomes an overly elaborate version of pass the conch.

That's not a problem for me.  I can "get into" a Uni character just as deeply and passionately as I get into any PC.  I can then in the very next scene "get into" another character.  And then a short time later "get into" some other character.  Because I've long since abandoned the notion of One Player / MY Character I can happily flit from character to character playing them as individuals and fully enjoying the roleplaying experience. 

My personal belief is that the idea of One Player / My Character as being definitive of "roleplaying" is a completely arbitrary, unnecessary, artificial, and limiting construct.  So I personally don't have much use for any sort of "that's not roleplaying its just story telling" distinction as I find such thinking to be an incredibly narrow and helpful view of what roleplaying can be. 

So one half of my brain is exitedly saying "Awesome, Gimmick away, turn Uni into the game you want most to play".  The other half of my brain is cautioning "but do it because it makes the game better for your players, not because it makes the game more familiar".  Too often those get confused.


Zamiel...I like that Privileged Gimmick.  I'll throw that one up on the website next update.  Pretty slick.  I'd probably do it so that that the "Privileged" Trait worked just like a Fact in that the double cost doesn't kick in unless Challenged.  That way, modifications are still free if the "owning" player doesn't mind.
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Zamiel
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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2006, 12:17:58 PM »

Zamiel...I like that Privileged Gimmick.  I'll throw that one up on the website next update.  Pretty slick.  I'd probably do it so that that the "Privileged" Trait worked just like a Fact in that the double cost doesn't kick in unless Challenged.  That way, modifications are still free if the "owning" player doesn't mind.

Be sure to spell-check it before it goes up. Ugh, I should never post without my spell-checker running.

Though I think the cost being doubled for anyone but the Priviliged Player being implicit is somewhat important on a psychological level. If I know up front that even if the PP is OK with it, it'll cost me 2 Coin to modify it might encourage me to have them do that modification ... which puts some extra by-play over the table. 2 Coin is still a fairly low cost, considering how much gets flung about on the odd occasion (like huge Complications) ...

Certainly worth suggesting as an alternate variation.

Quote
Optional Variant: Coins suppporting a Challenged Trait are only doubled during a Challenge.

Of course, that leads me to think of a whole new variant ...

Quote
Optional Variant: Same as default, except Components can have multiple Priviliged Players.

The interesting thought there is the worst-case situation where everyone at the table is Priviliged for a Component. Economically, it just means affecting that Component at all just got more expensive, which is somewhat interesting.
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REkz
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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2006, 04:17:14 PM »

UNI Gamers,

I like the "Priviledged Gimmick" idea. 
Andrew's post also inspired me to think of
a modified PC gimmick, which as Valamir suggested,
is less 'heavy-handed'.

Player Character Gimmick:
Each player may designate one Player Character 'Component' for the whole game
that they automatically win control of for 1 coin,
and that component's dialogue is always done
by the component's creator (even if controlled by someone else).


With this rule, the component can get bounced all around,
and even taken away (I suppose) for a few scenes
if the owner is really low on coins. 
But upon further examination,
I'd rather stay true to Uni's flexible component ownership concept.

I don't like adding in a 'opponents pay 2x coins to add Traits' rule
b/c I think the Complications and Challenges covers that part well enough, no?

Having not played UNI, I'm not sure if this Gimmick
works better than the first I suggested,
but it seems more light-handed and perhaps 'graceful'?

Thanks for all the input!      -- Ari
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Valamir
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« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2006, 06:16:54 PM »

I like the direction you're thinking.

Clarify something for me in your Gimmick

When you say: 
Quote
that they automatically win control of for 1 coin,

What do you mean?

Right now you can always take control of anything for 1 Coin.  The only exception is when the Component is already committed to a Complication...is that the difference or is there a missing piece there?
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Call Me Curly
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Posts: 63


« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2006, 07:22:22 PM »

This won't turn Uni into a garden-variety rpg, but...

when it comes to assigning a particular character to each player,
give thought to what-exactly that player will have special control-over.

One gimmick would be to let everyone control what all the characters do (as usual in Universalis),
but add a rule that only one player is privileged to 'speak for' each character/ even as others control 'your' guy.

In practice, this could resemble 'hearing' a character's inner monologue, it could resemble a
badly-dubbed movie, it could resemble Mystery Science Theater 3000. 

It ought to help players identify with 'their' guy.   In  fact, a player might identify with a character
-most- when someone else is making him do something 'involuntary', and the voice of the
character is saying 'I really don't want to do this, but... here goes..."

If the person playing the voice does a good job of it, they can signal (but not force) directions that the character 'wants'to go, and the other players can heed or disregard that by paying tokens as usual.

And the voice can also directly control the character as well, but only by paying-- just like everyone else.

--Curly
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REkz
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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2006, 10:29:24 PM »

Clarify something for me in your Gimmick
When you say: 
Quote
that they automatically win control of for 1 coin,
What do you mean?
Right now you can always take control of anything for 1 Coin.  ...
is there a missing piece there?

The missing piece is if you want to control something in a game,
the controlling player can pay 1 coin to keep control,
and a bidding contest can ensue. 
This gimmick means no bidding contest, "it's mine".

Maybe I need clearer language like,

Each player may designate one Player Character 'Component' for the whole game
which they gain uncontested control of for the rest of a scene for 1 coin (w/o a bidding contest),
and that component's dialogue is always done by the component's creator (even if controlled by someone else).


Does that make my idea clearer?

PEACE ---- Ari
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Darren Hill
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Posts: 861


« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2006, 07:19:39 PM »

I've been thinking about how to run a "Group of PCs v 1 GM" style game in Uni, and one thing none of the suggestions mentioned earlier - or on the website as far as I can see - address, is the imbalance of wealth between players and GM.
When facts are created, they are availabke for anyone to draw on, so a PC-created fact might be used by the GM and vice-versa. That's okay.
But when the GM is creating complications for the group, or for several individual PCs, he's going to run out of coins pretty quickly.

One thing I considered would be to give the PCs the PC Endowment gimmick, and then (rather than increasing the GMs wealth) drastically reduce PC Wealth somehow, once the setup phase is passed.
In a traditional game, PCs can influence the game (create Facts) but they do it a lot less than the GM. Most of their infleunce on the game will come about through Complications - having conflicts to establish what they want becomes true.

Another way might be to make facts bought by players cost more. Maybe depending on the nature of the Facts. Core Traits (permanent changes to their characters or other named characters) might cost, say, 5 coins (or a number = number PCs), while circumstantial facts - injuries, temporary advantages, creations in the fiction, etc., might have the normal cost.

I haven't really thought through these ideas. Are people still thinking about this subject?
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2006, 11:40:29 PM »

Gimmick:
"I'm The Gm" - any coins bid in challenges are doubled, as if you had a fact backing them up.

Good or bad idea?
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REkz
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2006, 09:21:52 AM »

Darren & UNI folks,

Interesting.  I hadn't really thought about forcing RPG-like character attachment, not GM & player roles.

Wealth and the 'ganging up' thing would make GM'ing really difficult.  Instead of giving GM's 2x for challenges, I'd offer the following large sweeping rules gimmick:

One player per session acts as GM, which has the following special rules:
1) Coin refresh is standard PLUS 1/2 of total coins spent by players, rounded up.
2) The GM can take control of any component, EXCEPT a component designated as Player Character, for zero cost and the control can't be bid against.


This gimmick allows the following:
1) GM needs massive wealth, and if REALLY a GM, should be able to match the spend of any characters at any time.  The GM may chose NOT to do so, tho.  However, with this gimmick, the GM would be encouraged to spend a lot as they'd get 1/2 of the total coins spent by players in addition to their standard refresh, which should leave players a bit poorer.
2) the GM can take control of many components at will, which is like standard GM'ing

The other players still have standard UNI abilities, but the GM can seize components and will ultimately have stronger wealth than any individual player.

I think that about covers it.  Anyone else have ideas?
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Danny2050
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« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2006, 12:55:14 AM »

I really like Universalis for what it is.

Instead of changing Universalis to be like an RPG have you tried using Universalis as an assistant to GMing? I play Universalis with one group of friends to build up the setting, big picture stories and legends for a RPG, then turn around and use trad. RPG to play within the Universalis generated backdrop. The Universalis game has to take the RPG campaign as cannon. That hasn't stopped some players from "revealing" twists in the campaign that show some known fact to turn out to be false.

The effect is to keep the campaign very alive, as the big picture evolves between adventure sessions, and it stops me from becoming stale with the campaign. Its well worth a try.

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