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Author Topic: Avatar The Last Airbender - mushing it together  (Read 3810 times)
oreso
Member

Posts: 67


« on: July 06, 2007, 04:25:00 AM »

Someone is making this beautiful little game about Avatar. With 'Dharma paths' that give your character goals and a story develops from them and changes the character. Its all about strctured but organic character growth (something that Capes lacks). 

But its all mushy and co-operative. I want competition and conflict resolution right there on the table. (and I admit I consider Capes default for anything vaguely shounen anime related).

Here's a character sheet.

So, the Dharma paths and associated elements become the Drives in Capes.
For no particular reason other than aesthetics, Abilities are now split in four, not three. We have Abilities, Items, Personality and Relationships. You can list whatever you like under each, but only some will be rated (each category has one trait rated 1 and one rated 2, but only three categories have a trait rated 3, only two categories have one rated 4, and only one category has at trait rated 5).
All traits are "Powered" in Capes terms, so using them puts debt on your elements.
When debt is staked from an element, it must be on a conflict that supports a goal in that particular element.

So, when a character is made:
Write a long term goal in the middile box.
Think of a short term goal that supports the long term goal.
Write the short term goal in the element that matches it.

Between pages:
If the character successfully follows this short term goal, move them to the next element, clockwise.
If they deliberately do not follow this goal, or are otherwise unable to, then move them to the previous element, anticlockwise.
In the new element, write another new short term goal that attempts to further them towards the long term goal.
Erase the old short term goal if it's no longer applicable.
Modify the long term goal, if it changes.

Between scenes and games:
The long term goal can never be simply accomplished, but something like it can be. Sometimes it might seem as though its accomplished, but there will always be a complication or set back. The goal might grow to become something completely different, or it might change more subtly.
Change the various traits as you go to match the changing character (unimportant traits may become important rated ones, gain a new trait related to your progress to the goal, etc).

Important characters will have two or three goals on the go at a single time.
Secondary characters will only have one goal.

Long term goals are like, "Get it on with Katara", "Prove I'm as good as a stupid 'bender", and of course "Capture the Avatar", or something.
Short term goals are immediate but important steps towards a long term goal, like, "Get her to take me seriously", "Protect my family and friends alone", "Stop Zhou, so I can capture the Avatar myself". Alot of the time you could take a short term goal and just make a conflict out of it, but only if, ya know, theres an actual conflict there. There has to be a conflict of interest presented, in which multiple characters' goals are implicitly at stake. (People fight for different reasons, but they have to be in the same fight).   

As background, i imagine the cycle is such if you are following it (working towards goals, clockwise). 
Water is giving.
Seeing the ideals of others changes you, or perhaps its a new appreciation of how the world works. Now, your personality and how you behave might change as a result. It might be as radical as a new identity, but something about how you view yourself changes.

Earth is strong.
Because you realise what's important, and you must protect it and resist the change around you. Items might become important symbols of the things you are defending.

Fire is intense
But ultimately, to protect what is important you need some control of it. So, you decide to change the world for the better in some way. In your efforts to accomplish things, you might need new abilities.

Air is harmonious
Gaining power is all well and good, but you have to bring things to a whole. Change is going on around you anyway, so you go with it. You help the things and people that you agree with. In doing so, your relationships with people might change, or you might forge new relationships.


The cycle is such if you are going against it (goals are being frustrated, anti-clockwise).
Water is giving.
But any new order you create crumbles around you, and you have to hide in these difficult circumstances. For your own survival you have to abandon what is important to you to fit in.

Air is harmonious
But you can't change inside, so you fall back on comfortable ways and relationships. You follow orders, you stick by your old friends. Maybe if you can just help them, or get them on your side, you'll be able to change, but not now.

Fire is intense
But the people around you aren't good enough. Their ideals are not your own, and you are powerless to stop them. You need power and abilities to forge your own destiny. You can't follow them any longer.

Earth is strong.
But the world just doesn't support controlling your own destiny. It attacks you or what is important to you, and it must be stopped. The things you hold dear are now just symbols of ideals that will never be fulfilled.



I'm not sure about appropriate Drive/Element strengths. Something dependant on the number of Short Term goals active in the element? Rate them in order of importance (4, 3, 2, 1)?

That's all i've got for now. I'm not confident about the idea, I think it may add too much 'mushy crunch' for too little gain. Aesthetically though, i just love it.
I'll probably post up some characters, but for now, any thoughts?
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Filip Luszczyk
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Posts: 746

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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2007, 06:06:52 AM »

Other than you're rewriting Avatar and GURPS would work better anyway (:p), it looks nice.

The biggest problem you face here is probably that you want to transplant the structure from non-competitive game to a competitive one. It might give you the aesthetics and not break anything (and aesthetics themselves might be worth it). But I suppose there's a risk that one of the parts can overshadow the other to the point of making it rather irrelevant to the fun. Basically, you won't know for sure without playtesting it.

Some loose thoughts:

If you want to keep the aesthetics from the Avatar game intact, I suppose porting the four types of traits directly along with all the associations should work fine (I think Virtue/Strength/Intensity/Unity are more evocative than Abilities/Items/Personality/Relationships).

What if using traits of each type incurred Debt specifically to the associated Element (and any Element could be staked on any conflict as long as it fits the circumstances, as with normal Drives)? I'm not sure about the distribution of Drives/Elements ratings, though. I think you could tinker with it to integrate Avatar elemental associations with the strategic nature of Capes more strongly, somehow. (And I have a feeling that it would be easier if Overdrawns hurt more than they do in practice - maybe blocking the goals connected with the element, or something in these lines?)

What if short term goals were Free Conflicts, and at least one of these would have to be played at the beginning of every scene (i.e. not playing it would equal moving anticlockwise)? This should help making these goals more central, I think.

Or, what if long term goal worked kind of like it was an Exemplar, with short term goal as the Free Conflict? Maybe only another player could play the Exemplar that represents your main goal?
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oreso
Member

Posts: 67


« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2007, 01:58:02 PM »

Hm, lotsa stuff, thanks! Cheesy
The biggest problem you face here is probably that you want to transplant the structure from non-competitive game to a competitive one. It might give you the aesthetics and not break anything (and aesthetics themselves might be worth it). But I suppose there's a risk that one of the parts can overshadow the other to the point of making it rather irrelevant to the fun. Basically, you won't know for sure without playtesting it.
Exactly the reason for my lack of confidence.

Quote
What if using traits of each type incurred Debt specifically to the associated Element
I think I could see this to some degree, (So, if you use your abilities, it becomes more tempting to change the world, if you use other people you feel indebted to them). But I think it might be a change too far. Besides, exceptions are easy to think of: Azula uses her childhood friends, but she justifies it with her fiery ambition, not by following their wishes.

Quote
(and any Element could be staked on any conflict as long as it fits the circumstances, as with normal Drives)?
Even though they are more specific than Drives, I think goals should be just as all-encompassing for the character. (And on the otherside, the elements on their own are much more abstract and less interestinly charged than Capes' Drives). I'd say if you aren't following the goals in your conflicts, then you are not acting 'in character' (but don't worry! because soon you'll go anti-clockwise and your goals will change to match the character as played, and then maybe you can dump your debt in that element in a different way once you've worked things out some more).

Quote
(And I have a feeling that it would be easier if Overdrawns hurt more than they do in practice - maybe blocking the goals connected with the element, or something in these lines?)
I agree, overdrawns should hurt where it counts, right in the character's story. This is good. Make it impossible to move a goal clockwise from a drive that is 'blocked' by overdrawn Debt. If you attempt to resolve it, it goes awry and you get frustrated and go anti-clockwise. Good stuff.

Quote
What if short term goals were Free Conflicts, and at least one of these would have to be played at the beginning of every scene (i.e. not playing it would equal moving anticlockwise)? This should help making these goals more central, I think.
Hm. I think its important for the goals to interact. I see no problem getting relevant conflicts on the table given how Capes is set up already. You are rewarded for conflicts that other characters are invested in, and the goals are good flags to guide this. I think having that many Free Conflicts would be too much.

Quote
Or, what if long term goal worked kind of like it was an Exemplar, with short term goal as the Free Conflict? Maybe only another player could play the Exemplar that represents your main goal?
My instinct is that this is moving too much into 'added crunch for little gain' land. What would be gained?

Cheers!
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Filip Luszczyk
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Posts: 746

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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2007, 03:44:03 PM »

Quote
Exactly the reason for my lack of confidence.

Well, you never know unless you try, and an idea that makes great impression on paper might collapse in actual play as well. Maybe strong aesthetics of Avatar's system + Capes's crunchiness is exactly the mixture you need. Go for it, at worst you get one session of sub-optimal fun.

Quote
Hm. I think its important for the goals to interact. I see no problem getting relevant conflicts on the table given how Capes is set up already. You are rewarded for conflicts that other characters are invested in, and the goals are good flags to guide this. I think having that many Free Conflicts would be too much.

Another possible option you could consider would be to require the goal to be the first conflict played by each player in a scene.

Quote
My instinct is that this is moving too much into 'added crunch for little gain' land. What would be gained?

You'd have the character in a direct confrontation with his Dharma (or maybe rather main external and internal obstacles on the Path, listed as its traits), run by another player as a non-person Exemplar character. This would tie Avatar's goals structure to the competitive gameplay of Capes, I think.

Actually, it simply occurred to me that treating Dharma Paths as Exemplars would probably be the most direct way to port them to Capes, and could work even without the rest of the system being touched (i.e. as a driving force behind the story, it's kind of an equivalent of superhero character's core conflict). The trick is that essentially there wouldn't be any added crunch, as these rules are already in the game. As for limiting Dharma control to other players, dunno if it would be all that needed - just a thought.
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oreso
Member

Posts: 67


« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2007, 04:24:49 PM »

Had a short-ish playtest today (couple of hours or so). We had to relearn the Capes rules somewhat (been playing Wushu with them mostly) and create characters from scratch. But even with that I dont think the game dragged, so I'm now more confident that the workload isnt burdensome.

Here's the playtest document used. Complete with slightly prettier character sheet than before, rules, and notes.   

Another possible option you could consider would be to require the goal to be the first conflict played by each player in a scene.
Too restrictive methinks. In two out of the three scenes we did one character just didnt address his Step (it was to protect someone, and they just didnt need protecting). A Step is just not equal to a Capes conflict.

Oh yeah, in the spirit of aesthetics and confusion avoidance, henceforth, long term goal = Path, short term goal = Step.

Quote
You'd have the character in a direct confrontation with his Dharma (or maybe rather main external and internal obstacles on the Path, listed as its traits), run by another player as a non-person Exemplar character. This would tie Avatar's goals structure to the competitive gameplay of Capes, I think.
Its an interesting and cool notion, but not this game i think. I wouldnt want that kind of abstractness of playing as a 'Goal' to be common. Mostly I want the characters that are played just to be people. The whole idea with the Path thing was to make playing a person in Capes 'deeper' (in the sense it forces you to get inside their head and articulate why they are doing stuff).

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