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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 164 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Alternatives to BDTP, and some key trouble  (Read 2021 times)
Rob Alexander

Posts: 76

« on: September 22, 2007, 04:10:44 AM »

I'm going to be running TSOY at a convention here in the UK (Furnace 2007, Sheffield, 20-21 October - link is here: http://www.rpgfurnace.com/) and I'm looking for advice on a couple of things.

First up, I did a playtest session and everything went smoothly. The pace picked up quickly and stayed (at least from my perspective as GM) supersonic. Part of that, however, was because we didn't go into BDTP at all - I didn't mention it and at no point did any of the players (admittedly, one of them was new to TSOY) call it.

In the three previous TSOY sessions I'd run, we'd used BDTP a few times and the results were never that satisfying. It brought the speed down and seemed to clamp creativity, primarily because the classic TSOY/HeroQuest "cook him out of killing me" manoeuvre had to be a parallel action.

I know that a lot of people have moved away from Extended Contests in HeroQuest, which I believe are similar to BDTP (though I'm not too familiar with that game, having only played it once), in favour of "linked contests".


1a) Is there an alternative to BDTP?

1b) For a one-shot convention game, does anyone see a problem with avoiding BDTP? I'll obviously need to avoid starting anyone with secrets like Imbuement or Mighty Blow. Are there any other implications I've missed?

Secondly, one of the players was doing cool stuff that seemed consistent with (at least) my idea of the character, but he wasn't hitting keys for it. Now, granted, this was the player who was new to TSOY. I'm still concerned that the keys may not be quite right:

Ferdinand - 4th of the Council... for now
Fifteen years is a long time to play fourth fiddle... but now the First Councillor is unsteady and there is trouble on all sides. This could be the time to make his move...

Secret of Contacts
Secrete of Speciality (Sway: Politicians)

Key of Power
Key of the Coward
Key of Glittering Gold

Part of the problem is that when I run TSOY my instinct is to abstract away money. This makes glittering gold hard to hit... but if the player said he was looking to rob the city treasury, we could make money tangible pretty quickly. (Perhaps the pace of the scenario is a problem - in the playtest, it turned into a one-night power struggle. Money is less relevant on that timescale.)

A second problem, I think, is the way the Key of Power is defined:

1 XP whenever you earn a boon from someone important, earn a slight gain in prestige, or make a rival look bad. You gain 3 XP whenever you ruin, kill, or otherwise eliminate a rival, and improve your own position because of it.

There are quite a few actions you can take that set things in motion, but that don't hit these keys. Trouble is, I've left this a couple of weeks and am having a hard time remembering specific examples. One problem was other people bumping off rivals - in the playtest, Ferdinand kind of glided to the top via dead man's shoes.


2) Has anyone made a Key of Power variant that's broader, or different? My current instinct is to replace Glittering Gold with something else, but I don't know what.
Frank Tarcikowski

Posts: 277

Hamburg, Germany

« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2007, 06:27:27 AM »

i]first rolling the single check and thenthen

If you come across a post by a guest called Frank T, that was me. My former Forge account was destroyed in the Spam Wars. Collateral damage.
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2007, 03:57:19 PM »

Frank's solution works for me, and I don't even see it as much of a drift, really. BDTP has just three purposes in the rules: it enforces a slow-down of narrative pace, forces characters into a full-body mechanical contact that utilizes resources more fully, and it allows players to strategize with their variable goals for their characters. If none of those are happening due to players not being interested in them, then not having BDTP is rather reasonable, as long as you still have Harm coming from normal checks.

As for your Key trouble, consider that the purpose of Keys is not to create experience points or get activated. Their purpose is to guide players in refining their play towards interesting thematic statements. What this means in practice is that the onus to make sure that players hit their Keys is not on you, it's on the players. Furthermore, it is a valid choice to not hit your Keys, not gain xp, and ultimately perhaps suffer for it in the long run. It's a very static choice, perhaps, and usually doesn't last long in TSOY, but it's a choice.

To look at the specifics, Key of Power: the intention is not that you try to create a Key that mirrors the activities of a player as accurately as possible, so that the player gets xp effortlessly. Key of Power is specific in what gives you Power because it wants to focus on one specific facet of Power, that of being a proactive cause of conflict in quest for power. The Key, to be utilized as a resource, requires the player to choose whether his character is:
- Content to use his powers justly, only in response to aggression by others. The Key won't be bringing very much xp this way most of the time, but it does score now and then.
- Power-hungry and willing to go to any lengths to improve his position. This character is utilizing this Key constantly, because he is going over expected boundaries in this regard willingly and actively.
- Disgusted by the necessities of wielding Power. This character buys off his Key and goes on to do something else; his statement is that he would rather lose his power than defend it by ruining a rival.

That Key of Power is, of course, only one possibility. You could create a new one for other purposes. Or you could instruct a player more actively to seek for opportunities to gain xp. But even if you hold a player's hand, I don't recommend that you do it by tailoring his Keys to how he's going to play anyway. If you're going to do that, you might as well just tell him not to worry about it and throw him a five points of xp 2-3 times per session for being such a good lad. The Key system is not liked by all, and for a good reason: it says that the purpose of play is to establish and resolve patterns of behavior for characters in a social context, and that characters are rewarded by this activity. It's intent is not to reward "good play" or "staying in character" or other things like that, which may confuse and even embitter a player used to other notions of reward. I have no doubt that your friend played his scheming noble-man well and participated in the game fully; in TSOY terms this is not, in itself, worthy of any rewards apart from Gift Dice and Key Scene rewards. To get the big xp, assuming he wants them, he has to take a stand in terms of Keys, buying off his useless Keys and getting new ones that depict the patterns of choice for his character. He has to himself take a critical look at what his character is and what he does, and then choose Keys that communicate this to other players as well. You as the Story Guide may assist players in understanding their choices and opportunities in this regard, and often have to while the game is being learned, but you can't ensure that everybody gets xp this way.

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
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