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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 147 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: How can fortune at the end work without spoiling flow?  (Read 4421 times)
Ben Miller
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Posts: 49


« on: February 23, 2007, 03:32:15 PM »

First let me make a whole three apologies:

1. This post isn't about an 'actual play' experience I've had, although it does pertain to other peoples' actual play experiences.  So sorry if I posting to the wrong place.
2. I have a loose-ish grasp of Forge-talk so I might use some phrases and terms in the wrong way.
3. Finally, I'm sure what I'm about to ask has been covered a load of times before, but I do find that it's generally hard to zone-in on the best discussions on a certain area here at the Forge (so much good stuff gets said that it tends to be pretty spread out and hard to pinpoint).

With all that boring preamble over, I'll try to cut to the chase.

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 Smiley ).  One was Wushu Open and the other is Seven Leagues.  They both involve a bunch of hopefully exciting statements, embellishments and narrative ('ll call these just 'statements' from now on) from a player, followed by a roll of the dice to determine ultimate 'success' in a conflict.

I'm trying to get my head around how this can work in actual play (I'm almost set to run a Seven Leagues story) with out some Whiff Factor (again, I might be mis-using a term here) rearing its head.  Let me first say that I really love the notion of the players acheiving what they want by 'talking it up' in this way, I just worry about the Whiff Factor.  Permit me an example: a player might reel off a good set of statements like:

1. "I leap off from the gallery, brandishing my cutlass"
2. "Grabbing hold of the chandelier I shout 'Your skin is mine!'"
3. "Swinging at my enemy, I run him through"

Now unless I have it wrong this would net be some bonus dice in Wushu or some Narrative Bonuses in Seven Leagues.  Either way, my chance of winning the conflict is high.  Let's assume that in this case the enemy's player didn't come up with much and ends up having no Narrative Bonus or bonus dice but the rolls says they still win!  This seems to have undermined the benefit of all that lovely narrative build-up.  It seems akin to me to the problem in traditional RPGs of saying "I hit him in the face", rolling the dice, failing, and saying "Oh.. no I didn't".  That problem seems, quite rightly, one that should be addressed, but does the technique used in games like Wushu and Seven Leagues actually address it in actual play?

Have I got all mixed up?

I want to avoid the whiff - please help with suggestions on how! Smiley

Best regards
Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2007, 04:06:45 PM »

Hi Ben,

Wonderfully phrased - it's really easy to see what you're asking (or I hope!).

Here's my shot at the answer - it all depends on the specific narration of the outcome. In years and years of playing games like Champions, GURPS, Cyberpunk, and Rolemaster, we found that play became dynamic and fun when the narration of a roll's outcome, whether successful or failed, provided stuff to work with in the next round of actions or responses.

It was especially successful in Champions because our group was extremely strongly agreed on the nature and feel of the imaginary comic we were creating, so when X was resolved by a dice roll, the description of X-resolved was a big deal. We really wanted to know what it would be like to see that in a comic, and so in describing it, that sense of excitement in seeing it was the priority.

Example of an effective roll: in Champions, a very strong character can make a shockwave by punching the ground; he merely rolls damage (which varies slightly). In one of our games, a character did this during a super-fight in a setting which was very familiar to all of us, just a few blocks away in real life at the time, in fact. The player rolled, we saw the results, and I narrated, "A crack runs up the side of the administration building." In other words, the shockwave was so powerful that this crack was generated in a nearby building.

Why was that important? Three ways. (1) It was gratifying to see the strong character exert that much force on the game-world, and so it fed very well into the next action (the villain has to check to see if he falls over). (2) In real life, the majority of the people in the game had suffered great agonies of frustration in that very building, plus it was infamous for its ugliness compared to most of the gothic buildings near it. And (3), in the game, the characters were reasonably concerned about their images as super-heroes and so we all knew that such a side-effect had some potential to be a source of conflict later.

Example of a missed roll: two very fast and agile characters are facing off in a restaurant, like a Denny's or something similar. They miss their high-speed attacks upon one another. The narration concerned how each wheeled crazily around the salad bar, changing directions, and I think that somehow (based on the specific actions), the net effect was to rearrange all the salad fixin's in a kind of whirlwind effect. This was less powerful that the first example, but it was still fun and satisfying, because both of the characters (a hero PC, a villain NPC) were sort of showboat sorts who often tried to outdo one another in terms of news and camera stunts.

In each case, we're talking about Fortune-at-the-End resolution, and thus in pure system/numbers terms, all that narration was strictly cosmetic. But then again, it wasn't! Because in each case, the narration allowed everyone at the table to respond and to comment and to get imaginatively positioned (if that makes sense) for their own characters' next move. Champions also features a 0-time monologue rule, paralleling the unrealistic convention in comics that allows a character to say a whole paragraph as an uprooted street sign rockets toward his head, which facilitated the commenting via the characters.

I found very rapidly that holding such narration only to myself as GM was a bad idea. A lot of people do that as a technique to steer the outcomes of scenes, but I don't enjoy that much, as GM or player. So we opened post-roll narration up to anyone, letting pure enthusiasm drive it, and only kicking it to me by default if inspiration was lacking for that moment. I don't recall that we ever formalized that, we just did it.

Does that help, or seem interesting?

Also, do please provide an example of actual play in which Fortune-at-the-End did seem blah or whiffy to you. It doesn't have to be elaborate or particularly astounding in any way. But reading it in your words will really help me and others to understand what you're trying to avoid.

Best, Ron
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Matt Wilson
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2007, 05:19:47 PM »

This is a cool topic, and I think it's the source of many a disappointing experience.

One issue is making a failed roll fit the character. Ron talks about this in Sorcerer and Sword. Badasses don't trip and drop swords in the middle of a fight. Both his examples above offer a "cool" result. Ron's fun that way.

The other, where a long string of actions is involved, has to do with where the failure applies. The GM might do best by embellishing on the various actions, as in, " you leap off the balcony, but the floor is slick with blood, keeping you from putting all your might into it"--note how it's not the character's fault--"which causes you to grab the chandelier at an angle, and even though you manage to correct your swing and lash out, you've given the villain just enough time to parry your thrust. At the last second, your blade is knocked aside, leaving a tiny hole in the villain's silk shirt."
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Ben Miller
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2007, 01:10:55 AM »

Hi there.

Thanks for the great replies chaps. 

Ron, yes, your examples are of interest in the sense that I can imagine them playing out in-game, but I'm not quite sure how they relate to the sort of example I gave (which is based on experiences I'm sure I've had in actual play Smiley ).   (I'll have to admit I didn't quite follow the second example - what's a fixin?)  In the second example can you remember where the roll was actually made?  Specifically, did the narration about rearranging salads happen after the rolls showed up as failures?  The first example is good - I like the idea that you attribute some real flavour (Color?) to an action, but this seems to almost be Fortune at the Beginning (or perhaps Middle), no? In other words, the strong character's player rolls well, and the GM/player inteprets that as the building cracking and this sets up a new interesting situation (perhaps the building is now unstable, the enemy can't stay standing, etc). 

In the example I gave, the player had already invested something in the 3 'actions' that led to a roll and it would feel wrong to re-write them.  Matt: I like the way you've re-phrased things in your example but (and this cuts to the reason for my initial post) that still seems like whiff to me.  It works nice on paper but isn't that going to jarr in-game?  Perhaps we can't win here and we're asking the impossible.  If you can't rewrite what someone has already said, and 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. Maybe I can only really avoid the whiff by not using Fortune at the End?

This really is a cool topic and I'd like to discuss it further - are we still OK with this discussion living here in Actual Play?  It feels like this might belong in a different forum (but in that case I'm not clear which one)?

By the way, I'll be sure to post an actual play experience based on me actually playing as soon as I can. Smiley

Thanks again for the friendly and supportive responses - this really is a great place to discuss things in a very straight and nurturing way! It warms my cockles (I've vowed to become a more active poster and less of a lurker!).

Ben
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Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2007, 02:08:26 AM »

Hi Ben,

Do you know the riddle of steel? In it you get bonus attack dice each time your character really tries to pursue their passions (the player writes a list of them, called spiritual attributes), even if the PC fails at it.

What you get there is a very strong pursuit of the characters persona - the game powers you up, gives you the most important resources in the game, if you just try to play out character. It shows what the games about.

I'm thinking about what you mean by whiff. In riddle of steel - what if you had to roll to see if you got bonus attack dice.

"My character pursues his goals and I get the most important resource in the game...oh wait, a five. No I don't"

That roll, that wiff, would start to imply pursuing character isn't the point of the game.

Okay, I've probably muddled things by talking about another game. But I'll look at what your saying
Quote
Let me first say that I really love the notion of the players acheiving what they want by 'talking it up' in this way, I just worry about the Whiff Factor.  Permit me an example: a player might reel off a good set of statements like:

1. "I leap off from the gallery, brandishing my cutlass"
2. "Grabbing hold of the chandelier I shout 'Your skin is mine!'"
3. "Swinging at my enemy, I run him through"
Is it whiff, or is it because the rolls stop the game REALLY being primarily about this 'talking it up' empowerment. I think my riddle of steel example shows how a randomiser removes character pursuit as the primary thing the games about. I think your sense of whiff might be that it stops 'talking it up' empowerment being the primary thing the games about. What do you think?

Any any old anecdotes about past games and whiff would be great - it can be a scratchy memory, thats good. Whatever we can get, we can work with Smiley
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Philosopher Gamer
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Matt Wilson
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2007, 05:15:41 AM »

Matt: I like the way you've re-phrased things in your example but (and this cuts to the reason for my initial post) that still seems like whiff to me.

How so? In the sense that your character didn't seem to accomplish anything?

Maybe hold off on answering that question until you get some AP posted. I'm wondering if "seems like whiff" on the forum is different from how you feel in the game.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2007, 06:59:01 AM »

Ben,

I've ran Wushu only once, and I may be wrong (also, I can't say anything about Seven Leagues). But unless I'm mistaken, there is a rule called Principle of Narrative Truth in Wushu. Things happen in the very moment of being narrated, unless someone vetoes them. The roll itself does not measure the player's success, as whatever he narrated already happened - it measures only the impact of his actions, whether successful or not, on the overall progress in the conflict. Also, I think there is no post-roll narration alltogether (other than Coup the Grace narration that ends the conflict), as the progress measured (opponent's loss of Chi) is an entirely abstract factor - anything narrated after the roll actually counts as embellishments towards the next roll.

So, it's far from "I hit him in the face... no, I didn't" situation, as the face would already be hit. Whether this particular bit of narration actually had enough impact too bring the character closer to a finishing blow, the dice decide - and they may say it's too soon.

Does looking at it from this perspective helps you?

Also, I noticed that in Wushu there rarely is any point not to add enough details to gain the maximum number of dice allowed by the dice cap (and it doesn't really affect the drama, since player's can add details as long as they want and in any order). So, in practice, most of the time both sides will roll the same number of dice anyway.
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Glendower
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My name is Jon.


« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2007, 10:33:34 AM »

(I'll have to admit I didn't quite follow the second example - what's a fixin?) 

A salad "fixin" is an American slang word for elements that combine to form a salad.  They include things like Crutons, Bacon bits, salad dressing, as well as the components of a salad itself (lettuce, cucumber, green pepper, olive), so that you can omit certain pieces of a salad you don't like or are perhaps allergic to.  In addition, these "fixins" are found in a buffet style table in American Restaurants called a "salad bar". Essentially they had, amusingly, "tossed a salad" with their abilities.
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Hi, my name is Jon.
Ben Miller
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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2007, 03:37:04 PM »

Right - I get it!  A fixin - I wonder what the etymology of that word is? Smiley

So, my Actual Play session of Seven Leagues didn't actually happen this evening. Sad  Somebody couldn't make it and that left just me and a single player, so we decided to postpone to sometime in the coming week.  I'll post what happens, assuming it's interesting.

Back on the topic of narrating and then rolling, what I'm getting is that basically players and GM need to police the sort of statements the are allowed to make, perhaps to the extent that they never 'finish' a conflict - the roll determines ultimate 'success' (in the sense of "did I achieve my original intent").  This seems to be the understanding in Seven Leagues, although it sounds like Wushu doesn't work that way. 

So, sticking with a Seven Leagues/traditional 'Fortune at the End' approach, it seems that a common understanding of the sort of statements that are acceptable is required to avoid potential whiff (call it what you will).  Surely you could enforce the same common understanding when playing any RPG by just ruling that you must state intent in a very general sense before rolling, and then narrating success appropriately based on the result of the roll?  I used to GM Runequest pretty much exactly this way, but it didn't encourage colourful narration from the players in the same way that Seven Leagues does (and I'm sure various other indie games do).  I see rulings along the lines of 'make your statement of intent quite general' in a lot of RPGs, but it sounds to me a bit of a cop-out.  In this day and age of RPG reinvention and innovation (spearheaded by this worthy site itself!) I want a bit more from my rules - I want them to be explicit and support (and perhaps enforce) the GM and players into a way of playing.  If not, you might as well just have a rule that says 'Do what seems best/most realistic/most fun'.

I'm aware I've not zoned-in on a couple of comments made in this thread, and I'd just like to redress that a bit (I really am reading and digesting every comment that's been made).  I've not tried the Riddle of Steel yet, but I'd quite like to.  I've heard lots of people raving about it, but somehow it has got stuck in my mind that it is designed for playing Conanesque games.  I bet I'm wrong... Smiley

Matt: the comment I made about your example still seeming to have a whiff about it was referring to the fact that the GM (or the acting player) had to adjust their statements after the roll was made to better explain how they didn't end up succeeding.  Hope that makes sense.

Cheers
Ben
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Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2007, 09:42:02 PM »

Hi Ben,

I wasn't suggesting to you you try riddle of steel, I was giving an example of how you can take a game that works at doing X and by adding a dice roll, break it and make it 'whiffy'. I was wondering if your game had the same sort of break.

From what you say about seven seas, it sounds like it might. But I'm going to hold on and think about it for awhile before posting on that.

With the game that didn't happen, could you tell us what talk went on when people suggested the game? It's almost an actual play and it'll help fill out this thread better.
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Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2007, 09:32:58 AM »

Hello Ben,

I'm having the feeling you're narrowing the meaning of Fortune-at-the-End (FatE), since you seem to tie it to specific events in the fiction (or Shared Imaginary Space if we want to get ugly).

I'll try to clear up how you can use traditional systems in a fun way. As a matter of fact, you're already there, I'm just expanding with some jargon.

First, I'll toss up the issue of IIEE: Intent, Initiation, Execution and Effect. These are things that the characters have or do in the SIS. In play, they are not necessarily as cleanly distinguished as here in the theory, but it's useful to know that one can indeed separate the descriptions, if need be.

I'll make a statement that might at first seem to contradict the Provisional Glossary, by saying that FatE can happen at any time during the IIEE sequence.
Vincent Baker has a great comment about it (with a cute diagram) and some examples.

Basically, FatE just means that you don't modify the roll once it's made. In Ron and Matt's examples, it seems like they were rolling before describing the Effects, using the rolled dice as an inspiration to the exact effects.
In your example, it seems like you think it means to narrate all the four steps, then look for validation or refusal in the roll. I agree that this leads to unsatisfactory narration when you need to say "in fact, no" after a passionate description.

Fortune-in-the-Middle lets you spend some additional currency to change the result of the roll. Particularly interesting to show one's commitment to an outcome (specifically what it means to the player).

To resume: IIEE is the stuff in the fiction, FatE can be inserted at any step as a springboard for narrating the remaining steps.



Example for the Pool (possibly Wushu as well, I'm not sure it would fit 100%):

Christoph states that Golden Dragon (his character) wants to kill Vile Scorpion and describes: "I dive forward to dodge the throwing knife, skid on the kerosene-soaked floor and rise right in front of the Scorpion with a powerful uppercut."
(Tentative IIE.)
Rolls dice.

Crappy roll! -> possible Effect "Scorpion wipes the little trickle of blood from his nose with a hideous laugh"
(Actually, my character kind of succeeds, but in no significant way.)

Great roll! -> possible Effect "Scorpion is thrown back a few feet, his sword grinds against the metal, setting off sparks... and Golden Dragon just manages to jump out of the window as the building goes up in flame"


See how this ties back to all the other examples with FatE systems?

Happy playing!
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Regards,
Christoph
Simon C
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Posts: 495


« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2007, 04:23:15 PM »

I think someone above covered this as well, but it's worth reiterating.  In WuShu, what you say happens, actually happens, as soon as you say it does.  If you say "I jump off the balcony, kick him in the face a dozen times, then roundhouse his head off his shoulders, that's what happens.  The dice roll tells you whether that action was significant in terms of resolving the fight. A low roll here would mean the GM would narrate something like: "His head bounces and rolls across the floor, to the feet of a masked figure, who stoops and picks it up.  You see his eyes narrow. "You killed my brother, prepare to die." The fight isn't over yet, becasue the player rolled low. You can apply this same technique to other games, but it's more difficult.  WuShu has a great deal of flexibility, because the dice tell you the significance of an action, not the effect.  Most other games don't work like this. A "roll to hit" mechanic, for example, clearly prohibits narrating the attack until after the dice are rolled. 
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Ben Miller
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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2007, 09:34:19 AM »

Ok... plenty to digest here.  Thanks everyone.  I'm thinking now that narration and FatE just don't mix very well unless the players and GM are pretty disciplined in the statement of intent and exection phases.  I came across a system called Elegant Role Playing (ERP) recently and thought that had an interesting take on things.  I imagine it's similar to The Pool but more crunchy.  Basically, your die roll buys you a number of statements that you can make about the success.  I suppose that's kind of FatB, which I think is a model that I'm warming to.

I'll post my real actual play experience (with Seven Leagues) very soon (hopefully in the next two days!).

Ben
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Thomas Lawrence
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« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2007, 01:37:51 PM »

From what I can understand, the example given in the original post would work just fine in Wushu, with the possible exception that statement three might violate the "coup de grace" rule (by saying that you "run him through" - it rather depends on if running this guy through is the overall point of the conflict or not).

The reason being, it doesn't matter with regard to all that narration whether the roll at the end fails or succeeds - you still do all that stuff. It just doesn't help you win.
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2007, 01:52:09 PM »

Ben

You've had a week to think about it (and I just saw the thread today) so I'll throw in my views on Fortune at the End.

A lot of narrativist games use fortune in the middle. A player starts off describing a scene building up a pool of dice. Somewhere in the middle they roll and the roll determins who will finish describing the scene. This method limits the break in flow that too many dice rolls can cause.

I do a variation on that that uses fortune at the end. In Engle Matrix Games players make a statement (called an argument in EMGs) about what happens next in the game. These statements are bigger than saying "I hit him". Instead they describe the whole scene "1st I call him out so he has to fight me. Then I insult him so he is mad and makes mistakes. That is when I punch his lights out. His boys stand by in amazement." This is then judged by a referee who decides what the player has to roll for  it to happen. The roll is made and it either happens or doesn't - Fortune at the end.

Players can interrupt one another to make counter-arguments so the narration is interactive (and competitive) but the roll is always at the end.

I know this is different than what you initially described but it does fit the parameters. Hope it helps.

Chris Engle

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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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