*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 25, 2014, 08:29:50 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 68 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Danielle says to work on the More/Less than Human mechanics  (Read 4709 times)
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2341


WWW
« on: August 23, 2002, 01:38:48 PM »

In each of the three chargen sessions I've hosted, the biggest gravel patch for the players has been coming up with the More than Human and Less than Human descriptors for their characters. Connections are easy. More/Less than Humans are clearly very hard.

Let me recap what I currently have written in the rules about the More/Less than Humans, so we have everything we need right here in this thread for the conversation:

More than Human/Less than Human

A character gets two "less than human" statements that describe excessive, crippling limitations, each qualified by a very narrow "except" or "unless" condition. Examples:

"Is nourished only by the blood of animals, except if fed by a child."

"Is mute, except when singing hymns."

"Walks with an uncontrollable limp, moving slowly and awkwardly, except when swinging from the ropes and rafters of the belfry."

Note that these are not ordinary handicaps, but surreally crippling handicaps. A human mute communicates far better than a mute Minion. A human with an open wound in his thigh can chase down a spastically limping Minion. A Minion's handicaps are essentially automatic failures. The conflict resolution system isn't engaged or consulted when a Minion's "less than human" traits are relevant. Similarly, the second half of the statement represent automatic successes. When swinging from the ropes and rafters of the belfry, the Minion can physically evade anyone.

A Minion also gets one "more than human" statement that have an automatic success first half, and an "except/unless" automatic failure second half:

"Cannot tell a lie, except between midnight and 2:00 a.m."

"Can heal the sick with the power of his mind, except not animals."


Note that the More/Less than Human mechanics are directly inspired by the mechanics for player additions to what a puppet can do, and what a puppet can't do, in John Tynes' Puppetland RPG, and as such, are supposed to establish theme and plot significance for the character within the narrative.

Here are some Less than Humans created by Mike, Josh, and Danielle for characters they made for the first playtest I ran at GenCon:

"Hideously ugly and rat-faced, except when seen in reflection."

"Very weak, unless he has just fed off the Master's blood."

"No teeth or lower jaw, cannot eat unless the food is mashed."

And I have to say, the last one provoked some pretty awesome and hilarious roleplaying from Danielle. I kept having to ask her to repeat what she was saying. But in general, even though I thought all the More and Less than Humans created by the players were clever, I just felt like they weren't hanging together the way I'd hoped. They didn't seem to be establishing story significance for the character the way I'd anticipated. As GM, I had no idea what to do with "hideously ugly and rat-faced," for instance, when to apply it to a situation and when to ignore it. The Less than Humans are supposed to be automatic failures. And after that game I became convinced that they needed to be more task-specific, and that I needed to provide guidance to that effect in the text of the rules.

So when Tom and Gordon created characters the next evening, that's what I did. And Gordon wrote the following More than Human for Rufus, his rodent-like homunculus:

"Can sneak/hide anywhere, except if distracted by food."

And it worked really well. Perhaps the best moment of that playtest session was a scene in which Rufus, hiding among the roof beams in the tavern, listening in on a conversation at the tables below, had his covert status jeopardized by the tavernkeeper passing below him with a fantastic tray of grilled vegetables. When I informed Gordon that he needed to describe the exposure of Rufus, he proceeded to narrate how Rufus was betrayed by his own uncontrollable chittering. "No," I said, "we're talking dramatic failure here. Rufus jumps down onto the platter as it passes below." Everyone smiled at that, and Gordon narrated Rufus' dramatic leap to and from the tray of vegetables and his passage across the food-laden tables of the tavern.

That's what I want from the More/Less than Humans. And until last night, I was thinking I just needed to write guidelines into the rules about being more task-specific. No small task that, but at least I thought I knew what I needed to do.

But Danielle raised a pretty big issue during our conversation last night. Consider the following Less than Humans:

"Is nourished only by the blood of animals, except if fed by a child."

"Walks with an uncontrollable limp, moving slowly and awkwardly, except when swinging from the ropes and rafters of the belfry."

In the rules, I explain that the second half, the except/unless half, of the statement is an automatic success, and I refer to the limp example, saying that the minion can evade anyone when swinging in the belfry. The problem is that the examples are all inconsistent in their structural parallelism. "Except if fed by a child" is an except/unless that doesn't provide any real automatic success or supernatural significance to the character the way the swinging in the belfry one does. It simply describes how the character may circumvent or compensate for the limitations of the Less than Human.

It seems to me that the less task-specific the first half of the statement is, the the less useful the except/unless condition is to the character as well. So, I guess I'm mired in indecision. Perhaps the best guidance I could give in the rules is that if the except/unless isn't readily apparent as a potential benefit, then the statement itself isn't scoped narrowly enough. And I can see now that the "Is nourished..." statement suffers from the same problem of not being very clear about its own consequences and when it would apply to a situation as the "Hideously ugly..." one from above.

But I really, really like those statements. So I feel like I have to consider, is there room in the game for not so task-specific More/Less than Humans? And how should a GM handle them in play, so that they're protagonizing to the character in equal proportion to task-specific More/Less than Humans that other player characters might have?

Any thoughts?

Paul
Logged

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
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2002, 08:18:14 AM »

First, the comment was made that, perhaps two less than human traits was one too many. They aren't easy to come up with. Why? Because of the description. These are crippling things about the character. When you read teh term, crippling, it makes you think that this means that the character is usually disabled by whaever it is. Which means that I have to define two things that cripple my character. Which means that my character may never ba able to do anything unless I define them a certain way.

I guess that's the point. The question is the scope of the dis/abilities. To use Champions-GURPS terminology, how frequently are these things supposed to disable the character. For example, I could define a quadrapelegic character. Thi would certainly fit the description of "LEss then Human". But it is so crippling, that the character will auto-fail all physical actions. Whereas, the limp example means that I'll only fail when running away. What you have not specified is how often such a disability should be disabling. But if you limit that, you limit the number of appropriate disadvantages.

The same problem apples to the exceptions. You say that they should be "narrow". Well, how narrow is narrow? If I have a narrow disability, then what would seem to be a narrow exception for one trait may seem wide for this one. For example, if my "Less" is that I have a terrible limp, except when swinging from belfry lines (as in the example), that limits me a lot, and the exceptio is pretty regional. If my "Less" is, stumbles clumsily about belfry, except when swinging from lines, then my exception is not so narrow. I will have access to my exception much more often than I would otherwise. I may experience the exception in this example the same amount as otherwise, but it will save me from my disability disabling me a much larger percantage of he time (as it will disabel me less).

That's a bit muddled. Am I making sense? There are other parameters, as well.

There is the matter of subjectivity. I just noticed, after reading this for the tenth time, that "Cannot tell a lie" is supposed to be a "More than Human" trait. Interesting. This is a disadvantage ("Truthful") in GURPS. It limits the character. Sure, it's a virtue, but not an empowering one. You see my point? One person may say that a particular ability is More than Human , and another person say it's less. There are other questions as well. Does it limit the character? Does it limit the player? Or bestow actual advantages? For example, if you restate the More than Human as Reknowned for Honesty, then the charracter has an advantage (though, interestingly, one that can be used against them, easily).

So we have all these problems. We don't know how frequently the limit (or advantage) selected should come into play, and we're not even sure what counts as a More than or Less than. And when all finally is defined, it's up to further GM subjectivity to enforce these things. Hmmm..

I suggest something like Inhumanity points. These start at zero. When a player (or GM) declares that he fails at something without rolling because of his character's Less than Human condition, then he get's an Inhumanity point. He can spend Inhumanity points to get automatic successes (or maybe extra dice) as long as he can relate how his More than Human condition applies.

This way, players self monitor, and they have an incentive to show off their More than/Less than conditions. And they'd be informed as to what sort of conditions to take because they will know how the mechanic works. If you want to have a lot of inhumanity, in play, you need to take a condition that applies across a lot of situations. But then the GM can hose you a lot as well.

You also get a point if you can work in your More than Human condition Exception. Or, you can spend a point to prevent the GM from auto-failing you, and narrate how your Less than Human condition Exception comes into play.

How does somehting like that grab you?

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2002, 11:24:25 AM »

Hi all,

My thought is that perhaps steering players to look at the more/less than human traits as engines either to produce, reinforce, or encourage particular types of relationship during play, or to open/close specific action-oriented options.  In the case of "unless by a child" limitation, it strikes me that "nourishment" implies a lot more than mere food.  It may thus open the way toward the player seeking out children and having an easier time making connections with children.  The two suggested guidelines I've offered above aren't exclusive.  I'm sure we can come up with more.

In other words, further definition of principles that make the less/more attributes into scene engines would be helpful in winnowing out the more static player choices.

Best,

Blake
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2002, 11:30:39 AM »

That's a cool thought, Blake. As we always say about SAs in TROS, these selections by a player can say a lot about what they want to do in play. Perhaps a checklist like the Master creation one would be helpful in making these traits. One point would be to decide what sort of scenes you want the trait to produce.

To reinforce this, I was disappointed when I never got a chance to clear my exception, "except when fed on the Master's blood." I did put that in there on the assumption that I would have to have this happen on occasion to be useful, and that it would lead to all sorts of drama.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2002, 12:49:09 PM »

Your pick sounded very cool, Mike, especially in the existing train-wreck context of the relationship with Maaaster.  It absolutely made for a relationship-oriented or conflict-laden disad, which works for me.  

Seems like we're working to find a way to encourage players to select more/less traits that help drive the story.  Those selected for color but lacking any bona-fide conflict-impacting potential are the ones that appear to be the problem.

Best,

Blake
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2002, 01:05:04 PM »

Well, I dont know if we have to force things at all. But it is a cool thing to be able to pick something that will have such an impact. Again, though, that's why I wanted to put when these things occur into the hands of the player instead of the GM. There may be a better third solution, however.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2002, 02:48:51 PM »

Absolutely.  Got an angle?

Best,

Blake
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2002, 06:42:03 AM »

C'mon, Blake, this is me, Mike; you think that if I had an angle that I woudn't share it? What, do I have to do everything by myself? ;-)

Give me a minute, I'll think of something. Or perhaps someone else can chime in with a suggestion?

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2002, 10:14:55 AM »

*laugh*  Ahh-hennh, Master, my ears open like... flowers... to catch the honeyed nectar... of your... WORDS...!

Best,

Blake
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2002, 10:56:36 AM »

Fine. :-)

Looking at the spectrum of possible responses, lets look at an extreme one (if only to get the discussion going).

What if, instead of usint points or GM fiat, the players and GM were required to inject either the More than or Less than Trait into every single scene (or both). In this case it becomes less of a question of when these things come into play, but rather how. I suppose this could lead to rather hackneyed or repetitive play, but it might be fun, too. Hard to say. But it would certainly take away the problem of whether or not they came into play.

How about this twist? The GM proposes a use in the scene for the Less than condition, and the player proposes a use for the Greater than, and the Gm decides to use whichever he thinks is best.

Just some thoughts off the cuff to hopefully inspire some ideas.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2002, 01:10:56 PM »

Hmm.  Mike, rather than put an external stricture on it, I'd gravitate toward encouraging selection of traits that are such a part of the character that they almost can't help becoming part of every scene with that character.

Are there principles we can identify as examples to lead players to select more/less traits that don't become mere peripheral color?  Here I'm thinking about stuff like, "Something that dramatically affects a fundamental method by which the player interacts with other people," and "Something that hampers the character greatly in his everyday life."  These principles needn't all be used at once, naturally, but as a whole they should inspire creation of coherent and relevant traits.

Best,

Blake

[Edited to clean up grammar.  I deny any implication of obsessive-compulsive behavior in this regard.]
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2002, 09:27:39 AM »

Blake,

I think this is what Paul is leaning for, and it does make some sense. I still have misgivings about scope, however. If I select a Less Than that affects my character in all social situations, doesn't that mean that I cannot make a Connection roll ever unless my exception applies? Or is that the idea? To get the exceptions into play.

If that's the case, perhaps the player has but to choose which of the sorts of rolls available they auto fail at (in the case of Less Than). Then they select a condition that makes that seem sensible, and an exception that makes it possible to succeed occasionally. And the reverse for More Than.

That I can see working.

So, for example, I select for my More Than, that I'll always succeed at Violent Conflicts. Then, I define it as Inhuman Strength, and limit it by saying, "except when women are about". This then signals the GM to introduce women to the character in order to get normal rolls in these instances. In this case, the GM would bargain with the player for what the exceptions were until they agreed on something that the GM felt that he could use, and the player didn't think was too limiting or not empowering enough.

Hows that sound?

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2002, 10:45:19 AM »

Mike,

I think it's a great way to identify and articulate priorities from the player side, sort of like Fang's Sine Qua Non.  Getting GM input to help tie things more closely to Master's priorities is the next step.

That said, I still like the idea of discussing what makes for relevant sources of conflict as well as cool scenes.  Ideally, players should have a pretty good idea of what will be the central conflicts and complications with Master and the Townspeople.  Some of these will come from the players themselves, some from the GM.  Identifying principles and priorities is a great foundational step.

Best,

Blake
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2002, 11:27:06 AM »

Quote from: Blake Hutchins
That said, I still like the idea of discussing what makes for relevant sources of conflict as well as cool scenes.  Ideally, players should have a pretty good idea of what will be the central conflicts and complications with Master and the Townspeople.  Some of these will come from the players themselves, some from the GM.  Identifying principles and priorities is a great foundational step.

I agree that "identifying principles" is a good idea. And there may be a way to achieve this via discussion before play, I suppose.

But the sorts of "statistical" definitions of your character are still a great way to do this. What it avoids is "playing before you play". What I'm afraid is that you'll say, "Hmm, it would be grat to have scenes where Bob is accosted by townsfolk and can't resist" and then promtly go and do such scenes. I prefer the ideas to arise spontaneously, and through play. Such types of scenes might be implicit in the hard enumeration of a More than or Less than trait; but it still seems more fun to not have talked it to death previously.

I'd prefer it to be serendipitous when a cool scene occurs, not pre-planned.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2002, 12:46:41 PM »

Hi,

I don't think it's pre-planning in the lock-you-in wise, nor is it a talking-to-death thing.  It's asking, "What are the player priorities?" and "What are the GM priorities?" and then reaching some consensus on what the best fit will be.  I'm certainly not advocating anything like pre-planning scenes or anything like that.

Watching out for precisely the serendipity-leeching issues Mike articulates is definitely a good idea.

Best,

Blake
Logged
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!