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Author Topic: Something about 'height advantage' and it's kin  (Read 8146 times)
Callan S.
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« on: May 03, 2010, 03:29:32 PM »

Fa wut uts worf

Couple of requirements for participating in this thread - you have to be able to humour the idea, if not actually believe, that something that's near and dear to you could possibly be bollocks. Also you have to humour the idea, if not actually believe, that there may be enough information here to understand and if you don't get it it is your own understanding that has failed. (or maybe there isn't enough information, who knows - but you need to be able to consider both possibilities, that there is enough info and you don't get it, and that there isn't enough info, not just the one possibility that sets you up to be right). I'll moderate that and that's not to say I know, like some omnicient god, whether you think you could not possibly be wrong. Otherwise I'd be doing the very same thing. No, I'll just be working from an estimate that could be wrong, yet I'll still enforce that moderation.

Also I'm not saying 'this works and this is how it works'. 'if you have height advantage' is rather bizarre wording and I'm describing one way of making sense of it in practical terms. It's the same as if the rule were worded 'Light some joss sticks and commune with great god Odin to see if you get +2 to hit'. One practical responce to such weird wording is 'Oh, someone just decides if you get +2. And we light some joss sticks...for some reason'.

Also this may be a huge non event. And I'm rather hoping it will be a non event. I actually asked my woman 'If you had a rule that said if you have height advantage, you get +2 to hit, it wouldn't be like consulting a real life roulette wheel, right? Someone would just be deciding whether you get the +2" and she said "Yeah". That simple. No big discussion. I would have thought it'd be that cut and dried with gamers and indeed I have thought that and would prefer to keep that assumption.

In terms of AP examples: This is a bit like giving examples of breathing at the gaming table - uh, which one do you give that is any more an example than any other time? Also the mechanism behind 'height advantage' is in tons of other places in traditional designs and also in newer ones - this isn't discussing just height advantage. Skill roll bonuses, or whether you can roll a skill at all - same issue. Whether you have 'line of sight' to 'shoot someone' - same issue. How many free attacks you get on an enemy that has decided to run - same issue. Man, that was always a joyous moment in gaming at our table, the free attacks - all take, no give! One time a recurring villain was flying away in a session of the underground RPG - that one parting shot Matt got to do, with the huge exploding dice effect - BOOM! But still the same basic type of issue. Also, whether you can 'buy' object X from 'a shop', same issue. It just shows up all over the place! Also getting back specifically to 'height advantage' in one AP at the table the verbal descriptions had gotten to the point where I'm describing my cleric 'on the table'. Notice how I'm being pedantic in describing the play account, as in what actually happened? Just people talking and descriptions. Sound waves. Rather than writing here 'my cleric was totally on the table, mace in hand, standing over this beast!'. Because that isn't an actual play acount, because it doesn't describe anything that actually existed or occured at the table. Anyway, I could see the GM chewing the words over at the time - I think maybe he didn't like the idea of a heavily armoured cleric on a wooden table. Anyway, in the end HE gave me the +2 (or is it +1 in D&D? I forget?). HE gave it to me, not some 'height advantage'. Indeed, perhaps we didn't even follow the rules, since they say if you have 'height advantage' you get it, they don't say if the GM decides it. If they said great lord Odin decides it and instead the GM decided it, that wouldn't be following the rules either, eh? Even though that Odin rule example is patently insane.

Also I think just looking at single, particular individual instances of actual play in graven detail will be distracting - it's like a D20. Sure it may seem crazy random on each individual roll, but if you look at the bigger picture by rolling it dozens of times, you see an average behaviour emerge. If you fix onto just one play account, it'll be ignoring the overall average behaviour. But I'll grant, how can one describe dozens and dozens of play sessions quickly? Does anyone have some ideas to pitch on that? Anyway, ask for more details, but I'll try to be drawing from a pattern in a bank of accounts rather than fixing onto just one AP account.

Ok, partial cut and paste time!

If you had a real life roulette table, and had a rule
"If the ball ends up in a slot marked six, the result is six"

And if you had a rule
"If your character has the higher position, the result is you get +2 to your attack roll"

What is the average pattern of thought on this, at the forge, for instance? Now remember the D20, you might think everyone thinks different thoughts all over a spectrum - but do they, or does it all average out? And what is the average, if so?

After writing a long draft I realise there is nothing to argue as no evidence is being given for the latter, in terms of proving to any degree there's an actual thing to consult. I've only seen assertion and sole onus on the other guy to disprove it (and the falacious idea that if others can't disprove it, it's proved). There's no actual evidence/meat to engage at all.

To me, the latter is exactly the same as this
<super model
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2010, 05:16:15 PM »

A thought experiment.

In front of us, there's a printout of Super Mario Bros in machine code.

You play Mario. You tell me what Mario is doing. You verbalize your pad input. You can do anything, as long as its within these bounds.

I read the code and run it in my head. I tell you where you are and what surrounds you. I accept your declarations and tell you what happens. I'm trying my best to process your input and offer you precise output. I'm very determined to remain faithful to the code. For the next few hours, I'm your hardware.

Note that there is no negotiation involved. We clarify our statements when needed, though. Other than that, our agreement to everything we say is automatic and total. Technically, the only moment when we have to reach an agreement is when we choose to play this game. I'd say this doesn't constitute a part of actual play; it occurs before we even start playing and it's the most basic requirement for us to commence. I'd say it occurs out of game, as it's not more a part of gameplay than blowing into the cartridge before inserting it into the console.

1. Ideal play. I'm processing your input through the code perfectly, as actual NES would. (How is that different from actual NES gameplay, other than medium and controls?)

2. Less than ideal play. I'm only human, so sometimes I'm making mistakes reading or applying the code, failing to process your input correctly. Say, you you walk into a monster, but I forget to apply collision detection, and you pass by harmlessly. We generally notice that eventually, but never fast enough to apply corrections immediately. Still, we assume that's what happens and move on.

3. As above, only this time, none of us notices the mistake. We move on as if the code was applied correctly all the time.

4. I'm applying the code selectively. Sometimes, I'll let you walk through a wall, sometimes there's a monster when it normally shouldn't, sometimes your jump will take you farther than it would. I'm doing this consciously, voluntarily and on my whim. Or perhaps I'm just being lazy?

Consider the degree of decision making in each of the above points. In terms of referring to platforms, walls and monsters, are there differences?

So, I believe height advantage and its equivalents are, essentially, a pieces of data to process. They are quite concrete and can be referred to in the same way one could refer to the machine code representation of platforms, walls and monsters in the above thought experiment. I think the core of this issue is not whether they are tangible enough to be referred to as actual things, but where they come from and how they are processed.

Also, I believe your questions and observations are on the machine code level, when most of the current theory and discussion is primarily concerned with interface, input/output and, especially, players.
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Roger
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2010, 07:51:12 PM »

I think it has the potential to be a confusing thing.  I mean, sure, you're saying "Height advantage and line-of-sight obviously come out of the SIS; they don't come out of the Real World."

And I look at that and say, "What are you talking about?  I've got the miniatures right there on the table in front of me.  I'm staring right at them with my own eyes.  Of course I can tell which miniature is taller, or higher.  Of course I can tell who has line of sight -- look, I'll dig out my laser pointer and we'll double-check it just to be sure.  There's no interaction with the SIS here."

We both have the potential to be completely correct in our own contexts.  What's worse is that we could be talking about the exact same published set of rules.  So there's the potential for confusion.

In terms of how that shakes out in Actual Play, I think the interesting parts come when there's a contradiction between the two.  I've seen it resolved both ways.  Sometimes everyone agrees and insists that whatever's on the the board is on the board -- if that miniature is a goblin with a crossbow and a dagger, then that's what's there in the SIS.  Sometimes everyone agrees and insists on the opposite conclusion -- it doesn't matter that all those zombies are Gummi Bears -- they're zombies, dang it.


Cheers,
Roger
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2010, 09:01:16 PM »

I'm pausing to allow responces to occur, but I'll add a correction
I mean, sure, you're saying "Height advantage and line-of-sight obviously come out of the SIS; they don't come out of the Real World.
Roger, I'm describing the complete opposite. There is/can be a decision by a real world person on +2, there is no SIS that physically exists for anything to come out of, and indeed +2 can't even come out of a singular IS even (unless the person somehow has lost their own will anything they imagine is what they say). I think you should read through again.

Otherwise I'm pausing to allow responce
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Christian
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2010, 10:51:23 PM »

Callan, you're my man Wink

This is one of my pet peeves !
Linked to another very similar : why fudge that your character is, well let's say... 50 meters far, so that makes, let's see... -2 to shoot. This is stoopid ! Why not give the malus in the first place ? Why convert ? Why not give the malus first considering what's apropriate (say dramatically) and THEN decide what distance it represents ?

I'm currently working on a design, and here is how I "solved" this annoying (to me) peculiarity :
No bonus, no malus, except when the GM or the players pays some resource, to modify the test with a malus or a bonus. And then you narrate why it is so. Done.

The thing is giving bonus/malus is always (in trad rpg) GM fiat. So instead of that, you have to make it a part of an economy. It solves two things : the fudge aspect (why give the bonus now ? why this one ? why not at every occurence ?) and the drama aspect : if your economy is linked to your dramatic progression, then what happens "on screen" will rise accordingly (if you choose so in your design).
In a boardgame, you never have a bonus "just because", you have to actually work on it ! Same here.

What do you say ?
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2010, 04:01:31 AM »

Callan, I'm with the woman in your example: yeah, someone decides. The DM in your game, with the cleric standing on the table? He decided.

I don't represent the Forge in any strong way, but I can tell you my experience: I've never seen, here or anywhere, any assertion from anyone that your cleric or the table he's standing on are real.

-Vincent
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Jim D.
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2010, 06:23:01 AM »

I confess I'm not entirely sure where the idea came from that on some philosophical level, your cleric and the table are real and what is known about their positions is an unarguable fact.  That said, I do agree with the notions discussed here:

* Say you are playing D&D with miniatures.  The DM has specified a certain square as a climbable table.  Your cleric stands on the table.  Height advantage, therefore +2.

* Now say you're playing the same game, without the mat and miniatures, verbally declaring actions in the old RPG standard way.
You:  "There are tables in the room, right?"
DM:  "Yes."
You:  "I'd like to climb on top of one and secure a height advantage."
DM:  "Sure, you can get there in a single move action if you want."
You:  "Very well, I'll do that.  With my newfound height advantage, I'll strike at the orc in front of me."
DM:  "Go ahead and roll, and add +2 for the table."

You've mutually agreed upon the presence of the table, its benefit, and so it is now an inarguable part of the fiction until circumstances change.  (Say, the table breaks under your weight.  Tongue)

If we're coming at this from the angle of credibility (and forgive me if I'm misusing the term), I don't really see a difference here.  In the former case, the DM laid out the room in advance, put the tables down, and it's an implicit part of the rules that you can stand on the table and secure the height advantage unless the DM tells you otherwise for whatever reason.  In the latter case, the realization of the table and its use came to fruition as part of a discussion with the DM, but the result is the same.  Your agreed-upon framework for the game determined the existence of the table and its benefits.  The only "set in stone" portion of this whole thing is the rule in the D&D book that states height advantage => +2.  It's then up to the players to determine that existence and who has the credibility to firmly establish that (the GM, narrator, whatever).

The rule can be looked up, its applicability is determined by whoever's in charge, but I think it only becomes real and "look-upable", if you'll pardon the turn of phrase, when the players agree it's there and useful.  Until then it's nebulous, a concept.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2010, 06:27:50 AM »

Of the games I've played and loved playing in the last ten years:

Sorcerer has no rules of the kind you are referring to for (with "height advantage" being the example)
In a Wicked Age... has no rules of the kind you are referring to for (with "height advantage" being the example)
Primetime Adventures has no rules of the kind you are referring to for (with "height advantage" being the example)
HeroQuest has no rules of the kind you are referring to for (with "height advantage" being the example)
Pendragon does have rules of the kind you are referring to for (with "height advantage" being the example)

So, sometimes the point you are bringing up might be utterly moot depending on the particular RPG being played.

In the case of Pendragon, I would say that it is the accretion of fictional detail added through moment-by-moment of play that determines if any high ground is available. As a GM, if it seems like there's some high ground available and a Player wants to claim it in some clever way or with some bit of intriguing description, I give the bonus. I'm easy that way. I like it when my players describe things; it makes me happy and is why I play these games. If the Player of a knight in Pendragon says, "My guy runs up the steps of the scaffold for higher ground," I say, "Awesome. Plus 5 bonus for your attack next round on the villains in the courtyard."

Like Vincent I'll assure you, as I've done in the past, that I do not believe anything "real" is happening to make a basis for the bonus. And I've never seen anyone at the Forge make such a claim either.
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Caldis
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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2010, 07:32:44 AM »

I think if you are focusing on the real world interaction of a player and GM then you are looking at the least interesting part of rpg's.  It's what they imagine together that is interesting and what makes the most solid basis for play to continue.  It's not that anything real is going on it's that together we are imagining something and the better we are able share the imagined events the more solid the play feels.

Take your example of the bonus for height advantage, it is ultimately decided on by the gm but how does he decide to give it out?  If he's not basing it on what's happening in the SIS then what does he decide it on, who he likes best?  What color shirt someone is wearing?  It's entirely arbitrary.  It's only if we agree in our shared imagination that this character was here and that character was there and that gives this character an advantage do we have anything to base the decision on.  There's still a lot to argue there but it is a basis.

Christian said you can turn it into a resource and force the player to pay for it but if all it becomes is an economical transaction it ends up being pretty weak sauce, you need to tie it back to the SIS for it to have any impact.  i.e  "I pay one opportunity point to climb to the high ground and get the bonus to hit for heigh advantage" is at least a little bit better than just paying points and not giving any imaginary reason for it.

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Roger
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« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2010, 07:44:25 AM »

there is no SIS that physically exists for anything to come out of

Well, yeah -- I know SISs don't physically exist, by definition.  Let me try this again.

Here's some pseudo-AP from Spirit of the Century, with player P and GM.

P:  I'm totally attacking the ninja pirate.  I roll... +3, and my skill with Stabbing Bad Guys is +2, so I have a +5.
GM:  Ohhh, so close, but not good enough.
P:  Fine; I have the aspect "Always takes the High Ground", so here's my Fate Point, take it away; now I have a +7.  Is THAT enough?
GM:  Yep, sure is.  You run the ninja pirate through.

Is there really that much difference here between the +3 from the dice sitting on the table and the +2 from the High Ground?  I'm inclined to describe them as being, well, not exactly alike, but more similar than not.

We can approach it even closer if we explicitly try for it.  I can imagine a game in which the character actions are all cards to be played, and one of the cards is "Take the High Ground:  Play this card to receive a +2 to your next attack roll."  In that sort of situation, anyone walking by can look at the table, see a +3 on the dice and a card with +2 beside them, sitting right there on the real world table, and I don't think there's much difference.

If I were writing up that particular exchange for Actual Play, I'd be inclined to describe it as "Then my guy Took the High Ground and subsequently stabbed the ninja pirate."  I don't know if we're losing anything by not writing that as "Then I played the Take the High Ground card, followed by a Stab to the Groin card, at which point the GM removed the Ninja Pirate opponent token from the playing surface."  But maybe we are.

Of course, some games don't have rules like that.  Which is fine.  In another game, under different circumstances, sure, that +2 from High Ground might just come out of GM whim.  But without that additional context, I think we have no basis for deciding whether "If your character has the higher position, the result is you get +2 to your attack roll" is like or unlike "If the ball ends up in a slot marked six, the result is six".

As I'm thinking this over, I'm reminded more and more of "Say Yes, or Roll Dice."  I don't think there's widespread confusion between what's happening when the gm Says Yes, and what's happening when the gm Rolls Dice.

I think what would help me most, Callan, is a specific example from an Actual Play post of someone labouring under this delusion.  At the moment it feels a bit like we're gathering around to complain about the hypothetical behaviours of hypothetical people, which seems a bit counter-productive.


Cheers,
Roger
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2010, 07:49:01 AM »

Christian,

Quote
Linked to another very similar : why fudge that your character is, well let's say... 50 meters far, so that makes, let's see... -2 to shoot. This is stoopid ! Why not give the malus in the first place ? Why convert ? Why not give the malus first considering what's apropriate (say dramatically) and THEN decide what distance it represents ?

Because the moment you establish the exact distance, you can start applying movement rules. From then on, you and your target can only move that many meters per turn. Perhaps he's going to close in on you and bind you in melee before you take him down, or perhaps he will move away and next turn it's -5 to shoot. Either way, you have concrete data to work with and concrete rules to process that with, and it's all measurable. I can't decide that it's dramatically appropriate that he just closes in and cuts your head, and then decide what distance and to hit advantage and damage factors it all represented. Or, I can, but that's when I stop playing the game as is and engage in storyteller wank instead.

My pet peeve is why it's 50 meters and not 40, 90 or 53. Somebody has to set initial circumstances somehow. For example, in D&D 3.x the initial distance depends on terrain. But then, why it's dense forest and not light forest or open ground?

Christopher,

Quote from: Callan S.
In terms of AP examples: This is a bit like giving examples of breathing at the gaming table - uh, which one do you give that is any more an example than any other time? Also the mechanism behind 'height advantage' is in tons of other places in traditional designs and also in newer ones - this isn't discussing just height advantage. Skill roll bonuses, or whether you can roll a skill at all - same issue. Whether you have 'line of sight' to 'shoot someone' - same issue. How many free attacks you get on an enemy that has decided to run - same issue.

Now:

Quote
In a Wicked Age... has no rules of the kind you are referring to for (with "height advantage" being the example)

When your character is acting with love, roll with Love.

Quote
Primetime Adventures has no rules of the kind you are referring to for (with "height advantage" being the example)

Page 61 (second edition).

Quote
HeroQuest has no rules of the kind you are referring to for (with "height advantage" being the example)

+3 to +6 when your ability is more specific.
-3 per additional opponent in extended contests.

(Second edition, and some of those modifiers where so fiatish that they really got on my nerves in play. Either way, I know my height advantage when I see it.)
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2010, 08:03:13 AM »

Hi Filip,

I am well aware of the rules you are citing.

Certainly we can all agree that, for example, whether nor not a character is acting "With Love" is absolutely arbitrary.  We are no longer concerned, at all, whether something is really happening.

I yield on the number of opponents in HeroQuest. I forgot about that one!

I consider the rest a completely separate issue than the one Calan is bringing up. Especially as he is grounding his discussion in matters of whether there are physical details that are somehow "real."
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2010, 08:15:46 AM »

I should add that I consider the "height bonus" arbitrary as well.

I tend to prefer games these days where the mechanics deal with matters where the arbitrariness is explicit ("With Love") rather than bonus or shifts in odds pretend they're based on "real world" mechanical matters like jumping on a table.

I like them because they serve as brainstorming prods for the players. They work well. They inspire people to come up with bits of fiction that in turn inspire new bits of fiction.

Of course someone decides. Someone judges. This is a given.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2010, 08:32:19 AM »

Christopher,

Quote
I consider the rest a completely separate issue than the one Calan is bringing up.

Notice that this is specifically the issue Callan is bringing up. It's explicitly spelled out in the opening post, in the quoted part.

I bet it's in Sorcerer as well in some form. Even the most boardgamey titles that I know have it somewhere.

I don't know if it's a given that someone decides, though. For example, nobody decides that the monster kills me when I play Super Mario Bros, and I can't argue with my computer about that and negotiate an agreement. I'm not sure about board games, though.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2010, 08:37:29 AM »

Filip,

All of Calan's examples in the quote you bring up still deal with the details of physical space. If I read that too narrowly, I was wrong.

None the less, the key thing here is this:

So far everyone here is agreeing with Calan on this point: Someone decides about these modifiers -- in a tabletop RPG.

If you want to start bringing up video games, that's your call.
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