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Author Topic: I'm reading about David C's game  (Read 2055 times)
Eero Tuovinen
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« on: January 11, 2009, 10:07:43 AM »

David's been starting some rather interesting threads about his fantasy adventure game here during the last several months. Those threads have provided us glimpses at a well-mechanized fantasy adventure game of some sort, but a whole picture has not quite cohered. I asked David to sent me an overview of the game to look over and comment upon, and that's what I'm doing here - doing it in public in case others have looked at the game and want to say their piece as well. The following is some scattered thoughts and reactions to the material - I'm sure it'll get honed once I get David to reflect on this with me.

System aesthetics

David: This is a really pretty system, I fully understand why your friends have encouraged you to continue development. I myself appreciate system aesthetics a lot, and you have a lot of pretty solutions here with just the right amount of detail. I'm reminded of the Solar System and Spirit of the Century which both feature similarly elegant systems with a similar amount of detail. I have no doubt at all that with a system this clean you yourself factually use the system you're writing when you play (not at all given with rpg designers).

Peaceful vs. combat

I read through your material and got confused about why the combat rules were given so much focus over everything else a character might be and do, but then I read the GMing instructions about combat and peaceful solutions. Basically, the game is composed of a string of challenge situations which the GM prepares, and he explicitly needs to prepare each situation to have a combat solution and a peaceful solution, with roughly equal consequences for each. You also have a layered resolution system where the game changes into a different resolution mode when the characters get into mortal danger.

The instructions also tell the GM to prepare these situations in advance in great detail. Do I understand it correctly that the GM has a plot that strings these encounters together? You also mention that having both a peaceful solution and violent solution allowable for each situation is important because the players don't like to be railroaded.

Finally, the instructions tell you to keep an eye on the combat vs. peaceful solution divide - if the party of characters resorts to violence all the time, then the GM should start favouring peaceful solutions by making the rewards more lucrative or the dangers of violence more hazardous. Interestingly enough you don't suggest the opposite for a group that strives for the peaceful solution in all things - is it just that you don't find this likely, or are you fine with the players resolving everything without combat?

Would I be misemphasizing if I said that this is the core of the actual game, as opposed to the incidentals of setting and how characters are described mechanically? Or would you rather say that this GMing method you present is more of a guideline, and basically just something you threw in there because you wanted to have some GM advice? I'm asking because this is where the actual game seems to be, insofar as my understanding is concerned.

Suggested analysis

The reason for why I wanted to see a general presentation about David's game was that we've been discussing all sorts of things around it, but saying anything even nearly definite is difficult without having a general picture of what the game is trying to achieve. Perhaps I can guess at the game's purpose based on this material. David, let me know whether this is close:

It seems to me that Remos is heavily concerned with character depiction. The many options for character creation and development reflect this strongly. There is a concern for character growth, a typical fantasy story element. The character development options are tightly tied to the setting - characters don't just learn new powers, they change as persons as they develop. All this is very reminiscent of the Solar System.

However, what is the purpose of this character development? To me it seems that the game is very much focused on expressing the character. The Destiny rules hint at this, it seems to me: the player lays the groundwork for the core story of this character right out of the gate, and you encourage the player to write a plentiful backstory and even an ending for the story. This game is not about where a character ends up - that we already know - but about how he gets there. And that how provides plentiful opportunities for the players to show how their characters react to different situations - situations that the GM is specifically directed to create in such a manner as to encourage a variety of solutions. This makes it very easy for the players to emphasize their chosen character themes: this character is an angry guy, he hits everybody when given a change, this is a gentle one, this is a mysterious wizard and so on. The GM controls the story through the scene preparations he does, but he's presumably preparing in accordance with the Destiny paths - each player told him what they wanted their characters to pursue, so I'd even imagine that a good GM would hold off on planning a campaign arc until the characters are created; after that it's a simple matter to look at all the Destiny paths and concoct a plot that gives all the characters are reason to journey together. Or how did you imagine the campaign coordination to go?

I also notice that the game strives for impeccable balance. A tidbit of the rules on law-breaking to illustrate: when a character breaks laws, he collects a GTA-rific bounty meter. This meter then determines how much bounty hunter heat he collects on his tail. The character can get rid of the bounty by turning himself in and paying a fine based on his bounty, or he can fight off the bounty hunters, or he can get captured and have to pay double. Now, this is troubling me for my analysis: my impression is that the game has many subsystems like this where an elegant system shortcuts GM decision-making about some facet of the setting and dramatic coordination of the game; however, the question is, why? Is this just to free the player to make his character choices in full security and without a fear of inordinate reprisal from the GM? Is the purpose to make sure the GM doesn't skimp on legal consequences for character actions? Is this a gameable subsystem the player is supposed to get strategic about?

The role of combat in this structure is still slightly unclear to me (haven't seen a detailed account of how it works), because it can well make or break a game of the above sort. I even have a perfect example of this, Exalted: Exalted shares many of the qualities of this game, such as the narrow focus on the player character and his development, as well as his core story - each Exalted character generally has a highly detailed personal aesthetic and a "deal" of some sort (in the sense of "what's your deal?"), which are then expressed through the character's interaction with the GM's plot. However, the combat rules of the game are a huge problem zone for all of this: they are convoluted, challenging to optimize characters for, deadly, difficult to balance from the GM's side, happen unexpectedly and in general, there is no clear concensus among the playing population of the game about whether the game is about beating ever more powerful opponents or going along with the GM's story. The combat rules seem to drag the game towards a hard core challenge game even while being very difficult to be played that way. So I'm naturally wondering how Remos works in this regard.

Does the above seem to reflect your intentions for what your game is supposed to do, David? I like what I'm seeing as far as mechanical clarity goes very much, but as you can see from my bounty theoretizing a couple of paragraphs up, I'm uncertain about the conclusion: is this game about the player having a strong character vision and then expressing it for the enjoyment of the whole group, or is it more about making smart choices regarding the rules? Why is that bounty system there?

Whatever the core agenda of the game, I should note that I very much want to see this game being developed. I like the mechanical solutions, starting with the "Origins" (Remonese for character race, except cooler), continuing with how the abilities are randomized and going forth with the three-dimensional experience system. I'm just uncertain about the overall purpose of the game.
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David Berg
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2009, 07:27:21 PM »

If the game is about expressing a character, and that expression is realized through impactful choices, isn't a bounty meter just one means of delivering on the impact of certain choices?  Looks to me like one tool in the GM's "what you did mattered" toolkit.

David C., I find it extremely hard as a GM to prep situations where (a) violence and non-violence would work equally well, and (b) the players are aware that is the case, and can choose between the two options purely as a means of character expression.  If you've found ways to pull these off, whether via prep or responsively during play, I'd love to hear 'em!
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David C
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2009, 04:46:41 AM »

First, I'd like to thank you, Eero, for looking over this for me. On to my responses!

Quote
Do I understand it correctly that the GM has a plot that strings these encounters together?

Yes. Do you think that it's important I state this more explicitly in the final book?  My own assumption was that people would naturally try to express a plot through play, particularly because of the emphasis on Destinies.

Quote
Interestingly enough you don't suggest the opposite for a group that strives for the peaceful solution in all things - is it just that you don't find this likely, or are you fine with the players resolving everything without combat?

I'm assuming most people have really bad, leftover D&D habits. When designing the game, I've been trying to bridge the gap between "The game people wanted to run/play in" vs "What game they actually played."   Also, sometimes the consequences of failure with a peaceful solution, is now you have to fight instead! 

Quote
Would I be misemphasizing if I said that this is the core of the actual game, as opposed to the incidentals of setting and how characters are described mechanically? Or would you rather say that this GMing method you present is more of a guideline, and basically just something you threw in there because you wanted to have some GM advice?

There's a lot I have to say about this, but I don't think right now is the appropriate moment to go into detail, so I'll give you a short answer. Your understanding is correct. 

Quote
However, what is the purpose of this character development?

With the paragraph that followed your question, I feel your question was rhetorical.  In case it wasn't, here's my answer:

When I first started playing RPGs, I loved making characters. I've been a writer for awhile, and have been told I have talent for it. However, I tended to get locked into a few tropes. Wizards use staffs, all melee works like a fencing match, etc.  Characters would have interesting meta-plots and personal flavor, but they always approached problems in a very narrow manner!   After I realized this problem (characters always approaching problems in a narrow manner) I realized partly what was drawing me to RPGs... I could discover all manners of ingenuity.  With this, I decided to make a system where players could attempt virtually anything, but there characters would develop unique flairs that they could choose from a laundry list of abilities (the Techniques.) 


Quote
each player told him what they wanted their characters to pursue, so I'd even imagine that a good GM would hold off on planning a campaign arc until the characters are created... Or how did you imagine the campaign coordination to go?


You know, it's difficult to say, because of my playtests.  I find that most players prefer to "learn as you go."  When teaching them to play a game, you want to feed them a small piece at a time and they'll give you very little feedback during the process.  When I talked about the Destiny mechanic to my most recent group, most of them answered "Well, I want to know how the game works, first."  They needed to understand the game, before they could 'plot their course.'  Now that we've played twice, most of them have gotten back to me with their Destiny path.  I imagine if I played with them again and they've mastered the game, they'll present me with Destiny paths before we ever start.

So my answer is... it depends on the players, if they read the book before hand, and if they've played before. It would be nice if every player was as assertive and creative as the Forge makes them sound to be, but in my experience, most are floating free and are waiting for something to grab onto...

Quote
... shortcuts GM decision-making about some facet of the setting and dramatic coordination of the game

Well I'll provide you with a little background on where the Bounty mechanic came from.  I made a spell called "Fleeting Fabrication" which basically lets you make any tool, but it will evaporate after a scene.  But I had a conundrum... how do I fix the economy aspect? (players selling these fleeting fabrications as the real deal.)  I thought about it, and realized simply, it's against the law!  Then the applications became much wider, and could actually be used as a conflict to propel the story (you're being chased by a bounty hunter!) 

While I've hard wired this into the game for some things, like this spell, the mechanic itself is controlled by the GM.  After all, bounty hunters will never appear unless the GM makes them appear.  Also, in this mechanic itself, it is up to the GM to decide how much bounty is "a lot."  If you are running a campaign that revolves around breaking the law, 100,000 bounty might be a small amount.  If the game is supposed to be about valiant knights, even a small bounty of 5 might have dire consequences. 

I think the best way to look at this is "It's a tool, not a mechanic."  If the GM doesn't ever use it, it isn't 'part of the game.'  Also, depending on how heavy a touch the GM uses the tool, depends on how much impact it has on the game.

Quote
Looks to me like one tool in the GM's "what you did mattered" toolkit.
Yes!

Quote
So I'm naturally wondering how Remos works in this regard.

This is something you'll probably get a look at in... maybe 3 months?  I'm trying to get a draft of the book done by then, so that it can be read "cover to cover." It is interesting you mention Exalted, a week ago, a friend lent it to me and I started reading it.  The funny thing is, after having read some positive player reviews, it didn't work anything like I imagined! (or how I imagined a WW game would ever work!)  I certainly HOPE my game isn't that convoluted.

Quote
is this game about the player having a strong character vision and then expressing it for the enjoyment of the whole group,


Yes.  Now that I think about it, one thing I'm seeing this play test group do is, they're actually getting involved in *other people's* characters. Erik is talking to Mark about Mark's goal to open a Bar.  Adam makes decisions with his character that'll help Erik's goal in becoming a law enforcer.  (Here's an example of another side of Bounty.  Now I'm using the mechanic to let Erik become a Bounty Hunter and collect bounties...)

Quote
or is it more about making smart choices regarding the rules?

You know, I think you can totally play my game that way.

I think play evolves from two things.  The player's learned experiences and their creative agenda.  My game is supposed to be presented in a way that teaches you to play with strong character emphasis. The Destiny mechanic's questions are no accident, "What's happened to you in the past, what's happened to you now, and what's going to happen to you?"   If a player's CA is gamist, they'll probably do what they can to ignore the story emphasis. There are plenty of crunchy bits in there to mess with (although min/maxing doesn't necessarily provide much of an advantage), and they can totally approach every conflict as "the next monster to defeat." 

The question is, is the game too focused on character efficiency, possibly obscuring or burdening the 'story?'  I'd like to think it isn't, but I'm too close to the project to be unbiased.  Also, since I know how the game is "supposed to be run," my play tests are colored by me, not just what's written in the book.

Some of the difficulty also lays in that, if it works the way I intended it, it defies precedence. (Games that have attempted what I'm attempting, are doomed to fail.)  A very shallow observation of my game is that it is a "Fantasy Heartbreaker."  My plan has always been to treat this as a "hobby" and to invest very little cash into it, so that if it is hopeless... well I had fun anyways and can leave knowing that!
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2009, 07:14:13 AM »

Quite excellent answers, I like what I'm seeing. There's a smart brain working out there, I can feel it. Nothing to add on most of those points, except that you totally should figure out how plot, campaign planning and such figure into the overall enjoyment of the game - I personally would find it very interesting if the GM was supposed to explicitly construct the campaign, which he controls through scene framing, based on the Destinies written by the players. I'm thinking of something like, you have a character who wants revenge on baddies X and a character who wants revenge on baddies Y, then the premise of your campaign necessarily has to be that those two are secretly allied, which justifies the party structure your game obviously depends on. This would especially work well if you had an explicit setting, as that would further provide interesting constraint for the GM - the characters are hinting that Numibians stole the princess, so better think fast on your feet to justify it, GM!

But that's a foolproof thing, can't see how you'd mess it up. I'm more intrigued by the issue of combat and challenge. Specifically, the core issue: will it detract from character expression and GM plot that provides context for this if the game also has a rewarding combat system that depends on player choices for success or failure? This is a difficult question, and one that is encountered again and again in popular game design. just look at Exalted and, especially, 3rd edition D&D. The latter is a poster-boy for how a game system might be explicitly used by players to develop a strong "my character" while simultaneously the actual process of playing the game is largely dependent on system expertise. The question to ask is, what sort of difficulties or locally negotiated houseruling is needed for this game to work well? We know what the answers are for D&D, incidentally - it's been around for a while after all, and we can just look at the sort of problems people have. You as a designer can then ask yourself whether you can live with those problems, or whether you should deal with them in some inventive manner to prevent your game from having the same problems.

(The D&D problems I'm thinking of are many, but a typical one is the outright GMing difficulty of running the game simultaneously for a character-optimizing player and one who wants to be "original" with his character and makes something the game doesn't support well. The difficulty specifically rises out of having to cheat with the rules to simultaneously keep a lid on the optimized character and give the weak characters a hand up with the combats. This is usually construed as a GM problem, but you could view it as a game design issue as well: the game encourages both whole-body character identification and making a combat-character par none, so it's up to the group to figure out, sometimes after the fact, what each player wants.)
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David Berg
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2009, 12:24:47 PM »

David C., I highly recommend the opening post of this thread.  It illustrates many ways to use character info in GM prep, and might be relevant to Destinies.
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David C
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2009, 10:54:21 PM »

David, I meant to get back to your first question earlier, sorry.

a) really, to solve this problem, you need to just isolate a single conflict and think about how you'd solve a problem in non violent means.  Even if you have something mindless and aggressive... there's non violent solutions, like sneaking past it!  I think some of the early game designers would get P.O.ed if there carefully crafted combats were "bypassed." Now we have a legacy of "If I put a monster in front of you, either a) fight it gruelingly or b) die."   I think it's important to realize, even if your carefully crafted conflicts aren't used... that doesn't mean you can't use them later!

In my game, the hope is that because players have this list of potential "powers,"  the nonviolent solutions are more apparent.  With that said, probably not enough of the powers are nonviolent, because they *are* harder to come up with.

b) I have several suggestions on how to work that out.  The simplest and most effective is to spell it out to your players!  Tell them they get the same XP and rewards!  Tell them all solutions are equally viable!   

David, if you PM me your email, I can send you the design document and you can read the section on GMing fully.  I appreciate feedback, *especially* the most critical.
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David Berg
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« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2009, 05:07:16 PM »

Sure, I'll PM you my email.

Let me just clarify, though, that I was not asking about how to establish "there might be an alternative to violence."  I was asking about how to establish, given violent and non-violent alternatives, that they are both equal from a practical standpoint.  I don't know enough about your game yet to know whether this is really relevant here... it's just something I'm interested in... so feel free to drop it or follow up as you see fit.
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David Berg
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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2009, 02:19:22 PM »

I'm wary of initiating tangents in this thread, but David C's asked me to post here what I wrote up after reading his System and Setting docs.  So here it is (with some additions):

I like your angle on framing conflicts.  I'm going to re-read this and think more on it.  If I come up with anything useful to say, I'll let you know.

Use of Setting:
I get the vague impression that it's supposed to be about intrigue and opposition between rational agents (as opposed
to unthinking monsters), with PC action being relevant on a fairly large scale (e.g. war vs peace btw nations)... but I have no idea how this is made to happen in play.

The character classes seem to me to be more about specialized task resolution, which is great for encouraging teamwork, but mute on the subject of setting interface.

Re: play as expression of character, I think I'd want either char-gen or early play to enmesh my character in those goings-on of the setting that were particularly well-suited for that purpose.  I think that probably means situations for my character to (a) demonstrate what they care about (e.g. revealing choices), (b) contribute their unique color in situations where that makes a difference (e.g. diplomacy), and/or (c) do what they're good at (e.g. fights & physical challenges).

Milestones:
There's also an unaddressed dynamic of authority over Milestones. Your examples made it seem like Milestones were defined by the GM to award progress along "the plot" as he sees it.  I get the impression that the plot is authored by the GM in an effort to hit player interests flagged via Future Destinies.  This sounds functional to me, but it would be somewhat misleading to call this system "rewarding the players for making strides toward their destinies."  I mean, unless you want to clarify "invisible strides", to convey, "You may not be aware how this helps toward your specific destiny, but the GM promises that it does!" 

Or is it always made explicit how each conflict/task/scene helps you progress toward your destiny?  Via out-of-game discussion?  Thorough prep followed by NPC exposition?
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David C
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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2009, 11:09:22 PM »

The Story

Quote
The character classes seem to me to be more about specialized task resolution, which is great for encouraging teamwork, but mute on the subject of setting interface.

I would probably not get too hung up on the character classes.  Really, they are a tool of what direction you want to take your character, the first time you play, or for a "fast start" game. What I'm seeing, is players dropping the "predetermined" class that they chose at character gen, to go in their own personal direction, after understanding the basic game.

Quote
Or is it always made explicit how each conflict/task/scene helps you progress toward your destiny?  Via out-of-game discussion?  Thorough prep followed by NPC exposition?

Generally, the idea is that the GM creates the plot around the player's Destinies.  If player a) wants to be master of a thieves guild, player b) wants vengeance on a dragon, and player c) wants to find enlightenment, then the plot should be made in such a way that those qualities are expressed frequently.  (A: chances to become a better thief and recruit, B: tracking down and eventually killing said Dragon, C: lots of opportunities to reflect on the self and spiritual guides that help the player.)   Now, of course, the players have to agree to make characters that work well together. (One player can't strive to become a necromancer while another strives to smite all evil from the land...)

The idea behind milestones is that they are a reward mechanic.  In other words, "If you, as a player have a clear character agenda that the GM can work with, you'll get rewards."  As far as putting some of these tools into the hands of the players, I am unsure that needs to be elaborated.  There is a built-in mechanic for allowing players to narrate scenes that are important to them and to introduce NPCs largely under their control, if they wish to, but these narrativist mechanics aren't high priority.

I'm constantly looking for ways to improve my GM and player interaction, portion of the game. Especially since the 1 time somebody else ran my game, he resisted reading the GM materials.  Do you have a suggestion you think I should consider? 

The Setting

Quote
I get the vague impression that it's supposed to be about intrigue and opposition between rational agents (as opposed
to unthinking monsters), with PC action being relevant on a fairly large scale (e.g. war vs peace btw nations)... but I have no idea how this is made to happen in play.

Ok, so I've asked both yours and Eero's opinion on the setting for a very specific reason.  A long while ago, I hashed out the basic premises of the game, including the setting.  Truthfully, I've spent almost zero time on it since then, except for the setting portion you've read.  Recently, I've kind of had my doubts about it and am considering throwing the whole thing out.  Especially now, after understanding a little more about game design, I feel the setting is... boring and useless in terms of actual play.

I have difficulty with this, because my gut says, for my type of game, I need at least some sort of "meta-setting."  Some sort of "launching point" for what kind of game they're going to play.  I know two players who are deeply involved in some games' "meta-setting." (WoD: Mage and Warhammer 40k: Dark Heresy).  In addition, I have a lot of difficulty working on this stuff.  I did some writing back in college (including the first and last 3 chapters of a book), that were highly received by my professors (who tried to convince me that this is where I should take my career.)  The thing is, my best writing always went through one process.

*The initial idea of the story, which was always the Conflict/Resolution.  I start from the end.
*Small scale and people focused. While I might refer to politics or whatnot, my two best stories never left the town the main characters lived in. The stories were about the people, and how they handled their unusual situations.
*Modern and near-future

Now, we're talking about a setting...
*That's open ended
*That's "World Building"
*That's fantasy

Also, I feel that I should have an introductory "Hook" for my game.  Now, I've come up with several ideas of where to take my game. 
*A generic "fantasy" mixer.  I feel this isn't very marketable.  I'm making a fantasy game which is already like entering the 100 meter dash with a broken leg.
*Use the existing setting, try and make it... better. (I feel this is unlikely)
*Use elements of the existing setting.  Use only the introduction of magic's origin (the sacrifice of Remos) and skip the part about the nations and the different worlds. Then I would add what I've been referring to as "Setting Islands."
*Use elements of the existing setting.  Use another introduction I've been thinking of, that revolves around a metaplot character, that introduces some of the conflict within a major city.  Use "Setting Islands."

Setting Islands
Now, what a Setting Island is, is basically a well defined area surrounded by grey-space, that presumably exists within the world.  Each defined element would basically be created to help propel the game and the GM's game prep. For example, lets say we have the city Charontross.
Charontross
*Information about geography (it's located in the east, with the ocean on the east side of it, and mountains on the west)
*A map of the city, with nonspecific and specific areas.  (There might be a detailed map of this half of the "Docks" but not the other half)
*Notorious NPCs, particularly villains of all power levels. (Gus the streetpusher, or Markus, the cult leader...)
*Events or plothooks (basically premade challenges)
*Some sim elements, like pop ratios and what the buildings are mostly made of.  Not too much, just enough to give a feel of the place.

What I do like about the idea behind "Setting Islands" is that a GM can be like "Cool, I have some material I can drop into my setting."  Also, later, perhaps after inspiration has struck, I can release a setting book, that ties all the "Setting Islands" into one coherent setting, which would *still* allow GMs that first option. 

Really, I feel these two issues are the only thing that's holding me back and really just getting a complete "draft" into the hands of whoever might want to playtest/read it.

PS Sorry for the uberlong post.

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David Berg
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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2009, 12:26:50 PM »

Re: Setting Islands, I have no doubt that these would be useful, but how many of them can you bring yourself to make?  I find mapping towns that aren't being played at the moment to be dull as hell.

As for your more general setting quandary, you might consider starting by asking yourself what specific Color you want your game play to include.  What sort of fictional flavor do you envision arising while the characters are doing their thing?  Once you've pinned that down, perhaps you could approach setting design as a mission to provide for that Color.

It sounds like you may not have any fictional flavor in mind right now, but it also doesn't sound like you're leaning toward a "generic" ruleset.  I would guess that there's some stuff you don't want to see (nukes? cartoons?) and some stuff you do (certain level of realism? certain elvel of social mobility?).  In case you find it useful, here's a list I use for covering my bases w.r.t. game aesthetics:

Fictional Conceit: About what the gameworld contains, in terms of beings, objects, and structures (e.g. societies). Also, how it will appear to player characters.

Functional Conceit: About how the gameworld works. The core of this is how player character actions affect the gameworld, and how the gameworld affects the player characters. Also, any more general gameworld "hows" and "whys" that explain that interaction.

Protagonists: The behavior patterns the players will explore directly (by playing PCs of these types) or indirectly (by playing PCs who are noteworthy for how they differ from these types). A sort of character measuring stick.

Taboos: If you do these with your character, you're playing the game wrong.

Conventions: What kinds of things tend to happen in play? What are some activities that represent play well?

Motifs: Color beyond the central conceit, that gives play its distinctive personality.

References: Narrative fiction or non-fiction that helps players fill in any blanks and find inspiration. Movies, TV series, comic books, novels, etc.


As for Destinies, I still don't understand precisely how "this is a Milestone" is decided and to what extent players can observe/understand/influence that decision, but I can drop it for now if you'd rather focus on other stuff.
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David C
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2009, 12:26:28 AM »

David, I've been doing a lot of thinking about your confusion and if the confusion was on your part or mine. 

Basically, my intent with Destinies has been a tool for the GM to craft a rough plot around *these* characters.  For example, in my current game, there's a player looking for inner peace, a player that's been tortured by an insane cult and a player that's on a quest for knowledge. This lets me know what kind of plot to rough out before the game. My other mission was for players to actually solidify their characters into... a character, not just a set of arbitrary choices based on whatever seems best for the player.  (For example of bad player choice behavior, last time I played with this group, the player who was on a quest for knowledge decided he had to kill a NPC that showed up, because he obviously was a bad guy.)

Your complaint has basically been, the players don't have any narrative control!  Which is totally legitimate, and here's where we get into the meat of the issue. Your prodding has prompted a revision (that's not concrete), but I'm strongly leaning in favor of. 

The GM would still create plot elements that revolve around his player's destinies, but INSTEAD OF a player coming up with their "present", they'd leave that blank.  On the character sheet there would be 5 boxes and some space to write. Once per session, a player could declare an event to be a major milestone for their character and why.  At this point, they can introduce a conflict or some other element (Actually structuring this is something I'm working on).  In addition, they have to write down a *new* trait, but they can also check off one of the boxes.  When they have all 5 boxes checked off, they qualify for a new Gift of Destiny.  (And the process starts over, either with a new Destiny if the old one is resolved, or as a continuation of the old one.) Also, at this point, the GM is supposed to give them an epic point as a Kudos, but only for a good attempt (read: kudos).

These new traits should be adhered to by the character.  If the character goes against one of their existing traits for any reason, that instance is automatically a new milestone with a new trait that contradicts the old trait.  (If they've already gotten a milestone, it counts towards their next week's  allowance.)  If this happens, he loses an epic point.

For example, Jed steals an old man's watch.  Later, he finds out a sad story about the old man and how it was the only thing he had left of his wife. He returns the watch and vows to "never steal again." (trait)  Later, Jed talks to a mage that has this *really awesome invisibility cloak* and Jed's player is like "I really want that item, and I can totally steal it since I'm so good at that."  So he decides to steal it.  Since he contradicted his trait, it's a new milestone so Jed writes down "Steal from the rich, give to me."  (trait).  He then loses an epic point.

As for the *positive* aspect of traits, I'm thinking maybe once a game, if a player is expressing their trait, they can reroll a failed check and get a bonus.  If they can't express a trait, but can cite an earlier time in the game of expressing one of their traits, they can reroll (no bonus.) 


I don't want this part to get too bloated, mechanics wise.  This part of the game is supposed to be like the wheels (of a car), not the engine.  I'm also very against bloat.
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...but enjoying the scenery.
David Berg
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Posts: 612


« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2009, 12:05:34 PM »

Wow, that is really interesting!  Please run it and post about it!  I wanna see what happens!

I actually wasn't advocating more player narrative control per se, just more truth in advertising.  I don't see anything wrong with more GM control, as long as players are very, very clear on how they interface with that.

Remind me: what does an Epic Point get you?
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