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Author Topic: [Beast Hunters] Two times!  (Read 11959 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: August 31, 2007, 09:26:07 AM »

Hello,

Tim Koppang and Chris and I went down to my basement for some Beast Hunting. We swiftly created some scarred bad-ass type characters; there was a kind of driven, neurotic vibe to all of them for some reason. That "swiftly" is a bit of a joke; Chris is notorious for agonizing over character options, and eventually we told him that "strong" and "fierce" were perfectly good traits, so he didn't have to create internal conflict for every damn detail on the sheet.

Although I made a character, I didn't get to play her yet. We played in standard two-player mode, with Tim GMing Chris, while I manned the book. I'd thoughtfully printed out all the for-play rules summaries, but like a ninny, forgot I'd done it until play was well under way. Among-group mockery shifted from Chris' player-creation habits to my impossible denseness. Anyway, we planned to play in a kind of moving two-at-a-time, so that Tim would GM Chris, then Chris would GM me, then I would GM Tim, and so on, around and around. We only played the one Challenge, though.

I also played an initial session with Julie, Tod, and Maura. This time, I made my character a bit more light-hearted on purpose, although observed that the others tended more toward the grim and dark. We split into two groups of two, on purpose. To start, the currently inactive group wielded the book, and as time goes by, I expect that we'll simply play independently of one another without mixing at all; in other words, really two groups of two players each. We played two Challenges, one with Tod and me, and one with Julie and Maura (I think; check me on that, guys).

Before going into the events of play, I want to talk about Creative Agenda. Although the martial arts analogy is suitable for the Salute, I also think Beast Hunters is best understood as weight-lifting. Not the competitive sport as in the Olympics, but the athletic activity as generally practiced socially. I don't know if you know that culture, but the match is exact.

Basically, you compete with yourself through time, with improvement being expected and desired. But it's also social; doing your best absolutely relies on someone, very personally, working with you at the moment. He must (a) spot you, making sure that you don't leave the parameters (i.e. drop the bar on your windpipe); and (b) push you verbally through both praise and goading. He's not competing with you at that moment, but seeing whether you can do it, this time, if you really do try your hardest. Failure is possible: you might not be able to do it. If so, it's you who failed, not because he "beat"you, but because you couldn't do it. However, that is only considered to set the benchmark for later, and his job was to push you a little more to make sure that the failure resulted from pure ability, not from self-doubt. Note also that the lifter sets the weight.

Now, in the larger sense, people in this culture might compete with one another in the sense of wanting to be stronger or bigger than the other guy, but that is entirely an add-on and not at all required for the basic activity. So in Beast Hunters, yeah, Bob might want his Hunter to outshine Bill's hunter over the long haul of adventures, but there's not really anything he can do (appropriately) to make that happen except simply to play his own Hunter as intensively as possible. Oh, and also, as judiciously as possible, as there's no point in piling on huge weights that are not a reasonable/possible goal for yourself. So, if he wanted to get all hung up on My Hunter is Best, he can, and that's OK if he does.

This is the only RPG ever to do this! Beast Hunters has broken new ground and I'm proud to have played a small role in that by writing my Gamism essay. It is also a phenomenal example of scratching the "I want character-heavy, setting-relevant context for my Gamism" itch. A heroic and tribal saga does emerge as a product of play, which is great! It means that the game is not merely a slow, face-to-face version of a video or computer game. But the process of play is purely Gamist, no Narrativism needed at all.

What happened in our games? In the first game, Tim and Chris played a Challenge in which the Hunter was basically tracking around the plains. The foe was purely environmental: a thicket of brambles, some mysterious large herbivores (which were especially fun because they were only described as impressions of huge, grunty things in the dark), and a flash fire. H'mmm ... did we play a whole set of Challenges, not just one? I think each of those was in fact a whole point-bought Challenge, not just one.

In the second game, I GMed Tod's Hunter as he sought to get information of some kind from the gods, from the top of this sacred rock pinnacle. It was fun, because he dreamed himself to the top of it instead of climbing, and he had to face hauntings and stuff. Maura GMed Julie's Hunter regarding a snake-ridden thicket.

I noticed something important: in Chris' conflict against the fire, and in Julie's conflict against the snakes, the character got stuck in a situation in which they could not quite defeat the foe, but were also avoiding being harmed by it. It went on for a number of rolls, kind of jockeying back and forth. The important thing is that this was fun! The Hunter knew that he or she could give, but didn't want to. The narrations were not weary or repetitive. I don't think I've ever seen a role-playing game before in which nothing, nothing, nothing, can be repeated through several exchanges without becoming boring. I think a big part of it is that we knew the dice would flip on us sooner or later (much like The Pool), but an even bigger one is that the narrations did have SIS consequences, they weren't pro forma. That's a key part of playing this game, I think.

All of us love the step in which the Challenger offers to buy off the Hunter's attempt at an offensive maneuver. Unfortunately, we also forgot to do it just a few too many times. I hope this is a learning curve issue, rather than a consequence of over-fiddliness, because without it the whole conflict is decreased in fun.

I have the barest quibbles about the text and some rules explanation, but they will be easily fixed/clarified if you want to, Christian.

The text concern is perhaps limited to me and my groups. Bluntly, we hate hand-holding, as readers. I do like the points raised by the text about sportsmanship and the kind of pushing-without-abuse, but I also think they're unnecessarily repeated from chapter to chapter. It's as if the author, or readers advising the author, does not believe that readers will get the point. How much or little of this is up to you, as an aesthetic or teaching issue. However, I also think the current usage interferes with rules-understanding, and maybe even shoulders out some key explanations.

Here are the rules questions, all based on missing information in the relevant sections.

1. This is the key one. Do accumulated Trait activations remain, following a Challenge, to be available for the remainder of the adventure? I think it must be "yes." That's obvious, right? Well, it ain't stated. So it's hard to grasp the key point that Challenge to Challenge, one is basically "awakening" one's character sheet, in hopes of having it all up and running for the final Challenge or, in the case of Beast Hunts, the fight with the Beast.

2. As a more minor but related point, do extant Advantage Points carry over from Challenge to Challenge, within an adventure? One might have them because they didn't all get spent during one's final Strike, or perhaps one or the other Hunter gave, and had a bunch at the moment. My recommendation is yes.

3. I'm also a little bit boggled about Giving at different stages of play, and the exact consequences. The rules for Giving during Negotiation (pp. 26-27) are pretty clear, I think. To make sure I understand, I need to ask, there's no such thing as the Hunter giving during Negotiation, right? That player's options are basically all about when to take it to the roll, or if they can, to make the Challenger give. It's the Challenges that confuse me more.

During a Challenge, the Challenger may also Give, as described on page 39, but that information is buried in the description of offensive maneuvers and it's hard to see whether all the points made there apply to the Challenge as a whole.

During the actual Challenge, the Hunter can Give too, right? I'm having a hell of a time finding instructions about that. I assume it means that the Challenge is lost and the Challenger gets his points back? Am I missing a point made in the text?

4. The paragraph about taking fatal damage on page 98: that refers to any time during the adventure, right? I ask because the previous paragraph is limited to discussing only the final Challenge or Beast confrontation, so the text-flow kind of makes it confusing to know whether the fatal damage options apply only at that time.

5. Finally, we had a bit of trouble understanding Resources. Let me know if this is correct: Resources do not have to be activated, but they can be Denied. That's what makes them different from the Traits, which do have to be activated, but cannot be Denied. (All of this is said in the understanding that anything on the sheet can only be used in its proper sphere - PO, PD, SO, SD, MO, MD).

It's a really fine game, man. But I think because its play-experience is simply not traditional Gamism, it's going to need real actual play talk to be recognized for its quality.

Best, Ron
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rafial
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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2007, 10:04:48 AM »

Quote
1. This is the key one. Do accumulated Trait activations remain, following a Challenge, to be available for the remainder of the adventure?

Page 36, mid-page "traits do not stay active after a challenge is resolved"

...and yeah, based on play as you described, and play as I have experienced it, that has a *big* impact.  Especially since pre-activations are a limited resource.

Quote
5. Finally, we had a bit of trouble understanding Resources. Let me know if this is correct: Resources do not have to be activated, but they can be Denied. That's what makes them different from the Traits, which do have to be activated, but cannot be Denied.

Also, resources modify strike rolls (but not maneuvers), while traits modify maneuver rolls (but not strikes).  And traits stack, while resources don't (you just use your biggest of a particular domain).
« Last Edit: August 31, 2007, 10:12:39 AM by rafial » Logged
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2007, 10:26:58 AM »

Thanks Rafial!

I'm kind of bummed about the Traits de-activating. That takes away some of the strategy and some of the momentum-based excitement of overcoming Challenges, as I see it. I'm not seeing the upside. Christian, can you explain this so I understand it better?

About those Resources. When you use a Resource, can Traits be used at the same time? That is, once activated, relevant Traits are just "on" for the rest of the Challenge, right? And if I'm understanding your point, that means that Resources are only used for that particular bit, unless announced again later?

I found some of our notes for the game. Here's the sacred-pinnacle Challenge I set for Tod's character (a kind of wacky shamanic type), using 6 points (his Limit for this Adventure). Tod went to the dice during the Negotiation/Elaboration phase, so I had 6 points to spend on a 1:1 basis.

Minimum damage boxes = 1 point
Haunted +4 (MD) = 2 points
Holy +2 (MO) = 1 point
Initiative 3 = 2 points (totally a waste! Tod's character had Initiative 3, and I'd thought it was only 2, dammit)

Here's the snakey thicket that Maura Challenged Julie's Hunter with, using a Limit of 5 points. Julie had gone to the dice during the Negotiation/Complications phase, so Maura had to spend 1.5 points for 1 point of Challenge.

Minimum damage boxes = 1.5 points
Impenetrable +2 (PD) = 1.5 points
Snake Bite +2 (PO) = 1.5 points

I must say, although the Challenges don't look like much on paper, they sure can be tough for a starting character. I think the game is brilliantly well-designed in this regard. It tempts me, greatly, to set a Limit of 8 for my character's first Adventure, to see what that will do for play.

Best, Ron

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rafial
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« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2007, 10:45:37 AM »

About those Resources. When you use a Resource, can Traits be used at the same time? That is, once activated, relevant Traits are just "on" for the rest of the Challenge, right? And if I'm understanding your point, that means that Resources are only used for that particular bit, unless announced again later?

Traits and Resource apply to completely different rolls.

When you propose a maneuver (offensive or defensive) to generate advantage points, or remove your opponents advantage points, all your currently active Traits of the appropriate type are included in your roll. (page 37, bottom half)

When you declare a strike, by spending advantage points to buy dice, your highest offensive resource from the current domain is added to your strike roll, and your opponents highest defensive resource from the current domain is subtracted. (page 46, bottom half)

« Last Edit: August 31, 2007, 10:56:30 AM by rafial » Logged
xenopulse
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« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2007, 12:10:39 PM »

Thanks, Wil. He's right about Traits and Resources, and he's been playing through quite a few sessions (see Beast Lunchers and Beast Lunchers II). Traits are used for maneuver rolls; resources are used for strike rolls.

And Ron, thanks so much for the AP report. It sounds like you had a good time, and the game worked as intended. The advantage point offer part is really the heart of the whole game, so the more often you remember it, the better Smiley That is, after all, where the player's own hand-crafted action and narration makes a difference and where they can step up freely. Challenges are also much less likely to get bogged down if you accumulate points this way rather than through the risky rolls that may net you no points at all.

I would say you played more than a small part in it all, because without the Gamism essay and the Forge (and Callan's wonderful discussion of exploration v. address of challenges), this game wouldn't exist.

Yes, the text is holding hands in some parts. I figured that a lot of the things in the game would be new to many players, and I decided to err on the side of being overprotective. Much of that text is unnecessary if you've ever played in a functional Gamist group. A couple of the protective layers I put in there, in particular regarding costs of secondary goals/special effects, could have also been done without.

I've also realized that, while I thought the text was pretty clear, one thing I should have included are summary pages a la Dogs. A place where little questions can be easily looked up. If I do a revision, that'd be the first thing to be added. There are summary sheets and even cheat sheets (thanks Brand!) available for download from our web site.

As to your questions:

1. Accumulated activated traits, as Wil said, don't remain active. The thing is, if you keep them active, each consecutive challenge is going to be easier.

a) That goes counter against the way I like the pacing to go.
b) If you've got everything active at the end, and the beast has to spend several rounds activating traits, you've got a huge advantage.
c) It makes it desirable to have as few traits as possible, rather than diversify (promoting more traits=more character development).
d) Wil is also right that it lowers the tactical advantage of preactivations.
e) It also lowers the value of tattoo powers, which now have the advantage of always being active.

I had actually thought about this, and you're not the first one to express this preference, but I'm not sure how to solve the pacing issue. You could offset it by raising the Pool and Limit, I figure, because you keep on accumulating damage as well. Maybe you can try it out and see how that works for you. I would suggest that in that case, the final challenge/beast starts with everything active.

2. As it stands, advantage points are accumulated against a particular threat, so they wouldn't stick around. If you haven't spent them, I assume your tactic was sub-optimal Smiley

3. You're right about Giving during negotiation. During conflict resolution, if the Challenger gives, the Hunter wins as usual. If the Hunter gives, the Challenger gets the adversity points back. (If the Hunter is incapacitated, the points remain spent (p. 47).)

4. Correct. Fatal damage at any point during the game posits the question of sacrifice or defeat.

5. As said above, resources add to/subtract from strike rolls, but only the highest one that's applicable. If you've got a Piercing Mind MO+12 resource, with just 6 AP you can strike for D6+12.

One question: Have you used special effects/secondary goals yet?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2007, 12:52:39 PM »

Thanks Christian!

I want to play through a few adventures and especially Beast Hunts before I get too committed to anything about the trait activation. It's very likely that the strategies at that scale are simply not registering with me through lack of experience with them. My inferential skills are low for Gamist designs; I have to try them and really see them happen before I even have a chance of judging well.

I agree that remaining Advantage Points, at the end of a Challenge, may indicate sub-optimal play, but that doesn't mean they don't sometimes come out that way. I'm thinking about Giving in particular - the Challenger sees that my player-character is certain to win in another round or two, so he gives. I'd sure like to hang onto those Advantage Points for the next Challenge! Again, though, this is a gut reaction at this point and not validated through enough play, to see enough of the big picture to be a real preference.

Regarding special effects, I guess I see them as a fun and easy concept which, in your text, seems to be treated as a potential problem which needs lots of negotiation and insurance in order to work, up to and including saluting out. Do you really see it as such a play-breaker?

Let's say it's my turn, and for simplicity's sake, I'm the current Hunter. I say, "I want to do a Special Effect! I want to toss that lantern out the window, to where my friends are." (The Challenge is solely about a fight with some guy in the room with my character; the friends aren't involved in it directly.)

Challenger: That'll cost you 8 Advantage Points.

Hunter (me): Sure. [spends 8 points] Out goes the lantern!

Then we move to the Challenger's turn.

I guess I don't see any hassles inherent in that process at all. If I haggle for a little bit about the points, that seems no different to me than the byplay that's inherent to the offensive maneuver option.

I confess I don't understand the two-turns-later sentence at all! It seems to contradict the earlier sentence that says the player can spend the negotiated amount of Advantage Points to achieve the effect. Then again, it also implies that the player who set the cost is the one who's achieving the effect in this case, which throws me for a loop again. How can the player who set the cost achieve any effect; that's not the person who announced they wanted to do it, right? This reads to me as if you raised objections as you wrote and tried to meet them and control for them as you continued to write. It's the only section of the whole book that reads like this. Or I could simply be failing in my reading.

We didn't have any special effects in our game, but I imagine we will when conflicts become a little bit more interesting over time.

As for secondary goals, I think they make sense. To make sure I understand: a secondary goal can only be called by the Challenger, right? And only the Challenger spends points to achieve it, i.e., the Hunter cannot spend the same amount to prevent it? I am not sure about this because you describe them as effects that either player can achieve, so I'm confused again.

The final sentence in the paragraph straddling pp. 74-75 assumes that the Hunter can call that goal "prevented" only if the Hunter wins the whole Challenge, and only if the Challenger fails to achieve it with a Special Effect action, right?

We didn't have any in our scenes, probably because no human NPCs have featured in conflicts yet. (Oh wait! I forgot Chris' first conflict, which involved a confrontation with his father! Geez, that was important ... but it still supports my current point, because there was only the two characters involved, no other hanging around.) I imagine that secondary goals will crop up as more NPCs surround a conflict in a Challenge, rather than just act as direct opposition; and also as the immediate setting of the adventure becomes more nuanced through scenes, so that we know, for instance, that a chieftain's rule is tottering or whatever.

What do you think of my weight-lifting analogy?

I swear I am not fishing with the next question. I am asking strictly for knowledge reasons. Do you think my game Trollbabe played any role in influencing the design of the game?

Best, Ron

P.S. I know rafial = Wilhelm, but my brain evaporated for a bit there.
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xenopulse
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« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2007, 01:26:02 PM »

First, a confession: I don't own and actually have never read Trollbabe. I know it's a two-player game where you can raise stakes for rerolls, and that you play kickass female half-trolls or somesuch, but that's the extent of my familiarity with it Smiley

Re special effects/secondary goals (which are really the same kind of thing): As I wrote before, there's some protective layers that I put in there because I was afraid of abuse, but I think nowadays I'd handle it much more simply. The lag time for achieving the effect is meant to prevent a situation like this: Hunter wants effect; Challenger sets costs above Hunter's current AP but within his own; Hunter can't do it; Challenger then immediately buys it off. But I think I might have just been too paranoid. In actual play, I haven't seen people actually haggle, nor change secondary goal amounts, so I might as well leave that out.

Both sides can achieve or prevent a secondary goal, which are laid out by the Challenger at the beginning of conflict resolution. If the goal is the Challenger's "Kidnap the children," the Challenger can spend points to achieve it, or the Hunter can spend points to prevent it. If the goal phrased as the Hunter's, as in "Find Out Who the Traitor Is," the Hunter can spend points to find out (and in the way I play the game, determine) who the traitor is, while the Challenger can spend the points to make sure the traitor's identity remains secret. I could be convinced that goals would be better stated as questions, and the player who buys them off gets to answer them, if that makes sense.

You can look at the demo challenge to see four secondary goals that I've used in many convention games that work very well. Either side can buy them off and determine the outcome.

Basically, I use them to introduce "Yes, and", "Yes, but", "No, but" and "No, and" statements into the game. Yes, you defeated the invaders, but they kidnapped your kids. No, you didn't stop the invaders, and they also killed the chieftain that was under your watch. It moves from plain win/lose challenges into much more multi-faceted territory, and allows for prioritizing your AP expenditures.

I do think your weightlifting analogy is probably as close as any I could make up. I have never lifted weights with anyone else, but I've been in martial arts classes for 8 years, so that's my own frame of reference Smiley But yeah, it's about challenging each other in a supportive, goal-oriented way, where you pick your own difficulty level and the other person does their best to push you through it.
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rafial
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« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2007, 01:59:30 PM »

Quote
The lag time for achieving the effect is meant to prevent a situation like this: Hunter wants effect; Challenger sets costs above Hunter's current AP but within his own; Hunter can't do it; Challenger then immediately buys it off. But I think I might have just been too paranoid.

The lag was actually critical in our game session today.  My hunter was trying to recover his Bard's staff (containing his mother's spirit) from a nest of gargoyles.  The challenger (John) proposed the secondary goal that the staff would be broken during the attempt.  At the moment of the proposal, he lagged me slightly in accumulated advantage, but had a trait advantage.  So I was faced with the tricky pricing challenge of putting it at I price low enough I could expect to be able to pay after my next round of offensive maneuvering, but high enough that there was a chance John might not be able to gain enough advantage on HIS next round.  As it was, I got lucky (or he didn't as your point of view may be), and was able to buy the goal myself, thus ensuring the staff would remain intact regardless of the outcome of the overall challenge.  But I had the "you have to wait one round to buy it if you priced it" limit not been in place, I would have simply set the cost just above John's current total and below my own and snapped it up immediately on my action.  So that rule is absolutely critical.

Secondary goals have been huge in our currently running adventure.  I plan to write more about that, hopefully this evening.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2007, 02:02:02 PM by rafial » Logged
Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2007, 02:54:40 PM »

That weight lifting analogy fits what I was trying to say in the exploring challenge Vs addressing challenge threads (that Christian was kind enough to mention). Another, more over the top analogy is those guys in martial arts movies who stand there, being beaten with boards so as to make themselves tougher. The key thing is they actually hand the planks to the wacking guys, and the wacking guys aren't competition, but they are really trying to wack him, cause that is what will help him in the end to become tougher and stronger. The thing to notice is that he hands the other person the weapon he has chosen to be used against himself - and he needs assistance with it being applied and yes, moral support too (well, maybe not the guys in the martial arts movies, but that's cause they're baaaad assssssss!).

Heh, it'd be fun to have a gamist design where the GM is instead called (and operates as) a PT. Personal Trainer! I'm not sure people expect indie games to break the mould in that way, might be a bit shocking. Must use it soon! Anyway, it's great to see beast hunter posts cropping up on RPG.net from various posters. It's part of the first wave of word of mouth that establishes a game and its future sales Smiley
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rafial
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« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2007, 05:45:55 PM »

I've just posted actual play to Story Games regarding the third installment of our Beast Lunchers game.  I don't want to repeat most of it here, so as not to hijack Ron's thread, but one point I make over there that I think *is* germane to the points Ron mentioned above regards the fact that extended conflicts sometimes bog down into repetitive dice rolling.  Ron said that he felt that narration did not go flat under such circumstance, but at least in our play, I have had times when it did.  I have experienced a little of the "coolness exhaustion" that comes from systems that try to attach mechanical rewards to "quality of narration".
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xenopulse
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« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2007, 02:21:41 PM »

Wil, I'm still curious about your thoughts about and experiences with secondary goals. I assume you haven't had the time to write them down yet, just letingt you know I'm still very much interested.

I've already commented on the extended conflicts part over on SG, but to make it short here, I think that there might be some valid concerns in that once people start playing a lot of sessions. I'm going to put together some suggestions on how to accelerate conflicts soon, and again would like your input on that, since you and John are quickly becoming the outside experts on this game Smiley
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