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Author Topic: (Fantastical) Democracy in Action: voting as a mechanic  (Read 754 times)
Adam Drew
Member

Posts: 4


« on: May 13, 2009, 04:33:32 PM »

I've recently written a game that uses a combination of dice and voting to determine outcomes.

Most conflict will be between two players (called the Hero and the Shadow in my game), but everyone at the table will have a chance to help shape stakes (players who aren't the Hero or Shadow in my game are called the Fates). Then, once stakes are set, everyone votes secretly with dice (colour-coded, to differentiate which player is being voted for) and then the dice are all rolled together and compared by ranking (meaning that 5, 4, 2 beats 5, 4, 1, 1, 1; I don't know if there's a specific name for this kind of mechanic).

Feedback goes two ways: the Hero gets to reward one of the other players for good RPing by giving them an extra vote; the Fates reward either the Hero or Shadow for their play. The Fate player who gets the extra vote also generally gets narrative rights, although there are mechanics to usurp that.

I know it's largely void of context, but I'm trying to follow the rules.

Are there other games that use Voting > Fortune > Narration as a mechanic that I can look too? Any other suggestions?
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redalastor
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2009, 04:51:16 PM »

Are there other games that use Voting > Fortune > Narration as a mechanic that I can look too?

Yes, Paranoia does.

When you entertain the game master, you get perversity points. Those are used to purchase a +1 bonus or a -1 malus per piece to anyone about to roll (including yourself). The idea in Paranoia is that instead of figuring the causes of the modifiers (darkness, terrain advantage, proximity to a banana peel), figuring out the modifiers and then rolling, we do the reverse. You are at -6? You did step on that banana peel before you hit the trigger then!
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Adam Drew
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2009, 07:20:38 PM »

I'm not sure how earning Perversity points is akin to voting... can you clarify it for me?

What I'm doing is more putting the tools of conflict resolution into a simple democratic process, with dice thrown in at the end to keep things a bit exciting. On average, however, a player wins because they are earning votes, not because of good dice rolls.
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Vulpinoid
Member

Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


WWW
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2009, 07:58:10 PM »

I used something that's probably closer to what you're after in my game "The Eighth Sea".

It basically works like this: [DIFFICULTY] > [VOTING] > [FORTUNE] > [NARRATION]

[DIFFICULTY]

All challenges in the game come down to a flat difficulty that varies depending on how the story has developed so far.

Things start at an average difficulty for each of four attributes, every time an attribute is used to accomplish a task, the difficulty goes up or down. If you're successful in a task, the next task will be harder because your opponents start to notice you and throw more of their energy up against you. If you fail, the difficulty goes down because the adversaries think you're too pathetic to worry about, they divert their resources elsewhere. 

[VOTING]

The scene framing mechanism for the game allows a single player to take centre stage for a challenge, other players may contribute to the challenge by having their characters assist or hinder the action. If a player chooses not to have their character directly contribute, they make take a backseat and affect the difficulty through a vote of positive or negative. Depending on what they add to the scene, they need to narrate some kind of advantage or disadvantage that modifies the scene's current circumstances.

All characters start with two positive and two negative vote tokens. They may push a difficulty up by voting "negative" against the current character, or they may reduce a difficulty by voting "positive" for the current character. Once a player has made their vote, they hand in their tokens. Once the scene has concluded, they redraw random tokens to replenish their votes to 4 total tokens. In this way, as the game approaches its climax a player who has voted "positive" all the time might end up with a handful of "negative" tokens.

In the climax scenes, players are stuck with whatever tokens are left in their hands. These tokens are actually applied to the player's own character. There's a bit of karma and irony in this, but mostly it reflects the narrative effect that "things are always darkest before the dawn". Savvy players, and those who played the game a couple of times understand that they need to get rid of their negative tokens just before the climax; so things get really hard in the approach to the crescendo, in the hope that a few more "positive" tokens might be drawn when the final menace is faced.

Having physical tokens to represent the "positive" and "negative" tokens gives a visceral feel for how players are set up as the climax draws near.

[FORTUNE]

Once the base difficulty has been modified by the vote, the fortune mechanism comes into play. In this game it uses card suits and ranks, but there's no reason the same concept couldn't be applied to dice.

[NARRATION]

The final outcome is defined through narrating the character's intentions, and the result of the randomising mechanism.

If the result has been successful, then the base difficulty for this attribute type goes up by a notch for later challenges. If the result has been a failure, then the base difficulty for this attribute type goes down by a notch.

Cycle begins anew with a fresh character.



In the thirty or so times that I've played the game, I've found that most people (lets say 60%) take a scene or two to understand how the mechanisms tie into one another to give a self-regulating pacing (and dramatic tension) to the game. Some people (lets say 20%) just don't get it at all, and they just end up confused. Some people really find an instant affinity for it and use the mechanisms to drive the game in a competitive storytelling manner from the outset.

If you've got any questions about where this concept really worked well (and where it really fell flat), or any other queries about specifics...feel free to ask. The system's been pretty heavily playtested now.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Adam Drew
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2009, 08:14:30 PM »

Michael,

That's much more like what I'm thinking of. I'd even considered a limited number of positive and negative votes, forcing things to level out over time, but decided the game suited itself equally well to "snowball" situations.

"Mechanisms to drive the game in a competitive storytelling" are pretty much exactly what I'm going for.

Can you give me a run-down on the strengths and weaknesses you've encountered?

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Vulpinoid
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Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


WWW
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2009, 09:32:59 PM »

Hmm...

I knew I shouldn't have opened myself up to that kind of question.

But I did...so here goes...

(A bit of further background information...here and here.)

Let's look at two games I ran last year at GenCon Oz.

Group One: 7 players with over 90 years of improvisational theatre experience between them.

I explained to them that the game was a freeform story with a general goal. Individual players could use their characters to aim toward that goal, or they could use their characters to aim in a completely different direction to gain advantages for themselves or complicate things for other players. I made sure they understood that it was a game where anything could happen and that I had a couple of set points that I'd like to use as way markers for the story, but any method of achieving the goal was legitimate.

Silly accents, amazing feats of derring do, and unexpected hi-jinx were optional but highly encouraged. The game has a pirate setting, so it basically become a cross between "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Whose Line is it Anyway?".

Because I was able to run with dramatic shifts in the storyline, and didn't have a specific path to follow, each of the players was able to introduce some great elements into each other's scenes, at no point did I say "Sorry, I'm not allowing you to introduce that", so the players worked off against one another, upping the ante in each scene as the drama unfolded. I should also mention here that the session was first thing on Sunday morning, and at least half the table was either hungover from the night before (or still drunk because they'd only stopped drinking an hour or two before the session began). Despite this, the table really got into the idea that they could play off one another and that the system would self regulate if things got a bit too far out of control.

The players would push each other to the next degree during the first couple of until they realised thing might end up bad for them at the climax and then suddenly everyone pulls together. Except for the inevitable players who decides that they'll try to double-cross the party.

As long as the GM is willing to sacrifice a bit of their narrative authority to the players, and as long as the players are willing to take up some of that narrative responsibility the idea of voting and "narrative explanation for the transformation of difficulty", it works really well.

Group 2: 6 players who spent the majority of their time at GenCon playing 4th Edition D&D, but wanted to try something a bit different because they liked the blurb I wrote.

[insert expletive of choice here.]

I gave the same explanation of game mechanisms to these players, they had the same open storyline...they weren't dumb players, but the intuitive leap from "being spoon fed a module" to "collaboratively telling a competitive story" was simply beyond them.

It took the majority of the first act for these players to understand the fortune mechanism in the game, and none of them wanted to take a risk by throwing a vote one way or the other in case it negatively affected their character at the climax. The players were looking for story and looking to be entertained rather than looking to provide their own input or entertain others through the story. It proved a very dull session.

Toward the end of the session, one of the players started to understand a few of the nuances in the system, in a 5 act structure (premise, build-up, challenges, climax, aftermath), he realised how he could affect the game as he played his "challenges" scene. By this stage it was too late, and most of the other players thought that he was "cheating" by manipulating the rules of the game to his character's advantage. They still didn't understand that everyone was able to "cheat" in much the same way, and that this was a part of the game.

They were all looking for a linear plot, but this system really doesn't handle linear plot well. It's more like a river with currents, strong currents at the centre of the river push the story's vessel downstream to a dramatic conclusion. Eddy currents on the side bring new twists and turns if a player directs the narrative that way, but as the story moves away from the centre it slows down. On the furthest edges of the river (the riverbanks), the story slows to a point where it almost stops, and here is where the game can focus internally on the characters. Once a player has been the focus, someone else starts pulling on the boat and it brings the story back to the middle an onward to the conclusion. The GM basically just sets where the riverbanks are and the story can shift between the two banks as much as the players want. But if the players don't try to exert their own forces on the story, it just leads to a direct conclusion. Nothing much interesting happens along the way.



I've since remedied this issue a bit.

But the same notion has reared it's head in a few convention play groups. If players aren't willing to take a stake in the telling of the story, then the mechanisms are wasted on them.

As long as you get a critical mass of players who do understand the mechanisms and how to use them to get their own input into the narrative, then the others quickly pick up the ideas.

If you don't get that critical mass, it can get really frustrating.

I'm sure there are a few other strengths and weakness that I've encountered, and more specific questions might prompt my mind and jolt the memory, but that's the main issue I remember.

V

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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
redalastor
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2009, 10:07:56 PM »

I'm not sure how earning Perversity points is akin to voting... can you clarify it for me?

Sure. You are about to crack a security terminal to accomplish your mission, your chances are 10 and less on a D20. A second player would like you to fail so he could arrest you as a traitor. His player spends two perversity point, you now must roll under 8. Another player thinks that while the security is down, he might sneak in and accomplish his secret society's objective, he spends 4 perversity point for you, and you now have to roll 12 or less.

The game master justifies the difficulty somehow and you roll. Spending perversity on a bonus is a vote for you, spending it on a malus is a vote against you.

It's not strictly one man, one vote and you can save up your perversity for later but it's still a democracy. If you are comfortable with the idea of earning perversity, you can just award a regular and fixed amount to everybody so they all have the same voting power.
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 469

also known as Josh W


« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2009, 04:39:58 PM »

Is there any way we can put spoiler tags on the paranoia stuff? I've been studiously avoiding knowing the rules for the last year! It is a game based on secrecy after all.
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redalastor
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2009, 04:54:20 PM »

Is there any way we can put spoiler tags on the paranoia stuff? I've been studiously avoiding knowing the rules for the last year! It is a game based on secrecy after all.

I'm just sharing public knowledge info contain in the perfectly legitimate to read Red Book. The Red Book is just like the regular Paranoia book with the GM only chapters removed.

Don't worry, I won't spoil anything Friend Computer wouldn't like me to.
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Abkajud
Member

Posts: 188


« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2009, 11:28:16 PM »

Voting sounds like it could be a good way to get around the problems of Drama resolution - i.e. if you just "talk it all out", it could be too easy for the GM (or a single, really outspoken player) to unfairly dominate resolution. But if you have some kind of structure in place, like you're suggesting ... yeah! Kind of like Polaris and the structured "key phrases" system.
I may look into this.
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Mask of the Emperor rules, admittedly a work in progress - http://abbysgamerbasement.blogspot.com/
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