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Author Topic: [Trollbabe] advice about the practical application of these two rules?  (Read 1429 times)
Markus
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« on: February 07, 2010, 03:18:42 AM »

Yesterday I finally played my first game with the new Trollbabe rules! It was a really fun, light-hearted, action-packed session and I'm drafting an AP report about it, because I think I have some potentially useful observations about what exactly I prepped as my GM stuff. But before that I'd like to ask a couple of rules questions that arose during play:

(1) Consequences to relationship NPCs: Timing of narration

OK first of all, I'm not asking about the typo in the diagram. I know about that and I'm using the correct version as described earlier by Ron. My question is about something else.

While the old version was a bit vague about this, the current wording of the text clearly states in many places that whoever is designed as the narrator should detail the consequences and effects for everyone involved in the conflict after each single roll, whether it's the last of the series/conflict or not. I like this and I think that's a lot better than just narrating everything at the end of the conflict in one big chunk.

However, in case that relationships are called into the conflicts, this confuses me a bit. It was easy to provide step-by-step narration with the older rules, because you could narrate the (one-step-worse) condition of the relationship as you went through the conflict, with no possibility of going back. But with the current rules, all relationships will find themselves at the same consequence level *at the end of the goal*, and the trend of consequence severity is not monotonous - it goes back and forth from unscathed to dead. Which kind of makes the 'step-by-step' narration tricky. I hope I managed to explain what I mean, let me know if this paragraph makes sense to you or not. Anyway, after much pondering, I think I found how to do it, and I'd like to hear from you if it's correct or not. As an example:

D'vala wants to subdue Kun'Gonda, the cruel troll matriarch. She's accompanied by her loyal werebear friend Bruno and her wizardry mentor Callistus. It's an action-by-action (fighting) conflict.

1st series: D'vala charges Kun'Gonda with her axes raised. The player also states that Bruno follows D'vala closely, while Callistus tries to find a good vantage point. The GM states that Kun'Gonda responds by counter-charging, horns forward. They clash. The player rolls, and fails: D'vala is inconvenienced. He states that the impact sends her flying back a few metres, while the troll matriarch stops and draws a huge spiked club.

Then he decides that he wants to use a reroll; let's say he marks off the relationship with Bruno. He states that while D'vala is recovering her fighting stance, Bruno tries to bite Kun'Gonda's leg while she's drawing her weapon. The dice is rolled again and again it's too high to be successful.

Let's say that D'vala's player decides to stop this series here. He must narrate what happened, including some kind of injury (probably physical in nature) for his trollbabe. He could say that Kun'Gonda has repelled Bruno's attack with a such a powerful blow that she sent the huge werebear flying, landing squarely on poor D'vala. Callistus is still choosing which spell could soothe the enraged matriarch from his spellbook. OK, that was easy. But D'vala's player also has to say something about Bruno: here's were things get a bit tricky for me.

So, rules state that we'll know Bruno's fate at the end of the conflict. But at the end of the above series, looking at the diagram on page 61, we still don't know whether the werebear (as well as all further relationships brought into the conflict, if any) will be completely fine or dead. But D'vala's player just have to say something about Bruno right now, so my answer to that would be to keep narration a bit vague, perhaps something like "With a deep moan, Bruno goes down and lies perfectly immobile on the ground, its eyes closed".

That would be vague enough to satisfy both constraints, such that (1) Bruno is out of the current conflict, but (2) it could be either dead or unharmed at the end of the conflict. I'd like to hear some advice about this.

(2) More on the 'perception conflicts': explaining authority boundaries

OK, the TB rules about how to handle "perception conflicts" are present in the rules from the very beginning, and they never represented a problem during my previous sessions.

Curiously enough however, they *did* cause a glitch yesterday. It was just a brief moment of puzzlement in my head, I don't think that other players even noticed this, but now I need a word of advice about it. OK, this is what happened.

Basically, at the middle of the session, once the basics of conflicts and such were already in place, I chatted with the players about some of the cool non-obvious things they could do via the conflict rules, which now are thoroughly discussed in the text. I told them about the mandatory 'roll to spot the bandits in the woods' variants examples.

In my head, I always assumed that all the above means that players can bring stuff into existence out of nothing, as in one of the bandits examples found in the book. Which is perfectly fine and works seamlessly. But yesterday, one of the trollbabes was in dire straits in an ancient subterranean necropolis (she was accompanying an overpompous archaeology professor and his students, who also double-up as tomb robbers). She was chatting with one of the students about a strange glyph when a covenant of cultists wearing silver masks attacked the group with long curved knifes, while their leader began chanting a blasphemous litany. After a bit of colourful narration, the player stated that his trollbabe's goal was "making sure that the chanting guy is just making ominous-sounding stuff up, and not doing anything really magic". Which I istinctively felt like not being appropriate at all.

Now, in theory I should know about the distinctions between content, plot, situational and narrational authority, but in the heat of playing I was totally at loss about how to quickly get my point across to the players. I tried to explain that the goals should not mess with already established content, but then (replied the player) I didn't state yet explicitly whether the cultist was using real magic or not. Thus, concluded the player, isn't this exactly like what you described in the bandits example? Again, this is a somewhat subtle question and I hope I made myself clear about what exactly I'm asking.

Anyway... back to writing that AP report! See you all soon on the Actual Play forum.
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Markus
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Posts: 30


« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2010, 03:46:08 AM »

Whooops, I forgot to add another quick question.

I'm looking at the rule on page 50: "In a later conflict, [...] when you check off another re-roll item, then a single currently checked-off Relationship may be unchecked as well".

By "another re-roll item" you mean "anything *but* a relationship item", or really "*any* other reroll-item"? I'm asking because if you allow relationships to refresh each other, then as soon as you have two relationships you can refresh them continuously. On the other hand, this also means that you're always putting your relationships into danger, so perhaps both ways can work. Which one is correct?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2010, 11:48:21 AM »

Hi Markus!

1.
Quote
So, rules state that we'll know Bruno's fate at the end of the conflict. But at the end of the above series, looking at the diagram on page 61, we still don't know whether the werebear (as well as all further relationships brought into the conflict, if any) will be completely fine or dead. But D'vala's player just have to say something about Bruno right now, so my answer to that would be to keep narration a bit vague, perhaps something like "With a deep moan, Bruno goes down and lies perfectly immobile on the ground, its eyes closed".

That would be vague enough to satisfy both constraints, such that (1) Bruno is out of the current conflict, but (2) it could be either dead or unharmed at the end of the conflict. I'd like to hear some advice about this.

I don't have much advice to give. You've described the right way to do it, without need to explain further. I first learned to do this, by the way, from the first version of Hero Wars. It's very explicit that the final outcome of a conflict (to be precise, the option called Extended Conflict) is only settled by comparing certain points at the end. But you can describe events as you go, remembering that all you're describing is how things look. At the end, you discover whether a wound or blow "wasn't as bad as it looked," for instance. That text is quite clear - and convincing - that most narrated or depicted combat in literature and film works this way.

2. The next question appears more difficult because it's about how to communicate with a particular person, and of course, I don't know who that is, or know them personally, or whatever. But fortunately it's a straightforward rules issue.

I'll go to the essential point:

Quote
After a bit of colourful narration, the player stated that his trollbabe's goal was "making sure that the chanting guy is just making ominous-sounding stuff up, and not doing anything really magic". Which I istinctively felt like not being appropriate at all.

You were absolutely correct. The reason it was inappropriate is that Goals must be stated as what the trollbabe wants to accomplish, entirely in terms of the fiction. The Goal you report this player stated is flatly nonsensical in these terms. No one can go up to another person and "make sure" that what they are doing or saying "isn't real." Especially when "make sure" has nothing to do with anyone's opinion or perceptions, but instead is literally dictating the content of the targeted person's actions. That Goal can only be understood in terms of what the player wanted that NPC to be about. As such, it's not a legal Goal.

It's not like the bandits because in that case, the Goal is still being stated in terms of what the trollbabe is doing and seeking to accomplish, in terms that are perfectly sensible from her point of view.

Stating the issue in these terms means that you don't have to get into technicalities of authority or details of what's-been-established. This actually isn't about the no-new-information rule. It's about how Goals must be stated - what the trollbabe literally and actively seeks to do. Clarify that Goals must be stated in these terms, and you won't have this problem.

3.
Quote
I'm looking at the rule on page 50: "In a later conflict, [...] when you check off another re-roll item, then a single currently checked-off Relationship may be unchecked as well".

By "another re-roll item" you mean "anything *but* a relationship item", or really "*any* other reroll-item"? I'm asking because if you allow relationships to refresh each other, then as soon as you have two relationships you can refresh them continuously. On the other hand, this also means that you're always putting your relationships into danger, so perhaps both ways can work. Which one is correct?

That's an interesting question but fortunately easy to answer. I don't know or remember precisely what I had in mind, in terms of Relationships or non-Relationship items. The purpose of that rule was to be able to draw upon a given Relationship more than once in the adventure, but not in sequence. That is, if you brought in Rolf your buddy twice in the adventure, you would have had to re-roll using something else in between those two times.

It is true that all this time, I wanted Relationships to be listed exactly like the other re-roll items on the sheet, and despite minor modifications (like the one we're discussing) to be addressed using the same rules. Also, it seems to me that trading back and forth between two Relationships for re-roll purposes is fraught with much, much opportunity for consequential role-playing, especially for the GM because he or she is the one who plays the Relationship characters' opinions. So that looks like a lot of fun. My conclusion: stay with the rules as written, so yes, a Relationship is treated the same as the other re-roll items for purposes of this rule.

Note as well that unlike the original version, the re-roll items listed on the sheet cannot be unchecked during an adventure.

Best, Ron
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Markus
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Posts: 30


« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2010, 12:00:41 AM »

Thanks Ron! Everything is crystal clear now.

You know, now that I see your answer I feel particularly stupid about having asked question (2), especially after all these years reading and thinking about dozens of Sorcerer, Poison'd, PtA (...) AP threads talking about the same thing. I think that this is the best way to demonstrate that one can solve oneself's comprehension "knots" only when he encounters them in practice as problems, and not before.

Anyway, thanks again for the replies, and see you soon on the AP forum for that report I mentioned above...
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2010, 01:03:10 AM »

As I'm not sure that I understand the example about ominous chanting, I'll ask a follow-up question:

If the trollbabe had an intent of "proving by the way of magical expertise that the chanting guy is just a conman" instead of "making sure that the chanting guy is just making ominous-sounding stuff up, and not doing anything really magic", would that affect the proper judgment of the situation? That is, is the crux of the issue that the trollbabe needs to have a clear and practical in-fiction vector of influence for her goal, or is it something else that I'm not seeing?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2010, 03:21:35 AM »

Just quite curious about this: It'd strike me if the player had said their characters goal was to calm everyone because obviously that guy was just talking mumbo jumbo and not real magic, that'd work. That would combine pure invent the world imaginative invention with the actual from the characters perspective, character goal determination and declaration. Those are two different things, granted, but they can link into each other pretty seemlessly (though perhaps it takes a bit of crafting). I'm not arguing at all with anything here - a character goal is not at all the same as deciding the nature of reality itself. It's just these ideas can be so close together yet so very different.

Oh and forgive me this idea that just sprung up...what if you did have a character who was demented enough in their own head to have actual character goals of making a certain reality simply be the case? That's almost the definition of magic using, wouldn't it? "My goal is that there is a fireball over there!".
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Markus
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Posts: 30


« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2010, 04:35:02 AM »

Eero, Callan,
I'll try to give my own answers to your observations, mainly to check whether I really understood what Ron explained or not.
Please forgive me if this will prove incorrect.

@Eero:
Perhaps I'm just failing to see your point, but it seems to me that Ron's comment about my question (2) above still applies in full to your example. I have serious problems in seeing how "proving by the way of magical expertise that the chanting guy is just a conman" is different from what I wrote above. Despite the different  choice of words ("proving that" instead of "making sure that"), the goal has still (in Ron's own words) "nothing to do with anyone's opinion or perceptions, but instead is literally dictating the content of the targeted person's actions". Am I failing to see something more subtle?

@Callan:
"To calm everyone because obviously that guy was just talking mumbo jumbo and not real magic" seems a perfectly fine goal for the trollbabe, provided that everyone at the table fully understande that the bit about "because obviously..." is intended as the trollbabe's intended mode of action for obtaining her goal, and does not have any guarantee of being true *regardless* of the outcome of the conflict.

In other words, you don't get "free" content authority just because you managed to add a sub-sentence to the goal declaration. It's a bit like saying "I want to kill the dragon: I'll behead it". OK, that's a fighting conflict about killing the dragon. We'll see if you manage to slay it or not, and how... but you don't get a guaranteed decapitation just because you mentioned it. In your example, "I will behead the dragon" is functionally equivalent to "This is not real magic".

(Last-moment edit: OK now that I wrote this example, I see that there is a difference between "beheading the dragon" and "this is not real magic", but that would only come up during the narration step. Let's put the issue aside for later discussion...)

Finally, I can see you are hinting at something cool with your sentence "Those are two different things, granted, but they can link into each other pretty seemlessly (though perhaps it takes a bit of crafting).", but I cannot really put my finger on it in practical terms. Could you give an example of what you mean?

Thanks to all for the nice discussion!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2010, 09:19:34 AM »

Fuck. I totally lost my detailed reply.

All right, briefly and without my well-honed and careful prose - the "real magic" vs. the "bandits or not" situations are different because the latter isn't about the trollbabe trying to make the bandits be real or not. She's doing what she's stated to be doing. The rules are very cunning (if I do say so myself) because they take a person's precise statement about an unknown and use that as the basis for the two real people at the table to address what is in fact happening. In most role-playing, dealing with "I'm watching out for bandits" and "are the bandits there" when they weren't prepped to be there, is a grey area that can become an arena for authority-crisis and perhaps bullying. In Trollbabe, that area is de-greyed and the fine but real line that Callan described is precisely delineated.

None of that necessarily adds to anything which has been said already, but it's what's been flapping in my head for the last day or so.

Eero, I agree with Markus - your re-statement doesn't change anything.

Callan, for completism only, "to convince others that his magic is bogus" is especially well handled by the Trollbabe rules for social conflicts. Also, to address your point in the little tiny type - see Dawnfire, which I wrote about in the first Fantasy Heartbreakers, for a whole lot of great system for different relationships of types of magic, impact on reality, character intention, and even character knowledge of his or her own magic. It's the best RPG text to date about that stuff, or at least in the top few.

Best, Ron
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2010, 12:04:45 AM »

Cool. Just checking.
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