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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Shock:] First time stumbling and relevation  (Read 3438 times)
Kaare_Berg
Member

Posts: 74


« on: November 03, 2006, 03:28:27 PM »

This has been a long time coming, and writing this right now is therapy for me with regards to some heavy real world issues. Which has nothing to do with this game of Shock:. But I need to think about fun and this was.

I’ve loved the idea of Shock: since I first found it here at the Forge. And when it finally came out and snailed its way to Norway I had to try it out - which is no mean feat considering what parenthood is doing to my spare time.

I rounded up the gang, we shared out dice and set to creation of the Shock:Issue grid.
At first we struggled a bit with the blank paper syndrome, but then gradually the ball got rolling.

The grid.
We ended up with a dystopian far future where the grid looked like this.
(issue:shock)
Slavery : Humans as an industrial resource
The duality of man (good/evil) : the old gods are real
Resistance : psychic powers
Evolution: wormholes.

Later I’ve learned that this is too many, and since no player picked up on evolution that became redundant. This sort of dilluted our focus, but wasn't that much of a biggie.

From this Evil Alien overlords (color) setup we got the following praxis scales:
Terror : Manipulation and Hope : Despair. (it turned out that we primarly used the latter)

Before I get to the characters, let me introduce the players.

Kaare, me, the theory guy and indie fan.
Espen, the guy I’ve argued about theory with for the longest.
Christer, who used to be my sounding board as I began exploring theoryland.
Ole Morten, our resident battered player being dragged from his shell.

We are friends outside gaming, and go back years. However of the four only two are comfortable in the GM chair, Ole to my knowledge has only held it once and was battered even there when he did try. I think this is important because it may be the main reason why everything did not quite gel to my expectations.

The order above was the way we sat around the table. We bulloxed the protag/antag order going right instead of left. Or was it left instead of right. No biggie.Just indicative.

Our protags where:
Mine – Burke – situated between resistance and humans as an industrial resource. Ole had the antag: The overseers of Gulag 17. Story goal: join the rebellion
Espens – Trent – on the intersection of the duality of man and psychic powers. I was the antag player and had The Alien Masters. Story goal: get personal freedom
Christer – Lock – between slavery and wormholes with Espen as the antag player – with Masteroverseer Raynes. Story goal: the world ends
Ole Morten – Cray – resistance and the old gods are real. His antag, played by Christer, was the Old Gods themselves. Story goal: becomes a new god.

We set Antag Credits at 12.

The game:
I opened simply because I supposedly knew the game and we ran into hiccup number one straight away in the first conflict. The players felt there should be a link between features and numbers of credits played. I argued against, but old ingrained habits die hard and it was decided that one can not use more credits than number of features included in the narration.

Sigh. I should have insisted, but they were intimidated with what they perceived as a loooow number of dice available to the Antag player.

The rest of my protag’s story fell flat because of a knee jerk response from me (to quite a nice dilemma put forward by Ole) led to Burkes story being the kind of story that Shock: does not support, the Buck Rogers one. Despite the fact that no more than half an hour before play I reread J.A.C.N.’s warning about this very issue.

Christer, and Lock’s story, filled in a lot of details about the setting, but fell flat. I suspect this was because Espen had some idea in his head that he wanted it to be about, instead of looking to what Christer’s protag was all about.

Ole M’s protag began slightly like a Buck Rogers story, with an unnamed NPC tricking Cray off a building. In freefall Cary used his "latent" feature – fold space – to  escape a messy flat death. The follow up scene was lame, we all felt it, but I stepped in and suggested an alternative and from there on this tale had promise.
The alternative - instead of popping into my BR story, we had Cray pop into the presence of a gigantic Horus on his grey throne and Christer killed us with the following comment from this Old God: “you are a lot smaller than I envisioned." We quit before we saw this story to fruition which sucked.

The story I want to talk about was the one that grew around Trent, Espens Protag.

Trent was a psysniffer. A human hunting dog for the alien masters, represented by Camp Commander Doyle, trained to hunt human psychics.

The protag:
Terror : Manipulation – 6
Hope : Despair – 8
Had these features to begin with:
Mind over matter
Psi Sniffer
Alien Backing (overseers)
And very importantly the following link:
The Puppy.

The Antag:
Terror : Manipulation – 4
Hope : Despair – 7
Had the following features:
Camp Commander Doyle
Pain Collars
Endless numbers of Drone Soldiers

The story.
Began with narrative coolness as a pack of psysniffers hunted freehumans on an unnamed ruin-world. Trent fnds a target, a woman radiating strong psi, and two dull children. At first he tries to avoid these, but I counter that by having the other sniffer detect his target – and Doyle detecting Trents lack of movement.
Espen wants Trent to hide the children before the othesr arrive, and I want Doyle to detect that he is lying.
Espen wins his, I loose mine.

This led to via a few more scenes (where among other things Trent triggers a psychic nova in the woman) before we end up with Trent tied to an interrogation table about to be tortured by CC Doyle. Espen wants Trent to escape, and I see no problem in this letting him kill Doyle with a manipulated scalpel. With the puppy in hand Trent tries to escape the alien shuttle. However his road is blocked by an Alien.
Using manipulated magnetic fields (the aliens are psychically inert) the Alien tries to kill Trent (no conflict, this color). Espen wants Trent to push past the alien and escape. I want him to kill the puppy to do so.

Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Espen wins his bit, I really do not contest it. I win mine, barely. Espen has the link, rerolls and I win with even smaller margin. Christer leaves it to Ole to come up with minutić since he owns the Psychic Power shock. Ole rolls the die gets enough to let Espen win and says: “No, I like the way this turned out.”

Boom. We are all taken back. Numb. The statement punched us all in the gut (in the balls for dog owners like myself and Christer). Personal freedom comes only by sacrificing the ones we love. Damn that was some heavy shit.

Espen had to leave. But that was okay, the other stories had fizzeled so we called it quits.

Conclusion.
I went home ambivalent. My group is a more crunch type group, we are all major BWr fans. So the resolution (as in focus on details not CR) of Shock became to low. We bungled it from the start and three of four stories fell flat. I have my theories about why, and they have nothing to do with the game. I think it boils down to lack of training in reading flags, and more importantly creating bangs on the fly. Of us four, I am the only one who has done this before, and Espen (though a great GM) has a wildly different style based on r-maps. The two others have not been in the Chair for years. This did cause problems with playing the antags, and challenging the protags. and thus ultimatly to prblems with the stories we told.

But as I sat down to write my first AP report of this game all the small shiny details that I at times felt warming my heart. Like Minutić, those few moments when what was narrated was so vivid in my head in didn’t need to close my eyes to envision it. And the finale. It is right up there.

This might be me rewriting my memories because I so desperately wanted this to bee as fun as I imagined. But Idon’t really think so, because I distinctly remember thinking about this as we played. I mean check out this list of minutić:

Independent thought is forbidden.
Kids can be used as batteries.
Using psychic powers lights up the immediate area to those with the Sight.
Wormhole gates are built from living psychic human nerve tissue.
The aliens use observation orbs.
All humans serving the Aliens have barcodes in their necks.
No one has doors in their habunits because no one has anything to hide,
All rooms have dispensers for paralytic nerve gas.


Shock: rocks. We just need to learn how to play it.





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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2006, 07:09:08 PM »

Kaare, I have to think about this. I'm not precisely sure what went wrong.

Certainly, restricting dice to narrated Features does some weird stuff. Believe me, that idea was tossed for some good reasons. The primary one is that the number of Features is a pacing mechanic. It doesn't represent anything about the character, really. It's a tool for the players, not the Protag.

For a short story like this, I really, really recommend only having one Shock: or maaaaybe two if they fit together really well. Add more Shocks as your game world gets bigger, if you need them. Otherwise, you have Tomorrowland. That might have affected the connection your players felt to the situation.

This right here is what Shock: is about and why you don't really have to worry about how many dice are being rolled:

Quote
Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Espen wins his bit, I really do not contest it. I win mine, barely. Espen has the link, rerolls and I win with even smaller margin. Christer leaves it to Ole to come up with minutić since he owns the Psychic Power shock. Ole rolls the die gets enough to let Espen win and says: “No, I like the way this turned out.”

Ole passed up a gnarly opportunity, too: he could have played his die and gotten to say what circumstances led to the death of the puppy.

Another thing that I notice that probably had at least a little bit of impact:

Quote
So the resolution (as in focus on details not CR) of Shock became to low.

That's what Minutić are for. Make the shit up. You know the mechanical effects of whatever details you want: 1d4. Make the details be exactly what you want.

Now, the example you've given here is the one that worked the best. It sucks that Espen had to go before the story was over. Was this related to the conflict with the dog? Like, did he leave early because he was mad about it? Or did he want to stay and resolve stuff, but had to go get married or something?

Oh, here's something important I notice about that conflict: you can't directly take away a Link unless the player's rerolled already. Like, you can bring the Puppy into a scene, but you can't kill (or otherwise alter) the link except as a rerolling action. So what you want to do as Antag is threaten the puppy, then put your dice into killing or hurting it or something. Put your dice in it like crazy. Like, no d4s, using all the Credits you can. Then either he or you can call to reroll the Conflict once you've won. (I'm not sure that's the best rule in the world, but it's how it works now.)

What I'd really like to hear about are the other, fizzled stories. I'd like to know why stuff didn't work.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Kaare_Berg
Member

Posts: 74


« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2006, 12:24:26 AM »

Hi Joshua,

I wrote this up way too late.
And I have a pretty good idea what went wrong, at least in my protags story. I think I changed my concept for the protag right before play, and stubbornly held on to the first feature I wrote down: A stolen overseer gun. And my antag player latched on to this and from there it devolved into a gun and run fest. My, then our bad.
We never touched the issue except superficially. I felt as the protag player that I could not suggest alternate scenes/conflict like I did as a spectator to the others. I wanted the group to supply me with this, but our lack of experinence hindered us. Make sense?

Christers protags stroy stumbled on old habits. Espen is a great GM, I think this lead to Christer expecting more lead and less freedom, which Espen tried to provide, but failed because the situations he instigated were not grabby enough. There was a lot of scene setting, and setting up an eventual conflict, and no immideate conflict. It stumbled and went lame because of this. I helped with one conflict, rathcing it up a few notches. They all lit up, then faded back down the next time Christers Protag came around.

Ole's story began with a disconnect, as his character was the only one with a personla hab-cube and more of a happy world jive. i think it was Espen that brought this down a few notches with the no one has a door minutić. But Christer havn't been in the chair for ages, and he immedeatly put Cray, Ole's Protag, in a you will die now situation. The Antag, had a great feature: there is a plan, and it featured heavliy as Cray dangled of the side of the building. It didn't really become cool until Horus entered the scene, literaly.

I brought Espens story to the front because it stuck with me. It stuck with me despite the disconnect with Features and antag credits. I'll get to this bit in a short while. To blow my own horn I think this was because i kept hitting Espen with though choices with regards to his protag and his issue: the duality of man (short for mans capacity to do good and evil) where Espen chose to do good, and I kept asking how about now?
The puppy, I am not sure about how this conflict really went, its been a while. Thinking about it last night I think it went something like this:
Espen: intention Trent breaks past the Alien
Me: intention the Alien kills Trent
roll: Espen looses.
espen: I have the puppy, I focus on its big eyes and use this boost to push past and out of the ship.
Me: Lame, how about you squeese the puppy so hard in your hands because of your exertion that you might kill it?
espen: I don't really want to kill it, but this is cool.
me: so now the conflict is about whether you escape with or without your puppy?
Espen: yeah.
And we all edged closer to the edge of our seats. And then Ole made a statement. He did. My write up and the fact that he chose to not make any minutić was enough of a statement for him. He said he was cool with the outcome as it stood, and despite Espen's puppy eyes, he let it ride. Trent escaped after killing the only link he had, in a longer game this link may hav changed to something like: I killed my puppy for this.
He had o go to work and was late because he wanted to see this play out.

Now back to the whole Features disconnect. I belive it stems from conditioning. For some reason this night my players were not happy to accept that the features are a tool for the players, and not mechanical representations for the antag. We would have had a totally different game if they had seen this. This comes in part from my groups prefrence for games in the BWr end of crunchyness (half of the are old rolemaster players) and in part from old ingrained ways of looking at the character sheet. this is also what I am talking about when I speak of lack of resolution. It is the small tactical choices that they thrive on. Now before you label us and say we were playing Shock: with a gamist agenda let me emphatically state we are not gamist. I'd say we drift between sim and nar. Some more in one agenda camp than the other. And I suspect it was the sim influences that reared their heads. This time they could not ge their heads around features as a resource for the player, and not the character.

And I understand why you tossed the rule change they imposed.

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Joshua A.C. Newman
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Posts: 1144

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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2006, 08:29:12 AM »

It didn't even occur to me that you were playing with a Gamist agenda. It sounds like you guys didn't quite know what to expect and went in some directions unsupported by Shock: It's probably a fault of the presentation of the book.

I say that because it sounds like you've got techniques that work, but don't apply them all the time:
Quote
Christers protags stroy stumbled on old habits. Espen is a great GM, I think this lead to Christer expecting more lead and less freedom, which Espen tried to provide, but failed because the situations he instigated were not grabby enough. There was a lot of scene setting, and setting up an eventual conflict, and no immideate conflict. It stumbled and went lame because of this. I helped with one conflict, rathcing it up a few notches. They all lit up, then faded back down the next time Christers Protag came around.

"Grabbiness" is hard to quantify in rules. The principle that, whenever you don't know what to do, you look at the player's Story Goal, Issue, Shock, and Links, is an attempt at making things more direct.

See, here's the thing about the way a Shock: game should go:

You start off falling. Only at the moment before game starts is the Protagonist in a static situation. As soon as the Antag opens hir mouth, the Protag is scrambling; things have gone out of control. Every time there's a scene, the Antag should be driving at that Story Goal, which is different from where the Protag is at this moment. All the stage sets are taken care of by the other players. The Antag and Protag should be wrestling over gnarly stuff all the time, until the end of the game. It looks like you know this, because:

Quote
But Christer havn't been in the chair for ages, and he immedeatly put Cray, Ole's Protag, in a you will die now situation. The Antag, had a great feature: there is a plan, and it featured heavliy as Cray dangled of the side of the building. It didn't really become cool until Horus entered the scene, literaly.

That's great! We know the dude's not gonna die, but the characters don't know that. It's totally OK to have the dude dangling from a skyscraper with robot gorillas shooting at him, a tank hanging from his ankle, and a candiru in his urethra, and the Intents are, "Do I prove to my father that I can face danger?" versus "Do the gorillas find out where you live?" In the rules, it's explicit: you can't actually threaten a Protag's life without the Protag Player's consent until the Story Goal is at stake. But that doesn't mean that the fiction going on can't be life-threatening.

In short, do what you did with Espen.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Kaare_Berg
Member

Posts: 74


« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2006, 02:01:31 PM »

Quote
That's great! We know the dude's not gonna die, but the characters don't know that. It's totally OK to have the dude dangling from a skyscraper with robot gorillas shooting at him, a tank hanging from his ankle, and a candiru in his urethra, and the Intents are, "Do I prove to my father that I can face danger?" versus "Do the gorillas find out where you live?" In the rules, it's explicit: you can't actually threaten a Protag's life without the Protag Player's consent until the Story Goal is at stake. But that doesn't mean that the fiction going on can't be life-threatening

And this is what we did wrong. because the intents were cross purpose. Aka you die, no I don't. And all the conflicts in my protags story were just variations of this.

And
Quote
Only at the moment before game starts is the Protagonist in a static situation. As soon as the Antag opens hir mouth, the Protag is scrambling; things have gone out of control. Every time there's a scene, the Antag should be driving at that Story Goal, which is different from where the Protag is at this moment. All the stage sets are taken care of by the other players. The Antag and Protag should be wrestling over gnarly stuff all the time, until the end of the game.
I know this.
I just failed so utterly miserably at conveying this strongly enough to overcome predjudices/old habits.

Quote
The principle that, whenever you don't know what to do, you look at the player's Story Goal, Issue, Shock, and Links, is an attempt at making things more direct
Is what I should have conveyed to the others when explaining the rules and prosedures of play.

like I said, it wasn't the game, it was us.

Thanks for the last bit though, it is what I was looking for.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2006, 09:51:45 PM »

Jeez. Don't be so hard on yourself! The orthogonal Intents is really important to the game. It's really fun, but hard to make work. We don't have too many examples of that kind of thing in games. It just takes practice. Also, since you missed it, it probably needs better explanation in the text.

(The unofficial motto of the glyphpress is "Games that are hard to play and make you cry." (Thank you, Ben Lehman.))
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
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