*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
April 20, 2014, 09:02:13 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 55 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [Rustbelt] Changing setting  (Read 2768 times)
DWeird
Member

Posts: 75


« on: November 03, 2008, 12:26:09 PM »

Split off from this thread here, as requested: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26919.0


(though I *am* having some troubles with the complete lack of tidbits of "wild west" culture in my game.

I would really really really like it if you could find a way to elaborate on that, dissect it a bit, and so on (perhaps in another thread, here in the BtW forum).  Because I have a sense of this game as being distinctly American somehow, although I have yet to be able to put it into any sort of words how or why.

Okay, so. I'm feeling like I'm groping around in my mind without any clear idea of what I'm doing, so expect this to be messy and treat it as such.

To put it as simply as I can manage - if Rustbelt games are usually ones in which "life is nasty, brutish, and short", mines are ones in which it should be possible for life to be nasty, brutish, and long. Characters could get to live, and live as long as any 'normal' person would, but they would have to do some nasty things to achieve that. Or they would have to not do some things they think are decent... Or something. Keeping hush about things you know. Talking with a group of friends and thinking about which one of them would out you if you say the wrong couple of words. Or not thinking that, 'cause you're actually that guy... Etcetera. Life is a slow, painful grind, and it gets a bit less painful if you're the one doing the grinding.

...but that's still within Rustbelt's regular turf, I guess. The actual problem, I think, is that, to achieve the sort of background I'm looking for, I'd have to rob the player's characters of a significant degree of autonomy. It's not that the characters wouldn't be able to make choices - it's that most of the more interesting ones would result in instant death. "Okay, they're torturing you... You want to escape - fine, roll? You gonna Push? Okay then... Some Sweat. Oh, you took two steps and they caught you! <More sweat, some tears, some blood...> Mm-hhmm... So I guess your guy's done. New char?"

Why am I even thinking of running a game like this? Well... I have a certain feel of the game I want to run - with millions of tiny tiny dirty eyes watching you. Always. Every step recorded, every step possibly the last. I want to use stuff that people around the table (and I myself) recognise as life in the bin, and the stuff I described involves that. I don't want to fit my prospective players into any sort of plot flowchart, but, getting the general feel right means that the guys it's my job to play will always, always have a crushing mechanical advantage over the players. Push all you want, you'll still be a corpse in minutes if you don't damned well fall in line... And smile doing it!


In a wild-west-ish world, a person could always try to shoot his troubles away. Or run away to the next town - sure, it'd still be dirty, the people would still be horrid, and life would still be shit, but at least one could make a choice, even if it's just "screw this, I'm outta here!". You could also make the choice to stay whereever it is you are now - for your own reasons... But in my setting, running away to a place that'd be equally crappy, but at least different, is just not there. If you try to move... You don't get worn down in large bleeding chunks, as it seems to be the case in many Rustbelt games - you get crushed instantly. You don't even get to go from the frying pan into the fire, you just fry.

...I don't feel quite like I've described my initial problem properly, but hopefully this is enough for someone to go on. Everything'll snap into place sooner or later, I'm sure.
Logged

Marshall Burns
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 485


« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2008, 02:37:07 PM »

I'm grasping at straws myself, just as much, trying to figure out what it is about the game that feels so American to me.

I hadn't really thought about how much the "flee to the Territories" idea actually applied to the Rustbelt.  That could be a part of it.  Self-determinism.  Defiance, out loud and proud.  Rugged Individualism. 

Hm.  Maybe that could be it.

The oppressive atmosphere you're cooking up sounds kinda neat.  In my games, the Rust is always around, but it doesn't often take direct action -- just here and there, occasionally, for no reason other than to fuck with people.  My Rust is very patient.  It waits for the right moment to corrupt the right part that makes the engine break down in the worst possible situation.

My Rust waits for people to choose corruption.  Yours sounds like it's ramming it down people's throats.  The neat thing is that it's a different kind of corruption, from what I can tell.
Logged

DWeird
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2008, 12:24:51 AM »

Not sure about ruggedness - you could probably play a wimp and have a great time doing it - but individualism is definitelly one of the core bits of Rustbelt as I see it. It's there at chargen, with it's "make what you will", it's supported by the Push/Give resolution mechanics (which do give any character a certain bit of "ruggedness", always! I was wrong. Cheesy). That bit of setting (this is part of setting, right?) isn't color, it's in the rules (as far as I can tell).

Which brings me to my actual problem: Can Rustbelt be played enjoyably in the sort of setting I envisioned? The way I see it, a good part of the fun in the game is tied in with those moments of defiance, going all "screw you, fate! Things're gonna go MY way!" (or not - Kit's antivenom scene, teehee). I mean, Rustbelt GM's are supposed to put pressure on their players' characters, but what if at a certain point that pressure becomes actually making the player's choices unviable ("do as you're told or die", as a setting expectation - something that the GM, not a character in the game says - seems to be such a point, to me. A single event of defiance is not worth losing a character completelly, in my mind. Not that early, at least.)?

Would the rules work as-is for this? Should I change them somehow (maybe having Woe outbursts be treated as bonus for whatever action they want to do? You have Woe at 25. It gets triggered, character bursts out, takes tears, takes sweat, and then takes all the blood and sweat he has left over and pours it into one action... That's 25+15?+20?=somewhere from 40 to 60... Enough to do something awesome. People would go down eventually, but they would go down in flames)? Or am I looking at the problem from a wrong angle - i.e., I have some false ideas on how the game is run or supposed to be run or how I'm supposed to prepare for it?

[Now, I guess it'd be simplest to take "Can Rustbelt be played enjoyably in the sort of setting I envisioned?" to the (play)test and find out there, but as I said in another thread, this'd likely be the first game both to me as GM and to any prospective players. Which means I essentially have one chance to get them hooked. Could turn out they don't like the hobby, or don't like this particular version of it, but I'd rather not lose them because of my own messup. So yes. Must go without a hitch!]
Logged

Marshall Burns
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 485


« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2008, 11:29:07 AM »

I didn't really mean "rugged," per se, but "Rugged Individualism."  It's the name of a particular creed, a major imprint on American culture.

There's already support for going down in a blaze:  the Last Push rule.

I do think that you can enjoy the sort of game you're talking about with the Rustbelt rules.  I think it'll be okay to let them have small victories, because the costs build up, and, over a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero -- the Rust is patient, I don't see why the roaches couldn't be.

Due to the mechanics, there will be times when a guy is being tortured, and he will snap the restraints and strangle his tormentors to death with them.  Remember that you can Push for extra damage, and that if two people are attacking each other at the same time, the winner of the roll gets his hit in for free, but the loser need only Push to get his in as well.  Also remember that the effects of each hit will be persistent for at least the duration of the conflict, and quite possibly longer.  "Injury" in particular is a death-spiral.  It's all about bargaining, threat, pressure.

By the way, did you see this blog post of mine?
Logged

Marshall Burns
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 485


« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2008, 02:55:44 PM »

Er, what I mean is, due to the system, the players will be able to utterly destroy threats if they try hard enough.  And you should let this happen.  But you can keep the oppressiveness you're after; I can imagine that, as one man falls, there's already another there to take his place.  Just like roaches.
Logged

DWeird
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2008, 02:58:06 AM »

I haven't read that particular post, no. Thought I was aware of most bits of stuff there - at least, I think so. One thing caught my eye, though...

Quote
DICE DON'T RESOLVE CONFLICTS, PEOPLE DO
(But the dice help.)  In fights, the dice tell us who gets hurt, but the fight ends when somebody decides to stay down, and the other guy decides to stop kicking him.  In social conflicts, I can make you like me by rolling Personable, I can make you afraid of me by rolling Grizzled, I can freak you the fuck out by rolling Uncanny, I can confuse you by rolling Savvy, but I can't force you to take any particular course of action.  All I can do is make certain actions harder for you to take, in the hopes that you'll acquiesce to my will.  And I can offer bargains, I can beg, I can threaten, I can make promises, I can lie, but you always have authority over your own decisions.

When it comes to bargaining, the GM is always in a position of unmitigated power (the players can always say "screw you!" and leave, but that's not much game-wise) - he is never in a condition of scarcity, and can conjure the resources that are lacking for players out of thin air. My major worry is that I can inadvertedly crush the players - I mean, the game's designed to do that, but there's... good crushing and bad crushing.

Like... Remember Konrad the truck driver and how his arms were mess'd up? The character was essentially out of the game after that, and eventually resorted to random face-stomping violence just to have some impact on the game. The GM started thinking on how to allow him back in, but before there was a chance to do so, the game mostly ended (and Rustbelt games aren't designed to be played for extended periods of time, anyway). Now, I wasn't there, so my reading of the events could be wrong, but if it's correct, that's a horrible thing to happen. To a player, not a character, mind.

I guess the better question to ask is not whether Rustbelt can support the sort of play I envisioned, but rather how? What's the proper pace and intensity for challenges? The fiction of my setting demands that relativelly small offenses lead to disproportionally large threats. I don't want to kill my player's characters on first issue they face, but that's easy enough to avoid. More importantly, I don't want to take away too many options too soon, as it (probably?) makes every challenge a choice between ignoring it and giving your life ('cause you haven't got much left 'sides that) to overcome it. "You are an armless, legless torso. You are trying to eat a bowl of cereal. I'll let you pour in milk if you lose your lower jaw in the process." or something similar (but probably less amusing to read).


Now, I just reread the GM section, again, and I guess there's a gaping flaw in everything I'm doing now: pre-designing a setting and challenges before I know what characters I'm going to run the game with. Reminding myself of that felt reassuring for some reason - I don't have to make everything make sense, I just have to push the right buttons at the right time. Or SLAM! them all at once continuously, whichever works. Still, even with this in mind, I feel that there's still an issue here. Right now, my setting's painted with a broom - broad strokes, no details and no clear pre-planning in any meaningful sense, but there's still a certain feel I want to bring to the game. "One wrong step and everything falls apart", rather than "push 'till you can't push no more." Like I said before... Not a "whether", but a "how" question. How should I structure the challenges, their frequency and intensity, to achieve the sort of feel that I'm looking for?

[Completelly irrelevant side note: funny thing about my proposed Woe mechanic: It gives a bonus exactly equal to the Tears damage one just took, meaning that it's mechanically equivalent (-x+x=0) to a possible raw Push mechanic just before invoking the Woe. I am in awe of my own brilliance, really. Cheesy]
Logged

Marshall Burns
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 485


« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2008, 03:41:21 PM »

When it comes to bargaining, the GM is always in a position of unmitigated power (the players can always say "screw you!" and leave, but that's not much game-wise) - he is never in a condition of scarcity, and can conjure the resources that are lacking for players out of thin air. My major worry is that I can inadvertedly crush the players - I mean, the game's designed to do that, but there's... good crushing and bad crushing.

That can be an issue.  The idea is for the GM to push hard enough to make the PCs reveal through action all of their most admirable and most monstrous qualities.  If that means crushing them, then so be it.  But the thought of crushing them before they get to do their piece is scary.  I've held myself back from more than a few things because I didn't want to take it overboard.  Looking back, those things wouldn't have gone too far, and I'm really not sure if it actually is possible to take it too far, but it's still scary.

Here's a thing I've been thinking about:  forget Blood/Sweat/Tears for NPCs.  If they take Tears damage, it must be channeled into an Outburst immediately.  Combat damage must be interpreted as death, Injury, or the destruction of equipment.  I haven't tested this yet, but I think it will nicely obviate the problem of unbalanced resources between GM and players.  The Rust, of course, never Pushes, so it's not much of a problem.

but there's still a certain feel I want to bring to the game. "One wrong step and everything falls apart", rather than "push 'till you can't push no more." Like I said before... Not a "whether", but a "how" question. How should I structure the challenges, their frequency and intensity, to achieve the sort of feel that I'm looking for?

Let things fall apart when they take a wrong step, and leave it up to them to find a way out of the rubble.  It's worth a try, at any rate.
Logged

DWeird
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2008, 07:58:34 AM »

Here's a thing I've been thinking about:  forget Blood/Sweat/Tears for NPCs.

...that doesn't feel right at all. As a GM, I can still create a hundred NPCs on the spot need be (perfectly within the bounds of fiction in my case, mind!), and I can also set up non-NPC challenges - anything from the circumstance-based "they're coming for you and the door is locked!" to the looky-a monster! types of "there is policeman in a tattered uniform, waving a bloodied stop sign around."

B/S/T for NPCs is a way of giving a little oomph or maybe staying power to the NPCs the GM likes (I'm assuming the "only use B/S/T for NPCs with developed Psyche components" rule still stands in this scenario). Which I sort of like - the GM's increased responsibility in regards to the game shouldn't mean that he's not getting somethin' from it in return. An ability to let some of "your" guys to kick ass in a way that mirrors the players' respective ability means that you get to get some non-guilty pleasures.

Taking away the GM's pocket knife still leaves him with a pair of scissors, a chainsaw, a stack of grenades, and an AA gun. And if you take those way, too, how the heck are we supposed to torture the characters?


I'm now pretty sure this problem is in the "GM best practises" pile, not the "core rules need work" pile. I mean, it probably would have to be part of the rules if the relationship between the "GM/world" and "players/characters" was genuinely adverserial, but it's not - not because the two are best buddies, but, well... because, in this game, the characters have already lost. The only things up for grabs are the answers to "when" and "how". Which is still a damned lot, if you want me to get all philosophical - but trust me, you don't... T'is a slippery slope.

[That little bit of fatalism is probably a way in which your game is not american at all... Not the same way applie pie is, at the very least.]


Could you maybe talk more about those times you felt you could have crushed the characters if things went out of hand and then later thought that wouldn't have been a problem? Were there ever any moments where you experienced the opposite - when you threw something at the players and they failed to deal with it in an interesting way? When is it the best time, from your experience, to start throwing insurmountable obstacles at them? Straight off? Let the character wiggle into it themselves, little by little, and then make like a beartrap and snap?


Also! If I'm going to throw the characters in the grind, the players should be aware of both
the fact itself and the available means of resistance. Is there any catchy one-liner I can give them that would help them snap into the right mindset for the game?


This seems to have migrated a bit from "how do the rules influence the setting?" to "Marshall, help me with my game!" sort of things, so I'm sorry. But there's nothing more annoying than a person who pesters you for help and keeps apologising for it, so I'll just say... Thanks. Cheesy 'ppreciate the help.
Logged

Marshall Burns
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 485


« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2008, 09:37:36 AM »

Well, I'm not married to the idea; it's just an idea, and this ain't quite a finished game, after all!

It's just intended to make the GM feel safer about what he's doing.  It's just a trick, really.  Which may not even be necessary.

For a while, I felt bad everytime an NPC pulled a gun.  As soon as the gun came out, I thought, "My God!  What am I doing?  I'm gonna kill the PCs before they have a chance to do anything!"  Which was dead, dead wrong.  It wasn't until one of my players hacked a gun-toting PC to death with a machete that I realized just how easily a powerful NPC could be surmounted.  (It also made me realize how important little details could be in a fight -- the player utilized the terrain, which was the interior of a rapidly flooding cave, to pin the NPC in a bad spot)

In a later game, I had an NPC guarding a warehouse go all-out with an Uzi.  Player's guy lost a damn kneecap, but still won.  With a cinderblock.
Meanwhile, another guy is inside the warehouse, going to fuckin' town on three NPCs who had pistols and a shotgun, smashing them with crates and knocking them off of catwalks onto the tines of forklifts.

Also! If I'm going to throw the characters in the grind, the players should be aware of both
the fact itself and the available means of resistance. Is there any catchy one-liner I can give them that would help them snap into the right mindset for the game?

Hm.  That's a tough one. I'm gonna have to think about that.

One thing I've found recently to make things click for people is that it's like the movie No Country for Old Men, except everything is more worn-down and rusted out.  That's the most Rustbelt-ish movie I've ever seen.  (If it were a Rustbelt game, Llewellyn, Anton, and Sheriff Root would be the PCs).  But it's also a very American movie, so I don't know how helpful that would be with your setting.
Logged

DWeird
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2008, 02:23:56 PM »

Haven't really seen that movie - will try to make time for it, though. However! After having rummaged about, I've unearthed one quote...

"How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?"

That is the question my setting is asking. It's the definition, the freaking essence of it! The crushing, the grind... It's there for a reason. And the reason is that someone... something... wants to find out how people respond to being crushed and grinded.

I might be taking that quote out of context, but I don't care - I feel like I can now pop out captivating NPCs at will. That question... Isn't verbal. It's not something you ask someone - it's something you find out. It's - it's about trying to find out the meaning of life with a scalpel. There's method and rigor... And there's boredom, apathy - all the answers are meaningless, answers are made meaningless by the question itself. And then there's fear - not of guns, or tanks, or pain, but of being asked that question... So you kill everything in advance, just to screw that question over, to flip it on it's head. You kill yourself so you could live. Which is laughable. ...all of which is horrible.


This... is something. My head keeps bubbling with little wows that pop when they hit the skull. Then there's also this part of me that's afraid that this sort of stuff gets me excited.

...all I need is to know the characters, that question, and I can run a game. Wow!
Logged

Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1962


WWW
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2008, 07:34:15 PM »

That IS a powerful quote. I can see it being used for many games, many scenarios.

From what I've read about The Rustbelt, and my one time playing, it definitely fits the theme of the "classic" setting. It's not setting specific at all, in fact.. It's thematic. I think it might even fall under Big-P Premise that Ron talks about. It's a question that's asked, then answered through play.
Logged

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
DWeird
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2008, 02:18:37 AM »

Right! There's no denying that it fits the original theme of the Rustbelt perfectly.

The difference is that in my version of the setting, that question isn't just something that happens to be answered during play, the question is posed in the actual setting, by the people and situations there. The dry and boring interrogator who gets that little glint of curiosity (not malice!) in his eye when he gets to find out who of your loved ones you would abandon first... The scientist who will cut you up and expect you to comment on your experiences throughout... The snitch who betrays his family, his friends, everything and anything, just to avoid "being interesting." Etcetera.

Marshall's Rust is screwing with you because it can - it's lazily playing cat and mouse.
My roaches are screwing with you because they want to find out who you are - it's dissecting you.

This is somewhat different from my original intentions, but I feel that whatever I had sketched out before - the brute force of corruption applied, its application to those who step outside the line - would be reproduced perfectly (and then some!) by this. And made meaningful. All that shit - it has a goddamned principle... A human principle. I mean - that's what we're trying to find out with this game, right? It could actually be us there, doing those things. It could be me! Which makes it so, so scary to me. Which makes it so, so awesome. Which makes it so, so scary.

And so on.
Logged

Marshall Burns
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 485


« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2008, 10:09:53 AM »

It could actually be us there, doing those things. It could be me! Which makes it so, so scary to me. Which makes it so, so awesome. Which makes it so, so scary.

You can't see it, but I'm grinning in a slightly creepy way right now.

Logged

Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!