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How can fortune at the end work without spoiling flow?

Started by Ben Miller, February 23, 2007, 11:32:15 PM

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David Artman

I think this is where you go wrong, and one of your three examples makes it very evident (the "I run him through" one):
Quote from: Ben Miller on February 24, 2007, 09:10:55 AM...what they said sounded like an unmitigated success, but we still want to roll to determine success, then we're between a rock and hard place

The issue is that "unmitigated success." If you let a player narrate the success of an action before it has been determined, then, yeah, you're going to be rewriting his claims when Fortune fails him. That's not a "whiff," though, as I see it. That's a "you presume too much" situation.

SO... if the current task is to hit a target--particularly in a game with hit locations!--then the player should narrate something like "I swing my sword at him," NOT "I hit him in the face." If the current task is to successfully leap a chasm, don't narrate "I leap the chasm" and then roll; narrate "I get a running start and fling myself off the cliff." Roll for success; and only THEN narrate "I land with grace" or "...and plummet screaming, my fingers inches from the far side."

And, yep, that's Fortune in the Middle. Declare intent or initiate action -> attempt -> narrate result.

I confess I have never *really* seen Fortune at the End in actual play. You got Fortune at the Start in games like Dogs (rolling for die values before you even make the first Raise) and you got a bazillion FITM games that follow the pattern I describe above. But real, actual FATE? Anyone got an example of that? It seems like it might even be impossible: SOME minimal portion of narration *must* be dependent on the outcome of Fortune, or Fortune becomes sort of moot, right? And even that thin sliver of narrative "results" from the Fortune check would put Fortune back in the Middle (albeit pretty far from the middle, and nearing the end... but not AT the very End).

Am I confused? Am I drifting the topic, by essentially replying "there is no logical means to do FATE?"
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages


Hi all,

There seems to be confusion from two angles developing in this thread. What FatE actually means, and how Intent, Initiation, Execution and Effect statements are actually narrated around the table.

To pick up on the second point, if a player says "I take my gun and blow Jim's brains out" it is dependent on a number of factors what actually happens in the game.

Many games have rules that limit conflict resolving actions, which means that in a contest to kill Jim, or one in which Jim's survival is the point of the conflict, unilaterally deciding that Jim's brains are splattered against the wall is not allowed.

But, this DOES NOT mean that the player cannot make the statement, just that it is obvious from the rules that it is functionally equivalent to saying  "My character uses his gun-use skill to attempt to shoot Jim in the head".

A case in point would be the text of DitV which would strongly suggest using language like the former in order to heighten the atmosphere, but has no assumption that the narration is set in stone.

( DitV is a FinM game not B as suggested earlier, as the dice become a pool of results which are spent during the conflict to effect the conflict, this shows that the actual timing of the dice roll can be a red-herring.)

So to some extent games that DO enforce player narration as acts that have happened, such as Wushu is described here, are tying themselves up in a knot, because you don't want to limit the vocabulary of the players in games that encourage improvisation in narration. The legalise used in their texts are really just ways of saying work around these issues carefully.

I would hazard a bet that anyone playing such a game for a few sessions would very quickly get into an understanding that "coup-de-grace" statements get separated out and edited in everyone's head. i.e. in your 3 point statement everyone would know that stages 1 and 2 are given and that 3 is an acceptably exaggerated version of "I stab as if to run him through" with a clear assumption that the blade at least pierces the opponent.

And, to quickly reiterate some of the posts above FatE does not mean that no qualifying statements or narration can be made after the roll, just that the fortune can be manipulated and mechanical outcomes effected. There may be clear legalistic rules in Wushu, but that is unlikely to be a model of how the rules actually work round any given table.

I would never advocate pre-narrated outcomes such as "If I fail this happens and if I succeed that happens", but if you use such a system in a Fortune in the Middle game, it can't magically make it Fortune at the End, just because you throw the dice last. For instance in HQ one can spend Hero Points to effect the mechanical outcome of the dice roll. One might pre-narrate a roll in a written scenario, detailing what each level of success/failure results in, but the fortune element can still be manipulated by the players and the final effect changed from one success/fail level to another.



All that aside lets look at your concerns as related to Wushu (can someone confirm if this is a play on the initials of What You Say Happens or is it a coincidence?).

Quote from: Ben Miller on February 23, 2007, 11:32:15 PM
2. I have a loose-ish grasp of Forge-talk so I might use some phrases and terms in the wrong way.

I've been looking at some games recently that use Fortune At the End (or at least that's how I read it - see proviso 2 above :) ).  One was Wushu Open and the other is Seven Leagues. 

This is perhaps a misunderstanding of the rules of Wushu, as their is a pool mechanic called Chi which could act as a Fortune in the Middle Mechanic. Sure it does not break the Principle of Narrative Truth rules but it acts as a manipulator of the dice roll. So this is a grey area, and depends how we define FitM. Traditionally FitM is related to the actual narration of any roll, but it is not as simple as that due to the conflict at hand being extended (ie multiple actions narrate the outcome as a whole). And, narration in this game is separated out from the actual conflict such that the two are only loosely connected and don't clearly effect each other except by player conventions and ephemera.

To quote Wushu Open: "In a way, the dice are only there to let you know when to stop fighting (or chasing, or talking, or whatever)."

So does this get us anywhere with Wushu and your concerns, I don't think so, as your primary concern is not really a rules issue, or even related to the position of fortune. You appear to be concerned that using the Veto inherent in Wushu is somehow spoiling the game, and should be avoided wherever possible. I believe this is what you mean by "I want to avoid the whiff", is it?

If this is so, the answer is that no game can legislate for every instance, and you will need to build a group understanding of when vetos should be used or when narration oversteps the mark. This will no doubt be related to how creative your group gets with turning around seemingly final statements, or how literally you take the actual narration rules.

Spoiling the flow is a loaded statement, it implies that it would be ideal if the only things uttered by each player were narration statements in an improvisational theatre experience. This may be achievable with the rule set given its disconnect between dice and statements but it is probably not desired by your players. In reality you are likely to have to discuss the issues as they arise until you reach a group understanding of how you as a group play this game. Sure with experience together this may be reduced but it isn't a game stopping obstacle and some players are comfortable with this discourse, and may feel restricted if it is removed.

Aaron Blain

The bulk of this thread makes my head spin, mostly because I have switched to a karmic paradigm for the reasons discussed (among others).

I remember WAY back in middle school, I was playing d6 Star Wars with my two best friends. Corridor, stormtroopers, blaster fire, etc. Andy, playing a gruff trandoshan boxer said, "I roll across the floor to avoid the blaster fire and punch a stormtrooper as I rise." And then he ACTUALLY DID THAT in the room, partially to demonstrate what he felt was its feasibility, but mostly to enact the awesome thing he saw in his imagination. My friend Tim said, "Um. Well, roll brawling."

Guess what? He failed miserably! What resulted in the narrative? "The trandoshan awkwardly jumps on his face and then gets shot."

Would you call that a "whiff"? I sure would.

This is a real concern to me as I am trying to get my friends to start playing Matrix games which, as I understand them, involve a lot of "whiff". The nature of the Referee role precludes the possibility of Stakes, so when your argument fails, it simply VOIP fails to exist. This of course works well, but it leads to very staccato exchange of arguments. I am trying to find a modified approach which will allow for more lush narration, something in which the players can really invest themselves.

For my purposes, the conceptual shift is from checking for consent to checking for dissent.


Quote from: Aaron Blain on March 16, 2007, 05:11:04 PM
This is a real concern to me as I am trying to get my friends to start playing Matrix games which, as I understand them, involve a lot of "whiff". The nature of the Referee role precludes the possibility of Stakes, so when your argument fails, it simply VOIP fails to exist. This of course works well, but it leads to very staccato exchange of arguments. I am trying to find a modified approach which will allow for more lush narration, something in which the players can really invest themselves.

I'm glad to hear you want to try out Matrix Gaming. I have a few ideas to minimize WHIFF.

First - when I referee I start off ruling pretty near all arguments as pretty strong or really strong (happen on a 3-6 or 2-6). This leads to most things happening. My logic is that at the start of the game I don't really know what is going on either so why not rule an argument strong? It is only later in the game that I start ruling arguments weaker. Arguments that develop existing story lines remain strong. Ones that go off on tangents grow progressively weaker. The referee acts as an editor to the player's author.

That being done - there are always players with no luck. They need help! I've been using a rule I call "Failure tokens". When Mr. Luckless misses a roll, he gets a token. The next time he misses a roll he gets an automatic reroll. If he misses that roll, the argument failed but he gets another failure token. This mitigates luck without being a complete give away.

It can help to see a Matrix Game played to really get it. Fortunately Mark Kinney and the Rolemonkeys recorded a session of Jack the Ripper, which they posted as a pod cast on The House of the Harping Monkey. Here is a link to the page.

Podcast of an actual play session at click on the tab for podcasts. Then click on Rolemonkeys and select episode #11.

Chris Engle
Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games