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Author Topic: Emergent Characters  (Read 2781 times)
Shimera9
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Posts: 26


« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2010, 06:56:30 AM »

Hmm, I've heard some interesting things about that game.  I may check that out this weekend.  I'll have more time to mull over things then.

Right now, I'm considering a kind of template system.  Something like "you have 1 mastered, 2 advanced, and 3 trained abilities".  I might set these templates into a level progression.  The first level in a given challenge type might give you 1 or 2 trained actions for that challenge.  The second level could add an advanced slot and so on.  The main appeal to this approach is speed.  You'd pick a level and then just fill in the blank slots as you go.  I also kind of like the idea of one signature ability in a given set.
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Shimera9
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Posts: 26


« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2010, 06:20:29 AM »

I've posted an intro to the game on my blog (http://dancingchimera.wordpress.com/).  I'm reposted in here as I think this helps sum of the play style and feel I'm going for.  I'm also curious if there are any topics you folks would be particularly interested in hearing more about.
Quote
Game Intro.<<
  • How are scenes set up?
  • How do you create characters?
  • How do challenges work?
  • How do you link challenges to each other?
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SAW
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« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2010, 06:29:54 AM »

I'm actually working on something very similar myself. Almost identical, really, in terms of what I'm aiming for.

I'd definitely be interested in how you plan on working your challenges and such.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2010, 12:42:48 PM »

Your stated goals in your game intro are very similar to what I'm doing with Mage Blade. That begs the question: How do you intend to facilitate this?

There are two broad ways to do it: Procedurally and mechanically. By procedural, I mean you have specific advice in the book telling the GM what to do. This is the traditional way of assisting GMs in building story arcs, and works best for experienced GMs who are already pretty good at it. Your advice relies on their experience and guides them into using the remaining systems to best effect to create the type of story you're looking for. Mechanically, on the other hand, incorporates the scenario and arc generation into the actual rules of play. By playing the game by the rules, you are generating the scenarios that build into the arc. In your particular case, reincorporation of previously introduced elements into later elements would be a core part. This works with both more and less experienced GMs, but may tend to feel too restrictive to GMs who are used to creating the story for their players to explore.

Mage Blade handles the story arc almost entirely mechanically, though obviously there will be some best-practice procedures involved. At the moment, I don't see how the earlier discussed emergent character mechanics facilitates your stated goals. To be clear, I doubt they will get in the way either, but I don't necessarily think that what you've shown us so far will assist in making the type of experience you talk about in your quoted text.

As far as naming, on a whim I'd like to suggest "Mezzo" as a code name. Often the code name is somewhat nonsensical (Windows Vista was once code named "Longhorn"). I believe this is to keep the development team from getting attached to a name if the powers that be decide on another. "Mezzo" is also my way of suggesting that Crescendo may not be a bad one to keep on the ballot for final names.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
reaction
Member

Posts: 30


« Reply #19 on: April 02, 2010, 03:04:06 PM »

I think you really need to be talking to Mike about this sort of thing, since it very much reminds me of Universalis and Other Worlds, and the way he runs HQ. I don't really have much else to offer the discussion, other than research suggestions and the fact that it interests me.
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Shimera9
Member

Posts: 26


« Reply #20 on: April 03, 2010, 07:43:07 AM »

I'm actually working on something very similar myself. Almost identical, really, in terms of what I'm aiming for.
Your stated goals in your game intro are very similar to what I'm doing with Mage Blade.

I've got no problem with that.  I figure I'll lay out the mechanics I'm thinking of and see how close they match other systems at that point.  If the match is close enough I'll simply switch to doing and expansion, supplement, or collaboration.

I'd definitely be interested in how you plan on working your challenges and such.

I'll get that up later today.  It's actually one of the topics that still has a few rough edges, but it will lead in nicely to how I'm planning to interconnect challenges.

Mechanically, on the other hand, incorporates the scenario and arc generation into the actual rules of play. By playing the game by the rules, you are generating the scenarios that build into the arc.

Yep, that's the route I'm looking at.  I'd like to make that build part of the game.  Heck, I kind of like the idea of reaching that peak being a player objective so it feels like a win when they get there.

In your particular case, reincorporation of previously introduced elements into later element would be a core part. This works with both more and less experienced GMs, but may tend to feel too restrictive to GMs who are used to creating the story for their players to explore.

I'm actually planning on setting this up to support GM less play and shared narrative control.  I have been thinking about an option to let players buy into a story, letting one player take on more GM like abilities.  I might also allow for player roles which include GM style abilities, but both of those are intended as options.

I would like to build a certain amount of flexibility into the structure.  It would be great if it gets built into the base mechanics, but if not I can add it as an optional rule.  That way starting groups get the basic structure but they can dip into more advanced tricks as they get more comfortable with the system.

Mage Blade handles the story arc almost entirely mechanically, though obviously there will be some best-practice procedures involved.

It will be interesting to compare how they both handle this.  I'd originally been thinking of a point based resources, but I'm leaning toward a more associative approach now.

At the moment, I don't see how the earlier discussed emergent character mechanics facilitates your stated goals.

I'll admit the add little more to the dramatic arc than predefined characters do.  Emergent characters do have a strong ability to reveal traits on the fly that can add to the dramatic buildup, but predefined character can have potential plot hooks built in, so it's probably a wash.

Where emergent characters come in is the secondary goal, the game's playstyle.  In the third paragraph of the intro I mentioned wanting a certain fast and loose feel to play.  The whole "descriptive emphasis" bit was a way of saying I like the idea of it playing out like a story.  The ability to reveal new details on the fly will help add to that feel.

As far as naming, on a whim I'd like to suggest "Mezzo" as a code name.

Heh, I'm a bit rusty on musical terms so I checked this out.  "Mezzo" is indeed appropriate as I feel like the I'm stuck in the middle stage of development.  It's also a good as the middle of the arc would be right where things are coming to a head.

I think you really need to be talking to Mike about this sort of thing, since it very much reminds me of Universalis and Other Worlds, and the way he runs HQ.

I'd heard about Universalis and actually placed the order for it last night.  I'm less familiar with Other Worlds, though I should be able to hunt it down.  I assume HQ is Hero Quest.

I certainly wouldn't mind hearing from the creator, though I'd need to look in how to contact him.  If I can lure him to the forum that would work nicely.  If I'm going by email I'll probably wait until the details are more fleshed out.
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Shimera9
Member

Posts: 26


« Reply #21 on: April 03, 2010, 04:19:31 PM »

Sorry for the delay folks, part of my body have been rebelling so things are going to be a bit light today.  In all honesty, I'm still pinning down the detail on challenges.  Before I get into how challenges work, I want to touch on their role in the game.

As you may have noticed in the sample play, any player could add details to the world.  I'll get into the meat of that later, but I like every player being able to contribute to what's going on.  In short, this layer is more cooperative and focuses on setting the scene.

In contrast, challenges are more about pushing or blocking the goals of a given character or faction.  Challenge are meant to be how a side builds up power for their cause.  This is meant to be the competitive aspect of the system.

This give me a fairly good idea of what I want challenges to do.  They should provide the winners with the resources/tools to build up to the adventure's climax.  For the loosing side I'm leaning toward making it more of a delay or setback instead of a dead end.

Right now I'm thinking of luck and tactics are strong factors for success with trait levels being secondary to how those traits are applied.  It's likely the luck facotr will be less a determiner of whether you win and more how much it costs to win.  Thus if it's the peak encounter and the chips are down the heroes can still pull off bittersweet victory through a heroic sacrifice.

So there's some of what I'm looking at in soft term.  Mechanically I'm looking at these kind of tricks:

1) Awarding an escape clause or reversal resource if one side is taking a beating.  Can also be used to help less powerful party members get more out of participating.
2) Setting up a general system where successes build momentum based on how effectively the tools available are used.
3) Letting the losing bow out early and possibly be safer or push further at greater risk.
3) Setting the length of a challenge based on participation, so solo event with less lurker interest go fast where events that draw in everyone can last longer.

I know this is a kind of scattered presentation, but it should give you and idea of the kinds of things I'm trying to bring together.  I'm still working on fleshing the system out, but I like the feel of things in the sample play, so I may model things around that as long as it fits my other goals.
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Shimera9
Member

Posts: 26


« Reply #22 on: April 04, 2010, 11:19:52 AM »

Here's the rough structure I'm looking at for the challenge system:
  • Challenges start when a layer introduces a threat, obstacle, or opponent for a given character.
  • Other players may add additional elements to the challenge or increase the power of an existing element.
  • If all players support one side of challenge, that side automatically wins with no points awarded.  Player can abstain from supporting either side but if they do this automatic victory does not occur.  This mechanic lets the players "skip" potential challenges that lack interesting conflicts.
  • Once a challenge begins character actions are handled as follows:
    • All players interested in acting first declare their actions.
    • If more than one character is going for the first action, roll an action speed contest.  For actions with unknown speed, poll the players and use the median value.
    • Resolve the winning action as follows:
      • Another character can try interrupt the action.  The interrupting action must be a response to the triggering action such as defending the target.  Roll an action speed contest to interrupt.  If the action was already in one of there contests, it uses the roll from the last contest.  If the interrupter wins, resolve that action first.
      • Determine how effective the action shold be if done well.  This value should be provided for standard actions.  For improvised actions use the poll and median approach as mentioned for unknown action speeds.
      • Determine how skilled the character is at that action.  If the character has an appropriate trait that will set the skill level.  If trait use is opposed, use the poll and median approach to get the effective skill valuie.
      • Opposing player or characters may penalize either rating or skill at this point, but doing so gives the character "frustration".  These penalties can be based on things like revealed traits an invoking any wounds or penalties the acting character has.
      • Roll for how well the action was performed.  "Frustration" can be spent to force a reroll.
      • Combine the actions rating and roll to determine it's point value.
      • The character can choose to cash in any matching banked effects or wounds on the target to increase their action's point value.
      • If the value is high enough to defeat the target, the character's side gains "momentum" while the target gains frustration.  The target may drop out the challenge or push their luck.  If they push their luck they take a persistant wound or penalty and can not spend resources to escape their fate if they fail.  This push can normally only be done once per challenge.
      • If the value is lower but still significant, the character may gain a temporary advantage or inflict a penalty on the target.  This can be used to "bank" points toward a specific type of future action.
      • If the value is too low, the character simply accumulates "frustration".
    • If all everyon on a given side is defeated, the challenge ends.  Otherwise, go for another round of declaring actions.  characters who have already acted my submit another action, but they do so with a cummulative penalty.  This penalty fades when all particiapants have acted or if no one submits an action..
  • Once the challenge ends, characters on the winning side may convert their frustration to momentum.
  • Winners may spend momentum to make an change to the world, trade it in for a temporary advantage, or bank it to raise the stakes of a future challenge.
  • Losers can spend any remaining frustration to add a complication or try to escape their fate.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #23 on: April 04, 2010, 11:48:40 AM »

A lot of stuff since my last post. I'm going to pull out things that I specifically want to address.
Quote
I've got no problem with that.  I figure I'll lay out the mechanics I'm thinking of and see how close they match other systems at that point.  If the match is close enough I'll simply switch to doing and expansion, supplement, or collaboration.

I can speak for myself and my games: The match isn't close enough. Nor should that really be a concern. Having similar overarching goals just means that we may end up being in competition someday.. Which is perfectly fine! There may be people who want the same goal, but for whom my game simply doesn't work on other levels, but for whom your game is perfect. The point of all this is to get games into the hands of people who will play them and enjoy them. Which isn't to say I'm against collaboration, but that's a whole other topic.

Quote
It will be interesting to compare how they both handle (mechanical story arc progression).  I'd originally been thinking of a point based resources, but I'm leaning toward a more associative approach now.

Here's an old post of mine talking about Mage Blade's Goal Metasystem. It's changed a little since then, based somewhat on that discussion, but the basics are still in place.

Quote
In contrast, challenges are more about pushing or blocking the goals of a given character or faction.  Challenge are meant to be how a side builds up power for their cause.  This is meant to be the competitive aspect of the system.

Did the example of play include a challenge? What constitutes a 'side' or a 'cause'?

Quote
Right now I'm thinking of luck and tactics are strong factors for success with trait levels being secondary to how those traits are applied.  It's likely the luck facotr will be less a determiner of whether you win and more how much it costs to win.  Thus if it's the peak encounter and the chips are down the heroes can still pull off bittersweet victory through a heroic sacrifice.

Look at Marshall Burns' Rustbelt (Beyond the Wire games, down in the publisher forums) for examples of how he does this same sort of thing. I think it works fairly well from AP reports and a very limited playtest I participated in.

Your last post: That is very dense, and seems complicated. Can you walk through it with an example? Perhaps it's not as complex as it seems, in play.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #24 on: April 04, 2010, 05:21:48 PM »

I remember this place...

Apologies, I haven't really read through the thread, so some of this may miss the mark. But I'll go with it anyhow.


Other Worlds is not yet available, pending Mark finishing it up. Close, however, that's sure.

One of the things about Other Worlds (which is more or less a game that works off of Hero Quest, BTW), that interests me, is what Matt's referring to. Essentially I often play it "from scratch." Meaning we start with no world, no characters, I just say something like:

Mike: Three figures come over a rise, and look down into a valley, where a fight has recently occurred. What does your character, the leftmost of the three, look like Matt?

And then Matt gives some description of the character, and we're off and running. EVERYTHING about the character is then determined in play. Not just the character, but the whole world of play, too.

Note that this is not the standard way to play Other Worlds necessarily. But the system does enable it. And that's my first point... not only is it possible to play this way functionally, but I do it a lot.


My second point would be this... while it's possible to make a system that works better this way, or worse, I think almost any system can be employed this way. Let's take D&D, just to have a curmudgeonly example. So Matt describes his character as a dwarf with a battle axe. OK, fine... probably a fighter. The rule usually is something like, "If you want to do something mechanically, you have to settle that mechanical point at that point."

So, OK, they narrate going down into the valley to investigate, and the GM decides to have them attacked by Zombies arising from the dead on the ground. Now the player has to decide... is the character a fighter, and does he get to roll on the fighter chart (or with fighter mods?). Or is he carrying that battle-axe for somebody else?

Essentially the moment the player describes something immutable mechanically - is he tall enough to merit a "Tall" trait? -  then that's when it becomes "spent." Essentially every decision from chargen is simply held in suspense until that point.

Now, all chargen systems seeking to limit characters appropriately, as long as you adhere to them, you never have an "overpowered" character.


What you CAN have is a character who is immensely "conveniently" powered. That is, suddenly the character may have precisely the right skills for the situation at hand.

Do nothing to limit this.

This is so much a good thing, I can't even describe. For one, it's precisely how character's abilities are established in fiction in most cases. We know they're good at X, beacuse they demonstrate how good they are. Further, it allows the player to discover in play exactly what it is that they want their character to be good at. Thirdly, it's one time... next time the conflict might be magical in nature, and the dwarven fighter is no longer conveniently able to deal with the situation.


There's so little to worry about here, that I wonder that folks do... until I recall that I did, too, at first.

Another concern I had was "niche protection," but, what I've found is that even having two characters who have very precisely the same abilities can be very different in other ways. This will be an issue largely to the extent to which the game is about the PCs being tools for the players to address player challenges. If that's not the purpose of PCs, then you won't have issues.

Universalis makes this all quite the non-issue, by making characters communally owned. It's only when you get to comparing PCs that any of this even remotely becomes an issue.

Mike
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epweissengruber
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I like games! and theory! and The Forge!


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« Reply #25 on: April 04, 2010, 05:45:36 PM »

Let me rephrase that in English.

If you could come up with a way to link the concretizing of a character emerging out of instances of play feed back into the setting or other Color, you would be breaking ground that HQ didn't break.

Should read:

It would be good to link the characteristics arising out of session of play to the setting color.  A direct, rule-governed feedback of player decisions about character into the setting would be preferable to a "gee, I hope the GM makes use of this neat personality trait I gave myself" approach.  HQ didn't formalize that feedback process.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #26 on: April 04, 2010, 06:26:30 PM »

Heh, yeah, that's kinda Otherworlds in a nutshell.

Herr weissengruber knows of what he speaks.

Mike
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Shimera9
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Posts: 26


« Reply #27 on: April 04, 2010, 08:46:45 PM »

Did the example of play include a challenge? What constitutes a 'side' or a 'cause'?

There are actually two challenges in there, the door and the animate statue.  I'll go into more detail on these in a little bit.

Sides include any scene elements with compatible purposes/goals.  Thus in the locked door example the lock and door make up one side.  Their combined purpose is to keep people out of the room, the character want to get in the room, so he's in opposition to that goal.

Look at Marshall Burns' Rustbelt (Beyond the Wire games, down in the publisher forums) for examples of how he does this same sort of thing.

I just read the AP example with the spider and the Push or Give things does seem to work nicely and matches with what I'm thinking.  With this game I expect players will Give on most of the build up challenges so they can fight another day, but may Push on the big conflicts where stakes are higher and the consequences more lasting.  Interestingly enough, I put a similar mechanic in the note writeup where characters can sacrifice their safety net to keep going.

Your last post: That is very dense, and seems complicated. Can you walk through it with an example? Perhaps it's not as complex as it seems, in play.

Heh, yeah that post is kind of a huge info dump.  I've been a bit crunched for time and I've been building up there ideas for a while, so they just kind of burst out there.  At it's core it shouldn't be to bad, but there are a good number of places where things can be tweeked.  I'll put up a step by step break down here over the next few posts.  It should also help me highlight potentially rough areas.

One of the things about Other Worlds (which is more or less a game that works off of Hero Quest, BTW), that interests me, is what Matt's referring to. Essentially I often play it "from scratch."

Yeah, that actually tends to fit how I tend to run games.  The entire world tends to created on the fly based on whatever seems to work at the time.  Creating character on the fly so far has been more a matter of "put down what ever you like.  I won't hold you to it until you use it in play."

My second point would be this... while it's possible to make a system that works better this way, or worse, I think almost any system can be employed this way.

True, though some systems are certainly better suited to it.  For example, the prestige classes in 3rd edition D&D have specialized requirements so it can be hard to get the character you want without planning quite a few level ahead.  That problem eases up if the DM allows for a certain amount of behind the scene editing, but it is an added hurtle to this approach.

This is so much a good thing, I can't even describe. For one, it's precisely how character's abilities are established in fiction in most cases. We know they're good at X, beacuse they demonstrate how good they are. Further, it allows the player to discover in play exactly what it is that they want their character to be good at. Thirdly, it's one time... next time the conflict might be magical in nature, and the dwarven fighter is no longer conveniently able to deal with the situation.

I agree on all counts.  Heck, I think I started with "character creation eats up a good chunk of time, why not just do this during play?" and decided it's correspondence to how things work in fiction is a good match for the feel I wanted.

There's so little to worry about here, that I wonder that folks do... until I recall that I did, too, at first.

Heh, this will be my first time pushing my scattered notes and ideas into a published format.  I'm going to worry about pretty much everything.

Universalis makes this all quite the non-issue, by making characters communally owned. It's only when you get to comparing PCs that any of this even remotely becomes an issue.

I'll have to check that out when my order gets in.  I am looking at something similar.  It will probably not quite fit communal ownership as I am thinking of letting players claim specific characters.  However, I do want players able to take over new character on the fly, even on a temporary basis.  Part of this comes from it being potentially boring to lose agency when you character is off scene, so this is one way for the player to keep participating.

It would be good to link the characteristics arising out of session of play to the setting color.  A direct, rule-governed feedback of player decisions about character into the setting would be preferable to a "gee, I hope the GM makes use of this neat personality trait I gave myself" approach.  HQ didn't formalize that feedback process.

Yeah, I'm working toward as a "pay per use" approach here, somewhat similar to how aspects work in FATE.  You can describe any number of details about you character, but to get mechanical effects you have to pay for them before use.  By the same token, wounds generate resources only when an opponent uses them against you in a challenge.

I was planning on starting the challenge example here, but this is running a bit long.  I'll start that off in the next post.
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Shimera9
Member

Posts: 26


« Reply #28 on: April 05, 2010, 06:25:06 AM »

Alright here's the first write up on setting up conflicts and determining the first action.  Next time I'll go into resolving those actions.

Quote
How do challenges start?<Who goes first?

The character whose action initiated the challenge normally goes first. However, any character who wants to act before that initial action resolves can try to interrupt it. To do this, roll the speed of the interrupting action vs that of the triggering action. The winning action is resolved first.

So set up is pretty much just picking out an opponent, but there are options to add opponents or skip a challenge if there's no player interest in the opposition.
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Shimera9
Member

Posts: 26


« Reply #29 on: April 06, 2010, 10:44:46 AM »

Here's a reworking of action resolution:
Quote
Resolving Actions<
  • Remove an opponent from the challenge. This can remove a minor character from play but usually just keep a major character from participating until the end of the challenge. This is a costly option, but can make victory easier. The target character can push to resist this, but requires a significant sacrifice or invocation of a special ability. If removing opponents is the stated goal for their side, this also counts as a push for victory attempt.
  • <
  • Wound. The player can add a detail to the target that can be invoked later to penalize their actions.
  • Impede: The player can declare a future action they want to prevent. If the target attempts this, that action will be penalized based on the points spent.
  • <<

It basically boils down to "roll and spend the result on special effects", but there are several places where players can tweak things.
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