Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Vonnegut's Crapshoot; or the way I run my games.

Started by quixoteles, November 19, 2007, 03:21:19 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


This is my first time submitting to the forum. I need to say something before I introduce the mechanic. People have fun in my games. A lot of fun. The laugh and howl and feel good. I am a feel good guy, kind of like an Master of Ceremony when I run. This is why I break one of the coolest rules ever, you know the one: "say yes, or roll dice." I love that design imperative, it's awesome, but

I run a dice-less game with a very light character creation framework and it goes like this: You are going to fail, or you are going to be screwed. The players are like a rabid coyote in a trap, they actually seem to enjoy biting off thier own legs to ensure their continued freedom.

For example player a want to shoot at player b with a sniper rifle. She is at the top of the tower and says she is ready to take the shot. I as the GM says: "If you take the shot people are going to notice you in your location and try to corner you in the building, you take the shot?"

player a says: "Fine. I jump out the window to another window and leave that way."

GM: "You do that I am make the exit to the building have some heavy opposition, if you just run out there you'll be outnumbered by superior forces. You okay with that?"

Player a: "What? you just said I escaped, how about I leave behind some evidence in my hurry to leave and when I slip into the crowd I had to leave it behind?"

GM: "Like what? The rifle itself?"

Player A: "A smoking gun, cool."

This is not so much a rule as it is aesthetic; scenes opening and closing with how much are players willing to put into jeopardy before they call for the close of the scene in some way. Hopefully they will through clever play make it hurt more for the enemy than it will for them to keep the scene or at least recover their losses better than the enemy in the long run wearing them down over long terms.

This is working for me, unfortunately everything that is made in this forum tells me that this is wrong. In play it does not feel like torture. It is based on the Kurt Vonnegut theory of "Man get's into trouble, man crawls into more trouble from there, man gets out of trouble, the story ends."

I have some intergated systems, luck points and traits and all that but the important mechanic is the micromanaged dilemma to dilemma sort of thing that I described before.

I came here for some real feedback, I need to talk to some one with real knowledge in a theoretical sense to look at this critically, otherwise I can take the fun we're having and make the kind of fun that everyone else can enjoy, which is why this board exists I think.


Callan S.

Hi ejw,

The process you describe seems to be 'Say yes, or make a deal', which is almost like 'Say yes or roll', because the outcome of pass or fail have to be decided (ie, a deal has to be made about each outcome).

I think the benefit of a dice roll is, the result isn't just decided by one or more persons at the table. It stops you from doing exactly what you'd normally do - which is a great comfort zone breaker to apply to yourself.
Philosopher Gamer


For additional information we the 4 of us and another player was in the room. The three players were in a mission to capture on of the other players. A young rebel and force him to be the CEO of a company. The two of them were bounty hunters. I introduced a powerful antagonist named Armless Louis. He introduced a player versus GM dynamic; he wanted to kill the rebel.

The players are Mr. Black, Mr. Blonde, and Mr. Pink. Mr. Black was only there for that one time, a busy man with a penchant for playing boba fett in any form he could get him most of the brownie points he got came from making bold moves and driving the story forward. Mr. Blonde was playing the young rebel and received plenty of brownie points for good very funny role-playing. Mr. Pink received less brownie points than the others but for a very cool reason, he used literary techniques like foreshadowing and repetition alliteration and metaphors while in play. It is a more subtle way of getting the brownie points but I think more important and perhaps better.

The all played well and all got over five brownie points in the original conflict. the play entirely lasted five hours. That comes out to one brownie point per hour average (3+5+8=16 /3=5.3333) and three acts and four scenes one of them an epilogue.

Problems? players using higher reasoning get rewards, players with dramatic acumen get rewards and players with story power, the ability to elevate the story and make breakthrough characters; their rewards materialize slower. This I can't deal with, it just doesn't seem right. Right now these things are literally brownie points, they mean nothing. But if they do then really awesome, but subtle players don't deserve to lose out on some of the story action. What do I do? Beats me.


Dude.  Pick yourself up a copy of Polaris and groove.  Ben's taken what you're talking about and formalized it in some really interesting ways.  It rocks - you're totally on a very fruitful path, of which only the teeniest elements of the top skin of the icing on the cake have been explored.

In particular you may get a kick out of the way in which, in Polaris, basically if nobody backs down and accepts the other guy having the last word (the "okay, I can go with that" situation), then one of them can opt to roll the dice; the dice will either leave it at the last proposal the other one made, or will 'roll back' that deal to whatever the negotiations were before it.

It's like you guys are tootling around with the possibilities inherent in using these polyhedron things, for the first time.  It's that big and open a space.  Go for it!


Cool thing about Ben's game: no one suggests anything, they just do it. I have never been a fan of that in RP, it just seemed unnatural in telling a story. When I tell a story things happen they don't attempt happening. As a GM I am the story checker, I facilitate play between players and story and players and other players. what am I if I do not, a dice checker? NO! I don't want to check dice, I want to play too! So in my games we decide who is going to stab who in the heart, and then we compromise. So Ben meets my approval.

One of the "in-play" things that happen often is that players break up their actions so that the predictable compromises are smaller and they can still accomplish their goal with reduced consequences. In turn those that make bold moves may beat them to the punch. Wise old characters or cebereal ones do this "By Inches" approach because of their ability, role play-wise for prediction. I do this unconsciously when a character is inexperienced. An unfair advantage to playing an older character is this "Grown-A**ed Man" rule.

So far the idea is that I keep raising the stakes with every act done in a scene. It's like poker. Basically everyone is playing chicken. If no one backs down, they will be too broken to continue playing and be broken. Now the thing I haven't gotten over is how players manage to heal from these losses. I want a game that is ultimately in a comedy, in the classical sense. All of my games are suspenseful comedies. Perhaps Dark, but positive nonetheless.

Currently I have this sort of pyramid of skill levels which I have to admit is much more sucky than that. And I think weighting down my game. In any case, here it is:

First tier; one slot: better than the game reality allows. Gone with the wind, in which Scarlet O'Hara has weather control or something ridiculous that players demand. Basically the Gimmick that most RP's base themselves off of.

Second tier; Two slots: As good as the established reality allows without straining suspension of disbelief.

Third tier; three slots: The elite level of potential that players expect to have in most role playing games. The kind "good" that makes min-maxing happen.

Fourth tier; four slots: This is the good that GM's often imagine people to be in the game world. The little things that make someone themselves, minor disputes, professions, the little, not so little things that you have to mention that set a character into context, basically explaining and filling in some of the contradictions and complexities of the upper tiers.