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Author Topic: [Avalanche using TSOY] - Battles, battles and more battles ...  (Read 4645 times)
pells
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Posts: 192


« on: March 29, 2007, 10:45:33 AM »

Well, continuing our adventures (and playtesting) of Avalanche. So, here it goes ...

The context
We had not been playing for a while now : almost ten months (since my child was born) !!! For one reason or another (seven to nine weeks of vacations in France tends to complicate those kind of things) we didn't have the chance to play. Well, now we're back again and ready to play on a more regular basis for the coming months !!! It was our second session using the solar system and our 18th (or so) overall session.

The game in itself
Last time we played, we left the game at the beginning of a big battle : the PCs were entering into a catacomb, as other militaries were there to hunt down a great menace. The good news was that the players didn't have to take any political parts ; since the last time we played was so long ago, they had to take their time to put all the pieces together.
It turned out we played more than three hours of battles !!! We had never done that before ... Overall, we played two days (also a first) into the calendar.
It was quite fun : a good game to restart. By the time the session was over, they had put back all the pieces together ...

About Avalanche
We did almost nothing concerning the plot (so few days into the calendar), so we didn't learn much about Avalanche. That said, here's a couple of things that came to me :
- They were facing a very strong foe. In fact, they wouldn't have stand a chance confronting him directly. It reminded me that the "levels of strength" of the proganists depict in the plot are various. Sometimes, the PCs are strong enough, sometimes not. It is for them to make the call ...
- The pace is so slow. At the end, they were trying to figure out what to do next. They are aware that if they stay in this city to continue the hunt, this will take much time. Their primary objective (I'll come to that later) is to save the king. To acheive it they have a deadline of less than a month and much ground to cover. I don't think they'll stay in this city.
- The impact of things happening in the world. Previously, they chose to go south as other main characters (Theobald) went north. At the end of the session, they heard news (rumors, maybe ?) from that region. They had not been there for the last month. Their reaction was immediate : "Ho no !!! Maybe this won't go as we planned. They are making mistakes. They will be in trouble soon ..." Giving their knowlegde of the world (they traveled a lot and know many characters), even if they choose a different paths, they also try to be kept informed about other plots, almost ready to jump into them if needed. That's cool. Well, that's what I'm looking for.
- We debriefed after the game about their feelings toward the "cycles" problematic (they started with no memory of who they are) : everything seems fine according to them. They have so much on their hands that this goes into the background. Still interesting to them, but in the very long term.

About the solar system

This is the right choice
We're getting into it, and pretty deep. I still find it amusing and somehow strange. For instance, the first time we came to throw dices, we negociated about the results and not the intent !!! We realised it soon enough. Repeating myself here from other posts, but this all make so much more sense !!!
Otherwise, strange as it is, the session was almost constitute of battles, but still, TSOY worked out pretty well. The pace is fast and I find it more exciting than the usual hit points system of d20. And note that never the PCs chose to break down the pain and they realised it is pretty risky : once you're into it, it goes very fast !!!
Last thing maybe : I kept the battles to a minimum. The PCs affronted "archetypes" of adversaries. Once they would have defeated them, they would not fight them again. This seems fine with everyone ...

Keys
For one reason or another, the first time we played, the PCs didn't have keys. A big mistake. So, at the beginning of the session, we chose keys for them.
I like not giving the xp to the players, it's great !!! And they are really encourage to hit those as it is their only way to progress. Well, by the end of the session, they made between 7 and 15 xp each, which seems like a good advance.
I think playing without keys doesn't make much sense I guess ...

Playtesting
I'm currently working with Eero to make an adaptation of the solar system for Avalanche (to be honest, Eero is doing all the job, I just reread and help ...). Eero came with a problematic and a solution, so I playtested it ...
The solar system, as it is build with the keys, doesn't necessarily encourage group adventuring, as PCs might be tempted to split any group as to hit their keys. But Avalanche is maybe best suited for group adventuring. So, Eero is trying to come up with some kind of mechanics to encourage this.
Here's an example :

Quote
Secret of the Party Quest
The character's adventuring party takes on a side quest, which may modify or extend the goals of the party. The character and his whole party is considered to have the Key of the Quest for the quest in question, except that it cannot be bought off by any other character. Each character may only have one Secret of the Quest at a time, and the Secret is removed when the player opts to buy off the Key.

Key of the Quest
The character has a quest he has committed to.
1 xp - Investigate about the quest.
2 xp - Act towards the quest.
5 xp - Make significant progress in the quest.
Buyoff - Fulfill the quest, or abandon it.

Now, that's something I really wanted to playtest, so I gave the secret and key to the each member of the group. But which quest ? That's the funny part.
First of all, we agree that a quest is not to be understand in a strict Avalanche way. It is not necessarily a story. It could be a subplot, or quite franckly, anything ... The big dilemma for the players was : "do we go for a long term quest, that will probably last all the way to the end, or a smaller one, and rechange later ?". For instance, they could have chosen a quest related to their sudden appearance into the world (cycling), that would last until the end.
They decided to choose a small one : the quest to save the king of Carcandas. Well, that's not a story, not even a subplot. No one cares about the king ... except the PCs now !!! I don't know exactly why, they got into their mind that the king would be assassinated on his birthday. I guess you could see it that way. He'll need rescue, that's for sure, but things are not exactly as the players think they are. Anyway, this seems to me like a viable quest, so that's fine.
But what would happen if the PCs come to choose a non viable quest ?

They hitted that key only once during the session, for 2 XPs. They "discovered" that the ones who are helping the guys they were hunting are also the ones that would try to kill the king. Major information from their point of view. But it's not exactly like that. I chose to let them take the XPs (anyway, I don't manage that anymore) and let them believe they were right.

Talking with the players about this key, they find it very nice and very coherent with Avalanche. That way they would be able to hit keys altogether. Now, they told me that this key wouldn't have prevented them to change plots all the time. They think it is very useful to the DM. Given the numbers of plots they can take part in, this key may help he DM for his preparation. I guess they are right.

A quick question : what would prevent PCs to choose a very small quest for a short period of time and then come back to the other ? Once they leave a quest, can they retake it afterward ?

Questions
We've came across some difficulties and interrogations about the use of Solar system. So, here they are :

Case study 1 :
A pyromancer is using his magical power to attack two undead in front of him. His intention is to hurt both. Now, he throws his dices, got three success. I throw the resist for the undead, one success and none. Now, how do you attribute damage ? Three to each (thus two and three) ? Three among them, at the caster's discretion ?
We did the last option, the mage having knowledge of the score of the resist of each undead.

Case study 2 :
Three PCs are forcing a blocked door. Level of success needed is 4. According to the rules, we start with the PC with the strongest ability score and then "report" his success level as bonus dice to the next one. We throw the first dices, 4 successes. Then, the door is open, right ? No need to report the success ? Seems to us that this works that way ...

Case study 3 :
The group are fighting a golem. The mage and an archer are quite easy to manage, but the other PCs (let's called them A, B and C) pose us some problems as they were all three fighting the golem in close combat.
The intentions of A, B and C were to damage the golem.
The golem's intention was to hurt B.
Now, how does this work exactly ?
- A is attacking the golem. We assume that the golem would resist normally. Does it need to specify this as an intention ? Can it spend dices from a pool for this "action" ? If A has less success than the golem, do the golem does some damage to A ? If A has, let's say, 3 more successes than the golem, does he damage it for 3 or does he transfert those three dices to the next player ?
- A is attacking the golem. He only got 1 success more than the golem. Knowing that the golem reduce one damage, can A transfert this damage as a bonus dice to B ?
- If the intention of the golem was to hit all three PCs, how would that work ?
 
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2007, 12:08:29 PM »

I'm currently working with Eero to make an adaptation of the solar system for Avalanche (to be honest, Eero is doing all the job, I just reread and help ...).

Actually, now that you're playing again: do tell me if you'd like to have any specific setting material TSOYified for your campaign. I'm working pretty randomly at this point, so one thing is as good as another to me.

Quote
Secret of the Party Quest
The character's adventuring party takes on a side quest, which may modify or extend the goals of the party. The character and his whole party is considered to have the Key of the Quest for the quest in question, except that it cannot be bought off by any other character. Each character may only have one Secret of the Quest at a time, and the Secret is removed when the player opts to buy off the Key.

Key of the Quest
The character has a quest he has committed to.
1 xp - Investigate about the quest.
2 xp - Act towards the quest.
5 xp - Make significant progress in the quest.
Buyoff - Fulfill the quest, or abandon it.

Just to make sure we're on the same page here: the Key of the Quest in itself is just a normal Key, which anybody can take. It's the Secret that's different: if a character takes the Secret, him and all his compatriots in the party are considered to have the Key for all purposes. This is good for "bribing" your fellows: if you want to influence your party to do something, get the Secret here and suddenly all party members have some incentive to start furthering your quest.

On the other hand, some times you might have a quest that you don't want to share - in that case, just take the Key and not the Secret.

Quote
Now, that's something I really wanted to playtest, so I gave the secret and key to the each member of the group. But which quest ? That's the funny part.
First of all, we agree that a quest is not to be understand in a strict Avalanche way. It is not necessarily a story. It could be a subplot, or quite franckly, anything ... The big dilemma for the players was : "do we go for a long term quest, that will probably last all the way to the end, or a smaller one, and rechange later ?". For instance, they could have chosen a quest related to their sudden appearance into the world (cycling), that would last until the end.

Yeah, that's an interesting position. Note that if you're talking about one quest only, the way I intented it to work is that one specific player pays the Advance and buys the Secret, getting to decide the quest. So technically there is no need for a concensus procedure if you don't want one.

On the other hand, all players could have the same Key of the Quest, in which case everybody indeed pays the Advance separately and has the option of buying off the Key. So whether the Key comes from the Secret or not really does make a difference.

Quote
They decided to choose a small one : the quest to save the king of Carcandas. Well, that's not a story, not even a subplot. No one cares about the king ... except the PCs now !!! I don't know exactly why, they got into their mind that the king would be assassinated on his birthday. I guess you could see it that way. He'll need rescue, that's for sure, but things are not exactly as the players think they are. Anyway, this seems to me like a viable quest, so that's fine.
But what would happen if the PCs come to choose a non viable quest ?

That's one of the big questions we have to figure out if we're to marry TSOY and Avalanche in a solid manner. My preliminary theory is that the background material should only be semi-secret; the SG makes no special effort to hide things from the players, and when playing, they get to know everything that's happening in the calendar. I imagine that this will go a long way towards helping players choose feasible goals for their characters.

But that's something I'll worry about more when I have enough material and time to play Avalanche/TSOY myself. Will still be a while at this point, but quality is worth the wait...

Quote
They hitted that key only once during the session, for 2 XPs. They "discovered" that the ones who are helping the guys they were hunting are also the ones that would try to kill the king. Major information from their point of view. But it's not exactly like that. I chose to let them take the XPs (anyway, I don't manage that anymore) and let them believe they were right.

Yeah, that's right. If the players have reason to believe that their action furthers the quest, it doesn't matter if it actually doesn't. It matters for the big 5 xp award, though.

Quote
A quick question : what would prevent PCs to choose a very small quest for a short period of time and then come back to the other ? Once they leave a quest, can they retake it afterward ?

The Key mechanics control this well enough. Characters can only have five Keys, but more significantly, players can practically only hit two or at most three Keys per scene. So even if a player were a complete prima donna, constantly hogging attention, he still wouldn't be able to utilize more Keys than a couple at a time. So in that regard it's not necessary to worry about how many Keys a character has.

More significantly, if a player decides to sell his Key, he can't get the same Key again! So if a character were to abandon his quest for the king's life, for example, he certainly could come back to the quest later - but without the Key. And if a player were to get other Keys and go off, keeping the Key of the Quest but ignoring it, he's just lugging around a Key that's not any use to him.

(Remember that you're not forced to buy off a Key even if you hit the buyoff condition. So a character could well "abandon the quest" only to come back to it later, as long as he kept the Key. Or he could buy off the Key when he abandons the quest, but then he can't get it back, ever.)

Lastly, if you're worried that a player takes on a very easy quest, which he can solve immediately and buy off the Key: the SG's job is to make even a seemingly minor quest challenging, as the player is indicating with his Key choice that this is a big deal to him. And if a player manages to pick such an easy quest that the SG doesn't see any challenge in it... that's system abuse. I've never seen that happen, mind you: if somebody doesn't like the TSOY system, he usually leaves the game long before he figures out how to abuse the system in that manner. (Not that it's hard: TSOY makes no effort against malevolent min-maxing, because trying to force people to play in a certain way doesn't work.)

Quote
Case study 1 :
A pyromancer is using his magical power to attack two undead in front of him. His intention is to hurt both. Now, he throws his dices, got three success. I throw the resist for the undead, one success and none. Now, how do you attribute damage ? Three to each (thus two and three) ? Three among them, at the caster's discretion ?
We did the last option, the mage having knowledge of the score of the resist of each undead.

Technically, this depends on what is happening. The rules behave differently in and out of BDtP, for instance. The damage sharing would be the correct way in Zeitgeist BDtP, for example. But most of the time "three to each" is the correct interpretation. Or rather, it depends on whether the pyromancer is doing an "area effect" which obviously hurts the whole group of enemies, or just something that focuses on one enemy. Ideally the mage should have to pay in some manner for the ability to hurt several enemies at once, but it depends on the magic system.

When playing in Near this is all very easy, because all magic systems in Near define how they act in this regard. For example, in Threecorner magic you have to pay separately for several targets; in Zu you get all targets who are affected for free; in shamanism you only ever affect one target at a time, and so on.

As you don't play in Near, however, it's left to the group to determine how their magic exactly works. The magic rules I wrote presume that you only ever affect as many targets as you manage to get inside your area of effect. So when using those rules, if the pyromancer managed to make a large enough fire to burn two enemies, both of them would be affected separately.

Quote
Case study 2 :
Three PCs are forcing a blocked door. Level of success needed is 4. According to the rules, we start with the PC with the strongest ability score and then "report" his success level as bonus dice to the next one. We throw the first dices, 4 successes. Then, the door is open, right ? No need to report the success ? Seems to us that this works that way ...

Technically it does not. It's a very good interpretation, however. Downright excellent, now that you mention it.

The problem here is that characters forcing a blocked door should really be working from weakest to strongest, not the other way around. The default rules assume that additional participants might come in the way of the more competent individuals, but this is rather obviously not the case for breaking down a door. So if the group feels it sensible, I'd reverse the order in this case.

However, I like your idea, too. It's a very simple and elegant way of solving that particular situation. TSOY has always been a bit vague in the way it handles several characters in one conflict, mostly because it presumes a certain level of fiction evaluation: there are several ways of arranging a multiple-participant conflict both in and out of BDtP, and the one you pick depends greatly on the particulars of the situation. For example, the consequences of failed support rolls: the SG determines on a per-conflict basis whether the whole conflict fails if one of the support characters fails; the determination is based on what the characters are factually doing in the situation.

Quote
Case study 3 :
The group are fighting a golem. The mage and an archer are quite easy to manage, but the other PCs (let's called them A, B and C) pose us some problems as they were all three fighting the golem in close combat.
The intentions of A, B and C were to damage the golem.
The golem's intention was to hurt B.
Now, how does this work exactly ?
- A is attacking the golem. We assume that the golem would resist normally. Does it need to specify this as an intention ? Can it spend dices from a pool for this "action" ? If A has less success than the golem, do the golem does some damage to A ? If A has, let's say, 3 more successes than the golem, does he damage it for 3 or does he transfert those three dices to the next player ?
- A is attacking the golem. He only got 1 success more than the golem. Knowing that the golem reduce one damage, can A transfert this damage as a bonus dice to B ?
- If the intention of the golem was to hit all three PCs, how would that work ?

There's been a couple of discussions about the multiple-character BDtP in the CRN Games forum lately. It's a complex topic, which is further muddled when individualist like me go and intentionally play against the rules as laid out in the book. There are some problems in those rules, you see.

However, to answer for the official rules: each intent in BDtP is paired with a target character against which the intent is directed. So if a golem had the intent of killing B, his target would be B. This means that B is the only character who needs to resist the golem, and the only character the golem might harm.

Furthermore, you have to declare what you're rolling for in the free-and-clear phase. So A would have to decide whether he'll roll support for B or attack independently at this point.

Most incidiously, if several characters are acting against the golem: the golem only resists one of them, the rest get their attacks in without resistance. This is lethal, and good reason to not go into BDtP against overwhelming force. It's also a rule that is very commonly changed around.

Because I'm going to institute my own rules fiddling in the Avalanche/TSOY version, let me outline some simple BDtP suggestions you might find useful for further play. It seems to me that you're playing a very party-based game where the player characters are often acting in concert against SG characters. This is not the basic assumption of TSOY, so it's normal rules do not work as well as they should in this case. Here's what you should switch around to make the game relate better to your gaming style:
- All characters with identical intents are always assumed to be in Zeitgeist as per the rules.
- Characters in Zeitgeist may use their pools for others' benefit and make ability checks either to support the primary actor or to make defensive actions.
- Who is harmed by the action of a given character depends on the action description; which actions are defended against by a given defensive action depends on the action description. So a character might assault a group of enemies by felling the ceiling on them, or he could defend against multiple enemies by retreating swiftly.
I suspect that this manner of BDtP will work much better for you if you find yourself often in BDtP with multiple characters who group into clearly delineated parties.

Here's a thread that goes deeper into the issue of multiparticipant BDtP.

Lastly, one clarification: you do know that characters declare their intent for BDtP only once at the beginning of the conflict, and changing it requires one round? And you know the difference between intent and the action description made at the beginning of a round? I ask this because your example, above, has characters with "intention to harm the golem", which doesn't sound like an intent nor an action description. Specifically, this is what we want to hear:
Intent: "I want to escape from the golem", "I want to destroy the golem", "I want to scare the golem away".
Action statement: "I step forward and slash it with my sword", "I cast a fire spell on the golem", "I speak forgotten words upon it in an effort to trigger the root program".

See the difference? Actions are stated each round, and they drive the conflict towards the resolution of the intent. This might all be obvious to you, I'm just making sure that we're on the same page. BDtP works differently from normal conflict resolution exactly in that it makes this difference, and utilizing the full power of the rules requires making the distinction.
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pells
Member

Posts: 192


« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2007, 03:47:14 AM »

Two things I forgot to mention :
- Last time we played, I didn't have much illustrations ; mostly what is in the teaser. But, in the last months, I received a lot of them ; I'm at more than two hundred at the moment. So, I began to use them during the session. Very good effect. Very useful.
- After the battle, they met with the regeant of the city. They had not been for the last two months and got an overview of what had happened. Then again, they learned things about a plot they were not following.

Quote
On the other hand, some times you might have a quest that you don't want to share - in that case, just take the Key and not the Secret.

It turned out I gave each of them the keys (which is the same as the secret/key to a single character in my case). I didn't see the key as you explain it right here, but it seems a viable way to use it. That said, I really wanted to playtest it as an encouragement to party adventuring. I guess one character can decide the quest for the other, but as my group is very tied, they came to a concensus. Quite franckly, that was very fun to see them decide it.

Quote
That's one of the big questions we have to figure out if we're to marry TSOY and Avalanche in a solid manner. My preliminary theory is that the background material should only be semi-secret; the SG makes no special effort to hide things from the players, and when playing, they get to know everything that's happening in the calendar. I imagine that this will go a long way towards helping players choose feasible goals for their characters.

Well, most of the things are not hidden and is common knowlegde. Some events (and how they exactly occured) might be a secret, as long as the PCs don't get the information from the right source. But there is also the rumours. PCs might come to think that an event occured in a given way, but it's not true. The secret/non secret problematic must be apprended as in the real world.
As for non viable quest, I'm thinking of things like "prevent a war between two factions" who are not going to war. Well, I guess PCs will hit the key (and gain xp) as they investigate it, soon to discover that there is no war ongoing ... thus abandonning the quest. I think it makes sense : they'll gain xp anyway to dicover that this non viable.

Quote
Yeah, that's right. If the players have reason to believe that their action furthers the quest, it doesn't matter if it actually doesn't. It matters for the big 5 xp award, though.

I do also think it needs to be that way. And, trust me, I found this very funny.

Quote
More significantly, if a player decides to sell his Key, he can't get the same Key again!

Well, then it's perfect !!! And I'm not particulary afraid of too easy quest, as much of small quest and switching back and forth between short term and long term. Obviously, I don't have to worry about it ...

Quote
The magic rules I wrote presume that you only ever affect as many targets as you manage to get inside your area of effect. So when using those rules, if the pyromancer managed to make a large enough fire to burn two enemies, both of them would be affected separately.

Okay, this makes sense. I'll come back with an example below. Just to mention, we didn't have the chance to playtest the rules you wrote about pyromancy. There is a pyromancer in the group, but I arrived late at the game and we didn't have the time to implement the rules to his character. But, next time for sure, especially since he uses a lot of his power.

Well, now I'm going into the combat system with multi combattants. I do think I did a couple of things wrong, and I'll present examples. But I'd like to mention one thing first : if this kind of situations arises some problems in TSOY, he needs to be cleared for Avalanche. Because, for me, Avalanche is not much about the power of an individual, but the power of a group, a faction. It is about the balance of power that is inherent to betrayal and trust among factions. So, there are going to big battles, but also, in the typical events (already prewritten, outside the PCs' influence) one the faction is usually outnumbered : dragonhunters are hunting a dragon, black orcs are confronting many opponents at once, and maybe most importantly, the white orcs. This race is always, but always more numerous than its opponents. Humans should be able to stand against them even if outnumbered. My concern is that this kind of situations will be frequent (with or without PCs. For instance, with my group, almost all battles involve an outnumbered group) and being outnumbered shouldn't give such a big advantage (but still one, that's for sure).

I've got two problems beforehand :

Passive attribute
React, Resist and Endure were considered during the game as passive attribute; by default. If I look at your analysis, that seems the case :

Quote
My basic rule of thumb is always that a Passive Ability will always resist, moment-to-moment, all enemy action that falls into its purview.

My question is : can I "resist" while doing an action related to another intention ? Example : the golem is trying to kill B, A attacks the golem, does the golem can "resist" on endure ? If so, can he spend points from its pool doing so ? Does he need to explicitly mention he is resisting ?

Quote
Most incidiously, if several characters are acting against the golem: the golem only resists one of them, the rest get their attacks in without resistance. This is lethal, and good reason to not go into BDtP against overwhelming force. It's also a rule that is very commonly changed around.

Well, I have a problem with going into BDtP, I'll come to it below. Beside that, only resist one ? Wow !!! That's too lethal for me !!!

Here's what we have done. The golem has the intend to kill only one character. We considered the passive attribute as something like "self preversion" that do not need to be mention. Quite franckly, what's the difference between "I want to kill B" and "I want to kill B while protecing myself from the others" ? Explicit vs implicit from my point of view. So, we figured the golem could resist all atttacks, but could not use points from his pools to do so.

About the resist, we came across a big problem last session : arrows !!! If you can't resist such attacks, they turned out be the ultimate weapon !!!

Assigning damage
If I'm not wrong, the rules state that damage are only assigned in BDtP, except otherwise mentionned (spells, for instance). BDtP can only be triggered by PCs. So, here's three situations we came across :

Situation 1 :
The PCs enter the catacombs and come across two undeads fighting a human. The undeads seem to have the upperhand. One of the PCs, Aldor, who is a "cycling" cleric, reincarnation of the god of thruth, light and justice states his intention : "I'm calling upon my god to destroy them" (ie something like turn undead). We throw the dices. Here, I threw a resist check (without the possiblity to add any dices or use any ability/secret) for the undeads, without any success. Was that roll okay ? Anyway, Aldor had five successes. He gained narrative power :"They return into the light, their corpses, made of darkness, dissolve ; their weapons and armour fall into the ground." Fine with me at that level of success.
Thinking about this, it didn't even occur to us to discuss if only one or the two were damaged.

Situation 2 :
The PCs are fighting two undeads. Two PCs are in close combat with them, one is using spells, the other is using arrows. We didn't have here, by the way, any problem with the multi opponents problematic. Now, facing one PC, we act together, opposed to kill each other. The undead win by one level of success. What does that mean ? Is the PC killed unless he goes into BDtP ? What about the other way around : is the undead killed by one degree of success from the PCs ?
We acted that the PC would get one damage, and that going into BDtP is useful when there is a lot of diffrence between the levels of success. But I think we were wrong, as damage should be distributed when going into BDtP. But, on the other hand, only one level of success ?

Situation 3 :
The PCs enter a room where there are two golems guarding an opposite door. They seem to be unactive at the moment. The PCs decide to target one golem with arrows. Now, the pyromancer state his intention : "I want to imbue the arrow with exploding capabilities that woul do more damage to the golem". The ranger states his intention : "I want to destroy the golem with the arrow". The pyromancer throw the dice, his level of success being "tarnsfered" as bonus damange to the arrow if it hits. Is it alright to play that way ? The ranger throw the dice and the golem resist normally, without the possibility to add dices. Result : 2 level of success in difference in favor of the group (well, in fact two, plus two damage for the exploding arrows, less two damage for the golem's armor).
The ranger get narrative power :"The arrow strikes the left eye of the golem and explodes. Part of its head is destoyed and we can see the mechanic being."
Is the golem dead ? From their description, he is not, but what if they had described its destruction ? Quite franckly, I found the description of the player to be fair. So, in our game the golem didn't die and came "online". Now, what about the damage ? Did he suffer any ? We were not in BDtP !!! If it doesn't, what's the point of firing the arrow ? We decided that the golem would have suffered the two points of damage.

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And you know the difference between intent and the action description made at the beginning of a round? I ask this because your example, above, has characters with "intention to harm the golem", which doesn't sound like an intent nor an action description. Specifically, this is what we want to hear:
As I see it, intend is outside of BDtP and actions is inside. And sorry for my terrible action description. The problem is, the way we played, we never came into BDtP ... but came to play a little bit like it ... I guess I'm misterpreting something here.

About your proposition
Let me take a look at it :

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- All characters with identical intents are always assumed to be in Zeitgeist as per the rules.
- Characters in Zeitgeist may use their pools for others' benefit and make ability checks either to support the primary actor or to make defensive actions.
- Who is harmed by the action of a given character depends on the action description; which actions are defended against by a given defensive action depends on the action description. So a character might assault a group of enemies by felling the ceiling on them, or he could defend against multiple enemies by retreating swiftly.

This makes sense to me and is helpful ...
One question : what if the golem's intention was to try to kill all the PCs ?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2007, 06:13:28 AM »

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Passive attribute
React, Resist and Endure were considered during the game as passive attribute; by default. If I look at your analysis, that seems the case :

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My basic rule of thumb is always that a Passive Ability will always resist, moment-to-moment, all enemy action that falls into its purview.

My question is : can I "resist" while doing an action related to another intention ? Example : the golem is trying to kill B, A attacks the golem, does the golem can "resist" on endure ? If so, can he spend points from its pool doing so ? Does he need to explicitly mention he is resisting ?

Nope. You can only do one thing at a time. What my quoted bit there means (I think that's me, but not in this thread) is that when somebody does a Defensive Action in BDtP, I usually allow the action to defend against multiple opponents as a matter of course. Only when two attacks are wildly different (like, one character is attacking with a sword, while another attacks with words) will a Defensive Action fail to counter both at once.

"Passive Ability" is a specific rules term that points at those three Abilities. They are the only Passive Abilities normally. A "Defensive Action" is a BDtP special action that may only be done with a Passive Ability, and which is the only kind of BDtP action a Passive Ability can do. The special thing about a Defensive Action is that it is both perpendicular and produces bonus dice instead of Harm when successful. The other special thing is that if you opt to make a Defensive Action, you can switch your intent for the BDtP into something else afterwards.

(Note that my terminology might not be 100% correct, simply because I'm not referencing the English rules right now. The words are something like that, anyway.)

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Most incidiously, if several characters are acting against the golem: the golem only resists one of them, the rest get their attacks in without resistance. This is lethal, and good reason to not go into BDtP against overwhelming force. It's also a rule that is very commonly changed around.
Well, I have a problem with going into BDtP, I'll come to it below. Beside that, only resist one ? Wow !!! That's too lethal for me !!!

Agreed, it is rather lethal. That's why you shouldn't go into BDtP against several enemies if you're alone. This is a bit easier in my variant rules: the lone fighter can resist multiple opponents if he can arrange the environment in a manner that lets him defend reasonably well against everybody at once. The loner can arrange this with clever description or by having special attack/defense modes, or if the environment does not afford any obvious means of defense (read: the other players are not convinced), then by making BDtP-independent Ability checks to create something elaborate for his protection.

Another option is for a fighter to take specific Secrets to help him cover these situations. For example:

Secret of the Underdog
When the character is attacked by several opponents in BDtP, his own action is considered perpendicular against more than one of them. Cost: 1 point from the Ability-appropriate Pool per target, including the first.

I played a very combat-intensive TSOY campaign last year based on Naruto. It was very dramatic, with intense interpersonal scenes taking turns with massive battles. The battles were mostly PC party vs. single powerful NPC, so I got plenty of experience with the foibles of the system when applied to these situations. The first such fight ended by the players simply swamping the powerful NPC, despite her throwing around all kinds of area effects that affected everybody in the battle.

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Here's what we have done. The golem has the intend to kill only one character. We considered the passive attribute as something like "self preversion" that do not need to be mention. Quite franckly, what's the difference between "I want to kill B" and "I want to kill B while protecing myself from the others" ? Explicit vs implicit from my point of view. So, we figured the golem could resist all atttacks, but could not use points from his pools to do so.

That's an interesting interpretation, again. I could imagine having a rule for "secondary ability checks" where you could make those even while occupied by something else, but couldn't spend any Pool for them. Would perhaps increase the complexity a bit, though. However, that's not how the rules work.

Now, remember one thing: if you're not in BDtP, then all of this is moot. Outside BDtP there are no rounds, and no attacking an enemy while he's preoccupied. Everybody always gets to resist other people. If several characters are attacking one target as a normal conflict, the attackers may either engage one by one, or they can support each other for one attack (the more common option in the typical dungeon-crawling situation, I'd say). Regardless of this, the conflicts are resolved and narrated one-by-one, with the opposition defending against each separately. The weight of numbers will only be felt in BDtP.

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About the resist, we came across a big problem last session : arrows !!! If you can't resist such attacks, they turned out be the ultimate weapon !!!

Nah, they shouldn't be any more lethal than anything else, the game is built that way. You can always use React to dodge the shot, after all. The only conseivable benefit you get from a ranged weapon is that the opponent might not be able to fight back, in which case the conflict intents might go:
"I shoot him dead where he stands." vs.
"I dodge his arrows and run near enough to skewer him with my sword."
The above would be handled as follows: the archer rolls his "Shooting" or similar, while the swordsman rolls a combined roll: first his React to dodge the arrows, and if he succeeds in that, he gets to add that as bonus dice to his "Swordsmanship" or equivalent for skewering the archer. Then the results are compared normally. Note though, that if the swordsman fails his React roll, then the archer has caught him in the open rather fatally.

So a tactically minded fellow could even think that the swordsman has the advantage, because he has more Abilities he can easily justify to support his roll, his being the more complex job. It is true, though, that if a character has not suitable Abilities for dodging arrows, he is rather screwed. But that's true for any attacks.

(The above is again a normal conflict, not BDtP.)

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Assigning damage
If I'm not wrong, the rules state that damage are only assigned in BDtP, except otherwise mentionned (spells, for instance). BDtP can only be triggered by PCs. So, here's three situations we came across :

Yep, Harm is only for BDtP, special effects and specificly declared stakes. The latter is important and nigh-unmentioned in the rules: the SG may, if he wants, declare that a given conflict involves potential Harm to one side or the other. Like this:
"This conflict is about your ability to walk over hot coals. If you succeed, you impress Mary. If you fail, you suffer level 2 Harm from the coals in addition to being shamed."

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Situation 1 :
The PCs enter the catacombs and come across two undeads fighting a human....
Thinking about this, it didn't even occur to us to discuss if only one or the two were damaged.

That roll was OK, if this was a normal conflict, and not BDtP. Everybody always resists anything done to them outside BDtP.

Note that narrative power is not, technically, moved around in TSOY. You can easily add that aspect into it if you want, and ideally everybody is eager to narrate anyway.

In normal conflict, you can easily target several people. In this case the common way of doing it is to have the two undead support each other (one rolls first, then adds his result as bonus dice to the other's roll). If the stakes of the conflict were "whether the cleric destroys the two undead", then the result of his victory is exactly that: he destroys the two undead. It is only in BDtP where we have to worry about targets, damage and all those details.

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Situation 2 :
The PCs are fighting two undeads.... What does that mean ? Is the PC killed unless he goes into BDtP ? What about the other way around : is the undead killed by one degree of success from the PCs ?

Indeed, you can get killed by one level difference! In normal conflicts the level of success rarely has any special effect; it might tell you how effortless and beautiful the success was, but little past that.

The secret to the weirdness is that TSOY is a very brutal, violent and honest sword & sorcery rules system. It takes life and death seriously. The basic assumption is that the SG will not throw random bloodthirsty monsters at the PCs, and if he does, he won't declare lethal intents without really meaning it. Declaring "I kill him" as your intent should be a very, very serious thing, because that means that the opposition has no other choice but to go into BDtP over it, should they lose the initial conflict.

A good compromise, if you want to just put pressure on characters, is to declare harming stakes:
"If the undead win, you all take level 2 Harm from the fight and have to retreat to the last tunnel."
"If the undead win, your character takes level 5 Harm and loses a hand."
and so on.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't use "I kill you", though! It just means that you should be aware that by doing it, you're really risking a character's life, which is always an epic enough event to justify going into BDtP. I don't usually bother doing that with mooks; after all, if we're going to spend an hour in BDtP, then I'd rather do it with a named, important NPC who has intelligible, human goals. That's what makes stories interesting.

For the future, you might want to consider this tack as the SG: declare at the start of the conflict that these enemies are not a big deal, and that they will retreat / be cut down / be circumvented rather easily. The real question of the conflict is whether they take a price with them: will they delay the characters enough to gain something for their master, will they Harm the characters, or some other thing they could conseivably do. Will they simply survive and escape, to come haunt the murderous PC party later on with revenge? Rarely is "I kill him" the most interesting thing you could do with your playing pieces.

By the by: if you've been wondering why I wrote the undead rules I made in the manner I did, that's because TSOY really is much more about the internal workings of characters than say, D&D. Even undead creatures can't be just simple bloodthirstly monsters, they should have some other conseivable purpose as well to be fully usable in TSOY. That's why the mindless monstrosities are in the minority in my plans.

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Situation 3 :
The PCs enter a room where there are two golems guarding an opposite door...
Is the golem dead ?

The point of firing an arrow should be asked from the player. If it was to destroy the golem, then, glory be, the golem was destroyed. Always respect the declared stakes, or modify them before the roll, as is SG pregorative. If you think that the golems shouldn't be killable with simple arrows from a distance, then either assign one or two penalty dice (the maximum you may assign for a goal being "difficult"), or declare comparable counter-stakes (your goal is to kill the golem? Well, the golem's goal is to kill you.), or simply decide that it's not possible ("It is not possible to kill one of these golems with an arrow at hundred paces, you have to use a weapon that can penetrate their armor.").

As for how to combine character actions: support checks all the way, man. The pyromancer rolls, and his roll result is added as bonus dice to the archer's roll. This makes it easier for the archer to hit the eye or whatever vulnerable spot you might wish to describe (there has to be one if you as SG agreed that this is a possible conflict in the first place).

And again, if you think that outright destroying the golem is too much: you could declare that an arrow, even magically bolstered, may not completely destroy the golem. Instead, it might do Harm. So declaring that "if the arrow hits, the golem suffers 2 Harm before it has time to activate and engage you in melee" is quite OK.

Note, though: it is by far not certain that the pyromancer could make an exploding arrow. It all depends on the specific magic rules you use. Usually having a generic "Magic use" Ability is not very good, because it's so flexible that you can do anything you want with it. Check out the Threecorner magic Abilities in TSOY, they're a good example of how an Ability should clearly define what it does.

(The above mainly as a warning: if you like the way you've been doing pyromancy, which has apparently been pretty much "anything goes", then you might not want to mix your campaign up with my magic rules. They posit a much, much weaker magical paradigm where a character needs to spend significant Advances and Pool to do something like exploding arrows. It's much more complex.)

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And you know the difference between intent and the action description made at the beginning of a round? I ask this because your example, above, has characters with "intention to harm the golem", which doesn't sound like an intent nor an action description. Specifically, this is what we want to hear:
As I see it, intend is outside of BDtP and actions is inside. And sorry for my terrible action description. The problem is, the way we played, we never came into BDtP ... but came to play a little bit like it ... I guess I'm misterpreting something here.

Yeah, I'm guessing that you might have mixed the BDtP rules with the normal conflict a bit. Not a big deal, live and learn.

Both BDtP and normal conflicts have character intents and conflict stakes formed from them by the SG. A BDtP is just like a big, elaborate conflict where you go inside to control the exact actions and reactions of characters. I like to compare it to how D&D deals with Diplomacy, vs. how D&D deals with combat: while combat is delivered blow-by-blow, turn-by-turn, diplomacy is one roll and some description. It is the same in TSOY, except that you can decide yourself which situations are important enough to get that blow-by-blow treatment.

Anyway, the point is that the description of how a goal is reached is only significant for BDtP conflicts. In normal conflict you just need to pick an Ability that can be reasonably used, roll and describe some shit. In BDtP, on the other hand, you describe your actions each round, determining at the same time which Ability you're using, and whether the action is parallel or perpendicular to what your opponent is doing. That's mechanically important.

However, just like a normal conflict, you still have that conflict goal, character intent, floating around. That's what tells everybody why the characters are struggling in BDtP, so it's important to have it.

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One question : what if the golem's intention was to try to kill all the PCs ?

In normal conflict that is quite unproblematic. The golem rolls against the PCs, which each pick suitable Abilities to resist the golem and roll back. The PC rolls are ordered into a support series depending on what, exactly, they said they'd be doing. It is quite natural that an archer "supports" a melee guy by distracting the opposition, for example, so the archer would roll first and give his successes as bonus dice to the melee guy.

If the golem wins, all PCs are dead, unless they declare BDtP. Usually they would, of course. I've explained above how you as the SG might wish to declare some less extreme stakes for the conflict if you don't really want BDtP. Stakes of "if you lose, you all take level 2 Harm and an alarm is sounded while the golem delays you; you will ultimately get past, however." might be much more palatable for the players than "The golem kills you all if you lose." That's how it works in the movies, after all: even if the hero "loses" to a mechanical monstrosity, the loss is just a broken arm suffered while trapping the monster into a pit or some such.

If this was BDtP (such as would happen after the golem wins the initial normal conflict and players declare BDtP), the golem could still have that exact same goal. He would just need to pick one target character at the beginning of BDtP as his current target. All his rolls would be towards harming this target, until he drops out of the conflict. After that the golem picks a new target and so on, until he has dropped everybody. Technically, the dying part starts only after that: even if the golem forces half of the party out of the conflict with Harm before being dismembered itself, those characters are not dead, unless their players want it so. They're just gravely injured. This is because of how intent goes through in BDtP: your intent is only ever fulfilled at the end of the conflict, if you're the last party standing. The Harm tracking is there just to find out who is forced out of the conflict, not to particularly kill characters. (If you read the Harm rules carefully, you'll note that nobody actually dies from Harm, ever. The worst that can happen to you is that you're forced out of a conflict. Which might amount to dying, if the opponent's goal is to kill you.)
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2007, 01:06:06 AM »

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Yeah, I'm guessing that you might have mixed the BDtP rules with the normal conflict a bit. Not a big deal, live and learn.

Yeap ... But now I feel kinda of enlightened !!! But I still have a couple of questions ...

Okay, let's get back to the golems scene. I think we miss the whole point of the scene. In d20, the object of the scene would be kill the golems or get killed/flee. I do feel that using TSOY, the dramatic structure of the scene is completly different. So, what was the point of the scene ? They are pursuing someone thru an underground complex, until they come across those two guardians. Either the PCs are able to bypass them and continue the pursuit or they can't go thru the door the golems are blocking. The stakes are as important as the intentions (or the intentions are there because of the stakes) !!! This should be clear at the beginning of the scene. We missed that. And we forgot to mention the drawback of losing for the PCs ...

We came to care too much about the harm done, because we didn't state what would happen if they lose the conflict (number of harms, for instance, and no passage). And maybe the golems were not strong enough. I don't know. I'm not yet familiar enough with TSOY to judge that. So, the damage attribuation probem was a false one !!! Because of what we missed, the game was longer and less elegant.

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Agreed, it is rather lethal. That's why you shouldn't go into BDtP against several enemies if you're alone.

I understand what you mean, but here's question : given you don't want to go into BDtP against several ennemies, then if the PCs are more numerous, they have all the reason to do so !!! But only the PCs can declare BDtP. What about the NPCs ? If you're less numerous, you're kinda doomed ? Unless you have somekind of abilities for outnumebered battles ?

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So a tactically minded fellow could even think that the swordsman has the advantage, because he has more Abilities he can easily justify to support his roll, his being the more complex job. It is true, though, that if a character has not suitable Abilities for dodging arrows, he is rather screwed. But that's true for any attacks.

Now I get it. Be it arrows, fire or swords, if the intention is shared, then they "support" each other. We did consider the arrows as a different kind of attacks, that's why it was so lethal ...

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Declaring "I kill him" as your intent should be a very, very serious thing, because that means that the opposition has no other choice but to go into BDtP over it, should they lose the initial conflict.

The golem should have only wished to prevent the PCs from going thru that way. And then again, I think it's all about the dramatic structure of TSOY. The stake is not always life and death.

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The point of firing an arrow should be asked from the player. If it was to destroy the golem, then, glory be, the golem was destroyed.

Well, I guess I should have told the PC it was impossible to destroy the golem with the arrow. The problem is, we were using the level of success outside of BDtP as the number of harm done ; which is wrong. We should have stated this beforehand : "if you succeed, you do two harms to the golem, otherwise, you awaken him". Now, a question about the arrow : what would be the point of harming the golem ? To bruised him ? To gain an advantage if BDtP was ever declared ?

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(The above mainly as a warning: if you like the way you've been doing pyromancy, which has apparently been pretty much "anything goes", then you might not want to mix your campaign up with my magic rules. They posit a much, much weaker magical paradigm where a character needs to spend significant Advances and Pool to do something like exploding arrows. It's much more complex.)

I want to playtest what you have done. We're going to switch it over. We just need the time to do it ...

Well, well, well ... I do think we miss a lot of things !!! This debriefing is quite helpful !!!
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2007, 07:24:54 AM »

Okay, let's get back to the golems scene. I think we miss the whole point of the scene. In d20, the object of the scene would be kill the golems or get killed/flee. I do feel that using TSOY, the dramatic structure of the scene is completly different. So, what was the point of the scene ? They are pursuing someone thru an underground complex, until they come across those two guardians. Either the PCs are able to bypass them and continue the pursuit or they can't go thru the door the golems are blocking. The stakes are as important as the intentions (or the intentions are there because of the stakes) !!! This should be clear at the beginning of the scene. We missed that. And we forgot to mention the drawback of losing for the PCs ...

Indeed! A terminology issue, though: the "intent" is whatever the characters are striving to achieve in a scene. The "stakes" is what the intent becomes when the SG paces it out. For example, in this scene with the golem:
Intent: "Catch our prey before he escapes."
Stakes: "Get past the golem, or not."
The intent is always up to the player of a particular character, he decides what he wants. The stakes are the purview of the Story Guide, he makes sure that what we are rolling for, ie. stakes, is not too insignificant or too large. For example, in this case, the very fact that you chose to put in that golem scene tells us that you didn't want the hunt to be resolved with one simple conflict, one simple die roll - you wanted multiple scenes of resistance between the characters and their target. Therefore you needed to split up the intent into a smaller stake for the scene - "You can't roll about catching the guy now, because the golem might foil your hunt altogether. First get past the golem, then we'll see about catching him." is what you say when a player, quite correctly, declares his intent to continue the hunt.

But that's theory. Your basic idea here is rather correct: always keep in mind why you're doing a scene, don't just get into a rut playing through the same forms again and again.

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Agreed, it is rather lethal. That's why you shouldn't go into BDtP against several enemies if you're alone.

I understand what you mean, but here's question : given you don't want to go into BDtP against several ennemies, then if the PCs are more numerous, they have all the reason to do so !!! But only the PCs can declare BDtP. What about the NPCs ? If you're less numerous, you're kinda doomed ? Unless you have somekind of abilities for outnumebered battles ?

That tends to be the case, yes. If you'll read the part about multiple participants in BDtP in the rules, you can kinda see Clinton struggling with this as well: his gestalt method of arranging BDtP, while offered as a way of simplifying the action, could actually be seen as an effort to balance this perceived problem.

I suggest that if you in your role as the Story Guide feel that this is a problematic part (rather possible; I think that it's a bit problematic at times), you should make gestalt the default method in BDtP: whenever two characters have the same goals in BDtP, they should be grouped together.

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Well, I guess I should have told the PC it was impossible to destroy the golem with the arrow. The problem is, we were using the level of success outside of BDtP as the number of harm done ; which is wrong. We should have stated this beforehand : "if you succeed, you do two harms to the golem, otherwise, you awaken him". Now, a question about the arrow : what would be the point of harming the golem ? To bruised him ? To gain an advantage if BDtP was ever declared ?

The impossibility angle is a good one, although in this case I would have perhaps rolled with it; an exploding pyromantic arrow is nothing to sneeze at, after all. But it all depends on the particulars of the setting and such, whether the pyromancer can make the arrow explode and so on.

A suitable stakes declaration here would be "If you succeed, you do Harm level 2 to the golem AND blind it, allowing you to pass without a fight. If you fail, all the golems awaken and attack you." This is exactly because of your next question: mere Harm rarely has a point to itself, unless you expect to go into several conflicts with the same character/creature. Therefore it is wise to make the Harm a secondary effect in a conflict with real stakes. In this case, passing the golem vs. having to fight it.

As a general advice: always shoot for the meat of the scene, never be satisfied with crawling forward in a step-by-step mode. Recognize the ultimate goal of the scene (getting past to continue the hunt) and put that into the stakes of the conflict roll. That is the very purpose of having a conflict system, to streamline the process of resolution and to allow players a freely flowing narrative environment. Don't try to slow down the story by breaking things down to uninteresting little steps: if you know that nobody at the table is interested in the golems as more than color and an obstacle to overcome, then you're mandated and required to put something relevant into the conflict stakes as well.

In a great majority of cases the SG should pinpoint the highest possible level of achievement as the stakes of a conflict. So if a scene is in the caves and you're hunting somebody, then the stakes should be whether you catch him. If you're in a room with guardian golems, the stakes should be whether you can pass them without a fight. If you're in masquerade in king's court, the stakes should be whether you manage to assassinate the king. Do not be afraid to go directly to the pertinent reason the scene has for existing in the first place.

The only exception to this are valid obstacles: if there's both a door and a monster between you and the princess, that warrants two conflicts: one for the door, one for the monster. But there is no conseivable narrative reason to split it down any further: like a movie director, you don't want to make the door or the monster a grueling series of small victories, you want to resolve it once and for all.

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(The above mainly as a warning: if you like the way you've been doing pyromancy, which has apparently been pretty much "anything goes", then you might not want to mix your campaign up with my magic rules. They posit a much, much weaker magical paradigm where a character needs to spend significant Advances and Pool to do something like exploding arrows. It's much more complex.)

I want to playtest what you have done. We're going to switch it over. We just need the time to do it ...

Be sure to let me know how it goes! We can totally tune the magic system based on the playtesting, simplifying it or adding more flashy effects. I like making magic an arduous and impressive thing in my own games, but if you find it annoying to have to struggle to create a simple fireball, then we can certainly streamline the system. It's not so much a matter of power level (appropriately built TSOY rules material is automatically balanced in that regard), but a matter of the kind of activities the heroes should be doing: as my current rules stand, mages will actually spend time collecting bat guano now and then, at least in passing mention. Traditional D&D mages are more like fighting warlords in that regard, they command arcane forces with minimal exertion. I feel that the actual fiddly details makes the mighty magics even more awesome, but if somebody feels otherwise, he has to spend significant Pool in those Secrets that obviate the need for material components and lenghty preparations.
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2007, 02:21:33 AM »

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But that's theory. Your basic idea here is rather correct: always keep in mind why you're doing a scene, don't just get into a rut playing through the same forms again and again.

Noted. So far, for me, the big difference in narrative game was "any argue must occur before throwing the dice" and "you throw the dice based on an intention, not the description of a result". But "stating stakes" and the "reason of the scene" (which might be stated implicitly I guess) are also part of the mainframe of narrative system. That leads me to playtesting.

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Be sure to let me know how it goes! We can totally tune the magic system based on the playtesting, simplifying it or adding more flashy effects. I like making magic an arduous and impressive thing in my own games, but if you find it annoying to have to struggle to create a simple fireball, then we can certainly streamline the system.

I want to do things as close as you built them. I've been playtesting Avalanche with d20 and it works. As for Avalanche itself, I consider it playtested enough. I still discover some things, but they are not major ones. I believe I've got an hold of it. So, beside playing for the fun of it, I'd like to playtest Avalanche, using the solar system. After all, I'm pretending that you can play Avalanche with more than one system, I have to prove it now. So, I'm struggling a little with the solar, which is normal. To be able to make good comments on what you're designing, let's just start with mastering how it works. Just to mention it about the pyromancer of mine, we'll switch his character sheet to reflect your work. I'll have to see if my player is bothered by the preparation aspect of your magic. If it does, then I'll just give him one or two secrets (for free) that will reduce the effect. That said, the preparation aspect of your rules fit with the descriptions of Avalanche, which is still the most important thing.

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But that's theory. Your basic idea here is rather correct: always keep in mind why you're doing a scene, don't just get into a rut playing through the same forms again and again.

Still with the two golems. I think I understand more the core of the system, and giving some thoughts into it, I came to a conclusion. There is no attrition outside of bringing down the pain. I'll explain myself, and just tell me if I'm right, and if this is intented.

I discovered attrition playing star wars CCG, years ago. This game had a mechanic to manage attrition. The idea was some characters, especially main ones, could be killed, but will cause some damages. There is a cost to winning. They explainded it in the rules as a way to reproduce, as an example, that when the rebels destroyed the black star, they still suffered looses.

Now, back to my golems. They represent an obstacle during the hunt. In the book, in Avalanche, as it is written, they stop the pursuers. And after the golems, there are traps and assassins. My players met the golems before, while we were using d20 and they didn't even manage to damage them. Since then, maybe they got the equivalent of 3 d20 levels. Anyway, this is not my point. The golems are a big thread.
Using d20, let's suppose the players succeed in destroying them. They would have reach their objective, but would suffer some kind of attritions : spells used, HP lost. They had used some ressources. Normally, after defeating such adversaries, they are weaker for the next ones.
Now, using the solar system, isn't it a little winner takes all ? PCs roll the die and win, bypassing them. If you don't reach the point of BDTP there is no attrition, no cost to defeat the menace.

But then, there is this all question of "scene" in TSOY. Is the scene with the golems an important one ? I guess, somehow, the answer is in the result of the dices. Then the strength of the opposition is really important. If I build the golems so strong that a normal throw of dice from the PCs and me would give me victory, then there is a good chance we will go down into BDTP (depends on the PCs, of course), and in that mode, if they defeat the golems, they would have suffer some kind of attrition (reduction of pools, harm done, some ressources spent).

Is that an intented feeling ? Can you say things like "if you win, you bypass the golems, but still suffer some harm" ? Is that even a concern ?

And another thing : it seems that recovering from harm is quite easy, well, at least for my group (but there are two knights, a cleric, a ranger ...). Everyone has a way of curing and they recover very fast from any harm done.
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2007, 07:11:10 AM »

Attrition: you're largely correct in the sense of what you mean. However, that is because you only consider Harm levels. This is understandable, as games like D20 don't really have that many different resources.

In TSOY the main resource is Pool points. Harm is secondary. Harm attrition can happen, but it is rare, and the great majority of play outright ignores Harm outside BDtP. In comparison, all TSOY play bows to the central resource cycle of the game: participating in events causes Pool drain, which can only be replenished with appropriate plot-generating humanization scenes, called refreshment scenes.

Ignore Pool refreshment at your peril, it is absolutely central to how TSOY plays.

That said, you can totally use Harm attrition, and in some situations it is quite appropriate, too. The way you do it is to declare it in the stakes: "if you lose, this and that happens, and you take level X Harm as well". Simple, that. You shouldn't outright plan on attrition as the SG, though: your job is not to gauge character ability and weaken the characters to suitable degree before throwing the big finale on them. Rather, you should do two things, and two things only:
- Play the setting in a genuine and adapting manner. Let each NPC act according to it's motivation. Make connections and provide a realistic, flexible setting for players to make their impact on. Assign Harm in the stakes when it makes sense for the character to suffer injury. Assign stakes based on what it makes sense for characters to achieve in general: think not of your plot, but only of being even-handed and believable in the choices you make for NPCs you play.
- Play towards theme by introducing difficult choices and character-specific conundrums for the players. Bring in material that the players are interested in. Look at their Keys for hints at what interests the players and provide situations that cause conflict between different Keys, whether they are all in one character or several. Hike up the tension level by putting weakened low-Pool characters up against forces that threaten their innermost values.

Those two are your jobs as the Story Guide. Attrition is useful to understand in playing TSOY, but it is not a goal-focused tool used by the Story Guide. You should let attrition accumulate based on player choices instead of trying to micromanage the situation. Let the player make the choice of whether he dares to risk injury, for instance, rather than trying to force it.

Harm recovery

It's never stated this way in the rules, but the intention is that natural healing is the default way to get rid of Harm. Characters should spend Pool to remove Harm, as that improves the liquidity of the Pool resource and allows Harm to speed up the Pool refreshment rate. If Harm is constantly removed with Ability checks, a major feature of Harm is removed.

To this point, here's a design concern that's also not mentioned in the rules: all healing Abilities should have explicit limitations for their use, and should only be usable once per any given injury. For example, First Aid should only be used immediately after a Harm-causing accident, only for physical injuries and only ever once per injury. Further healing could be done with a doctoring Ability (conspiciously absent from the basic Ability set in Near, but note that Ammeni often have Chirurgy or similar) later on: such a doctoring Ability would have the limitation of requiring elaborate tools, and it could, as well, only be used once per patient. At most I could see using 2-3 different Abilities on a given gravely injured character; the rest of the healing should always happen via natural Pool expenditure.

The intent behind these Ability-use limitations is to curtail Ability-based Harm removal. While these principles are never made explicit in the English version of the rules, they are pretty solid interpretations of the basic principles; this is not the topic for my reasoning on that matter, though, so let's just leave it at saying that these are my recommendations.

Anyway: how are your players removing Harm? If it's Pool-based, there is no problem, as that means they also need to do more refreshment scenes (which are always fun, and really the point of play). If it's Ability-based, you should simply remember that Abilities may only be used in reasonable conditions: if a character has already benefited from First Aid, for instance, rebandaging won't do anything for him. If it's supernatural, it should be Secret-based and cost Pool to activate.

Hmm... I think I might have slid off my topic here. Not my job to give sermons on how to manage the Harm system in TSOY.
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