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Author Topic: Risking for rerolls (mechanic)  (Read 1222 times)
MikeF
Member

Posts: 37


« on: April 08, 2010, 08:54:27 AM »

Quick post to ask for some opinions on this relatively simple ruleset. The context is a semi-serious sci-fi rpg, but the semi-serious part is more important than the sci-fi. Do you think this would allow for interesting stories to develop without much planning and prep from the GM?

- Players are defined by a number of 'Treasures'. These are things / relationships that the PC values. Treasures could be a family heirloom, a loyal dog, a lifelong buddy, a very favourite gun, or that little house by the side of the lake where they intend to retire. One Treasure is always the PC's own life.

- All Treasures have a 'status' which is one of four:


- Scenes are initiated by the GM. Only the GM can start / end a scene, but anyone can request a scene.

- In a scene the GM narrates NPC actions, the players narrate their PC actions. All *actions* happen as described, but the *outcomes* of those actions are a little more in doubt. At any point where a player (or the GM) disputes the outcome of an action, and wants to impose their own vision of what really resulted from an action, then a conflict is called and the players roll dice.

- Roll one 1d6 for each side in the conflict. Highest wins (some undetermined mechanism for draws). Winner narrates the outcome they preferred.

- Any player not happy with the result of the roll can ask for a reroll. To get a reroll.
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MikeF
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2010, 09:02:44 AM »

Ack.. stray fingers, pressed the wrong button. Maybe one of the forum moderators can delete that post above. It should read:

Quick post to ask for some opinions on this relatively simple ruleset. The context is a semi-serious sci-fi rpg, but the semi-serious part is more important than the sci-fi. Do you think this would allow for interesting stories to develop without much planning and prep from the GM? Do the Treasures provide a feasible hook to entwine players / PCs in a spontaneous plot?

- Players are defined by a number of 'Treasures'. These are things / relationships that the PC values. Treasures could be a family heirloom, a loyal dog, a lifelong buddy, a very favourite gun, or that little house by the side of the lake where they intend to retire. One Treasure is always the PC's own life.

- All Treasures have a 'status' which is one of four levels:
 - Safe (default)
 - In Harm's Way
 - Damaged
 - Lost Forever

- Scenes are initiated by the GM. Only the GM can start / end a scene, but anyone can request a scene.

- In a scene the GM narrates NPC actions, the players narrate their PC actions. All *actions* happen as described, but the *outcomes* of those actions are a little more in doubt. At any point where a player (or the GM) disputes the outcome of an action, and wants to impose their own vision of what really resulted from an action, then a conflict is called and the players roll dice.

- Roll one 1d6 for each side in the conflict. Highest wins (some undetermined mechanism for draws). Winner narrates the outcome they preferred.

- Any player not happy with the result of the roll can ask for a reroll before the outcome is narrated. To get a reroll you have to move one of your Treasures up the scale of dangers. So if the Treasure was a 'Safe' family heirloom then you can make it 'In Harm's Way' and get a reroll on the conflict.

- The safety status is, essentially, the worst thing that any other player / GM is allowed to do to that Treasure as part of their narration of any outcome. So once you put the heirloom 'In Harm's Way' then any other player, as part of their narration, could potentially cause it harm.
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2010, 12:39:54 PM »

Hey Mike,

I like it. And I think this aspect is great:

- The safety status is, essentially, the worst thing that any other player / GM is allowed to do to that Treasure as part of their narration of any outcome. So once you put the heirloom 'In Harm's Way' then any other player, as part of their narration, could potentially cause it harm.

Lots of indie games have mechanics for getting bonus dice or something by threatening some aspect of the character, but the effect always requires immediate interpretation, and often in play it becomes quite a challenge to figure out, for instance, how some character's relationship with his out-of-state dad could be threatened by his effort to win a shoot-out with a homicidal killer. Your implementation is elegant.

Paul

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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2010, 12:56:27 PM »

Y'know, upon reflection, maybe think about your threat status continuum a bit, from the perspective of the players who're going to be making use of those statuses. Maybe something like this makes more sense:

Safe (default)
Lost (meaning we could see it apart from the character who owns it, or see someone else using it)
Altered (meaning it's forever not the same as it was, maybe a little damaged, or just different or modified, or maybe even enhanced)
Lost Forever (meaning we'll never see it again)

And then maybe it doesn't have to be a continuum. Maybe they're check boxes. So if you want to check off Altered first, without having passed through Lost, you can. Or if you're desperate for a re-roll, but you absolutely don't want anyone else ever using your father's sword, then maybe you go straight for Lost Forever.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2010, 06:07:11 PM »

Quote
To get a reroll you have to move one of your Treasures up the scale of dangers.
Quote
- In Harm's Way
 - Damaged
 - Lost Forever
Wouldn't these be phrased more like 'Can be damaged' - because the player isn't actually making it damaged himself, he's just leaving it open to GM or other players in their narration? It just doesn't seem to convey what you mean when it's just put as damaged or lost, or even 'in harms way'.

In terms of interesting stories - I don't think so. Basically your game has no mechanically defined ending yet, and so in the bigger picture all you have is either eventual entropy of all treasures, or players sit on their hands forever because there is no big thing worth giving up anything for - there is only entropy. Clutch on tight to your treasures, go no where and just wait for crumbs to float by to clasp onto. A bit like a sea anenome clamped to a rock.

Actually, taken in a bitter, nihilistic vein, it could make stories.

I know in play you might come upon some rockin thing that players just want their characters to sacrifice for - but it wont end there. You'll play next week, and the next - and the thing that was important to sacrifice for will be overshadowed by the larger entropy that endless play forces. As I said, for nihilistic stories that are kinda like 'So you cared about something - and now you have less. And in future you'll have even less until you die, or your just sitting there on what you have, looking sideways at anything that might take it from you - so much for your big sacrifice, look at what you are for it'.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2010, 06:36:11 PM »

I might just add that outside the question of whether it'd make stories, in itself it seems a solid mechanism for risking imaginary objects. One positive is, from what I can tell, self policing by the player involved - someone tries to narrate too much and they could say 'Hey, I would have ticked 'can be damaged' if I thought that meant (insert something the player thinks isn't damage here)'.

It gives the clear nod to having something, through narration, wack what you care about. Rather than the murky murk filled GM second guessing when, if ever, he can fuck with your stuff and by how much.

And of course by giving the nod, that doesn't mean it WILL happen - it is now open to the funny little structures of narration and peoples imagination. It may very well not get damaged at all! And yet you got a reroll out of it. So it's potentially profitable and to some degree smart play to make yourself vulnerable to the whims and weird machinations of the imagined space - rather than making oneself vulnerable to those whims purely out of the gamer version of christian guilt 'you is bad roleplayer if you don't just take it that your stuff is wrecked! Ouija board SIS sayz so!'.

So in the smaller picture I think it has those features. But in the much larger picture, I've already commented on that above.
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MikeF
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2010, 12:26:51 PM »

Paul, Callan,

Thanks for your very useful responses - it's great to get such constructive feedback.

Paul, yes, I agree that the definitions of the different statuses needs working on, and I do really like the 'altered' and 'lost [but not forever]' ideas. Definitely going to try and use that. I also very much like the idea of checkboxes rather than a linear progression. Callan is right that in my OP I used the wrong labels, in the sense that the status show *potential* harm, rather than actual harm.

Callan, I take your point about this leading to nihilistic stories, though probably worth saying that I'm not planning this for use in a game that has long campaigns / levelling up etc. It is for a much more focused type of story where the PCs have a goal, are pretty much guaranteed to achieve it, but have to choose what to sacrifice along the way.
Also worth saying that although I used the label 'treasure' my initial thinking is that the treasures would most often be *relationships* rather than objects. I just wanted physical things to work with the system as well. Don't know if your comment was particularly predicated on the assumption that the treasures would be mostly physical "stuff", or whether you don't think it makes a difference.

Michael.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2010, 04:01:13 PM »

Okay. If they are pretty much guaranteed to achieve it, why would they bother with rerolls?

Trying to grasp what you want in saying this, I'd suggest degrees of achieving it in the end. There may be a default level of achieving it, but it's not achieving the goal very much or in a hugely satisfying way. You know, if it was to build a house, they end up making a pretty tatty one and the rain gets in in places, etc. That way the rerolls make some kind of sense, since they give a shot at going up the degrees, perhaps even perfectly achieving the goal (awesome house, perhaps even a castle, and such).

Adding the disclaimer that really if the final degree is GM determined then the rolls and rerolls don't really connect with the ending except through whatever logic the GM brings to bear, if any. Alot of gamers assume there HAS to be logic to it and go into outrage mode if it isn't, but I'm just noting that as a general gamer trend and wont get into it here.
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MikeF
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2010, 04:32:38 AM »

Callan,

Good point - I didn't really express that very well. My starting point for this was the idea that in a lot of dramas the ultimate success of the hero is never truly in doubt: you know that he will win through to the end and save the day. The question is *what will it cost him*. But you're right that if success is all but guaranteed then with my system there's no reason to risk anything either.

Maybe if I pitch it like this: success is pretty much guaranteed *if the player is prepared to sacrifice*. The level of the challenges needs to be calibrated so that the player has to offer up some of his 'treasures' in order to win through. I'm thinking of making that very explicit in the way the game hangs together: in the sense that there will be an explicit economy of 'challenge points' that the GM will have to distribute, the PC's will need to overcome, and the players will need to collect.

Michael.
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dindenver
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2010, 05:17:01 AM »

Mike,
  The solution is simple, give the players a mechanic to return the Treasure to Safety. I think it's really interesting how many heroes use and abuse their relationships in their quest to save the world. but it is equally interesting to see what they have to do to repair those relationships.
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2010, 08:28:06 AM »

Hey Mike,

Callan is right that in my OP I used the wrong labels, in the sense that the status show *potential* harm, rather than actual harm.

It was clear to me that your statuses were potential harm. Actually, that's why I suggested the alternate statuses I did. I'm thinking that if the statuses are intended to be used by the other players to do creative stuff then they need to inspire that usage, and "hey, now you can damage my weapon...hey, now you can really damage my weapon" is all the same sort of stuff. What kinds of players will have creative enthusiasm for that kind of repeat punking of the other players? Thinking from the perspective of a player who's going to be using the statuses creatively, I was wanting some creative range, some ability to do more than threaten and harm.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
MikeF
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2010, 01:56:19 PM »

Paul,
Quote
Thinking from the perspective of a player who's going to be using the statuses creatively, I was wanting some creative range, some ability to do more than threaten and harm.
Yes, absolutely. The idea is to give players some control over what can / can't happen to the things that their PC values (and I really do see those Treasures being more than just swords and bling - could be "My father's respect" or "The Crown of Sylvania" or "Fast on the draw" or "A reputation for honesty" or pretty much anything that's capable of being altered), so that outcomes can't happen without the player's consent - even when those outcomes aren't as straightforwardly negative as smashing stuff up. Your "altered" status offers a lot of potential.

Michael.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2010, 02:23:21 PM »

Callan,

Good point - I didn't really express that very well. My starting point for this was the idea that in a lot of dramas the ultimate success of the hero is never truly in doubt: you know that he will win through to the end and save the day. The question is *what will it cost him*. But you're right that if success is all but guaranteed then with my system there's no reason to risk anything either.

Maybe if I pitch it like this: success is pretty much guaranteed *if the player is prepared to sacrifice*. The level of the challenges needs to be calibrated so that the player has to offer up some of his 'treasures' in order to win through. I'm thinking of making that very explicit in the way the game hangs together: in the sense that there will be an explicit economy of 'challenge points' that the GM will have to distribute, the PC's will need to overcome, and the players will need to collect.

Michael.
Wierd. That mechanical discription you gave just clicked it over into emulation or some kinda sim, for me. I mean, it just forces a certain amount of sacrifice to happen, so the game session with have a perscribed amount of sacrifice, to presumably emulate some sort of story pattern. So character behaviour roughly follows the story pattern, rather than story following the character behaviour? I mean, what if my character doesn't want to sacrifice at all - I should save that character for another game and choose one that will want to sacrifice as much as the mechanics require him to sacrifice?

I was thinking it was story now, where if the character just doesn't give a shit toward sacrificing at any point in play for the big thing - he doesn't. And that's the story - it shows up his character and attitude. I mean in burn notice you could say it was a story pattern or story rule that he doesn't kill anyone, because time and time again he avoids it over and over - but then he up and shot that slimy fixer guy who had his woman lined up for death, quick as a blink! He wasn't sticking to a story pattern of never killing anyone - it's not a rule of the story that he can't kill anyone. it was always a depiction of the characters choice.

Which are you shooting for? A rule of the story that you sacrifice? Or always a depiction of character? Or am I drawing a false dichotomy?
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MikeF
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2010, 11:58:45 AM »

Callan,
Quote
Which are you shooting for? A rule of the story that you sacrifice? Or always a depiction of character? Or am I drawing a false dichotomy?

For my game you'll have a dull time if you don't sacrifice something - but then I'm thinking of making the 'treasure' mechanism the central pivot for the whole thing. If you just had it as a minor subsystem then I imagine it could be used in other sorts of games where it's less important.

Michael.
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2010, 12:08:27 PM »

Hey Mike,

The idea is to give players some control over what can / can't happen to the things that their PC values....so that outcomes can't happen without the player's consent - even when those outcomes aren't as straightforwardly negative as smashing stuff up....

I think we're on the same page. So, the "control over what can/can't happen" is you choose which of the ways your valued thing is threatened, but then, when I'm the other player and I decide to "alter" your thing, I have full creative lattitude and there's nothing you can say about it?

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
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