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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 62 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [psi run] Why can I read minds? second try  (Read 1930 times)
chris_moore
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« on: March 23, 2007, 08:05:15 AM »

Previously, I described Psi Run's situation.

Characters:
Quote
1)  have a psychic power
2)  have been captured by a shadowy organization
3)  can't remember their past
4)  have just survived a car crash, which has killed their guards
5) are on the run
Characters may choose whatever traits they wish, but they must be posed as questions, since they don't remember anything about their background. Questions can range from "Why can I stare at someone and make them obey me?" to "Why is there a white streak in my hair?"  One thing characters do is remember the answers to those questions (as a product of conflict resolution). 

MY question is this:  I don't want the characters to have comic book scale traits (especially powers), since they are on the run, and need to be vulnerable.  What kind of parameters can I set around "trait questions" that would accomplish this?

Thanks, Chris
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2007, 10:49:33 AM »

What if the player questions were combined with GM questions and the GM scaled their questions in proportion to the players.

e.g.  if the player says "why do I get these brief flashes of what's about to happen" (i.e. something relatively tame by psi standards) the GM might add "why is that grey haired gentleman watching you funny, haven't you seen him somewhere before?"

if the player says "why am I suddenly able to make people's head explode from 100 yards away and disintegrate 10 feet thick concrete walls with a thought" the GM might add "why is a black armored vehicle with a crazy flashing antennae pulling up outside and a dozen armed men in futuristic helmets and body armor surrounding your building?"


In other words if the GM response scales up to meet (or exceed) the player's narration, players will be motivated to keep their narration more modest until such time as it becomes more worth while to bring down major opposition.


Methods like this I think are more effective in the long run than admonishments and boundaries.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2007, 12:05:12 PM »

I think rifts style power creep follows trumps though - the GM trumps the player, but the GM's just another person so the player isn't going to just let another person have the last word, so they go to trump them with their next narration.

If they need to be vulnerable, you can do it like with running before - you just made them run, but they decide why. Here you can just say as part of the game text that they just are vulnerable, but they get to decide...what? With running, the question revolved around character motivation. Here you could design it the same way - leave it to the player to write a character motivation and they might write 'But I don't like to control people - it's like raping them' or 'I don't want to explode peoples heads...what am I, some sort of monster? No!'

Or it could be resource management - everytime they use a power, they lose X amount of points in their 'learn about my past' score. As GM you decide what X amount is for each power.
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chris_moore
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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2007, 12:14:48 PM »

Quote
But I don't like to control people - it's like raping them' or 'I don't want to explode peoples heads...what am I, some sort of monster? No!'

Funny you should mention this...this is a "conflict category" in the game, which I'll be dealing with in another thread.

Thanks for the feedback!
Chris
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Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2007, 12:32:06 PM »

I don't know Callan, I think the sort of players who would resort to those sorts of juvenile power trips aren't really the target audience for a game that grants high levels of responsibility to the entire playgroup anyway...I mean there's a reason why a certain demographic of player gravitates towards games like Rifts.

I mean if you trust your players enough to share authority with them to this extent to begin with, than IMO when one of them comes up a somewhat escalated power you trust that their doing it for dramatically appropriate reasons.  The GM's scaled response isn't a Trump rule...its a "let me know when you're ready for the big guns" rule.  The players know in advance that when they escalate their powers the GM will escalate the threat.  Its not a question of punishment, its a question of pacing.  Early niether the characters nor the players are ready for the huge climactic showdown.  Later on, when they are, the switch to go that way is thrown by the players.

Heroes uses this sort of pacing.  Early on in the show super powers were subtle, rarely seen overtly and had limited impact on others.  Now...the powers are more obvious and more superish, and the response from the antagonists is greater and greater.

Might not be exactly what Chris is looking for, but I think its an effective method.

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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2007, 05:17:23 PM »

Effective, but probably quite a different path - I think Chris wants vulnerability as a means to some sort of end, rather than the end itself (which is along the lines of looking at power level 1 vs power level 1, then power level 5 vs power level 5, and so on).

Chris, am I reading you right at all? At the mo I kind of see an idea that's like an apple press - the vulnerability helps squeeze something out of the characters and that 'something' is the end your going for.
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Ken
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« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2007, 06:07:06 PM »

MY question is this:  I don't want the characters to have comic book scale traits (especially powers), since they are on the run, and need to be vulnerable.  What kind of parameters can I set around "trait questions" that would accomplish this?

I think another way to keep character powers in line is to give mystery flaws to powers that seem disruptive or too powerful. In an attempt to be different from the other players, it may only be a matter of time before someone creates a powerful that may be to hard to wrangle. "How do I walk through walls?", "Why does my touch vaporize anything I touch?", "Why can nothing hurt me?", "Why can I lift 100 tons?","Why do I ALWAYS know when I'm in danger?" Its bound to happen. Aside from trying to set the scale ahead of time, allowing these powers may not be so bad, if you add reprocussions to their use; the more out of control a power seems, the more flaws you add (surprise the players with them...it'll make it fun). You may even be able to chart out how may flaws you add to a power based on how useful it is.

A character may pick and choose when they use their abilities if it totally drains them, or knocks them out, or something.

I did something like this about 15 years ago, where the players described the power they wanted to have, and I gave it to them; though there was much more to their abilities than they expected. As they became aware of there powers, discovery became a game driver. You may even let them buy off some of their flaws as they become more skilled with using their powers . My experience with this type of story is that the fun runs out when (a) the characters know all there is to know about their powers and (b)when they are so powerful they no longer fear the enemy.

Hope that help, game sounds like it could be very cool. Keep it up,

Ken
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knicknevin
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« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2007, 07:44:45 AM »

That's a good approach Ken: it's always better to make the players question their own limits than to get into an arms race with them over who can narrate the heaviest repsonse to the previous narration!

I think the idea that Valamir put forward is fine for a Wushu-style game where the PCs have cinematic lives and can expect to survive the unsurvivable. For a more rooted, gritty game, its good to give the PCs what they want but then show them that that is not neccessarily what they need.
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chris_moore
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2007, 08:32:38 AM »

Thanks, all!

One of the neat things about the game, in my opinion, is that players may narrate however they wish, within the established constraints.  So, no matter how powerful they make themselves, they are still On the Run.  So I think Valamir's response is my choice for now.  It's the GM's and the players responsibility to respond to, "Okay, in light of what just happened, how are you still On the Run?"  In my experience, these types of constraints do not hinder, but channel creativity into surprising directions. 

The conflict resolution system does that too.  Coming soon.

Thanks again, Chris
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2007, 10:10:32 AM »

A thought that first comes to me in relation to what Ralph suggested is that the opposite way to having a counterweight balance is to have a self-policed, clearly set policy limitation. Essentially, just say that "characters should have no superhero powers" and be done with it. Of course, it is useful to analyze this further and condence into a more powerful and less vague criterion that does not require familiarity with superheroes. For example:
- The power cannot solve problems, only open new venues for solving them.
- The power will always lose to appropriate experts (soldiers, in case of destructive stuff) expecting it, whatever the power is.
- The power will never reach the national news.
Any of the above examples would work to effectively guarantee that you wouldn't have to scale the power level too high. In addition, this approach allows one to use a resource system where players actually can sacrifice something to momentarily surpass the limitation, whatever it is. Suffering brain hemorrage to blast your enemies is certainly within genre, anyway. You could even have more limitations, or player-set limitations (in the form of questions?) if you wanted, in this case. That might be useful, I don't know.

Otherwise, what Ralph said. It's also useful to make escalation absolutely useless in terms of resources, so power escalation only matters for the theme.
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2007, 01:40:57 PM »

Thanks, all!

One of the neat things about the game, in my opinion, is that players may narrate however they wish, within the established constraints.  So, no matter how powerful they make themselves, they are still On the Run.  It's the GM's and the players responsibility to respond to, "Okay, in light of what just happened, how are you still On the Run?" 

Yeah, that's excellent.  Flip it back to them.  "So given that you can now blow up people's heads, how come you're still on the run" may be the only thing the GM needs to say.  Let the players come up with the Black Armored vehicle and the SWAT team in the psi-proof body armor.
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