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Author Topic: Emergent Techniques: Creating Detail  (Read 3841 times)
Le Joueur
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Posts: 1367


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« on: September 03, 2002, 03:07:34 PM »

I'm running a bit late so this is a little pressed, excuse (or question) the vague parts.

This Technique describes how you can use Scattershot's various Mechanix to create Detail in your game.  Why create detail?  Well that's what gaming is about isn't it?  Otherwise a gamemaster could pose a problem and you'd roll a couple of dice and it be over, like flipping a coin.  What makes a game live is its Detail.

Another important use for Detail was indirectly mentioned in Pale Fire's recent comments on the gamemaster not 'deciding' an outcome.  Sometimes you want to leave things to chance, as much for the player as for the gamemaster.  This is what Suspense in gaming is all about.  Again, if there were no unknowns in a game, there'd be hardly any reason to play it.  Most people don't realize this counts almost as much for the gamemaster as it does for the players.  One of the inherent qualities of using dice in a traditional role-playing game is that no one knew how it was going to come out, not even the gamemaster.

So...why not let the dice create some of the Detail rendering it a component of the suspense and intrigue of a game?  That's the function of Scattershot's Mechanix when used to create Detail.

General Play

Okay, by the numbers, in General Play, detail should flow freely.  If a player says, "I find a $100 bill on the street" then he does.  That is, if no one offers Challenge (see below).  Challenge changes everything.  When you find 'money on the street,' the actual amount is usually meaningless (unless resource allocation is the Ambition taken for the Joueur play Approach).  This is what we call 'extraneous Detail;' any detail that has no lasting impact on the game can be created just as well by player, gamemaster, or Mechanix, can't it?

Unless someone offers a Challenge (including the player who is the Speaker).  That's when it's time for...

Mechanix

When the Mechanix get used, it has to be 'worth it.'  That's a subjective decision.  Don't bother with the 'piddling stuff;' don't Challenge extraneous Detail unless you're prepared for it to become important to the game.  Challenge can be taken by any party to 'complicate' Detail.  If Challenge shifts play from General to Specific play, then the result tags that Detail as meaningful.  Meaningful Detail can net anyone Experience Dice if they catch it being glossed over or forgotten and they find a way to 'work it back in' to the game; this is called Payback in the Mechanix (sometimes it 'pays back' Experience Dice used to get the meaningful Detail 'back into play').

When Challenge is taken either forcing the game into Mechanical play or even if it were already there, it makes the outcome, well...more Detailed.  One example of Challenge in Mechanical play is aiming; when you aim for a short time you are sacrificing time to improve your chances to hit.  The Challenge taken is improving the chances to hit; the sacrifice is time.  Another example, one that comes from combat specifically, is 'going for the throat;' here the Challenge is to do a more effective attack and the sacrifice lowers the odds of success.  A less battle oriented example might be picking a lock; the Challenge is to ensure you pick it, the sacrifice is time or evidence (heck, you can get most any door open with a crowbar or larger, but then they'll know someone has been in there).

The kinds of wounds you get in combat are mostly a matter of Detail.  Where a blow strikes and the Mechanix of the effects are a matter for Advanced Scattershot.  At any lower level, it mostly remains a matter of the recipient's choice.  (Whenever a blow strikes, the recipient, not the aggressor, has the choice over what the specific Detail of the act was; this becomes mandatory when the aggressor lands a Telling Blow.)  Most of the time, since the Detail of the wounds are not terribly meaningful, this Detail is largely ignored.  And that is how it should be.

Now if you're using Mechanical play outside of a battle, it is usually to create Detail.  A prime example is 'the chase scene;' you enter Mechanical play and spend several minutes determining whether the chaser was avoided.  You only do this if the chase is meaningful.  Another example is the 'timed heist,' sure you could roll it all into a higher level of Scope, but if it's the tense climax of several sessions of play, shouldn't you play it out?  Using Mechanical play for this allows you to determine, in as objective fashion available, if the 'heist' goes off as planned.

The Detail of Combat Advantage

Detail is also converted into Mechanix, such as using the Combat Advantage Mechanix.  You corner your foe or you hop onto a table, heaven forbid you swing from the chandelier, these are things you'd do in battle to give yourself an edge or a Combat Advantage.  Whatever you choose to do, if it's meaningful it'll give you a Combat Advantage over your foe.  That's why the Sheriff has Robin Hood on the stairs; Robin is balancing off his height advantage over the Sheriff's skill level and 'home court advantage.'

The nature of any 'unnatural event' is also converted from Detail into Mechanix.  Some of the things we've already accounted for are Time/Quantity/Opportunity amounts, how far a Subject goes, how fast a Subject goes, what area an effect covers, how much time an Action takes, how many points an ability affects, how high a bonus is, how many Subjects an Action affects, what Factor an Action gives, or how much information an Action 'sifts.'  All of these are accounted for on the Universal Equivalency Chart (UE Chart or 'Huey' for short).  This detail may also reflect the Scope/Duration bases for Actions.  This all allows the Mechanix of superpowers and magic to affect Detail (when the results are 'converted back').

You see, detail can be created both at the front of and after the dice do their trick.  Like most games, you choose ability to use, and then the Subject(s).  You use the UE Chart to convert the Detail into numbers relative to your special ability.  At this point you can alter the relevant detail.  You can: play on an advantage (affording you extra Experience Dice for that Action), take Challenge to increase the effect (sacrificing accuracy is a common method; a brawling kick instead of a punch), take Challenge to improve your chances (sacrificing less mechanix-based things like time or materials), or any combination of the above.

Next you apply our 'Paradise System;' you roll a pair of ten-sided dice (yeah, but it's the only joke I gots) according to the usual MIB generation Mechanix.  Both parties (in contested trials) read their MIBs out loud, and then the RMIB is called out.  This is all very familiar I'm sure, but next comes another chance to alter Detail.

After the effect is determined and you can burn a few MIB points and increase the effect of the Subject (using the '5 mechanix' on the UE Chart; burn 1 point and get 5 more or less than the initially chosen amount), roll an Experience Die and add it to your total (if still you're not satisfied, you can do it again and again until you get what you want), retroactively play on an advantage (change the set up of the resolution, after the fact), take Challenge to increase the effect (also retroactively, although the choices are now more limited by what supposedly happened; to change the central act would force a 'do over' something not allowed in Scattershot), take Challenge to improve the RMIB (similar to 'piling on' to something successful), or any combination of the above.

These all change the Detail of what happens.  'Waiting for the perfect shot,' creates important Detail.  'Pumping them fulla lead,' is more Detailed than doing 6 Hit Points of Damage.  All this flows from the interface between Detail and Mechanix.  You can even perform this backwards.  Say your picking that lock again, but you fail your roll.  Depending on the RMIB you could always take Challenge and say 'at first it didn't seem to be working, so I kept at it,' thus taking longer (using the 5 Mechanix to up the time) until you succeed.

Finally

Two of the most important things to remember is that Challenged Detail must be (or becomes) important to the game and you should use the Genre Expectations as your guide help keep the Detail from overwhelming the pacing.  Nothing destroys fun more than when one player decides they want to haggle over the cost of something.  This is unwanted Detail and should be avoided.  If the no one is willing to 'cut to the chase,' using Scattershot's pacing Techniques, then someone ought to Challenge the Speaker on pacing issues.  (The Challenge is how fast it goes - meaning the speaker gets whatever they were seeking - the sacrifice is lowering the amount of Detail.)

When there's disagreement in the group about the suitability of a sacrifice and no referee, use Solomon's Auction to arbitrate.  (Just remember that any Challenge makes the Detail more meaningful.)  After all the barterer must have thought the price was pretty meaningful; to deprive him of the exchange means he gets what he wants (even though the game-time clock loses a lot of time versus the real-time clock).

Well, that's just about all I have for this Technique, see you soon when I'll have something like Suspense or Challenge (in detail) or Precipitating Events and Origins (or the long-overdue upgrade to the Genre Expectation Mechanix).  I appreciate any feedback you care to give, it really helps me work out my thoughts to have to argue or defend these concept; not to mention the fact that I get to see how well I express them (which helps my improve my writing for Scattershot).  I look forward to hearing from you.

Fang Langford
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damion
Member

Posts: 198


« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2002, 01:20:45 PM »

Firstoff:Glad to see your still working on this.


Comments:A comment on implicit detail might be in order.
It was sort of brought up by your mention of haggeling. In certian
situations I think retroactive changes might be in order. Mainly the case where several actions lead to a resultm but there is a dependence chain.
Bad Example:
Speaker: I go buy a bigA$$ sword.
No challenge.
Speaker: They have vorpal-mega sword! How much?

Now this is oversimplified, but a person way wish to challenge this, but they challenge the haggeling, rather than actual existence of the sword, like they intend to.
Now for most things this doesn't matter, but if the Speaker has a descriptor they can burn on the haggeling, it makes a difference, as they have a better chance of overcomming the challenge, however they would not have this advantage if the ORIGINAL detail, i.e. that it exists is challenged.
My point is that, since it's infeasable to pause after ever fact, details may be skipped could be challenged, forcing the challeger to challenge a different task to get the same effect. Of course it goes both ways unfortunatly.

Other Things:How many times does Detail have to be reference before it becomes meaningful? Obviously a challenged detail becomes meaningful, but what of one that is used alot.
Say someone total breaks a keypad lock. They take their success, turn it into saying it took the minimum time and have some left over, so they say they figured out someone's code.  Say they later manage to use this code in several places. Now, having been reference several times, it is arguably 'meaningful'. Can someone later bring it up and collect Payback, even though it was never actually challenged?
 
Now,I admit that both of these are nit-picky, rather than indicative of actual problems.
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James
Le Joueur
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Posts: 1367


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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2002, 03:10:59 PM »

Quote from: damion
First off, glad to see your still working on this.

Like I keep telling people, our production schedule is 'as fast as grass grows.'  It may stop, but it never ends.

Quote from: damion
A comment on implicit Detail might be in order.
It was sort of brought up by your mention of haggling. In certain
Situations, I think retroactive changes might be in order. Mainly, in the case where several actions lead to a result, but there is a dependence chain.

Bad Example:
Speaker: I go buy a big@$$ sword.
No challenge.
Speaker: They have vorpal-mega sword! How much?

Now this is oversimplified, but a person may wish to challenge this, but they challenge the haggling, rather than actual existence of the sword, like they intend to.

Actually, what I'm going to have to come up with is a way to state that any Detail can be challenged.  In this example there's no reason someone couldn't challenge the availability of the "vorpal-mega sword" at this point.  (Heck, if it were me, I'd Challenge both on the price of what such would cost, and the authenticity.  Buy the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge, anyone?)

Detail isn't supposed to be singular line-item statements, but figurative idea-forms.  I'm not going to turn Scattershot into game of semantic haggling to see who can use a trick of English to get more than anyone else.  A "vorpal-mega sword" is a Prop, to use Scattershot lingo.  A Prop is anything that further empowers a character.  A sword gives an unarmed character the ability to do cutting or stabbing damage outside of hand's reach.

Making that a "vorpal-mega sword" adds Detail.  When the "vorpal-mega" part first comes up (and I'm assuming we're talking General play), anyone, especially the gamemaster, has a right to go, "Whoa, what are the odds?"  Being "vorpal-mega" is probably going to force the sword to have many other features, these features can each count as Details in the player-versus-player Ambitious form of Joueur Approach to play.  Each becomes a potential target of Challenge from the other players; that can get very expensive to one's Experience Die pool.

My usual practice, on the other hand, is to say, "Sure, whatever you want.  The game says 'give them enough rope.'"  The 'give them enough rope' Technique means that the players can have anything they want.  It also means they're probably going to live to regret it.  Using the venerable Dynamic Status Quo Technique will give the gamemaster some idea what to do with a player who's suddenly acquired a "vorpal-mega sword."  It'll describe who may have lost it, who might hear about it, who might come after it, and how the 'culture of power' would react to it surfacing.  This Technique is all about turning what the players want into interesting play (as opposed to simply blocking it).

Another Technique I haven't had time to detail yet is 'Ecological Leveling' (needs a catchy title too).  What happens when a powerful magic item resurfaces?  When a nobody gains superpowers?  When dangerous things fall into 'the wrong hands?'  Simple, when 'word gets out,' the kind of people who 'ought to have it' (by the nature of their power level) come after it.  A kid finds a grenade?  A squad of the occupation forces comes looking for it.  A troll discovers a unicorn's horn?  Tim Curry <cough> the Prince of Darkness sends his forces to collect it.  It's based on levels of effect relative to population groupings; what we have so far is individual, squad, gang, neighborhood, village, city, state (or small country), region, continent, hemisphere, planet, and et cetera.  The grenade does about the same damage as a squad, so one comes for it.

The point is that you aren't limited to Challenging the last statement spoken, but the last meaningful concept introduced and not even just the last, any recent are fair game.  Solomon's Auction will eventually contain material on what to do about specious or frequent Challenges (when I figure out what they are).  Either a player can be called for frequently 'pushing the limits' of the Genre Expectations by 'causing Challenges' or a player can be censured for offering too many of them (it should be too costly to abuse this Technique).

Quote from: damion
Now for most things this doesn't matter, but if the Speaker has a descriptor they can burn on the haggling, it makes a difference, as they have a better chance of overcoming the Challenge, however they would not have this advantage if the ORIGINAL Detail, i.e. that it exists is Challenged.

Actually, Scattershot doesn't have 'descriptors to burn,' but I take your meaning.  First off, I'd be surprised by a group where no one said, "you only paid how much?"  Especially, if a new "vorpal-mega sword" made any difference to them (id est, meant anything to them).  It kinda sounds like you're saying that the group was 'asleep at the switch' when the blade was Detailed and then has a problem with it later.  I'd expect either they don't care when the sword is introduced and continue to not care when the player uses it or they do something right away.

A simple, "Hey, that's not fair," is a good enough Challenge (and an opportunity to use Solomon's Auction).  Likewise picking up a Vorpal Blade at the local five and dime is probably not within the Genre Expectations meaning the gamemaster will have to make it 'more expensive.'  Adding a Vorpal Blade to one's Persona is probably a significant change in their conception so the player would have to evolve their Sine Qua Non and perhaps their write-up as well.

Really, there are lots of things in the game to keep the appearance of this sword from happening casually; I'd be surprised if it just 'slipped in' if it didn't belong.

Quote from: damion
My point is that, since it's infeasible to pause after every fact, Details [perhaps] skipped could be Challenged, forcing the Challenger to Challenge a different task to get the same effect. Of course it goes both ways, unfortunately.

Yep, I'm going to have to differentiate between 'you can only Challenge when something is introduced' and 'you can Challenge whenever something becomes meaningful.'  Technically, I can go down to the mall right now and buy Excalibur from the knife shop; it has no meaning.  When I first use it to do something like cut a car in half would be the last possible point someone could call foul before it becomes a permanent part of the game.

Quote from: damion
Other Things: How many times does Detail have to be referenced before it becomes meaningful? Obviously a Challenged Detail becomes meaningful, but what of one that is used a lot.

Say someone totally breaks a keypad lock. They take their success, turn it into saying it took the minimum time and have some left over, so they say they figured out someone's code.  Say they later manage to use this code in several places. Now, having been reference several times, it is arguably 'meaningful'. Can someone later bring it up and collect Payback, even though it was never actually Challenged?

Sounds like it became meaningful at the instant they converted the leftover.  It gets converted into a highly limited Advantage, like 'open any lock' limited to the security access of the person whose code they cracked.  The number of RMIB points they convert becomes the security level of the 'victim' within the facility or network.  The player can keep this indefinitely, but every use offers the security system an opportunity to 'figure it out.'  When the security system's MIB exceeds the players 'saved RMIB' (as a Residual effect) it ceases to be useful.

This is the nature of getting a Telling Blow outside of combat.  The player "totally breaks a keypad lock;" sounds like a Telling Blow to me.  The 'victim' (whoever the proprietor of the secure site is) defines that the player now has a keycode for someone with the RMIB level access, play from there.  The results of a Telling Blow must be meaningful or they must be augmented; you'd be cheating if you made the results of a Telling Blow meaningless.

On the other hand, there are details like 'Finny, the Troll Bartender.'  Someone tosses Finny is one time when the go into a local bar; let's say the gamemaster accepts proprietorship and really hams it up, much fun is had by all.  Later, another Persona goes to the same bar and to add Detail says they ask where Finny is.  The first time, Finny is just an extra, as meaningless as a piece of scenery.  When Finny came up again (even if it wasn't the first time), a Persona was 'looking for him.'  Finny, his location, his Relationships (more lingo, that's what all Scattershot characters who aren't Persona are - just bundles of Relationships) and all, suddenly become meaningful.

When does something become meaningful?  When it means something to somebody.  (That's why "meaningful" isn't a Scattershot term with all the hoity-toity capitalization.)  But even a meaningful Prop can have fresh Details challenged long after it becomes a part of play.  Heavy retroactive alterations are frowned upon, but certainly not out of bounds; the preference is to find another way to de-emphasize a Detail.

I hope that makes clear anything I didn't get in in my rush to get out a 'monthly' Emergent Technique.  Feel free to pose any other questions; I'm still working out how to explain these Techniques.

Fang Langford
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Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
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